Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life & death of the prisoner with the big penis


It wasn’t the kind of description I’d ever heard Det. Joe Friday give on any of the old “Dragnet” APBs for escaped criminals.

“When he’s all cleaned up, he’s very handsome and, in all frankness, very well-endowed,” said retired Det. David Bentley of Richard Matt.

Matt, 49, as you probably know, was one of two since-captured escaped prisoners from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y.  The escaped killer is now shot dead and, I guess, being fitted for a teepee-shaped coffin.

I’m baffled as to why a detective would release that kind of information about an escapee. Was he trying to motivate horny women to enlist in the manhunt?

The only way I could see it being relevant is if Matt had lost his pants during the escape.

And just how did Bentley know?

We’re all familiar with the convict mug shots that depict the vertical inches of each inmate.

Who knew there were horizontal ones?

I read the quote about three times the day I saw the Washington Post story about Matt and co-escapee David Sweat. I still had trouble believing what I’d read.

Then my buddy Paul, a veteran newspaper reporter, came into the bar for our Friday guzzle.

He asked if I’d seen the quote. He couldn’t believe it either.

The story was very compelling. One detective said Matt was “the most vicious, evil person he’d ever come across in 38 years” of police work. Law enforcers, Matt acquaintances and family chipped in their descriptions. They said he was charming, brutal and savagely brilliant.

Then appears Det. Bentley’s quote saying, psst, and the guy’s got a huge penis.

In context, it was one of the most odd quotes I’d ever read.

We were both surprised the reporter included the quote and that the editor deemed it newsworthy.

As newspaper people, that last point is key. If I’d been the reporter, I’d have had multiple follow ups.

Just what did Bentley mean by “very well-endowed?” Just how many big penises has he seen?

Because the only way I could see Bentley’s observation being relevant is if this was a really, really big penis — the kind that could be spied on Google Earth.

That would change everything.

CNN would break in with an alert that read: “New York authorities are on the look out for an escaped penis that broke through walls of the Clinton Correctional Facility. The penis is to be considered armed and dangerous. If you see this penis, you’re advised to contact authorities and do not to try and capture the penis yourself.” 

Maybe they didn’t do it that way because it might risk confusing the public.

I’m familiar with that part of New York. There are giant pricks perched on nearly every other bar stool.

It is said Matt died drunk. His body was said to have reeked of gin he’d stolen from a nearby hunting cabin.

And he was violently ill. Police speculate a combination of bad mountain water, lack of food and sleep and the constant exertion of being on the run got the better of him.

His son told reporters that Matt had been traumatized by being locked in a car as an infant, and that’s what led to his mis-spent life.

Who knows?

I’m left to wonder if what’s portrayed on the wanted posters in New York is vastly different than what I’ve seen on the wanted posters here in Pennsylvania.

Here we show the convict’s scowling face.

Bentley’s observation leaves what they depict in New York open to speculation.

Or maybe I have that all wrong. 

Maybe they’d never dream of putting a really big penis on wanted posters. They realize it wouldn’t draw the necessary attention.

After all, who doesn’t want a really big penis?



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Monday, June 29, 2015

The prez, the killer & origins of "Amazing Grace"


I knew I had to research the history when I heard Sting say the composer of “Amazing Grace” was an English slave ship captain who’d written the song to atone for his mighty sins.

It wasn’t the first time Sting had lied to me. Remember, he was the guy who said he was breaking up The Police because he was sure exciting new creative opportunities for him and his fans lay in the future.

And he was half right about John Newton (1725-1807), who in 1779 published “Amazing Grace.”

Newton did indeed become an ardent abolitionist, but said he never connected the motivation for the hymn’s construction to anti-slavery sentiments. In fact, he linked his spiritual conversion — and the song’s inspiration — to a 1748 storm so severe he was convinced his life would end with the capsizing of his ship off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland.

If he did enjoy a transformative moment there amidst the roiling white caps, it wasn’t very deep. He remained a slave trader for six more years before he quit to begin theological studies.

His was an interesting life. A wild and disruptive youth, Newton was forced against his will into Royal naval service, a common fate of lower class miscreants. Once at sea, he developed an unusual flare for writing poems so profane they were said to “exceed the limits of verbal debauchery.”

That the subject of the ribald poems were often his superiors led to near-lethal discipline.

Thus, the man who wrote the world’s most famous church song started out as the guy most likely to compose “Barnacle Bill the Sailor.”

It is estimated “Amazing Grace” is performed 10 million times each year.

As of Friday, you can make that 10,000,001.

That a song written by an old slave trader would one day become a Negro spiritual sung by America’s first black president at a healing service over the massacre in a historic black church carried out by a white supremacist intent on starting a race war is a veritable bouquet of historical irony.

Here’s more:

The mother of the man Obama was eulogizing, The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, named him after Roberto Clemente because she so admired the selfless values that led to the Pirate great’s tragic death.

All the news this week made it seem like Christmas for every liberal if only every liberal believed in things like Christ.

And Bristol Palin’s pregnant!

If I were a conservative, I’d be worried the dreadful trajectory can only mean Bristol will this week announce Rick Santorum’s the father. 

I’ve watched Obama singing “Amazing Grace” several times by now. It’s his presidency’s most indelible moment (so far), and the one that’ll be played over and over in the lobby of his presidential museum.

I keep watching it, not for the actual song, but for the — for me — riveting 26 seconds of mostly dead air that precedes the singing.

He’d been rolling right along pretty good.

Then he seems to choke up and come to a halt. Is he about to crack up? He says, “Amazing grace,” once, pauses, and then again a second time. He stares down at the podium for 14 more seconds.

Then he begins to sing.

What was going through his head during those interminably awkward seconds?

Was he thinking about redemption? Forgiveness? Or was he thinking, man, this is going to embarrass the hell out of Sasha and Malia.

No daughter likes hearing her father sing in public. I speak from experience.

I wonder if Dylan Roof saw any of the remarkable news. I hope so.

I’ll never understand how one man who disagrees with the things millions and millions of others believe thinks he can change even one mind by killing maybe a dozen or so of us.

And again I’m reminded how I’ve never seen a single white supremacist who makes me, a fellow white, feel the least bit supreme.

If sufficiently motivated, Roof will now have ample time to think about his acts and express a profound remorse exemplified by the song Newton wrote after a tumultuous life of sin and redemption.

Of course, Roof need not turn to song.

I’ll be just as impressed if his humble hymn is just six words long.

“I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”



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Sunday, June 28, 2015

RRS: National Nude Recreation Week!


Next week begins National Nude Recreation Week. Here’s an ’11 primer so none of you get caught with your pants down.



A game of 8 ball played between two naked men is still called 8 ball.

That’s just one of the things I learned during the month it took me to exhaustively research my just-posted msnbc.com story heralding National Nude Recreation Week.

It’s an evergreen kind of story I’m going to relentlessly pitch each and every year until I find a publication that’ll agree to headline it, “Hams Across America!”

I found talking to nudists over the phone is a lot like talking to fundamentalist Christians in that both are reluctant to admit any of their members might enjoy sex.

It’s an understandable reaction from starchy fundamentalists. They’ve been taught ever since Adam sex means trouble. It might explain their ardor for immaculate conception.

A deity waving a magic wand -- Bibidi! Bobidi! Boo! -- just seems so much tidier than the nuts and bolts of biological sex -- and I’m not speaking metaphorically when I’m referring to hardware. Many popular genital piercings historically involve actual bolts.

As for nuts, well, maybe I’m speaking a bit metaphorically.

The nudists went out of their way to differentiate themselves from swingers and swappers and, really, anyone that enjoyed sex.

Rules at a typical nudist resort are explicit: They don’t want anyone’s magic wands waving around.

Rules stipulate if a naked man finds himself becoming aroused he needs to cover himself with a towel, lay down on his stomach or depart the premises.

The only thing today’s nudists are interested in raising is awareness.

Almost every nudist I interviewed asked me if I were one of them. I had to say, sorry, no. I don’t share their beliefs, their values, and I wouldn’t begin to speculate on what kind of secret handshakes nudists exchange.

It was a lie.

You see, I do consider myself a nudist.

Well, let’s say I’m a situational nudist.

I’m naked whenever I think I can get away with it.

I guess in that way I’m like Bugs Bunny. He’d start out every episode naked and perfectly at peace. But as the world came crashing in on him, he’d don costumes like opera gowns or doctor’s scrubs depending on what bone-headed choices Elmer Fudd made at the time.

I’m like that. I’ve slept naked since college and still wake up everyday in the buff. I can’t recall now what motivated the choice. I wish I could say it involved dusk-to-dawn passions, but I don’t think that was it.

More than likely it involved the over-consumption of Ouzo, a powerful Greek liquor that imparted the unusual side effect of me scattering my clothes all over Athens, Ohio.

But nudity seemed to suit me or, more accurately, it seemed to birthday suit me.

I was soon naked in my dorm room, in the halls, in the laundry room and once on a dare through the length of the packed dining hall at Ohio University’s South Green in just 1 minute and 12 seconds breaking a record that had stood for 3 years.

And I was rarely near a body of water when my naked body wasn’t frolicking in the water. I loved to skinny dip.

Times change. Now the only time I’m naked is in the dark with my wife.

The main reasons I’m rarely ever naked anymore is, of course, my daughters.

Children are where I draw the line regarding nudity -- and I draw it thick in broad strokes from my hips to just above the knees.

Yet nudism still has its appeal. It sounds contradictory, but having to wear pants bums me out.

This was never more apparent than last month when we enjoyed three days at a private residence on the banks of the Chesapeake.

The magnificent house and pool were a nudist paradise, at least for the girls who enjoyed their first skinny dip. And I now have pictures that’ll refute anyone who dares call my wife a prude.

And there I was, a veteran nudist unable to shuck my preposterous baggy swimsuit.

I wondered in frustration if I’ll ever get to enjoy a real skinny dip again.

Of course, according to the obesity charts prepared by the Centers for Disease Control, the point may be moot.


I’d have to drop about 20 pounds to even qualify as a skinny dipper.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Doc pays $500,000 for colonoscopy banter


I was disappointed a northern Virginia jury awarded a colonoscopy patient $500,000 after he heard derogatory banter he’d inadvertently recorded during the operation.

The amount should have been more.

And he should have had to pay it!

Studies have shown work place morale improves when employees are free to blow off steam through irreverent comments about stressful work conditions.

It’s true with air traffic controllers, highway construction workers and with coal miners who go into deep dark holes to excavate essential fossil fuels.

Why should it be any different for the only men and women who go into deeper, darker holes than our fearless miners?

What happened was the guy pressed record on his smart phone to preserve post-operational instructions. Then he put the phone back in his gown — without having pushed stop.

So when he got home and sat on his pillowed seat, he heard about two minutes of instruction and the entirety of what was said to and about him when he was under deep sedation. 

Rock historians will see a parallel between what happened to the plaintiff and how Keith Richards wrote “Satisfaction.”

He’d come back to a Florida hotel room very drunk, but with a catchy riff in his head. He hit record on his tape deck and played the stark notes of what was destined to become our most indelible rock song. He then passed out.

“Next morning, I hit play,” he said, “and had about 12 seconds of ‘Satisfaction’ and about 49 minutes of me snoring.”

Can you imagine what that tape would go for at auction?

Attorneys make what I guess you’d call a “greatest hits” version of the colonoscopy repartee. It’s absolutely hilarious (WaPo link). 

The star is wise-cracking anesthesiologist Tiffany Ingham.

I can imagine the patient’s distress when he was listening to the play-by-play and heard Ingham joke to the snoozing plaintiff: “After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op, I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit.”

He was apparently a difficult patient. He’d boned up on the procedure, asked detailed questions about longshot mishaps, and shared his insights with the professionals.

When a medical assistant notes an unsightly rash (she doesn’t say where by we can all take a wild guess), Ingham warns her not to touch it lest she get “some syphilis.” She goes on: “It’s probably some tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be all right!”

It’s much funnier on the tape because the three or four of them in the room are having a wonderful time. They’re joking, loosey-goosey, laughing and perfectly at ease. It’s like they’re at a cocktail party, the kind I’d like to crash, if only the party centerpiece wasn’t some guy’s big hairy ass.

I tried to put myself in the offended man’s shoes, while understanding his shoes were probably in another room.

Would the insults bother me?

I really don’t think so.

First of all, I assume everywhere I go I’m going to be judged on how I look and how I act. It’s why I’m always on my very best behavior when I go to get my tires changed, my hair cut or certainly if I’m someplace where someone might insert disinfected medical devices up my rectum.

The attending doctor was spared disciplinary rebuff, but his evidentiary comments seem to indicate the guy was a real asshole — and he’s a proctologist.

If anyone’s going to be able to make that expert determination, it’s him. 

But I don’t under  any circumstances think we should be cracking down on extemporaneous banter in occupational situations. That’d be — and you had to see this one coming a mile away — a real bummer.

Because people are people and people are bound to talk. The only thing we can do to possibly influence how they treat us is to be considerate about how we treat them. 

What they did was an embarrassment, certainly, but it cracks me up.

And I guess crack up is the only way to go when you’re talking about colonoscopies.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Human groomin' & the evolution of bugs


This weekend at a backyard picnic I saw a multitude of grown ups grooming bugs from one another the way fastidious zoo chimps do and wondered what Darwin would say.

Is man evolving or devolving? Is communal human groomin’ a evolutionary advance or a retreat?

I was raised to not put my hands on another human being without his or her explicit sober permission, this included a girl of scandalous reputation the boys all called “Back Alley Sally.”

She was always up for a good shadowy pawing, bless her heart.

On Saturday, I nearly got as far with a retired postal worker as I used to get with Sally.

And the guy thanked me!

We both had these pepper seed-sized black bugs crawling all over us and as we stood there talking baseball and sipping beers, we spent the entire conversation flicking bugs off one another.

Why were we feeling so grabby?

Blame our latest plague.

They look like deer ticks, those dreadful little blood-suckers that infect us with Lyme Disease, an affliction that leaves victims chronically fatigued.

They are not to be confused with those suffering from Lemon-Lyme Disease, an affliction that leaves victims chronically fatigued sourpusses.

Geez, I must’ve been bitten by an insect that leaves me prone to telling stupid bug jokes.

Here’s another:

Q: How can you tell carpenter bees from look-a-like bees?
A: Carpenter bees are the ones with the tiny tool belts.

Anyway, these new bugs are tick replicas and are becoming as numerous as the obnoxious and ubiquitous stink bugs.

So I began calling them stink ticks.

Of course, I was wrong.

There is no such thing as stink ticks.

At least not yet. Insects keep evolving. Remember, bees used to just sting you. Now, they can kill you.

It’s a very disappointing trajectory. You’d think before they went to killer bees they would have tried their hands at being burglar bees or vandal bees.

It’d be like going outside one night to enjoy some summer magic and having to run for your life when lightning bugs begin shooting actual lightning out of their buggy little butts.

Of course, it’s not always bad. We’ve always had beetles and then one day we all got to enjoy . . . The Beatles!

Turns out these new tick-like annoyances — and that’s all they are — are called billbugs.

They’re, in fact, part of the extended beetle family, and I’ll let you know the instant I detect a way way to pin the blame on Yoko.

I read it online: “The adult tick is very flat, whereas the billbug is round, curved and fat," Allegheny County Health Department Entomologist Bill Todaro said.

I prefer getting my news in printed form, but in this case I’m sorry I didn’t see any video of Todaro. It’s always been an ambition of mine to one day describe an esteemed entomologist as “bug-eyed.”

Todaro says the billbugs are motivated by the some of the same base impulses that used to move my old friend Sally.

“Their purpose is to find the love of their life, to mate, lay eggs, and then die,” Todaro says. “It’s a mass spawning.” 

I read where they’re called billbugs because they have what is described as a long snout.

I looked and couldn’t discern an embarrassing honker.

But what do I know?

I’m the guy who still turns cockroaches over in the hopes of seeing anatomical evidence of why they’re called cockroaches. There’s none.

If roach cocks are too minuscule to be seen with the naked eye they shouldn’t be called cockroaches.

They say every creature great and small has a purpose, but what things like stink bugs and billbugs contribute to the universe is a mystery to me. 

I just hope they don’t get worse.

Deer ticks are bad enough. I’d hate to think we’d have to one day be wary of  another beloved woodlands creature the way we do tick-infested deer.

I like Bugs Bunny, but I don’t think I’d feel the same about bunny bugs.


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Running controversial story ideas thru Kyle Filter



Anytime I’m tempted to write anything controversial I first run it through what I call my Kyle Filter.

The Kyle Filter is this: Would writing about this subject either sadden Kyle or cost me Kyle’s readership for that day?

Yes, I’m so desperate for readers I weigh the sensitivities of each and every one of you before tackling a topic. 

The Kyle Filter is very explicit and comes directly from Kyle, an old buddy of mine from Ohio University. He texted me one day: “I don’t read anything of yours that implies you’re going to be writing about politics or includes ‘Jesus’ in the headline.”

I texted back: “You mean even the non-political ones like where I speculated Jesus would have been a less effective savior had He worn a bow tie?”

He never responded so now The Kyle Filter off-limits topics involving messiahs in bow ties — and wouldn’t “The Bow-Tied Messiahs” be a dandy name for a bluegrass band?

But the gist of his comment is absolutely correct.

Why would I want to write anything in this already sad, depressing world that might further sadden or depress even one individual?

No one turns to this blog to solve the world’s problems.

Heck, half of the world is furious that some guy with what they consider dubious authority has the audacity to opine on climate change.

That man is Pope Francis!

Who does he think he is? Al Roker?

I want everyone who reads this blog to leaves this blog feeling better about the world and themselves.

This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. I contend much of human happiness involves contrasting our own happiness with the relative unhappiness of others.

I think that’s why last week’s news about me getting evicted was such a smashing success.

Unfortunately, nothing really bad’s happened to me so far this week. The good news is it’s only Monday so more vicarious woe is sure to befall me.

The obvious topic today is Dylann Roof and the Charleston hate crime. I could write about that, sure, but that would divide readers because it’s about guns.

And I don’t believe anyone — and I mean anyone — has done more to break the deadlock of gun violence in America than I (links below). Why be redundant and, c’mon, in America today nine’s become a pretty low body count.

I could write about why the Confederate flag should be taken down from the South Carolina state capital. That’s topical.

But I believe the market will take care of that, just like it did in Indiana. It’s an embarrassment to a state I enjoy for so many reasons that only divide people who are opposed to oysters, gorgeous beaches and golf vacations among middle-aged men likely to lose things like their pants.

I sense lots of vitriolic controversy will ensue over President Obama’s initiative to put one lone female on some currency in place of maybe one of the old while guys who owned slaves.

A friend of mine proposed Rosa Parks. I love the suggestion, but I had to remind him that Rosa Parks was black and that would engender controversy from cash-friendly business owners who revere the Confederate flag.

So seeking a non-controversial solution, I suggested an alternative: liberal actress-activist Angelina Jolie. But because that, too, would be controversial I say put her on the newly minted one million dollar bill and make just one.

That way Brad Pitt could obtain it and keep in his wallet with pictures of the rest of his loved ones — and I mean his family, not cash bills.

Other controversies I won’t be addressing include the splotchy greens at the U.S. Open, Baltimore police arrest records, Apple’s stingy reluctance to pay royalties, or the Greek debt deal of which I understand nothing but has me fearing for the future cost of delicious gyros at Mike & Tony’s on Pittsburgh’s Carson Street.

So instead I’ll just on this Monday wish my buddy Kyle good luck for a great week.

The summer splendors are upon us. It’s time to grill and sip back porch beers while listening to broadcasts as the great Alex Rodriguez smashes baseball’s most hallowed records while leading your Yankees to greater glory.

And that’s as good a place as any to end a post dedicated to remaining controversy free.



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