Thursday, June 30, 2022

May/June tweets of the Month(s)


• Val was rattled this week after seeing a picture of her late mother from when she was 4 years younger than Val is today. Her mother appeared much older. Told Val she shouldn't be surprised. She works very hard at eating right and remaining fit, has a natural beauty and, in fact, looks better today than the day we met. And if I saw her in a bar today, there'd be only one thing that would prevent me from hitting on her. What's that? I'm a happily married man.

• I guess the reason it's customary for adults to ask graduates what they intend to do with their lives is because deep down we're fearful they might turn the tables and ask us what our lives have done to us.

• I’m troubled by the words we use to describe our state of sleep. We can be either "wide" awake or "sound" asleep. One's dimensional, the other makes me think of noises. Is it possible to be narrow awake or noiselessly asleep? I'd say I was going to sleep on it but that's unlikely.

• After going dark in recent years, Ringling Bros. announces its big comeback. The elephant in the room is that there will be no elephants in the room.

• I find myself being oddly drawn to friends -- not based on character or behavior -- but on how game-  appropriate their names are for Wordle. So sorry, ARCHIBALD TERWILLIGER, you go straight to voice mail if I sense OSCAR BRANT might call.

• Starting today, I shall begin to refer to the fast food wrappers, stray receipts, old magazines, etc. that litter my vehicle interior collectively as "carbage." Not to be confused with cabbage, although I've found some of that back there, too.

• Because I enjoy testing the tolerance of inanimate objects -- and I'm including humans -- when I say "inanimate" -- tomorrow for my first Wordle guess I'm typing in the letters LBGTQ to see if my computer explodes.

• I’ve learned from bitter experience that, although mashed, baked & circular gum may resemble a potentially lucky penny, the gum is much more difficult to lift off the city sidewalk and ultimately it is barely worth the free chew.

• That I can't recall ever having spent any quality time at a popsicle stand, yet have blown hundreds of them, leads me to believe I have some serious commitment issues.

• Thanks Greensburg Barnes & Noble for featuring, not 1, but 2, of my titles on the great books for Dads table. For those keeping score at home, that's Rodell 2, Grisham 0.

• Okay, NASA announces a life-extinguishing asteroid will strike the earth in 8 minutes. And that's it. We're cooked. What would you do with your 8 minutes? Pray? Hug loved ones? I blame Mom's hyper-parenting but I'm pretty sure I'd brush my teeth and put on some fresh underwear. Then, what the heck, maybe rob a bank. 

• I’ll never understand the voluntary insanity of busting your ass for 5 days straight only to wage war with nature on the 2 days you're given to relax. We've reached a stage where we return to our Monday toils in need of 2 precious days to relax. We're all weakened by our weekends.

• Proving once again I'm unworthy of staying in nice places, I spent 2 minutes jumping up and down on a stationary disc trying to get it to register my weight before I realized I was jumping up and down on the roomba.

• ”He speaketh with forked tongue," was once one of the most stinging insults a native American could utter against the White Man. It meant he was a liar, incapable of telling the truth. What does that make me? I confess to fibbing, to shading the truth, to sometimes embroidering fact with fancy. I speaketh with sporked tongue.

• Damsels lead lives fraught with peril. Damsels are always in distress. Just once I'd like see a damsel in, say, a laundromat.

• The best diagnostic proctologists are crack investigators.

• On this Father's Day, I confess to being uncomfortable watching racy movies with our daughters. I don't like excessive profanity. Violence makes me queasy. And I leave the room once the sex goes beyond the consensual dry hump. Fuddy-duddy? No. Fuddy-Daddy!

• I covet the grandfather clock at the place we're staying. So much I've thought of stealing it. But it's big, it's heavy and moving it would be a lot of work. I think I'll just steal a watch. I'm but a small time thief.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Who stole my American flag?


(Masking tape above shoes shows where stolen flag was)

(791 words)

The crack team of amateur sleuths I brought in to solve the crime found a glaring breech that they said practically invited theft. It was a mere 6 inches.

That was all the crook needed to sashay into my office and shatter a sense of trust I’ve fostered for the seven years my office has been above the landmark Tin Lizzy in Youngstown, Pa., (pop.  324; defining characteristic — one stop light/ six liquor licenses).

The gap isn’t between the walls, doors or windows.

This gap is between my ears.

“What kind of idiot has a lock on his door and doesn’t use it — and in a building full of drunks?”

It may sound conceited, but I believe only the very best kind of idiot would do such a thing.

I’ve always taken pride in having an open door in case any Tin Lizzy patron interested in my books wanted to come by and peek at my office, which appears to have been furnished completely in the style period of Early 8th Grader.

There are drawings from the kiddos, crayon nicknacks, and out-of-focus pictures of me with loved ones and buddies in various stages of sobriety. 

I contend every office would look like my office if big shot execs didn’t care about trying to impress visitors with how their office looked. 

So I never locked the door. Hell, I rarely closed the door. 

I believe the theft occurred late Thursday night. I walked up the three flights of stairs to my office and noticed little things were amiss. Some posters were down. A fan had been moved. The chair was facing the other way.

I was confused enough that it took me about 30 seconds to notice one big thing was amiss.

My American flag had been ripped off the wall.

Who steals a flag?

In some ways it’s the perfect crime. You can fly it off your front porch and nobody’s going to say, “Call the cops! That looks like Rodell’s flag!”

It’s become stylish to alter the American flag to suit your outrage du jour. I’ve seen standard flags emblazoned with “Don’t Tread on Me!” Some have abandoned the red, white and blue to celebrate sexual orientations in rainbow pastel. And some exhort NASCAR driver Brandon Brown to accelerate.

So compared to those my flag’s a bit of a bore. It’s red, white and blue, 50 stars, 13 stripes. The dimensions are 3x5, or roughly the same size as Superman’s cape.

It looks like every other flag. You’ll see a million just like it over the next week.

What made it special is known only to me and my family.

It is a battle flag.

Now, I’ll understand if proud veterans belittle my contention that my stolen flag was flown in battle. There are no bullet holes. It is not singed by enemy fire. It has no mud I can claim was splattered from Iwo Jima, Normandy or Dien Bien Phu.

It was purchased 21 years ago at a Latrobe flag store from a flustered proprietor who couldn’t believe I’d called to inquire if on that day his store was open.

“No, we’re not open! Aren’t you watching the news?”

I told him the news was why I’d called.

But apparently flag sales are so precisely seasonal that it never occurred to him why out-of-the-blue a stranger was calling about purchasing an American flag on this crisp Fall morning.

It was September 11, 2001.

He must have thought I needed some orange and purple Halloween pumpkin flags.

And that’s how I wound up forking over $26.95 for an American flag that some likely drunk just had to have in the middle of the night when no one was watching.

Also stolen was a 15-year-old iPod Classic I relied on for loud musical inspiration for nearly every word I’ve written since 2007; and a ceramic owl with a coin-sized slot in it dome for change, a gift from the Reynoldsville Public Library for speaking there in 2017

So I’m looking for a patriotic thief with good taste in music and an excess of pocket change. 

I hope the culprit brings it all back or at least stops by to argue why my stuff should be in his house.

I suppose many of you are feeling outrage on my behalf, but I’d encourage you to let those feelings go.

I have very little, but the best parts of me — and you — are the parts that cannot be locked up or stolen. 

And I’d rather folks see me as an open door and wonder what’s in my head than hear I cower behind a fortress and wonder if I have a heart.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

LIV golf: What would Arnold Palmer do? An "insider's" view


(829 words)

Because I sense the threshold of interest has been breached, I’m going to respond to a question I have no business responding to. But people keep asking.

The question is: What would Arnold Palmer do if the bloodthirsty Saudi Arabian sheiks offered him, say, $200 million — what they’re paying Phil “Lefty” Mickelson — to join their upstart LIV Saudi professional golf tour?

I was not in any way a Palmer confidant.

True, I did interview him more than 100 times over 20 years, but I was in no way privy to any of the high stakes business decisions that earned him at the time of his 2016 death, an estate of about $700 million.

When asked, I’d tell people that, indeed I was in his orbit, but I was sorta like Pluto. And people argue over whether Pluto’s even a planet anymore.

So let’s cut to the chase.

Would Arnold Palmer have taken Saudi oil money to abandon the PGA to promote their LIV golf tour?

No way.

I think Arnold Palmer would vehemently reject the blood money.  Palmer had too much class. He was honorable. He was loyal. He was content with his portions.

I close my eyes and can imagine him indignantly saying it’s something he never considered.

But how about the people who advised him on how to make money? Would they consider it?

Oh, you bet your ass they would. In fact, I can imagine his advisors arguing he’d be crazy not to take it.

They’d see a check with all those zeroes, calculate their percentage and begin to whisper in The King’s ear, psst, you know, boss, you can do a lot of good with that kind of dough.

You can be an agent of change.You can be an inspiration to the downtrodden Saudis. 

Like knowing how to hit a low fade in high wind would improve the disposition of a 18-year-old kid who’s facing a death sentence because the secret police busted him flirting with Abdul down at the neighborhood coffee shop.

But, c’mon, $200 million! Who could refuse?

I remember on “Dallas” J.R Ewing urging young Bobby, the idealisj, “Once you get past ethics, the rest is easy.”

But this isn’t fudging the totals in the annual report. This is murdering and hacking to bits dissident journalists. This is the mass execution of homosexuals. This is the place that 75 percent of the 9/11 hijackers called home.

That would barely factor into the bottom-line totals of the men and women who’d be urging Palmer, a national treasure, to chuck it all to pile millions on top of other millions until the stack reaches the cruising altitude of his private jet.

Why would they do that?

It was their job.

A true Palmer insider once confided to me that Palmer told him that his job (Palmer’s) was “to always be the nicest guy in the room,” and that it was “my job was to be the meanest SOB in the room.”

Interestingly, the guy was the company ice cream dipper.


He was an attorney.

I’m convinced none of the bottom-line crowd would have changed Palmer’s mind. But I could see them persuading the likes of Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and others of their weasely ilk.

But those guys shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as Palmer.

Hell, they shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as … me!

I’ve never told this story before, not even to Val. But about ten years ago, I was contacted by a childhood chum who wanted me to write his life story.

It was the story of how in 20 years he’d gone from being just another shady businessman to being a Japanese smut mogul.

He told me he’d built a pornography and prostitution empire from scratch. He said the story involved drugs, murder and lots of sex.

I remember imaging me doing late-night opium den interviews with beguiling geishas.

He told me he’d pay me $100,000.

I checked it out. His story was legit.

And I said no.

Now, this pay wouldn’t be anywhere near as tainted as Saudi golf money, but a part of me just felt it wasn’t right for me.

I call that part of me the stupid part. Because, I instead accepted $5,000 to write a book called “Manly Golf: 50 Ways to Muscle Your Way to Victory.” And, certainly, that book — it came with a blister pack of fake tattoos! — is as embarrassing as anything that would have come from a year’s worth of interviewing Asian strippers.

We live in a time when conspicuous excess isn’t considered sinful. In fact, it is by many exalted as virtue.

But there are values we learned in pre-school that still prevail.

That’s why I think people are making this one complicated when it’s actually very simple.

It’s a simple case of right and wrong.

Or to be more specific, a case of right and Lefty.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Let's extend marriage by making it by the numbers

(624 words)

My wife of 25 years and I are in the habit of concluding most every day by saying, “I love you.” We both say it in a whisper and we both know hearing “I love you,” means it’s time to shut the hell up and try to get some sleep.

Simple math says we’ve said, “I love you,” to one another roughly 6,500 times.

With all due respect to Led Zeppelin, that’s a whole lotta love.

She’s unlikely to admit to it, but I’ll bet maybe as many as 1,400 of her declarations included the unspoken modifier, like if she’d completed the statement outloud, she’d say, “I love you, asshole!”

I suspect the situation is similar in marriages of any duration, but particularly with those of extended familiarity.

I’d heard a friend in a bar, a long-time married man, contend that time worked against successful marriage. He said the idea of being married-for-life became fashionable when human life expectancy was capped at about 40 years.

“Back then, people would get hitched when they were 18 years old and at their weddings they’d say, ‘I’m going to love this gal for the rest of my life.’ Then after 20 years they say, ‘Boy, the old lady and I are just sick of one another. But the good news is we’ll both likely be dead in the next couple years so we might as well stick it out.”

Note: His wife ended up hooking up with a sporty young aerobics instructor down at the gym and he spent his later years lamenting why he spent so many boozy evenings in dim bars philosophizing about marriage with guys like me rather than being home sparking the missus.

Today, it’s not uncommon for marriages to last 50 or more years.

’til death us do part?

Don’t wait up.

It’s why I wonder about the custom of repeating nightly I-love-yous to bleary bedmates who fall sound asleep during the “Seinfeld” rerun.

I’m proposing a numeric solution to every marriage that’ll spice things up with a game show element to what is now rote communication.

Instead of saying a stagnant I love you to a disbelieving spouse, you’d say, “8.”

Or “2.”

Each day we’d honestly evaluate one another on the 1-to-10 scale.

If she mowed the lawn, cleaned the gutters and still found time for evening romance, give her a 9.

If he came home sober enough to haul the kids to softball practice and remained alert through out the “Ozark” finale, it was kind of a wash. Sounds to me like a 5.

Couples could go out to dinner once a month to tally the totals. Loser buys. 

More than that, the loser would be incentivized to do improve. I know if I saw a monthly score where Val was beating me, say, 232 to 129, it would light a fire under my butt.

I mean, what real man could tolerate such pride-busting beatings without doing something, anything, to correct the embarrassing discrepancy?

Other than Pittsburgh Pirate owner Bob Nutting, of course

Marriage is often referred to as a journey, which makes it sound too poetic to me.

It’s more like a cross-country, interstate delivery dash where both spouses have their hands on the wheel.

There will be detours, traffic delays, breakdowns and, at times, a question if you’re going to make it all the way. 

You’re Smokey. She’s Bandit.

It helps if you both understand you’re both in for the long haul.

And that’s a big 10-4, good buddy!

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that last line was nostalgic trucker jargon or what I anticipate the respective scores Val and I earn from one another.

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Friday, April 29, 2022

April Tweets of the Month w/no Musk mention


• It should come as no surprise but, given our sedentary natures, most standstills have become sit stills.

• The exclamation point is to punctuation what the erection is to the male ego. The more you expose it, the more likely it begins to bore those it was intended to thrill.

• Told the kids one of the best ways to get ahead is to ignore the advice of mediocre adults. They pretended not to hear me ... I know. I have only myself to blame.

• To my everlasting shame, I remember in my surly youth seeing an old man limping in front of me, impeding my stride. I remember with a mix of exasperation and disdain thinking, "What's WRONG with you, old man." Much time has passed and today the only time I think such contemptuous thoughts is when I'm looking in the mirror.

• How empty would your house be if all the glasses, towels, tools, and whatnot were suddenly returned to the bars, hotels, employers, and neighbors you stole/borrowed them from when your ethics were less rigorous?

• I’ve run my own websites, zoom called 'round the globe, etc. Trust me. I'm tech competent. If that's so how come after I've successfully weighed, paid, and bagged 12-items or fewer, I look around at the people in the self-scan line behind me like I'm waiting for one of them to hand me a football to spike.

• I wish there was a superhero whose power was the ability to call a square dance so seductively that battlefield soldiers would -- yee! ha! -- drop their weapons and commence to dosey-doin'. This would give Freedom Fighters the chance to swoop in and declare victory or -- boy! howdy! -- enlist in the shin dig.

• I’m so messed up that when someone introduces me as "good people," I can't tell whether they're flattering my character or talking in code to inform others about my multiple personality disorder. Part of me thinks it's the former, another part of me thinks…

• I’m so vain about my influence, if someone ran into my office and in a panicky voice told me a zombie horde was here to "pick my brain," I'd prepare notes on an array of interesting topics and tell her to let them in when she hears the tea kettle whistle and not a second before!

• Facebook is the perfect venue for keeping up with friends we really ought to just call but never do for fear that if we did call they might answer

• In what was one of life's cruelest ironies, we spent an unbroken 2 hrs/ 40 mins listening to a man talk about his artistic career. With no regard for our interest or the endurance of our collective bladders, he talked and talked .. The irony is the man was a .. MIME! Swear to God

• I wonder how much money you have to have in your IRA before you can with a straight face say, "It's only money." I'd never insult money so cavalierly. Guaranteed, no one who's ever said, "It's only money," has ever googled how much he or she could get on the black market for a spare kidney. I'll save you the trouble: ballpark, $65,000.

• What is it about human nature that when we verbalize the common, conversational ice-breaker, "So, how you been?" the response we dread hearing the most is the one that involves them actually and thoughtfully telling us how they've been.

• I know this is going to cause many people to label me as prejudiced, but to me they all look alike. They all sound alike, they exhibit the same behaviors, and it’s hard to tell one from the other. I'm not talking blacks, Jews, Chinese, etc. I'm talking superhero movies. Seen one, seen ‘em all.

• True gender equality will remain elusive until someone invents a public toilet seat that renders moot the whole seat up/seat down puzzler, one the average male can figure out before he either urinates all over the stall or himself.

• I asked daughter, 15, to imagine what it was like to be forced to talk into phone where everyone could hear me. The static I had to put up with when my parents busted me ordering beer and buying dope for the weekend kegger. Who can blame me for splitting for Vegas when I turned 12?

• Studies show typical woman needs just 5 seconds to decide if she'd sleep with a man she just met. I believe it takes men longer, but only because men, being practical, are factoring in scenarios where he and the woman must engage in the process of repopulating the entire planet.

• One of the unmentioned benefits of having a smart phone is the reduction of embarrassing "senior moments." Now, instead of feeling defeated by memory loss, we just look up the answer. That is if we can remember where we put the damn thing ...

—  <<  >>  —

• I dreamt I was gazing out all around the world and everywhere I looked all I saw was ruin, injustice, and want. I shouted to the Heavens, “What can I do to bring peace to this sad world?” A trumpet sounded and I heard a voice say, “You can write a madcap novel about eternity, soulful redemption, and a love so hard it can forgive every sin.”

This I have done.

Who am I kidding? The title popped into my head one night and I thought, now, that’d be a fun story to tell. 

Plus, I didn’t really have anything better to do …

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Confessions of a straight man who detests fruits in his bar


(1009 words)

This is the kind of reckless confession that in these sensitive times  is bound to backfire, but here goes:

I’m at heart a straight man who detests seeing lots of fruits in his bar.

Bear with me.

See, I’m the kind of guy that spends a lot of time sitting in bars wondering why I spend so much time sitting in bars.

It’s not that I’m lonely. Ever.

Sit in bars as long as I do and you’re bound to spend some of the time waiting for someone to sit next to you. I think it makes some people uncomfortable to see a man or woman solitarily engaged in thought. 

One bar patron likes to point out when I’m sitting alone that I’m sitting there all alone.

“There’s Rodell, sitting there with all his friends,” he’ll snort.

I tell him that a man with a thousand voices in his head is never alone. That’s true. I have a ceaseless inner dialogue going on that may or may not include the topics of baseball, politics, science, arts and what the romance writers refer to as “l’amour.”

My kids are now 21 and almost 16. So if I go home it’s likely they’ll be watching televised entertainment aimed at their demographic and hip mothers like the fair Valerie. The three of them cuddle up on the couch and watch movies that seek a broad audience, true, but mostly an audience of what my old man used to call broads.

What they now call chik flix.

So I tend to linger at the bar waiting for someone fun or interesting to sit next to me for conversation.

On nights when no one does, I sit there thinking, really, I should just go home. But I always recollect the night from about four years ago when I was stationed at my corner stool in Flappers, one of three solid bars in the Tin Lizzy, by happy coincidence where my office is.

It was a Friday evening around 8. I was surrounded by groups of happy, chatty people and I was all alone.

I’m now almost 60, so my roster of wingman drinking buddies is thinning (even as their profiles are heading in the other direction). Some are dying, some have found other places to haunt and some have embraced the sad tedium of lawful sobriety. None of this deters me from a Friday evening guzzle. 

I make friends easily and am always accorded chummy respect from my bartender pals.

But on this night it was getting to me. I thought, man, here I am all alone on a Friday night, surrounded by happy groups of people who must think I’m pitiful.

What I’m about to say is entirely truthful and I relate without exaggeration.

Just as I was thinking that forlorn thought, a stranger from Alabama approached and tapped me on the shoulder. “Are you Chris Rodell?”

I told him I was.

“I’m so glad to meet you. I want to buy 20 of your Arnold Palmer books!”

I thought, man, I should never leave this place. And now I rarely do, even though nothing remotely like that has ever happened again.

But changes in taste are challenging my default behavior.

People are exerting pressure to get me to begin imbibing mixed drinks. They’re trendy. They’re artistic. They’re expensive.

I for years now have been drinking double shots of Wild Turkey on the rocks. I have heirloom reasons for doing so, but I also like to tell people I drink WT because it’s the bourbon that’s most representative of who I am.

I’m not a Jack or a Daniel, a Jim or a Beam. And I’m not a Basil or a Hayden.

I’m a turkey that sometimes still gets wild.

I like that for years now, I can walk into a bar and have my preferred libation in my hand about the same instant as my butt cheeks settle onto a bar stool.

I don’t like to be quizzed about what I want and I don’t like being handed a laminated drink menu or directed to puzzle over the pastel scribblings on a dusty chalkboard.

I just want my drink, neat and fast.

I’d be right at home in Martini’s  bar in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where Nick the bartender tells Clarence, the fairy, er, angel, “Hey look, mister. We serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don't need any characters around to give the joint ‘atmosphere.’”

The fancy mixed drink has changed the whole dynamic of the bartender/customer relationship. He or she used to pour you a drink then move on to the next thirsty customer.

Nowadays, the preening bartender stands there to detect your reaction and wait for you to shower him or her with praise, like a soldier awaiting their medal.

He asks if I like it. He asks if the ingredient taste differential is bold enough. He asks if his drink is superior to the foxy chick who pours the late shift.

The only question I like to hear from a bartender is when he asks, “You ever gonna tip more than a quarter, Big Shot?”

Don’t hold your breath.

I like my drinks direct, up front, unvarnished.

I resent being schooled on all the precious garnishes. Drinks now feature blood oranges, Luxardo Gourmet Cherries, and other foreign elements that stand a chance of demolishing the tasteful integrity of the liquor.

It’s something I learned from spending a splendid day with Wild Turkey master distiller Jimmy Russell (above). He’s the reason I remain devoted to the brand.

I’ll never forget the Manhattan dude who had the audacity to order a “bourbon & Coke” right in front of the great man.

Horrified, Russell exclaimed, “Please, it took me seven years to craft it. Don’t ruin it in six seconds. Keep it straight!”

I’ve been that way ever since.

And that’s the story of how I became who I am, a defiantly straight man who detests being in a bar full of fruits.

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