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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Monday, April 4, 2022

What if Jesus returns today to my office at 3 pm?

(489 words)

What if Jesus returns today at about 3 p.m.? I’m hoping He does and I hope He decides to materialize right here in my office. Why here?

I suspect The Lord is going to need a stiff drink or two, and The Tin Lizzy is a great place to initiate some introductory philosophizing.

And 3 p.m. would be good because it would allow me to maybe bang out a tweet  or two before I blew off the rest of the day advising the King of Kings about the number of challenges to save a world that is looking increasingly godforsaken. 

“First of  all,” I’ll say, “we need you to hustle out to Ukraine and end the war that is devastating Eastern Europe. Then there is bitter divisions here in the U.S.A. mostly goaded by mostly old white men who fancy they’re you.

“Then there’s climate change, the disappearance of species who’ve thrived since Noah, and, yeah, we’d all like to know where you come down on the whole Will Smith/Chris Rock thing.”

Understand, we’re talking about The Second Coming. Happening today.

In my office!

I wonder if He’ll buy books. I wonder if He’ll carry cash or I’ll have to have Him explain crypto to me. 

I wonder how He’ll go about fulfilling the scripture so long foretold. 

Much of the Bible can be wildly contradictory on what happens during  J.C. v.2.0.

It says He will cleanse the world. Would it be possible for Him to warm up by cleansing my office?

It says He will usher in a 1,000 year period where He will rule the Earth. That sounds good, but half America will be pissed if He does it by being too cozy with one of the other partisan networks.

Then what’s to be made of this?

You’re going to Sodom and Gomorrah

But what do you care? Ain’t nobody there would want to marry your sister

Friend to the martyr, a friend to the woman of shame

You look into the fiery furnace, see the rich man without any name

At the risk of being labeled a Hell-bound false prophet, that is not Biblical. It’s Bob Dylan. I try and slip some enigmatic Dylan lyrics in whenever I quote the Bible in the hopes a theologian will explain them to me.

What can I say? Some people seek the meaning of life.

I seek the meaning of Bob Dylan.

One of the big things about the second Coming, according to believers is Jesus will separate the believers from the unjust and — Zip!!! — send the unworthy all to Hell.

War, want, injustice, addiction, hatred, loneliness …

If He does come to my office today at 3 p.m., I’m going to gently recommend He take a forgiving posture on who He deems deserving of soulful dispatch to Hell.

It looks to me like too many of us are already there

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Thursday, March 31, 2022

March tweets o' the month!


Despite near zero evidence anyone reads these here, yet again, are my bestest, most razzle-dazzlest tweets of the month. Enjoy! Or don't ...

• It must have been difficult being married to Plato. As a big shot Greek philosopher, he must've attracted his share of female admirers. But if she ever busted him in a compromising position he could truthfully say, "Babe, I swear, it's purely Platonic.”

• With bloodthirsty Putin strafing innocents and rattling the nuclear saber, all my fears of the world ending with climate change and gently rising oceans suddenly seem charmingly quaint.

• For the record, I've authored 10 actual books, but 4 of them are so bad I refuse to acknowledge they exist. Do you know how bad a book has to be for its author to deny its existence? My parents weren't exactly bustin' with pride over having raised me, but they still kept a high school graduation picture of me on the mantel. And it wasn't like I was exactly setting the world on fire back then. Well, parts of it.

• Increasing noise pollution, both audible and sensical, will in the next 50 years lead the human ear to evolve and function like volume knobs. So if you hear some music or objectionable political opinions, you'll be able to spin your ears to the off position. I intend to keep mine set at 2.

• What would you make of it if you were driving down the streets of Moscow and saw an anti-Putin bumper sticker that said, "Don't blame me. I voted for Trump!"

• Being familiar with how inertia animates any bureaucracy, I have to imagine the Ukrainian equivalent of the CDC is today preparing to hold a press conference to announce new recommendations regarding public mask use.

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

• In my experience,  the people who give the worst advice are the ones most eager to give any advice. For example ... Me! I advise uninvited, post and have, in fact, written what could be called advice books. I've, thus, proven my point.

• If a bald man tells an annoyance to get out of his hair, is it an insult or a bold invitation to adventure time travel?

• I prophecy my demise will be violent. Not that I wouldn't prefer a peaceful passing. But if I say I'm going to die a violent death and I, in fact, do, the pain will be eased knowing my last mortal thought will be, "Ha! Right again!”

• Being in quality control in any spice processing plant must bestow workers with God-like feelings. Where else can you turn back thyme?

• 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. 

• I remember being surprised when I learned the root word of hospital was hospitality. Who thinks "hospitality!" when they're admitted to a hospital? It's like researching the roots of "politics" and finding it's derived from “polite."

• Every time I'm tempted to write "humorist" where it asks my occupation, I remind myself my core support comes from a handful of 60-yr-old men who still snicker when they hear the word, “titillate."

• We’ve reached a point where my capacity to be entertained is overwhelmed by an abundance of choice and mediocrity. Too many options, too little quality. I cut the cable. Now I feel like cutting my wrist.

• Sorry, Planet Fitness, you'll never truly be the "No Judgement Zone" until the place smells like one gigantic fart.

• I prophecy my demise will be violent. Not that I wouldn't prefer a peaceful passing. But if I say I'm going to die a violent death and I, in fact, do, the pain will be eased knowing my last mortal thought will be, "Ha! Right again!"

• In an apparently irony-free tweet, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences stated on Twitter that the organization “does not condone violence of any form.” Leads me to believe the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences never goes to the movies.

• I used to be a free spirit. Now I charge by the hour.

• Some people avoid having friends with abrasive personalities. Not me. I seek out abrasive people. Some degree of abrasiveness is necessary to help smooth out the wood. And please do not extend the "smooth out the wood" metaphor to anatomical realms.

• Television, which has given me a lifetime of numbskulled pleasure, continues to find new ways to infuriate me. This time it's holding me hostage to commercials. Hulu forces its viewers to watch three 2-minute blocks of commercials for every 30 minutes of programming. Unless ... you pay an $11 ransom that allows you to skip the tedium. So solvent folks skip 'em while the poor endure 'em. Now, isn't the purpose of commercials to sell products. If you can't afford $11-a-month, you can't afford much of what the commercials are selling. I suggest it would make more sense to make the people with more money watch the commercials. That would give those of us without the means an extra 12-minutes every hour to do some productive wage earning. Or at lease watch more uninterrupted TV. 

This observation was brought to you by ... GEICO!

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Stinkbug in my ear, Wordle on my mind


(697 words)

My first profanity of the day came roaring out of my mouth at about 5:30 a.m.

I was awakened by a stinkbug in my left ear. And when I say “in my left ear,” I’m not exaggerating.

It was deep in there. Like a half-inch from the brain. It was in where you’d expect a common sense stinkbug would go if there was a downpour in my bedroom and it needed to seek shelter in a cozy, waxy place away from the elements.

What it was doing there, I have no idea. Did it lose a bet?

Maybe a stinkbug prankster told it that a stinkbug kid had fallen in there the way human kids fall into prairie wells, and that there was an opportunity to be a stinkbug hero.

Maybe it was an explorer like Sir Ernest Shackleton who a century ago felt compelled to go to barren, desolate regions in search of intelligent life. He wound up disappointed.

Sir Stinkbug wound up dead.

As regular readers know, the stinkbug has no greater friend than I. My wife sees a stinkbug and, guaranteed, within 30 seconds you’ll hear the sound of a toilet flushing, signaling a stinkbug has gone to meet its maker.

I’m more compassionate. I imagine having “stink” as your first name can be difficult.

Hell, I’ve always been uncomfortable lugging around a unisex name that rhymes with “sissy,” so I empathize. My custom with any insect that can’t sting me is to incarcerate, reason with it, then liberate. I set it outside and warn it not to re—enter lest the missus sees it and gives the Tidy Bowl salute. 

But when it’s in your ear, you take no prisoners. I jammed my left index finger to about the second knuckle, destroying the tank-like intruder and, I think, leaving tiny stinkbug debris in my now-itchy ear. I’ll soon be doing a rinse.

So the first profanity was unusual and understandable. Stick a stinkbug in John Boy’s left ear and Walton’s Mountain will be reverberating with the F-bomb.

The second morning profanity came just two hours later and is less easy to defend, mostly because it’s clear evidence of ineptitude.

See, we’ve become a family of Wordlers.

If just the name leads you to believe Wordlers are some nerdy word cult, you are correct.

Wordler is an easily shared word game invented by a man conveniently named Josh Wardler.

The object is to guess that day’s 5-letter word in fewer than six tries. The game indicates correct letters in the correct space by highlighting them in green, and correct letters in the wrong space in yellow.

So if the word is SAUCE and your first guess is TEACH, the C will be green and the A and the E will be yellow.

Our one daughter usually makes her first guess ADIEU. It’s a savvy move because it gets four of the five essential vowels dispensed with right off the bat.

I take a more prosaic approach. My first word is always something either aspirational or inspirational. I do this, not for reasons of sound strategy, but because I never let a teachable moment pass unmolested. 

So when we powwow later on, I smugly inform them that my kick-off word was SMART or THINK or BRAVE.

I’ve found zero advantage to using words like that to using words like HORNY or PENIS, but the dirty words evade my self-righteous narrative, so why bother?

My problem is my incompetence keeps getting in the way of my role modeling.

I usually finish mine an hour or so before the girls are up and if I do well, I become impatient to brag.

Happened again today. I mistook one text chain for another and revealed the wordle before they could attempt. As there is only one per day, they were very angry.

I could tell because my phone started blowing up with 5-letter words like …

IDIOT … DUNCE … MORON … and in this case, the judges will allow, JERKK.

 I guess at least this morning I have an excuse.


And that SUCKS.

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