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.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
That astronaut Sally Ride didn’t come out as gay until the publication of her obituary convinces me she wasn’t a blogger who one day woke up desperate for an attention-snagging topic.
I began blogging in May of 2008.
Believe me, if I was a lesbian astronaut, you’d have heard about it by June of 2008.
In fact, my blog would probably be called www.ImaLesbianAstronaut.com.
I’m happy she’s extending even in death her efforts to be a positive role model, but feel chagrined she didn’t do it when it could have had a more colossal impact, like on June 18, 1983, the instant she became the first American woman in space.
Mission Control: “Congratulations, Challenger, please confirm your orbital status, over.”
Sally Ride: “Roger, Mission Control. I do wish to confirm my status. Here goes: Homophobic earthlings, you have a problem. I’m gay! Gay! Gay! Roger that, bee-yotch! Over and out! And I mean really out!”
Of course, back then she wasn’t gay, at least not in the eyes of the law and President Ronald Reagan.
She was in a conventional marriage from 1982-1987 to Steven Hawley. Her obit says she began a loving partnership with Tam O’Shaughnessy in 1985.
So for two years, this brainy and respected dual icon of science and pop culture lived a life that was not unlike that of zany Jack Tripper from “Three’s Company.”
I love it when American icons reveal something surprising about themselves that demolish our preconceived notions.
I’m talking here about a respected newscaster and, no, I don’t mean Anderson Cooper.
I’m talking about beloved storyteller Charles Kuralt. His more-wholesome-than-milk “On The Road” reports were haled by family value conservatives as evidence he was most at home in what they still call “real America.”
That’s why it was so pleasing after his star-spangled July 4, 1997, death it was revealed he was truly most at home simultaneously in two different places.
A Manhattanite, he’d for three decades kept a shadow family in Montana, which kind of made him a polygamist with frequent flyer miles.
Many conservatives felt betrayed.
Me, I felt admiration for some unsung secretary who somehow managed to for 30 years make all the tricky logistics work.
It wasn’t like that with Ride, who was comfortable living out of the public eye.
She must have realized the impact she could have had. Maybe she considered offering public hints but decided it would be unseemly for someone accustomed to steering space crafts to float a trial balloon.
The Ride revelation had me recalling a 2009 New York Magazine article about gay activist Larry Kramer, who wrote a scholarly book in which he historically outed nearly every famous man who ever lived.
George Washington? Gay.
Abraham Lincoln? Gay.
Kramer suggests Lewis & Clark had “His ‘n’ His” matching towels on their great trans-continental expedition.
I suppose it shows considerable restraint that he didn’t say the Biblical Adam was gay in the Garden of Eden. And can you imagine for a moment how finite world history would be if he was?
I’m sorry Ride, an American hero, felt shy about revealing news about herself that increasingly isn’t news at all.
I understand the urge to keep some of our most personal things personal, but let’s all try to set the record straight while it’s still within our control.
And please don’t interpret my use of the word straight as being in anyway judgmental.