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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Taking my worms to elementary school


As I spent much of the weekend up to my elbows in warm, wet worm poo, it occurred to me I’d make a really great God.

Well, at least a really great worm god, and for the sake of worm humility let’s keep the great worm god all lowercase. I’ll do anything for my worms.

As I do every year, I tidied up my little worm farm in preparation for taking the slick little critters in for an Earth Day extravaganza at my daughters’ elementary school.

Those of you who care about such things believe Earth Day was last week. Not for me, it wasn’t.

No, today is Earth Day. So is tomorrow. And so is the day after that. I celebrate Earth Day every day of the year. There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t do something to try and make the world you and I share more hospitable.

I reduce, reuse and recycle like a maniac. Someday I think my entire fitness regimen involves dashing head down across shopping center parking lots chasing after windblown trash. I don’t mind looking like an idiot doing it and believe it helps keep me fit, at least until some guy in an gas-guzzler HumVee runs me right over.

But it’s as a proselytizing worm farmer that I have my greatest impact.

This will be the sixth year I’ve been invited to speak to my kids’ classes about worm farming. It’s always a lot of fun and I know I’ve made a real impact on hundreds of kids, many of whom through no fault of their own are being raised by morons who don’t recycle.

I always consider it a successful day when I can depart assured many of the kids will become avid recyclers and that none of the first grade boys ate any of my worms. 

Worms fascinate me. First of all, they are what I call ambi-sexterous. Yes, it takes a trained eye and I’d guess an atomic level microscope to notice, but every worm is a hermaphrodite generously bestowed with reproductive organs of both sexes.

The condition is not enough to make me tune into worm porn night on Animal Planet, but since learning the fact I’ve never again looked at a worm and believed it endures a boring or lonely existence.

As it was explained to me, “These worms simply live to eat and reproduce. Basically, the worm is just a mouth, anus and a microscopic little brain.”

I asked, given these base characteristics, how the red wiggler worm differed from your typical radio talk show host.

“Well, the worm actually contributes some good to society. About 45 percent of all our waste stream comes from food and paper products, both of which are compostable materials. Worms can convert these common waste products into nutrient-rich soil fertilizer to energize your gardens.”

Oh, how I wish I could find one wise worm capable of answering my questions about its eco-heroics. 

Of course, my questions would probably bore your typical red wiggler causing it slither away to go have sex with itself.

I consider myself a true humanitarian, someone who cares about his fellow man. In fact, I’m what I guess you’d call a wormitarian.

I’ve met and endured many people who are absolute jerks, but I’ve never met a worm for whom I didn’t extend the highest regard.

To me, each one is precious. That’s why I felt briefly like I was the great worm god this weekend. 

A big part of worm farming is sifting all that nutrient-rich worm poo for compost. Some worm farmers, I’m sure, just carelessly toss many worms in with the compost.

Not me. I take great pains to ensure none of the worms get taken away from their worm family.

This, I realize is stupid even as I’m doing it. Worms don’t seem to have families and if they do they aren’t very sentimental. My wife sometimes criticized me for that, but when my mother dies I promise you I won’t just eat her like she’s some old celery stick, as worms do when another worm dies.

But I did surprise myself with the my tender feelings for my worms.

I wonder some days I should maybe cease helping my fellow man in favor of helping the noble worm. 

Maybe then people would see me walking down the street and say, “There goes a real worm god.”

Or maybe they’d say, “God, there goes a real worm.”

Either way, I’d take it as a real compliment.



Related . . .


Monday, April 29, 2013

Just another manic Monday: songs about days


Rainy days and Mondays always get me thinking about “Rainy Days and Mondays” by The Carpenters. That sometimes lasts ‘til Tuesday when voices carry clear through Wednesday Morning 3 a.m. After that, I become a Thursday’s Child with Friday on my mind until it’s another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody and you know what that means: Yep, blue Sunday.

Why do some days rate more song titles than others?

Here’s my list of some songs for each day of the week and the ones I think are the best.

Monday 

I do like “Rainy Days and Mondays” by The Carpenter and I’m a big fan of “Manic Monday,” a song Prince wrote for The Bangles in 1986. “I Don’t Like Mondays” by Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats is a great song, but I don’t like songs that depict senseless schoolyard shootings. Mondays come freighted with enough grimness that we don’t need to sonically import more. Alan Jackson has “Monday Morning Church,” one of my favorites of his. It’s a very sad story about a widower raging against God for stealing his too young love. I like John Prine’s “Long Monday” with its lines about the day being “stuck like the tick of a clock that’s come unwound.” Then there’s Jimmy Buffett’s fine “Come Monday” a great one that really captures the mood of the day. Still one of Buffett’s best, but it’s only the second best Monday song. The first is . . .

“Monday Monday,” The Mamas and The Papas, 1966 -- The tune perfectly captures the let’s-get-on-with-it feel of Mondays. Neither overly depressing nor artificially rah-rah on a day when on one’s eager for cheerleading. Plus, it intones the name twice. So the only way a song about Mondays could be improved would be if it were called “Monday Monday Monday.”


Tuesday

I feel like including something by the great ‘80s band ‘til Tuesday just because I so love the song, “Voices Carry.” Great video, too. But that’ll have to wait for if and when I do one about bands named after days. “Tuesday” has been a song title for many bands including The Bacon Brothers, Trey Anastasio, Lenny Williams and Country Crows. You’ve got “Tuesday’s Gone,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1973. That one’s never done anything for me, nor has “Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)” by the Moody Blues, a band that could for my tastes use a little more blues and a little less moody. So the winner is . . .

“Ruby Tuesday,” Rolling Stones, 1967 -- Who could hang a name on you? I saw the Stones play this live in ’94. It was mesmerizing. Just a beautiful song. It’s parentage is in dispute with Keith claiming he wrote the whole thing, but others say Brian Jones did most of it. Either way, it’s lovely, even as it has nothing to do with Tuesdays and more and more youthful dimwits think the namesake restaurant came first.


Wednesday

Wednesday is either the least written about day of the week or the near runner-up. Perhaps there are some “Hump Day” songs, but I’m reluctant to research them for fear it might lead to distracting porno sites. What is about Wednesday? Is it that song writers shy away because of the day’s awkward spelling? The interior “nes” seems to mess it all up. Really, we’d all be better off if we agreed to start spelling it Wensday. The only songs I’ve found about Wednesday are “Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.,” by Simon & Garfunkle and “Wednesday” by the Drive-By Truckers. I like those artists, but am not familiar with either song. So the best Wensday song goes to  . . .

“Ash Wednesday,” Tom Russell, 2006 -- Oh, you should download this one right now. It’s perfectly haunting way to compare a keystone religious holiday to the ashes of our broken relationships. I just love Tom Russell and can’t recommend “Love & Fear,” the title totem for “Ash Wednesday” enough. Russell’s a monumental singer-songwriter.


Thursday

Help me out: Can you think of even one song with Thursday in the title? I’m stumped. I see David Bowie has “Thursday’s Child,” a song with which I’m unfamiliar. The dearth of Thursday songs has me feeling like I should write one myself. I’ve always loved Thursdays, mostly because it’s always been a night for great TV. I remember in college me and my roommate used to stay in order a pizza and watch “Police Squad!” “Bosum Buddies,” and “Hill Street Blues.” Then, of course, it was eventually “Seinfeld” through the ‘90s and I think “Survivor” used to be on Thursdays. So I love Thursdays. The winner is . . .

None. Thursday needs an anthem.


Friday

I had to check twice to make sure Bruce Springsteen’s never written a song with Friday in the title. It seems like a natural. Maybe the original title to “Sherry Darling” was “Friday Darling.” Steely Dan has “Black Friday,” Nancy Sinatra “Friday’s Child,” and Genesis “Get ‘em Out by Friday.” None of them work for me. Some of the people who’ve written Friday songs include Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj & Eminem, Lady Antebellum and the recently deceased country legend George Jones. I’ve heard none of these, nor have I heard what sounds like an interesting one by Jimmy Fallon with Stephen Colbert. So the winner is  . . .

“Friday On My Mind,” The Easybeats, 1966

The opening lyrics speak to the whole work week:

Monday morning feels so bad
Everybody seems to nag me
Comin’ Tuesday I’ll feel better
Even my old man looks good
Wednesday just won’t go
Thursday goes too slow
I’ve got Friday on my mind

In 2001, an Australian arts group named this the number one Australian rock song of all time. Good song, but if I was Men at Work I’d be choking on my vegemite sandwich.

Saturday

Saturday rocks in more ways than one. Lots of great Saturday music. I love “Another Saturday Night (And I Ain’t Got Nobody),” both the Sam Cooke and the Cat Stevens’ versions. I heard the Bay City Rollers singing “Saturday Night” from the early ‘70s and sang it so exuberantly I was glad the kids weren’t in the car. Lynyrd Skynyrd gave us “Saturday Night Special” and Buffett chipped in with “Livingston Saturday Night,” both songs that don’t cause me to reflexively flip the station. There’s a great alt-country band called “5 Chinese Brothers” that did an obscure album ’97 album called, “Let’s Kill Saturday Night.” I love it, as I do the title track. Here in Pittsburgh, we love a band called The Clarks and are confounded they never became a national sensation. They have a wonderful song called “On Saturday” that’s very catchy. Of course, the Saturday behemoth is Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” Who could argue that’s not the best Saturday song? Me. The winner is . . .

“Saturday in the Park,” Chicago, 1972 -- No song more perfectly matches the mood of its namesake day than this gem written about the Fourth of July in Central Park. It’s perfectly cheerful. The girls are all pretty, the men handsome and kind and all the dogs poop right where they’re supposed to.


Sunday

It’s either the hangovers or the ennui, but songwriters have Sunday nailed. There’s more great songs about Sunday than any other day of the week. The Doobie Brothers have “Another Park, Another Sunday,” Paul McCartney has “Heaven on a Sunday,” and John Prine “He Forgot that it was Sunday.” Both The Doors and Tom Petty have songs called, “Blue Sunday,” and I particularly like Petty’s languid offering. Buffett, who’s maybe written more songs about more days of the week than anyone has the sort of dippy “No Plane on Sunday.” I love U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” but I can’t relate to Northern Ireland’s Troubles on Sundays when I’m trying to enjoy a respite from troubles of my own. Best song? For me it’s . . .

“Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Kris Kristofferson, 1969 -- Made famous by Johnny Cash, I love the songwriter’s version from his 1999 “The Austin Sessions.” Check out these opening lyrics:

Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
The beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert
I fumbled through my closet for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt
I washed my face, combed my hair, stumbled down the stairs to meet the day

I’d smoked my brain the night before on cigarettes and songs that I’d been pickin’
I lit my first and watched a small kid cussin’ at a can that he was kickin’
Then I crossed the empty street & caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken
And it took me back to somethin’ that I’d lost somehow somewhere along the way.

Every word is golden. The chorus:

On the Sunday morning sidewalk
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned!
Oh, there’s something in a Sunday makes a body feel alone
There ain’t nothin’ short of dying
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleeping city sidewalks
Of Sunday morning coming down

So there’s some songs to get you hummin’ through your Monday.

I hope you had a great weekend. And now one of these songs or one of your own will help you face your weekbegin.


Related . . .



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Re-Run Sunday: Pop historian ponders the middle ages


Howdy! This one was from four years ago, clear back in January of 2009. I'd calculate how much that is in Mars years, but it's Sunday and best I can do is muster this rerun. Stop by tomorrow, if you have time, when I plan on writing about songs that mention each day of the week.


I’ll be 46 next month. That’s about 24.3 in Mars years and that sounds about right.

When people tell me I’m middle aged, I feel like asking if they can correctly predict that evening’s winning lottery numbers. Calling me or anyone middle aged is a god-like prognostication.

I try and eat healthy and do a bit of no-sweat exercising, but predicting I’ll live to 92 seems like a bold stretch. My father died suddenly at 76, just about right on the money for what the actuarial tables calculated for a man of his generational dispositions.

My maternal grandfather, however, died this past summer at the age of 97 and he enjoyed a sturdy constitution right up to near the end. In fact, he was driving solo up until the age of 95. Sure, most of the safety-conscious residents of DuBois, Pennsylvania, knew he was out driving from 8 to 10 most mornings and stayed secure in their basements until about 10:30, but that doesn’t diminish the feat.

Me, up until just a few Earth years ago, I’ve always felt sort of Martian.

I felt like I was born 12. But soon after that age I started sneaking beers and felt immediately about 16. Then I endured all the adolescent hallmarks of a 16 year old -- no money, awkward around the girls, lived with my parents -- until I was about 24.

And that’s the age I’ve felt for the past 21 years. Really, just like when I was 24, I have no money in my checking account, I’m sort of looking for a job (not really), and figure if things don’t work out here in the real world I can still move back in with Mom who’ll no doubt have to cajole me to shovel her walk in exchange for an advance on that weekend’s beer money.

One of these days I’m going to get around to writing a story questioning when historians will stop pessimistically calling the epoch from 500 BC to 1600 BC, the Middle Ages.

I do lots of unpublished stories like that -- not because I believe anyone’s ever going to pay me to do them. That’ll never happen. I do it because it makes good conversation whenever I’m talking to an attentive 24 year old in a bar or classroom who for some misguided reason mistakenly believes age has earned me wisdom.

But when exactly did they start calling the Middle Ages, the Middle Ages? Are those the middle ages for the planet or the entire human race? By some mathematical interpretations, it could mean the end is nigh.

I don’t believe it. For all we know, the doomsayers could be wrong. Maybe earth is on the verge of a profound renewal where future historians begin referring to what we call the Middle Ages as something like the Puberty Ages.

Back when I was 24 Earth years old, I worked at a Nashville newspaper -- and for the purposes of this story let’s go ahead and call it The Daily Planet -- where I had to be at my desk at 6 a.m. I quit after a couple of years when I became convinced that the only things that got up that early ought to be milked.

During those pitiless pre-dawn mornings when roosters were still snoozing, it was often my job to write about the daily doom befalling numerous central Tennessee men and women. I often wrote about people who were expiring in what people called their middle ages. Their obituaries revealed their middle ages had been two decades previous.

I remember thinking, “Well, it’s a shame that drunken farmer stumbled into that rusty combine. But, hey, the guy was 46. He lived a good full life.”

Now, I’m nearly 46. I’ve lived a good full life.

Yet, I’m hopeful that when the demographers classify me as middle aged, it’ll one day turn out to be true. Despite these hard times, I really enjoy my life, my family, my friends and the odd little things I do to occupy my time while other middle aged men and women are at work fretting about the latest shower of pink slips.

Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll finally start feeling my age. There are some indications of advancing maturity. For instance, I decline all invitations to go out on Mondays because I prefer be home sitting on the couch watching one of our favorite television shows.

Coincidentally, the show is called “24.”

I have absolutely no fear of death. Just as long as it doesn’t have to hurt.

In my dreams, I thrive to be about, oh, 92 when I imagine myself skipping off a sidewalk and getting creamed by a speeding bus I never saw coming. I’m hopeful some 24-year-old news reporter will arrive at the scene and get quotes from startled eye witnesses who’ll swear they saw my soul shoot straight to heaven. And that my soul wasn’t wearing pants.

In the meantime, I’m going to insist that only scarfe-draped fortune tellers call me middle aged, and that your true middle ages -- no matter how old you are today -- remain many happy Martian years from now.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Give bomber a bored-to death sentence


News reports say by now bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been interrogated about his motives, his influences, his background and his connections.

I’m interested to learn if he’s been quizzed about his health insurance.

Blue Cross? Highmark? Aetna?

Rules are rules. You know there’s bound to be some squad of hospital bean counters eager to push their way past investigators to see if the accused is covered.

I figure in six days he’s probably racked up about $100,000 in intensive care.

Who’s paying for the extraordinary care Tsarnaev is receiving is maybe the most banal question we could be considering in the bombing’s aftermath. That’s why I expect Glenn Beck to begin making a big deal out of it any minute now.

And in this regard he’ll have a point.

We’re fixing Tsarnaev up so he’ll be fit enough to execute.

The death penalty divides Americans practically right down the middle; half support it, half oppose.

It divides me, too, but in a less linear way.

I’m staunchly pro-death penalty right up until the instant a man or woman is taken into custody and then I become instantly opposed.

The case of the brothers Tsarnaev is the perfect example. Last Friday I felt relief when Boston law enforcers killed Tamerian, 26, because he was a threat to kill many more. The death penalty meted out to him on the streets of Watertown will not deter other terrorists, but it certainly deterred the radical Chechnyan from killing again.

But now I’m glad his equally guilty brother is in custody and is being nursed back to good health.

Cases when a condemned man receives a stay of execution because is either too fat, too stupid or too ill to kill always fascinate me.

The people who make those decisions must be blind to irony.

That was the recent case of Richard Post, the 53-year-old Ohio inmate who was convicted of the 1985 shooting death of a hotel desk clerk. He weighed 240 pounds when he entered prison, but today weighs in the neighborhood of 490 pounds.

The news has me reconsidering using “tastes like prison food” as a knee jerk culinary put down.

His attorneys said killing him by lethal injection would involve “serious physical and psychological pain, as well as an execution involving torturous and lingering death.”

I know what you pro-death penalty advocates are thinking: “Not if you drop a piano on his head!”

I admire your convictions even as you detest Post for his.

I don’t understand the people who tailgate outside an execution site and the instant death is announced whoop it up like the home team just posted a go-ahead touch down.

I thought I’d feel that way when Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 for killing 168 when he detonated a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

Who could argue that he didn’t deserve to die?

His death left me feeling not elated, but instead deflated.

Had he lived, he would have turned 45 this past Monday and would have spent his birthday in the same roughly 6 by 9 foot cell in the Florence Supermax federal penitentiary he’d inhabited for about 5,840 days. The prison is known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” and is famous for its bomber’s row of Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph and dozens of other domestic terrorists.

I read where McVeigh’s cell neighbor was ’94 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and that Yousef used to annoy McVeigh by spending hour after hour trying in vain to persuade the former soldier that he really ought to for the good of his eternal soul convert to Islam.

So lethal injection probably brought welcome relief to McVeigh.

Imagine if he’d have lived under those conditions another 35 years?

Executing this stupid kid in Boston wouldn’t be justice. It would be vengeance.

I’d rather see him and his ilk spend a good long life being ignored by every single person in the world except for the person in the cell right next door.

And I hope that person is someone like Pat Robertson.



Related . . .



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

17 topics, 1 post, zero money: Scattergun bloggin'

I probably have about a dozen potential topics sprouting in today’s idea garden. That’d be a very fruitful day if writing even one blog earned me so much as a dime. It rarely does. So today I’m going to post a jiffy little round-up of ideas and move onto other projects that, I’m sure, won’t wind up paying me a dime either. But the exercise will fulfill some ethereal self-imposed obligation to daily blog so here we go.

• One of the ideas I was going to write about it is how compelling our national manhunts have become. I’m convinced some day there will be a reality network that negotiates a deal with the prison system to free one worthy felon whose sentence will be vacated if he or she can elude capture for, say, two weeks of a national dragnet. The stickiest logistic will be finding a felon trustworthy enough to pinky promise not to hurt anyone or break anything during the manhunt.

• I wonder how many centuries it’s been since a dragnet involved the actual dragging of a net.

• Many of the people who were ridiculing CNN for heat-of-the-moment manhunt reporting errors were the same people who spent the last decade nodding vigorously anytime Fox News assured them the Iraq War was a really swell idea and that today Mitt Romney would be getting his mail in the White House.

• Speaking of manhunts, today marks the 148th anniversary of the conclusion of the most epic one in American history. Yes, today was the day in 1865 that Boston Corbett, America’s greatest eunuch slew Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. Not familiar with Corbett? Check out the Boston Corbett link below. The story contains nearly a dozen fascinating brain barnacles that will forever enliven any conversation about the man who killed the man who killed Lincoln. It’s the second most viewed story I’ve ever posted.

• I’ve decided a while ago against embedding links within posts in favor of grouping them at the end. I’m trying to avoid losing readers right in the middle of what I’m trying to say. It’s a stupid form of self-interruption.

• Want a tip on when it’s a good idea to skip one of my posts? How about anytime I file it after 5 p.m.? It’s like I’m trying to sneak it past readers without anyone noticing. I was so displeased with yesterday’s pro-booze-and-driving post I nearly took it down. Instead I’ve put a little italicized disclaimer on top apologizing and saying, gee, on second thought, I don’t really think we need more drunk drivers. The problem was yesterday was terribly disjointed. It usually takes me about 90 uninterrupted minutes to write, proof and post these. But that never works if I only have precisely 90 minutes. I wrote yesterday’s in three chunks and never had a chance to think it clear through. 

• I caught myself there before writing that yesterday was a terrible day. It was not. Sure, I was in the car for four hours driving my mother back and forth so she could attend a school event and still sleep in her own bed. Sure, I felt beaten down by failure and frustration. Maybe you did, too. It happens. But yesterday, our 12-year-old had one of just two speaking roles in the Baggaley Elementary School spring choral program. She was poised. She was vibrant. She was magnificent. Bad day? No. One of the best.

• And I got a good haircut yesterday, too, and that’s got to count for something.

• Reese Witherspoon will be forgiven for her diva moment. She’s still perfectly cool in my book. For what it’s worth, I’d never advise anyone to play the “do-you-know-who-I am?” celebrity card. I believe loudly reminding the arresting officer that you pay their salary is more persuasive.

• I think some people suspect my moaning about always being broke is some sort of schtick. It is not. I dream of a day when I can change the name of my blog to, “Eight Days To 1 %,” even as I understand the loss in catchiness and street cred that would represent.

• The more I blog, the more people demand I blog, the less time I devote to things that might earn actual coin. I had a friend recently say he was at work with some time to kill and was pissed because I hadn’t taken the time to write anything fresh that day. On the irony scale, that scenario almost equals a coyote devouring a vegetarian.

• I’m glad I live in a country that believes in forgiving guys like that nervous wreck, profanity-spewing rookie North Dakota broadcaster. So good for you, A.J. Clemente. It looks like you’re getting a second chance. Now don’t, er, mess it up.

• I’m becoming convinced God won’t let it happen because me enjoying any success would send a terrible message to the impressionable youth of America.

• Okay, that’s enough goofing off for one day. Time for one of us to get back to work. I just can’t decide whether that means you or me.


Related . . .


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Arrests prove DUI laws too restrictive



You can tell the DUI laws have become too tyrannical when every Monday we gather to grade which of our friends or celebs had the more hilarious arrest.

No longer stigma, no longer deterrent, it’s all about chatter and cash.

The Reese Witherspoon tirade reads on paper like it’s her most entertaining performance since 2001’s “Legally Blonde.” She is quoted as asking the officer who was arresting her husband, “Do you know what my name is?” before predicting the incident would make the national news.

She was right about that, but probably not for the reasons she might have at the time suspected.

Maybe her next role should be as a klutzy fortune teller.

By comparison, the arrest of broadcaster Al Michaels was a snoozer. I was hoping the man who immortalized the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team would have said to his arresting officer, “I’m Al Michaels . . . Do you believe in miracles!”

And if the cop was on top of his game he could have responded, “Yes! Do you believe in Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition?”

Yes!

They say impairment begins with the very first drink. If that’s the case then I’ve been impaired since 1976.

Blitzed. Sauced. Smashed. Hammered. Soused. Juiced. Pie-eyed. Wasted. Gonzo. 

But never arrested.

And there’s no trifling asterisk to that. I’ve never even been pulled over for DUI, let alone had to do the Stupid Human Tricks.

What’s my secret? I don’t have one.

If I did, I guess I’d bottle it, after adding, of course, some 90 proof alcohol to further boost sales.

I live near my bar and my office is above the tavern. So if I get too gooned up, I stumble up the stairs and take a little nap, but that can’t explain it.

I’d be a sanctimonious hypocrite if I ever said I’m more law-abiding than my many friends, loved ones who’ve been nabbed.

The law of the land says 0.08 is the legal Blood Alcohol Content limit for driving drunk. 

One report I read said that was exactly the number Michaels blew into the breathalyzer, leading me to believe the professional in him is chagrined he could not have broadcast the down-to-the-wire result. It would have been very dramatic.

I believe there are many professional sports broadcasters who wake up every morning with 0.08 BAC.

So he’s sober by that collegial standard.

And let’s consider that 0.08 number for a minute.

It’s about 1/3 of what it was just 50 years ago. Yes, in the 1960s, the legal limit in many states was 0.20.

What alarms me is the natural trajectory toward zero tolerance, a downward spiral where having even one beer and a sniff of some heady petunias will be enough to bump you over the limit.

Below I’m including links for my innovative suggestions aimed at keeping drunk drivers a safe distance from sober folk. This includes having Designated Drunk Driving Hours and one about vehicles that would illuminate anytime anyone drunk, angry or stupid was behind the wheel.

But I’m hoping you’ll join me in gearing our laws less to unattainable zero tolerance and more toward realistic and fair interpretation.

“Don’t Drink (Much) and Drive (Far).”

That’s enough for today. I’m keeping it short because I know this post has probably made many of you thirsty and eager to get to the bar.


Related . . .



Monday, April 22, 2013

"Oh, Man(dy)!" My night with Manilow


I once took a Mexican girl who barely spoke any English to see U2, an Irish band, in the Dixie town of Nashville.

It was a diversity extravaganza.

It was 1987. I remember meeting her at a party where the music was loud enough to mask our difficulties communicating. I remember doing a lot of smiling and nodding. She was very pretty.

Eager to spend more intimate time in her company, I told her I had two tickets to see U2 on “The Joshua Tree” tour. Did she like U2?

“Si!”

I don’t know if the party music and my attraction to her had exaggerated my impressions of her English, but whatever fluency she had vanished the instant I opened the car door for her.

In fact, the only word of English I remember her speaking the entire evening was at the very end when I asked if I could kiss her good night.

“No!”

I felt used.

It was the second time in six years a pair of tickets to a popular concert left me feeling that way.

And while U2 was a multi-cultural affair, the previous one was anything but. In fact, I remember it as the whitest night of my life.

Yes, in 1981 I attended a Barry Manilow concert at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena.

My date was my father.

Manilow was here again on Friday for a well-reviewed show that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called “an escape into some kind of soft pop time warp” after a week of dreadful news.

He played, “Old Songs,” “Can’t Smile Without You,” “Even Now,” “Trying to Get the Feeling Again,” “I Write the Songs,” and a score of other catchy hits from the 1970s.

And I love them all.

My musical bona fides are unimpeachable. My first album was Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” My first concert, Joe Ely opening for Tom Petty. I rocked back then to Seger, the Stones, Dire Straits and the Kinks. Still do.

But when Dad was driving us to early morning hockey practice, we’d often listen to Manilow. Had any other lip-reading motorists been paying attention, they would have spied us singing, “At the Copa! Copacabana! The hottest spot north of Havana!”

They were good times. My old man was the greatest.

But I was cool enough at the time to know Manilow wasn’t.

That’s why I was shocked to come home on Thanksgiving break from my freshman year at Ohio University to see that Dad had bought his young hockey fan two tickets -- not to a Pittsburgh Penguins game -- but to the Barry Manilow concert.

I still wonder if he was cunning enough to foresee exactly how it would all play out.

I remember sitting by the phone and coming up blank trying to think of the girl I could ask that wouldn’t respond with hysterical giggles. Manilow’s not exactly a great first-date icebreaker.

I certainly couldn’t ask any of the guys I know. The would all laugh me off the planet.

Well, all but one of them would.

And he was at that moment sitting in his recliner across the room immersed in “Bowling for Dollars.”

Uh, Dad, I was thinking . . .

“Sure! I’d love to go!”

There were many other male couples there that night, but I’ll bet out of the 17,532 Pittsburgh Fanilows, we were the only father/son duo.

Dad didn’t care one bit. In fact, he was euphoric.

Leaving the building, he kept gushing about how much he loved Manilow and how it was one of the greatest nights of his life.

I wish I’d have anticipated that reaction when he’d parked the car. See, Dad hated to pay premium prices for parking. This wasn’t a problem at many suburban venues.

But at sold-out Civic Arena shows that meant parking deep in the crime-ridden neighborhood known as The Hill District. That’s where Dad found a freebie spot amidst the abandoned vehicles and burned-out tenements.

I remember looking in the shadows for parolees ready to pounce. It was late on a school night, but no one was sleeping.

I know this because I kept seeing them look out their windows to see the middle-aged white man bouncing down the sidewalk singing:

“And it’s Daybreak! If you wanna believe!
It can be Daybreak! Ain’t no time to grieve!
Said it’s Daybreak! If you’ll only believe!
And let it shine! Shine! Shine! All around the world!”

As I said, I believe there’s a place for Manilow and his music. I just didn’t believe it was at midnight in the Hill District in 1981.

Of course, maybe I’m letting my prejudices get the better of me.

Maybe those young hoodlums were transformed by the sound of my Dad warbling Manilow’s greatest hits.

Maybe they set down their crack pipes and said, “Damn! You know, that old white dude’s right. It CAN be Daybreak!”

Whether or not it happened that way, I can not say.

But of this I’m certain:

If my date had been anyone other than my own Dad, I’ll bet I’d have gotten laid that night.


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