Monday, November 18, 2019

The true facts on Ukraine


• The capital of Ukraine is Kyiv.

• The Ukrainian gross national product in 2017 was $112.2 billion (U.S.). It is known as the bread basket of Europe with its chief exports being sunflower and wheat.

• Borsch is the Ukrainian national dish.

• Actress Mila Kunis from “That ‘70s Show” was born in Ukraine and with her family emigrated to the U.S. in 1991 when she was 7.

These are certifiable facts. And certifiable is not to be confused with indisputable; we live in an age when everything’s in dispute. I post them in case you’re ever confronted by an obnoxious partisan and are eager to achieve a sanity preserving dodge to an argument.

This happened to me Friday in Flappers, the second floor Tin Lizzy bar I cherish precisely because of the unlikelihood anyone there will broach current events.

I stopped arguing about President Trump when it dawned on me how it’s impossible to change the minds of the mindless — and I include myself as being among the mindless. Nothing anyone can say will change my opinion from 2011 when I wrote, “Trump’s no jackass; he’s underqualified.

You, I’m sure understand this.

The guy in Flappers clearly did not. He must have thought if he talked loudly and forcefully enough he’d change every mind in the bar. He’d make preposterous claims then punctuate the dubious statements with, “And that’s a fact,” as if that settled the matter.

And as he went on and on I was surprised to find I didn’t feel contempt, disdain or an unruly urge to smash a potted plant over his head.

I felt pity.

He’s allowed himself to be poisoned by politics. 

More facts:

• Ukraine is home to the world’s second deepest subway station. The Arsenalna station at the Kyiv Metro is 346 feet below ground.

• Ukraine is the world’s second most literate nation on earth. Who’s first? North Korea.

• The second verse in the Ukraine national anthem is:

We will give our souls and bodies for our freedom
And will show that we are, brothers, in the Cossack breed born!

I don’t know if Ukrainian women sing along with all the “brothers” or simply glare at them for the sexist exclusion.

I have friends who are disappointed I don’t take more of a lead role in bashing Trump, hinting that I choose to not do so because “Republicans buy books, too,” a notion attributed to Michael Jordan and his eagerness to sell Nike shoes to anyone with feet. 

I think I’m being more practical than crass. See, I’m good friends with many ardent Trump supporters and see zero benefit to insulting the people who worship where I worship, who fix the brakes on my car or who work within spittin’ distance of my take-out food.

Most of them seem to tolerate me and find my company agreeable enough to continue to sit next to me and enjoy some refreshingly pointless conversation. 

It adds peace to my existence, something the blowhard does not understand. He’s a very unhappy human being whose argumentative priorities ensure contentment will forever elude. 

I’d try to tell him this, but he’s clearly spoiling for a fight — about anything — and I fear he’ll unholster a weapon and ventilate my torso if I were to impart a lesson on the values of homespun hippie happiness.

Still more facts:

• Ukrainian Independence Day is August 24.

• The World Health Organization lists Ukraine as the 6th most bibulous nation on the planet, bibulous being fond of or addicted to alcoholic beverages.

• Ukraine is home to Chernobyl, site of the worst release of manmade toxicity …

Until now.

I see so many people who are so poisoned by partisan politics they’ve made themselves incapable of simple human happiness. 

As it so says in the Book of Proverbs 26:21, “As charcoal to hot embers as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man to kindling strife”

Biblical grilling tips!

Not me. I remain hopeful we’ll get through this tumult, that fairness and reason will prevail.

And if I'm wrong I'll still be right.

Because the pessimist, like the optimist, is wrong about 50 percent of the time. The difference? An optimist is cheerful 100 percent of the time.

And that’s a fact.

Well, not really, but you get the point.


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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

My sweet black angel: return of an old girlfriend


The girls feared it was something serious when I asked them to pause the TV and give me their full attention.

Val was away for the weekend and I’d succumbed to an ancient temptation that would require their immoral complicity.

“A man gets mighty lonely when his wife just up and leaves him (she’d been gone a total of three hours),” I said. “See, I’m just a man and a man has needs. So l when your mother said she was going away this weekend, I did something I knew was wrong. I got in touch with an old girlfriend.

“And she’s right now in the kitchen.”

The big drawback of never being serious is no one ever takes you seriously.

The last time I’d taken the drastic step of asking them to pause the TV was when I told them I’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, the incurable malady that leaves the stricken with uncontrollable shaking. I’d showed them what it might look like. They thought it was hilarious.

So they thought I was pulling their leg.

I was not.

Because in the kitchen right then was my sweet black angel.That’s the title of a Rolling Stones song from “Exile on Main Street.” But my sweet black angel was no wrongly accused pinup slave girl. 

She’s Mrs. Butterworth!

I’d met old girlfriends in bars before, but Mrs. B. is the only one I’ve met that comes with an actual bar code.

Twenty-four ounces of thick ’n’ rich original syrup, she somehow became a divisive presence in our marriage. I  don’t know why. It’s not like I ever took her to bed with me, wisely avoiding a truly sticky situation.



I think the problem was my wife knows I have a childlike affinity for zoomorphic packaging. 

She knows if there’s regular jar of honey that costs $4.59 and it’s right next to one holding the exact same amount of honey for $6.25, I’ll  spring for the more expensive honey if it comes in a bear-shaped bottle. 

What bottom-line people like her fail to realize is I’m not just purchasing honey.

I’m making a playmate.

Because a bear-shaped bottle of honey represents a whole world of whimsy.

I can role play. I can tickle it, rub its belly, pretend its lid is a hat. I can imagine ruthless Far Eastern hunters are out to slay it to confiscate its precious gall bladder which they believe contains powerful aphrodisiacs to empower their erections with lusty concubines.

Or I could pretend I’m the poacher eager to consume the ursine love potion and drain all the honey in one sloppy gulp.

I rarely presume the latter, aware as I am that I become less and less attractive to my wife the longer she sees me playing make-believe with near-empty jars of bear-shaped honey. 

Or maybe she’s jealous of Mrs. Butterworth.

She, I’m sure, remembers how I used to entertain the girls by picking her up in my arms, dancing her around the kitchen and telling her she’s the sweetest girl in the whole wide world (she is, too).

Maybe there’s a lesson here. 

Maybe we should all treat one another the way I treat my breakfast syrup. We should shower one another with compliments, pay lavish and complimentary attention to our appearance and make one another the centerpiece of at least one meal a day.

Of course, there are inherent flaws to my proposal because when I’m done with Mrs. Butterworth, I’ll unscrew her little yellow “hat,” fill her up with warm water, give her a vigorous shaking and toss her into the recycling bin until the next Mrs. B. comes along.

It’s all very rude.

The whole scenario speaks poorly of me, but what can I say?

For someone so adamant about recycling, I’m just a trashy guy at heart.



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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Fred Rogers: The kind of weirdo we should all aspire to be




There are a lot of crazy rumors about Mr. Rogers. He was a Navy Seal. An Army sniper. A garishly tattooed killer. He was none of those things.

What was Fred Rogers? Let me tell you …

Fred Rogers was a real weirdo. That is he was the kind of person whose behaviors were at odds with the rest of us normal folks. He was that kind of kind.

He wasn’t the first. Notable weirdos include Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa, John Lennon and Yoda. Oh, and most canines are weirdos, too. Like Fred, most every dog reflexively likes everyone he or she meets without first googling their name to determine status or means.

Weird, right?

So he wasn’t the first weirdo, but these days it seems fair to wonder if he was maybe the last. Who besides Fred, who died in 2003, seems capable of making kindness contagious?

Kindness, civility, compromise — these are all dismissed as prissy attributes, weakness, by leaders proud to boast their familiarity with bellicose quotes from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.”

How many know that it was Fred who when asked to list the three sure ways to ultimate success said, “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind …”

The third way? I forget, but it’s a safe bet it has more to do with kindness than killing.

An ordained Presbyterian minister, Rogers presided over just a handful of wedding ceremonies. One of them was for a Pittsburgh woman who was a show set designer; Mister Rogers was her boss and she used a deifying adjective to describe him. She was recalling describing the pre-wedding tumult when she locked everyone out of the room and was seriously thinking of bailing.

Then Fred knocked on the door. She let him in. “He started fixing my hair and telling me how this was meant to be. All my stress began to melt away. Truly, he was just so Christ-like.”

Ever work for a boss you’d describe as Christ-like? Do you know any aunt or uncle worthy of the description? How about clergy? Any popes fit the bill?

How about you? Ever done anything Christ-like?

Those are some big shoes to fill.

Well, sandals.

How about this? When was the last time you did something that could be described as Fred-like? Seems less daunting, doesn’t it?

In an era where we’re apt to like only the likable and the like-minded, he was going to — damn the torpedoes! — like you if you liked it or not. 

Here’s an example:

I’m friends with a guy who woke up feeling entitled to surliness. An invasive doctor appointment awaited. Traffic sucked. The weather was bitter. Who wouldn’t be in a sour state given those circumstances?

I can think of one guy.

“I was the world’s angriest and most unhappy man,” my friend said, “and the last person you want to see when you’re feeling like that is the world’s kindest man. But that was my fate. I ended up bumping into Fred Rogers.”

Unbeknownst to either, they’d simultaneously parked about a block from the same doctor’s office where each was being treated.

Maybe he could sense my friend was in a bad mood because Fred proceeded to do everything to bring some sunshine to cheer up this sour stranger. He was polite, cheerful, conversational, encouraging — silly even.

It was all very suspicious behavior.

“He kept making eye contact in the waiting room. I’d look up from my magazine and he’d be looking right at me. He’d say, ‘Hello!’ Happened 3 or 4 times. He was so relentlessly cheerful it felt like I was being punked. If it had been anybody but Mister Rogers it would have been really, really weird.”

Call it defiant kindness.

And it worked. He said, “He cheered me up. I’m living proof it’s impossible to be angry about anything after talking to Fred Rogers.”

The pity is that most of us would have stoically ignored or been alarmed even had it been anyone but Fred Rogers.

Ask yourself: Who’s the weirdo: The guy who recognizes a pained soul and works to heal it, or the one who refuses the therapy?

It’s a mindset we must overcome.

Join me. Let’s make the world a better place by being really weird. Weird like Fred.
Because we need to make being really, really nice really, really normal.


Monday, November 4, 2019

I now have a shoe fetish


When people read that disgraced Filipino first lady Imelda Marcos had nearly 3,000 pairs of fancy shoes they become outraged at the excess. How, they wonder, could she be so calloused to the suffering of others?

I contend her shoes were so well-made, the common callous never developed.

Me, I didn’t become outraged. I became envious.

See, I have just six pair of dress shoes. They’re all very nice. I care for them. I brag to friends about them. I love them less than my daughters, but more than the annoying little yip dog, who if he were ever made into shoes would likely still squeak with every step.

It’ll surprise many of you, I’m sure, but I’m becoming a bit of a dandy. 

I’m enjoying a higher profile. People are coming out to hear me talk or are stopping by here at The Tin Lizzy to meet me. Pictures are not uncommon. It’s very flattering so I consider it a happy obligation to appear presentable.

So me, a man who was the worst-dressed adult in every room for most of his meager life, is suddenly stylish. I enjoy shopping at Lapel’s in Greensburg for nice sports coats, designer shirts, etc. and just because I enjoy hanging with Kevin and Bob.

But what’s most peculiar is just how much of this new fashion mindset is being manifested in the feet, our most pedestrian feature —and all feet are at heart somehow pedestrian.

In the last year, I’ve spent more than I should’ve on fancy shoes, colorful socks and even went so far as to purchase sets of neon laces to accent the wingtips. I browse the pricey shoe websites, calculate affordability, and dream of the day I can justify an otherwise foolish purchase. And, yes, I’m aware of the folly of a man who spends 80 percent of his existence seated on his ass spending more than a few dollars on footwear.

I’m coming to terms with the fact I’ve got a bona fide shoe fetish — and it’s exclusive to my very own shoes.

That’s good because I don’t have to go to the trouble of stalking strangers. You could say as far as shoe fetishes go, mine is very handy!

How bad is it?

I acquired a little shoe shine kit. It has daubers, polishes, a chamois cloth and one of those stout shine brushes all stiff and bristly like it was lifted from the upper lip of some swarthy immigrant.

That makes sense. Why buy nice shoes if you’re not going to properly care for them?

What’s truly looney is how much time I spend wishing I were home polishing my shoes that are in no real need of further polishing. 

Shining my shoes gives me a peaceful feeling.

I wonder if Imelda felt this way.

She turned 90 in July. She must have her mortality on her mind — if she ever stops thinking about shoes.

Do you think her casket will be a modified shoe box?

I like her tone-deaf quote about how when she and her husband’s tyrannical rule was in 1986 playing out and revolutionaries were storming the palaces in search of improprieties and she defensively said: “They went looking in closets for skeletons and all they found were thousands of beautiful shoes!”

I wonder if any of the commoners started tearing through the stash certain he was going to find what were destined to be the most talked about shoes at the lanes on league bowling night.

The shoes were interesting enough that they wound up in two Manila-area shoe museums. And let’s pause for a moment to consider a metropolis thriving enough to host not one, but two shoe museums.

I have ti figure there must be six ir seven dedicated to the bra, allowing tourists to proclaim they were going to see them all in one day.

Or bust!

So I’ve got this a shoe addiction. Six isn’t enough and 3,000 is, well, excessive. But the want is strong.

I admit I have a problem. The next step is to try and kick the habit.

That’s the thing about kicking a shoe habit. 

It takes forever to decide what to wear on your feet when you’re kicking anything.



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