Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November tweets of the month: Do Not Eat!

One of these days I'll get around to blogging about how my tweets are like what you find in fortune cookies. Just not today.

Follow me if you like at 8days2Amish. You’ll be one of 1,301 if you do. Of course, following me on Twitter doesn’t really matter. If I have something I think is funny enough to share, I’ll follow you until you hear what I have to say. That’s a promise.

Have a great day!

• Reading my tweets of the month is like spending 30 days inside my head, but without the hangovers 

• I’m thinking of doing reader survey but figure I'd first better do a survey on how many readers respond to surveys. 

• Because fickle publishing industry insists it is looking for timeless books, my next novel is going to be about a broken clock.

• Trump says election being rigged for Hillary; Hillary fears Russians rigging for Trump. I'd like to wake up Nov. 9 and see this POTUS (picture of PeeWee Herman).

• I like that the uproar over FBI director's decision was made by a man with nice hair whose name is pronounced COMB-ee.

• I wonder if Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen ever get into he-likes-me-better-than-he-likes-you arguments over Bob Dylan.

• I think my problems earning a living stem from too early and too well realizing the utter folly of the sacrifices it takes to earn a living.

• To hell with Trump AND Hillary. i'm writing in Cubs GM Theo Epstein for prez. After the BoSox and Cubs he can make ANYTHING great again.

• I’ve decided against asking friends for weather nickname -- Thunder! Hurricane! Squall! -- when I realized they'd call me "The Drought."

• Just voted! My first early vote ever. Very satisfying. I wrote in the Rodell-Rodell ticket for 2048. And they're already ahead! (picture of our daughters, ages 16, 10).

• If I've learned anything from watching TV today, it's to never taunt Moe when he has a board glued to his hands.

• Spent frantic hour looking everywhere in house for lost wallet. Found it! I feel so euphoric I plan on losing wallet/keys once a week.

• Light houses are among our most poorly named structures. They're actually very heavy.

• I encourage all Americans to vote tomorrow! And drink, get laid, smoke some weed and do something to calm the hell down. We're obnoxious.

• Is it just me or does Dixville Notch sound like a fictitious town name in a cheap porno?

• Win or lose, I hope Donald Trump tonight takes pains to reassure America that his hands are really, truly large.

• Still seems like a dream. But it really happened. At one time, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne sat down in the same room and said, "Let's start a band!” #wilburys

• It’s taken America 238 years, but the bully pulpit finally has an actual bully.

• For Cubs fans who love Donald Trump, this has been the greatest week of their entire lives.

• Who else thinks one of Trump's first acts will be to declare it in America's interest that bald eagles get hair plugs?

• You’ve lived in same small town too long when you realize you're personal friends with all the guys on the highway billboards.

• Electrical trade magazines are all about current events.

• I wonder if in ancient times there was a kid named Isosceles and he got bummed every time the orchestra teacher made him play the triangle.

• I just once would like to see a cliffhanger show end with a villain named Cliff ascending the steps to the gallows.
• I think people who speak with forked tongues would have fewer reasons to floss than those of us with spoon-shaped ones.

• Tending the various social media platforms I joined with the assurance I'd get ahead are combining to ensure I keep falling farther behind.

• It’s odd, I admit, how much I relate the Biblical Job when it's been a good 24 years since I've had an actual job. #TakeThisJob

• There are still many parts of the country where "Do you think rasslin' is fake?" is considered a sophisticated pick-up line.

• Sometimes adult film titles come unbidden to me. Just happened again: "Pornochio." Now if only I could think of unusual physical oddity …

• I wonder if other owls roll their eyes whenever they hear a "wise" guy owl describe something as a "real hoot.”

• I admire vegans, but the chances of me giving up meat are about the same as me resuming my virginity.

• Experts say nude tourists are surprisingly affluent for people for whom description "deep pockets" does not apply.

• This is bound to sound naive, but could global warming be solved by everyone leaving fridge doors open for 15 mins a day? 

• Newspapers are too fuddy-duddy to ever acknowledge the inaccuracy, but "Letters to the Editor" should be called "E-mails to the Proof Reader.”

• I enjoy hanging with drunks ‘cuz you can tell same joke same way five times in one night and it’s always hilarious. Not so w/sober wife.

• Feeling lazy today. Zero motivation. Still, I understand my role. I hereby declare my '16 War on Christmas! Happy Holidays!

• Spanker devotees spend their lives in the pursuit of slappiness.

• John Lennon imagined a world at peace. I imagine how different people would look if all our nipples were rectangular.

• Trending stories debunking election-swaying fake news stories are being labeled fake news by devotees of fake news.

• The right's decision to boycott iconic ensemble of "leftist" talent like "Hamilton" leaves me no choice but to reciprocate against the guy who played Chachi.

• How massive is my ego? When daughter, 16, is in car texting to friends I believe she is writing, "My Daddy is the greatest!” 

• If man can make a Twinkie whose taste will endure through a nuclear winter how come we can’t make a vegetable that tastes like a Twinkie?

• Trump back pedaling on core issues has me thinking supporters will soon turn "Build That Wall!" into "Grow That Hedge!”

• This is bound to sound naive, but does anyone know if the Republic of Turkey has a national bird?

• I don't know why so many racists object to being called racists. It doesn't bug me when people call me a moron.

• If eternity proves to be truly eternal you better hope someone remembers to bring a deck of cards.

• I wonder if cavemen and women woke up each morning and asked each other how they slept or if they had other priorities. 

• What does it make me that I've been for 20 years married to a perfectionist? Too humble to brag.

• No excess yeast is used in the making of pita bread. No animals are harmed in the making of PETA bread.

• If a trophy wife can’t be described as statuesque then she isn’t really a trophy wife.

• I wonder if USPS supervisors ever feel conflicted about warning carriers against just mailing it in.

• I’m hoping ironic delight would be publishing industry reax if I were to submit a book proposal called, "The Spoken Word: An Oral History.”

• I’m one of those drivers who gives visible signs of gratitude to drivers who bestow me a courtesy and gives the very same driver the finger if they give others the same courtesy when I’m driving behind them.

• I'm still wrestling with the idea of having to earn a living. Being born entitled me to living and, by God, I'm going to live.

• I have to imagine a country named Togo has really great take-out food.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Winter forecasts all folked up


You can gauge the severity of the coming winter by the volume of my screams whenever I hear folklorists tell me they can gauge the severity of the coming winter based on bugs and nuts.

They say they can tell the winter will be harsh if the wooly buggers have more black than brown, or if the nuts are extra thick.

I have a backyard full of acorns, many more than usual, but I have no way of determining whether they’re more thick than other years because I’ve never bitten into one so there’s point of reference.

I guess I’d have to ask a squirrel.

He’d probably tell me I’m nuts.

Bee activity, early bird migration and fall foliage brilliance are other folk ways homespun observers rely on to make themselves appear wise and weather omnipotent.

I think people who believe they can divine the future based on bug observation enjoy feeling superior to those of us who simply flip on The Weather Channel.

I won’t vouch for the network’s accuracy either, but I know there are many on-air female forecasters I’d rather watch than any bugs.

The exception being maybe Bugs Bunny.

I’d google “bunny forecast” to see if there’s any hare forecast folklore, but I’m afraid I’d get distracted by something cheekily produced by Hugh Hefner.

I’m predicting another six months of people dwelling too much on bitter winter forecasts. It’s all some people talk about.

Then there are all the snappy little weather proverbs that sound like they were handed down by some meteorological Moses:

Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at dawn, sailors take warning. 

Ring around the moon, rain real soon

When clouds appear like showers, the earth will soon be refreshed by showers

There once was a man from Nantucket . . .

That last one is non-weather related. I just threw it in because the recollection of a good filthy limerick always brightens my day more than a moderate low pressure system sweeping east up the Ohio River Valley.

I guess the reason I get ticked over folklore forecasts is because the folklorists I know always predict the winter’s going to really suck.

Listen, all winters suck to some degree. There’s no point in rubbing it in.

You never hear your typical folklorist predicting anything rosy.

They never say, you know, the thickness of my dog’s butt fur means it’ll snow on Christmas Eve and that’s pretty much it. There will be a few days in January when golf will be a challenge, but this winter’s gonna be pretty cool. And I mean that in karmic sense.”

No, it’s always, “The wooly buggers say it’s going to be the worst winter since ’76, with dangerous January blizzards coinciding with a Steeler playoff loss to the hated Patriots. As for spring training, unseasonable weather means it won’t begin until the Fourth of July.”

I’d like to see what they’d say if a wooly bugger told them — actually told them — “Psst, buddy, you know that climate change thingie? It’s real. The problem is there is way too much hot air — and most of it’s coming from your mouth!”

Here’s how I feel about winter:

Bring it on.

If the winters of ’10 with its punishing snows and ’14 with its below freezing temperatures through April didn’t kill me, nothing will. Do even a little better than either of those soul-devouring monsters and I’ll be singin’ in the slush.

Let’s all understand the modern forecasts are pretty good and accurate for about four days. After that it’s a crap shoot.

So let’s all try and remain cheerful.

Winter’s here. Let’s enjoy it for the next six weeks, endure it for the six weeks after that, and save the real bitching about how much we all hate winter for late February when we’re all on fire for Spring.

Don’t bug me by telling us our nuts’ll all be freezing come February. 

That’s the squirrels’ problem. Not mine.

Let them get their own thermal underwear.



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Monday, November 28, 2016

PIttsburgh for the holidays: Why go anywhere else?


The AAA declared Thanksgiving the busiest travel weekend since 2007 with the bulk of tourists heading to Las Vegas.

I heard that and thought, man, the only explanation I can figure is the holiday flights to Pittsburgh were all booked up.

I’m one of those Pittsburghers who can’t understand why anyone anywhere would ever want to go any place else. We’re scattered all over the world.

We reside elsewhere, but we live — truly live — right in Pittsburgh. It’s where we reflexively go for fun.

We’ve always made a big deal of enjoying part of the holidays in the city, just an hour west of our Latrobe home.

We have our traditions. We enjoy visiting the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture and its themed Christmas trees, the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning and ice skating around the Christmas tree at the jewel-like rink at PPG Square.

This year we decided to make it all an even bigger deal.

We seized a gracious opportunity to spend two nights at the Omni William Penn, the Mellon Square landmark that is this year is celebrating 100th year.

I’d never stayed there, but Mick Jagger has.

I without fail include mention of the grand hotel every time I’m tasked with doing a why-Pittsburgh-is-great travel feature. Happens about once a year.

Like many iconic hotels, the William Penn has a plush presidential suite. But unlike many of those, this one includes actual presidential history. Ten Commanders-in-Chief from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama have stayed there, as have Michael Jackson and the Dalai Lama, who happened to stay in the same suite the very night after Jagger checked out.

It’d be a neat historical trinket to learn the staff reported either Sir Mick or His Holiness was suspected of stealing towels and that each tried to blame it on the other.

I had a great time just sitting in the lobby trying to discern any slight differences in the three lobby chandeliers. 

I’d read each of the 500-pound fixtures glitters with precisely 1,754 individual crystal prisms identical to the others. The count may be accurate. I’ll never know. I kept getting distracted by the glittering ice cubes in my glass of bourbon and losing count.

There were five of those.

The beauty of staying right in Pittsburgh is having all of Pittsburgh right there.

We enjoyed the 2016 WPXI Holiday Parade, visited the PPG Place Wintergarden and its annual Gingerbread House extravaganza, cruised around the fountain at the point, and enjoyed the free holiday film shorts presentation at the Harris Theater on Liberty Ave.

Our dining and drinking options included The Carlton, NOLA, The Original Oyster House, and the famous eggs benedict in The Terrace Room at the William Penn. 

I can’t write about Pittsburgh as a tourist destination without recollecting an indelible anecdote from 2009 when the Penguins won their third Stanley Cup.

I was having lunch in a Latrobe bar when the news began showing clips of all the happy South Side mayhem instigated by the victory. Fans were going nuts outside Jack’s saloon on Carson St..

My wistful buddy said, “You know, just one time I’d like to go down there and see what that’s like. It looks like so much fun.”

He’d lived in Latrobe for 50 years and a genuine Pittsburgh whoop-it-up was still on his bucket list.

I set down my fork, wiped my mouth with my napkin and said, “Let’s go. We can zoom in, have some giggles and be back by dinner.”

He declined my dare, but a week later we had a designated driver and a van full of rowdies and enjoyed a day-long frolic.

I’m dumbfounded by anyone who doesn’t in these tenuous times do all they can to add more Christmas zing to their lives. Our weekend included a few atypical upgrades, but most of it was still fun for free.

And it was all marvelous.

Vegas for the holidays?

Why gamble when there’s a sure thing right down the street?



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Friday, November 25, 2016

Upcoming book signings including Tin Lizzy Friday!


A quiz: Which of the three book signings over the next seven days will most likely result in me needing a designated driver?

a: City Books, tomorrow, 1 to 2 p.m., 908 Galveston Ave., North Side, Pittsburgh, for Small Business Saturday.

b: Barnes & Noble, Altoona, Thursday, December 1, 5 to 8 p.m.

c: Tin Lizzy, Friday, December 2, 5 to ?

Okay, it’s a trick question.

I should have a designated driver for all three.

“Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum and we wound up drinking all night.”

That’s a line Jimmy Buffett wrote in 1976 when I was in the 7th grade. It describes,  perhaps coincidentally, something that’s happened to me on a near weekly basis since, oh, the 8th grade.

So all three book signings might lead to prudent designated driver involvement.

Of course, the Friday one’s the likeliest.

It will be Friday at the Tin Lizzy, the building that houses my office and, again perhaps coincidentally, three full-service taverns.

Sounds like a recipe for boozin’ to me!

So how did this happen?

Well, there’s lots of flattering local interest in my books. Word-of-mouth is really strong. Near daily someone is getting in touch about gift purchases.

The great thing is selling books in person is to many a social occasion.

Some friends from New Kensington ordered eight books. I thought we’d have to mail them but, wait, the husband would be in Greensburg Tuesday morning getting a fancy undercoat at TST Inc. Could I meet him at 11 a.m.? 

Certainly. I figured it would be a quick howdy and catch up and I’d be home by lunch.

Wrong. He brought cigars!

So right there in the parking lot we had a good long smoke. It was wonderful.

Had either of us thought to bring a cooler we’d have both missed dinner.

You just can’t enjoy that kind of one-on-one experience with a typical PayPal transaction.

That was one of the points I tried to make with Buck, the Tin Lizzy owner and my office landlord here since July 2015.

Ours is a complicated relationship. He’s supportive of my books while being bitterly disparaging about things like my haircut and my custom of wearing the same old flannel shirt four or five days in a row.

I admire a man who sees no irony in dressing daily like a guy who’s about to gut a deer lecturing me about fashion.

But we both enjoy philosophy and believe sobriety can be an unnecessarily cruel impediment to free thinking. 

Truly, I could spend all day drinking and BSing with a man like Buck, which makes me the perfect tenant for a bar owner who profits from mindsets like mine.

Still, I admit to a certain nervousness when I broached the notion of having a book signing at his bar. I wanted convincing arguments.

I told him lots of people are looking for special gifts and that signed books by a local author would be perfect. I said enthusiastic social media would help spread the word. I said how many people would use the occasion to buy books and enjoy dinner and drinks right here at the historic Tin Lizzy.

The only reason I didn’t resort to fancy pie charts was I didn’t have time to drive to the fancy pie shoppe in Laughlintown.

When I finished my presentation, I asked Buck what he thought.

“I don’t give a ‘darn’ what you do,” he said.

I’m paraphrasing his exact words because I wouldn’t want him to get in trouble with the LCB when it learns one of its licensees uses potty talk.

So I hope you’ll stop by in City Books Saturday, Altoona on Thursday, and right here at the Tin Lizzy on Friday. I’ll be stationed in Flappers on the second floor from 5 to about 9.

Buck said it was okay, too, to have a post-signing party up here on the exclusive third floor. We can make a night of it.

Oh, and about an hour after he gave the green light to my idea, I had one more question for Buck: Had he given any thought to what he’d wear Friday for my book signing?

He told me, yes, but I’m convinced it’d be impossible to artfully paraphrase the storm of profanity that greeted my question.

Let’s just say he’ll be wearing clothes.


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