Friday, May 10, 2019

Latrobe Bulletin announces my next book

Okay, the admission may lead you to conclude I’m a rube, but I still get a kick out of seeing my name and picture in the local newspaper. So thank you Steve Kittey and The Latrobe Bulletin for yesterday’s front page splash. 

The book is, "Growing Up in the REAL Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood: Stories from the Heart of Latrobe, Pennsylvania."

Of course my favorite part of the Bulletin story is the picture, one I don’t recall taking, haven’t ever seen before and haven’t the foggiest idea how it was secured fir usage by my Bulletin friends.

It’s a dandy. First, I’m smiling and you can tell I have a mouthful of teeth. I’d be disappointed had they selected one where I appear serious.

Here’s a tweet from two years ago this month: “One benefit about being carefree is serious people never look at you and say, "Hon, let's go sit next to that guy. He looks real serious, too.”

The picture is a perfect repellent to serious people.

The best part are the eyes. They appear to be gazing 20-feet above and past the unknown photographer. It’s like I’m gazing at either the resurrected Christ returned to Earth Biggie-sized or at a hovering UFO filled with love-starved women yearning to try earth sex and their malfunctioning computers have led them to believe I’m  the only man on the planet.

It’s just a very happy face.

And why wouldn’t it be?

I’m announcing my next book. It’s the one I never dreamed I’d write.

See, for a year I’ve been resisting pressure to write a book about Fred Rogers that’s just like the one I wrote about Arnold Palmer.

I didn’t want to do this because I didn’t know Rogers, certainly not the way I knew Palmer. And it just seemed too obvious.

My resistance is indicative about why I’m always moaning about being broke. After all, why would I want repeat something that made me a lot of money and so many people happy?

I mean, besides the producers of “Shrek 12,” who would want to do that?

But the commercial incentive is apparent; the Tom Hanks/Fred Rogers movie is likely to do gangbuster business and generate interest in what it’s like to live in Mr. Rogers Real Neighborhood, a place I’ve called home since 1992 and written about in my blog since 2019. 

That, for me, seemed like a good hook and an authentic reason for me to engage. 

I explain it all in this Bulletin story. Please get in touch if you have any Fred stories or are interest in sharing why his spirit still matters here in Latrobe and around the world.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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It was this week last year that Triumph Publishing released my book, “Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King.” In the year since, my editor has called repeatedly to gush that sales were exceeding expectations.

The satisfaction I feel over that news is surpassed only by my appreciation over how well it sold right here in Latrobe. I joke that it’s like everyone in town bought five copies. “They read one and they use the other four to stabilize wobbly furniture.”

That’s a silly exaggeration, but my gratitude is heartfelt. 

Why is it selling so well? I can think of two reasons. One of them, obviously, is Arnold Palmer, one of the most compelling men from the last 100 years. 

The other is you.

One of the best decisions I made upon landing the contract — maybe the best decision — was to reach out to readers of the Latrobe Bulletin and let you know I was eager to hear your stories about our famous neighbor. Those stories enriched my book the way our neighborly association with Arnold Palmer enriched our town.

A year later, I’m back to humbly repeat my request: Latrobe, please tell me your stories.

Not about Arnold Palmer.

No, I want to hear your stories about you. Well, you and Mr. Rogers.

I want to hear why you live here and if you or your loved ones are ever motivated by the benevolent spirit of Fred Rogers.

We’re just seven months until the release of the Tom Hanks/Fred movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” The movie — experts are predicting a blockbuster — is bound to have people around the world asking, “So what’s the real Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood really like?

The book I’m considering will not be a biography of Rogers or a history of Latrobe (although there will be elements of both). At this point I anticipate the book will rely heavily on my observations of what it’s like to live here, as my family and I have done since 1992.

See, I didn’t know Fred.

But I do know Latrobe. I hang out in its bars, patronize its businesses, attend its church services, its festivals and am chummy with both its community leaders as well as its happy rabble (some of them fit neatly in both categories).  

So if you know any great first person Fred stories (funny, heroic, generous), by all means, please get in touch.

But I’ll be just as pleased to hear any stories from men and women who decide to help a stranger change a tire because, gee, that’s what Fred would have done; stories of how some distant stranger treated you with extra care because they found out you were from Latrobe, birthplace of Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers’ Real Neighborhood.

I can be reached at 724 961-2558;

I’m hoping this book will be a definitive answer to the question, “What’s Mr. Rogers’ Real Neighborhood really like?”

To me, it’s a special place. It’s full of boisterous characters, robust natures and so many kind hearts I sometimes wonder if it’s our chief export. But Latrobe is not a fantasy. It’s not a fable. It’s not a safe space. 

It’s a real town with real people. 

And with this book, I intend to keep it real.

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