Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl Steeler victory re-run from '09


This week will make it six long years since the Pittsburgh Steelers have won their sixth and most recent Super Bowl. Six years! People here are apoplectic, outraged. They’re suggesting Steeler management clean house, bring in new blood, fresh ideas. They’ll try anything. Well, anything except break the rules like the Patriots do all the time. But the game has me reminiscing about all our Super Bowl victories. I thought today was perfect to re-run my story about the scary drunk who made my ’09 Super Bowl celebration so special. Enjoy the game. Seahawks 38, Cheaters 17.


While late night comics were ridiculing Pittsburgh for excessively celebrating its Super Bowl victory, I was trying to correct a conviction I hadn’t done enough.

Two days before the Steelers won the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh City Schools announced it would delay the start of Monday’s education by two hours to allow its students and staffers time to sleep it off.

Many commentators howled this set a terrible example for hungover Pittsburgh students and showed just how out of touch the city is from conventional priorities, as if pandering to the sports obsessed in America could ever backfire.

I thought it was brilliant and believe in a few months we’re going to start to see an influx of families who’ve moved their children to Pittsburgh just so they could sufficiently recover from future Super Bowl victories. Call them Steeler sleeper cells.

Me, I popped out of bed reveille ready at 6 a.m., dashed out to get the newspaper and immediately began reading it at an eighth grade level.

I’d spent the entire day with Valerie and our two girls, 8 and 2. During the course of 12 hours of available Super Bowl coverage, I consumed four beers.

I love watching the game with the girls. I don’t mind explaining basic football terminology. I love it when on a crucial third and long the 2-year-old crawls into my lap and insists I read to her Dr. Seuss’s “The Things I Think I Think.”

But there’s a part of me I’ve nurtured through decades of zero responsibility and dubious judgment that misses watching the biggest game of the year out with the boys. That part of me would like to jaw about complex strategy, football history and unleash wanton profanities at the braindead refs.

The essence of the event doesn’t change. I’m still watching the same game, but if one of the boys wants to crawl up on my lap and cuddle during a crucial play, well, I can take it on a case-by-case basis.

That’s the part of me I decided to briefly indulge on Monday evening.

Jack’s Bar on Pittsburgh’s South Side is open 365 days a year and is one of the cities most raucous taverns. It has a great jukebox  and a lively clientele of inebrients who bring boozy spice to every conversation.

The bar was packed with Steeler fans. Every stool was occupied except for clear down at the end where five vacant seats stood between relative civilization and trouble.

He was an older man, maybe 70. He was shouting profanity at one poor guy who looked too timid to get up and run.

And when I say profanity I do mean singular. He didn’t use a barnyard array. It was exclusively the word I’d heard an off-color country singer in another bar long ago refer to as “The Universal Adjective (“I lost my f-ing job, I lost my f-ing wife, the universal adjective is f-ing up my life . . .).

Finally, the mousy guy got up and skittered away. That meant I still had a five-stool Maginot Line between me and the  old lout. I was about done with my first beer. I could have downed it and left, but I have a rule about always drinking at least two beers in any bar. Drink just one and you look like a tourist or prey. 

Drinking two always friendlies up the bartender and the regulars who recognize you as someone who means business and not one of those one-beer dorks.

It automatically looked like the two-beer rule was a mistake, because the guy turned right to me and sneered, “What the hell are you doing in here?”

I didn’t flinch. “I’m here to drink some beers with some friendly Steeler fans.”

“Well, I’m a Steeler fan,” he said.

“You a friendly one?”

“I can be,” he said a tad defensively.

That little exchange brought him one stool nearer.

Turns out he was a friendly Steeler fan. They guy went way back and knew beloved Steeler patriarch Art Rooney Sr. He told some great football stories. One stool later He told me about his kids, his grandkids and how joyful it is to share with them what he called “jump hugs” when the kids run down the hallway and explode into his arms.

He was a professional window washer who by the time he was sitting on the stool right next to me and told me about the harrowing time 30 years ago when he nearly got blown off a city skyscraper and about the one poor guy who did.

I left after four beers and had to resist the urge to run clear from the other side of Jack’s and give the guy a great big jump hug before I split.

I learned something that day when the Steeler Super Bowl victory shortchanged city students two hours of their precious education.

I learned never to sit five stools away from drunken old Steeler fans.

Any more than two and you’re just wasting time.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Change Patriots name to the Boston Corbetts


I don’t want the Patriots to win, but if they do I hope someone sneaks onto the field and replaces all the Gatorade with vats of boiling oil.

I tweeted that last week and an alarmed reader wrote that, gee, a guy as nice as I couldn’t possibly harbor such malicious thoughts.

The exchange shows there’s a growing gap between my on-line persona and the one that sneaks out when its animal instincts are provoked.

It’s like the title line from great Robert Earl Keen song, “I only use my guns whenever kindness fails.”

Mike Wilbon of ESPN, one of the few non-meathead network voices I respect, said the Patriots should have to forfeit the game. I think he was being hyperbolic, but I love it that serious commentators share my excessive hatred.

Others have said either Belichick or Tom Brady should be suspended.

That, too, seems extreme. Unlike the Patriots, most of us want to see a game where a fair-and-square winner is determined.

But if it is proven they are guilty of cheating — and sensible fans like me and the millions of others who root for the Pittsburgh Steelers and all that’s good and moral in the world — there needs to be some lasting consequence.

Here it is: the New England Patriots should be ordered to change their names.

So what would we call them?

The New England Cheaters? That’s too blunt and would alienate what is a strong fan base, albeit a misguided fan base that for the past 14 years has been cheering for cheaters anyway.

The New England Deflaters? That would likely inspire a slew of dandy mascots, but it wouldn’t sell jerseys and that’s what the NFL these days is all about.

You can think of pejorative options all day and not beat the one I hereby bestow.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Boston Corbetts!

This is so joyfully deft, so situationally perfect, it can’t be beat.

See, a Corbett isn’t a thing. It’s a real man.

Well, he was for the first 26 years of his life.

Born Thomas P. Corbett in London in 1832, he eventually moved to Boston, where he became forever synonymous with the city he loved.

Corbett didn’t deflate his balls.

He severed them! With rusty scissors!

I’ve never examined the document, but I have to imagine Roger Goodell addresses the infraction in the NFL player code of conduct.

But let’s not get all snippy.

Corbett is the man who killed the man who killed Abraham Lincoln. He’s maybe my favorite oddball historical character. He grew up with two obsessions: Jesus Christ and Boston prostitutes.

And because the two could not abide, he castrated himself to eliminate corporal temptation from his life. He eventually joined the Union Army which, I guess, was years away from implementing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.

The full story (first link) was for years my most popular post and it gives all the gory details. I expect it’ll enjoy a burst of popularity April 26, the 150th anniversary of the day Corbett killed Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Now, Corbett had been ordered to not shoot Booth, but Corbett said he disobeyed because God told him to. And for this Corbett was hailed as a hero across the nation.

I’d love to see the reaction if Brady says that’s why he did it.

It’s looking like he and the Patriots are going to weasel out of any real punishment for what is looking more and more like a significant infraction.

And if that happens I propose another name change, this one for Roger Goodell and his precious shield he’s all about protecting.

It should be the National Eunuchs League.

Because if he doesn’t punish the Pats, Goodell will be the one without any balls.



Related . . .









Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Well-rounded thoughts on purchasing new tires


It’s difficult for me to convey just how much I detest spending money on anything I can’t eat, drink, cuddle, screw, cheer or enjoy on a golf course.

So yesterday was a bad day.

I spent $807.47 on something that will provide me no warmth or fond memories in my twilight years. 

I bought four new tires.

It was a bullet I had to bite. Well, four bullets, actually.

The car passed inspection in September, but my guy said he was giving me a break.

“I’ll pass you, but you’re going to want to either get new tires as soon as you see the first snow flakes begin to fall or else immediately drive your car to Arizona before they begin to accumulate,” he said. “You can’t make it around here in winter on four tires this bald.”

The last two weeks proved my grease monkey to be a wrench-wielding prophet.

The snows haven’t ceased and I’ve been fearful I’d either get stuck at the bottom of our hill or slide off a mountain. My odds of an accident were increasing.

So I went sliding off to the local tire store.

In these situations, all I have is my trust. I don’t do any research, price comparison or spend a few tedious hours poring over Consumer Reports

I think this must disappoint your typical tire salesman because after we dispensed with the small-talk preliminaries, he began to quiz me.

Did I want standard valve stems? Lifetime rotation? The Yokohama Tornante All-Season P235s or the Bridgestone Ecopia True Performance EP422s?

I stared back at him for so long he must have thought I was reveling in tire options.

“Well?”

“Let me ask you a question: When was the last time anyone who drove a 2007 Saturn Vue with 133,000 miles came in and knew even a little bit about tire performance specs?

I told him not to answer and I continued.

“Here, in order, are my tire priorities: I want cheap and I want round. I’ll take oval as long as it’s cheap and and I’ll even take square if it’s really, really, really cheap. Just give me a set of four somethings that are cheap and will help me move the vehicle in the direction it’s steered.”

If it sounds like I’m indifferent to tires, I am not.

In fact, I think tires are ripe for revolutionary innovation.

Really, the basic tire has changed little since the first cavemen rounded off the corners of a stone block and began frantically chasing his invention down some steep pre-historic hill.

I know used old tires are a terrible burden on the environment. It is estimated Americans discard 259 million tires every year.

I over the past 10 or so years reduced that number by 8. Not 8 million.

Eight tires.

I was for years the go-to neighborhood guy for putting up tire swings. It’s a real gift of mine.

I divined a way to throw and cinch a rope around a rock up any stout branch as high as 40 feet. So I helped make childhood memories for kids that will last longer than even the highly rated Dunlop Direzza ZII.

Every kid should have a tire swing. Heck, every tree. That would eliminate a lot of waste.

Another innovation that needs to be explored: Edible tires.

This one came to me years ago after I wrote a National Enquirer true survivor story about a hapless motorist who slid off a mountainous region of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and was down at the bottom of a steep gorge for two weeks before he was miraculously found and rescued.

The accident had hobbled him to a point where he could only crawl.

It was incredible. He was in terrible pain and afraid wandering bears would finish him off. He said he grew more and more weak each day and feared starvation.

Four tires made out of, say, treaded beef jerky would have been a sustaining boost, a case of a something round contributing to the circle of life.

And this is true: Six months after surviving that harrowing ordeal he was crossing a busy street and was run over by a bus. It killed him.

God doesn’t miss twice.

Of course, I didn’t tell my tire salesman any of this. Tell any tire salesman you think tires should be edible and they’ll think you’re a gullible dolt and in my experience people take advantage of us gullible dolts. It’s maybe the only drawback to going through life doltishly gullible.

I did have one more question for him: Where do the tires go?

“Oh, we have a great recycling program . . .”

That’s not what I meant. Three years ago I bought tires that had about a 3/4 inch tread and now about 35,000 miles later the tire is smooth. Where did that tire go?

“Oh, that’s just normal wear and tear.”

Why can’t I see it? How come there aren’t piles of it along the road? Is it so microscopic we all breathing in pounds of invisible tire dust every time we inhale?

See, it’s another lost opportunity. Old tires are used to protect our stumbling kids on playgrounds and our meat-headed athletes on football fields. You’ll probably on Sunday see black rooster tails of the stuff squirting up from the cleats of Patriot Rob Gronkowski when he’s chasing one of Tom Brady’s deflated footballs.

Why can’t we make a tire that as it wears down builds up the roads? Sure, these tires would probably need to be as big as Volkswagens, but the trade-off could be reduced road construction costs and lower taxes.

I think the next generation of tires should purposefully degrade in ways that make the roads that degrade them softer and more durable.

Like four Yokohama Tornanthe All-Season P235s!

My tire guy didn’t have an answer. He’d had enough philosophizing for the day and processed the sale without further comment.

That for me was a victory.

The tire guy was tired of me.

I left lighter in the wallet, but satisfied by the transaction.

I was on the kind of roll that had nothing to do with four new tires.



Related . . .








Monday, January 26, 2015

Dylan does Sinatra & why I'll never remarry

It was probably about 15 years ago when my wife asked the question every wife with access to Lifetime network movies eventually gets around to asking her husband:

If I die, will you remarry?

Her question prompted one of my own: how much would my answer factor into her eagerness to haunt me in her afterlife?

She said not at all. And I believe her because I’m pretty sure even basic cable in heaven includes Lifetime so she and other spousal begrudged wives will be content for eternity.

I told her I doubted it. I told her securing a future she’d want for our daughters would be my priority. And bringing the kind of woman I’d want for my second wife — a real hard-drinking floozy — would be disruptive to that primary goal.

“Besides,” I said, “I wouldn’t want to have to explain Bob Dylan all over again to another woman.”

That’s the main reason I’d never remarry.

It probably took a good 15 years to get my wife to appreciate Bob Dylan, and by “appreciate” I mean to not reflexively dry heave when some of his music comes on.

I tell everyone they don’t have to like Bob Dylan, but they do have to appreciate why so many of us think he’s wonderful.

That task, I believe, will become almost insurmountably more difficult in the next week when Dylan releases an interpretive album of old Frank Sinatra songs. Having to describe anything involving pop culture with the word “interpretive” means your work’s cut out for you.

I get it, too. I used to be on the other side of the bright Dylan divide. But, finally, some good friends whose tastes I trusted introduced me to his genius.

Their names were Nelson, Otis, Lefty and Charlie T. Wilbury.

Yes, The Traveling Wilburys. Dylan’s contributions to those indelibly fun records opened my ears. He had a fun, playful side I’d never detected, one that to me was most fully expressed in his delightful “Theme Time Radio” show that ran on Sirius XM Radio from 2006-2009.

I think he’s easier to appreciate if you think he doesn’t take himself as seriously as the rest of us do.

Then in 1997, he released the critically acclaimed “Time Out of Mind.” It’s fantastic. And still relevant.

Just ask my 14-year-old. Her very favorite song of the moment’s on there.

Now, I’ve written many times about my eagerness to brainwash my daughters on the kind of rock I think is important. But Dylan’s too high a hurdle. The ears of any child that’s been raised on Radio Disney are just too resistant to grit, even great grit.

But I never fail to point out his monumental impact. It’s to American music what the Constitution is to our laws, a guiding charter.

So when she came waltzing into the living room singing, “I know you haven’t made your mind up yet . . .” I immediately followed up with, “but I could never do you wrong!”

It’s “Make You Feel My Love,” from “Time Out of Mind.”

She couldn’t believe I knew the words to her favorite chart topper by Adele.

“That’s Bob Dylan,” I said, and played her the original. She’s beginning to understand. Her curiosity is piqued.

Now, with any other artist, the next step would be to take her to see him live.

Not Dylan, 73. Never. He remains one of those rare artists whose shows are so erratic they can alienate even devout fans.

Just ask Ringo Starr.

I heard comedian Norm McDonald tell a great story about how bizarre Dylan can be live, something I’ve witnessed about a dozen times.

MacDonald said Dylan was about six songs into his set, marked by unintelligible mumbling, when he noticed the Beatle in the front row.

He said hello.

Sort of.

McDonald said Dylan just started saying, “Ringo! Ringo! Ringo! Ringo! Ringo!” And he kept saying “Ringo!” for about a full minute. MacDondald, by the way, said it was the first word Dylan spoke he’d understood the whole show.

When he was done he said something I’ve never heard Dylan doing before or since: He took a request. He asked Ringo what song he wanted to hear.

Ringo, pleased, said, “How about ‘Tangled up in Blue?’”

The title caused Dylan to glare. He then spoke with what MacDonald said was absolute clarity.

“We already played that one.”

Will I get Dylan’s new “Shadows in the Night” album?

Certainly.

But I’m going to make sure my first few listens are in broad daylight.

Something about the idea of Dylan doing Sinatra makes me think it would be even stranger in the night.


Related . . .







Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday re-run: America needs snitch prayers

I write a lot about faith, divinity and things like how old we’ll be in heaven. I do so because I think that’s important and I consider it a duty to try and make the world a better place. That’s why in Jan. 2013 I wrote this piece suggesting the world would be a better place if we had snitch prayers. The idea is a vengeful God wouldn’t wait until the afterlife to punish jerks. I think everyone would behave better if He did.

Please stop by the blog tomorrow. Not sure what I’ll write about but I’ll try and make it something either cheerful or about the dastardly New England Patriots.




I was in the midst of conducting a jiffy little lunch grace with the 6-year-old when I decided to include a subtle morality lesson.

“And, please, God, forgive Lucy for drawing little devil horns, pointy tail and pitchfork on the missionaries on the cover of this week’s church bulletin at Sunday service when she should have been praying.”

Her thundered rebuttal was instantaneous.

“That was him!”

Note the precise construction of her divine debunk.

She didn’t even address me. She responded as if God was right there at the lunch table ready to referee the dispute.

And, boy, would this blog post be different if He had.

I like that our little prayer sessions have her believing God is right there in the room with us and she can instantly narc on me for including a fib in my prayer, like the one I did about the drawings.

In fact, she’s right. I was the one who instigated the sacrilegious little doodle, one of the many little distractions I deploy to make attending church bearable for someone with a first grade attention span -- and I’ll let you decide whether I’m referring to myself or my first grade pew mate.

I’m resuming attending church again after taking about a year off for what I consider logistical reasons.

My wife is our Lutheran church organist. That means she’s required to be there nearly every Sunday for both the 8 o’clock and 10:30 services. Been that way for years.

Her obligation transforms what used to be the most peaceful time of the week into the most chaotic.

The girls fight. The drag their feet. They require me to do Mommy things like fix their hair, make them breakfast and cajole them into being on time.

It’s a real pain for someone who for decades held Sundays sacred for things like hangover recuperation and Three Stooges marathons.

And, yes, I’m acutely aware of the hypocrisy of letting minor nuisances like warming up Pop Tarts hinder me from going to worship a man who died on the cross for my sins, but that’s just how I feel.

If you believe what they say in church then God already knows that.

It is said He knows all, sees all.

Every time I hear that I wonder if He reads my blog. Somedays I hope not.

Most of my prayers involve thanking God for what I have and asking Him to help those who are sick, sad or lonely.

It wasn’t until my lunch conflict with Lucy that I considered the appropriateness of being a prayer snitch.

The concept is not without appeal, although it seems to run right up against Biblical stipulations about leaving all the judgements up to God -- and that must infuriate Justice Scalia.

To hell with the hereafter, I think we’d all like to see God take a more active role in punishing jerks in the here and now.

Maybe a groundswell of complaints about loutish behavior would lead to Almighty action.

It wouldn’t take much for people to notice and fly right. Sure, it would be great if He incinerated Syrian butcher Bashar Assad with a bolt of lightning, but it would have just as significant an impact if, say, Donald Trump woke up tomorrow bald.

There are just too many people hurting too many others with bad behavior that too often seems to go unpunished. Prayer snitching might help change that. 

We’re just closing the books on the season where the sacred and secular compete for our attentions.

It would be an improvement if next year when someone says familiar lines about an omnipotent being who sees us when we’re sleeping and knows when we’re awake more of us would think of someone besides Santa.

People need to be good, for goodness sake.

And if that doesn’t work, they should be good because they’re afraid someone will rat them out with a snitch prayer.



Related . . .



Friday, January 23, 2015

DeflateGate, measles, Doomsday Clock & a great fan letter (plus 10 links)

Enough topical stuff happening today that I thought it’d be okay to do a round-up. I don’t know why I always feel like apologizing for taking the easy way out for something I do for free. It’s like a guy who spends his days standing and staring at clouds wondering if they’d be more beautiful if he laid down in the grass (it is, by the way).

What’s happening in the news? Let’s see . . .

• DeflateGate has a lot of people thinking of Watergate, a minor crime that’s about to be undone by an clumsy cover-up. Me, I’m thinking of “Thinner,” the campy 1996 thriller based on a Stephen King book released under his Richard Bachmann pseudonym. In it a creep attorney kills an old gypsy woman while he was driving drunk and recklessly (fly down/pecker out/wife occupied). The culprit struggles with his weight and after he’s found not guilty in a sham trial, a gypsy brushes his cheek and says one word — “Thinner” — as he leaves. It unnerves him, but he sees no connections when he begins shedding pounds. The story really torques up when the pounds begin melting away, as many as 10 pounds a day. He eventually withers away to near nothing. See where this is going? Tom Brady wants small, soft balls? Thinner.

• News that the measles outbreak is being exacerbated by parents who refused to get their children vaccinated makes me wish Disney/McDonald’s/etc. were by law required to vaccinate children at front doors before being allowed entry and that the kids then be given civility lessons right there until five minutes after the needle sting stops.

• I thought President Obama’s SOTU speech was great, but it held for me one disappointment. I tuned in hoping he’d say, “And now that there are no more elections, I think it’s time I come clean. You got me. I WAS born in Kenya!” To which the GOP would roar with laughter and say, “We knew it!” And then Obama would say, “Okay, now that that’s settled, let’s see what we can together do for the American people.” And we’d all live happily ever after.

• My buddy, Lance McK., in Nashville noted he was impatient to hear what I thought about DeflateGate. Honest, unless the Steelers are in it, I try not to add to the hype of what to me is the most boring two weeks of the sports calendar. But for those of us who hate the Pats, DeflateGate is an absolute godsend. No matter what happens next, the damage to Bill Belichick and his team’s reputation is already done. They’ll never be in the conversation of the greatest franchises ever. That just leaves the Pittsburgh Steelers and a handful of pretenders.

• Setting the Doomsday Clock this week at 11:47 had a lot of people fretting over humanity’s future. It again has me wondering if the Doomsday Clock comes with a snooze alarm.

• From what I’ve read about the country, the term “Yemenese lawmakers” is an oxymoron right up there with godfather.

• If Tiger Woods lost his tooth in a scrum of photographers how come there’s not even one picture of Tiger Woods losing his tooth in a scrum of photographers?

• Early ’15 frontrunner for best comment about www.EightDaysToAmish.com comes from my friend Susan P. in New York. She posted on Facebook: “Dude, been meaning to write you about my ritual of reading your blog on my bus trips home from working in the city. I love clicking on the related links so I can read & reread posts. Yesterday tears were streaming from my eyes and I had to put my scarf in my mouth to muffle myself because I was laughing so hard. Was still laughing hours later. Thanks! Laughter is the best medicine and you are an awesome doctor.”

• One thing no one ever mentions about the Doomsday Clock: many of the best times I’ve had in my life have happened well past midnight. Not sure how that translates in this case, but I’ll never stop looking for the silver lining.

• Why Stephen King, as prolific a writer as there’s ever been, had to write books under a pseudonym makes me think less of him as a person and Maine as a state. Being Stephen King wasn’t good enough? He couldn’t find anything recreational to enjoy in Maine? Having said that, I’d be impressed if it were revealed that Stephen King was also writing under the pseudonym of John Grisham and that the guy we think is John Grisham was just some guy Stephen King hired to make the John Grisham deception seem more believable.

• If you’re one of those people that irrationally blamed Obama for gas prices when they were $4 a gallon, you’d better be irrationally giving him credit now that they’re close to half that.

• We saw “Foxcatcher” this week. Loved it. Very compelling with great performances by Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo and Chatum Tanning, the hunky actor for whom my wife and many other females seemingly have the hots. I don’t see the appeal. As far as posing pretty boys go, Tanning is no Tom Brady.

• I’ve yet to hear any of the sports yapper programs intro a story about DeflateGate with the AC/DC song,  “Big Balls.” It’s bound to happen. 

• I profusely thanked my friend Susan for her comment — and told her to say hi to her hubby, my old Ohio University buddy, Bryan! — but asserted she needs to begin reading my blog aloud. Do not muffle the laughter. She said that kind of sharing is frowned upon. So I told her to put on a puppet show.

• I’m confident enough about the future that I’m about to resume what was once a key component of my profile: travel writer. I’ve written travel features for Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Playboy, Cooking Light, Details and dozens of others. Even better, to me, were the offbeat stories I did for nearly every top newspaper in America. I tend to overlook that part of my background because it was so diffuse. But pulling them all together as I’m doing makes it look pretty impressive. So many adventures and fun stories. I think people are going to like it.

• “Do or Die!” is an inspirational phrase popular with many Type A individuals. I must be more of a Type U person. My options are usually do or don’t.

• As a fan of both, I’m not sure what to make of Bob Dylan’s release of an album of Frank Sinatra covers. It could be an interesting tribute or a disaster. What I’d really like is to see some skillful Sinatra-impersonator do 12 Dylan songs the way Frank would. Suggested set list: “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” “Leopard Skin PillBox Hat,” “Tombstone Blues,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” and “Hurricane.”

• I hope the Doomsday Clock doesn’t tick down to zero before at least April when I’ll have had time to purchase and enjoy Mark Knopler’s new album, “Tracker.”

• I’ve had some people say my blog  might be more successful if it were like this every day, just a raft full of observations. I disagree. I think it’s more satisfying for everyone — me included — when it involves more cohesion and is four complete stories four days a week. It’s more challenging, but so much more fun. I hope you agree.

• When the going gets tough, the tough get going! And when the tough get going, I usually say, “Goodbye, tough! Been nice knowin’ ya!”

• And just in case Susan’s bus gets stuck in traffic, here’s an extra batch of unrelated relateds. Thanks, my friends! Enjoy your weekends!