Monday, February 29, 2016
Thanks to book promotions, my @8days2amish followers for the first time cleared 1,000. That sounds about right. As a writer, I find twitter invaluable. I love having this little treasure chest of what I think are great lines I can mine over and over. I know very few of my readers actually follow me on twitter and that’s fine. I also know many of them look forward to the monthly round-ups. That’s fine, too. Because whenever I think I’m losing twitter mojo, it seems to come roaring back. At least I think so. You decide. Have a great day!
• With so many people seeking to carry concealed weapons, I tried to figure how many times I'd shoot myself each week if I carried. I figure 3.
• So enjoying #GreaseLive I'm now planning on turning http://www.EightDaysToAmish.com into a musical.
• I’ve never seen a duffel bag full of duffels & I’m okay with that. If it ever happens I’d never again have the guts to peek in a handbag.
• Because it adds welcome levity to a serious condition, I propose OBGYNs start describing postpartum depression as "Stork .. raving .. mad!”
• There ought to be a Selfie Museum with pictures of our ancestors digging coal, pumping their own water & surviving things like potato famine.
• What kind of multiple spiritual crises must a seeker endure to become a Born-Again Atheist?
• Somebody should tell the fitness fanatics that many of them are extending their lives into the years they'll wish they were dead.
• I wonder if Fairfax, Va., is thinking about becoming Fairtext, Va.
• I contend finding, securing and putting a rabbit INTO a hat requires just as much if not more magic as pulling it out of one.
• I wonder if promiscuous bovine adolescents roll their eyes anytime a parent counsels them to not have a cow.
• Any man who says he's his own worst critic is either delusional or unmarried.
• Your life will be more fun if you don't judge new friends on their virtues, but instead on their potential as compatible cellmates.
• In my endless quest to make words both simultaneously more fun AND descriptive, please join me in spelling handkerchief HONKerchief.
• Which will come 1st: a gun that shoots pictures or a smart phone that shoots bullets? And how many will die before bugs worked out?
• I was 50 years old before it finally began to sink in that, gee, I was drunk wouldn't cut it as an excuse for showing up in church nude.
• How come it was okay for Jesus to wear a robe to church but I get scornful looks when I do?
• I stifle most of my public sneezes, but not in church where I think the Almighty's paying more attention to "God bless you!"
• NFL should next year skip halftime show and instead have drug co. issue every American hallucinogens that last 32 minutes.
• Life’s unfair, but heaven isn't. Should be reverse. Heaven status/perks should be based on how many people attend your funeral.
• John Lennon imagined a world at peace. I imagine a world where everyone's nipples are rectangular.
• I’ll bet editors at amusement park industry mags are furious when some lazy reviewer calls a new roller coaster a real roller coaster.
• I wonder if Ted Nugent sees video of a stupid, bigoted bullying rich white guy leading GOP polls and thinks, dang, that could have been me.
• I have incredibly discerning tastes for a guy who is so often flat broke. In fact, if I ever start a band we’ll be the Choosey Beggars.
• I wonder if in heaven all the movies are G-rated because that's a potential flaw.
• Mothers who complain men will never appreciate the pain of childbirth have never endured one of my hangovers.
• I’ve become so trusting of small town values the only time I lock my car is when my keys are in there and I'm not.
• I turn 53 today. That means anyone who still calls me middle aged fails to appreciate the confluence of actuarial tables & basic math.
• Roe v. Wade was a contentious SCOTUS case; Row v. Wade is more of a boating matter.
• Try and model your posture after positive punctuation. Be a walking exclamation point, not a question mark.
• I’m eager to find a website that archives audios of man’s greatest speeches, but said in the voice of Elmer Fudd. Yes, I have a dweam.
• Because so many people are declaring they'll move if this/that candidate wins, please join me in calling this the Ryder Truck election.
• I become furious anytime I check into a Best Western hotel and can't find "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" on TV.
• I propose they rename phone book "The Big Book of Names & Numbers of People You Don't Know, Will Never Meet & Will Never Call.
• I figure Christian conservatives who want Trump in the bully pulpit will be dismayed when they realize he's all bully, no pulpit.
• Anyone else growing nostalgic for the days when postal workers were the only ones who went postal?
• What did cavemen call house flies?
• It’ll be delicious fun for all who appreciate lively news coverage if Obama nominates Donald Trump for #SCOTUS.
• Political scenario never dreamed I'd consider: how will audience/media/candidate react when leading male calls leading female the c-word?
• How did ammunition get shorted to ammo instead of ammu? Is a word pronounced "am-MOO" too bovine for tough guys?
• Drinkers who believe their bladders are half empty are pissimists.
• Surprised to learn Yoko Ono is the same age -- 83 -- as my Mom. Mom isn't perfect, but at least she never broke up The Beatles.
• Why did the grass farmer cross the road? To get to the other sod.
• What will you do if you get to heaven and you've lived such a sin free life the only ones there are you, God and Jesus? Me, I plan on bringing a deck of cards.
• I know I'm the only one who cares, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night wondering just why the hell Jimmy cracked corn.
• I know nothing about rigors/finances but from what I can discern about him cheerleaders at Trump U. must be smokin' hot.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
One aspect of my new book of which I’m quite proud is one of which most authors are most ashamed.
I’m talking typpos.
Not the typos, per se. They, of course, make me cringe.
What I’m proud of is the page one absolution I bestow on myself for their pesky existence.
“This book is self-published by the author. That means it enjoys none of the traditional benefits provided by deep-pocket publishing houses. It has no marketing budget so if you find it entertaining, please tell others. No crackerjack teams of plot doctors suggested improvements in story progression, character development or point of view. What follows is wholly organic. And while the author has painstakingly labored to eliminate every typo, grammatical error and sloppily constructed sentence, he realizes he has inevitably failed. The following pages contain those literary scourges and for that the author is sorry. He hopes you won’t hold it against him and will, in fact, notify him at firstname.lastname@example.org so he can correct future editions. He thanks you in advance for your forbearance and believes you share his understanding that mistakes in life and literature are unavoidable. Like most of you, he believes to err is humon.”
Note the deliberate typo at the very end.
Makes me grin.
I think people sometimes think I exaggerate my financial struggles for comedic purposes.
They think it’s a fabrication. A ruse. A schtick.
Ask my wife. She’ll wearily confirm this is no bull schtick.
I added more debt to publish “The Last Baby Boomer.” I did so because I believe it’ll change my fortunes.
But when you’re making the nerve-wracking decisions about what levels of editorial support you want from your self-publisher, you need to weigh your risks.
I had an option of spending an additional $1,400 on a proof-reading service that would have sanitized a lot of sloppiness.
I said no.
Actually, I said a phrase that sounds like “bucket.”
Prior to its publication, nothing in my entire life has caused me more sleepless apprehensions. I vowed I was going to publish in the most bare-bones manner possible. If the story was good, readers would overlook the errors.
This seems to be the case. The book is getting great reaction.
And I’m having fun with the typos. I’m serious about correcting future versions.
Heck, if you’ve bought from me a copy in the last two weeks you’ll see I’m serious about a correcting present versions.
Yes, prior to sale, I’m by hand going through every copy and penciling in corrections to typos of which I’m aware.
That includes drawing a little “a” below the erroneous “o” in the last word in the disclaimer.
Grisham doesn’t do that.
I’ve so far found five errors, oddly enough, all on even pages.
I’m really begin to wonder about our collective sanity when it comes to typos. I had a Facebook friend apologize to me because her note had some many errors. She said it must have read like she was drunk.
I told her it was okay. They were just typos and, hey, I encourage people to be more drunk.
Get over it, folks. They’re typos.
It’s not like she’d stitched up someone’s abdominal cavity with a surgical sponge still inside.
All books have typos. Don’t they?
My 15-year-old daughter surprised me when she found a typo in a popular book that should by now be free of them.
Was it “Harry Potter?” “Twilight?” “Hunger Games?”
Nope, nope and nope.
It’s “To Kill a Mockingbird!”
Can you believe it?
Yes, one of the most revered tomes in American history has a mistake. It’s true. At one time the sainted Harper Lee spelled Mayella Ewell as Mayell Ewell, as if the poor kid hadn’t already been through enough.
And the error slipped through the copy editing fingers of squads of the finest literary men in women in the most august Manhattan publishing houses.
I’m comfortable with my flaws and believe most readers are willing to overlook them.
We all need to extend each other some understanding that we’re going to make mistakes and the best we can hope for is we have a chance to eventually correct some of the more glaring ones.
We’re only humon.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
I remember just a few things about the 2002 Golf Magazine story I did about the man with the world’s largest golf ball collection.
I remember he had more than 36,000 golf balls from around the globe. I remember he lived in York, Pennsylvania. And I remember my Dad being eager to learn the collector’s secrets.
I told him nothing.
That’s because what I most remember most about the man with the world’s largest golf ball collection was what his wife said to me.
“I just pray to God I die before he does,” she said with the utmost sincerity.
“I just pray to God I die before he does,” she said with the utmost sincerity.
The golf ball collection nearly consumed their entire house. She had no idea how she was going to dispose of the enormous collection without it swamping her remaining years.
I told her she ought to think about becoming an avid golfer.
Not a good golfer, mind you. Just an avid one, one who played a lot and sprayed golf balls all over creation.
I thought of that forlorn woman Sunday when I was going through Dad’s old golf ball collection.
He died in 2004, but his collection of more than 500 logo balls from all over North America remained in his room with about 100 of the most prestigious ones on a custom made display.
There’d been no need to dispose of it, but now we’re making plans to move my Mom out of there so I’m going through all the stuff that was too meager to sell, but too substantial to dump.
They’re something odd to every one else about any kind of collection.
As a former National Enquirer reporter, I’ve probably seen more than most.
I’ve written stories about people who collected colossal numbers of ashtrays, snow globes, matchbooks, shrunken heads, coins, stamps, guitar picks, Pez dispensers, lunch boxes, locks of celebrity hair, lighters, neckties — you name it.
I did a story about a Houston guy who built an entire house of old beer cans he’d drunk himself.
It was a big house and he was a very big guy.
I used to have a lot of vinyl record albums, but those were replaced by CDs and now digital. I have 8,709 songs from 949 albums but thanks to soulless miniaturization they’re contained on a device no bigger than a deck of cards.
Songs are now marketed in a way that one of the things that matters most to me — music — will be easily disposed of by another — my surviving children.
It’s different with books, which I doubt I’ll ever read digitally. I have about 300 books at home. I’d have more — I love books — but I can’t let the collection sprawl beyond the family basement room.
Dad never said what he wanted me to do with all his golf balls he’d bequeath.
I’d gone to Mom’s on Sunday to clean up crap and got diverted by golf memories. Besides all those balls, there were also a lot of photo albums from Myrtle Beach golf trips with Dad and all our buddies.
So many pictures reminding me of so many good times.
Those I’m keeping.
What will I do with all the balls that once meant so much to the Old Man?
I’ll pollute the planet.
I’ll one-by-one scatter them in lakes, streams, woods and other once-pristine eco-systems that have become area golf courses.
Yes, I’ll golf ‘em till they’re all gone.
I could lose a ball for each hole for the next 27 consecutive rounds — it’s entirely possible — and still have some left over until I had to play more carefully.
Fat chance of that ever happening.
When it comes to golf balls, I’ll always be more hitter than hoarder.
And that’s they way it’s always going to be.
I know of a nearby big box sporting goods store that’ll never run out.
Yes, I can always find balls at Dick’s.
Related . . .
Monday, February 22, 2016
The reason Val and I wound up dining for free Friday at one of Pittsburgh’s most elegant restaurants was because the owner’d heard me speak and said I cured his hangover.
He insisted the only proper compensation was that we dine as his guests at his restaurant.
And today I’m left to wonder how different my life would be if that October morning, instead of restauranteurs, I’d given my standard “Use All The Crayons!” presentation to a roomful of hungover hedge fund managers.
Curing even a single hangover by monologuing for 45 minutes is now my greatest achievement.
If you believe in the accuracy of the Scripture, curing a hangover is something even Jesus never did.
In my experience the only thing that cures a hangover is a quiet room, an old couch, a fuzzy pink blanket and about ten straight hours of “Andy Griffith” reruns.
That used to work for me in the day before kids and functioning television remotes.
Now I’m not allowed to get hangovers anymore. It would be so improper. Set a bad example. My time’s too valuable.
So, no, I don’t get hangovers anymore.
In fact, I make believe I don’t get hangovers, which is much more challenging.
I used to pretend I was too sick to go to school, but now am forced to pretend I’m not at all hungover nights after I swore to my wife I wouldn't drink too much.
It’s now on record that I cured the hangover of one prominent restauranteur, who for purposes of this story I’ll call Lazarus.
What are the chances I could heal myself?
I can’t imagine it working, but next time I suffer from a bad case of the Brown Bottle Flu, I think I’m just going to try standing in front of the mirror and saying things like, “Enjoy being human and enjoy human beings!”
I don’t know if I’ll feel any better, but I know I’m bound to make the rest of family sick and misery loves company.
I have a lot of positive referrals from important meeting planners who’ve enjoyed my talk, but they tend to be generic and read like they could be the result of motivational payola.
Not so with Lazarus.
Check this out:
“We’d had more than 200 restauranteurs and lodging associates at my restaurant for a lavish wine dinner the night before. The next morning was Chris’s 8 a.m. keynote.
“Honest, I can’t believe I even went. First of all, I felt like I was going to die. Second, I didn’t think the talk was going to have any value whatsoever. We have so much going on in our industry and I wondered why we were going to waste our valuable time talking about crayons.
“But his message is so funny, so warm and so universal, he had me right away. It became one of the best keynotes I’ve ever heard. His message is something everyone should hear. It just makes you feel happy to be human. And, yes, it cured my hangover.”
He addressed this all to Val.
I think she had trouble believing he was talking about me. Heck, I wasn’t so sure either.
So it was a truly great night.
We enjoyed a wonderful splurge, the food exquisit, the wine-pairings excellent and my often-wobbly self-esteem got a really nice boost. Now, I’m now even more exuberant about future prospects.
And it was all free.
Now I just need to do something productive to ensure I’ll one day soon be able to actually afford to pay for night like that.
Friday, February 19, 2016
I don’t know whether I’m a nice guy because I’m actually nice or because I've learned people treat nice people nicer.
It’s like what Major Frank Burns said when the bubbly cheerleader Henry Blake was trying to screw said old Ferret Face was just so nice.
“It’s nice to be nice to the nice!”
This confusion was cast in stark relief on Wednesday when I saw a woman in distress collapse to the icy sidewalk.
She was about 30, a brunette. Was she attractive? There’s something appealing about every woman in distress.
It’s not like that with dudes. A woman in distress is an opportunity for gallantry.
A man in distress is an opportunity for YouTube belly laughs.
She was carrying a purse and two packages, both or which were now scattered on the sidewalk next to where she was sprawled on all fours
I was at fourth at the traffic light. The other motorists had to see her, but did nothing.
Would I pass her, too?
Here’s exactly what went through my mind: If she’s having a heart attack, seizure or stroke there’s nothing I can do but say, “There, there,” until real help arrives.
What if she’s been shot, maybe by an angry ex? Do I want to get involved?
Lastly, “Can’t You Hear me Knocking,” by the Rolling Stones had just come on the radio and I hadn’t heard it in about two months. Helping this woman meant ruining the nice morning vibe.
What did I do?
I pulled over, got out, knelt down and asked, “Are you all right?”
She was. The steep sidewalk was a sheet of ice. She worked two blocks away on the other side of the Westmoreland County Courthouse.
“Let me help you,” I said, as I maneuvered her to safety. “ Please get in. I’ll drive you the rest of the way. It’s no problem at all.”
“Oh,” she said, “you’re so nice!”
How nice am I? I immediately began thinking how could I in two blocks parlay my chivalry into a robust sales pitch for my new book?
But I didn’t do that. Instead, I just told her not to be embarrassed and be glad all she bruised was her dignity.
I wonder about karma.
I remember once out of the goodness of my heart I spontaneously and anonymously decided to pay for some state trooper’s dry cleaning just because I saw it hanging there behind my duds.
I thought, wow, this day ought to go great. I’m a nice guy and the universe is bound to reward me.
It did not. In fact, it punished me with a legendary crapfest of a day. My computer malfunctioned, dropped a hammer on my toe, learned the kid needed braces, etc.
So I drove to Pittsburgh wondering if calamity would strike.
I don’t know whether my random act of kindness had anything to do with it, but it turned out to be a really nice day.
I’d pitched Brian O’Neill, columnist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, about my book and he was intrigued. I sent him a copy of “The Last Baby Boomer.”
I’d met Brian years before and figured he’d remember me. We’d both been roundtable guests on John McIntire’s free wheeling cable TV show. We all went drinking afterwards and had a grand time.
Brian didn’t remember any of it or me.
No matter. He loved the book. We talked for 90 minutes and just had a great exchange.
He wrote in yesterday’s P-G, “The first 50 pages were as funny as anything I’ve read in a long time, the middle should be shorter, there are too many typos, but the tale revs up again in the final third.”
It paints a great picture of me and the book and I’m very pleased. Here’s the link.
As we were saying our goodbyes, a light went on in Brian’s head.
“Now, I remember you! I remember saying the Rolling Stones hadn’t done anything good since ‘Some Girls’ in 1978 and you took offense. You were really angry.”
Sure sounds like me!
Nice is nice, but a man ain’t a man unless he’ll stand for something.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
I figured at $16.95 my book was a real steal. I just never figured anyone would ever really steal it.
But that’s apparently what’s happened.
I guess that means my little morality play is backfiring.
See, Buck paid $20 for the book last week but we pretended he paid $50.
Buck owns the Tin Lizzy, which in a small town way is like saying Walt Disney owned Disney World.
People say the Tin Lizzy like it’s just one place. In fact, it’s six very distinct places under one roof.
There’s the Main Street bar where I spend most of my non-office time. It’s where Buck and the regulars cluster.
Then there’s the Rathskeller, a perfectly cool basement bar with foundation, fireplace and timbers that date back to 1780.
The second floor is Flappers, a 1920’s-themed martini bar. It’s very posh and intimate. When guests come to visit, I make sure we have at least two or three cocktails in there. In the summer, the adjoining balcony is very popular.
Also distinct are the Jaffre’s Italian Restaurant dining rooms on the main and second floors. They serve great food to the entire building.
So it’s quite a complex.
And up above it all overlooking the town’s only street light and just across the hall Westmoreland County’s only indoor cornhole court (link below) is my shabby little office.
It’s all perfectly cool. And just last week I confirmed Arnold Palmer was either born here or spent his first months here.
How cool is that?
I confess I’ve been reluctant to write about moving from my old place to the penthouse suite at the Tin Lizzy for fear it would be like a twice-married husband comparing his wives.
And, please don’t allow the wobbly analogy to cloud your perceptions of my marriage, but I must convey what an essential part of my daily existence a good bar is.
It’s been a very happy transition for me. I really enjoying being a part of this vibe.
And Buck’s always stopping by the office to insult me.
He tells me my hair’s a mess, or that I’ve worn the same flannel shirt three times in the past week, both of which are patently true so maybe he’s more observant than rude.
But after he hurts my feelings he always invites me downstairs for a drink, which always improves my mood. I always stay for three or four, so he’s a very shrewd businessman.
He likes to joke, too. That’s how he wound up pretending to pay $50 for a book someone eventually stole.
I underestimated interest in reading this satiric kind of book.
Heck, I underestimate interest in reading any kind of book.
But people are so far really liking “The Last Baby Boomer.” One guy bought nine copies and orders of three or four are becoming common. I never dreamed it would become a gift book.
Best so far? A Bridgeville woman recommended the book to her reading group and they bought 15. They invited me to come speak to them, which I happily agreed to do.
So I’m emboldened about the book’s prospects and am trying to conceive ways to gin up a lot of interest, in this case by using a man interested in drinking lots of gin.
When Buck said he wanted to buy the book, I said sure, but let’s conduct the transaction in the bar when it’s crowded.
“And let’s pretend you’re paying $50.”
He agreed, he said, as long as there was no way in hell he’d have to actually pay $50.
And, boy, did we lay it on thick. We made the simple transaction seem like we were historic participants concluding the Louisiana Purchase negotiations.
It became in those few moments something more grand than a mere book. It was like literary Viagra or the cure for something itchy.
Alas, our little skit may have been too convincing because somebody stole Buck’s book.
“Yeah, I had it out upstairs and would stop and read a few pages, but I went by there about an hour ago and it was gone. I’d only read 10 pages.
Damn. I told him page 11 is when it really starts getting good!
I asked if he wouldn’t mind calling the police or the FBI to report the theft.
I asked if we could do the whole thing over, again pretending a $20 was a $50.
He declined that, too.
He figures it’ll eventually turn up. He’s probably correct.
I fear he’ll soon report he found the book being used to prop up one of the restaurant’s dining room tables.
It’s a likely scenario.
Alas, the only thing more wobbly than the floors in this dear old building are my daffy bar analogies.
Related . . .