Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Do NOT vote (& magically delicious thots on Lucky Charms)

• I have a contradictory message today. It is simple: DO NOT VOTE! None of you. Stay home. Make love. Binge watch “Ozark.” Clean the basement. But do not vote! Do not vote because I already did and if you don’t then the chances of all my candidates winning increases by one.

• Would you drive an elderly neighbor to the polling place if you knew she was pro-Trump? Or if she voted for Hilary? Be honest. Me? I’d first drive the old babe to the bar and get her all tuned up in the hopes she’d vote the way I told her she ought to … or else.

• I know we’re being told this is the most consequential election of our lives and I don’t doubt it. But if it is then how come half my brain is thinking about the election while the other half can’t stop thinking about what it’s like to work in the Lucky Charms cereal factory? Like do the bosses threaten to transfer the unruly workers who make the marshmallow charms to the oat line if they don’t shape up? Is working the oat line a punishment? I’d hate to work the oat line.

• Once for her 7th birthday, I took three boxes of Lucky Charms and separated the marshmallows from all the godforsaken oats so when Josie poured her morning cereal it was nothing but marshmallows. I’ll never forget the look of pure joy on her face as that rainbow of tooth-rottening candy cascaded into her bowl. I think some day she’ll reckon with my flaws as a provider and moral role model but will  remember those Lucky Charms and think, yeah, the old man was alright..

• And, yes, I learned too late you can buy bags of the good stuff already separated. But what kind of father would take a cheater shortcut like that?

• The Jeannette Public Library is hosting an Open House Wednesday from noon to 7 p.m. I’ll be there around 2 p.m. I’m not going to be selling books or trying to draw an audience. I’m attending because they were so good to me during last month’s visit and because they asked nicely. Oh, and because they said there’d be cookies. Free! Come join us (before I eat all the cookies).

• We watched “Captain Fantastic” starring Viggo Mortensen again. I recommend it to my liberal friends because it shows what becomes of a liberal life when it’s taken to its logical extreme. I recommend it to my conservative friends because it shows how useful a sensible conservative check can be on runaway liberalism. And in the end they both get along. So, yeah, it’s Hollywood fiction.

• It’s not too late to become a member of the Westmoreland Professional Builders Association. That way you can come hear me give my Arnold Palmer talk to their membership Thursday at Rizzo’s. I love Rizzo’s! The pasta is peerless and I love the rack of lamb. Alas, I’ll have to curtail my consumption, lest I have a gastric reaction during my talk. That means no Banana Hot Peppers with Asiago Cheese, a zesty appetizer that burns going in as much as it does going out. I call them Ass Candles. 

• Just got off the phone with a group that booked me to talk to 16 people Nov. 24 here at the Tin Lizzy. I’ll come to your home, too. A group of at least a dozen booked me to come to a South Hills home Nov. 16. “Bring lots of books!” they advised. Will do! 

• Tin Lizzy talks don’t have to involve lunch or dinner, either. I’m sure an afternoon cocktail party will be lots of fun, too. Call if you’d like to learn more, 724 961-2558.

• I’ll be on WCNS-AM 1480 with Hank Baughman Monday at 9:30 a.m. 

• I wonder if they have intra-building softball games between the Lucky Charms employees who work the marshmallow line and the ones who work the oats. It wouldn’t surprise me if Team Oats cheats.

• Please get your signed book orders in early. I have plenty of Palmers and “Use All The Crayons!” but I’m almost out of “Last Baby Boomers,” which is probably the one I’m most proud of. Sold more than expected last month. Still available on amazon. I’m preparing a second typo-free (sorta) edition to be released early 2019. 

• The Greater Latrobe Senior High Drama Club will on Friday and Saturday present the David Ives comedy, “All In The Timing.” It’s supposed to be great. Who sez? My daughter, Josie! She’s one of the leads! Tickets for the 7:30 shows are $10; $8 for students and seniors.

• I was seriously thinking about composing a high-concept post today where I tailored the lyrics of John Lennon’s “Imagine” to today’s political climate. I thought better of it when I asked myself the salient question: “And how much do you get paid to write these blog posts?”

• Prediction: Those of you who tomorrow will be overjoyed at the results of today’s election will be bereft at the results of the one in 2020 and vice versa.

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Deep sixing heart attack plans

My plan to engineer my own death through massive cardiac arrest has been deep sixed since I realized my heart just isn’t in it. And you can’t nurture a future heart attack without a whole lot of heart.

I guess this mindset is common for people who are given an unfortunate diagnosis or hit with a sudden situational forlornness. We read the fateful end game and say, no thanks, and we try and construct a tidier off-ramp. 

A lovely widowed friend of mine told me all about it. She’d lost her dear husband while he was in his early 50s. It devastated her.

“Right after he died, I started smoking two packs a day. I hit the bottle every night. I was living recklessly because I wanted to die. I had no reason to live.”

I realized I wasn’t as committed as she’d been when she asked what other ill-advised habits I’d adopted and all I could come up with was being less fanatical about flossing my teeth.

It’s true. Nearly all my life I’ve been a teeth-flossing fool. When I heard I have Parkinson’s, I thought, “What’s the point?”

Unlike my friend, I wanted my death to be gastronomic in nature.

And let’s pause for a moment to marvel how we live in a land of such plenty that over-eating is a viable death option.

I figured it would take 10 years to nurse a real whopper of sufficient fatality. I’d be 65 and the worst of my symptoms would — cross your fingers — be yet to flare. So ever since February, it’s been all pizza, fried chicken, ice cream and bacon! Bacon! Bacon!

Salt bad for the heart? I put salt on my cereal.

In short, I ate like Elvis.

As many of you know, I’m not inexperience at the task.

I once gained 20 pounds in one week on The Elvis Presley Diet.

The inspiration? A thousand bucks and everlasting glory from editors of National Enquirer who craved fresh ways to even in 1994 include Presley in their bold-faced headlines.

The idea came to me when I was watching a cable program featuring interviews with the women who killed The King: his cooks.

I remember one saying, “I’ll never forget walking into his bedroom and seeing Mr. Presley in bed eating a pork chop sandwich. He had butter dripping off his elbows. He said, ‘Man, these sure are tasty. Bring me six more!’”

I wondered what a diet like that would do to an otherwise normal adult male. I submitted the idea to my editor and he green lighted it in an instant. He said the goal was for me to gain 10 pounds.

We spent nearly $1,000 on groceries and began cooking meals from Brenda A. Butler’s official Elvis cookbook — sing it with me — “Are You Hungry Tonight?”

In the end I gained 20 pounds in one week.

So what made me shy away from the killer diet when I thought it might have a practical application in nurturing a fatal heart attack?

Part of it is vanity. I was/am developing a pot belly and I began/am beginning to resent it. I may be suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder with the grim potential to send me to an early grave, but I want to have an open casket so people can with some shade of honesty remark that I look good for a stiff. And I’d rather that than have an open casket because my belly is too big to close the lid.

The other part is an unabashed will to live. I’ve been dealt an unfortunate hand — happens to many of us sooner or later — but I still revel at being among the living. I yearn to grow old or at least older with the good-natured notion that a cure is just a day away.

It’s the same reasoning why so many line up to play the lottery.

Will I resume my fanatical flossing? Nah. I’m kind of done with that. I’ll just floss when I feel like it.

The will to live is strong.

The will to floss, not so much.

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Biblical sorts of praise for my book, me

I can’t help but wonder if worshippers at a Murrysville Presbyterian church who’d filled the pews eager to bask in the word of God felt spiritual distress when the Almighty was pre-empted by the word of Rodell.

A pastor told me he’d devoted his Sunday sermon to my Arnold Palmer book.

To me, it would have been like expecting the victorious team to douse you with a big jug of Gatorade and instead having some weak tea spilled on your sleeve when the clumsy towel boy trips.

I learned this on a Friday night at the Tin Lizzy when it seemed every stranger in the building expressed a desire to meet me and fill my head with ego-inflating praise.

It went so long and was so elaborate I barely had time to finish my first beer.

Felt like I was being punked.

First were the sisters, a pair of local sweethearts I’d somehow never met. The waitress said they’d just ordered some Tin Lizzy pizza and were hoping to meet me and buy books. Could I stop what I was doing for a quick chat?

Understand, I was engaged in drinking beer at the bar and there have been many nights — hell, there’ve been many years — when the answer would have been, no, I can’t possibly stop what I’m doing. But at 55, that adolescent phase seems to be a bit on the wane. And after so many years of being professionally ignored, I’m preferring to hear people say nice things about me and my work rather than constructing a Force 9 hangover.

So we’re talking and laughing and having conspicuous fun when a stranger at table 4 interrupts. Now, any interruption in that setting is rude and should not be encouraged, but the interruption, spoken enthusiastically in a near shout, involved praise for me so I was all for it.

“I love your book,” he said. “Read it in two nights. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.”

And this was coming from a guy who knows a thing or two about good books. I’m talking THE Good Book.

Yes, my new friend said he was a Presbyterian minister and felt parts of the book were useful tools in his everlasting quest to save souls of Murrysville sinners.

I guess, gee, that’s the most flattering review yet.

It went on like that for the next hour. People who’ve read the book or heard me talk are coming to the Tin Lizzy to meet me and buy more books. Sold eight that night.

I left sober, but feeling oddly buzzed nonetheless. Who knew flattery could be so intoxicating?

It happened again yesterday and this time I was in a motor vehicle.

A woman who’d heard me speak at the Murrysville library (I’m on a real Murrysville roll) was calling about booking the Tin Lizzy banquet room to hear my stories (see first link below).

“You were wonderful!” she said. “I could have listened to you talk for hours. You have such an engaging manner and such a great sense of humor. I never …”

I interrupted here and asked her to start over and word-for-word repeat exactly what she’d said.

Val was driving and I wanted to switch the phone to speaker.

And she did!

She said she wants to bring 15 to 20 women to hear my stories November 16. I’m hopeful this could catch on. 

You know, I heard from a lot of publishing industry experts who said the book I proposed — one that has less to do with golfing and more to do with living — would fail. One said the book should detail precisely which clubs Arnold Palmer used to win which tournaments.

But I stuck to my guns, an awkward stance for an avowed pacifist.

Only a handful of golfers will ever know what it’s like to golf like Arnold Palmer did, but the value of this book is it shows how all of us can live like he did.

No, it’s not The Good Book.

But it ain’t too bad.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Twick 'r Tweet: My best from last two months

I was nervous yesterday about posting the one about Bob Nutting and the Pirates — it’s fourth from the bottom here — being partially to blame for the unspeakable weekend violence. But -- damn the torpedoes -- I posted it anyway just because I thought it was damn funny. I apologize if anyone thought the timing was poor. But with so much random violence happening everyday I don’t believe anyone should ever postpone any opportunity to laugh, love or even in jest bash Bob Nutting.

• It’s entirely possible to kick a squirrel in his nuts and hurt only his feelings. Hers, too.

• Reading the NY Times is to me like reading the Bible only if the Bible had baseball scores.

• I used to think I had a brain but it was all in my head.

• Donald Trump has 54 million Twitter follwers. Barack Obama, 102 million. How many times each week do you think the president asks John Kelly when the Electoral College will weigh in?

• If John McCain is as meticulous about posthumous details as we've heard, I hope he's hired security to monitor his grave to prevent President Trump from sneaking in to piss all over it because that's the kind of guy he is. I'm being totally serious

• Woke up this morning furious to realize that while both the guitar and the sitar are wood-based fretted instruments whose names rhyme, the guitar is spelled with an utterly superfluous "u." I'll get over it but, man. C'mon!

• Greater Latrobe open house last night. Val & I delighted to meet so many great educators. Me, I was bemused to see how parents back in HS revert back to their HS roles. Jocks! Burn-outs! Dweebs! I was unfazed. Why? I'm still one of the cool kids!

• Squads of real reporters are right now working on stories that will relate  how Hurricane Flo will alter mid-term voting outcomes in affected states. This will be important because it'll help you decide which conspiracy theory about government hurricane creation you're apt to believe.

• The potent relevance of the #MeToo movement will begin to peter out the day the perfected sex robots begin assuming positions among the work force.

• For the sake of sweet, tuneful nostalgia I'd just once like to tune into The Weather Channel and hear a forecast of "Clouds in my Coffee, Clouds in my Coffee.”

• I judge all immigrants on how their culinary customs will either excite or bore my palette. So I welcome caravans of Mexicans and simultaneously hope Trump will propose building a big beautiful wall between us and, yuck, Great Britain! Yes, give me your burritos, your tacos, your enchiladas, your spatula-weilding masses …

• A friendly editor was reviewing my self-published books and asked if they were done on shoestring budgets. I told him no. They were done on loafer budgets. What freelance writer can afford shoestrings?

• I dreamt last night I spent an hour talking to Mick Jagger about songwriting. When I was done conveying to him my insights about the craft he told me he was going to write a song about me. I asked what he was going to call it, "Bitch 2," he said.

• Paleontologists dedicate themselves to working with dinosaur bones. Paleontologist is a difficult word to spell. Does anyone suppose paleontologists would object if we all started calling them boners?

• Some words have too many meanings. Like volume (a collection, bulk, strength); or record (recall, an album, etc.) & I'm not touching cock.

• I’m intent on volunteering for the Peace Corps in the hopes they’ll assign me to do hydro-electric work in third-world countries so one day I can say with concrete justification I once really gave a dam.

• Not saying local volunteer fire fighters join for purely social aspects, but it is suspicious the town whore house catches fire every Friday at 8 p.m.

• Ants eat sticks, dirt, decomposing bodies and even poop. My question: Which of their six arms do they use to comfort themselves when they get a tummy ache?

• Now is the time of year when we ardent baseball fans begin bragging to other baseball fans how we were able to stay awake for an entire baseball game. 

• I sometimes wonder if I'd be a different kind of father to a son than I am to daughters. Would I be as curious about their daily lives? I think I would, but I think with a son my questions would be more along the lines of, "So when are you going to shave that stupid beard?”

• Style tip you've likely never considered: Choose what you're going to wear each morning with the idea the zombie apocalypse might occur that day and people/zombies will see you in that garb until Rick Grimes drives a Bowie knife through your skull.

• Last week roughly 325 million Americans became angry experts on something that happened 36 years ago behind closed doors involving -- at most -- 3 teenagers. What do you think will infuriate you this week about which you know absolutely nothing?

• I’m always amazed to see locks on the lobster tank at the local grocery store. Show me the shoplifter who's fierce enough to shove a live lobster down his or her pants.

• What do you do when you're feeling overwhelmed by the billions of websites tended by hucksters, conspiracy theorists & the shady purveyors of bite-sized bull? Try this. The internet distilled to its absolute purity. It's a website on web sites.

• I thought about taking my watch apart to count all the pieces, but just don't have the time to kill.

• My way to really stick it to the publishing industry. I'm calling my next work, "The Big Hands-On Book of Glues & Other Adhesives," so every review will have to include the words, "Could Not Put it Down!”

• I hope I never need the info, but because you just never know: what do you yell when you see a tall duck about to hit his head on a low branch and how badly confused would the hapless fowl be if you yelled, “Duck!"

• I like to try and win arguments by pointing out that there's no way I could be wrong because I saw it on the internet. People usually laugh too hard to continue their antagonisms.

• Dreamt I was involved in an immoral activity with a prominent female. Her lawyers offered a large sum of money to avoid a scandal. Dream me refused. Dream me has more character than wide-awake me.

• It’s difficult to believe, but there will come a day when the name Trump will not appear in any headline anywhere. It may be Tuesday and it may be because the world is destroyed, but it will happen. What can I say? I'm an optimist!

• Anyone who believes the Biblical fairytale that the meek shall inherit the Earth has never bothered to read the most recent GOP tax proposal.

• I enjoy watching movies about people who would never dream of watching movies. I enjoy watching #CaptainFantastic

• On way to Greater Latrobe Senior High to address aspiring writers wondering how much time the kid I used to be would spend mocking the man he's bound to become.

• Watching far right conservatives argue with far left liberals about the direction of the country is like watching the Old Testament argue with the New Testament about the direction of the Bible.

• The Rolling Stones today have more greatest hits albums (14) than most bands have great hits.

• How would today's Match.com profiles differ if men today resumed judging women on how good they'd be around a cow?

• I hope my life extends into an enlightened age where donors are so wise, so giving, that worthy non-profits become profits.

• I hate to be one of those guys who blames Bob Nutting for everything, but I can't help but believe if the Pittsburgh Pirates had been leading the World Series 2 games to 1 on Saturday nobody in Pittsburgh would have felt like killing anybody.  

• I wouldn't want to be involved in anything that would cause pain in others or certainly myself but I'd just once like to be part of a brave mission where our leader said, "Gentlemen, we now must synchronize our watches." I wonder if bowlers ever synchronize their watches.

• It’s unfathomable to imagine how much better off the world would be if every time we felt moved by a good intention we acted on it.

• I’d never dare google it, but from what I know about internet content and priorities, I can pretty much guarantee there's at least one long, stiff penis-shaped instrument designed to assist men who have difficulty putting on footware and it's called "Shoe Horney!”

Related …

Monday, October 29, 2018

It's mourning again in America

I was on the verge of posting something I thought was funny this weekend when I wondered about the tastefulness of trying to provoke laughter when so many of my Pittsburgh friends are bereft.

I asked my friend John. He advised me to wait until at least Tuesday before resuming any on-line silliness. “Any sooner than that,” he said, “and you risk looking like a callous jerk.”

I’d hate for even one person to consider me either — and I beg your pardon for appropriating the use of the word hate on a weekend when hate was so emphatically defined.

So in deference to the dead and grieving, I’ll not post any jokes until around noon Tuesday. But if proper mourning time were the issue none of us would ever laugh again. 

Sadly, it seems like it’s always mourning in America.

I’ve been mourning hate-crime victims since as long as I’ve been alive.

My mourning for The Tree of Life slaughter won’t lap the evergreen mourning I feel for the nine murdered worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. A godforsaken white supremacist in 2015 murdered them right there in the pews.

And I’ve never seen a single white supremacist that made me, a fellow white, ever feel the least bit supreme.

I’ve been mourning the senseless death of Matthew Shepard for 20 years. Remember him? He was murdered in 1998 by two Wyoming hoodlums who hated him for being gay. His funeral was protested by aberrant church members for whom “God Hates Fags” held more scriptural relevance than “Love Thy Neighbor.”

Shepard was in the news this week. After 20 years without a final resting place, his mortal remains finally found a home in the National Cathedral in Washington DC. His parents said they rejected traditional burial in the hometown cemetery for fear it would attract homophobic vandals whose hatreds extend to beyond the grave.

It would be different if there was any rational evidence that hate crimes modified behavior. But the result of hate crimes always seems to be a strengthening of the identity of those who are victimized simply for being born themselves.

I’ll never understand how one man who disagrees with the things millions and millions of others believe thinks he can change even one mind by killing maybe a dozen or so of us.

For instance, I’m unaware of any mass of homosexuals who decided to become less gay after the Matthew Shepard murder.

Elton John wrote “American Triangle,” an achingly poignant 2001 song about the murder, and in 2009 Shephard became a namesake inspiration for federal hate crime legislation, and gay marriage is now the law of the land.

The two men who killed him? Both were in their early 20s at the time of the murder and have been serving life without parole ever since. 

I wonder what they hate about prison.

Certainly no hate crime has ever led people to become less Black or less Jewish.

Good-hearted and tolerant people will always rally around the persecuted. That’s what happened in Pittsburgh Sunday as 2,000 mourners gathered in the rain to show soulful solidarity.

It’s happened throughout history. 

Christianity didn’t really take off until after its leader was killed in a hate crime that resulted in the forgiveness of all the people who commit hate crimes.

You may have heard of him.

He was some Jew.

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