Monday, September 16, 2019

The story of the fearless windshield surfing insect of indeterminate sex & species



I didn’t notice the stowaway until I began accelerating and when I did I became so mesmerized I nearly drove off the road and straight into a tree.

Some six-legged insect had affixed itself to my windshield and was hanging on for dear life. About the size and stoutness of a kid’s tiny Tonka toy, it looked sort of like what you’d get if you mated a cockroach with a grasshopper. I gave up scanning insect mug shots when I feared I was becoming, well, all bug-eyed.

I’d just turned left out of the Tin Lizzy on my way to Giant Eagle to pick up some lunch groceries.

Was it on my windshield on purpose or by accident? Was it trying to flee an oppressive bug spouse, a real louse? Or was it old-fashioned wanderlust.

I’d be traveling 2.3 miles on Arnold Palmer Drive past Arnold Palmer’s home, office, golf club and enough other Palmer-named landmarks to have me again wondering why we just don’t change the town name to Palmerville.

If the bug was enjoying the scenic ride it didn’t show.

Maybe it was a Nicklaus fan.

I say “it” because I was also unable to determine if it was a male or female. If it had a gender-defining penis — or penises; logically one per each pair of legs — they were so microscopic it was a don’t ask/don’t tell situation.

While we’re on the subject, cockroaches are to literalists like me almost as poorly named as the titmouse, which disappoints on every level.

I was amazed at its ability to stay stuck to the windshield of a car going nearly 40 mph. Each of its six feet were no bigger than a period on a page. How is that possible?

Maybe it had been walking on gum and gotten its feet really sticky.

I tried to divine what was in its heart. Was it sad? Carefree? Do bugs even have hearts? 

Life without a heart or a penis would be a real drag, but that’s from a purely male perspective.

So I make it all the way to Giant Eagle and the bug hasn’t budged. I shopped hurriedly to see if it’s still there or has maybe while I was waiting for chipped ham learned to communicate and convey its intent, kind of like the namesake spider in “Charlotte’s Web.”

I decide if it’s still there I will make every effort return it to its approximate homestead. I envision a homecoming scene where this bug and its equally weird-looking family have this homecoming like it’s the Biblical return of the prodigal son.

And if it’s gone I’ll just try to stop obsessing because, c’mon, it’s just a stupid bug.

It’s still there! Hasn’t moved even a hair.

I begin to race back, which is good, because I all of a sudden have a furniture truck with an impatient driver right on my rear.

My plan is give the bug a jiffy jolt of wiper fluid to gently dislodge it from its impossibly smooth perch. Thus startled, it’ll look back at me and I’ll point to the safety of the sidewalk.

Here’s what happened:

He clung so steadfastly to the windshield I started to get pissed and really blasted the wiper fluid. The fire hosing finally severed its bond and caused it to cartwheel and begin to wildly flap its wings. It rolled over the roof and smashed — SPLAT!— right into the windshield of the furniture truck.

I could tell it was a direct hit by the brilliant arc it made when the annoyed driver used his wipers to try and vacate the stain.

A grand adventure that began with a remarkable feat on one windshield ended with a smear on another.

And now who gives a shit?

Besides, I mean, your basic dung beetle, but that goes without saying. 


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Monday, September 9, 2019

Thoughts on this blog being named 32nd best Amish blog in the world



It happened almost exactly as I’m about to tell and even if it didn’t I’d have for story purposes pretended that it did so the point is moot.

The particulars are unimportant, but Val and I were butting heads over a local bulk grocery store run by a fundamentalist religious sect.

That description usually implies dour dispositions and doomsday rapture dates occurring at least once every calendar year.

But the people at Lapp’s are nothing like that. They all smile, are courteous and run the store with such cheerful efficiency I can only pity the supervisor tasked with selecting the employee of the month. They’re all deserving.

So Val contends they are Mennonites. I say with conviction they are Amish. My smug assurances leads her right into my little trap.

“And what makes you such an expert?”

She’s pitched the slugger what baseball announcers call a hanging curve.

“What makes me such an expert?” I thunder. “Let me tell you: I’m the author of the 32nd best blog for Amish people on the whole flat earth!”

And that’s an assumption. For all I know, the Amish believe earth is cubic. Despite the honor, my working knowledge of Amish practices is next to nothing.

It’s right here at this Feedspot list headlined “Top 50 Blogs and websites for Amish Readers.

I’m no. 32.

For perspective, the Top 4 listed are in order: “Amish Wisdom Beyond the Bonnets,” “Amish America,” “Ohio’s Amish Country,” and “The Amish Catholic.”

The titles make them all seem worthy and earnest blogs devoted to spreading awareness and understanding of these curious people.

I didn’t bother to check, but it’s a safe bet none of these Amish-centric blogs have a post like this one about how the giant dildo got stuck in my head.

Has me thinking the folks who chose this blog as one of the top 50 blogs for Amish readers declined to actually bother to read the blog. And I am once again reminded what a bone-headed idea it was to call this, “Eight Days To Amish.”

Why 8Days2Amish?

It stems from my days at The Pond when I was for $30 a month cherrypicking wifi off my apartment neighbor. He moved out and took his wifi with him. Well, $60 a month was too much for me so I decided to go without. Being too broke to afford internet was a blow to my self esteem. I wondered what would come next.

“Would I trade my kids for cattle? Start churning my own butter? Why I’m practically eight days to Amish.”

Could it be any more misleadingly nichey?

I wonder if I’d be more successful had I appealed to patriotism with, say, “Eight Days to Freedom!”

Or leisure: “Eight Days to Beer!”

Or a crafty hybrid: “Eight Days to Free Beer!”

I’m instead 11 years into this pointless blogging gig and wondering if I’ll be invited to an awards banquet where the gobs and shoo-fly pie are pretty much guaranteed to outnumber the complimentary hookers.

And I feel bad for two people.

The first is that kid who’s thirsting for spiritual solace.

Scientology has too many Hollywood glitter shitters. He doesn’t have the pipes to sing with the Baptists. And the snake handlers service conflicts with dart night down at the local tavern.

He needs religion. He needs it fast.

He finds my blog is the 32nd best Amish blog in the world and, hey, it hints he can become Amish in just eight days.

He reads the blog and becomes enraged. It has nothing to do with becoming Amish.

In the end he doesn’t go Lutheran. He doesn’t go Catholic.

He goes to Hell!

The other guy for whom I feel bad?

It’s the guy who actually writes about the Amish because he believes it is the way to assured salvation. He puts his heart and soul into the blog. He’s told he’s being considered for inclusion on the prestigious Top 50 best Amish blogs list and that could mean a significant boost in his profile and income.

And then he’s told — bummer — he came in at No. 51.


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Friday, September 6, 2019

When homesickness hits home



I still remember the departure like it was yesterday.

It was around this time in 1981. I was leaving for my freshman year at Ohio University. My parents were about to experience their first night as empty nesters. 

My buddy’s car had been packed, gassed up, ready to roll. I climbed in and took one last look at the folks, two of the best, most-loving parents any boy could ever hope to have.

They were bawling!

Did I pause to comfort or reassure?

An unfeeling little bastard even then, I told my buddy to floor it. I distinctly remember thinking, “This is the greatest day of my life!”

And it was. The shackles were off. I was embarking on a time of discovery, self-fulfillment and unbroken pursuit of simple human happiness — what kids today call a “gap year.”

Mine’s been a gap life.

Last week the shoe was on the other foot. We took Josie to Saint Vincent where she is studying history. 

If you’re unfamiliar, Saint Vincent is about 4 miles from our home. When the leaves descend we’ll be able to see her dorm room from our back porch.

If you think that’s idyllic, you’re mistaken.

For a sweet girl whose most indelible impression is sunny poise, that little dorm room might as well be on Pluto.

She’s feeling homesick while barely leaving home.

Has it ever happened to you? Ever felt that forlornness over the recollection of something that once was and may never be again?

Homesickness is maybe our most poignant emotion.

It’s indicative of heartfelt appreciation for where you’ve been and uncertainty it can be duplicated anyplace else.

I wish I could assure it can and it will.

Ah, life, so full of sweet soulful suffering.

I asked my older brother if he ever felt homesick in Athens. He began attending there in ’79 and the great times I had visiting him assured I’d go there. Never even considered any place else.

To my surprise, this popular accomplished leader — a bartender and ladies’ man — had been homesick. He felt marooned, out of  place, in over his head.

How did he get through it?

He summoned the world’s greatest drinking buddy.

He summoned Dad!

There’s never been a man better suited for that kind rescue mission — cheering up a sad son in a midwestern college with a party school reputation. I close my eyes and can see it now …

“Rachel, the boy needs me in Athens. He’s homesick. I figure I’ll be back in 2 years. That’s a long time, I know, but I think anyone who stays in Athens that long is automatically handed an Inter-personal Communication degree."

I’ve had some well-meaning friends suggest it’ll be to her long-term benefit for us to tell her to tough it out, to in essence change the locks.

To them I respond with, depending on our degree of friendship, varying levels of caustic profanity.

No matter what they teach her at Saint Vincent, she’ll never be in a position of having to lead troops into battle.

She doesn’t need to be tough. She doesn’t need to be calloused. 

She needs to be happy.

That’s Rule No. 1.

I advise her if she starts feeling sad, she can always come home. 

Come home for dinner. Come home for lunch. If you’re in your dorm and you see some particularly entertaining lunatic on “The Price Is Right,” come home and we’ll watch the “Showcase Showdown” together.

Come on down!

The mindset mirrors the musical advice a loving father gives his daughter in the peerless Alan Jackson 2015 song called coincidentally, I guess, “You Can Always Come Home.”

It says, yes, by all means pursue your dreams, find your own path, but if you stumble or lose your way, darlin’, you can always come home.

Homesickness is an interesting word that means the opposite of what it describes.  

I’ve made many mistakes in my life, but today I’m proud to say I raised a child who’s homesick rather than one who’s sick of home.

Many of us are today saying prayers for those left homeless in Alabama, the Bahamas and other places devastated by Hurricane Dorian.

It’s petty, I know, but I’m including prayers that God will provide solace to all those freshman who are struggling to fit in until their hearts catch up with their ambitions..


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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

My last ace book ... gone!


It’s probably so obvious they don’t even bother to mention it in Business 101, but no reasonable business plan involves giving the product away for free.

I’ve had successful business people ridicule me for giving away so many books for free. But if I had a bizzy-ness plan, I wouldn’t be a writer.

I’d be a bizzy-ness man.

So I give away a lot of books. Mostly “Use All The Crayons!” I do so with this title  because it’s the book most likely to make people happy and if I can make anyone happy for nearly nothing, by God, I’m going to do it.

I rarely give copies of “Palmer: Homespun” books away. People really love that book so they’re happy to pay for it. “Last Baby Boomer” I often discount in the hopes it’ll lead to grassroots interest in the book of which I’m most proud.

I mention all this now because I just gave away the last copy of what I consider my first real book.

It’s funny. When I’m introduced during speaking engagements, it’s often announced I’m the author of seven books.

But, really, three of the books were like magazine articles that got out of hand, or jerk-off joke books. One was, “Manly Golf: 50 Ways to Muscle Your Way to Victory!” It came with sticker tattoos.

Not the kind of titles you’d see on any “Also by John Grisham …” page 

But there was one book, my first “real” book, that for some reason I rarely mention when talking about my roster.

It’s “Hole in One! The Complete Book of Fact, Legend and Lore of Golf’s Luckiest Shot.”

Published in 2003, it was called in 2009 “the Bible on golf’s most amazing shot” by, ahem, The New York Times. That’s prestigious. None of my other books have been praised by The Times.

So why don’t I talk about it?

I think it’s because at some point I began to resent the hell out of the book. I don’t remember a single royalty check, group purchase or simple one-to-one cash transaction.

Worse, I bet I gave away 1,000 copies for free.

This is because I’d early on thought it would be nifty promotion if I’d give a free signed copy to anyone who approached me with a verifiable ace.

All to people who were lucky enough to get an ace (odds, 12,500-to-1) or clever enough to bamboozle me into believing they’d had (odds, 5-to-2).

More resentment. I, the author of the most comprehensive book on aces, has never seen nor had one of his own.

It’s cosmically cruel. 

So I was not unhappy when I noticed all I had left were two ace books. 

And I was not at all unhappy when my friend Denny C., a retired Hempfield high school guidance counselor and a true gent, aced a local course and earned the second-to-last book. 

Coincidentally, Denny and I were golfing last month when he hit a ball that looked like a sure ace. As the ball was sailing straight at the cup, I wasn’t rooting it on. I wasn’t ecstatic with split-second anticipation. 

No, I was thinking, gee, what’s the etiquette if this goes in? Do I give him another ace book?

My quandary was averted when the ball came to rest 4 inches to the left of the cup and last week I learned my friend Jan L. aced the 10th hole at one of my favorite courses, The Palmer Course at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, West Virginia.

Thus, my last ace book is gone. I’m no longer golf’s self-appointed welcome wagon to one of game’s rarest club, one to which I don’t belong. I wrote the book on aces, but if there’s a secret handshake no one’s telling me. 

I have no more self-imposed obligation to congratulate those who’ve proven far more fortunate than I.

I’ll just continue to simmer that while, according to The NYTimes, I’m the factual repository of more great stories of good fortune than anyone in golf, that same fortune has teased and evaded me for nearly 50 years.

Good luck?

Good riddance!


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