Saturday, July 30, 2016
I’m chagrinned this tumultuous political month has passed without me being more engaged. But I’ve been too otherwise occupied to stoke @8days2Amish. Alas, I did what I could. Maybe next month will be more fruitful. Guaranteed, it’ll all be ripe for ridicule.
• Social media is to reading what fast food is to nutrition. Thanks to all of you who stop by Chris's Crap Shack!
• You know your town lacks diversity when everyone says they're meeting at the Mexican joint and everyone knows to go to the Taco Bell.
• Watching "Independence Day" part where aliens destroy America; wondering what kind of wall Trump would have built and how he’d have gotten aliens to pay for it/
• Greatest drag on US productivity could be reversed if docs said they were kidding when they said male masturbation was a health benefit.
• For many, the advent of social media means our greatest fear is no longer death. It is the fear of appearing too ordinary.
• Although it's bound to upset traditionalists, isn't it time we start referring to the 2K-old "New Testament" as the "Not-So-New Testament?”
• In my experience, the ones most likely to post bitter comment on any story of mine are the ones who are least likely to have read it.
• Technology is the willful and agreed-upon demolition of charm and all that was once beloved as quaint.
• Noah’s Arc was the only cruise ship in history where every level was a poop deck.
• I don't want to live forever. I want to live right now!
• Would a T-shirt still be a T-shirt if I got one with a big Q on the front?
• There ought to be a wax museum celebrating the history, manufacture and usage of wax.
• I’m taking 20 books to sign at Classic Lines books @littsburgh Saturday at 11. Not leaving till sold out! Or hot. Or hungry. Or discouraged.
• For purposes of general housekeeping and upkeep, I wouldn't want a home where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play.
• This is how I imagine Nixon would look as staff tried to explain to him the how-to and point of the selfie (picture Nixon frowning).
• In these divisive times it is essential that every good American devote at least some time each day listening to the Traveling Wilburys.
• If coral is a stony ocean rock and corral is a pony pen, then shouldn't oceanic enclosure used to keep seahorses be corrral?
• Don’t believe pundits who declare Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc. are swing states. Wisconsin has more parks per capita. It is THE swing state.
• Man, the only animal to spend 80 percent of its time either seated or laying down, is also the only animal to spend billions on footwear.
• Wondering how many times today Trump will ask Priebus, "Tell me one more time why I can't talk about the size of my hands .."
• I like telling people I have five nipples and that only one of them is above the waist.
• I just once would like to see a cliffhanger show end with a villain named Cliff ascending the steps to the gallows.
• World will be a better place when all those scheming to find the means to an end instead worked on finding an end to the means.
• Did your Mom ever write your name on your undershirt tag? She was years ahead of her time. Mom: inventor of the original Collar ID.
• Trump says Clinton/Kaine appear weak. WWII enemies thought same thing about FDR and Churchill.
• It’d be fun for future historians if Hilary gets elected president and becomes embroiled in a sex scandal with a young male intern.
• I wonder if Bill Clinton has spent even a fraction of a second optimistically trying to recall where he hid all the condoms.
• The tabloid reporter in me is dreaming the next big scandal is that Bill Clinton shagged Melania Trump. Or Ivanka.
Related . . .
The critical criteria for selecting a new office space were two: Would it allow opportunities for fun? And would it be a good place to fend off the marauding zombie hordes?
Because you just never know.
So my office search loosely paralleled the plot from the uproarious 2004 zombie Brit flick, “Shaun of the Dead.”
See, I’m not at all like the fancy writers, and by fancy writers I mean ones who earn their livings getting paid to write.
No, all I need is a quiet place I can make loud.
I don’t want interruptions or chat mates. I just need a small, still room for me, my laptop and my Bose wave radio. Then I just sit down, plug in and crank up (right now it’s alt-country/blues/rocker/folkie/geriatric hellraiser Ray Wylie Hubbard).
Loud music for me seems to vacuum away all the mind clutter that gets in the way of necessary thoughtfulness. I don’t know why that is so and I just hope my daughters don’t inherit the trait or else I’ll soon know the lyrics to all the songs by the band One Direction.
Because of past happy experience, I confined my search to places that served hootch.
Who knows? Maybe I’d write better if my office were above (or below) a place of worship.
But I know if someone religious-minded wandered by and heard me playing Ray Wylie Hubbard’s blasphemous “Conversation with the Devil” it might lead to a long, philosophical discourse that would sidetrack me from writing about important blog topics like how sad I feel when my socks don’t match.
And who the hell needs that?
So after about two days of exhaustive research, one of which I did while hungover, I found two places that fill those needs.
The first is Little Rock, maybe the world’s greatest bar. It has great live music, eccentric clientele, chummy bartenders and is owned by my old college roommate Quinn Fallon, who’s endeared himself to me by never once having charged me for a single libation.
But Little Rock — so named because Quinn believes every bar needs a “little rock” — had two logistical drawbacks.
One, it has no second floor. I didn’t ask, but I’m sure Quinn would have let me put a card table and a lawn chair up on the roof. I might have become a local tourist attraction.
But without walls, I might one day blunder right off the roof and OSHA would have its first case of a writer being hurt while in the act of writing.
Second, Little Rock is in Columbus, Ohio.
If I could pull it off, I’d gladly make the 3 1/2-hour drive to Columbus, spend an hour blogging, an hour drinking with Quinn and then heading home — really, being gone 9 hours a day is a typical existence.
But I’d miss daily watching “The Price is Right” and let’s be honest: I haven’t been able to confine my convivial drinking to one-hour-a-day since the 4th grade.
That left one obvious choice.
Hello Tin Lizzy!
My commute has been cut in half. I’m now just 1.2 miles from home.
My wife said I could walk.
“Hell,” I said, “I’m gonna zip line!”
Won’t that be cool? The historic Tin Lizzy is Youngstown’s landmark building.
Youngstown, remember, is the one-stoplight town just outside of Latrobe. Before moving up the mountain, Val and I lived just 1/4 mile from the Tin Lizzy from 1992 through 2007. It’s a great town and, in fact, is the birthplace of both Fred Rogers and Arnold Palmer.
Locals know Latrobe Country Club isn’t in Latrobe. Neither is Palmer. They’re both in Youngstown.
For seven wonderful years, my office was above a really great bar.
Now, it’s above three of them.
The basement is the Rathskeller (live music); the ground floor, a perfectly cool townie bar; the second floor is Flappers, a 1940s-themed martini bar.
I’m now the entire third floor.
To enter I need to pass through four locked doors. I like Maxwell Smart from the iconic “Get Smart” opening sequence.
It’s 79 steps to the third floor and I have it all to myself.
There are 11 rooms, but not 11 doors. It’s perfectly maze-like. I can get my daily exercise without ever having to leave the building.
There’s no shower, but the restroom gives the discerning urinator the choice of either bowl or wall-mounted receptacle.
I’m weighing an even/odd calendar routine.
Most of the rooms are like being in a bar’s attic. There’s old chairs, tables, paints, work space. One room has all the Christmas decorations so I can commune with Claus anytime I need a jolt of holiday spirit.
The actual office is one slim room overlooking Main Street. It’s a great view.
The floors are badly warped so writing while seated on my wheeled chair is like writing on the pitching deck of a ship.
I was very pleased when my friend, Buck, offered me the space. He’s been running the building for, I think, 25 years. He’s gone way out of his way to make me feel welcome, as have his staff.
I got an unexpected call at 7:30 this morning. It was Sandy offering me coffee.
I screamed at her to not bother me again until she’d prepared a three egg-white, all organic Western omelette with Bavarian goat cheese was ready.
She hasn’t called back. She’s either insulted or is having a difficult time securing a Bavarian goat.
The most awkward aspect of moving has been answering so many questions about where I’m going to get drunk.
While I (mostly) exaggerate my drinking for blog purposes, people are concerned I’ll abandon The Pond.
It’s a tough call. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. All my buddies are at The Pond and I have loyalties there, but The Pond did evict me and I should convey some loyalty to the people who are welcoming me in.
I endure long stretches where my writing is roundly ignored, but I’m never lacking for interest in people who want me as a drinking buddy.
I feel like a highly touted college QB prospect being fought over by competing NFL teams.
Not a draft pick.
A draft beer pick!
I guess there’s only one thing to do that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings among all the people who’ve been so nice to me.
Columbus, here I come!
It reeks of pretentiousness, but the reaction is convincing me what every bar really needs is a little Rodell.
Related . . .
Friday, July 29, 2016
News that terrorists will be soon be smuggling bombs surgically implanted in their bodies has me again realizing I have commitment issues.
Where do they find these zealots? Where do they find these doctors? Is this sort of procedure covered under the new health care law?
The Republicans will go ballistic if they find out really going ballistic is addressed on page 1,293.
My body is my temple and I’m picky about its desecrations. No matter the cause, I’d never smuggle a subcutaneous explosive device to a public event.
I save my zealotry for screwing millionaire mullahs -- or is it moolahs? -- who charge $12 for warm domestic beer at professional sporting events.
It’s impossible to count the number of times I’ve inserted beers and liquor in my body and surreptitiously sneaked them into various Pittsburgh sports arenas.
Of course, don’t surgically insert them. I pour them in my stomach before entering the buildings (and, as always, thoughtfully recycle the cans). I’d never dream of going to some back alley quacks to have them zipper full cans in my hip.
Unless they’re talking about a single stick of dynamite, the scheme sounds to me as farfetched as it does impractical.
The whole thing again convinces me jihad recruiters must be diabolically persuasive.
“We want you to join the movement!”
“We want you to be prepared to sacrifice!”
“We want you to see Dr. Zawahari tomorrow at 10 a.m. He’s going to remove a kidney and fill the vacancy with TNT. If that doesn’t kill you, we want you to board the red eye to London and detonate your new explosive kidney over the Atlantic. Cool?”
“Uh, couldn’t I start by just firing up the internet chat rooms and work my way up?”
And you thought airport pat downs were already too invasive.
A radio report said specially trained dogs will be deployed to the airports to combat the threat. I heard this and immediately thought of my old dog, Casey. A sweet, aggressively affectionate golden retriever, he’d be perfect.
Then I learned I’d misheard. They were talking about bomb-sniffing dogs.
Casey was a bum-sniffing dog.
Still, a dog like him would be perfect in tedious security lines.
Think about it: any doctor who’d agree to perform this procedure couldn’t possibly have the refined skills of the pros who work at places like the Mayo Clinic.
After all, what they’re doing is a clear violation of what Homer Simpson calls their hippopotamus oath.
So if you’re going to get a dangerous explosive implanted in your torso, timing is key. You’re likely going to go on a beeline in still-tender condition from the operating room straight to the airport.
That’s when you’d say hello to Casey.
I always enjoyed introducing Casey to refined and dignified women (I had that rarified opportunity, I think, twice).
“Oh, what a beautiful doggie!” they’d gush while bending way over to pet his luscious blonde fur.
Then, quick as a burglar, Casey was behind them goosing his snoot in places where only the boldest proctologists go.
The effect was similar to what would happen if a surgically implanted explosive device went off in their rear ends. Their arms would flail, their hairdo would go Einstein and they’d scream in equal parts terror and delight.
They’d emerge from the intimacy looking disheveled, but oddly invigorated.
So a dog like Casey would be an extraordinary boon to airport security.
He’d be sure to startle any would-be terrorists into post-surgical heart attacks.
And he’d appease ACLU busybodies by never racially profiling.
Christian, Muslim, Hindu, it wouldn’t matter. We’d all get a vigorous butt snuffling from a dog I’ll always remember with fond affection.
As security dogs go, he’d be what could best be described as a true asset.
I miss that dog.
With him it was just the opposite.
That dog never missed.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
My back aches. My knees are sore. I haven’t had a hangover in 10 days. It’s a world gone mad.
I’m immersed in rehabbing my mother’s South Hills condo with my buddy Mark. He’s a marvel. He does flooring, masonry, drywall, plumbing, electric. I tell you, he does it all.
Me? I try not to get busted checking Facebook while Mark’s doing all the work.
The progress is already impressive and I’m confident we’re adding thousands of dollars in value to the eventual sales price. But it’s a lot of hard work, especially for a guy who’s idea of hard work is writing a blog that runs 800 words instead of 700.
And I miss near-daily blogging.
• Josie, 15, is out-earning her father. She’s working the Dippin’ Dots stand at Idlewild. She’s enjoying the job and I’m happy for her, but the situation underscores how I’ve made some really, really bad decisions about my career.
• I’d like to see the reaction of the conservative media if after last night Hillary dumped Tim Kaine and nominated Michelle Obama for VP.
• It’d be fun for future historians if Hillary became president and became embroiled in a sex scandal with a young male intern.
• I had the car AC fixed last week. I just couldn’t endure another day of parkway traffic with the windows down. Really, the heat was (barely) tolerable, but the highway noise drove me crazy. I love listening to satellite radio in the car and no AC made that impossible.
• My favorite Sirius stations are (not in any order) Willie’s Roadhouse, E Street Radio, Tom Petty Radio, Outlaw Country, Elvis, and Bluesville. But I jump around to jazz, Broadway and all the decade stations. But the first thing I check is always Radio Classics. Val, too. We just love those campy old radio shows. I in particular love the Westerns and Dragnet. So entertaining. To us, at least. Our kids threaten to jump out of the moving vehicle the instant they hear it on.
• Unless every reader abandons me all at once, sometime in the next two days this blog will have had its busiest month. It’s conceivable this month will be the first 10,000-view month. I know, it’s hardly Khardashian, but it seems substantial to me. Thanks for reading. Please share with friends whenever you deem it worthy.
• My nominee for stupid Trump tweet of the month goes to the one that argued our enemies must be drooling because neither Clinton nor Kaine “look” like leaders. Our WWII enemies thought the same thing about a fat old drunken Englishman and a hobbled Yankee who was confined to a wheelchair. It makes it seem surprising that Trump picked Mike Pence instead of Dwayne Johnson.
• Part of the big blog month is due to an unlikely surge in Russian readers. So many throngs of old Soviets have taken to the blog, it almost feels like a prank. But I figure a country that has yet to master the technologies of the flush toilet has better things to do so I take it at face value.
• Equally odd and just as welcome was the news that more than 150 readers from the Indian Ocean island paradise of Mauritius flocked in to read the blog. How this happens when I’ve never in my life typed much less visited Mauritius is baffling. I intend to write about this again in hopes island official invite me and my family to visit March 12 for Mauritius Independence Day to be the parade grand marshall.
• The blog in the last month has enjoyed heavy readership from people in Germany, France, China, Canada, Ireland, Ukraine and Slovenia. Most unusual? A couple people from the tiny landlocked principality of Andorra in France. I have no idea how any of these internationals find the blog. Heck, I’m surprised when people from Altoona find it.
• I haven’t had time to tweet much this month, but this is one of my favorites: “Did your Mom ever write your name on your undershirt tag? She was years ahead of her time. Mom: inventor of the original Collar ID!”
• After a great run of summer presentations to financiers, library patrons, retired teachers and other groups, I’m now facing an empty calendar. It’s confounding. I was in the running for keynoting the Women In Trucking convention in San Antonio in October and just found out the picked someone else. How can that be? This is bound to sound immodest, but wouldn’t I be perfect for WIT?
• To put the blog numbers in perspective, a month where I’ll get more than 9,000 readers still pays less than a day working at the Dippin’ Dots shack.
• Back to work! And I only wish that meant more blogging.
Monday, July 25, 2016
I was careless with the candy and the dog ate all the chocolates so this Christmas-in-July will be a little less special than ones from the past.
Well, for everyone but the dog.
I’ve been busy moving Mom so C-in-J feels rushed. You can tell, too, because that’s maybe the first time in holiday history anyone’s felt compelled to abbreviate Christmas-in-July.
But I got some gift cards, some candy, a couple crappy presents and the weird Bob Dylan Christmas album is ready for its traditional blare in about an hour.
A Christmas movie. I usually go to the video store and snag a rental of one of the favorites.
Not this year.
I didn’t have time and I couldn’t settle on one that fit.
I didn’t want “It’s a Wonderful Life” because this year it isn’t. To anyone with a passing familiarity with the headlines it seems like an unrelentingly dark and brutal life.
George Bailey feels like jumping off a bridge? Who could blame him?
Every day seems to bring another bloody episode of either terrorism or mass shooting.
Really, the special I’d most like to see is the one that for me has the most resonance in this sad time.
That would be “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” maybe the most misleadingly titled program of all time.
Because the Grinch most certainly did not steal Christmas.
If anything it should be called “How The Grinch Failed to Steal Christmas.”
Maybe that didn’t rhyme.
I ask you to recall the 1966 show now and anytime you feel saddened by grim news.
It is, of course, revered for its nostalgic charm, wit, animation and message about how a Grinchy heart can change over time.
But that’s not at all the most relevant message.
To me, the most important message has nothing to do with the Grinch and everything to do with the Whos.
They wake up Christmas morning to find everything gone, laid to waste. The most special day of the year has been ruined by incarnate evil.
What do the Whos do?
They celebrate. They party. They embrace the day.
They react as if it doesn’t matter that evil has struck.
The message isn’t really that the Grinch changes. It’s that the Whos do not.
I’m heartened that every time after every bloody attack that things return right away to normal.
We still attend parades, concerts and live each day to its fullest. There’s no decrease in zany contests or absurd, joyful behavior.
That’s tells me that, as scared as people are, everyone realizes that none of the threats we’re facing is existential. None of the enemies who seek to destroy our way of life will ever succeed.
We still have the option to enjoy so many splendid days.
Despite our divisions, we’re all on at least this point happy little Whos.
I think people get that.
I say it again: Anytime you hear of anyone dying suddenly, it ought to reinforce the need to always be living suddenly.
To me, the most inaccurate cliche of all-time is “You only live once.”
In fact, you only die once.
You can live each and every day.
So Merry Christmas in July!
That’s what it’ll be here in the Rodell house.
The kids won’t even care that the dog ate all the chocolates.