Wednesday, November 30, 2022

What will I call my "Tweets of the Month" when Twitter goes away?



• Women age distinctly; men uniformly. As a woman ages, she becomes more individual -- her hair color, her laughter, her manner of dress -- all put her in sharp relief from other women. All men age the same. We lose hair, gain weight and generally stumble thru life w/ the bewildered expressions of men who mistake the sliding glass patio door for open and repeatedly slam into the invisible solid. If we lived to be 120, we wouldn't be able to walk 50 feet without someone confusing us for their Uncle Burt.


• We revel in the misfortune of less fortunate. We gloat when our hatreds provoke irrational acts. We care not who's killing whom as long as our pack can elude blame. I fear we're becoming a nation that behaves as if 50 percent of us were raised by wolves. The other 50 percent? They’d be the wolves. 


• I live in a house with 3 sassy women. And I'm under a constant barrage by boneheads eager to engage me in provocative political and social arguments. I hold my tongue so much it's a wonder my fingertips don't have tastebuds.


• I was stuck at an interminable red light wondering about all the things that take so damn long. Things like waiting for the computer to boot up, TSA lines, and getting stuck on IT hold. Our busy lives are consumed by mini-eternities. Want to know something that goes by like lightning? Sixty years. 


• I read because I'm convinced the more I have in my mind the less I'll have on it.


• I suggest we Pennsylvanians reshape our borders -- put some wiggles in 'em -- so we don't appear on maps like the state most likely to be used as the dead battery gauge when the USA starts to run out of power.


• My father died in ’04; mom in ’17. Their memories flicker fainter each year for our daughters, 22 and 16. It’s a pity. I wish on their tough days they could recollect how the faces of these two people lit up when they saw their beloved grandkids — and stayed brilliantly illuminated whenever they were blessed to be in their presence. I wish I had a pill — just one pill — that would restore all our memories. Not of childhood, but of infancy, when our every expression, sound or gesture provoked pure delight. The pill would remind us of what perfect love, security and hopefulness feels like. One pill. One dose. I’d prescribe it to America. 


• This is the time of year married men begin to envy leaves. Leaves get blown at least once a year.


• I sometimes fear my drive for ceaseless originality is weakening and I'm destined to reach back for the greatest hits. But I always conclude I'm being too hard on myself. I sometimes fear my drive for ceaseless originality is weakening and I'm destined to reach back for the greatest hits. But I always conclude I'm being too hard on myself.


• You can convert a home. You invert a fraction. You can subvert a good idea. You can transvert a landscape, and you can pervert an innocence wholesome and pure. Question: How come I’ve never seen, felt, heard, smelled or been invited to enjoy an illicit little vert. What is a vert? It can do so much yet it remains to me cloaked in mystery. Its humility may nevert be surpassed.


• Referring to men & women whose exercise goal is to strip their frames of any excess weight as body "builders" is fraudulent. They're not body builders. Now, me, I've spent the last few years adding enough closet space to my posterior it's surprising the township's not after me to staple a permit to my ass. Now, THAT's body building


• I realize the observation will cause some to think me ignorant at best, xenophobic at worst, but I was surprised to read Saigon has a thriving Chinatown neighborhood. Isn’t that like Cleveland having a busy Canadatown neighborhood? Sure, they’re distinct nationalities, but wouldn’t the differences be of interest to just a few anthropologists. It’s certainly an indication of the international popularity of the Chinese culture. It also has me wondering if most major Chinese cities have their very own Chinatowns or if that would take redundancy to absurd levels.


• That catbird means an advantageous position matters far less to me than the potential hybrid that results the day we mingle their DNA. Do you want as a house pet a cat that can fly or a bird that snoozes the day away cozied up on your lap? I'd go with the flying feline. And while we're at it, what would the titmouse look like if it looked like its component names?


• This is the time of year when I always begin to wonder if the nation of Turkey has a national bird. Could it be that obvious? Of course I'm the same guy who thinks a 3rd world African nation must have great take-out food just because the country's name is TO-GO.


• News that Buffalo is getting walloped with 5-feet of snow has me thinking that Buffalo should be renamed Uninhabitable. Even buffalo can't live in Buffalo. 


• I know to some patriots the charge itself is practically seditious, but the Founding Fathers got it all wrong when they called the place where the legislative branch does business the "House of Representatives." It would make more sense to call it, "The Big Room of Morally Shady Mostly White Men Whose Positions Bend According to the Latest Campaign Contributions.”


• I understand the mostly snobby reasons it's never mentioned alongside classic scenes from "Godfather" or "Citizen Kane," but one of the most compelling scenes in all American film is the hanging of Jake Spoon.


• On this day we as a nation should vow to never again say Happy Veteran's Day until we're certain we've done everything we can to ensure every veteran is happy.


• ”These kids today do nothing all day but stare at their stupid phones," say in unison the cranky old men who do nothing all day but stare at Fox News.

.

• Doctor suggests I not drink my Wild Turkey straight, so I now drink bourbon & water. I drink water from 7 am to 5 pm. I drink bourbon from 5:01 to 10 pm.


• I vow to never describe anything as being cute as a button until someone shows me an actual button that any reasonable observer would consider cute. Describing a button as cute is like describing a utility poll as charming. The two are functional and should never be considered "cute."

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A jiffy moment or two about time

(587 words)



I’m a guy with plenty of time on his hands so I wonder about the passing of time pretty much round the clock.


Speaking of clocks, historians say the first one was built in the year 1270. Catching a bus before then must have required infinite patience.


It sounds simplistic, but I wonder how they decided clock hands ought to go clockwise. Really, how would they know?


If anyone has time to study time, it ought to be me. It’s not like I’m one of those guys who has to punch a clock, a phrase that always reminds me of Henry David Thoreau who wondered (or should it be “pondered?”), “Is it possible to kill time without injuring eternity?”


Remind me to invite him to my next seance.


If I could only find the time. It just goes by so fast.


Like in an instant. A moment. A jiffy.


Each of those examples, by the way, is an actual unit of time.


A moment is a pre-clock medieval time measure that lasts precisely 90 seconds. I wonder how in those pre-clock days they timed 90 seconds. I guess they could have said, “A-one Mississippi! A-two Mississippi! …”


But knowing a moment is 90 seconds is useful to me and now, I hope, to you. You can now tell an annoying caller you'll "be one moment" and really take your time. I thought a moment was like 4 or 5 seconds, like within the realm of a winking flirtation.


In fact, an open-minded couple could go in 90 seconds from perfect strangers to being partners in an act that could conceivably result in the birth of a child. I’ve seen it done.


A friend of mine in college made meaningful eye contact with a girl he saw on the sidewalk and asked her if she’d like a house tour. I wondered later if she was from a different country where “house tour” translates to “instant sex.” But he really did get a girl in bed in 90 seconds.


I doubt he could have accomplished the same feat in a jiffy.


From Wikipedia: To physicists, a jiffy is how long light takes to travel a distance of one femtometre, which is a millionth of a millionth of a millimetre. That means that there are about three hundred thousand billion billion jiffys in a second.


Yet it takes at least 30 interminable minutes to get a basic suite of services at a vehicle maintenance shop called Jiffy Lube.


As for two shakes of a lamb’s tail, I become uncomfortable speculating about the origins of the phrase that certainly involves prolonged staring at the hind quarters of these gentle beasts.


I’ve heard too many stories of love-starved men succumbing to the carnal temptations of cattle and ‘round these parts we understand bedlam is an uproarious situation, but bed lamb is a rural scandal.


I’d like to see a judge sentence a bestiality convict to 50,000 shakes of a lamb’s tale.


Lesson: do sheep, do time.


Or does time do you?


It’s kind of like one of my favorite lines.


“Foolish mortal. You think you can kill time … Time kills you!”


It can be time for a change. Time goes by. You can call time out and be just in time. In your spare time you can save time. You can try to make time but will eventually run out of time.


Because time flies. It just never lands.


And that’s that. I’ve been doing these blogs since 2008, but this is the first one that ever directly took on the topic.


It’s about time.


Subscribe to my “Use All The Crayons!” newsletter — just $5 month/$50 a year — and get all my best stuff delivered twice-weekly to your inbox!



 





Monday, October 31, 2022

October Tweets of the Month

                                        

• I live in a house with 3 sassy women. I teach a class of undergrads raised to be hyper-sensitive on any number of topics. And I'm under a constant barrage by boneheads eager to engage me in provocative political and social arguments. I hold my tongue so much it's a wonder my fingertips don't have tastebuds.


• Some gifted writers enjoy gilded reputations, movie deals and widespread approval. They are famous authors. Others are considered dangerous, yet still secure movie deals for their illicit work. They are infamous. Then there are guys like me. We have none of that. We're unfamous.


• Hearing people judge those who attend hurricane parties always cracks me up. This is Planet Earth 2022. Climate change, drought, injustice, partisan rancor -- and most of us remain by choice oblivious to it all. It's one big Hurricane Party and we're all standing in line while the bartender cuts citrus fruit garnish. Party on.                         


• The Metric System has been the dominant unit of measurement in England since about 1680. The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964. Pete Townsend wrote the hit single "I Can See for Miles" in 1966, one year before setting foot in the USA. Question: In the 1st draft of the song, did Townsend try the lyric, "I Can See For Kilometers and Kilometers and Kilometers …"


• John Lennon was killed in 1980. George Harrison died in 2001. Paul McCartney is 80. Ringo Starr, 82. I'm not wishing any ill on either, but if the actuary tables are to be believed The Fab Four will one day soon have a heavenly reunion. I have to think there are already lines forming at the ticket windows.


• I drink too much. Laugh too loud. Lie to dodge tedious tasks. And at the end of another week when it could be argued my greatest achievement was not dunking the  phone in the toilet, I forgive myself my sins. Indeed, I put the human in humanity.


• I was stuck at an interminable red light wondering about all the things that take so damn long. Things like waiting for the computer to boot up, TSA lines, and getting stuck on IT hold. Our busy lives are consumed by mini-eternities. Want to know something that goes by like lightning? Sixty years. 


• It’s sadly ironic that in a day when social media creates disposable "stars" that light pollution is resulting in the visual obliteration of actual stars in the heavens.


• Reuters headline reads "Russians attack Ukrainian cities during rush hour." They still have rush hour? Traffic on the 4s? Beep 'n' creep? If ever a situation called for suspension of rigorous work duties, I'd think "Sovereign Country invaded by Russian Army" would top the list.


• One of the many oddities of my existence is that by most demographics I'm considered working class, yet few would consider what I do to be actual work and if I  have any class at all it's not readily apparent even to me.


• Say what you want about their leadership abilities, but if nothing else at least TRUMP, BIDEN and PUTIN would  make dandy Wordle first guesses.


• What salient fact on one of the day's biggest stories did nearly every news organization get wrong? They all declared Alex Jones was ordered to pay "nearly $1 billion" in damages. Pardon, but it was $965 million. That's not nearly a billion. It's off by $35 million. That's a lot.


• Some have suggested I'd sleep better if I stopped worrying about things over which I have no control. I get it. I can't stop wars, reverse climate change, etc. But it could be 50k years from now & I'll still be fretting about kids running w/wrong crowd. And we'll be in Heaven!


• I read because I'm convinced the more I have in my mind the less I'll have on it.


• Seeing a vivid rainbow over Latrobe this morning reminded me of the Sunday school lesson that the phenomena was God assuring that everything's going to be all right. It's good to know on these days when so many feel truly godforsaken, like He's Holy Ghosted us.


• I’d like to one day report on malfunctioning picnic ware litigation so I could without exaggeration describe it as a real basket case.


• My fear isn't that when the robots show up they'll take over my job. My fear is that when the robots take over my job no one will notice I'm gone ... Wait.  The whole premise is absurd. C'mon! Me? With a job? Who am I kidding!


• The Swedes must cleanup in the fish Olympics. I mean, who's their competition? They are the only nation that has organized their fish in the whole pescatorial realm.


• That scientists say Earth is 4.5 billion years old only adds poignant urgency to the timely challenge of reversing Climate Change. Anything that's 4.5 billion years old and still seems too young to die is bound to be pretty special. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

When did chocolate milk become nutritionally evil?

 

(683 words)



I couldn’t tell whether the stranger was mocking me or we were on the verge of bonding over my breakfast beverage of choice.


“You don’t see many grown men who feel secure enough to order one of those in a crowded diner,” he said.


We were sitting at the counter in the Youngstown Grille, just up the street from the Tin Lizzy and the best breakfast place in Westmoreland County — and I’m not saying that just because they put posters of me and my books up on the walls (although that doesn’t hurt in the rankings).


So what was I drinking that was so childish it startled the stranger?


Hawaiian Punch?


Apple & Eve juice box?


Pedialyte with a twist?


No, it was chocolate milk.


And although I can’t be certain, I think it had just two ingredients, chocolate and milk. So it isn’t being cunning or trying to conceal its composition. It’s the Gin & Tonic of breakfast libations.


When did it become a dietary object of ridicule?


I looked at my place setting. There was nothing else there that, to me, would draw mockery. There was no sippy cup. No loopty-loop straw popular with the 4 year olds. I stopped using those  when I turned 50 and decided it might be time to try to at least appear mature.


In fact, there was no straw at all. There never is. The efficient and pleasant Youngstown Grille staff all know not to ever bring me a straw because they’re trained to understand this bedrock characteristic of my conduct.


No straws. I don’t suck.


I should have known ordering chocolate milk would one day become controversial the day my wife felt compelled to share her nutritional insights in ways befitting a supportive spouse.


“I can’t believe you still drink chocolate milk,” she encouraged.


It was like the day she busted me removing from the freezer what would qualify as a sunrise staple in my college days — and that’s higher edoocation!


That’s your breakfast?”


That was Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food, an ice cream delicacy created by Vermont alchemists who one day divined caramel, marshmallow, chocolate ice cream and tiny chunks of fish-shaped milk chocolate would hit the same spot in the craving brain as bacon and eggs.


Try it!


And invite me! I’ll even bring my own spoon, the one with the happy, little dinosaurs on the stem.


I already know the rap on chocolate milk. It’s high in calories and sugars that lead to obesity and heart disease. The internet usually conveys the news accompanied by pictures of grim-looking doctors with stethoscopes draped around their necks.


But the pro-chocolate milk people tend to use drawings of cows with reassuring grins that seem to say, “Love me! Eat me! Drink me! I’m yours to plunder!”


I’m not kidding when I say I felt the stranger and I were about to bond. I was disposed to liking him immediately. Why?


For one, he was reading a book. A major league book.


Yes, it was hard cover. Mine are all softies, which is only one step up from the cardboard kind teething toddlers gnaw on or as I call them “Read ’n’ Chews!”


We talked about where to find the best breakfast in the area.


“I live in New Stanton,” he said, “and I’ll drive a long way for a great breakfast. This was a long way but it was well worth the drive. I’ll be back.”


I showed remarkable restraint by not pointing out the posters and books on the shelf were mine.


Before departing he thoughtfully poked his head in the kitchen and said loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear, “Thanks, men. That was the best breakfast I’ve had in years. I’ll be back.”


I hope he is and soon. He seemed like a great guy.


I won’t even mind if he ridicules me for drinking chocolate milk. He could tell me healthier options and I’ll tell him to shove off. 


He can go Phish.


But only on the days when he doesn’t feel like driving to Youngstown for breakfast.

Subscribe to my “Use All The Crayons!” newsletter — just $5 month/$50 a year — and get all my best stuff delivered twice-weekly to your inbox!



Saturday, October 1, 2022

Just not a B'n'B kind of guy

 

(610 words)



My disdain for the Bed & Breakfast option nearly surfaced when the sweet West Virginia proprietor told us she’d had some guests from Pittsburgh the previous week.


I almost blurted out, “Oh, and how did they taste?”


But I bit my tongue, unnerved by the prospect that our hosts might be biting it later on.


I’m not going to contend all B&B operators are cannibals (well, they are in the slasher movies) but I’ve never stayed in a single one where I didn’t move all the furniture in front of the door.


What kind of people would want a bunch of towel-stealing strangers roaming their halls day and night?


It’s just weird.


Besides the fear of being eaten and served to the other guests, staying in a B&B prevents me from doing two activities I enjoy in my own home.


That would be farting and having sex.


What? You thought I was going to say Yahtzee?


Farting and screwing are two reliable home pastimes.


I say farting and having sex like the frequency of the two are neck-and-neck. Alas, the count is lopsided. I do a whole lot of the one and comparatively little of the other.


I won’t keep you in suspense: for every 15 or so farts, I probably get lucky once or twice.


Those of you with a nose for statistics may sense that all that farting is to blame for the romantic tally coming in a distant second. To you I say, you’d be wise to keep your nose out of my business, especially when the topic is flatulence.


But let’s stipulate I fart. A lot.


Just not when I’m in stranger’s home, which is the essence of your average B&B. Farting in the dining room after a big meal is considered rude. So is farting on the back porch even when frogs from the nearby pond can camouflage the offense.


Heck, you don’t even feel comfortable farting in the bathroom. And even in the fanciest B&Bs, the bathroom is where they always put all the toilets.


I know. Go figure.


Yes, I’m even reluctant to make any typical bathroom noises in a typical bathroom.


So, in the end, I wind up succumbing to a sort of self-imposed constipation. 


Sex? Forget about it.


Sure, you can have polite sex, but what fun is that?


Polite sex is when a stealthy hand signals the foreplay has begun and it’s time to whisper what kind of condiment you want poured onto your tummy.


Me, I usually go for the spicy brown mustard so I can imagine we’re doin’ it during a rain delay at the Bucco game, which I recommend every couple try at least once. PNC Park is a great place for quiet intimacy because there’s never anybody in the stands — especially if the Pirates are playing a home game.


I prefer really rowdy sex. Roof-rattling sex. Cat. 4 sex. Sex so tumultuous that when the cops kick down the door you just know they’ve brought folding chairs and the bargain bags of kettle korn.


You just can’t get away with that in a B&B.


I feel sheepish mentioning all this because we wound up having a lovely time at our secluded little B&B. It was relaxing, scenic and we weren’t hoodwinked into dining on the remains of the tubby Clevelanders who’d stayed there the previous week.


We got home safe and sound and full of memories and, of course, full of the accumulated compounds from a weekend’s worth of captive gas.


It mattered not because there’s no place like home.


Even when it’s full of fart.



Subscribe to my “Use All The Crayons!” newsletter — just $5 month/$50 a year — and get all my best stuff delivered twice-weekly to your inbox!



Friday, September 30, 2022

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.


• Don’t ask why I was looking it up, but my research reveals that all mammals fart. Skunks are mammals. My question: What is the skunk etiquette when a skunk cranks out a really foul fart in a roomful of skunks? If you call a skunk with really potent farts "Stinky," is it insult or accolade


• Who on Earth would have ever guessed the GOP would be so happy over something that makes Dick Cheney so sad?


• Until someone shows me a real guy with a solid gold penis, I refuse to believe there's such a thing as the Midas Touch. It's not that I don't believe in alchemy, it's just that I know guys never know when to stop.


• If my calculations are correct, at some point tonight someone will watch a partisan news program and will descend into an imbecilic state from which he'll never recover. And when that happens 99.99 percent of American adults will be able to wear an "I'm With Stupid" shirt with diagnostic accuracy.


• I was flattered and a little taken aback when a 20-something girl I know as an friendly acquaintance asked if I'd take her to our church. I without hesitation said yes, even though my attendance lately has been spotty. I've since tried to figure out why me. Then it hit me. She presumes me and God are on a first name basis! And we are. But then again, aren't we all?


• We’ve become a nation so hyper-devoted to the protocols of bodily hydration I fully expect the CDC will one day begin to list the number of people on dry land who drown themselves as a leading cause of death.


• I’ve come to believe Mr. and Mrs. Dumpty were two of the world's worst parents. Leaving an egg baby in such a precarious position is bad enough, but whose idea was it to name the Dumpty kid, Humpty? Did they even have the conversation, "Hon, we can't name him Humpty or he's doomed to become a nursery rhyme. Let's go with Phil or Burt." In their defense the Dumptys were just a couple of egg heads. And egg backs. Egg butts. Etc.


• Heard a song that referred to "the world's oldest profession" and it got me thinking: What did the 1st prostitute" earn for the intimacy? And what did the 1st John tell his Cavepals. Maybe, "You won't believe what that babe in cave 8 will do if you give her a handful of roots.”


• I suggest we Pennsylvanians reshape our borders -- put some wiggles in 'em -- so we don't appear on maps like the state most likely to be used as the dead battery gauge when the USA starts to run out of power.


• It is not my wish to appear controversial or provocative in a social media forum where so many others seek respite, but this must be said: The greatest single side of rock music from the vinyl era is not "Sticky Fingers" Side 1. The greatest single side of rock music from the vinyl era is "Sticky Fingers" Side 2.


• In the near future, doctors will begin offering an elective surgery that will involve suturing phones into users' palms to prevent misplacement or dunking them in the toilet. Early hipster users will be mocked when they're the 1st to be seen on their knees with a finger stuck in a wall socket. That will pass as popularity rises and pretty soon we'll all be crowded along the wall ridin' the lightning ...


• We’ve become a nation so hyper-devoted to the protocols of bodily hydration, I fully expect the CDC will one day begin to list as a leading cause of death the number of people who drown themselves while standing on dry land.


• Calling a man or woman "unflappable" is an admiring  compliment denoting grace under pressure. But it must mean the exact opposite to our avian friends. Calling a fellow bird "unflappable" must mean a bird is forced to hoof it. I don't know what to think if a penguin calls another penguin "unflappable." Penguins seem so cheerful so it's unlikely to result in fisticuffs, but that's a whole 'nother story.


• I’ve come to believe Mr. and Mrs. Dumpty were two of the world's worst parents. Leaving an egg baby in such a precarious position is bad enough, but whose idea was it to name the Dumpty kid, Humpty? Did they even have the conversation, "Hon, we can't name him Humpty or he's doomed to become a nursery rhyme. Let's go with Phil or Burt." In their defense the Dumptys were just a couple of egg heads. And egg backs. Egg butts. Etc.


• My insecurities are so vast I've begun to prop up my ego by finding petty ways in which I'm more skilled than many of America's greatest figures. For instance, George Washington was a charismatic leader, a pillar of American greatness, but I'll bet I could kick his pantalooned ass in a parallel parking contest.


• If the publishing industry were at all honest about its definitions, it would announce a new category for a highly popular fiction genre. Classy books that are well-reviewed but earn squat (books like mine) would still be called literature. But  the successful books we all agree are trash would be called LITTER-ature.


• How’d my Gbg.-Hempfield Library go? It went great! How many in attendence? Uh, well, 4. It gets worse. I was one of them. Wait. It gets worse still. Two of them were library staffers so listening to me yap was like goofing off. That means just one person took the time to hear me talk. So what did I do different? Nothing. I gave the same talk with the same passion as if I were addressing 400. So it's all good. At least until the end when I spend about 90 interminable seconds basking in an ovation of throngs only I can see. Lesson? If you can't be a true success, having a powerful imagination helps one -- and I mean one -- overcome so many of life's little disappointments


• Call it a hunch, but something tells me one of the big '23 news stories will be astrophysicists announcing that voracious black holes are now ignoring regular shaped galaxies and are instead consuming only the galaxies that are Pringle-shaped.


• NASA hits Volkswagen-sized asteroid 6.8 million miles from Earth. Whew! Now if only someone could do something to make me feel safer every single time I set foot out my front door.


• There are talented writers who succeed on the strength of their stories. They earn movie deals and adulation. They are famous. Then there are writers who earn big bucks scandalizing the best-seller lists. They are infamous. Then there are guys like me. My books earn squat and acclaim elusive. I am unfamous.


Friday, September 9, 2022

I let 15 strangers grill me about my Parkinson's

(895 words)


It was last week and I was concluding my first of 30 news gathering classes. I was just about to say the part about remembering to please get your pet spayed or neutered when an afterthought floated to the front of my mind.


“Oh, and if you see me limping or my left arm shaking, it’s because I have Parkinson’s Disease.”


I didn’t say it to gain pity or deference. It’s just a matter of fact and it suddenly occurred to me these budding journalists — all curious and observant undergrads — might notice and have some questions.


Then I thanked them and mumbled my Bob Barker tribute — and don’t you just love that a man named Barker (still alive, 98!) chose as his pet cause a cause that involves pets who bark?


(That entire last sentence could one day be used to disqualify me as a professor having anything to do with the future of journalism).


And we all went along on our merry way, one of us with a slight limp that may be symptomatic of a for-now incurable progressive neurological disorder that strikes 60,000 Americans each year.


I spent much of the intervening day trying my damnedest to think of something interesting to say that’ll consume the 90-minutes I’m obligated to justify the peanuts they’re paying. And it is truly peanuts. Given my bent for extravagant Pittsburgh lunches, I calculate I’ll eventually tip more than I earn.


And just about as we were to start class No. 2, it hit me. I’d stumbled, almost literally, into a topic sure to consume a solid 15 minutes of class time.


“We broke news here the other day,” I said. “Can anyone tell me what it was?”


One kid said it was something about Ukraine, Another meekly wondered if it involved Trump.


“No! No! No! The news we broke is that your professor has Parkinson’s. You’re news reporters. You should have responded with 10 shouted questions about my condition. You should have at least out of self-preservation asked if it’s catchy (it’s not).”


I scolded them for failing on the human level, too. Sure, we’d just met an hour ago, but the trajectory of our relationship bends toward friendship. There’s zero chance of a guy like me spending nearly 45 hours — almost two whole days — in the same room with fellow English speakers and us not emerging chums.


I’d revealed something deeply personal and got no reaction.


I told them I forgave them the slight.


“Now, I want you to fire off questions — any question — about me and my condition. I promise to be totally honest. Ask me anything.”


What I was hoping would result in 15 minutes of chat wound up taking five times that.


We started out talking about my body. We wound up talking about our souls.


How long did I have to live? (Parkinson’s does not alter life expectancy, but motor skills can deteriorate to the point where the patient loses the ability to talk, walk or even blink.)


“Know what that means?” I asked. “Kiss pickleball goodbye!”


I told them my brain doctor tells me I’m beating Parkinson’s. I said I feel like I’m distracting it. I feel like I’m standing on a trap door with a rusty hinge.


“But, guess what? You’re all right there with me. Life is perilous. They oughta give us each a medal every time we make it home alive.”


If I am beating it, I told them the experts say a lot of the success is due to exercise and attitude. I remain upbeat about my prospects. Diagnosed in 2018, I told them my goal is to appear symptom-free for so long that the people who know me best suspect I made it all up to satisfy my need for attention.


I choked up when one girl asked me how I told my family. I love them so much. It was tough, I said. I’d summoned them to the back porch and laid it all out there.


“When it was over, I put my arm around the 12 year old and asked what she’d thought the purpose of the meeting was going to be. She said she thought I was going to be funny.”


I like to think I have since at least a time or two.


I was surprised but pleased when this roomful of strangers began asking me if I was afraid of dying, if I believed I was going to heaven, and how I’d like to be remembered.


I’m much more comfortable with these topics than ones that involve where you’re supposed to put the commas.


I have no way of knowing what kind of impact I made on how many, if any, of the students. But I sensed in their questions an embrace of the rare opportunity to have an honest exchange with an experienced adult about the things that really matter.


It’s something for which even experienced adults yearn. 


We stumble through life bewildered by pain, fear, injustice and the profound suspicion we’re doomed to die ignorant of just what the hell it all meant. 


And now I’m stuck with 26 more 90-minute classes to find a way to top the one that could have the greatest impact.


Thanks for reading. Please help control the pet population and get your pets spayed or neutered.


Class dismissed.




Subscribe to my “Use All The Crayons!” newsletter — just $5 month/$50 a year — and get all my best stuff delivered twice-weekly to your inbox!