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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bee stung "vet" on Memorial Day


It is said that God never gives us more than we can handle. If that is so, then God must think I’m a sissy.

If He didn’t before, He sure does now.

Because on this Memorial Day weekend I’m seeking a Purple Heart from my golf buddies because of the round-ruining injury I sustained prior to Thursday’s afternoon hookie match.

I have a real spring in my step the days I’ve cleared for golf. I look forward to being out with my buddies in the sunshine, talking sports, drinking a few beers and trying to deploy a disruptive fart timed to coincide with an opponent’s backswing.

But I also want to play well. That’s why I was extra excited on Thursday. I’d played great the last time out. I’d putted well, was crisp around the greens and really stung the ball off the tee.

Now I feel bad for the ball. Because I know how much it hurts to get really stung.

Excepting self-inflicted hangovers, my life is so painfree that my body is confused when it’s surprised by the sensation.

That’s what happened as I was leaving my office to meet Ron in the parking lot. The ceiling light by the door has been broken for months so I couldn’t see the bee on the door knob.

Had I seen it, I doubt it would have registered anyway. I’d have likely dismissed seeing one relaxing on the door knob as an hallucination, and I welcome those breaks in reality’s tedium.

But there in the dark, I grasped the knob and it felt like someone evil took a pain-filled syringe and injected it into the tender webbing between my left thumb and index finger.

Ouch!

It hurt like hell, but mostly I felt stunned disbelief.

How was it part of God’s plan to ruin my round of golf by having my left hand bee stung? It was as confounding to me as why He’s wanted to keep me so poor for so long.

A bee sting made no sense. There in the dark, I thought maybe it was a metal splinter.

Either way, I couldn’t tell my golf buddies and had to freeze out the pain. We’re stoics when it comes to “feelings.” Any complaint is dismissed as a preemptive excuse for all the bad golf that’s bound to come one way or another.

It would be different if I golfed with women. They’d be sympathetic, coddle me and say things like, “There, there, baby. It’ll be all right.”

But golfing with women would radically alter the enjoyment of the day. Profanity would be frowned upon. Instead of sports, I’d have to talk about the kids and pretend I remember things like their names and their interests. As for farts, well, it would be out the window with that noxious mischief.

I encourage women to golf, just not with me.

I come by that chauvinism honestly. It’s the way Dad raised his boys. He said GOLF stood for: Gentleman Only, Ladies Forbidden.

Oddly, in his last year, he completely reversed that sporting misogyny and enjoyed golfing with women. I think the reason was the old man needed someone he could outdrive.

Either way, he must have realized his betrayal and a year after he began golfing with skirts, he did the honorable thing and just up and died.

I can’t say I felt like dying on Thursday, but I was clearly off my game. I hardly sipped a beer. Played lousy and came home early and sober. The pain I’d fought to ignore all day overcame me when I got home and saw the hand -- a golf glove had concealed it all day -- all red and swollen to the size of catcher’s mitt.

I’d found the spent, crunchy bee carcass right below the door know where it inflicted its last fatal act of menace.

When you think about it, the bee differs little from an Islamic terrorist. It gives its life to mindlessly kill something others love, in this case a day of golf and drinking.

And what motivates the worker bee? Maybe some fundamentalist bee cleric tells it a heaven awaits it where instead of it always serving the queen, a hive full of voluptuous virgin queens await to service it in bee paradise.

Odd, isn’t it, that I can take something as simple as a golfer being stung by a bee and equate it to the life-and-death struggle our brave soldiers face every day. On Memorial Day, no less.

Really, guys like me ought to just say thanks and then buzz off.

Thank you, vets.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bring on the 'canes


I fell in love with the morning show expert the second he opened his mouth. He was talking about killing.

Top killing, that is.

He was someone from someplace in Louisiana and he was giving his opinion of BP’s progress in this great big wretched mess.

And he was giving it with a magnificent baritone drawl that immediately had me wishing his name was Burt and he was my neighbor.

“Hey, honey, Burt’s coming over tonight and we’re going to sip beers on the porch and listen to baseball on the radio.”

“I have to run next door and see if Burt has a wrench that’ll reach that loose engine bolt that keeps rattling.”

“Oh, sorry, hon. Can’t paint today. Burt’s coming over to help me put up that bird feeder we made in his garage last winter.”

A neighbor named Burt who talked like that would be the Superman of neighbors. He could fix things, be companionable company, have all the tools I would ever need and bark out a pitch perfect armpit rendition of “Dixie” when the beers in the cooler started getting into single digits.

So I was thinking of the day my dream Burt would move next door and not paying any attention to the substance of his expertise when something he said penetrated the foggy mists of my mind.

“A big hurricane would be really helpful. That’s what’s needed. A really big hurricane.”

Had Burt lost his mind?

I snapped to attention. Burt was saying the gulf catastrophe could be mitigated by hurricane winds and waves that dispersed all the blobs, tinier blobs of oil being more manageable than the nasty Rhode Island-sized ones. He said the ecosystems can tolerate a little oil, but the thick sludge will turn the gulf into a dead sea.

Leave it to Burt to give me a reason to root out loud for natural disasters. Now, I don’t have to root for them in silence.

See, for the sake of humanity, I’ve always favored a healthy sprinkling of natural disasters and certainly prefer them to the kind we manufacture all on own.

A really great natural disaster shows how much human beings genuinely care for one another. No matter who it is, no matter where in the world it happens, whenever the alarm is sounded, we all stop what we’re doing, say our prayers and think of ways we can pitch in to help.

We donate money, support food drives, we send volunteers skilled on tricky rescue missions.

It’s always heartening to see what we can do that for our fellow man, and how we’d probably do it more if we’d only we’d all set down all our weapons and stop killing each other for just a bit.

It happens with earthquakes in China and Iran, places filled with horrible people we’d all like to kill.

I hope for the sake of irony I’m alive during the time when a trigger happy president decides to bomb the bejesus out of some hapless country for any old reason and the bombing coincides with a terrible earthquake.

I’m sure we’ll halt all the hate to help clean up the devastation, just long enough to rebuild all the targets before resuming hostilities.

Plus, as we’re seeing in the gulf, there’s always fingers to point when it’s a man made disaster. BP’s blaming Halliburton who’s blaming someone else who's blaming Obama who's blaming Cheney and on and on and on.

Those recriminations are absent when what the greedy insurance agencies call “an act of God” strikes

He’s such an easy scapegoat.

Interesting theological supposition: Songwriter Tom Waits sings “there is no devil, it’s just God when He’s drunk.”

So tonight I'll get down on my knees and pray to God, as I always do, “Please, Lord, heal the sick, feed the hungry, stop the wars, care for our little darlings and let the Pirates get hot enough to contend.

“And remember all those times I prayed you’d keep the downtrodden gulf coast safe from any more natural disasters? Well, forget that. I now pray that you send a righteous string of Cat 5 whoppers to blast the crap out of the poor, beleaguered bastards. Amen!"

Given prayers like that, it’d be no wonder that God might need a drink.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday to this Blog!


The blog turned 2 years old this past weekend. That means it’s still in diapers and still capable of producing great, big, stinky messes that cause discerning adults to run away holding their noses.

Like many 2 year old children, the blog is now capable of forming simple sentences. And again like many 2 year old children, the simple sentence it most often forms is, “I need a dwink!”

It says that a lot. It also seems to be saying it would like to play more golf, it snowed a lot, that numerous high profile men mistreat women and that massive oil spills really, really suck.

By several standards, it’s been a fine year for www.EightDaysToAmish.com.

First of all, it continued to show up for work. It didn’t quit. Hungover or not, it still showed up about three days a week an average of 12 times a month -- and that’s an achievement, evidence of real work.

Not productive work. Not wage-paying work.

But work, by God!

I read a great unattributed quote this year: “Most people give up when they’re about to achieve success...at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.”

I don’t know how far I am from winning any sort of Blog Bowl or if the trophy is even worth kissing, but I’m not quitting.

I hear too many compliments from people whose opinions can not be dismissed.

This year started off with Pittsburgh Magazine selecting my blog as one of the best of the ‘burgh. That was a heady surprise.

I didn’t even know it was among the best of Latrobe.

Then, thanks to that flattering spotlight, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette began featuring portions of my blog for its Cutting Edge commentary column on the Sunday Forum pages. It’s happened three times in eight weeks and each time gives me the opportunity to revel that something with the word “Amish” in the title is deemed “cutting edge.”

I look back on the past two years and think the opportunity to blog has been a godsend. During the worst stretch of my what for lack of a better word I call my “career,” it’s kept me from going crazy.

It’s been fun building from scratch a feisty little audience, hearing so many great comments and converting some of the blog posts into other stories or book proposals.

Really, it has me convinced that something great is bound to happen for me any day now.

And I’ve been saying that every day since 1992.

I hope it happens simultaneously to you, too. It means the world to me that anyone bothers to read this stuff.

Me and the blog will be grateful if you continue to check in and refer it to friendlies anytime you find it worthy.

The blog will continue to feature stories about extreme weather, my desire to golf more and near weekly updates about anytime I feel like going downstairs for a cold dwink, er, drink.

Nothing’s going to change in this now 2-year-old blog.

And it’s going to be a good long while before anything so obviously immature ever grows up.

In keeping with the randomness of this blog birthday party, here’s a scattering of some of my favorite blogs from the past 12 months:

"I love you, men!": This is about how I overcame my reluctance to tell men how much I love them in front of other men.

Help the economy: Pray for more Hersheys: My friend Bob said this was one of his favorites. I’m still on a first-name basis with most of my readers and it would be rude to ignore a special request. This is about how the world needs more Hersheys.

Reject me, please: This one got a lot of favorable attention among writers. It’s an earnest plea for treating guys like me with decency and respect. Still hasn’t happened.

Lit cars for lit drivers: I'm pleased whenever I can come up with a sensible solution to an intractable problem. Makes me feel like I've earned my blogger money.

Mom and the friendly hooker: This one’s about my Mom’s happy encounter with a friendly hooker. It was a natural since I have a fondness for moms and friendly hookers -- and try not to read too much into that.

In praise of profanity: I try and write my posts in about an hour, but it usually takes about two. This one took 20 minutes. Of course, it’s a favorite.

Justice and John Grisham: Turned out to be one of the most moving evenings of my life. I hate to resort to being serious, but my students compelled me.

Short distance runner: The perfect solution to our exercise mania.

On Easter, let's resurrect the name Judas: Some day you’re going to meet a boy named Judas and you’ll think of this blog.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Costner to the gulf's rescue!


I had one thought when I heard Kevin Costner has $26 million worth of oil separators in his garage:

Man, we’re paying way too much for movies.

Who can afford a hobby like that?

But right now starstruck BP engineers, men and women who’ve devoted their lives to complicated formulas and chemical equations, are asking the man who played John Logan in “Sizzle Beach USA!,” “Uh, now explain again how this is supposed to work?”

For those of you too young to know -- and you haven’t missed a thing -- Costner was a big deal about 20 years ago.

He is a professional actor. And in my opinion he’s been acting like he’s an actor ever since they yelled, “That’s a wrap!” on the set of “Silverado” way back in 1985.

He still has a lot of ardent fans, but I’ve never understood his appeal. His looks to me are oatmeal bland. Even in his prime, he never had the devilish dash of men like Paul Newman or Johnnie Depp, a trait that makes women swoon.

He never had the mischievous edge of someone like Jack Nicholson, which appeals to men.

And he never displayed any of the spastic humor of madcap Robin Williams, which appeals to people who’ve suffered repeated brain trauma.

Plus -- and to me this is a sin -- he took himself way too seriously. At the height of his fame in the early to mid-‘90s, he made a string of big boring movies (“Dances with Wolves,” “The Postman” and “Waterworld”) whose sole purpose seemed to be giving Costner a preening opportunity to celebrate being Costner.

The movies were very PC and larded with sullen messages about our need to treat each other and Mother Earth with greater respect.

He was an actor, for crying out loud. What an ego! His biggest hit was an Iowa pseudo-baseball movie that could be called corny in every sense of the word. What, he thought we needed a guy like him to save the planet?

Well, batter up!

The only way I’d be more surprised was if the potential gulf savior was Pee Wee Herman, another actor now better known for his more unusual hobbies.

His business partner, John Houghtaling, told the LA Times that while Costner was making “Waterworld” in 1995, he became so troubled by oil spills that he began developing an ingenious system to cruise the surfaces of oil polluted waters.

“The machines are essentially like big vacuum cleaners,” Houghtaling said. “They sit on barges and suck up oily water and spin it around at high speed,” Houghtaling said. “On one side, it spits out pure oil, which can be recovered. The other side spits out 99% pure water.”

It’s all very noble, but I wish he’d have been as troubled at the time about how the distraction was going to eventually ruin one night of my life and cost me about $12 the night I took the missus to see “Waterworld,” to this day a mainstay on all the worst-movie-ever-made lists.

This is exactly the kind of news I’ve been hoping we’d hear. It could change the world for the better in so many ways.

Just imagine, a machine that separates out all the offensive crap and leaves behind only the good and useful.

It’s just too bad he never thought to apply that sort of technology to some of his scripts.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Roll on, Stones


The most important nugget I gleaned during four years of incidental education at Ohio University had more to do with philosophy than journalism.

It was bestowed not by an illustrious professor in an august hall, but by a boisterous bartender in a dingy tavern.

I still repeat it word-for-word to youths who seek my wisdoms about how to navigate this cruel practical joke we all call life.

It is eight words long and I now share it with you to enhance your lives and the lives of the needy. Here goes:

“You can’t have a party without The Stones.”

That’s it. It’s all you need to know.

The Golden Rule, fortune cookie Confuciusisms and myriad self-help books all come up wanting next to that nimble little guidepost.

I’ve been to parties without the Stones and they invariably suck. A really good party needs the Stones.

And so does a really good life.

As the band hits the publicity circuit to celebrate the release of the “Exile on Mainstreet,” I’ve been immersed in the Rolling Stones. But, really, I’ve been immersed in them since I learned how to use my ears.

I love country music, listen to jazz, classical and bluegrass. My playlists are crowded with Dylan, Springsteen, Kinks, Petty, Van Morrison and the sublime Mark Knopfler. I can find something to appreciate in all forms of music -- and I don’t count rap, Celine Dion or anything Ryan Seacrest listens to as music.

So, you see, I’m not a music snob.

But nothing hits me on the testicular level the way The Rolling Stones always have.

One thing that I’ve always loved about the Stones is that they’d be nothing without each other. Mick Jagger would be a banker, Charlie Watts would be a famous jazz drummer (famous to about 400 people), Bill Wyman would be a gynecologist, and Keith Richards would be a bum.

Even as a bum, Keith would still be the most interesting of the bunch and the one I’d sit on the sidewalk to listen to.

In fact, the only member of the original Stones whose life trajectory would not be altered would be Brian Jones who would still have died young.

I love the Beatles but their dynamic was the exact opposite. Each of the Beatles would have become famous without the others. John, Paul and George each had genius that would have led to musical fame and without the others Ringo would have become a dandy game show host.

And this is more complicated than it sounds, but The Stones have always been about the music. They would still be together and making great music if all the fame vanished.

The money, the girls, the excess has always been secondary to the music.

With the exception of guys like Steve Earle, you don’t see that kind of authenticity much anymore.

Mick was on Larry King the other night and, as always, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. His every expression is riveting. I was struck by how watching the 76-year-old King interview Jagger, 67, made Jagger seem 35 and King seem about 98.

The men are basically contemporaries.

It’s impossible to think of anything on earth that’s been as consistently outstanding as The Stones have been since 1964.

The Catholic Church? C’mon. Even America, the greatest country on earth, has had to endure Vietnam, Watergate and Kate Gosselin.

Compared to those institutions, the only smudge on the Stones during that same time, “Dirty Work” in 1986, is small potatoes.

“Exile on Main Street” was made in 1972 and it’s hard to argue that it isn’t their best. It came on the heels of “Beggar’s Banquet” ‘(68), “Let it Bleed” (’69) and Sticky Fingers (’71), a rock ‘n’ roll Rushmore that only The Beatles can equal during the same epoch.

Music in general’s been going downhill ever since, but the Stones still move the needle, even if they don’t use it anymore.

People who mock them and say they should have hung it up after “Some Girls” in 1978 just must not like music.

“What do they expect us to do?” Keith’s asked. “Set down our guitars and sign up for plumbing school? We’re musicians. This is what we do.”

And nobody’s ever done it better. Still. I could make raging rock fans out of primitive tribesmen by shoving earbuds into their heads and playing overlooked gems “Steel Wheels” (’89) and “Voodoo Lounge” (’94).

And it’ll sound sacrilegious even to many other Stones fans, but “A Bigger Bang” from 2005 ranks among their very best, including the revered “Exile.”

I defy anyone to listen to the songs, “Rough Justice,” “Driving Too Fast,” “Biggest Mistake” and the sublime Keith song, “This Place is Empty” and not be as moved as they are by the rock, country and balladry from their hallowed years.

I once, just for the fun of it, tried to compose the most depressing true statement about this riddle of life. Here’s what I came up with:

“Life is an endless series of disappointments, each one greater than the last, leading inexorably to the grave.”

Ha!

Of course, I don’t believe anything of the sort. But life is short and life is hard. You need to crowd it up with all the love and laughter you can find before it’s all taken away.

Really, life is a party.

And you just can’t have a party without The Stones.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Teach fish to eat oil


It’s becoming clear that the only sensible solution to the crisis in the Gulf is to teach fish to eat and enjoy crude oil.

Really, can it be more difficult than teaching a 4 year old to eat vegetables?

I respect and admire the vegan mindset and could probably go without juicy red meat for long stretches and when I was sure no one was looking.

But I’d perish without seafood.

And probably so will the rest of us in the year 2050, according to a new study released today by the United Nations. They said overfishing is on-track to deplete the oceans of fish within forty years.

My wife and many other people I know are just fine with that. They could take or leave seafood and they hate going in the ocean because of what lurks beneath the surface.

And a fishless ocean, I concede, is not without its appeal. It gives even a seafood lover like me the creeps to be standing in the surf and feel something slimy brush up against my leg.

Blame Steven Spielberg. His 1975 classic, “Jaws” remains one of the scariest movies of all time. And a great buddy movie, too. I stop whatever I’m doing any time I happen upon the scene where Quint, Chief Brody and Hooper are getting drunk and swapping stories about their scars.

I respect all God’s creations, but if someone said we were going to get rid of all the sharks I’d be hard pressed to come up with an opposing argument.

They’re dangerous and contribute nothing useful to the planet.

Same goes for things like mosquitos and Ashton Kutcher.

Every time I read news that a shark has eaten a hapless swimmer or chomped a limb off some surfer dude, I always go to the seafood counter at my local grocer and order a pound of shark meat for lunch on the grill.

I figure it’s the least I can do. I put some seasoning on it, maybe a little butter, flip it after four minutes over the glowing coals, repeat. Then I say a little grace and take a bite.

“How do you like it, you man-eating son of a bitch?”

The thing is, shark isn’t even that tasty.

Neither, I suppose, is unseasoned surfer dude.

It’s not like that with lobsters, Neptune’s most heavenly offering. I steam one at home whenever my wife takes my daughters away. I don’t like to hear the girls shriek about my inhumanity when I plunge live lobster into the steaming brine.

It distracts from my ability to hear the doomed lobster shriek.

Kidding! I don’t like the act of it either, but if any of us were at all ethical about food consumption then none of us would, as Lisa Simpson advises, ever eat anything that casts a shadow.

I’ve been conditioned by culture and security measures at my local grocer to think dining on lobster is the epitome of class. It’s served at only the finest restaurants and is the only item in my entire grocery store that is under 24-hour lockdown.

It’s true. Whenever I order a lobster, the guy in the seafood department has to go fetch a set of keys and unfasten two fist-sized locks bolted to a metal bar securing the tank.

I understand their potential value, but I can’t image surging levels of desperation and sophistication so unrestrained that anyone would be moved to shove a live lobster down his or her pants.

I’ve wondered if maybe I had it backwards. Maybe it wasn’t to keep thieves out, but to keep crafty crustaceans in.

Nah, can’t be. I’ve been to lobster-rich Maine many times and I’ve never seen loose lobsters on the lam -- and wouldn’t that make for a dandy surf ‘n’ turf!

For all it’s succulence, lobster isn’t one of the healthiest seafoods, certainly not like salmon, mackerel or sardines.

These are among the fish that are described as “oily” and provide us with a rich source of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids which help reduce the risks of heart disease. Amazingly, food described with words like polyunsaturated, fatty and acid is actually healthy.

Who’d have guessed?

And that brings me back to teaching fish about the benefits of consuming all the oil that is right now threatening to kill them.

Gulf fish supercharged on pure oil has the potential to be the healthiest fish ever produced.

I can hear the slogans now: “Eat Oil-Enriched Gulf Fish! Crude enough to put in your engine, refined enough to put on your plate!”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Random screen thoughts about random screens


The other day I realized I was spending so much time staring at or out various screened things that I needed extra eyeballs to give them all their due. Somehow when none of us was looking, screen became one of our most nimble words.
We’re all awash in screens.

Here’s a sampler:

• I’m torn about putting up screens in all our windows. We paid huge bucks for snazzy new windows last year and they’re impressive. But the new screens are so thick and dark that sometimes it feels like I’m in minimum-security prison for sissy bankers. There’s a joy to sticking your head out an open window to shout hello to the kids and critters playing the yard.

• Advance screenings and publicity for the new movie “Letters to Juliet” have me fearing for the career trajectory of the lovely Amanda Seyfried. I fell deeply in love with her during the several hundred times my wife and daughters played the joyful “Mamma Mia” on the big screen in our living room. I don’t want her doing anything to soil my pristine image of her. Too bad because apparently, she, like countless other ingenues, is determined to break my heart. I was devastated to see that she had the British vulgarity “minge,” Cockney slang a most intimate female body part, tattooed on her right foot. Now, why would she go and do that? Clearly, she knows more about acting than anatomy. The only way that’s going to make any sense is if she gets “foot” tattooed on a delicate place that will one day confuse future lovers.

• Pittsburgh’s still shaken from the favored Penguins loss to the Montreal Canadians in the NHL playoffs. Much of the blame is falling on goalie Marc-Andre-Fleury. Sure, big defensemen obscured his view on several goals, but not all the goals can be blamed on clumsy screens.

• Our 9-year-old, The Outlaw Josie Rodell, asked us the other morning if “punk” was a bad word. My general rule is, “There are no bad words, there are only bad times to say some words.” But I realize she needs to understand the boundaries of what she can shout if the preacher goes too long during the Sunday sermon, so I must maintain some conventions. No, I said, punk is not a bad word. It’s not polite, but you won’t get in trouble for using it. I could tell she was disappointed. So to cheer her up, I pulled out my laptop and called up “Dirty Harry” on YouTube. Together we stared at the laptop computer screen and watched the classic clip of where Clint Eastwood, as Det. Harry Callahan, lays waste to a San Francisco city block while munching a hot dog. As the scene winds down, the wounded outlaw wonders if the long-barreled widow maker’s in reach. It provokes one of the most memorable lines in the history of the silver screen.

I paraphrase: “I know what your thinking. Did he fire five shots or six? Well, in all this commotion, I’m lost count myself. But this being a 44-calibre Magnum, the biggest handgun made, and capable of blowing your head clean off, you have to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do you . . . PUNK?”

Josie was riveted. The bleeding gunman asks as Eastwood walks away, “I gots to know.” Clint turns, aims and pulls the trigger. Click. He grins.

Then the chagrined gunman shouts, “Son of a bitch!” For Josie, it was the frosting on the cake. She got to hear one really great profanity before the school bus came to take her to third grade where, doubtless, the alert teacher heard her challenging all her punk little classmates if they felt lucky.

I probably should have screened the clip before showing it to a 9 year old.

• Me, I enjoyed it so much that I’ve been telling everyone the story and reliving in my mind that classic bit of screen history. I think I’ll search for a screen print t-shirt of that classic phrase and wear it all over town.

So there you go. That covers all eight definitions of “screen” usage.

And now I can add “America’s Greatest Screen Writer” to my illustrious credits.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Horse racing needs jumbo jockeys


For the good of the sport, The Triple Crown needs one race where the jockeys are jumbos.

I’m proposing that horse racing alter its rules so that the Preakness tomorrow is run, not by elfin athletes, but by king-sized couch potatoes who weigh no fewer than 340 pounds each.

See, The Triple Crown races are among my favorite sporting events. Combined they conclude in under 7 minutes.

The Super Bowl has interminable commercial breaks that endure that long.

I want one race to take as long as the Super Bowl. I want to be able to invest a full afternoon in watching the ponies sluggishly trot ‘round the track with the occasional need to stop to graze or access a convenient water trough for quenching swigs.

A 340-pound jockey would ensure this. Note that the weight wouldn’t include the cooler full of beer each jockey would be allowed to strap to the saddle.

The weigh-ins would be priceless viewing. Instead of traditional colors, each jumbo jockey could wear a shirt promoting his -- or her -- favorite saloon or bowling alley.

There’s not a tavern in the land that couldn’t field three or four bar regulars worthy of consideration. I’m drinking buddies with tons of guys who’d qualify. Or to be more accurate, I’m buddies with about five guys who if thrown together in one big sack would weight one ton.

And 340 is a good weight. It’s ample enough to meet today’s obesity standards, but not so much so that many jockeys could make it without dietary supplements. Thus, pre-game rituals might show plus-sized jockeys scarfing down buckets of The Colonel’s chicken in order to make designated weight.

The spectacle would flip on its head the unhealthy anorexic trends that ravage traditional diminutive jockeys obliged to starve themselves to meet the required 126 pounds.

In fact, much of the pre-race hype could be devoted to another rising American pastime -- competitive eating.

“And Frank, representing The Outdoor Inn in Queens is going double fisted with a Whopper with triple bacon and the dangerous extra cheese pizza that was blamed for the unfortunate cardiac arrest of Tubby Tom at last year’s weigh-in! But Pam from The Smilin’ Hog Bar-B-Q & Foam in Biloxi is coming on strong with a stack of baby backs dripping with the home team sauce, now available on-line and in Piggly-Wiggly’s all across Dixie.”

Of course, nothing would match the excitement of the moment when the loads are loaded into the starting gates.

“And they’re off!”

Or not. I speculate that with a 340-pound jockey on its back, many of these thoroughbreds wouldn’t even budge. And wouldn’t that be exciting!

“Not one horse is moving! Not a one is able to manage the first step! But wait! The no. 4 horse is staggering out of the gate!

She’s taken four steps . . . five . . . Oh! No! The filly’s collapsed!”

Given those dynamics, it’s likely the 1 and 3/16 mile Preakness would take about three hours, rather than the usual two minutes.

The final “sprint” down the homestretch would allow gamblers plenty of convenient time for bathroom and smoke breaks before the action got down to the wire.

Some animal rights activists might protest that the entire spectacle might be cruel to these huge beasts.

They might say they are not fit enough for the race and the exertion could kill the dumb animals.

And they have a point.

But there’s an easy fix for that.

Just have ‘em all read and sign waivers before the race.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Take two naps, call me in the morning


One of the most wonderful things to do in bed or on a desk in the afternoon is once again being disparaged by Type-A personalities, the same people who continue to find speedier and speedier ways to screw up this godforsaken world.

And I’m not talking about sex, which needs no defending from the likes of me. Types-A through Z love sex and are having it all the time all over the place. They have nooners in cheap hotels, handy closets and right out in the open and I’m all for it.

So is practically everybody else. We all enjoy a good romp and can agree that the more time people spend drilling each other the less time they’ll spend drilling things like deep sea oil wells so that’s a net positive.

What I’m talking about is another basic human act that can leave you feeling as refreshed as you do after sex without all the emotional entanglements, the texted lies to suspicious spouses or weeks of worry about exotic social diseases that’ll leave you feeling anything but sociable.

I’m talking about the nap, the doze, the 40 winks.

In some hard-charging corporate centers, office drunks get more understanding than anyone who’d dare to nap during company time.

And please don’t mistake that easy example for a bash on office drunks. I support them, too. In fact, it’s hard to find a human vice I don’t encourage in others or nurture in myself.

Napping is in the news because this week two high profile baseball figures have been exposed as on-the-job nappers.

Teammates of Seattle Mariners great Ken Griffey Jr. tattled to reporters that Griffey was unable to pinch hit one recent game because he was napping in the clubhouse. And doesn’t “pinch hit” sound like a fast escalating sequence of violence from someone with anger management issues?

And, hilariously, Keith Hernandez, a former New York Met great, “Seinfeld” guest and a team announcer, is making the YouTube rounds after being caught on camera napping while he was -- shhhh! -- broadcasting a game.

This, of course, led to predictable howls of snide humor at the expense of a game that’s always being bullied by freakish numbskulls devoted to professional football.

If Major League Baseball had any sense it would promote its games as a great place to nap. I’ve enjoyed napping during many baseball games. Heck, as a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, now in their 18th consecutive year of losing baseball, I’ve napped through many seasons.

I’ve become a nap aficionado in the last few years because of the little sleep bandit that lives across the hall. Like her sister before her, she comes unbidden into our room in the wee small hours, snuggles in between my wife and I, and spends the rest of the night kicking me in places no man likes to be kicked.

On top of that, once I’m awakened, my mind is off and running. I start thinking about why it seems I’m doomed to be broke. I think about great rounds of golf I’ve shot and courses I’d like to play. And I think about the thing I’ve thought about ever since I was 14 and I was surprised to learn there are things to do in beds other than doze.

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep ever since.

Just the other night, I had a romantic dream about my lovely wife. Really, it was great. Very fulfilling. But then I woke up angry that dream Rachel McAdams had blown me off.

Bitch.

What, is dream me not good enough for dream her?

So given all this, it would probably be wise for a guy like me to lay down for extended stretches on a psychiatrist’s couch.

But that’s not for me.

Naps are. I’m trying to build in a little nap time into any day when I feel a refresher is needed. Studies show that power nappers experience benefits in both the mind and body. It worked for renown nappers like Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Maybe it’ll work for me. Maybe it’ll help turn my floundering career around. Maybe I’ll be an inspiration to sleep-deprived scores of others who’ll follow my lead.

I’ll be Johnny Nappleseed!

But that all sounds pretty ambitious for a sleep-deprived guy like me.

First, I need to make time for a little slumber siesta.

I hope stuck-up dream Rachel McAdams isn’t too busy for an afternoon quickie.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Get a haircut, save a fish


A flurry of offbeat news stories has me once again yearning to pursue my dream job.

I look good in a smock. I love to yap. I want to help save the planet.

Yes, I still dream of becoming a barber.

I’m perfectly charmed by the news that Matter of Trust is harvesting mountains of hair to sop up all the oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico (and is it out of stubborn Anglo arrogance that no one ever calls it the Mexican Gulf?).

Here’s the note from their website:

"Anyone and Everyone: salons, groomers, individuals can sign up to donate hair and fur clippings and nylons for our Oil Spill Booms. Our Excess Access program sign up is FREE, fast and helps us to coordinate the masses of donations.



CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP TO DONATE HAIR / FUR / NYLONS and get a delivery address emailed. Warehouses are small, so we're not posting on the web, we're orchestrating how much goes where all along the Coast. We all get it. We shampoo because hair collects oil!



Thousands of pounds of hair and nylons are coming in by UPS and FED EX from every State in the US and from Canada, Brazil, France, UK... Booms are being made all along the Gulf Coast near beaches and marshes. What a community feeling!"

All I can say is, “Bravo! Hip! Hip! Hair-ay!”

This would be the focus of all the banter at my Main Street Barber Shoppe, (open Tuesdays through Friday, 10 a.m. -- 6 p.m., Saturdays 9 to noon). I’d share with all my customers the news that some fresh thinkers have found a way to combat a nasty pollutant with something so green, or in my case something so frosted brown.

I’ve always thought barbering would be the perfect job because it shares many of the qualities I enjoy in my primary occupation, that of avid bar patron.

I love to sit stationary and discuss the topics of the day, joke, listen to music and get a mild buzz on while more ambitious sorts are out nurturing heart disease through their stressful, driven lifestyles.

So if someone could teach me how to cut hair while seated and sipping beer, barbering would be ideal.

But that’s a dream for another day. Right now, my immediate goal is not to be a barber, but to become a person who looks like he really, really needs one. I want to donate something that even PayPal won’t take.

See, when disasters like the one in the gulf strike, I feel impotent in ways a middle-aged man still feels manly enough to discuss without blushing.

I wish I could do something to help. I want to clean up oil-smudged ecosystems. I want to patronize struggling businesses. I want to bath an oily fish and then give it to a bayou chef who’ll cook it up and serve it to me with some tasty red beans and rice.

I want to do something other than sit and get depressed about my inability to do anything but pray.

So now I’m excited because I’m helping by just sitting here and sprouting hair. In fact, growing hair for a reason might be my most productive endeavor since I started blogging.

One report I read said hair grows 1/2 an inch a month. That sounds skimpy to me. The exuberant hairs up my nose grow that much when I’m watching one hour-long episode of “Survivor.”

Still, given my track record, I know my efforts to grow enough boom-worthy hair would be half-assed -- and would still be even if I remembered to shave the unsightly patches from both sides of that plush region.

The idea is generating widespread interest. In an era when any 50 percent of the population thinks the other 50 percent are idiots, this is one solution that’s garnering universal support.

Everyone has a suggestion. Some are saying, “Shave all the hippies!” Some are saying, “Shave all the Rastafarians!” Some are saying, “Shave all the dogs!”

We’ll save the gulf with a Great Hairier Reef!

I’m wondering where we can find just one Rastafarian hippie dog for me to shave.

That’d be a good test case for a budding barber with sharp scissors and shaky hands.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Refined solutions to crude spills


The optimist in me says that any minute a giant oil-devouring robot is going to be deployed to clean up the spill in the gulf. It will scour the shores, cleanse the waters and sip crude off the tender wings of endangered Snowy Bayou Plovers.

If that happens, then the pessimist in me believes that man will have forgotten to install an “off” switch and the insatiable robot will turn inland to devour refineries and gas stations and won’t stop until it immobilizes my Saturn.

And the news junkie in me would prefer that to the drip, drip, drip of inaction coming from this disaster.

The whole story has such a primitive ‘70s feel to it.

The 1870s.

How is this happening in the 21st century? In the 1970s, my teachers all assured me by now we’d all be zooming arout the skies in jet packs fueled by things like grass clippings. Of course, these were the same teachers that assured me one day I’d be using the metric system to measure things like kilometers per liter.

Like my mythical oil-sucking robot, it seems like somebody forgot to include an “off” switch on the oil platforms that robotically suck fossil fuels from deep beneath the earth.

You mean no one saw this coming? No one thought to put a series of fail-safes in a mile-long straw stretching through choppy waters routinely ravaged by hurricanes?

We make a mistake entrusting these sorts of operations to people with more degrees than sense.

Me and my fellow idiots at the bar were talking about it just yesterday.

“You’d think they’d -- just in case -- have some sort of really big cork or seal that automatically deploys if the really big straw breaks off at the top,” said a regular Joe conveniently named Joe. “And then -- just-in-case -- you put another one down below that.”

“And then to be really, really, safe -- just-in-case -- you put one down at the very bottom so that if, God forbid, the whole thing breaks off you can just shut it off and start sweeping up the debris.”

Really, can such simple safeguards be that difficult to include in construction mandates with something so potentially devastating?

I think this gulf catastrophe would be working out differently if Jed Clampett was still involved in the oil industry.

He’d be full of common sense suggestions that infuriate investment bankers like Mr. Drysdale, but would ultimately prove beneficial.

Now they’re talking about lowering a giant dome over the source of the leaks. I like this idea, but wonder why each rig doesn’t come equipped with its own telescoping gigantic dome that it can drop atop leaks the instant they are detected.

Sure, hasty deployment might doom handfuls of adventurous scuba divers, but I’ll take a host of loggerhead turtles over scuba divers any day. No loggerhead turtle’s ever ruined my backyard barbecue by boring me with dozens of deep sea pictures from his last dive.

The whole industry seems rife with arrogance that, c’mon, nothing like this is ever going to happen, and if it does it’ll be minor and we can deal with it in a jiffy.

And up from the ground comes a bubblin’ crude.

I keep thinking the world changing innovations are just around the bend and I keep getting slapped in the head with stinging reminders that the bend is no where in sight.

We can only hope this spill will hasten our wisest intentions to slip free from technologies that were new about 50 years before our great-grandfathers huddled around sitting room radios to hear FDR talk about war effort oil rationing.

And, until then, we can all do our part.

Me, I’m going do a pencil drawing of what my giant oil-devouring robot will look like. Later I’ll ask the boys in the bar where they think we should put the big off switch.

Monday, May 3, 2010

All the conservative Rons


Two of the most persistent surprises to me about my blogging is the high percentage of Rons and political conservatives who admit to reading it.

I know six Rons who read www.EightDaysToAmish.com and other sites where I simultaneously post.

That’s seems like a lot to me.

I’ve never applied the widgets that’ll inform how many actual readers I have, but if I extrapolate based solely on the Rons then I believe the numbers must be substantial.

Why all the Rons?

Had I been blogging in the 1950s, the number of Rons would have been more understandable. That was when the name was 12th most popular among parents naming baby boys.

But now the name has dropped all the way to 249 on www.babynames.com behind even clunky male handles like Micah, no. 56, or the oddly equine sounding Colton, finishing way out of the money at no. 85.

Even more mystifying is the acknowledged number of conservative readers.

Fifty percent of the Rons are conservative. Plus, there’s Marty, Doug, Kyle, Susan, Max Power, Joyce, musicsmith, Betsy, Chuck and -- who knows? -- perhaps even Ann Coulter and Dick Cheney.

This is surprising because I’m not conservative, disdain conservative ideas and devote nearly one out of every seven posts to bashing conservatives for being stingy, humorless and stupid.

I try to be the opposite of all those things. I strive in all matters to bestow enlightenment, levity and a really swank gratuity with every check.

So why conservatives read this stuff is an enduring mystery to me.

Well, one of the Rons gave me some insight the other day.

We were golfing and engaged in a running argument about Ben Roethlisberger. The topic is upending traditional liberal/conservative law and order thinking.

Liberals like me tend to believe in redemptive third, fourth and fifth chances for miscreants, while conservatives are on record as supporting punitive three-strikes-and-you’re-out laws for petty crooks like shoplifters who steal canned tuna to keep from starving to death.

Of course, most petty crooks aren’t white multi-millionaires who helped the home team win two Super Bowls. So the Roethlisberger case instigates lively discussion.

Liberals like me believe there’s enough embarrassing evidence to warrant dumping him, while conservatives like Ron believe the Steelers should continue to pay him millions of dollars while ignoring his recreational rapes of underage drunks in squalid bathrooms blocked by beefy bodyguards.

It’s a bedrock philosophical discrepancy.

So neither of us was budging on the argument as it raged from the first tee through the fifth green, both of us failing to convince the other that he’s an idiot.

Then Ron laughed and said he was enjoying the back and forth. “What fun would it be if we all agreed on everything?’’ he asked.

“It would be hell if we all agreed with you,” I said, “but if everyone agreed with me it would a utopia.”

And, truly, that’s what it would be. Music would be better. Flowers would smell sweeter and at night happy families would gather in the streets to sing devotionals. If someone said, “Say, did you see last night’s episode of ‘My Name is Earl?” he or she would never be greeted with blank stares.

This blissful existence is my goal.

I devote two or three hours every other day to writing blog posts designed to get people to agree with everything I say.

I don’t do this for money, for prestige or peer acclaim. I do it because it is my goal to get everyone -- liberals, conservatives, wrongs and Rons -- to have a head-slapping eureka moment where they exclaim: “Gadzooks! He’s right. Conan O’Brien is an annoying spaz! The National Enquirer should win the Pulitzer Prize! And Dick Cheney is truly the logical successor to Simon Cowell on American Idol!

“It would be fun if we had scannable forehead bar codes that revealed things like name, astrological sign, political disposition, cereal preference and current level of sexual arousal. He’s right! You can’t have a party without the Stones and the overuse of exclamation points in casual writing is a pox on the grammatical landscape!!!!”

So, yes, it would be paradise if I could convince everyone that my liberal arguments were correct and everyone agreed it was thus.

The bigger question, I asked Ron, is why a conservative like him would ever bother to read me at all.

“It’s because it’s entertaining!” he said.

Even when I’m trying to make a non-humorous and thoughtful political point?

“Especially when you’re trying to make a non-humorous and thoughtful political point!”

So there you go.

Eight Days To Amish: Helping make Rons and conservatives jolly since 2008.