Thursday, September 24, 2020

My new book, Tin Lizzy signing & a euphoric fan


The sentimentalist and the crass self-promoter within me were at war as we drove to meet the 80-year-old widow who’d written me a gushy fan letter.

My friend Mark is her financial advisor. He usually buys 30 copies of my latest book and gives them to clients at Christmas.

This year he gave Charlotte a signed copy of my Fred Rogers book. Well, she just loved it and in her thank you note — how endearing — said my stories were hysterical, that I was her new favorite writer and included other compliments that in a bygone era would have lead me to conclude impure thoughts were justified.

So I sent her a “Crayons!” book and she just loved i, too. We began to correspond by mail — again, endearing!

I thought with the new book out it’d be a good time to surprise her. Mark agreed and yesterday we drove to her Greensburg home.

It occurred to me the surprise visit might yield some good video I could use for promotional purposes. But, as I told Mark, it might also ruin what had the potential to be a very sweet moment.

I believe pointing a camera at anything changes everything.

What if Charlotte was shy about her looks? She knew Mark, but she didn’t know me, a stranger in a mask. What if she had a heart condition? The video could become evidence in my manslaughter trial.

So I left the phone in my pocket and today I’m I awoke with the belittling and now-familiar taunt, “You’re such an idiot!”

Because the encounter with Charlotte was euphoric.

It was like we’d told her she’d won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. 

She hugged me and burst into tears. 

I don’t think I could have gotten a better reaction if I’d with one touch healed her infirmities and freed her from her walker.

I guarantee John Grisham has never seen a reaction like that. I understand  Grisham’s books are intended to entertain and mine, particularly “Crayons!,” have self-improvement elements, but my point persists.

In order for Grisham to see a reaction like the one I got from Charlotte, he’d have to endorse one of his royalty checks over to me.

And yet again I’m left to ponder the vast gulf between reader adulation and my dismal finances.

Will this new book finally bridge the divide? I’m hopeful yet realistic.

I’m losing significant income thanks to Coronavirus restrictions that rule out lucrative speaking engagements.

Should I give up? Take a second job? Maybe become a plumber?

I think I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing.

Getting reactions like the one I got from Charlotte convince me I must be doing something right.

Sure, it would’ve been nice to have it filmed, but I didn’t feel right blindsiding a sweet old widow.

Now, you, that’s a different story!

I’ll be signing my new book all day (and part of the night at Flappers) at the grand re-re-re-Opening of the feisty and resilient Tin Lizzy.

You’re welcome to stop by and say in 30 seconds or less why people should buy my books.

Sure you can do all that any day. You’re always welcome here. What makes Friday so special?

I’ll today be wearing the same outfit as the one I’m wearing on the ballyhooed cover of “Undaunted Optimist.”

Right down to the neon yellow socks.

Charlotte’s not the only one capable of being endearing.

Monday, September 21, 2020

I'm told I exude calmness; is it Parkinson's?


(767 words)

It was a startling sort of compliment about a man who appeared hard to startle.

That man was me.

We were having basement party cocktails with two other couples when a 40-ish woman I’d just met said I exuded calmness. Her smile made it clear she meant it as a compliment.

Of course, she did. We all seek reassuring calmness during these tumultuous times. The Weather Channel forecasts the floods and fires, while their cable counterparts forecast nothing but shit shows through 2021. 

True calm is as elusive as mercury on marble.

Am I calm? Hell, no!

Thanks to reports of random gun violence, I’m afraid of getting shot. And thanks to reports of the Election Day politicization of vaccines, I’m afraid of getting shots.

My book is coming out this week and I’m fearful it won’t do as well as my last two books. My last book had a smiling Mr. Rogers on the cover and it did very well. Fred Rogers is a globally recognized and universally beloved icon.

The book before that had a picture of Arnold Palmer on the cover and it did very well. Palmer is a globally recognized and universally beloved icon.

This book has a frowning picture of me on the cover appearing to be on the lookout for a bus that will never arrive. I’m a cheerful nobody grudgingly tolerated by about one-third of the people who frequent the Tin Lizzy.


Inwardly I seethe.

But her comment required a reply. I calmly evaluated the honest answers to what I’m calling the “I may look calm on the outside, but inside …” game.

• “… I’m horny!” — Mine was the first generation to grow up immersed in soft core cable porn on the then-new HBO. And by soft core I mean we could watch comely Angie Dickinson romping nude in R-rated movies like “Big Bad Mama” for hours and never see a penis — and I had a sporty one of those so I was fine with that. I don’t know if previous generations thought more about sex, but the only time mine’s not thinking about sex is when it’s time to think about what to put on the pizza. But announcing, “I’m horny!” in a room full of consenting adults can lead to complicated situations if, say, someone besides your wife replies, “What a coincidence … I’m horny, too!”

• “… I’m all talked out!” — Buck, my friend/landlord/inebriator/fellow philosopher, says life would be more bearable if when we were born we were each given, say, 500,000 words to use throughout our entire lives. People would be much more circumspect about wasting words on idle chat. Me, I’m closing in on 500,000 but it’s more that I don’t feel the need to yap as much as I once did. We’re in the midst of a Cat 5 word storm and I simply don’t feel obliged to contribute.

• “… I’m anxious!” — It’s like our lives have become an endless “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” loop.  The 1989 Billy Joel song compresses 40 years of panic headlines into 4:49 of melodic mayhem. Only now it’s like we’re living 40 years every 12 hours:

Comey Cohen Cuomo SNL RBG Stormy Daniels NOT FOR ME!


• “… I’m no longer graceful!” — It’s been two months since I tumbled on the way home from the bar (don’t judge me) and my foot has yet to heal. So sometimes when I appear calm, I’m really trying to game plan how to get to the bathroom without clumsying into the snack table. I know it’s beneficial to stay off it — and I try. But telling a two-legged man to give up walking is like telling a fish to stop swimming. So along I limp.

I could have said any of those things. But no. Here’s what I said:

“Now that you mention it, I am feeling rather serene.

“It’s either that or it’s another symptom of my Parkinson’s. I hear some people deal with a condition known as ‘frozen face.’ It’s when the muscles in the face refuse to react to expressive reflexes. I’ll be seeing my neurologist soon so I’ll ask her about it. You could be mistaking that for inner peace But that’s just Parkinson’s.

“Anyhoo. What were we talking about?”

No one made a sound. Every face had gone blank. They were completely immobilized.

Talk of my frozen face had iced theirs.

So I felt bad. My killjoy supposition’d bummed out the party.

Next time I’m just going to go ahead and tell everyone I’m good and horny.

Related …

Not broken, but … My foot injury

Speed reading as unwelcome as speed sex’’

So, okay, I have Parkinson’s

Monday, September 14, 2020

Where have all the really smart people gone?

To paraphrase an ever-relevant question about dire situations, what does Christopher Langan know and when did he know it?

Well, Langan knows most everything, most of it since age 3 when he began reading at an adult level.

Many scholars list Langan, 68, as the smartest person in the world. How smart?

His IQ is higher than most amateur bowling score. It is estimated to be between 195 and 210.

So his IQ is twice the average American IQ, which is 100.

If you’re feeling average, cheer up. I automatically add 25 points to anyone who reads my blog.

Buy a book and I’ll add 3.5 times that!

If only I could do the math.

Alas, I’m not smarrt, er, smart.

But I’ve always admired men and women who are and tried to learn from them.

That’s how I came across Langan’s name. I was writing something that would benefit from an example of superior intellect, a real brainiac.

And I was stumped.

All I could think of was Albert Einstein (estimated IQ: 160). But that’s cliche. Certainly I could come up with a current example, some living genius upon whom we can all agree.

But no. In America today we’ve so devalued honest-to-goodness intelligence, we couldn’t recognize it if it threw a chalk eraser at our heads. 

In fact, nearly everyone knows the richest person (Jeff Bezos, $114 billion). People Magazine threw us a curveball for sexiest man of 2020 when it named Anthony Fauci the recipient, taking over the title from John Legend.

Shouldn’t the smartest American be a celebrity, someone we all know and refer to when we’re seeking to bolster our arguments with genius backing.

I asked friends their opinions. Their answers prove many people confuse the accumulation of wealth with intelligence.

Many said the late Steve Jobs. They’re mistaken. Just because you put GENIUS on employee T-shirts doesn’t mean you are one.

This, I understand, is a vast oversimplification, but it seems to me Jobs awoke every morning consumed with thoughts on how to cram another 500 songs in our pockets. He did this as climate change raged and pandemics loomed.

Yes, the world is going to hell but, thanks to Jobs, we’ll all be groovin’ when we get there.

I kept waiting — fool that I am — for Jobs to declare, “Okay enough nonsense for now. Me and my fellow geniuses are going back into the garage and we’re not coming out until we invent a ‘green’ internal combustion engine that runs on all the perfectly functional old iPhone versions we’ve suckered you into buying over the years. See you in six months.”

If you were a genius, wouldn’t you want to be working on something historic — something like extending the life of the planet.

I think it’s what Einstein would have urged. 

One of my favorite stories on Einstein involved when he got a letter from a 12-year-old girl who posed  to him the all-time puzzler: What is the meaning of life?

In so many words he said, I’ve thought about it and all I can conclude is we’re not here to make money or accumulate wealth.

The only reasonable conclusion, he said, must be we’re here to help one another.

Gee, even poor, stupid people can do that.

Which brings us back to Christopher Langan. At a time when the oceans are rising and the West is burning, what is this man who some tests say is more intelligent than Einstein doing?

He raises cattle in Missouri.

It seems like yet another tremendous waste of a precious natural resouce. 

So I have at least one thing in common with the world’s smartest man

We’re both engaged in ultimately pointless activities that result in huge piles of crap. Him equine, me this blog.

How does the admission make me feel?

It smarts!

• Interested in reading more on Christopher Langan? Here’s an interesting Esquire story, “The Smartest Man in America.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Trump in Latrobe! Aunt Milley goes nuts!

This is one of those days I’m regretful I vowed to always let readers know where I stand on the issues. Or in my case where I slouch, lean or nap.

Well, President Trump is coming to Latrobe to speak tonight and I’m wishing I didn’t feel compelled to opine. Nothing good can come from it — and in the case of me opining and Trump speaking that’s a two-fer.

The notion will anger my Trump-despising friends. They think I’m too soft on him and should feel an obligation to bash Trump and all his voting enablers, both native and Russian.

And — there — mild jabs like that will infuriate my Trump-loving friends, many of whom are surprisingly thin-skinned when it comes to defending someone whose skin is so abundant Hannibal Lechter would describe him as “roomy.”

Really, if I thought I could change even one mind, I’d do it. It would be a monumental accomplishment.

I’d start by rescuing Aunt Millie (not her real name). We’ll get back to her.

But, as I’ve said many times, it’s impossible to change the minds of the mindless — and I include myself in the description.

My mind is made-up. So is yours, I’m sure. We’ve reached a point in America where the only time a mind changes is when it undergoes ballistic intervention. And the lethal frequency of these atrocities is sadly trending up.

If violence isn’t the answer then how come we’re always asking the question?

And now, again, it’s all about race. The pity is when it comes down to blacks and whites the issues are never black and white.

Many of my neighbors are wondering if he’ll stop at the wildly popular Trump House, not even 1/2 mile from my Tin Lizzy HQ,

He may, but that’s not going to win him any votes. He’s got that crowd locked up — and I mean that metaphorically. It’s the border-crossing children he has locked up.

That’s why I’d advise him to stop for a photo op at the downtown Fred Rogers statue. Here’s a good Fred quote: “The three keys to ultimate success are: Be kind. Be kind. And be kind.”

It’s very uplifting and stands in stark contrast to the most famous Trump quote which involves grabbing women by their genitalia, which I guess could be called up-skirt-lifting.

The Fred park is special. Many people go there for solace, for soul-searching.

It’d be breaking news if Trump found he has one.

Now, that was another cheap shot. Sorry. Just playing to the base.

I wonder if it would change any minds if you could see on video the bronze Fred statue actually begin to scowl at Trump’s approach.

That’s the kind of joke I told over dinner last night as we coincidentally sat down  with four-Trump-loving friends.

Surprised? Yes, some of our very best friends are Trump supporters, which I guess is the pandering equivalent to a Trump fan declaring some of their best friends are black (lives matter).

These days, I enjoy the company of most anyone who doesn’t traffic in the crazy conspiracy theories.

Sadly, that means I’m done with Aunt Milley. I don’t know why I’m fictionalizing her into an aunt when she’s a true granny and that’s plenty folksy. She used to dote on our kids, bring them candy and volunteer at the church.

Well, we miss her.

Did I mention poison politics have turned her into a racist bitch?

Her Facebook feed is all Q anon, wacko theories on blood-sipping pedophiles (DYK even Tom Hanks is one of those?)  And then there are the ugly racist musings about the Obamas.

It’s no longer enough to merely disagree on policy. You now must ascribe phantasmagorical villainy to your opponent.

We lose so much when we weaponize our passions.

It’s becoming common to speculate whether or not we’re on the brink of a new Civil War.

Fat chance, I say.

In America today, civility was the first casualty.

Welcome to The Incivil War.

Related …

Monday, August 31, 2020

August Tweets of the Month -- Hooray!

Buy books from me and this is likely to be the return address. I found out many years ago that people treat Rev. Rodell way better than they do plain old Mr. Chris Rodell. Enjoy this month's tweets! 

• Bob Dylan is 79. He's been singing "Knocking on Heaven's Door" since 1973. Who else thinks when he passes on &  knocks on heaven's door, they’re gonna  say, "It's just that Dylan kid again. He's been knock-knock-knockin' on heaven's door for 47 years. Just ignore him. He'll eventually go away.

• Can’t disagreeing on policy be enough? Do you have to say your opponents are blood-sipping pedophiles intent on elevating Satan? You're making hating you right back far too easy.

• Constitutional scholars on all the Sunday news shows advising what to do if Trump loses election and refuses to leave the White House. What to do? Barricade him IN. He can't leave. Then tell him you're cutting the cable.

• An idealistic young friend sheepishly confided in me she dreams of becoming a Supreme Court justice. I told her not everyone can become a Supreme Court justice, but everyone can live in ways that'll ensure they're treated with the same respect as one.

• The only thing getting me through this toxic divisiveness is the knowledge that come Nov. 4, all our differences will be set aside - best man won - and we shall march forward together & solve ALL our nation's problems. Because we're ALL Americans.

Kidding! We're screwed.

• New Muppet show (Disney +) getting rave reviews with one critic calling it "uproarious, joyful & heartfelt." Me, I'm tickled anytime a creation described as "heartfelt" comes with a felt heart. 

• Oh, Facebook, so stingy with your 7 measly emoji! Don't you realize most of us feel 7,000 emotions when we ask ourselves, "Has enough time lapsed since the last time I checked Facebook?”

• I’ll be despondent all week knowing county fair canceled. Deprives me of opportunity of standing in front of rabbit exhibit & singing, "Can ... Any Bunnny ... Find Me .. Some Bunnny Tooo Luvvv? Some Bunny! (some bunny) Some Bunny! (some bunny) Find Me Some Bunny to Love!”

• I’d like to thank the rest of the world for putting up with historic upheaval, civil unrest and more than 773K deaths just so we Democrats here in the US can get rid of Trump. We promise to return you to your regularly scheduled programming Nov. 4.

• Teaching the value of writing to people who don't read is like trying to teach fish the value of fresh air

• Toilet paper hoarders beware: it ain't all it's cracked up to be and sooner or later you're bound to hit bottom.

• I’d like to see Trump deliver Biden's acceptance speech and Biden Trump's. Imagine the eye rolls, the sarcasm, the body language mockery. It'd be as insightful as it was entertaining.

• Even in normal times, most well-off people live lives of deep ingratitude. Ask them to count their blessings and many will begin the count with negative numbers.

• Given our inability to agree on even basic facts, I believe we're on course that in the next few weeks every other American will be able to at any time wear an "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt and be indisputably correct .

• Help me understand: What do people who don't like Bob Dylan talk about when there's one of those uncomfortable lulls in the conversation?

Friday, August 21, 2020

I knew gay-slurring Cinci announcer: What's he like?

I’ve made the decision to use the currently inflammatory word “faggot” without coy deceptions — not because Cincinnati broadcaster Thom Brennamen got into trouble for using it.

Because Winston Churchill did not.

Brennaman is losing lucrative gigs left and right for saying into a hot mic that Kansas City was one of the “fag capitals of the world.”

Silly me. I always dreamed of going to KC for barbecue.

I know I’m diminished by the admission, but the instant I heard his name, my first thought was, “Faggot.”

See, I knew Thom. We tended bar together at The Nickelodeon, the most popular bar in Athens, Ohio, where we both attended Ohio University from 1981-85.

To me he was never just Thom. No was, he “that fag Thom,” or in reference to his fraternity, “Thom the Beta fag.” It was all very juvenile, although I do recall once seeing on a bar chalk board the clever “Thom is ghay.”

If you judged by my friends declarations, the gay population in Athens back in the ’80’s was pushing 60 percent.”

The social world wasn’t so much black or white as it was cool or gay. Everything was one or the other.

Tom Petty was cool (and not just because he spelled Tom without the superfluous “h”). Duran Duran? Gay Gay.

Was Cincinnati gay? It was The Queen City, wasn’t it? The Reds were gay so their famous announcer, Marty Brennaman, had to be. We figured he must have been on some sort of gay sabbatical when he fathered Thom.

What was pure cool? Me and my buddies.

Still are!

About six of us worked at The Nick. Looking back, it was the best job I ever had. We were like kings, deciding who did and did not get served. We picked the tunes, made good tips, drank for free and exhibited a carefree kind of camaraderie that the girls found irresistible.

Well, irresistible at least to the girls who weren’t gay. 

Thom was part of this happy mix. What strikes me most in hindsight is how little an impression this soon-to-be-famous man made. 

We never shared a laugh, engaged a prank or fought over a chick (can I even say “chick” anymore?).

It was like he believed this really cool job with all these really great guys was just a tedious way station towards a future assured to be filled with lucrative network gigs at high-profile events, free golf, lusty babes, etc..

And he was prophetic. That’s exactly how it happened

Sure, his duties would take him to the occasional fag capital, but as long as he didn’t announce the now toxic-pejorative, he needn’t worry. Why would he?

Thom was ghay, but he wasn’t shtupid.

So I say all this and now I surprise myself by saying the dominant emotion I’m now feeling isn’t glee.

It’s pity. It’s forgiveness.

Sure, he was a lousy bartender, a surprisingly colorless co-worker for a man who’d go on to broadcast color sportscasts to millions.

But he seems like a decent man.

I do not believe he should be burned at the stake — especially when no less a grand wordsmith than Winston Churchill wrote about stake-burnings fueled by pyramids of faggots.

It was he who in his excellent 1956 book, “History of the English-Speaking Peoples,” wrote of the execution of Joan of Arc (1412-1431):

“High upon the pyramid of faggots the flames rose toward her and the smoke of doom wreathed and curled.”

Thus in just 64 years the term “pyramid of faggots,” has gone from a description of a bundle of sticks to something that conjures, I guess, a nimble troupe of homosexual acrobats.

Who knows what faggot will mean in 2080?

My point is I don’t think guys like me and Thom were prejudice. We didn’t mean anything by it.

So go ahead and describe us both with an anatomical word whose meaning even time stands powerless to alter.

We’re not prejudiced.

We’re assholes.

Related … 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Dismayed over USPS attacks

If I were to write exclusively about all the stuff that dismays me I’d have to write five times a day through at least, well, dis May.

Zoom meetings, mask etiquette, fan-less sports broadcasts, Fauci-bashing, arid forecasts and the fact that any day now we’re bound to hear Paul McCartney sing, “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime!”

But there’s one dismay I simply can’t let go without addressing, and this is an address about things that require proper postage.

Quit sowing doubt about the United States Post Office!

I love the post office for all it’s shoe leather glories and nitty-gritty idiosyncrasies. Plus, its straight-faced bureaucratic administration makes it a dandy target for pranks.

Like the time I in 1996 when I mailed a set of false teeth.

Not false teeth in a box. Just false teeth.

It was part of a stunt story I was asked to do by rascally editors at National Enquirer. They wanted to see if the post office would deliver common — uncommon, really — items if the addresses were put right on the items, stamped, and just dropped without explanation in the corner mailbox.

Other items included a toupee, a coconut, a rubber snake and a big bag of goo. 

Delivery success rate? One hundred percent!

Every step along the way, the system indiscriminately treated each oddball item with the same due care as if it were a tax refund or other important government document.

The false teeth belonged to my late grandfather. He removed them from the mailbox, popped them straight into his mouth and began to devour multiple ears of corn on the cob.

Papa loved his fresh summer corn.

The inspiration for my next postal prank had a wintry cast.

I remember enjoying the kind of Florida lark where you want to rub it in to all your snow-bound buddies. To do so, in those pre-internet/live stream days you’d often resort to that charming staple, the scenic post card.

I bought about a dozen Florida-themed ones; about half with palm trees, beach scapes, manatees ’n’ shit. The rest were basically soft core porn, babes in bikini — fairly innocuous stuff. Nothing you’d think that would jolt the testosterone of your typical postal carrier.

But not when that postal carrier is, well, a typical male man.

Because I soon detected an obvious pattern. The sexy post cards were taking 5 to 7 days longer to get delivered than the scenic innocents — and most of the sexy’s had thumbtack holes in them.

The implications were clear: Some of the men were snatching the “Sunset Over Cleavage” pictures and securing them above their work stations so they could get their jollies while mind-numbing streams of bills, periodicals and other funtional mail went whizzing by.

Who could blame them?

I needed an official postal response as to why the sexies took longer.

“Pure coincidence,” was the answer.

I asked what would happen if we repeated the experiment.

“The men and women of the USPS would be grateful for your patronage.”

I asked how the thumbtack holes appeared in the fleshy ones, but marred not one the sexies. Did he consider that, too, a “coincidence.”

“No,” he said, never breaking character, “I’d say that was, er, flukey!”

I think my best idea regarding the post office wasn’t about making me money. Rather it could make them money.

Introducing vanity zip codes!

I reasoned that, like vanity license plates, local governments would pay extra for zip codes that matched their promotional themes.

The idea stemmed from dealing with my late mother’s dementia. She kept mailing us letters that never arrived. She was forgetting the zip code.

“It’s hard remembering five numbers,” she’d say.

She had dementia, but I remember thinking, you know, she’s right. It easier to remember one number instead of five.

It’s how we almost moved the whole family to tiny Newton Falls, Ohio, home to the easiest to remember zip code in the USA: 44444.

The only easier-to-remember number is likely 12345 in Schenectady, N.Y. Of course, living there would mean forever having to spell Schenectady and that would never do.

The link to the original post is down below. I’d encourage you to read it, as well as the other posts. Each fairly bristles with fresh insights, few of which are evident here.

I make no apologies.

I think readers will understand that when one writes about the post office it is unavoidable to every once in a while mail it in.

Related …