Pledge Week! Pledge Now!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

HAPPY 9TH BIRTHDAY TO THIS BLOG! THAT MEANS IT'S PLEDGE WEEK! DONATE! DONATE! DONATE!


Happy 9th Birthday to this blog!

I know, I know. You’re so busy you didn’t even have time to buy it a card or a gift.

I can help. See, the blog and I are very close. I know what it likes and will be happy to funnel your gift to where it can do the most good.

For $25, I can snag a scrumptious birthday cake with lots of purple frosted roses. The blog loves purple frosted roses.

It also enjoys a good stiff shot of Wild Turkey bourbon; $4.

How about a draft beer for $2? Or a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate for a $1.

Or let your imagination run wild. Do you think the blog would look good tooling around town in a Mini Cooper? They’re $20,950.

Make all checks out to:

Chris Rodell, 874 Solomon Temple Rd., Latrobe, Pa. 15650. Or just click the PayPal (storyteller@chrisrodell.com) donate button.

The blog will soon be 10. It’s time it started earning money.

I ask now because I believe we’ve reached a critical mass where people like you understand the blog adds value to your life and are ready to support it with cash donations.

There are now — finally — credible platforms that will erect pay walls between you and your enjoyment of this blog. It’s one erection I’d prefer to suppress.

One is Patreon. Here’s a NYTimes piece about it. Readers who once felt welcome to consume everything on the internet for free are now understanding there is a benefit to supporting creative websites they enjoy for news and entertainment.

Readers keep telling me my blog is among those elements deserving of investment.

“If I’m having a bad day, I now out of habit click on Eight Days To Amish,” is how one Harrisburg meeting planner introduced me to his group of 50 associates. “It always makes a bad day better. It’s always funny and it always has heart. Always.”

“There are always at least three or four lines in every post that make me laugh out loud and keep me smiling throughout the day,” said another reader. “I’ll burst out laughing at my desk and one of my co-workers will say, ‘You’re reading Eight Days To Amish again, aren’t you?’”

Or as a buddy said, “You’ve become so self-deprecating you no longer have any idea about what a difference your blog is making in people’s lives. You and your blog are making the world a better place.”

Best thing about those three quotes? They’re authentic. I didn’t make ‘em up. Honest!

The numbers bear out readers around the world agree. I’m now averaging 10,000 unique readers a month with heavy traffic from places as diverse as Russia, France, Ireland and South Korea, to name just a few. I’d be hard pressed to name a single nation that hasn’t checked in at least a few times.

How much has posting 1,852 times over 8 years earned me?

Basically squat. Sure, many of you have bought my books, some have been generous with cash donations and in-kind trade — all of it much appreciated. But for nearly 2,000 posts over nearly 10 years?

It’s less than a peanut a post.

Part of it is my fault. True, I self-deprecate to my everlasting detriment. I make fun of what I do here because I understand it’s on its face wholly frivolous.

But I’m gratefully beginning to realize I’ve created with your cheer and encouragement something of tremendous value, something that will be lamented by many if it ever goes away.

We’ve created a bona fide happy place!

I now ask you to contribute to give us both peace of mind. Studies shows donating to support something you count on for enjoyment leads to a palpable decrease in stress, extends life expectancy, promotes mental health and it just feels good.

So does getting loot!

So please consider donating either by check to the above address or paypal. Pool your office mates. No amount is too small or too large. I’m grateful for every gesture. If you’re too pinched (I know the feeling) please urge five friends to begin reading the blog.

Consider the list above as guidelines:

A $25 “cake” donation is a one-timer. But if reading the blog four or five times a week is the convivial equivalent to having one weekly drink with me then consider a Wild Turkey donation of $200 ($100 if you prefer beer). If you equate reading my blog to a weekly candy bar fix then consider $50.

I chose the $20,950 Mini Cooper because me in a $53,000 Mercedes E350 would clash with the blog’s pure Amish ethos.

And because a one-hit plea may be missed or ignored, I’ve decided to go all PBS on you. This is the first of at least three consecutive posts about why you ought to generously donate. I thought about following up with one month of blog darkness to dramatize what’s at stake, but I believe it’s better to persuade than punish.

So at some point next week we’ll get back to the silly business of being busy staying silly.

I’ll never run out of ideas because I care so much about forever keeping this blog fresh and fun. About this blog, I truly give a damn.

It’s why I’m asking you to give now, too.


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Being upfront about my behind procedure


Let’s today start with the end: Everything’s fine. No concerns or additional needs to undergo the procedure again.

I wanted to get that out of the way right up front because the end is a good place to start when you’re talking about the cringe-inducing indignities of what I’ll euphemistically call “the procedure.”

It’s recommended for every man or woman once their odometer hits 50. It can by then detect a deadly cancer and render it treatable. Having it done is worth the embarrassment. I’m 54 and had put it off for as long as I could.

Bottom line: It was time to get this procedure behind me.

Honest, I wasn’t even going to write about it. I don’t feel comfortable writing about things I’d rather not even talk about.

However, a buddy of mine noticed a telltale IV bandage on my right hand, is privy to my circumstances and cunningly knew right away what the procedure had to be: “Oh, man, you have to blog about it,” he said. “People need to hear it and it’s bound to be funny. C’mon! You have to!”

So consider this a sort of public service announcement and, yeah, a good chance to share lots and lots of puns about my buns: We’re talking buttloads.

You’ve probably heard the prep is the worst. That’s true. The infernal cleansing solution seems to be composed of Satan’s pit perspiration. It’s awful.

Now, I’ve drunk many awful mostly alcoholic concoctions on dares of drunken friends. I can drink anything; you probably can, too.

But there’s just so much of the solution: 3 liters — and you know it must be bad if they measure it in metric. It’s every 15 to 30 minutes another slug. That goes on for about four hours; again doable if only you knew it was going to bestow a giddy buzz.

But the end results are results in the end. You’re tethered to the toilet; so many indignities.

Then there’s this. No food for about 36 hours before the procedure. You’re home where all you do is eat. Yet you cannot. You’re starving. It occurred to me that a sad percentage of the world’s population daily endures under those exact conditions; I felt shame.

It didn’t matter. I felt resentful that I couldn’t snag a Pringle whenever I felt like it.

And, yeah, you worry the proctologist is going to at the end of the procedure say he’s found a tumor. You secretly wonder if this is what the anal prospector is hoping he’ll find. It is, after all, what he went to school for. It’s his metaphorical bread ’n’ BUTTer.

So you have that hanging over your head.

Val drove me to the Latrobe hospital at 8 a.m. and then departed to put Lucy on the bus and do her thing. She’d return at 10 a.m.

They had me naked in a jiffy and the anesthesiologist began her quizzing about allergies, medications, history, etc.; no, no, no, etc. Then it was a long naked wait. I’m very impatient when I’m naked, wanting to either sleep, screw or just get dressed. I was there for at least 30 minutes. What the hell was taking so long?

I wanted them to get off their asses and into mine.

Finally, they wheeled me into the exam room, applied the gas and did their thing.

Or so they said.

They might have played cards or spent 20 minutes commenting on their hangovers or my genitals, which I suspect they do with every sedated patient.

There’s no evidence they did anything other than anesthetize me. Sure, they said I was fine and showed me pictures of what they said were my gastro-intestinal tract, but they could have been anyone’s; seen one, seen ‘em all.

If it was a ruse, I forgive them. I mean if you can’t turn the other cheek with your proctologist, who can you?

There; I think that went well. I used 11 versions of the grammatical colons and not one of the anatomical kind which was the whole subject of this essay.

And now I’m all done.

The End.



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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Staying at the Watergate Hotel in '02


I have a feeling younger generations and less aware adults will be surprised to learn you can stay at the Watergate. Rooms start at $467.

We stayed there in 2002.

For free!

I did a travel story about the 30th anniversary of the Watergate break-in. It ran in about 10 newspapers, including here in this link thoughtfully preserved by the San Francisco Chronicle.

I think one reason the story did so well is even newspaper editors had forgotten that the word Watergate initially evoked luxury, not scandal. The complex with its mix of commercial/hotel/residential opened in 1967 so to some Watergate meant home-sweet-home.

“People from around the world hear Watergate and think scandal, but I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather live. We love it here.”


That was Bob Dole. He and wife Liddy moved there in 1972, the same year as the break-in when Dole was chairman of the Republican National Committee. Dole told me he was in Chicago the night of the break-in.

How convenient.

We met the Doles while Val and I were dining in Jeffrey’s, at the time the Watergate’s premier restaurant. The restaurant was a favorite of George and Laura Bush when they were in the Texas governor’s mansion in Austin. Jeffrey’s opened the Watergate location when Bush became president.

It was fun seeing the Doles at dinner while we there. The place seated about 100 and both of them graciously took the time to come up and say hello to every table.

I told him I was doing a travel story about the Watergate — the 5-star dinner was free, too — and would love to interview him about it being his residence. 

“Sure! I’ll be happy to,” he gushed. “Call my office first thing Monday. I’ll talk your ears off!”

He was lying. He dodged my calls for a month before granting me about five measly minutes of crabby responses.

I shouldn’t complain. At least he gave me more than I got from Monica Lewinsky. She lived in the Watergate when the Clinton sex scandal broke and said it was a wonderful place to be “imprisoned.”

Dole did say he used to enjoy emerging from the doors and seeing the crestfallen faces of the paparazzi when they saw it was him, not her.

It was really a fun weekend for Val and I. It was our first weekend without our new baby. They’d given us a nice suite and I remember enjoying a bottle of free wine while overlooked the Potomac.

We’re taking the kids to DC this weekend so I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing. It occurs to me New York is the only big city I’ve visited more than our nation’s capital.

I love it. Love the museums, the monuments, the galas — free! free! free! — and, oh, my, the history.

I think one reason is my old man was big on instilling in his sons the significance of history and Washington’s unique place in it.

I’ll never forget my first visit. It was July 27, 1974. Dad said, “Be sure to remember this date. You boys can say you were in the capital the day the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Nixon because of Watergate.”

It had a profound impact on me and my sense of history, one I intend to impart on my daughters.

Will I try and put the current tumult into context?

Probably. 

I’ll tell them the story of a man drunk with power, a man who felt entitled and believed he was worthy of festive adulation.

And I’ll tell them how I dream of seeing history repeat itself.

What I won’t tell them is if I’m talking about the president being impeached or their Daddy visiting DC and again getting lots of swell free stuff.



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Monday, May 15, 2017

Comey, 6'8", and looming even larger


Beltway pundits were in a typical tizzy Sunday after James Comey was spotted at a  Broadway performance about a lesbian cartoonist. It was his first public outing since being unceremoniously fired.

They wanted to know if he was signaling he was aligning with leftist forces or if maybe it was time for Mike Pence to begin taking steps to pray away a rash outburst of Broadway gay.

I had more logistical concerns.

Namely, who’s the poor bastard who shelled out $140 to sit behind a human obstruction like Comey? He’s 6-foot-8, an inch taller than the average NBA player.

It’d be like sitting behind the Washington Monument.

We’re hearing a lot about Comey since Trump dumped him. We hear he’s a good boss, a strong leader and we hear without any sense of irony he’s a real stand-up guy.

At 6’8” he’s a stand up, up, up guy.

I hear “Fun Home,” the play the Comeys saw, is fantastic. It won the 2015 Tony Award for best musical. It’s Alison Bechdel’s coming-of-age story about how she, a graphic artist, wrestles with the suicide of her gay father while at the same time confronting her own sexuality.

With jaunty show tunes!

I’m guessing the casting director didn’t need to find any John Wayne-types when he or she was filling out the roles.

Really, it sounds like something J. Edgar Hoover, Comey’s cross-dressing predecessor, would enjoy.

But Comey?

What do we know about him?

Besides his height, I’m struck by the fact he has really great hair and his name is pronounced COMB-y.

It’s like finding a postal employee named Maley.

Do you ever find yourself deferring to taller people? Note: I craftily constructed that sentence so it wouldn’t ask if you “looked up” to taller people.

I know many tall folks who are just as stupid as smaller sorts. Yet tall people do seem to have advantages that have nothing to do with reaching for things on the top shelf without pulling out a utility ladder. They’re just naturally imposing.

But could being tall have worked against Comey with an appearance-obsessed goofball like Trump?

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker thinks so. She’s conservative, but I always try to read her because she’s bright, witty and doesn’t insinuate that those who disagree with her are Satan’s spawn.

Here’s what she wrote: “What could have prompted Trump to (fire Comey)? In a Trumpian world, stalled somewhere between second grade and a prep school locker room, even the ridiculous seems plausible. So, let’s try a wild one: Maybe Trump fired Comey for being taller, at 6 feet, 8 inches. In light of his infatuation with size, one can easily imagine that a 6-foot-3-inch Trump would resent having to look up to the guy who was investigating possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.”

Interesting.

My wife asked me what I think of Comey.

I told her I hated how he interfered with the election, but sense he didn’t do so lightly or with malevolent intent.

“And I think he’s truly righteous about being 100 percent honest and forthright in every situation and that makes him to Trump the most dangerous man on the planet.”

It won’t earn any Tony nominations, but Comey testifying before Congress about what Trump said and knows promises to be truly great theater.

Because for someone like Trump the only thing worse than sitting behind a guy like Comey is seeing him standing up, facing forward, with his hand on a Bible.



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Thursday, May 11, 2017

The human joys of running really fast


I’m on record as saying I have the same interest in learning speed reading as I do speed sex. Both activities are something to savor.

The declaration is contrary to my typical outlook. See, I yearn to go really fast. Like cheetah fast.

Not in a car or a plane, circumstances so grindingly routine they’re practically pedestrian.

I’m talking about the human exhilaration that comes from running fast, just propelling your body as fast as it can go with joyful abandon.

When was the last time you just bolted? It feels wonderful.

It’s why I felt envious early this week when I saw speedy Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton raced from home plate to third base in just 10.58 seconds, about 27 feet a second.

I tried to think how long it would take me to run 270 feet and I figured I could do it in about 10 also.

That’s 10 hours.

First I’d be winded from running 90 feet from home to first so I’d stop to catch my breath and chat with the first baseman about what it’s like to play professional ball and if he worries more about his post-baseball career or catching an STD from the baseball Annies. It would be a long talk. I’d then repeat the whole thing in getting to second, but by then I’d need lunch and a nap.

Sensing I was starting to embarrass myself, I’d give it all I had on my way to third and likely pull a groin muscle and require medical assistance, some liquor and another long nap.

So 10 hours, or about what non-baseball fans think attending a regular MLB game feels like.

Many runners make running look agonizing. Their faces are masks of painful endurance.

I know how to solve this common problem: Never run more than 30 feet at a time.

I know this from ’10 when I enjoyed my greatest racing achievement. I outran 25 Point Park University students who were half my age.

It helped that I was their professor, the surprise race starter and apparently the only one who gave a shit at all about winning.

My class had been invited to enjoy a gala reception with none other than John Grisham. I informed them about the schedule change and said, “First one to the elevator drinks free!”

And just like that I was off. Took me about 5 seconds to run 30 feet. I remember feeling like my hair was going to fly off my head. 

It felt great!

One by one, in varying degrees of evident indifference, my students shuffled down the hall. I do remember impressing one student who said I was a real cheetah.

Or maybe she said “cheater.”

No matter. I was so excited by my victory, I’d forgotten to push the elevator button and we all stood there like morons for almost two minutes before anyone noticed.

The greatest use of speed, to me, is the common goodbye. Few have mastered it.

Most people let the goodbye drag on and on and on. It may seem polite, but it’s truly tedious. It should be just goodbye and go.

It’s why I’ve always admired Waylon Jennings who used to alert everyone he could depart without notice or warning.

“If you see me getting smaller, it means I’m leaving,” he’d say.

And just like that, he’d be gone. I’d say he’d vanish like a puff of smoke, but he was legendary friends with Willie Nelson so it was likely he was on his way to puff smoke.

Maybe it’s a tactic I can start employing right here on the blog.

Write fast and just get the hell out.

If you see me getting smaller, I’m leaving




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