Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Monday, July 30, 2012
I’ve begun inflicting an evil little nursery rhyme on my daughters every time the skies begin to darken.
If you hear it, clear it
If you see it, flee it
It’s one of those annoying little ear worms that once it’s burrowed its way into your brain, it’s impossible to shake loose.
I learned it about 12 years ago when I was in the midst of becoming America’s foremost lightning reporter.
This is factual. At one time, I’d written major feature stories on lightning for four different national magazines.
It became my niche -- and my niches have always been nichey enough to ensure my professional poverty. It all began when I read a story about Harold Deal, a man who in 1969 was struck by lightning and never felt cold again. His vanity license plates read “NO COAT.”
The lightning strike so sizzled his skin he’d spend days lounging in ice-filled bathtubs in the hopes of finding elusive comfort.
I was doing human oddity stories for National Enquirer at the time. I called Deal and explained I wanted to do a serious story about his inexplicable condition.
Aware of the tabloid’s notorious reputation, he was resistant. He agreed to cooperate only after I gave him my solemn word the story would not poke fun of him or his condition.
So it was awkward when I called him back and said the photo editor asked if he’d agree to pose for pictures in the Orlando SeaWorld penguin hutch covered in ice and flightless water foul.
“Yeah, sure, what the hell,” he said.
Can’t believe I still have the clip. My lead: “Hell will freeze over before Harold Deal does!”
It was through Deal I learned there was an annual convention of lightning strike survivors then held in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, a gathering of the Smoked in the Smokies.
It’s where I first began to truly clear it when I’d hear it and flee it when I’d see it.
I learned that the No. 2 killer of lightning strike victims is suicide.
The No. 1 killer?
A single lick of 53,000-degree lightning can fill your frame with 100 million volts of soul-searing electricity, 45,000 times more than the eye-for-an-eye minded state of Florida lets loose when it pulls the jitter switch on Death Row bad guys.
It can leave you incontinent, off balance, forgetful, prone to seizures/violence/fits of crying. It can screw you up in ways that make you wish you were dead. And all the best doctors will examine you for months and say, gee, sorry, all the tests say you’re normal. Nothing we can do.
It can strike you through windows and snake its way through your electrical outlets and pipes into your showers. One survivor told the story of how he was struck laying in snug bed when lightning came through the walls and automatically turned his electric blanket up to a solar setting.
So I’m terrified of lightning.
That’s why what I’m about to say next will strike many as odd.
I intend to die by lightning strike.
I’m vicarious about how people check out. Is that the way I want to go?
I certainly don’t want to die in hospital or of old age and would like to orchestrate my demise at a time that’s convenient for me, like maybe at the conclusion of the Seinfeld “Junior Mint” episode.
But conventional suicide is an often messy embarrassment to the survivors.
I’m always fascinated by the somewhat recent phenomenon popularly known as suicide by cop. It’s where forlorn men commit a crime and wave a gun around at the police until lethal ventilation ensues.
But I wouldn’t want a good cop to feel remorse at having to shoot me, or a bad cop to feel elation over a justifiable kill.
So it began to dawn on me getting killed by lightning would be going out in a true blaze of glory. Call it a brainstorm.
I could take steps to ensure it happens while I’m golfing, a pastime where I’ve many times hit shots so poorly I’d wished I was dead anyway.
That’ll be me standing atop an aluminum ladder waving a 4 iron at the heavens and shouting, “Hail, Zeus!”
My death, I’m sure, will leave my survivors with one last great story to tell.
Yes, it sounds contradictory, but dying from lightning strike would for me seem perfectly cool.
If all goes well, I plan on executing my execution in the year 2048 when I’m 85 and begin running low on fresh blog topics.
Until then, I’m hearing it, I’m clearing it . . .
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Friday, July 27, 2012
My interest in the Olympics ratcheted up another notch this morning when I saw Ann Romney has a horse that’s competing and the horse appears to be gay.
That’s unfair, of course, of course.
I don’t know if horses can even be gay. For all I know, maybe horses are like that Chik-fil-a guy and have imposed laws preventing horses from becoming homosexual.
Maybe they’ve elevated the pray-the-gay away thingie to an art, although it’s hard for me to imagine a horse seated with its hooves folded in horsey prayer.
And I know it’s insensitive of me to judge any being simply by how it looks.
But the horse is certainly flamboyant and behaves like a direct equine counterpart to many of the exuberant gay people I wrote about here on the day last month when my family and I wandered right smack into the middle of Pittsburgh’s Gay Pride Parade.
But there’s an old saying: if it walks like a gay duck and quacks like a gay duck, then chances are it’s a gay duck.
That seems to be the case with the horse the Romneys for reasons I can’t discern named Rafalca. Their sons carry the more conventional handles of Matthew, Joshua, Benjamin, Craig and the sort of screwy Taggert, who was clearly the family favorite because Tag is always it.
Couldn’t find it anywhere. It’s probably wishful thinking, but I hope some enterprising reporter enlivens the Olympics by revealing Rafalca means “Obama’s a Muslim” in some exotic tongue.
The 15-year-old German mare will compete at an event called dressage. I’m eager to learn more, but from what I saw I’m surprised the contestants don’t wear frilly horse tutus.
I’m not kidding. Dressage is, in fact, considered horse ballet, which may be why I thought the horse appeared to be gay. It pranced around. It flitted about. It preened.
It behaved nothing like any of the of the horses I’ve seen in the John Wayne movies. It looked like the kind of horse who’d refuse to drink from a common trough and would instead sip from fine China tea cups with its pinkie up.
I’ll watch, sure, but horse ballet sounds like a waste of a good horse. I think big strong animals should race or compete to see which one can pull carriages with the most beer.
Now, monkey ballet, that sounds great. Just imagine those ratings.
Learning about offbeat new sports is one of the things I love about the Olympics, and love ‘em I do.
I’ll be glued to the set for tonight’s opening ceremonies and will be an avid viewer throughout the games.
I find it all so compelling. There’s so much pageantry, drama by highly skilled competitors who come from around the world
If it weren’t for the endless hours of NBC promos, it would be humanity at its best.
Seeing Ann and Mitt traipsing around London has been entertaining, too. He’s looking like a Gold Medal shoo-in for most gaffes. One London tabloid had the page one headline: “Mitt The Twit.”
I know we’re not supposed to bash the Romneys for their wealth, their car elevators, their Swiss bank accounts, etc.
That’s the American way, right? We all want that, don’t we? It’s capitalism at its unchecked best, baby.
But there’s something jarring about a potential president who co-owns a horse so refined it competes in a precious Olympic event few of us have ever even heard of, and comports itself in ways that make it seem too snobby to even pet or offer an apple.
It’s not bad when I have trouble relating to the Romneys.
But I think it’s going to be a problem when voters realize we can’t even relate to their horse.