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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Oscar flub happened to me in '06


People still buzzing about the incomprehensible Oscar best picture flub.

“La La Land” director Damien Chazelle must still be feeling emotional whiplash, which must be oddly familiar because his breakthrough hit was an outstanding 2014 emotional hit named “Whiplash.”

People speculate it must have been devastating to have been told you were going to win a prestigious award and have it been cruelly snatched away.

Oh, it is.

Happened to me in 2006.

It was way back when I was still quasi-legit as a professional writer. I was doing features for a truly legit outlet, Pittsburgh Magazine, which was paying me a truly legit wage.

It was two years before I began blogging when the truly quasi began to overwhelm the legit.

I was doing the magazine’s “BackTalk” column, slice-of-life features about interesting locals. Pittsburgh is full of raucous characters and the column was well-received, enough so it was nominated for a prestigious Western Pennsylvania Press Club “Golden Quill” award.

I remember the awards ceremony being a swanky affair at what was then the Pittsburgh Hilton. I was having a pre-dinner drink with a board member who congratulated me on my win.

“You mean on my nomination,” I corrected.

“No. You won. I saw the list. Congratulations.”


I was startled. It wasn’t the way I wanted to find out. Now, instead of an authentic reaction I’d have to fake emotion in a room full of real journalists who in the not-too-distant future would be accused of promoting in fake news.

I began to game plan my acceptance speech and the degree of strut cockiness I’d use on my way across the stage.

I had it all worked out by the time my category was announced.

And the winner is …

Not me!

I hadn’t begun rising from my chair, but my knees were in the process of straightening. 

I glared across the room at my guy. He was looking right back at me. He was shrugging, his expression one of bewilderment.

He later swore my name was written beside “Winner …”

Well, let me tell you, I wound up getting pretty drunk that night which, by the way, is exactly what would have happened had I won so it was all a bit of a wash.

None of that, however, is what makes this story interesting.

What does is the identity of the actual winner.

It was Teresa Heinz!

It’s true.

If I’m “Eight Days To Amish,” Teresa Heinz is about 10 million light years from them.

The matriarch of the $1.6 billion Heinz family, she’s the Mozambique-born widow of Sen. John Heinz III and current wife of 2004 presidential nominee and recent Secretary of State Sen. John Kerry. She’s a philanthropist/environmentalist/educator/business and stateswoman whom I admired for referring to creepy Sen. Rick Santorum and perennial GOP presidential candidate as “Forest Gump with attitude.”

I could see losing a Nobel Peace Prize to her.

But a Golden Quill?

Apparently, she’d written a column for her foundation’s magazine, “H,” that moved the committee, which — and I’m not accusing — may have seen some profit in kissing her golden ass by declaring her the winner over me, a man whose ass remains pristinely free of kisses.

Of course, she wasn’t there to accept the award, probably off bottle feeding endangered baby rhinos on some central African savannah.

I wondered in which of her five palatial residences she’d be displaying her Golden Quill.

I was more baffled than bitter. 

It all seemed so surreal.

I thought about graciously reaching out to congratulate her, proving I’m capable of some deft butt smooching when I see a potential payoff.

I thought maybe she’d be impressed with my manners and hire me full-time for her multi-million dollar foundation.

It was illogical thinking, sure. Pure fantasy, a frolic in cerebral la la land.

But who knows? It might have turned into some scratch.

I’d have settled for a chance to moonlight.



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Monday, February 27, 2017

February Tweets of the Month


No pre-amble today. Nothing but @8days2Amish tweets.



• The entirety of human history can be summed up thusly: One great, big over-reaction to one great, big over-reaction.

• Just to see if it'll catch on, I think I'm going to begin referring to the big toe as "foot thumb.”

• Every perfect parent understands the need to impart some daily imperfection so kids'll have someone to blame for their future flaws.

• What would we call men named Miles if we convert to the metric system?

• Realize even the most successful vegetable farmers are doomed to live in the seediest parts of town.

• ”Titanic" spoiler alert!: A girl whose name is pronounced “ROWS” is deemed save-worthy by lifeboat passengers.

• I’m going to name our next dog, "Gusto" so I can spend my days lounging on my couching drinking beer and still contend I'm living with gusto.

• ”Spare the rod, spoil the child" responsible for more Biblically-justified violence against innocents than any 6 words in history.

• What kind of emoji will you ask them to put on your tombstone when that becomes customary?

• I’m on fire to find a U.S. town named Heaven because I sense blazing opportunity to set up a match factory. #MatchMadeInHeaven

• As of today, I vow to no longer demonize those with whom I disagree. But be warned: I reserve the right to rascalize.

• Which of these two colossal oxymorons is more endangered of becoming extinct: common sense or common decency?

• Long as changing channels is easier than changing minds, watching TV will always be preferable to FB philosophizing 

• Putin must be feeling like I feel when wife says she's taking the kids to visit her sister the weekend March Madness kicks off.

• Charles Manson, 82, said to be near death. I'd like to hear if he thinks Paul McCarney jumped shark with "Having a Wondeful Christmastime.”

• We spend $ on salt to keep roads safe. Salt degrades roads. We spend $ to repair. Possible solution: Make roads out of salt. Needs study.

• How can it be that George Harrison is my favorite Beatle but isn't even my third favorite Wilbury?

• Many afraid of what Trump will do in his first 100 days have it wrong. Be terrified of what he'll do his last 100 days. 

• I was thinking how interesting these days will be to historians in 30 years. Then I realized in 30 years we may all BE history.

• Wonder if guys in heaven talk about earth bodies the way they talk about old cars: "It was bald, had a great big ass, tiny li’l pecker but, man, the thing got great mileage.”

• My desire to live a long time is at odds with my eagerness to donate all my still-healthy organs to needy less fortunates.

• We live in a time when being right or being wrong matters less than always having someone to blame when it all goes to hell. 

• Many of the people who are opposed to building physical walls along the Mexican border are more than happy to construct truly ugly mental ones between themselves and the neighbors they see every day.

• Insane too broad a term for rampant madness we see in society. Insane should be for people who are quietly crazy. Rest of us are outsane.

• Given the trajectory of human intellect, the only time everyone will be correct is when we're all wearing "I'm With Stupid" shirts.

• Saying anyone is a "real bitch" is real redundant. No one sets out to be a fake bitch.

• I’m one of those guys who loves the sound of leaves blowing along the ground, but hates the sound of leaf blowers.

• You can say obnoxious things about politics, criticize my character. But it won't be over 'til you offer me a pizza with pineapple on it.

• I wish I had time to watch more TV but, alas, I'm just a humble blogger trying to get by. It's not like I'm president of the United States.

• If "All You Need is Love" were re-written to your needs what would it be? Mine: "All You Need is Cadbury Eggs.”

• Only thing that eases my terrors at thought of robots taking over world is the realization that it will have to involve monkey robots, too.

• Like the pessimist, the optimist is wrong about 50 percent of the time. The difference? Optimist is cheerful 100 percent of the time.





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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trump-lovin' Tin Lizzy in news again


The avalanche of world-wide media declaring the Tin Lizzy is a bastion of rabid Trump supporters is clearly fake news.

How can it be a bastion of Trump supporters?

I’m still here!

Sure, on many Friday nights I’m outnumbered about 250-to-1 — but don’t believe the polls. And winning the popular vote is so overrated. Bigly.

Since just before the election, the Tin Lizzy and the nearby Trump House have been featured in news around the globe. That’s no exaggeration. Just last week, there was a film crew here from Germany.

To much of the world, Youngstown, Pa. (pop. 320), is Ground Zero for Trump supporters.

And Sunday, a front page story ran in my old newspaper, The Tribune-Review, under the headline: “Trump voters take inventory after his first month in office.

The article quotes many of my Trump-loving friends and included two pictures that drew scornful remarks in the lively reader comments section including this: “These photos above are exactly what I've always imagined for a Trump supporting environment. So many racist hickabillies & elderly people.”

I take exception to the prejudicial jibes for personal reasons.

I’m in the picture!

That’s me on the right. 

Now, regular readers know I’m not a racist hickabilly. And I’m not all that elderly as long as you’re comparing me to someone like Santa Claus. 

I love the arts, baseball, my family, apple pie, philosophical conversation and politicians more apt to build bridges than walls. I love that my town produced both Fred Rogers and Arnold Palmer, the latter a Tin Lizzy regular.

And I love the Tin Lizzy

To my left is Buck Pawlosky, the man who’s owned the historic Tin Lizzy since 1982. He’s one of the world’s greatest guys — and I’m not just saying that because he could on a whim send me home in tears by announcing he’s turning my 3rd floor office into the neighborhood Hookah Hut.

And even if he wasn’t a great guy, he oversees three great bars and a kitchen that never disappoints.

Spending one night in the Tin Lizzy is like spending one day on Pittsburgh’s South Side. 

There’s the basement Rathskeller, the Main Street bar and Flappers. On a really good night I’ll hit all three.

Each bar is unique, each has something special to offer.

So the Tin Lizzy bars are like the people who drink here.

Sure, there’s a racist hickabilly here and there, but I’m not going to let their knuckle-headed ignorance spoil my tavern time.

As I’ve always said, if I confined my conversation to purely enlightened and sophisticated folk mine would be a very lonely existence and I’d have to stop talking even to myself.

Many of the people who are opposed to building physical walls along the Mexican border are more than happy to construct truly ugly mental ones between themselves and the neighbors they see every day.

Some of my friends were surprised I didn’t talk to reporter Kevin Zwick. Honest, I didn’t even see him or the photographer snapping pictures.

Had Zwick asked me for insights, I would have wisely told him all the ways I used to finesse the Tribune-Review expense account when I had his job and was given an assignment involving talking to bar patrons. 

But if he’d have asked me what it was like to be a liberal in the land of Trump, I’d have said I’d prefer it to being stuck on a bus with a bunch of New England Patriot fans. 

I foresee Trump either getting bored or overwhelmed when his evident neediness to be adored goes unfulfilled. Or maybe congressional Republicans will assert themselves when they sense future endangerment.

Or not. I’m no fortune teller. 

Until then, I’ll be happy here at the Tin Lizzy, now emboldened by an artful comparison a Facebook friend posted after seeing the story.

“I imagine you’re like Marlow, the protagonist in Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness,’” John K. wrote. “He’s an intellectual, philosophical and world-weary guy who goes deep into Africa and encounters Col. Kurtz, a European who has set up his own Kingdom of sorts among the natives. As Kurtz recalls the terrible things he's seen and done while living among the indigenous people he utters,'The horror, the horror.'” 

“Your forays deep into the heart of Youngstown calls to mind Marlow's own journey.”

“Apcalypse Now,” is based on “Heart of Darkness.”

I’ll take it.

So come visit. I’ll introduce you to Buck and some of our friends. We’ll have a great time, I promise.

Some mornings, I’m the first one here at 6:30 a.m. It feels like a privilege to be entrusted with the keys to a place so fun and interesting.

And I love the smell of taverns in the morning.



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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I have misophonia (common sounds annoy me)


I self-diagnosed acute misophonia when I realized the sound of the dog licking his ghost balls was driving me insane.

We had his raisin-sized testicles removed years ago, yet he still licks the vacancy with lusty gusto.

He does it every night in our bed for 15 minutes just as I’m trying to fall sleep. The sound makes me, well, nuts.

I was thinking of this when the Oxford English Dictionary word-of-the-day sailed into my inbox.

Misophonia: An extreme negative reaction to common sounds other people ignore.

The condition wasn’t diagnosed until the year 2000.

It can involve the sound of someone chewing, clicking their teeth or drumming their fingers.

Bernie Tiede has it. 

He was the subject of a 2011 film starring the reliably entertaining Jack Black as Bernie, a beloved Texas funeral director who became soulmates with wealthy widow sourpuss Marge Nugent (Shirley MacLaine, above).

Nugent eventually took control of Tiede’s life to suppressive lengths. She began to dominate every aspect of his once-joyful existence.

Sure, that was stifling, but the movie deftly belabored a point that what got the better of Tiede was Nugent’s habit of chewing every single bite of food 25 times. Even things like jello.

Close-ups showed of her chewing seemed to amplify the sound.

What did Bernie do?

He — spoiler alert! — murdered her and stuffed her bullet-riddled body in a freezer.

I imagine it’s the sound of steel doors at the Telford state prison clanging shut that grates on him now. He’s there serving a life sentence.

Now, I don’t want to murder Snickers, but he’s the reason I realize I have misophonia.

Mine seems to be an rare case because my misophonia seems to afflict me just some of the time.

See, I hate his shrill bark, his nervous yips and the gross licking, but I love the sound of my daughters laughing when they’re playing with him.

I love the sound of train whistles rolling through the valleys on still mornings, but hate the sound of the souped up muscle car that’s right now idling outside my office window at the intersection. Both convey travel, but one does so with romance, the other riot.

I love the sound of Penguin announcer Mike Lange’s voice as he exalts, “He shoots! He scores!” Same goes for announcer Greg Brown’s when he alerts Pirate fans it’s time to raise the Jolly Roger.

But my misophonia becomes acute anytime I hear any announcer say, “And Tom Brady has just led the New England Patriots to another Super Bowl victory!”

I love “The Sound of Music,” a family favorite, and I love the sound of music as long as I’m in charge of what’s playing.

I hate the sound of anyone offering an opinion that differs from mine. I especially hate it when logic gives me a sneaking suspicion they’re right and I’m wrong.

I love the sound of leaves blowing along the ground, but hate the sound of leaf blowers.

Some of my favorite sounds aren’t even sounds at all. A million snowflakes striking the ground outside my window on a Sunday morning cannot be heard, but it conveys an awesomeness I relish, one that promises a day of warm family togetherness.

I love the sound of people speaking in respectful hushes in libraries, but I also love being startled by occasional bursts of laughter there.

I guess I just love being in libraries.

I enjoy hearing Simon and Garfunkle sing “The Sound of Silence” while realizing it is 3:05 of blatant titular fraud.

I guess I prefer the sound of silence.

I’d explain all this to the stupid dog, but I realize I’d just be hearing myself talk.

When it comes to putting up with annoying sounds, he’s been neutered, but I’m the one who’s licked.



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