Thursday, June 20, 2019

Wrecked my car, ripped my shirt; life lessons from a colossally bad day

The caller had heard what had happened and broke right in with urgent questions: Was anybody hurt? Were ambulances summoned? Did EMTs deploy the Jaws of Life.

I assured him he was over-reacting. Everyone was fine, the loss would be overcome. And, jeez, who’d use the Jaws of Life to remove an able-bodied man from a ripped shirt?

“Ripped shirt?” he said. “I heard you were in an accident. Who said anything about a ripped shirt?”

Both, indeed, had happened Wednesday afternoon.

It’s just the ripped shirt, an heirloom Tommy Bahama, mattered more to me than the stupid car. 

I wrecked the car, a 2007 Saturn Vue with 209,998 miles on it at 6 p.m. pulling out of the Tin Lizzy parking lot.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Ah, ha! It was 6 p.m. You were leaving a bar! You’d been drinking beer for at least three hours! You were drunk! Over-the-limit! Drunk!”

Wrong. Remember, my office is in the Tin Lizzy. I don’t just socialize there. It’s my place of business. It’s where I conduct my commerce, the place where I transact so much moolah I can afford to drive a 2007 Saturn Vue with 209,998 miles on it. 

In fact I hadn’t been drinking for three hours. On this day it had been three hours since I’d been drinking. It’s true. Many people are aware my office is atop the historic Tin Lizzy. It’s a very popular place.

And, hell, I’m a very popular guy!

It’s not at all uncommon for friends, strangers even, to get in touch and ask if I’m free for beer and conversation. I don’t think I’ve said no to that cheerful combo since I had my first beer back, gee, I think it was in the 4th grade. 

So Mike texted and said he was bringing a buddy along for wings. Was I free?

Nooo … 

But I could be bought!

I’m kidding. I’m not that kind of crass. But my friends did buy my two beers. In exchange, I gave Ron a signed Arnold Palmer book, and Mike a “Last Baby Boomer.“

God help me, the transaction meant I could consider the day a rousing fiscal success.

I spent the next three hours energetically working on a book proposal that may or may not eventually cost me more money to produce than it earns me to sell.

Repeat after me: “It’s not surprising we drink. It’s surprising we ever stop drinking.”

So at 6 p.m. the summons rings out. My family needs me! Not for wisdom, guidance or clarity.

Somebody had to fetch the pizza! 

It was Day 1 of the five day Mardi Gras that is my daughter Lucy’s 13th birthday. That meant six hungry 8th graders were right then sitting with growling tummies around our dinner table.

At 6 p.m. it’s smack dab in the middle of the Youngstown rush hour. Now, Youngstown has just one stop light, but rush hour is still rush hour if it’s 10,000 cars or 10.

I had this going through my mind as I calculated my route. 

It was a beautiful day. I knew there’d be golfers enjoying the twilight at Latrobe C.C. I could turn right out of the Tin lot and circle the club. It would take a little longer, but there’s a reason people like me prefer the scenic route.

It’s scenic!

But I thought of those hungry children back in my home and how they could combine to rip me limb-from-limb if I showed up with cold pizza.

I decided to make a fateful left. 

There was an ambulance blocking my view to the right. Parked cars obscuring my view to the left. It’s a tricky maneuver.

I don’t know how the drunk drivers pull it off.

Well, my new friend Sandy was pulling out of the Rainbow Inn. I never saw her.

It wasn’t a fender bender. More like a fender obliterator. Ripped the grill clean off. I got the worst of it. My butt cheeks are clenched as I await estimates.  I’ll soon be down several thousand dollars.

But I anticipate being up one Facebook friend and you just can’t put a price on that. 

So if no one was hurt, thank God, how’d I rip my shirt? Snagged it on a rusty bed frame later on back home when I was tending to the basement dehumidifier. 

I loved that old shirt.  So unique. Good thing I have a closet with 15 other outstanding Tommy's  — ones that’ll never be worn when dehumidifier maintenance is being conducted. 

Later on when the pizza and the guests were gone, Val asked if I was any closer to realizing my earnings potential.

I thought about telling her how before the accident I’d traded two books for two beers. I decided to keep that to myself and assured her — hallelujah — fruitful times were just around the bend (if you can see past the goddamned ambulance). 

I’ve tried in vain to think of some profound lesson from this challenging day. I’m tempted to say it’s, “Always take the scenic route.” But that can’t be it.

My whole life is what happens when you always take the scenic route.

You somehow in the eyes of others become the scenic route.

Related …

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Pondering "sober curious" movement after a weekend in Athens, Ohio

I was this weekend the focus of on odd male custom where men who love you most and think you’re going to die in, say, 5 years, gather to engage in the wanton misbehaviors that could kill you in 2 nights.

I survived and made it home where I’m loved by even sober folk.

The weekend reinforces my contention that my popularity with any group surges in direct correlation to how much alcohol they’ve consumed. 

So if you think this blog is off to a slow start, why don’t you stop here for a moment and go take big slug of hootch to loosen up. I’ll wait.

There. You back? Feel better? 

If it puts you at ease, I had one, too.

Okay, I’m lying.

I had two!

Have you heard about the new sober curious movement? It says people are sick of drinking and are thoughtfully considering what it would be like going out without spending the night drinking beer, wine or strong liquor.

Well, I know exactly what that would be like. 

It’d be like staying home!

Really, I’ll not disparage. I can see alternatives to intoxication working for a lot of people, albeit not for people who make their living keeping many of us tipsy.

Excessive drink, I know, is the ruin of many well-intentioned adults. But so is excessive sobriety. As H.L. Mencken once said: “All the great villainies of history, from Abel to the Treaty of Versailles, have been perpetuated by sober men, chiefly by teetotalers.”
I’m curious how different my life would be had I chosen a sober path. For starters, my lawn today would appear tidier because I wouldn’t have spent the weekend in Athens, Ohio, still after all these years the Drinker’s Disneyland. And my life, I believe, would be emptier without all those vital friendships and raucous memories.

Being back in Athens with a dozen old buddies reminds me how essential my time there was to me. It’s where I became who I am.

Times were different — and I tried without success to impose a penalty shot anytime anyone said, “Boy it’s a good thing there weren’t camera phones when we were here!”

I felt more melancholy than I’ve ever felt in fun circumstances because, indeed, I was the focus of the weekend. Many of my friends came long distances to wish me well. My Parkinson’s diagnosis is bumming my old buddies out. That bums me out. 

I told them I’m fine — and I am — but I realize how upsetting it is when you see something once so vital, so alive — me and you at 19 — showing signs of encroaching mortality. 

Where I once ran naked, I now limp fully clothed.

Still, I should have done something to lift everyone’s spirits, something that would have yielded at least one new story we can tell over and over years from now — and new stories should be the goal of any gathering among old men being stalked by nostalgia.

So next time it’ll be up to me to either swim naked in the hotel pool, pee on a cop’s foot or try and sleep with Miss Benson, that hot history prof, who is by now either 80 or dead — either of which would make a good story.

And that’s another problem I have with the whole sober curious bit.

I mean, really. Where are you going to find a sober guy daring enough to pee on the cop’s foot to liven things up at last call in Athens when the boys are getting bored?

Related ….

Friday, June 7, 2019

My commencement speech draws raves

I’ve been nervous before other important talks, mostly because I had brought along a lot of books and was hoping for a sell out.

Last night at the Adelphoi Ketterer Charter School, I was concerned about an entirely different kind of sell out.

I was worried about selling out the future!

You’re forgiven if the inherent audacity of that last sentence has confused you into thinking last night’s topic was titled “Excessive Ego in Under-achieving Authors.”

No, I was the commencement speaker for 42 members of the Adelphoi Class of 2019. More than 200 people in attendance. 

I took this opportunity very seriously. Truly, I was honored by the invitation to take such a high profile role before these honest achievers.

Understand, Adelphoi isn’t your typical high school. The building next to the one where I was speaking is surrounded by a security fence topped with concertina wire. To graduate last night, many of these students had to overcome addiction, abuse, abandonment, multiple court proceedings and the kind of life challenges candy asses like me and other public school grads can only imagine.

And it was my job to inspire them? 

Hell, they inspire me.

I wish you could have heard the student bios filled with muted adulation conveyed to teachers and loved ones who shepherded them through so many often-horrific challenges to get to that stage.

We’ve spent the last three days justifiably honoring our surviving D-Day heroes, but I’m convinced the world is full of good-hearted heroes, ones who’ll never be acknowledged.

Can you sense I’m feeling emotional?

Last night I took for me the unusual step of scripting my remarks (below). I might do that more often because the reaction told me it was a home run. An upper decker (video to come).

“That was the best commencement address we’ve had in the 15 years I’ve been coming here,” one board member told me.

Most gratifying were the parents and students who sought me out at the reception to praise me. They said it was funny, poignant, inspirational, etc.

Where they right?

See for yourself ….

——    <<  >>    ——-

The longest commencement address in history lasted six hours. It was first read in Latin then repeated in Greek. Mine is going to take 6 minutes and you can quit listening in 30 seconds because that’s all the longer it’s going to take me to give  you the only advice you’ll ever need to be succeed in life.

Ready? Here goes …

“Try and do something each and every day to ensure parking at your funeral will be a real pain in the butt.”

That’s it. For as complicated as life is, a truly successful one can be deceptively simple.

It’s possible for each of you to live a life that’ll lead to funereal traffic jams, TV news helicopters and scores of loved ones complaining they had to park a mile away. But they were willing to do that because you mattered.

You can achieve this in ways that have nothing to do with power, money or fame. Being ruthless or cutthroat won’t help

What will? Being kind. Being cheerful. Being persistent. And when times are toughest being all three at once.

Be a happy example of a decent human being and all the very best people on the planet will be drawn to you. They’ll invite you to swanky parties, fix you up with classy dates, and bring you soup when you’re sick.

How do you become that person? Here’s the best part: You do it by enjoying your life.

Be daring: Try to do at least one thing each week that will blow your hair back and allow you to scream, “Wheeeeeeee!!!”

Be opportunistic: The pessimist complains about all the times they’ve been thrown under the bus. The optimist thinks one day he’ll make a really swell bus mechanic.

Be silly: Open an art gallery with nothing on the walls. Then invite people to enter and be greeted by forty guys who say nothing but, “Hi, I’m Art!”

Be determined: You’re going to be challenged with hard times. Follow Winston Churchill’s advice: “When you’re going through Hell, go faster.”

Does anyone see what I’m asking you to become? It should be obvious.

I’m asking you to become … Happy!

It’s the correct answer to the wrong question every adult asks every kid: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Take it from me; What do you want to be when you grow up?

You want to be happy. Adults tend to forget that.

We fail ourselves every time we equate success or wealth with happiness. One has nothing to do with the other.

Robert Louis Stevenson knew. He is the author of “Treasure Island” and “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” two monumental books that have withstood the test of time.

But to me the best thing he’s ever written isn’t a book. It’s a single sentence.

“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.”

Words to live by.

I recently received an unfortunate diagnosis. I have Parkinson’s Disease. Can’t die from it, but it can diminish my quality of life. The diagnosis left me feeling angry and scared. But then a prevailing emotion emerged: I became thankful.

Not for what’s to come, but for all that’s already happened. I can’t believe just how lucky I’ve been.

What’s funny is how nothing in my life worked out the way I was sure it would when I was in your position. 

I have no prestige. No influence. No monuments. No savings.

So why am I so happy? I knew early on I wouldn’t need those things.

If I were to die tomorrow, all I’d have are the warm memories of a lifetime of happiness and gratitude for being the recipient of so much genuine love.

Now here at the conclusion is the time when other, more esteemed commencement speakers are telling graduates, “You only live once!”

It’s bullcrap. In fact, you’ll only die once. You’re graced with the option to live every single day.

So may you live — truly live — for as long as you’re alive.

And may parking at your funeral one day many, many years from now be for your many friends and loved ones a huge pain in the butt.

<Need an inspirational & funny speaker for your group or event? I’m your guy:, 724 961-2558>

Friday, May 31, 2019

Hooray! It's time for tweets of the month!

Sometimes I think my tweets are maturing while I am not. Some profound stuff here. And for the second month in a row, not one fart joke! It concerns me because I know if they ever learn how to fix a leaky faucet my wife is gonna leave me for the tweets.

Follow me at 8days2Amish!

Foto is of the fraudulent address label's I've used since 2008 when I wrote this, my fourth post ever.

• I have to think it depresses shoe factory morale that maybe a quarter of the employees report to a department under a sign that reads “HEELS.”

• Bible says our bodies are temples. On Friday nights, mine is more like a honky tonk. Some beer's been spilled, some of the furniture is busted & it smells kinda funny. But the folks are friendly, the peanuts are free and the good music never ends.

• Most people agree room temperature is 70 degrees. Elmer Fudd says womb temperature is 98.6 degrees.

• The older I get the more convinced I become that the whole sum of life is equivalent to the pointless milling about we do for the 3 or 4 hours we have to kill until the front desk tells us our room is ready.

• I don't know of a single adult or child even, who carries around even a single marble in his or her pocket or purse. Yet the phrases, "All the marbles," and "lost his marbles" persist in the vernacular. Oh, take me back to that whimsical era when the possession of marbles conveyed both wealth and wisdom!

• I admire spouses who pull off the physically contradictory trick of standing beside someone who is flat on the floor.

• I’ve back-burnered so many important projects my fears are the stove will soon catch fire and I'll be unable to recognize the blaze as a priority before it consumes the whole building.

• Weed” is today a $55 billion business. "Weed" is cultivated, sheltered, nurtured and cared for more lovingly than some rare orchids. My point: Nothing about "weed" suggests weed so let's all stop calling "weed" weed.

• It flips language logic on its head, but being self-employed ain't working for me.

• How did the phrase "pigeon hole" ever evolve into such common usage when I know of not one person who can affirm they are familiar with even one pigeon's hole?

• It is my contention that one of the most devastating aspects of climate change -- catastrophic rise in sea levels -- could be eliminated if all these massive water displacing cargo ships were simultaneously removed from the water. 

• Spent yesterday seeking to confirm intimacy studies that contend 90 percent of adult men/women enjoy being hugged. My results were exact opposite. People were furious at my cheerful embrace. I'll try again today but with a slightly different approach. Today I'm wearing pants!

• The only thing that today exceeds our national inarticulateness is the number of megaphones possessed by all those who have nothing to say.

• I try and see the good in everyone. With some of you it takes a little squinting. Then there are those that require spying through one of those telescopes the astronomers use to spy clear to the edge of the universe. If you think that might be you, you need to try harder.

• If an affluent person is well-to-do, does that make me well-to-don’t?

• The biggest difference between men and women is women look in the mirror and see flaws ... no one else can detect. Men look in those same mirrors and see perfection ... no one else can detect.

• Last year I asked you to buy, "Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King," for your father. This year I'm asking you to buy one for ANY father. Father's Day is just 25 days away! All books signed thus, "This is NOT a golf book. This is a LIFE book!”

• The people who think writing is easy are the same ones who think reading is hard. Trying to explain to them the value of books is like trying to explain to fish the value of air.

• I wonder what kind of pushy sales tactics a prosthetic salesman would have to produce to end the month up in arms.

• Mother Teresa came from a large family with three sisters, all of whom had large families themselves.
Q: Did her nieces/nephews call her Aunt Mother Teresa? Aunt Teresa?

• Worry not about being popular today. Worry instead about being yourself EVERYDAY and you'll soon appreciate the meaninglessness of popularity.

• If you were following yourself in a car how many times a day would you give yourself the finger?

• Because the weather in heaven will always be perfect, "Some weather we're having," will be replaced as a conversational ice-breaker by, "So how'd you die?" So an interesting earth death -- say kicked in the head by a runaway mule -- might lead to more popularity among angels.

• People getting all worked up over White House orders the Navy cover USS John McCain identifiers with tarps. Big whoop. I'm preserving my outrage for when White House orders the McCain sunk.

Related …