Monday, June 15, 2020

White privilege, Black Chris & my court appearance

I can’t fathom what would have happened to Black Chris, but here’s what happened to White Chris last week when he went to court to contest a $234 traffic citation.

White Chris got off.

He told some jokes, made nice with the state trooper and the district justice and went home singing a happy tune.

White privilege? Not nearly enough to satisfy White Chris.

Honestly, it had gone so well White Chris almost asked them to each throw in $20 each for the privilege of meeting his Caucasian ass. 

There’s White Privilege.

Then there’s White Chris Privilege.

This all stems back to January when I was pulled over on my way to a Pittsburgh speaking gig. A state trooper had busted me for driving with an expired plate.

In fact, I had the plate. It just wasn’t on the vehicle. It had been on my desk back here at The Tin Lizzy for about two months.

I get to things when I feel like it, I said. The trooper, apparently a connoisseur of brazen ineptitude, thought that was hilarious. She has a nice laugh.

I hope she’d have merely laughed at poor Black Chris, too, but you never know.

Either way, I’d vowed to fight the ticket on the grounds that, gee, I’m just such a nice guy.

I fight ‘em all.

I contend the worst that can happen is I pay the full ticket and burn up a couple of hours playing curios tourist on the fringes of the criminal justice system.

Well, that’s the worst that can happen to White Chris. I think we all know what’s the worst that can happen to Black Chris once he gets hauled, always against his will, into the CJS.

And, hey, I can always, win or lose, get a decent blog out of the day. Black Chris doesn’t do Facebook so I’m guessing he doesn’t blog.

White Chris prepared for his day in court by researching the orations of the man that to him was one of the great legal minds of the 20th Century, that of Oliver Wendall Douglas.

Remember him? He was the gentleman farmer on “Green Acres,” the screwball comedy that ran from 1965-’71 and featured a pig that could attend school and vote during a time in that part of the country where people like Black Chris were discouraged from doing either.

But Mr. Douglas, a lawyer by trade, often wound up in court and always came off as the amiable blowhard — and that’s what I was aiming for.

My arguments to get the fees tossed or reduced were: I’m broke; I’ll never do it again; and I’m the author of “Use All The Crayons!” I intended to argue that because I’ve given away more than 500 free copies I was, in essence, above the law.

And I cringe even writing that in case even one reader mistakes my White Privilege for White Supremacy. And in my defense the book says we should use all the crayons, not just the pale ones.

So it’s probably a good thing it never went that far.

While I was in the waiting room, the trooper asked me three precise questions about my intentions. She then met with the magistrate in what I guess you’d call his chambers. They emerged and said they were dismissing the charge and — what the hell — they were even refunding the $64.75 collateral I’d anted up.

Victory! It was a great day for White Chris justice.

I drove straight home and watched the funeral of George Floyd.

What Black Chris did that day, I have no idea, but I hope he spent some time practicing articulating, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and other slogans White Chris will never need to rehearse.

And I hope Black Chris will find it in his heart to one day say two words for my failure to not do more to ensure justice is colorblind.

“You’re forgiven.”

Friday, June 12, 2020

Our appearance, our souls & what bacon has to do with it

A very attractive woman told me I am a very handsome man. She wasn’t hitting on me, damn it. I think she was just being sweet, so her compliment made me sad.

It all started over my Covid Coif. I hadn’t had a hair cut in three months. You’d think my hair would have been grateful. It had found sanctuary, an autonomous zone where it needed not worry about scissored violence.

But, no, the number of hairs going AWOL seems to have accelerated.

Could it be stress? Coronavirus, BLM, Trump continues to tweet — it’s a lot of stress for a guy determined to save humanity one blog at a time.

So while I have a lot on my mind, there’s not as much left just above it.

Thus, when she said I look great, I defaulted and began a tedious list of the ways in which she was mistaken — and isn’t a pity how few of us can just graciously say thank you when someone compliments us?

We’re hard-wired to feel we’re failures.

It is, by the way, why I recommend no one over 40 look in the morning mirror until you've had at least three beers.

I mention this because this is a beautiful woman. How beautiful?

If I looked like her I’d fill my house with mirrors, strip down to my underwear and spend the day doing nothing but admiring myself as I sat around all day eating bacon.

Of course, I couldn’t tell her that. She might take it wrong, as might other nearby women. It could get back to her husband or my wife. Scandal could ensue.

In fact, the only one involved who could take it in the good-natured manner in which it was intended is bacon. Bacon is unflappable. Its emotional steadiness only enhances my reverence for this can-do meat.

I guess I feel sad because I sense her compliment is evidence that the Johnny Syndrome is infiltrating more of my life.

I first detected the Johnny Syndrome last year when I was golfing. Now, I’ve never been a tremendous golfer, but I was good enough to tell the difference between a good drive and a pitifully weak one.

Whether it’s age, Parkinson’s, or general indifference to the task, my drives began to lack vigor. What once used to travel 210 or so yards, would now flutter a mere 140 yards.

As bad as that was, worse were the patronizing compliments.

“You got all of that one!” “Great drive!” was the gist.

It reminded me of the praise the grown-ups showered on the slow kid when he succeeded in tying his shoes.

“Nice job, Johnnie!”

Now I was fearful the Johnny Syndrome was desecrating my vanity.

Was she just trying to cheer Johnny up?

Or am I misreading the whole thing? Maybe she was looking past my bald spot, beyond my paunch — maybe she was seeing straight into my soul.

It’s a nice thought, especially when we’re in the midst of so much upheaval over our appearances.

I hope next time anyone says I’m beautiful, I don’t start a petty argument. I hope I just say, “Thank you!”

Because in the ways that matter most,  I am gorgeous. I’m cheerful, alert, optimistic, unbiased and eager to see everyone gets a fair shake.

By God, I am beautiful.

So are you!

See, once you get past the baggage of appearance, it’s difficult to tell one of us from the other.

‘cept for me. 

My soul’s the one sitting there eating bacon.

Friday, June 5, 2020

A law-'n'-order guy who stands/sits with protesters

I was staring out the window as the nurse announced my blood pressure result like she was announcing I’d just won a new car.

“You’re 98/68!” she said. “That’s great. Many men your age are 140/115.”

This low BP will contribute to my theory that I’m more Muppet than man. The similarities are striking. Muppets have no discernible heartbeat or obvious means of support and Muppets continue to root cheerfully for nonsensical lost causes like Bob Nutting’s Pittsburgh Pirates

She was curious: What did I do for a living?

Still staring out the window, I told her I stared out the window.

And it’s true. I used to tell people I was a news reporter, which was my title when in fact what I did was talked to people and typed what they had to say. Back then when anyone asked  what I did for a living I told them I talked and typed.

Now that I’m what people consider a writer, there’s very little talking involved (and not much typing), but many hours are spent staring straight out of the window.

It’s a very peaceful job, but the pay is low and often sketchy, but I must be competent at the task. No one’s come and told me they found a better starer.

Job security contributes to my low blood pressure. But some days I wish I could look away. Like this week I saw clear to Minneapolis. What I saw made me sick.

Who knew slowly killing a handcuffed man in front of a crowd of camera-wielding hostiles could be done with such nonchalance, such aloof. I’m more dramatic when I squash a mosquito. 

Once again, I’m struck by the contentious divide, which is better than being struck by a riot baton.

For a subject that is described by the word “race,” progress seems to be at a standstill. Some race.

I’m most confounded, as usual, conservative whites who become livid when wished Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas think liberal blacks over-reacting about unarmed blacks getting murdered by conservative whites.

See, I’m a law-and-order guy: Not until all the laws are equitably applied to all the people can true order ever be enforced or expected.

That makes me a law-and-order guy who stands with the protesters. Or more precisely, one who sits staring out the window and with encouraging solidarity cheers them on.

I believe meaningful change can, should and will occur. I believe this in spite of the fact that in 400 years it has mostly not.

But what do I know?

I’m just a guy with a Muppet-level blood pressure who in spite of all he sees out the window believes the impossible is still possible.

I guess my mind must be Muppet too.

Related …

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May tweets: Serious, silly & sexy (1)

• Conservative whites who become livid when wished Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas think liberal blacks over-reacting about unarmed blacks getting murdered by conservative whites.

• Leonardo da Vinci said, “The  human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” Given the scope of his admirations it’s surprising his most famous work is Mona Lisa and not Mona Lisa’s feet.

• I remain baffled that the tasteless phrase "wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers" persists. I've never encountered a gent so refined as to ask any cracker-eating female to leave his bed once she got in. In fact, if there were two willing women and one had crackers and the other did not, and he had to pick one or the other, guaranteed, most men would invite the one with the crackers to get in. Lesson: if you're a woman prone to promiscuity always, just in case, keep a sleeve of crackers handy.

• I awoke from a dream it was the night before when I'd awoken from a dream it was the night before. Now I'm confused about what day it is, if I'm asleep or awake or if I exist at all. I'd ask fellow quarantinies to pinch me but fear inviting violence could escalate …

• There's something so unnerving about being engaged in a life-and-death struggle against an enemy our soldiers can't confuse or infuriate with a well-timed moon.                                                                                                                                                        

• People strum guitars. A guitar is an inSTRUMent. Which word came first?

• In light of our reckless eagerness to end prudent safety measures, I'll as of today cease writing "Stay safe!" and will instead begin concluding my correspondence with, "... and try not to make out with anyone too suspicious!”
• Yet another work week has passed and I still don't know what avowed nudists wear for Casual Fridays.

• Have you used your quarantine time wisely? Learned a new language? Fixed up the basement? No? There's still plenty of time to change the world. How? Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life. A teacher. An aunt. An old lover. You'll change the world.

• Think of all the food you ate over the last 24 hours. Was any of it free? Now think of all the media you consumed to feed your brain. Did you pay even a dime for any of it? Donations always welcome at

• I so dislike being vertical I'm thinking of having a surgically-inserted kick stand so I can always lean without fear of falling over.

• 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.”

• Leaders of most major religions preach peace and the breaking of breads; many congregants choose hate and the breaking of heads.

• I wonder how much it'll dismay future historians to have to type the phrase, "... then President Trump tweeted …"

• Trump supporters who think everything will be fine if he "just stops tweeting" crack me up.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Birthdays; Dylan & this blog & my Michael Jordan story

This past weekend this blog turned 12 and Bob Dylan, 79. It is pure coincidence, but I’ve always used Dylan as a creative benchmark against which I measure the blog’s success.

By that standard the blog is clearly superior to Dylan and has been since Day 1.

The blog, you see, was communicating in complete sentences since its inception, something Dylan didn’t do until he was probably 18 months.

He didn’t write “Like a Rolling Stone” until he was 24. The blog was just 4 when it came up with this gem: “Loud bulimics make the worst neighbors. They can never keep it down.”

Just imagine what greatness the blog will display when its voice changes and it begins to sprout pubic hairs.

Of course, it’s all speculative. Another difference: The boy who became Bob Dylan eventually matured.

No indication that’s in the cards for this blog.

A friend — known her since high school — sweetly wondered if I’m feeling okay. She said she detected a lesser visibility on the blog and through social media.posts

Fear not. I’m fine. I’ve not tested COVID  positive. My Parkinson’s symptoms are stable. I’m not an unarmed black man walking down a Minneapolis sidewalk (or one jogging through Brunswick, Georgia/ eating Skittles in Sanford, Florida, etc).

Generally, it’s a good rule of thumb that the less you hear from me here, the more I’m thriving in places that make a difference to our accountant.

In fact, yesterday was the best day of my career. And it’s grown-up stuff, not like someone gave me a coupon for some free Cheese Stix down at the Sheetz, the ubiquitous area convenient mart that sells everything but sheets.

I’ll share the news with you next week.

—-   <<  >>   —-

It was an ironic COVID pity that I was in a building with three bars and I couldn’t find a soul with whom to drink. 

“There are those who worship loneliness. I’m not one of them.” That might sound like me, but it’s not. It’s Bob Dylan, a quote on his website right below a news post announcing the cancelation of his summer shows.

Is this the end of his fabled Never Ending Tour? Begun June 7, 1988, Dylan has toured ever since. That’s 3,066 shows, the last being Dec. 8. What the hell is he going to do this summer without the road routine? He hasn’t been married since 1992 so there’s no mile-long honey-do list. Maybe he’s cultivating bonsai trees or binge-watching Ozarks.

It would be super cool if he read this blog and decided — what the hell? — I think I’ll stop by the Tin Lizzy and have a drink that guy whose blog was born the same day as me. It could happen. He’s very capricious.

I’ll let you know if he does. 

—-   <<  >>   —-

My Michael Jordan story: It was probably 2001. I was a contributing writer to flashy upstart Maximum Golf magazine. They asked me to snag a press pass for the Mario Lemieux celebrity tournament at Nevillewood C.C. near Pittsburgh. Matt Lauer, Charles Barkley and others from that crowd were there. But the biggest deal was MJ. My editors wanted me to score an exclusive interview with him.

My editors thought nothing of requesting the impossible

He was such hot stuff, the press was given instructions on how to deal with him. The instructions were, in essence, do not. Do not address him. Do not make eye contact. And do not even think of asking him a question.

We were to treat him as if he were invisible.

I couldn’t do it. I remember seeing him on the practice range and thinking, man, that is the most magnificent specimen of a human being I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe we were of the same species. Tall, perfectly proportioned, poised and rippling muscles from head to toe, he looked like something out of Greek mythology (if Greek mythology were integrated).

So I decided I had to mess with him.

As he began heading to the tee, a posse of 7 or 8 dumpy little white guys fell in to shield His Airness from me, a dumpy little white guy.

My press pass alerted them to my professional  menace. I spoke, “Mr. Jordan,” and held out a copy of the magazine as we walked briskly across the range. I remember one guy glaring at me and mouthing the words, “NO QUESTIONS!”

Too late.

“Sir, this is Maximum Golf Magazine. The Wall Street Journal just declared it the most exciting new sports magazine in the past 20 years …”

His security ring looked like they were eager to murder me. Jordan was so supremely stoic he seemed to deny my very existence. Still, I pressed on.
“I’d like to interview you for 10 minutes. In exchange, I promise we’ll put your picture on the cover of the next issue …

“We think it’ll make you famous.”

I’ve said funnier things, but situationally, it may have been the funniest thing I’ve ever said.

The group exploded with laughter. Where there had been tension, there was now unexpected delight. No one was laughing louder than Jordan. I sensed he doesn’t get to laugh a lot and my joke reminded him how wonderful surprise laughter feels.

Still laughing, he said, “Man call my agent!”

I never did. 
—-   <<  >>   —-

Think of all the food you ate over the last 24 hours. Was any of it free? Now think of all the media you consumed to feed your brain. Did you pay even a dime for any of it? Did it nourish or decay? Happy Birthday donations welcome here.

Or you can always buy a book or two. Or …

I still accept coupons for Sheetz Cheese Stix!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

#ObamaGate: My theories, your conspiracies

I think it would be beneficial if scientists devoted their efforts to enlarging the coronavirus. I don’t mean statistically or theoretically. I’m talking about making each actual virus larger.

Like the size of a kickball.

We’re talking bigly.

See, one of the problems I see with coronavirus is you can’t see coronavirus. It’s invisible. Hidden enemy.

That means about half you bastards out there feel justified in denying it even exists. And that’s making those of us who believe in people like scientists and things like microscopes bat shit crazy.

I’m friends with about a dozen cranks who if they were diagnosed, hospitalized and done in by coronavirus would as their dying wish have their tombstone chiseled to read, “I STILL say it’s a hoax!”

Add their names to the roster of the dead, 92,258, most in the world and a ghoulish twist on the 2016 presidential boast “we’re gonna be so sick of winning.”

Will any of us be well enough to attend the traditional White House hamberder victory feast?

Kickball-sized viruses would unify this tragically divided country, reduce the virus population, and become a healthy, productive way for truth-doubting skeptics to blow off homicidal steam.

Right now, the coronavirus is 125 nanometers, that’s 125,000,000,000. It’s a really big number that denotes a really small menace. How small?

It’s about the size of the brains of most of the conspiracy-theorists who think they know what they’re talking about. 

We’re talking microscopic.

And it just takes one if ‘em to kill you. It can enter through your open mouth or eyes, etc.

You’d think that would be incentive to keeping our mouths shut, but no. In fact, people can’t seem to shut the hell up.

The dominance of one pandemic has unleashed another that misleads people into thinking they’re informed and the rest of us care what they have to say.

A kickball-sized covid would bounce off the heads of most people but if you, say,  refer to Dr. Fauci, as “the chief buffoon,” as Tucker Carlson does, any nearby virus will magically resize to Tic Tac dimensions and make a bee-line for your esophagus where it will latch on and have really tiny babies. 

And if they were kickball-sized they would bestow existential meaning to the lives of couch potato conspiracy theorists. 

If they saw a herd of the ball-sized viruses stampeding down the street, they could separate from the sofa and — cardio! — render pursuit. But not before strapping on the firearms!

It’ll be open season on the virus and our 2nd Amendment romantics will be able to open fire on anything covid-color running through the neighborhood.

They won’t even need to wait to see if there’s any security video of the target virus wandering unattended through an open construction site.

I mention this now because I’m fed up reading the conspiracy theories that end with the annihilation of people who think like me.

We believe the experts, think the suffering is legit, think a reasonable recovery doesn’t require sacrificial body counts. We think we should be working to wipe out the virus, not contrary Democratic governors in battleground states.

Sick of all the winning?

Man, I’m sick of all the dying.

Related …

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Stuff I'll do if I become Last Man on Earth

I was wondering what I’d do if things take a bad turn and I wind up being the last man on earth, which was the premise of an often-hilarious Will Forte show (2015-’18, Fox) called, duh, “Last Man on Earth.”

That’s how it feels some days. I miss both the refined and the rabble.

Here’s what I’d do assuming certain logistics left the joint reasonably functional and I become LMOE.

It’d be petty and makes zero no sense, I know, but the first thing I’m going to do is go around peeling Trump bumper stickers off all the cars. I’d engage in more political yapping if I believed I could change even one mind, but I don’t believe that’s possible.

So why prioritize removing Trump bumper stickers in a world devoid of all but me?

I have no idea.

I guess it’s just one of those itches that must be scratched.

After that I’m breaking into the library and assembling the old water bed right there by the circulation desk. I’ve always reveled in the cerebral peacefulness of of feeling at home in a good neighborhood library. Might as well take it to its logical extension.

I think I’ll continue to try and blog every other day or so. I’ll do this fully aware there’ll not be a single other person on Earth left to read the stupid thing. But there’ve been entire years when readership statistics made me feel like I was the only person on the planet so what’s the difference?

I’m going to tastefully loot the crap out of my favorite men’s stores, scooping up posh suits and other fine garments by the trunk load. I’ll awaken every morning to a proper grooming and spend the day dressed like a royal dandy.

Why would the last man on earth care how he dressed when there’ll be no one around to admire the finery?

He assumes there will there will still be plenty of mirrors.

I intend to joy ride the Gateway Clipper Majestic up and down Pittsburgh’s three rivers. And by “joy ride” I mean sink. I’m a big Titanic fan and will enjoy recreating scenes from the movie and pretending I care as the waters rise.

I plan on playing a lot of golf at a lot of golf courses like Augusta and Pebble Beach and, depending on the weather and the skeeters, playing naked because, well, why not?

One place I won’t play is Latrobe Country Club. Remember, I’ve been banned from the grounds (me and Ben Roethlisberger!) and I will abide by the ban (see link) until club officials come to their senses and apologize, which given the mortal logistics of sudden global depopulation, I just don’t see happening.

Just for kicks, I’ll head to Canton and the NFL Hall of Fame to do some creative rearranging that’ll emphasize the dominance of the Pittsburgh Steelers over the rest of the league.

Not sure what kind of vandalism will occur, but the bust of O.J. Simpson will not go undisturbed. 

One of my happiest experiences in what I’ll call my “crowded life,” was a honeymoon hot air balloon ride over Napa. I intend to take a solo balloon ride and hope I can figure out how to land the contraption before it blows out over the Atlantic.

I’ll run the bases barefoot at Yankee Stadium, bungee jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, and pin the speedometer as I cross the finish line at Indy

Oh, and I plan to learn to speak French so when I talk to myself  I’ll at least sound like a friendly stranger.

It’ll be a life so hollow it’ll have an echo all its own.

Maybe it’s getting to me. I miss seeing my friends. Heck, I’m starting to miss seeing my enemies.

It wasn’t uncommon a few short months ago to hear people complain how people can drive you nuts.

Some of us are learning the absence of them can, too.

Related …