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Sunday, January 31, 2016

RRS: What I think about when the dog and I get into a staring contest

No cogent reason for re-posting this. But it’s got, I think, some funny musings and seemed to fall through the cracks. And it has nothing to do with the Super Bowl so it for now is perfect.


I sometimes find myself staring at the dog and wondering how I’d lok with his nose and how he’d look with mine. And I wonder if he’s thinking the same thing.

I doubt it. I think when he looks at me he’s wondering when I’m going to eat again. 

He’s a very small dog, a yipper. I guess his brain’s about the size of a walnut. I think he devotes all his minuscule brain power to thoughts of obtaining and consuming food. 

I’m surprised dogs like him don’t try and leap through the TV whenever they see commercials for things like Hot Pockets.

One of the things I most admire about dogs is they’d never pause to read a nutrition label. They just eat what they enjoy until what they enjoy is all gone.

Yet, dogs have what must be an instinctive dislike for anything we’re told is healthy. I’ve never once seen my dog slobber over a salad.

If dogs were smart, they’d spend less time wishing for food and more time wishing for opposable thumbs that would allow them to pull open the refrigerator door. It’s like the Biblical parable about giving a man a fish or teaching him how to catch them.

I know a lot of humans who’d look more interesting with the noses of their dogs, me included.

A nose, even a properly functioning one, is a terrible facial focal point. If eyes are the windows to the soul then noses are the chimneys to the respiratory system. Nothing good comes out of them.

I’ve always thought it would be cool if what you sneezed revealed your personality. Cheerful people would sneeze confetti; sweet people, jellybeans; politicians, bull crap.

I once read that the size of our eyes is the same when we’re born as when we die.

That’s probably for the best. I’m trying to picture my 82-year-old mother with saucer-sized eyeballs. It’d be very unnerving, like she could instantly tell when I’m lying to her about how delighted I am she lives nearer to me instead of my deadbeat brother in Tennessee.

That same article about the consistent eyeball size said human noses and ears grow a little bit each and every day.

On days when I have very little to do I spend hours staring straight into the mirror intently trying to detect some growth. I can’t see it, but old pictures from around high school prove growth is, indeed, happening.

My butt’s getting bigger, too.

I’ve read we’re on the verge of physiological changes that will allow the average human to live to extraordinary ages, like 200 years.

That sounds great until you think about relentless ear and nasal growth.

Standard elevators will only have room for two or three old timers. Everyone else will either have to take the stairs or ride a few floors huddled beneath a nostril.

I’ve always been baffled by the way ears look. Why we need all that superfluous gutter cartilage around the little ear hear hole is a mystery.

I wish I could evolve dog ears, little mud flaps that would hang over the actual ear.

Like a beagle’s!

Many people say, ah, but having a furry flap over your ears would impede hearing.

To which I respond, ah, but having a furry flap over my ears would impede hearing!

Have you heard what’s being said or sung?

The only reason I don’t walk through life with my fingers jammed in my ears is because I’m either carrying something or my hands are up in the “Don’t shoot!” position necessary for surviving today’s society.

Think of the splendor if you could walk around with thick mufflers dangling over your ears. You’d wouldn’t hear stupid political opinions, unwanted sports discussions or disagreeable music.

If you wished to engage in conversation with someone intelligent, you could fasten the ears above your head with a little clip, something fashionable.

So that’s some of what I think about when I’m staring at the dog and he’s staring back at me.

What he’s actually thinking we’ll never know.

Like I said, he’s probably thinking about food.

I just hope he’s not thinking vengeful thoughts against me because a few years ago I approved the surgery that severed maybe the one thing dearer to typical male dogs than food.

I guess it’s something to think about.



Related . . .










Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hello to more than 300 new twitter followers!


My 8days2amish twitter followers jumped from 364 on Jan. 20 to 699. Very nice. It was all thanks to an amazon.com giveaway promo for my new satiric novel “The Last Baby Boomer.”  I’m hoping it becomes a trend. I’m very proud of the originality of my tweets and think them deserving of a wide readership. But what do I know? Here. You decide . . . 

• Our greatest frustrations stem from when we demand perfection from those incapable of providing it.

• Silent letters drive me pcrazy!

• Martial Law is when a nation's military imposes its will on citizens. Marsha Law is when the oldest daughter on Brady Bunch imposes hers.

• A tornado warning is dangerous weather. A tornado watch is an inefficient timepiece whose hands spin really fast.

• I can't describe how much it pains me that if I ever get into a so-you-think-you're-better-than-me argument with Ashton Kutcher, I'd lose.

• When people say you think funny what they're actually saying is you think.

• I know this is a risky admission, but I consider myself an elitist. I believe in education, experience, manners, civility and earthly coifs.

• Given our societal lasciviousness, I'm surprised I've never seen shirt buttons that look like stiff nipples.

• Are minions uni-racial or are there dark-skinned minions behind some beautiful wall built by a Trump-like minion? 

• In the future, hunger will be eliminated when Mark Zuckerberg develops a way to turn Facebook food pictures into actual meals. 

• Bumbastic people are prone to talking out of their asses.

• Experts say sun is 92,960,000 miles from earth. I stepped outside this morning & could have sworn it felt more like 92,960,002.

• Just because a person is bad at math doesn't mean he or she can't be considered calculating.

• Would a T-shirt still be a T-shirt if I got one with a big Q on the front? 

• Ideas about how to advance more quickly through lines are queue tips.

• Many cynics today are ridiculing Obama for crying over dead children. I'm glad I'll never be one of them.

• It is a confounding paradox for those challenged with marketing the machines, but the best vacuum cleaners really do suck.

• If wife had been as aggressive selling http://UseAllTheCrayons.com  as she was with Lucy's Girl Scout cookies J.Grisham would be my proofreader.

• After doing so for nearly 8 years I can only conclude blogging is like butterfly catching only with fewer tangible results. 

• It is one of our greatest paradoxes, but a really big family can also serve as one of nature's most affirmative contraceptives.

• I used to pretend I was too sick to go to school. Now, I pretend I'm not hungover nights after I swore to wife I wouldn't drink too much.

• Because he's on a helluva roll and because uproar would be funny, I'm kind of hoping Trump hits the PowerBall.

• Ringling dumping elephants, thus depriving circus fans of the otherworldly spectacle of dumping elephants. 

• Remember back when everyone said Trump was finished for tastelessly alluding to Megan Kelly's menstrual cycles? We were so quaint back then.

• Those running for president who think America is no longer able to achieve great things should be called cantidates. 

• Too many people who mistakenly believe they have the world on a string realize too late what they’re actually holding is a lit fuse.

• I’m like most fathers in that I tell kids, "I'd do anything for you." I differ in I always add, "'cept get a real job.”

• Does it make me odd that I enjoy Applebee's yet am fearful of bees on apples? 

• I’m beginning to understand the peacefulness that comes from no longer trying to change the minds of the mindless.

• I wonder if sharp bullets hurt less upon penetration than blunt ones and I wonder how long, given gun sales, it'll be before I find out.

• I’ll continue to say "Happy New Year!" clear through August when it becomes seasonally acceptable to greet people with "Merry Christmas!”

• My efforts to interview El Chapo collapsed after I insisted he come to the Tin Lizzy and buy me dinner.

• Over-use of italics tends to make readers see-sick.

• I prefer gorilla marketing to guerilla marketing because while the latter engages consumers the former causes them to go apeshit.

• Nostradamus became famous as a visionary who could see the future; not so much his cousin, Nostrildamus, who could smell it.

• I’m not saying I'm a slob but just to be safe I always make sure to wear a shirt that matches my dinner. Today my shirt is pizza colored!

• Greatest trick devil ever pulled was convincing world he doestn't exist. 2nd greatest: convincing consumers wheeled device is hoverboard.

• My career feels like I'm in darkened gym ordered to box bigger night-vision goggle wearing opponent with Sarah Palin telling me what to do.

• I’m aghast networks continue to broadcast "news" it'll snow in January when no one  realizes Rick Santorum is STILL running for prez.

• In a world that made perfect sense the saying would be, "Where there's smoke there's a cigar. And bourbon.

• We have blankets of snow and sheets of ice. Anyone know where I can find a good slush pillow?

• I once got in big trouble spying on a woman in department store dressing room. She was furious. It was a fit of pique over a peek of fit.

• Given the dietary challenges Paleolithic cavemen faced, I'm surprised Fred & Barney were tubby. I'm surprised they found time to bowl, too.

• If people distraught over deaths of David Bowie & Glenn Frey, what will they do when someone truly and universally beloved kicks? Someone like Dick Cheney?

• I think my wife would be more receptive to romance if I'd stop insisting she dump Gatorade on my head after each successful coupling.

• Super Bowl prediction: Carolina 54, Denver 31. Not the score. That's my prediction of the high temps in each town at kickoff.

• Flying commercial always makes me feel like a foot getting shoved into a bowling shoe.

• I wonder if any of the fabled explorers ever considered naming a prominence "Moot Point" but decided the gesture would be meaningless. 

• Just wasted 15 minutes trying in vain to prove I'm stronger than a toilet. You've won this round anti-slam lid!

• Can’t believe Ernie Borgnine's been dead nearly 4 years and we've yet to find an Ernie Borgten. 

• Self-loathing conservatives feel at supporting Trump must be akin to what dying vegetarians feel when they realize about to turn zombie.

• 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?”

• A swim meet is an aquatic competition. A swim meat is an edible fish.


Related . . .





Friday, January 29, 2016

"Use All the Crayons!" hits the road: Omaha


I’d been standing smack dab in the middle of Aksarben, Nebraska, when I was informed of why Aksarben, Nebraska, was bound to become one of my favorite palindromes.
Aksarben is Nebraska spelled backwards!
I marvel that at one time way back in 1895 there was a man or woman so silver-tongue persuasive he or she was able to convince community leaders that spelling Nebraska bass-ackwards was a better idea than naming their budding town something pansy pious like Purity or Virtue.
Aksarben is the upscale community in Omaha where I’d been invited to speak to Heartland meeting professionals.
My mission was to give a gangbuster speech and not once misspeak and say, “Can you tell me where to find a really great whore house!” when I meant to say, “Can you tell me where to find a really great steak house!”
I keep trying to convince my wife business travelers make that slip all the time.
Omaha is the farthest west I’d ever been invited to share my “Use All The Crayons!” presentation.
I could have probably done the whole thing in one night, but I opted for two. I’d never been to Omaha, am loathe to rush myself, and figured by staying another night I’d increase my odds by 100 percent I’d meet Warren Buffett and he’d take a paternal liking to me.
The speech was key.
I’d hadn’t spoken to a group in over a month and wanted to make sure it went smoothly. So I checked in and asked the hotel desk girl where I’d be speaking. She told me it was in Room A. I went down to check it out.
It had a capacity of about 50, which meant it’d be a full house. That was good. I planned on celebratory crowd surf to close.
That’s just the way I think. I’m very positive. I expect the crowd to love me.
I took a nice stroll around town, found a bar and went in for some beers and a pizza to go.
So I was fully prepared the next morning when I went down to the spacious meeting room expecting to find a throng.
Instead, it was an absolute ghost town. Not a soul. Not a table. Not a table’s soul.
The room in which I was scheduled to speak in 30 minutes was utterly empty.
I didn’t fret. I didn’t panic, but I realized fret and panic were about to begin tapping me on the shoulders.
The hotel did some checking. I was speaking in the conference center two blocks away.
Whew. 
I said some hellos and waited in the back of the room while everyone stood up and introduced themselves.
When they finished, I couldn’t resist. I said, “And I’m Chris and in about 30 minutes you’re all going to be sick of hearing me talk.”
I wish I could work that in with every talk. It really loosened the crowd up.
I posted the first two minutes of the speech here on YouTube and you can see for yourself. They were all ready to laugh.
So it went great. I didn’t get to body surf, but four or five of the meeting planners came up and said they want me to speak to their groups. That word-of-mouth affirmation is potentially huge.
And I later sat down at lunch with a friendly gent who introduced himself as the international rep for the entire organization, a true big shot. He was very complimentary.
I was very relieved I didn’t know he was in the audience before I started my schtick.
A day like that is very satisfying. When you can really connect and make a real impact, you can tell by the look in people’s eyes. They’re so grateful for my message.
It again proves I’m onto something.
No, I didn’t get to crowd surf, but I’m convinced that’s the trajectory I’m on.
So with a pocket stuffed full of $20s, I set out to find a really great Omaha whore house, er, steak house.
I was told to go to The Drover.
And better dining advice I’ve never had. I had a whiskey-marinated filet so sumptuous I’m trying to slow my body metabolism to the point where that steak will forever remain a part of my biological constitution.
Even without Warren Buffet calling me “Sonny,” it still turned out to be a great day.
And now I’ll forever love Nebraska. It’s filled with people of warmth and vibrance — not at all like the “Nebraska” Bruce Springsteen told me about.
And I return home with boundless confidence.
Not for me and my future.
I’m confident I can convince local leaders of the promotional benefits of changing the name Latrobe to Ainavlysnnep.

Related . . .

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My near-fatal finger splinter


I gave a doctor the finger and Obamacare paid for it!
I had a life-threatening splinter deep in my right hand’s middle finger; the Digitus Me’dius, to you fans of old Roadrunner cartoons.
I wish I could contend it was a steel splinter from an ax-wielding mishap or a fragment from a bullet I tried to catch between my fingers.
But, no, the wound was wicker in origin.
Yes, the fabled fabric of the pharaohs. Wicker has been found in the pyramids and throughout the palaces of European royalty.
I had some under my ass when I was sitting at our kitchen table — and let’s thank God for a moment I was wearing pants or this story would be on a more adult and graphic veer.
I reached down to adjust my position and felt a sharp stab on the palm side of the upper knuckle in the finger angry motorists rely on to articulate road rage is about to bloom.
It was so small I couldn’t see it without a squint. I went to look for some tweezers, but couldn't find any.
Looking back, I should have just gone for the hatchet. Just lopping the damn finger off at the knuckle would have really bolstered my manly bona fides.
But the stub would have been unsatisfactory.
You don’t want a short middle finger. You want a long one. Like “E.T.” long. When you give someone THE finger you want emphasis.
I mistakenly thought it would work itself out. A week later I tried to dig it out with a sterilized needle. That hurt.
The operation left me so woozy I decided I couldn’t type any more that day and went downstairs to the Tin Lizzy and proceeded to get woozy in a more agreeable fashion.
And the tiny wicker splinter continued to fester, throb and ugly up. It was soon looking like the skies do when you see tornado-ripe storm clouds gathering on the horizon.
Clearly, I should have gone to the doctor right away, but despite the pain, I was really enjoying myself.
When people would casually ask, “Hey, how you doing?” I’d without explanation raise my middle finger.
I did this with friends, waitresses, mechanics, librarians and most memorably with little Lucy’s Sunday school teacher.
Giving someone — anyone — the bird is always a very liberating feeling. 
People these days are on such hair-trigger alert, I felt like I was conducting some sort of civics lesson.
It was like me saying, “Things aren’t always what they seem. You initially thought I was expressing malignant hostility. Instead I’m conveying a pain I’m feeling of which you are unaware. Many of us are hurting in ways that are sometimes unseen. Let this be a lesson in how you and I go forward in our dealings with our fellow man.”
Ideally, that would have been the reaction, but most people seemed to think I was just being an asshole, especially Lucy’s Sunday school teacher.
So I headed to the Med Express where I was pleased to learn I was out-patient of the day.
Everyone loved me!
First of all, I had an interesting wound. It was by then all swollen and pussie so they were really happy to see me.
Second, I asked them lots of questions about their typical hypochondriac patients and my questions gave them a chance to unload on all the people who mistakenly believe they’ll live forever if they see the doctor every time they come down with a case of the hiccups.
Third, I led them to believe I was one tough son of a bitch.
Splinter? I wasn't going to let that slow me. The only reason I’m here is because all the other kids on the school bus would faint whenever I waved bye-byes to my daughters.
I kept up the tough guy pose right up until I began begging the nurse to bring me a juice box so I wouldn’t pass out.
I’m not kidding. The doc really did a number on my finger. He gouged a hole so big I actually wound up needing stitches.
For a splinter!
I’m stabilized now, thank you, and am due to return next week for stitch removal.
I just thought you’d like to know what’s been going on if you see me over the next week and I for one reason or another give you the finger.
Or what’s left of it.

Related . . .


Monday, January 25, 2016

How much did I hate "Revenant?" Worse than winter


I used to think the longest winter was 2010 because it lasted from Halloween through near Easter.
I was mistaken.
The longest winter lasted 2 hours and 36 minutes.
Yes, me and some buddies went to see “The Revenant.”
I hated it.
It’s like the producers fully embraced the maxim that revenge is a dish best served cold, like below-zero/frost-bit/snot-dripping-from-the-unruly-mustache cold.
It dragged on for so long my buddy speculated aloud that pitchers and catchers were bound to soon report.
It was so bad it made me grateful when it finally, mercifully ended so I could go outdoors and get smacked in the face with actual winter.
Worse, now I’ll forever relate true winter with “Revenant” winter.
For instance, we’re still digging out from about two feet of snow from the weekend blizzard.
And, God help me, I’m finding charming things to say about real winter.
This was the weekend we go on our annual Rodell Winter Escape.
It’s not to Disney, Key West or someplace graced with two-digit highs.
No, we go to Sharon, Pennsylvania, which is about 90 minutes north of Pittsburgh. Been doing it for about eight years.
Now, bar aficionados will understand immediately why we go to Sharon. It’s the home of Quaker Steak & Lube, one of the finest bar restaurants in Pennsylvania. It’s been there since 1974. There are now 53 locations in nine states (one in Toronto), but none of them have the heirloom charm of the original.
I used to road trip there with buddies and then with Val before kids.
Then one day about eight years ago after a long drive we needed to overnight and Sharon seemed logical. We happened to pull into a Holiday Inn Express!
Now, many of you are aware of my travel writing bona fides. I’ve guested at The Breakers, The Greenbrier and many of North America’s finest resorts.
In short, I ain’t no hick.
But on that day, the H.I.E. near Sharon took a back seat to none. The staff was friendly, they had a happy hour wine bar and a chocolate fondue fountain in the lobby — they were cheap!
And they had an indoor pool.
For road-weary parents of two little girls, it was perfect.
So we made it a winter tradition to go to Sharon. The girls shop at Grove City Outlets on the way up, we swim, get a pizza delivered (it’s part of a hotel stay package) and then on Saturday go to The Lube for a wing feast.
We’ve had the girls at some swanky joints, yes, but I’ll wager they’ll remember our Sharon nights as fondly and warmly as any.
Or not warmly.
Because we always try and time the weekend to the worst weather. It makes enjoying the in-door pool that much more fun.
Turns out we were about 40 miles from having one of our best weekends be one of the worst.
That’s how far we were from being stuck for 30 hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
I can’t imagine how my family would have reacted had we been marooned with 500 other motorists in the blizzard that shutdown the ‘pike. 
Stories of heroism and cowardice continue to emerge. People shared provisions and warmth and held kangaroo courts when panicky motorists endangered others with escape attempts. I won’t be surprised if we hear reports of ketchup and cannibalism.
Now, that’s a movie I’d love to see.
As it was, I’m immensely relieved we missed the part of the storm that caused so much misery to so many.
We made it home safely and I got to spend the rest of the weekend alternately frolicking in the winter wonderland with our daughters and shoveling about two-feet of snow from about 350 feet of driveway.
Truly, this morning I’m feeling like Hercules, only Hercules high on Advil.
I didn’t think I could do it. There was just too much snow. In fact, I told Val, “I don’t think I can do it.”
She burst out laughing. I’m still uncertain whether the laughter was her way of saying, hon, I know you can do it or her way of saying, hon, you have no choice but to do it.
Either way, I did it.
And it was hell. I hated every second of it. It was more misery than a mortal man should have to endure.
Still not as bad as having to sit through “The Revenant!”

Related . . .


Friday, January 22, 2016

The winter day I nearly died in Minnesota


I hadn’t really thought about how close I’d come to dying there until a friend mentioned fun things to do in Minnesota in January.
Dying didn’t make the list.
But what I was doing moments before I nearly did does.
Something fun to do in Minnesota in January?
Try doing donuts at 65 mph on a frozen lake in a Toyota Corolla with the walk-away insurance.
Now, that was fun.
And often deadly, as I was soon to learn in a profanity-laced tirade over my suicidal naiveté.
I’ve forgiven myself. I was so much younger then. Just a kid really. I had no rational grasp of how responsible adults were supposed to behave in potentially dangerous situations.
I was, I think, 42.
I was doing wacky feature stories for Details magazine. By then I had a treasure chest of great Americana, heartland stories about oddball rituals and offbeat individuals. Mille Lacs, Minnesota, in January had both in spades.
Mille Lacs is a 207 square-mile body of water that every winter becomes Minnesota’s third most populace city. It has plowed roads, pizza delivery, distinct neighborhoods and regular trash pick up at temporary $15,000 homes all atop a 3-feet frozen foundation.
It’s, well, cool!
With windchill temperatures regularly dipping to minus-60, of course it is.
That’s how I pitched the story and it’s all true.
It’s a great American spectacle. People living in some of our most harsh elements conceive ways to make it fun. They choose to do more than merely endure.
They enjoy.
My assignment was to spend three days out there on the ice, do some fishing and experience what it was like to party in one of these pimped out ice-fishing homes; some of them come with hot tubs, satellite TV and interior conditions so comfy that most everyone wears shorts and T-shirts.
It’s just like fishing in your living room only if your living room floor was entirely made of ice with 12 frisbee-sized holes in it.
It was great fun.
My second greatest memory was looking out the window and seeing a trio of eagles, each as big and sturdy as winged fire hydrants, feasting on the walleye entrails of the fish we’d just caught and gutted.
My greatest memory is the big bearded dude waving his arms and screaming for me to get my car off the ice.
Ice, you see, is organic. It grows and shrinks given the wind, the sun and other elemental conditions.
I’d vowed I’d drive my car right out onto the ice so I could say I’d driven a car on ice.
Again, cool. Right?
But I was doing the off-road equivalent of driving on ice. The actual “roads” are there for a reason. Men and women experienced in ice thickness take pains to find the most stable parts of the ice.
This I didn’t know.
So I pulled off the land, onto the ice, and just gunned it.
It was what I think driving on the Bonneville Salt Flats out in Utah must be like, only with about a 105-degree temperature differential.
Everything was white and smooth, glistening and slippery. I got it up over 60 and just cut the wheel.
Wheee! I did about a dozen donuts. It was like an amusement park thrill ride. I did it again. There’s a lot of room to do donuts on the frozen surface of a 207 square-mile lake.
I was about to do a third round when I saw a bearded man on a ski-doo making a bee line for me. He was waving his arm in alarm.
“You idiot!” he said. “Get the car off here. You’re gonna kill yourself!”
He told me I was driving on unstable ice and that every year four or five idiots like me fell through and drowned.
Even if you survive drowning or hypothermia, they make you pay about $5,000 to salvage the vehicle from the lake bottom 30-feet down.
So a good day almost went really, really wrong.
Funny, I’d never thought how close I’d come to dying until my friend mentioned fun things to do in Minnesota in January.
Recklessly driving a nearly 2-ton vehicle across an indeterminate thickness of frozen lake was sure fun.
I’m glad I did it.
I’m even more glad I didn’t die when I did.

Related . . .