Friday, June 11, 2021

Happy Hour? America could use a Nappy Hour!

(664 words)

A friend and I were commiserating about our lack of sleep when he told me he nearly fell asleep behind the wheel of his Volvo.

I asked if he thought it would work with a Ford.

“I don’t see why not,” he said, “but it’s nothing I’d recommend.”

The Volvo was at the time moving at about 50 mph.

He came instantly and fully wide awake when the car drifted off the road. It was about 30 yards from the trunk of a sturdy oak that had the potential to once and for all end all his sleep troubles.

He asked if I ever tried napping.

“Tried napping? I’m The Human Nap,” I said, “I spend my entire existence not fully awake, not fully asleep. I’m so sleep-deprived I make zombies seem quick-witted.”

It’s a mind-muddled state of being and the reason if someone tells me they were asleep at the wheel I think, yeah, I’ll give it a shot. It’s just a matter of getting to REM before getting to RAM.

It is said adults between 18 and 64 need 7 to 9 hours. I thought, yeah, that’s about right. I figured I probably got about 12 hours last week. Then I re-read it and saw I was wrong. We need that much per night!

It seems excessive. Where do they find the time?

They must do all their sport drinkin’ at lunch.

Nearly 70 million Americans report being unable to sleep because of job anxiety, past mistakes, worries about the future, current events, etc.

My wife has trouble sleeping, too, but it doesn’t take an expert to figure out the source of her sleeplessness. Every 30 minutes or so she rolls over, sees me and thinks, “I married that?”

I do try and nap in my office, but being caught napping is like being caught in another solitary act of self-pleasure that winds up all messy and ultimately unfulfilling.

I’m talking, of course, about writing books.

You’d think I could knock off a decent nap up here in my office but the necessary elements rarely align. The office can’t be either too hot, nor too cold, which happens about eight days a year. 

My creaky office chair needs to be correctly angled so I can put my feet on the desk. Many have suggested I acquire a cot, futon or small bed for right here in the office. There’s obvious merit to the idea, but I’m fearful bar romantics would use the addition for their illicit recreations and my office would start turning up in the on-line guide books as a make-shift brothel. My reputation would be ruined.

Or would it be enhanced?

I nap better when I know that Buck, the Tin Lizzy owner, is away from the building.

Really away.

I’m talking Florida. He and his wife often fly there to visit the kiddos. I can more comfortably drift off knowing he’s 1,200 miles away

A solid nap is impossible when he’s around. He’s just so loud, always with banging, drilling and sawing. He comes and goes as he pleases and generally acts like owns the place.

It’s one hell of an act because, well, there’s zero evidence to the contrary.

I tried to imagine what he’d do if he saw a sign on my door reading, “Please Do Not Disturb: The Writer is Napping.” I think his reaction would involve either fire or a bucket of ice water.

I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t lead to him reading me bedtime stories about saying good night to the moon.

I may not understand the stigma against napping, but that won’t stop me from working to eradicate it.

Maybe it's time we replace the traditional post-work/pre-dinner drink to dedicated sleep time.

Yes, welcome America, to the Nappy Hour!

I envision a Nap Olympics. There’d be nap & field, synchronized napping, nap obstacle courses and hours and hours of watching snooze-deprived people catching some zzz’s.

With so many Americans stumbling through their days in need of a snooze, Nap Olympics is bound to be a  true sleeper hit.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Seeking a flame in a world that's on fire

(538 words)

The stranger had an air of desperation about him. He fidgeted. He was agitated. He couldn’t find a match.

We were in the clubhouse of a local golf course. It was getting late on a Saturday afternoon. The place was clearing out.

He looked about 50, trim, well-dressed, appeared prosperous. You’d think a guy like that could find a good match.

Twenty minutes later he asked again: Did I know where he could find a match? Like I knew 20 minutes ago and was just being coy.

“Well, I’m married,” I said, “but the girl cleaning up at the snack bar has a nice smile and I think she’s single. She might make a good match.”

“Funny guy,” he sneered and stormed off, a frustrated smoker in search of the kind of match that is becoming more elusive than an honest soul mate.

I couldn’t remember ever seeing a smoker unable to find a match. Clearly, he wasn’t a “Survivor” fan. If I was as desperate as him, I’d have gone out to 18th green and started rubbing shafts from two bunker rakes together.

We live in an age where if Jim Morrison sang,”C’mon, Baby Light My Fire,” he’d better hope she has a trusty Zippo in her purse.

Smoking has killed millions of people. Not smoking has killed an industry that served a useful and charming purpose. 

Matches used to be vacation keepsakes from our travels. We keep them in a small Hershey Hotel tin that was once full of, duh, Hershey kisses. I looked through it this morning, a sulphur-tipped trip down Memory Lane.

There was Boudreaux’s in San Antonio, Le Mont on Mt. Washington, The Breakers in Palm Beach, The Hotel at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. We  consider the one from Windows on the World from the World Trade Center a sacred relic.

Now, I can’t remember being in a restaurant that had signature matchbooks, also handy for writing the phone numbers of illicit lovers.  Of course that was before killjoy smart phones did everything but set fires.

Ironically, the disappearance of this bar/restaurant staple burns me up.

While the match industry is being extinguished, the match ‘em up kind is en fuego.

Besides, there are internet match makers for divorcees, over 50s, seniors, train buffs, bird watchers — you name it. There are so many concerns devoted to coupling singles it’s surprising anyone anywhere feels compelled to self-pleasure.

More irony: During this time when so many agents are devoted to bringing together people from around the world, the world itself seems to be coming apart.

War in the Middle East, Russian aggression in Ukraine, endless partisan tumult, climate upheaval.

“Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev, Princess Grace, Peyton Place …”

We’re even bedeviled by ….

“Trouble in the Suez!”

No, we didn’t start the fire, but do you place all the blame on the arsonist or do you save some for those of us standing on the edge toasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs?

I fear we’re becoming like the frustrated smoker, desperately seeking a a little light in world that’s on fire.

And I fear if we can’t find compatibility with one another it’ll all be over.

Game, set and match.

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Friday, April 30, 2021

Tweets of the last two months!

 No time to proof or pre-amble. Just two months of raw tweets ...

Have a great weekend!


• The loud, jarring phenomenon that occurs when that evening’s meal preparer tries to remove the 13th pan from the bottom of a drawer designed to hold not more than 10 is "Panvalanche." Panvalanche activity also common in sinks stacked with too many dirty dishes.

• At some point in every human life, the physical body is revealed to be the most preposterous, burdensome, inept and smelly vehicle to transport a divine soul from pre-birth oblivion to afterlife infinity anyone could ever imagine. My old Plymouth Horizon was more reliable. Less farty, too.

• I once found myself admiring the men I knew who disdained recommended Covid vaccines on the grounds that they weren't "afraid of dying." Then it dawned I was misreading the mindset. No, they weren't afraid of dying. But what truly terrifies them is living.

• How lackadaisical am I becoming? I now consider the act of me pouring milk on Lucky Charms meal prep. Anyone want to take a wild guess what's for dinner?

• An elaborate beard is one of the few traits that can grow on you even as it grows on me.

• It’s a linguistic pity the gangster flicks have so indelibly linked the words "rat" and "fink." Our descriptions could use more different types of finks. I'm thinking goat fink, ass fink, etc. I'd like to be a monkey fink!

• Families are God's way of proving we can't help the ones we love the very most.

• I wonder if God, whenever He needs a good laugh, goes back and checks out my youthful prayers for fame and fortune and marvels at my mortal simplemindedness. 

• You don't have to be a raging environmentalist to agree that any country that seeks prosperity through intensive mining is an in-dig nation.

• I wonder if the 1st caveman to shave his beard was teased by other cavemen or if they were frustrated by the understanding that it would be thousands of years before the word "metrosexual" would be coined. And I wonder if the shave drove the cavebabes wild, thus sparking a trend.

• You’d have to think being a nymphomaniac with a willing harem would take a lot out of you even as you put a lot into them.

• Which unnecessary innovation will come first: A toaster that can make phone calls or a phone that can make toast?

• Am becoming nervous about upcoming toe surgery. Told podiatrist I was getting cold feet. He said, "I can fix that," and billed me another $1,500.

• Life’s a crap shoot and here in America we’re not happy unless we're constitutionally assured everyone everywhere is entitled to shoot the crap of anything.

• Being a thoughtful dermatologist is inherent with cruel frustrations. No matter how careful one is, he or she must still make rash decisions.

• The stores we used to call "convenience" marts are now built with drive-thru windows to spare us the inconvenience of having to leave our vehicles to enter the convenience mart. Should we still be calling them convenience marts or has that become anachronistic?

• You used to be able to count on all-news networks to present you with fact-based reports on a wide range of stories. Now the major networks seem to devote most of their time to convincing viewers their competitors are involved in dark conspiracies that serve Satan's purposes. We've gone from cable news to cabal news.

• I was stuck in such a long bank line today I actually began twiddling my thumbs. It was a good long twiddle, a fine twiddle. And while in mid-twiddle, it occurred to me my thumbs are the only things I've ever twiddled. Seems a waste. Any suggestions for something else that'd be fun to twiddle? And I mean while I'm in line at the bank.

• The word "astute" means shrewd or mentally sharp. Had the people who coined a word that's pronounced ass-TOOT been shrewd or mentally sharp then astute would mean something entirely different.

• I know so few people who sleep, I propose we stop calling sleep sleep and instead call it, "(Mostly) stationary time where we recline in darkened rooms and ignore one another but the television/devices are (mostly) NOT on." Too cumbersome? I can do better. Let me sleep on it ….

• A horologist (sounds just like it looks) is expert at making watches and clocks and is consumed with all the elements of time. A whoreologist's study is built around mostly hourly increments.

• France is populated by creative, artistic and passionate men and women. So how come in my entire life I’ve never heard anyone say, “You gotta hear this really kickass French rock band!” France: Where mimes matter more than music.

• If the love of money is truly the root of all evil then I must be one of the world's most virtuous men. Money and me, we're barely on speaking terms.

• The term “psychological warfare” was coined by Nazi strategists in 1939 to describe mental manipulations meant to undermine morale, faith and allegiances. In the intervening years, countless wars have killed millions of humans and yet psychological peace isn’t even a term, much less a custom. 

• Bible says the "meek shall inherit the earth." My fear is that once all the Type-A aggressors conclude  their greedy plunder the only thing left for the meek to inherit will be an uninhabitable cinder where earth used to spin.

• Every one declaring "Justice has been served!" Has me wondering if justice left a tip …

• I’m so convinced I'll one day die of random gunfire I'm thinking of getting a bullseye chest tattoo just to give the morgue folks a good story.

• I always feel like I'm really gettin' away with something when I watch a "Mature Audiences Only" program and the smart TV doesn't explode.

•The signs were all there: Newspaper readership plunging; Magazines folding; Libraries ditching books in favor of vids. I saw all this &  what did I say: "I know, I'll become a writer!" Now we're left w/ irony of a writer who didn't read signs complaining ab't willful illiteracy.

• Call me paranoid, but I'm psuspicious any time a pso-called pspokesperson pstoops to including psilent letters in their name. It just pseems psneaky. pSo what else are you trying to hide, Jen Psaki?

• I never really thought about being a podiatrist, but I once repaired an Apple music device. I guess that makes me an iPodiatrist. 

• I’d like to see a sensational trial where a Samsonite exec is accused of killing her boyfriend, a VP at Away luggage, just to hear crime pundits say, "There's still a lot to unpack, but I think we're looking at a real open 'n' shut case here.”

• Someone will one day identify an exclusively male condition in which men convince themselves they  alone possess the virility and sex appeal to, if needed, re-populate the entire planet. These men are “egoTESTicle."

• It was a long time ago, but I still recall being a promising young writer and hearing a wise mentor say, "Kid, you're really going to go places." Some 30 years later, the only place I ever go is The Tin Lizzy. I wonder if that's what he meant. It is quite a place.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Godfather & the importance of health to happiness. Or not

(517 words)

It is my understanding that in some convalescent settings, many of the faithful turn to prayer.

Me, I turned to Hyman Roth.

Roth was the wise Jewish gangster (modeled after Meyer Lansky) who in “Godfather II” memorably counsels young Michael Corleone on relationships, trust and how dessert cake can be used to demonstrate equality in Third World plunder distribution.

And, an enfeebled old man, Roth expounds on the benefits of good health.

“Good health is the most important thing,” he says gravely. “More than success, more than money, more than power.”

Right now, you could argue I’m oh-fer-4 on the Roth rankings.

I have little success, no money and so little power that if the stupid dog ever communicates he’d rather watch “The View” than baseball the girls will insist I forfeit the remote.

Health-wise I’m actually doing pretty good. Eight days out of surgery and still mostly homebound, the podiatrist says I ought to be traversing the 77 steps between my office and favorite Tin Lizzy barstool in 10 days.

As for the Parkinson’s, all the experts say I’m doing great. This is perfect because my plan all along is to appear symptom-free for so long all my friends begin to suspect I fabricated the diagnosis just because I crave attention.

I looked up the Roth quote to ensure precision. I wanted to understand his life priorities. They are: health, success, money and power.

If I were advising the young gangster, I’d in order list family, friends and either memories of happy times or hallucinations of happy times.

I love bein’ human, and I love human bein’s.

Unlike Roth, I take good health right off the table. Our lives are so fleeting and finite that emphasizing good health and longevity is like stressing the importance of winning the lottery.

Sure, it’s great to have in your pocket but acquiring it is largely beyond our cunning. We’re all one distracted driver from a pulse-racing helicopter ride to an urban trauma center.

My priorities, if properly pursued, will lead to scores of loved ones crowding around our death beds and — one hopes — a tidy grave drenched with appreciative tears rather than — one hopes — warm urine.

I wish I could have (for a small fee) stressed to Roth the importance of close friendships. His disregard for them wound up — spoiler alert! — getting himself  killed. 

I sense no one is right now out to kill me and that includes Val and my daughters who’ve been patient and pleasant with my needs as I gingerly seek a return to full mobility.

I don’t count my blessings. I lose count of my blessings.

The gratitude attitude never caught up to Roth. He spent his life in pursuit of illusory goals that required, literally, back stabbing and cut throats.

So men like Roth never gain an appreciation for the things that mean more to life than even stellar health.

But to paraphrase Roth’s most famous quote, “That was the business he chose.”

I’m glad it’s none of my business. 

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Toe surgery results: Laid up!

(480 words)

I was intrigued when an hour prior to surgery my foot doctor said my toe fusion procedure is one of his favorite operations. He has favorites?

“Oh,” he said, “It’s just fun. You hammer in these little brackets and you put the little pins in. You saw some little bones.”

I didn’t realize some operations were more fun than others. Fix this. Remove that. Sure, there’s that part of every procedure when the anesthesiologist signals light’s out and it’s safe for everyone to begin taking turns evaluating the patient’s genitalia, but favorites? 

I felt reassured he was looking forward to performing my surgery and felt comfortable saying so. I wondered how I’d have felt had he expressed the inverse.

“Man, I gotta tell you, I don’t have a good feeling about this. The last one was a nightmare, blood and toenail flying everywhere. Do you want a drink? I can’t do this sober. And remind me again: Is it the right foot or the left we’re amputating? No one tell’s me nothin’ ‘round here …”

I never really thought about being a podiatrist, but I once repaired an Apple music device.

I guess that makes me an iPodiatrist.

I was under what they call “twilight” anesthesia, a state of being half asleep/half awake. It’s the state in which I’ve resided since 2000 when we became parents so I couldn’t comprehend the point.

Maybe I was just too groggy. 

They told me the operation was a success, a premature declaration meant to convey I was still alive and could still purchase my shoes in left/right pairs. 

Near-term, success will be defined by the discipline I show by remaining in the prone position with my feet above my heart.

All the time!

So after a year in which it’s been ordered I stay in my house, it’s now being suggested I not leave the bed.

I don’t know how much more inert it’s possible for me to become and still register human vital signs.

Doc says I shouldn’t put weight on my left foot for two weeks. I’m laid up!

It’s an odd designation for a man who’s under doctor’s orders to be laid down.

In two days of being laid up, I’ve watched the Pittsburgh Pirates lose two games by a combined score of 25-4. It’s mathematically conceivable I’ll have seen the Bucs get outscored 350-56 by the time I’m done with being down.

I’m blessed to have an adoring support team here that springs into action any time I yell, “Help!”

Of course, the altruistic novelty of that may begin to fade as they come to realize “Help!” in my world usually translates, “Klondike!” or “Peeps!”

It’s just my way of gettin’ down while bein’ laid up.

Thank you for all the prayers, well-wishes and offers of help.

Rest assured, my feet are in good hands.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Parkinson's update: Seeing brain surgeon today (hoping he detects one)

 (562 words)

Today’s the day we learn if a deep brain stimulation procedure is even possible for a man so shallow-minded he gets thrown off track at just the thought that there exists in Peru a body of water named Lake Titicaca

Pronounced “TITTY-caca.”



… Now where was I?

Oh, right.

Deep Brain Stimulation!

DBS is a groundbreaking Parkinson’s Disease treatment that involves implanting a thin electrode into the part of the brain that controls abnormal movements like, I guess, when guys like me try to dance to popular music.

That they drill straight into the head makes DBS one of those rare instances where a medical procedure breaks both ground and skull.

Maybe you’ve seen the ads. A Parkinson’s patient with wild shakes is shown being utterly incapable of buttoning his shirt. Then — voila! — literally at the press of a button he can play the guitar.

It’s remarkable.

I don’t know if the gent had previous experience or not, but I’m hoping I become instantly expert at tootin’ the tuba!

The odds of anything like that happening today are very remote. Today is little more than a get acquainted meeting between me and the renown brain surgeon. He wants to determine if I’m a candidate for DBS down the road, maybe two, four — who knows? — 10 years from now. 

So much can happen — good and bad — in those intervening years: they could find a cure for Parkinson’s; I could take a fatal tumble down the Tin Lizzy stairs — it’s a world of possibilities. Anything’s possible.

Well, anything ‘cept the Pirates being over .500 anytime after April 20.

My go-to Greensburg neurologist keeps telling me I’m “beating” Parkinson’s. She thinks I have an upbeat attitude that, three years into diagnosis, is keeping symptoms at bay.

I’m not nearly as confident. I’m staring into a future that may involve me incapable of either dressing or feeding myself. Some patients report an inability to swallow or blink.

Beating Parkinson’s? I feel blessed to be for now distracting it.

Maybe DBS will help with that tactic. 

My goal all along has been to keep symptoms difficult to detect for so long that friends speculate I made the whole thing up just because I crave attention.

To me, it’s like living life on a trapdoor with a rusty hinge.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for the six months it’s been scheduled but then a widower friend sounded a discordant note. His wife died of Parkinson’s related infirmities despite being skillfully cared for by the same renown brain surgeon.

His warning: “He’s not the kind of guy with whom you’re going to want to sit and have a drink.”

No one’s ever classified another person to me like that.

And what does it say about me that caring friends don’t judge my brain surgeons on their results but on the the prospective likelihood we’ll wind up drinkin’ buddies?

I was dumbfounded.

“Is he Satan?” I asked.

“No, he’s just not a people person. Grumpy as hell.”

Why is a man who makes a comfortable living — certainly compared to me — unhappy when the I’m generally cheerful with Code Red flatliner income?

I wonder if he’s ever heard of Lake Titicaca.

Or maybe the problem goes deeper than that.

Some neurosurgery patients think we have supple minds, but really it’s all in our heads.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Spa boner etiquette & my big toe operation

(792 words)

The podiatrist looked at my left foot with a puzzled expression. He said he’d never seen anything like it.

The four lesser toes were uniformly straight and pointing forward in line with the foot. But the big toe was pointing about 40 degrees in the other direction.

The captain was abandoning ship.

“Are you sure you never had an injury, some instigating incident years ago that would cause this deviation?”

“Positive,” I lied.

But there was an incident, a painful recollection about which I never told another soul.

It involved me, soft music, a darkened room and a beautiful woman who was not my wife.

And to top it all off, I was completely naked and fully aroused.

The woman was my masseuse.

It was the early aughts and I was at a fancy spa in Taos, New Mexico. This was back when I was immersed in the freelance travel writer gig.

Back then, high-end New York PR firms representing top resorts and destinations would seek out guys like me to write about their clients. And it was all free.

Free airfare, free rooms, free meals, free golf, etc. Relaxing spa treatments were staples of every trip. And with every massage, I began to detect a pattern. I was getting more than just deep tissue relaxation.

I was getting horny!

Understand, these were very professional masseurs so it didn’t lend itself to horniness. There was no dirty talk. No flirtation. No hint of illicit couplings to come.

It was just me lying there on a cushioned table with a beautiful woman rubbing warm oils up and down my naked body …

Up and down …

Up and down …

What’s horny about that!

So, of course, I’d get these erections, but they seemed so out of place, me there with this obvious hard-on and her there talking about how later that day she’d be taking her mother-in-law to Tuesday Bingo down at the VFW.

There was zero chance I’d be getting what’s known in the industry as a “happy ending.” That’s where some masseuses who are casual about ethics will, often for money, seize the erection and manipulate until it until it achieves its biological conclusion.

But that never happened to me. When our hour was over, they’d leave the room and busy themselves preparing for their next appointment while I’d get dressed, silently relieved I remembered to wear cargo pants instead of a Speedo.

The awkwardness inspired a story idea that eventually appeared in Men’s Health under the headline: “Spa Boner Etiquette.”

I spoke with an industry leader who assured me an erection was a perfectly reasonable reaction to the setting.

“You shouldn’t be embarrassed,” she said. “An erection is almost a reflexive reaction to what’s happening.”

I was thinking of this as I lay there naked on the the table in Taos eager for my massage to begin.

I do not remember her name. It may have been Rebecca but, hell, for all I know it may have been Burt. What I do remember clearly is she had raven hair and her hands were both soft and strong.

In an instant, the reflexive reaction mentioned by the spa spokeswoman began to stir.

Now, even with full industry sanction, I did’t misbehave. I did’t wiggle, play peek-a-boo or jump up the table and insist she salute and sing “Morning Has Broken,” all the things I insist Val do as a prelude to romance.

But the masseuse seemed to take an instant dislike to me. Or maybe she’d had enough of men like me — all erection and farmer tans. But 10 minutes into the massage, she took an aggressive turn. She became rough, like she intended to show me who’s boss.

It was an incredible turn-on!

Then all of a sudden she reaches down and starts tugging on my left big toe.

I remember thinking, geez, of all the things on my body right now screaming out for a good tug, why the hell would she choose my big toe?

“You’re hurting me,” I said.

“Oh, sorry,” she said, then she abruptly ended the massage a few minutes later. Then she was gone.

Maybe she gave up massage. Maybe she became a lesbian. Maybe she decided to confront her demons head on and seek employment down at the old Oscar Meyer weiner plant.

And that’s who I blame for needing the surgery that I hope will eliminate this infernal limp.

But I’m going to be fine and on the bright side it’s far better for men like me to admit we have a little limp than admit we are a little limp.

That makes this a rare case of a story that ends happily without having benefitted from the memory of a true happy ending.