Friday, March 22, 2013

Setting the record straight: Lies I told The PG

My friends at the bar had sporting fun over this excellent article all about me and my book that appeared in yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“I must congratulate you,” one said, “on nurturing this conceit that you’re some tremendous humanitarian for the purposes of hocking your book.”

I thanked him for the spice his sarcasm adds to my day.

But he’s correct. The flattering article makes me seem like one of the world’s greatest guys, a generous and caring man whose every motivation is the well being of his fellow man.

How’d this happen?

Well, I’m the story’s only source and budgetary necessities have laid waste to newspaper fact-checking departments.

So if a reporter asks me what kind of guy I am, sure, I’m going to say I’m a real sweetheart. Happily, I have a cheerful book out there that supports the contention.

It would be fun to see what a real warts ‘n’ all portrait of me would say. But no reputable news organization would bother to undertake the task and my wife’s too busy to do it herself, thank God.

And, geez, would that be a best-seller with the boys at the bar.

But I thought I would try and balance the perception by giving the honest version of the 19-question “Snapshot” that accompanied the print version of the story.

I’ve never been asked these questions with the understanding they’d receive a wide readership. But I think anyone who’s ever seen the profile of a Playboy Playmate of the Month has put themselves in their shoes -- if they’re even wearing shoes -- and asked themselves how they’d answer.

Like, “That’s odd, my turn offs are traffic, bad breath and rude people, too. I think me and Miss March might really it it off!”

These questions aren’t as easy as they look because they all tempt you to lie a little.  You want people to think you’re cool and fun so they’ll buy your book or maybe invite you to a party full of interesting folks.

So I’ll set the record straight here with my actual answer and the true answer, where it applies.

Age: 50

True. I flinched just a bit when I wrote it. Would people be more impressed if I’d answered 29? Strangers would, but you can’t lie on the age question.

Hometown: Raised in Mt. Lebanon; now lives in Latrobe.

True. In Pittsburgh, Mt. Lebanon connotes privilege and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a fact I used to dodge. No more. I’m proud of where I’ve been and where I’m at. I love it here in Latrobe and we’re not going anywhere.

• Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Ohio University.

True. Lots of people like to pad their resumes in this regard. Not me. Being a Bobcat is one of my most proud attributes. It’s where I learned to drink responsibly whenever I should and irresponsibly whenever I can. It’s where I became who I am. Go Bobcats!

Family: Wife, Valerie; daughters Josie, 12 and Lucy, 6.


What’s important: Family and fun.

True, in the broadest sense. It’s a tricky question. Because I’ll catch hell from all quarters if I put “Staying on my bartender’s good side.” So I gave the safe answer. You see a lot of people who put “God” in there, first even. Sorry, God, but I wasn’t going to do that. Hope you understand.

First job: Newspaper carrier for the Pittsburgh Press.

True. Not a traditional job. Should I have put pizza maker? No. Delivering newspapers was such a great job for a kid. Sorry it’s not around anymore.

• When you were a kid, you wanted to: Skip School

True and a genius answer. I thought about putting astronaut or ball player, but I remember some of my happiest childhood memories occurred when I was skipping school. But I became so enamored with this answer it became a detrimental influence to several of the following questions.

• Hobbies: Reading, golf, recreational tavern time at The Pond in Latrobe.

Mostly true. I love to read and golf, but crafting a way to include my bar hobby, which I had to do, is a lie. Recreational tavern time? What the hell does that mean? Putting “drinking beer for a couple hours every other day or so,” makes me sound like a drunk. The honest answer would be “drinking,” but there’s so much more to it -- laughing, watching sports -- that I felt the dodgy “recreational tavern time” would work. Plus, that gave me a chance to mention Dave’s bar and that pleased him, which I’m always happy to do. The world will be a better place when convivial men and women like me can say, “I like to drink!” without crabby folks getting all judgmental. 

What’s playing on your TV: “Breaking Bad” re-runs.

Partially true. It’s our favorite and the one we’ll watch over and over. But we also love “Justified,” and “Homeland.” Our lunch routine includes “The Price Is Right!” Showcase Showdown followed by classic “Hawaii Five-0” reruns. I picked “Breaking Bad” because I thought it was the one that would make me appear most cool and, remember, that’s the motivation behind each and every answer, true or false.

What’s playing on your iPod: Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Todd Snider, Joe Ely.

One-quarter true. According to my iTunes play count, my top five most played songs are Mark Knopfler, Mark Knopfler, Mark Knopfler, Ray Davies and Bob Dylan. The first Van Morrison song doesn’t come until 15 and is preceded by more songs from Knopfler and ones by Stephen Bruton, Alan Jackson and the Rolling Stones. Snider and Ely don’t appear until well into the hundreds, so clearly I was calculating including them would appear cool. And I do love them. Josie asked me the other day who my favorite band was. I told her it depends on my mood. Then I went on to bore her with a 20-minute discourse on how much music means to me (she stopped even pretending to listen after two minutes). It’s an issue I plan to blog about soon, but the essence was I’m glad I’m not one of those people who can blurt out one name and be done with it. Music matters so much more than that. Honestly, I’ll take anyone of the four I mentioned with me on the deserted island.

Fantasy dinner date: Bill Clinton

False. I love Clinton, but the word “fantasy” makes this a difficult answer. For me fantasy includes nudity and I don’t want to see Bubba in the buff. I suppose my fantasy dinner date would be Rachel McAdams. She’s the perfect combo of sweet and sexy. Many guys try and score points by answering, “My darling wife.” I wasn’t going to do that because Val would know I was bullshitting, just as she would if she put, “My aristocratic and refined husband.” Her fantasy dinner date? The girl who plays Michonne on “Walking Dead,” a woman she once described on Facebook as “dreamy,” which still freaks the hell out of me.

Who would play you in a movie about your life: Matthew Broderick.

False. This is where the “skip school” answer again rears its head. Someone about 30 years ago said I looked like Broderick, so there is some ancient validity to the answer. But again with “cool” as my lighthouse, I answered him because I thought people would think of “Ferris Bueller” and perpetuate the conceit about me being this carefree hipster who writes self-help books about happiness. It’s a tough question. A great answer would have been Fred Flintstone.

Guilty pleasure: Playing hookie to watch Pirate baseball.

False. I love doing this, but I feel no guilt about it whatsoever. I suppose I should have answered splurging on sushi without my wife knowing about it, but then she’d read about it and I’d feel truly guilty. She reads about one out of four of my blogs and I’m hoping she’s skipping this one.

Favorite spot in the whole world: Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands.

False, but only because I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some great places. The butt-kissy answer is “At home in front of the fire with my darling family and our stupid dog!” I almost put Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies, or New Orleans. But Val and I did have a great vacation at B.E.Y.C. and it’s obscure enough to boost my cool factor, I think.

If you had to do it all over again, you would: “Be more contemptuous of all authority.”

False. I took a lot of advice from more elderly idiots throughout my life, but that’s all part of growing up. No, if I was honest I’d have said something about screwing more babes before I got married. I had an old-fashioned view of integrity that kept me from cheating on girls who probably wouldn’t have really cared. But how would it have looked if I’d have answered: “More sex with bimbos!” Honest, but not cool.

Proudest moment so far: “Authoring a widely rejected self-published book that is showing signs it has a chance of being a sensation.”

False. I’m hopeful about the book, but it’s too early to say I’m proud. I’m proud of our daughters and my marriage, but nobody wants to read about that. Plus, I was running out of questions and wanted to hype the book some more.

• What’s on your bucket list: “Go another 20 years without having a job and somehow parlaying that into an actual job.”

False. A real whopper. Please! Please! Please, someone give me a job! Any job! I’d love to have a job that paid well, offered benefits, and had boss who was appreciative of my skills, one that rewarded me with influence and prestige.

I guess that’s on your bucket list, too.

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