Friday, April 29, 2011
I think it’s time huge corporations are allowed to bid for hurricane naming rights the way they do with football stadiums.
This would generate millions to reduce the federal deficit and give corporate branding mavens more muscular platforms than, say, a 30-second commercial bumping up against “Hawaii Five-0.”
Plus, consumers often abandoned by shifty insurance policies could save time if we could say we got screwed by Hurricane Aflac or Hurricane State Farm instead of saying we got screwed by Hurricane Katrina and then screwed all over again by Aflac or State Farm.
Blame or deny global warming, but we can all agree the weather is becoming more wildly chaotic. We need to seize this opportunity before even conservatives understand Earth is becoming kindling.
They’ve been naming hurricanes since 1953, which strikes me as odd because there have been hurricanes throughout history right up until 1953.
It’s not like naming things was unfashionable prior to the Eisenhower administration. We’ve been naming children for thousands of years and they can be at least as destructive as your typical Cat 4.
Initially, weather systems that reached tropical storm intensity were given exclusively female names. That must have made for some interesting cocktail party chatter at the U.S. Weather Bureau.
The competition must have been fierce among the male meteorologists deeming wives and girlfriends worthy of being associated with a really big and messy blow.
Of course, that kind of blatant misogyny could not endure. Who did these petty weathermen think they were? Members of Augusta National?
So the naming system became gender neutral. Now the World Meteorological Organization creates and maintains the annual lists. Names are used on a six-year rotation, with the deadliest or most notable storms having their names retired. So this year’s list may look familiar to 2005 hurricane buffs.
The first tropical storm or hurricane of the year has a name that begins with the letter “A,” and the second begins with the letter “B,” and so on. For reasons I could not detect, the letters “Q” and “U” are left unused.
So -- drum roll, please -- here are the names for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katia (subbing for the now retired Katrina), Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney.
For a list that is likely to cause multi-billion dollars in damage, the names are a rather tame bunch.
Don? Cindy? Irene? Those don’t sound like hurricanes. They sound like characters from “Brady Bunch” re-runs.
It’s all one big bore.
If we weren’t so darned PC these days, I’d suggest we name all hurricanes after popular males names from countries with which we’re at war. I think it would inspire a sense of national unity and purpose if the country knew Hurricane Mahmoud was about to slam into Galveston.
It would certainly provoke more of a conspiratorial frenzy around Fox News than Hurricane Gert will.
It might sound contrary to prevailing political turns toward civility, but how about allowing the sitting president to name the big nasties?
You’d think that maybe some political commentators might temper their criticisms if they knew years from now their grandchildren would hear in school about how one of history’s most destructive natural disasters was Hurricane Pat Buchanan.
But that might be unduly harsh.
That’s why, as with everything else in America, I say we leave it up to the wisdom of our mightiest corporations.
When a hurricane begins roiling the waters off the Virgin Islands, the Weather Channel can host a gala where bids are taken to earn hurricane naming rights. It’d be as ballyhooed as NFL Draft night on ESPN.
Of course, insurance companies and big drug manufacturers will swamp the proceedings, but Hurricane Hallmark would lend itself to great commercial opportunities.
And what would it be without a little whimsy.
Can you imagine the trending boost Flexifoil would get by sponsoring a hurricane with wind gusts of over 155 mph?
Never herd of Flexifoil?
They make kites.
And getting a storm of publicity for any kite manufacturer sponsoring a hurricane is bound to be a real breeze.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
God heard two prayers this week from two devout young men beseeching Him for freedom from what each believed was unjust incarceration.
One was 22-year-old Allah Mohammed Agha, an inmate in a Kandahar prison.
The other is Matthew Elrod, also 22, who’s been praying weekly that God helps him escape Redemption Island, a faux place of penal isolation, on the CBS reality game show, “Survivor.”
God granted only one of their prayers.
Yes, the Almighty, it seems, opted only to answer the prayer of an imprisoned Taliban soldier. Agha was one of nearly 500 Taliban who crawled to freedom in the outrageous tunnel escape.
“I’d been praying to God that He would free me,” Agha later told reporters. “And tonight He answered my prayers.”
And He continues to ignore my fervent prayer that He cease listening to prayers from devout young idiots.
Elrod studies pre-med at David Lipscomb University, a fundamentalist Church of Christ college in Nashville.
In show after show, he’s been featured praying the way the Bible says Job did after God laid waste to his every reason for being.
“I don’t know why, Lord, you’ve chosen me to suffer this humiliation,” Elrod’s said. “But if this is the burden you’ve chosen for me, then I shall endure it. I will do your will, no matter the hardships.”
The crucified Christ did less whining.
It’ll once again tonight have me leaping out of my chair to scream at the television, “You’re on a #&$!%* game show! Leave God the #&$!%* out of it!”
I’ll never understand the vanity of praying to a God in the belief that He’s immersed in the petty details of soft lives when He’s apparently indifferent to the prayers of those beseeching Him for justice in a world that too often seems truly godforsaken.
What? Is His prayer spam detector broken?
Want to know what I pray for?
I pray for the sick, the lonely and the sad. I do it every night down on my knees with my daughters.
It’s fun praying with little girls. They ask God for things like help in getting the stupid dog to quit whizzing on the carpet.
Just the other night, the 4 year old came up with a classic mingling of the secular and the sacred when she concluded her Easter eve prayer with “. . . and God bless the Easter Bunny and God bless yourself.”
I do on rare occasion pray for myself to be a better father, a better son, a better husband and, yeah, the essence of those prayers revolve around more success and more (some!) money.
In this way, my selfish prayers are not unlike the fictional rail bird the legendary New York Times sports columnist Red Smith once conjured. I remember it so well from Ira Berkow’s outstanding 1986 biography of Smith.
The bettor, Smith wrote, beseeched God to help his horse break the gate strong and, please, God, let the jockey be wise in going to the whip. Lord, I beg thee, he said, help the pony sense he’ll need strength at the final post. He prayerfully coaxed the horse around the entire track into a commanding stretch lead.
That’s when the bettor said, “Thank thee, oh, Lord, I’ll take it from here . . . Go, you son of a bitch! Go!”
I wonder if all our pitiful little lives aren’t really just part of some reality game show God enjoys watching the way I enjoy “Survivor.”
I’m fascinated by the interactions and the treachery, but no matter what they say or what I wish, there’s absolutely nothing I can do to change any of the outcomes.
I just sit there and watch the show.
Monday, April 25, 2011
It was the call I’d been dreaming of since I first began submitting my satiric novel to agents years and years ago. It was later summarized in an e-mail I can’t quit reading.
“First of all, I want to say that you have such a unique, distinctive voice,” wrote the prestigious agent. “You also have an amazing sense of humor and consequently, your prose positively vibrates with energy. Our team of readers had wonderful things to say about this book and even threw out comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and Christopher Moore.”
She is a founder of a top New York literary group that finds book contracts for authors with prestigious publishers.
I’m author of the world’s most rejected novel.
It is “The Last Baby Boomer: The Story of the Ultimate Ghoul Pool.” It’s about Martin J. McCrae, who in the year 2081 will be identified by government demographers as the world’s last baby boomer.
The premise is that people will be so sick of baby boomers by then they’ll isolate him in a museum suite. Contestants will pay $25 to spend 15 minutes with him. If they’re in the room when he dies, they win the jackpot.
One problem: He just won’t die.
I’ve spent years cycling it through submission and rejection to then sit it on a shelf for as long as a year until I was ready to flog the heck out of the thing in the hopes of making it irresistible.
The conference call from this agency had me convinced that’s exactly what I’d finally done.
It couldn’t have gone better.
She said they wanted me to take the time to really polish it, go over it with an editor then zip it back to them for submission to top publishers.
“It’s great right now, but are you willing to take the time to make it really special.”
I can do it!
“Don’t rush it. And get it back to us in . . .”
“One year. Or two. Really take your time.”
“There’s no way any of us could ever forget a character like Marty McCrae, so please do take the time you need to make this book the best it can be!”
One year? Two?
With sufficient motivation and the right doctors, I could be well on my way to becoming a woman by then.
Who knows what state the publishing industry will be like then? Will people still be reading books? Will some unscrupulous hack thieve my idea? Will the earth still even exist in two years?
I take pride in working lightning fast. It’s my newspaper background. It’s more workmanlike than prissy artistry and it serves me well.
Last fall I submitted a story pitch to MSNBC.com about what people named Pat Downs think about TSA pat downs.
Excited editors called me right up and said in a panic, “Can you have this to us in 12 hours?”
I did it in three.
To have someone gift-wrap a dream come true and then defer it for 12 to 24 months is like telling a 6 year old on December 24 it’s going to be the best Christmas ever -- and he can start unwrapping presents in June.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to bust my rear on once again taking the book apart, changing every verb, examining every character and making sure every sentence crackles with wit and purpose.
And I plan on having it done in three lickety-split months.
Then with the time left over I’ll take those aforementioned steps and start the process of becoming a woman.
Because if anything happens in the interim that would interfere with successful publication of my cherished novel, then I’m going to become a real drama queen.
And I’ll at least want to look the part.
Friday, April 22, 2011
I’m philosophically opposed to re-running old blog posts -- and I really need to get over that -- but I find it perfectly acceptable to do so on Earth Day when I can pass it off as recycling.
So here’s the same Earth Day blog post I’ve run the past two years.
But first, Tweet of the Week (8days2amish)! "It is said Mother Nature abhors a vacuum. That must explain why earth is so dirt-y.”
Happy Earth Day!
I’d planned on spending Earth Day scattering dense trash on pristine lands and in deep lakes where the environmental obscenities will likely linger for centuries.
Some future explorer would find them in some distant age. She may shake her head at my carelessness and exclaim, “Wow, someone with a really nasty slice used to roam these lands. We’re miles from the nearest golf course!”
It is my Earth Day custom to bang Titleists deep in the western Pennsylvania forests. I lose about four or five golf balls every single time I tee it up. I putt good, my iron play is strong, but I can’t hit a straight drive to save my life.
Most people don’t consider lost golf balls trash. I do. I can’t sleep the night before I golf knowing there’s nothing I can do to prevent defacing Mother Earth with my dimpled, non-biodegradable spheres.
Maybe I take things too seriously.
Like the saving the planet. I take it very seriously.
I aim to reduce, reuse and recycle everything. I vowed last year I would never step over another piece of trash. Now I carry a recyclable plastic bag with me on my walks and usually have enough cups, wrappers and papers to get about half a bag full.
I could accumulate more if I wobbled along in a drunken sort of weave into the bushes and gutters, but that would take too long and would reduce the happy time I spend in the bar developing a true drunken weave the old-fashioned way
Still, I know I could do more. I’ve read that the average American discards 28 pounds of trash each week into our bulging landfills. Our family is way below that, but not near the average household in Oslo, Norway, where they produce just four pounds of weekly trash.
Four pounds! What, is Oslo populated entirely by Keebler elves?
Still, even they are pikers compared to the world’s best recyclers. For every single pound of trash you and I produce, this trash-devouring little superhero is capable of recycling it into an equivalent amount of something useful and nutritious.
Behold, the red wiggler worm!
I did a story about the practice of vermiculture four years ago and immediately became enthralled with the ambi-sexterous red wiggler worms. The tiny slimies simply fascinate. It takes a trained eye and, I’d guess, an atomic level microscope, but every worm is a hermaphrodite generously bestowed with organs of both sexes.
The condition is not enough to make me want to tune in to worm porn night on the Animal Planet, but I’ll never again look at another worm and believe it must endure a boring or lonely existence.
As it was explained to me, “These worms simply live to eat and reproduce. Basically, the worm is just a mouth, anus and a microscopic little brain.”
I asked, given these base characteristics, how the red wiggler worm differed from your typical radio talk show host.
“Well, the worm actually contributes some good to society. About 45 percent of all our waste stream comes from food and paper products, both of which are compostable materials. Worms can convert these common waste products into nutrient-rich soil fertilizer to energize your gardens.”
I was sold. I got a little bin, a softball sized ball of 1,000 little wigglers and soon our family started putting apple cores, banana peels, lettuce scraps, tea bags, potato peels, etc. into the bin along with showers of shredded newspapers. The warm worm poo makes great fertilizer.
So now when strangers ask what I do for a living, I always answer “I’m a worm farmer.”
And it’s true. Sure, I do a lot of writing, but there’s rarely even a penny of commerce involved in the exercise. I used to say blogging was the journalistic equivalent of running a lemonade stand until I realized that even 8 year olds know enough to charge a quarter for a glass of lemonade.
Worm farming is a productive pursuit that reduces vile pollution. Some critics would argue blogging is the exact opposite.
So instead of golfing on this Earth Day, I’m putting on my worm farmer bib overalls and am heading to Baggeley Elementary School to teach my daughter’s second grade class about the joys of vermiculture or worm farming.
I’ve done it the past couple of years and it’s always a joy to see the kids fussing over the bin full of worms as they frolick amidst all the rich worm poo.
But it’s not all fun and games. I don’t let the kids get too out of hand.
It might upset the worms.
And, take my word for it, no one wants to see a hermaphroditic red wiggler get all excited in front of a classroom full of second graders.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
The best marital advice I was ever given is the one I’ve most ignored:
“Always argue naked.”
I only wish I could convey this sentiment to Will and Kate.
Like any married couple, they are bound to fight and thoughts more martial than marital are impossible when one is nude.
Alas, I’ve never once begun a nasty joust with my wife by suggesting we both remove all our armor. We’re both too businesslike for that. If we’re fighting, the last thing on our minds is getting naked and if we’re naked we certainly aren’t thinking about fighting.
It’s the way we’re wired.
It’s too bad. Clearly, we’ve surrendered to conventional thinking.
I think our fights would end instantly if at the first harsh words, we’d lock eyes and start undressing each other.
Instead we both sort of sulk. We approach a sort of marital demilitarized zone, reconnoiter the fortifications and back off like they’ve done at the 38th parallel between North and South Korea since 1953.
I think this is fairly common behavior for married couples who fight without resorting to an exchange of gunfire.
I wonder how Will and Kate will resolve their differences.
Kate seems like a shopper so she’ll probably cool off by going with her friends for what I’ve heard called retail therapy. It’s a perfectly harmless way for a princess to blow off steam, especially when British taxpayers seem so at ease with funding the silliness that goes along with hosting a royal family on the national teet.
Will’s another matter. Sure, he could dash off to a distant castle to cool down or split to a friendly country and engage in some good will tour among former subjects.
But, in this case, being Good Will seems unlikely to ease tension. In fact, always being Good Will is apt to increase it.
He’s not like the rest of us. He can’t storm out of the house and down to the pub to unload on marital difficulties as so many commoners do. Really, a little distance with some friends puts everything in perspective.
If it’s tense at home, I often like to head to the bar, have a pint and engage in distracting arguments with my buddies about pointless things like why the Pirates stink.
The pressure Will and Kate are enduring already seem crushing. I never cease to be amazed at the pressures young couples bestow on themselves by hosting enormous weddings -- and by enormous I mean ones involving about 200 guests -- not guests from 200 countries, as is being reported will attend.
But they have their silly protocols. It’s a national event, one that’s swept around the world in an appalling hype tsunami.
I have vain recollections about our 1996 wedding. It was perfect.
We had a small family wedding in our little church, then a quiet dinner with family at one of our favorite restaurants.
Then the next day we had an “All Honest Strangers Welcome” pig roast at a local picnic park.
Anyone was welcome who would by attending pledge to at least try not to steal our stuff. We found that people, even outlaws, are generally respectful if you tell them they’re welcome to party, get pie-eyed, and eat for free if they agree to not steal towels, envelopes or glassware from the gift table.
I guess about 250 friends and honest strangers showed up.
That’s where one of my old friends pulled me aside and told me to always argue naked.
While I’ve never applied the wisdom to my own marriage, I have without fail passed it on to every bride and groom I’ve met since that splendid September day.
One of these days I really ought to try it with Val. But it’s a nerve-rattling proposition for a shy sort of guy like me.
Maybe I ought to test drive it elsewhere first.
I wonder how it would go over in the bar if the next time I started arguing about why the Pirates stink, I just started to shuck my duds.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I may not be the best writer, but I’ll wager I’m the only writer who can do 10 regulation Army pull-ups and juggle.
Not simultaneously. Not yet.
It’s probably not the kind of boast you’d hear from writers like Stephen King or John Grisham, but it suits me.
If even hack psychologists diagnose I’m trying to compensate for so many professional shortcomings, so be it.
I like the fact that if I ever had to arm wrestle either of those two best-selling titans I’d have them both screaming uncle and racing back to their limos.
But that achievement will pale in comparison to my next great quest.
I’m becoming left handed. I’ve been willing myself to cease using my dominant right hand for all the menial tasks I reflexively summon it to do.
It dawned on me years ago the laziest part of my whole ever-loving lazy body was my deadbeat left hand. The right hand did everything and when it came to doing even the least of motor skills, my left hand never bothered to lift a finger.
It was unfair. It was like a marriage where the one spouse good-naturedly does all the work while the other one sits around and schemes of doing things like becoming left-handed.
But I digress.
So now I brush my teeth, shave, work the computer mouse and do things like button shirts with my left hand.
I still wouldn’t trust the southpaw to toss darts when there’s a pregnant woman within 10 feet of the cork, but it can certainly lift a 12-ounce beer mug every once in a while.
Our over-reliance on our dominant hands throws our whole bodies out of balance.
It’s true. Ask any tailor. They’ll tell you our dominant hands are as much as an inch longer than the ones that do little more than dangle. Can you imagine how the progression of such natural atrophy could effect people who make sleeves?
My goal is pure ambidexterity.
It’s just so cool not to mention, well, handy. Both Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were ambidextrous and would paint with both hands, switching when ever one got tired. British artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer (1802-1873) was famous for drawing with both hands simultaneously -- a horse’s head with one hand, a buck’s antlered head with the other.
Benjamin Franklin was ambidextrous and signed both the Declaration of the Indpendence and the Constitution left-handed. That he didn’t think to sign one right handed and the other lefty is the only intellectual blemish on America’s greatest rascal.
This isn’t purely theoretical. Painful misadventure will result in many of us one day winding up in slings. Worst case scenario: What if during one of my midnight strolls I stumble into a bear with a palate so discriminating it consumes only right arms?
Much of my motivation comes from being a really bad writer -- and not the occupational kind, although skimpy professional accomplishments heave the subject into question.
It’s my handwriting. It is atrocious. Elegant penmanship is something I so admire. It’s a vanishing art I turned my back on in about the fifth grade when I saw Jon Logue writing in little block letters and thought it looked really neat.
Today, it’s impossible for me to writing anything in cursive beyond my own name, a pathetic scrawl that.
So I’ve for years been resenting my right hand. Even what little I ask it to do, it does poorly. If it were a second baseman, I’d yank it from the line-up and give the new kid a shot.
That’s what I’ve been doing with my left hand.
My goal is to learn to sign my name left handed in a more stylish flourish than I do with my right. That’d be a good gauge of success.
Studies show a direct correlation between involvement in motor skill exercises and brain growth. Our brains sleep walk through routine tasks, but comes alive when we challenge it with unfamiliar tasks.
My ultimate goal is the increase my brain power to a density sufficient enough to differentiate between foolhardy tasks and ones that might lead to actual income
And I hope observers will one day be able to detect results more tangible than equidistant arms that look snazzy in sleeves.
Being known as someone who writes badly with both hands would be professionally unwise for an otherwise even-handed guy like me.
Friday, April 15, 2011
I was at a professional dinner recently seated with three women, all avid travelers, who were sharing stories about the most exotic meals they’d ever consumed.
That meant my role was to sit there biting on my spoon with sufficient force to ensure that neither food nor stupid observations would spill from my mouth.
Of course, I couldn’t help myself. I made about four offbeat observations that left the ladies looking at me the way cows look at passing trains.
I’m fascinated by global eating habits. What on this continent is revered as delicacy is over on that one reviled as repugnant. People cuddle dogs over here while over there they think nothing of tossing them in the wok with rice, carrots and bok choy.
I judge not.
I understand we’re running out of food and believe we’ll all need to alter our diets to meet rising demands. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be getting our roughage from things like tree bark.
I have to imagine that would clean out the system more effectively than iceberg lettuce.
It might even become a delicacy. Fancy restaurants might serve things like dogwood salad -- and wouldn’t that bark have some bite!
One woman said a language misunderstanding once tricked her into eating squid. This was repulsive to her, she said, because she was a great admirer of the squid.
I told her I admired Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and Bugs Bunny.
She said squid is more intelligent than dolphin. She saw a documentary that showed a squid reach way around and with one of its eight arms and give an unsuspecting shrimp a distracting tap on the opposite shrimpy shoulder.
I told her I’d seen Moe pull a similar trick on Curly. I asked if she thought that’s where the squid had seen it. Now, that would have been evidence of true intelligence.
She ignored me.
“When the shrimp looked the other way, the squid seized it and ate it!”
She was confusing intelligence with treachery. There are multi-million dollar international bounties on the heads of notorious outlaws who use similar tactics.
One woman startled the table when she said she’d once eaten cat brains.
“That’s disgusting!” said the squid lover. “How could anyone do that to a cat?”
“Bullshit,” I blurted out. “Cats don’t have brains.”
Turns out we’d misheard her. She’d said calf brains.
The women asked about the texture, how it tasted and if the flavor’d been enhanced with French sea salt.
I asked if it cost more to dine on a smart calf brain than that of a dunce.
She pretended she didn’t hear me, but I thought it was a good question. Certainly, if given a choice, I’d pay more to eat the brain of Stephen Hawking over, say, Ashton Kutcher purely for health reasons.
No nutritionalist would advocate consuming something that’s been dead for so long.
I thought it was a great question and evidence that my brain should be worth more than hers.
As I mentioned, I was struggling to keep quiet, but the topic was so energizing it was hopeless, especially when talk turned to how to feed a world with exploding population.
That’s when I threw one of my big pet theories on the table. And I mean really big.
“World hunger will be eliminated,” I said, “in 20 years when scientists learn to farm dinosaurs.”
A typical sauropod, the largest animal ever to roam the earth, weighed up to 70 tons and on a football field could have its tail tip at midfield and its nose be breaching the goal line (dingbat on-field refs would still need to go to the replay booth to confirm its snout broke the plain).
Imagine the immensity.
Just one sauropod could feed a family of four for 123 years, provided the family had a freezer the size of your typical Chuck E. Cheese.
I chose the sauropod over the T-Rex for dietary reasons. Sauropods ate exclusively plants and other heart-healthy offerings while T-Rex ate things like, well, sauropods.
Of course, their diets were certainly better than ours, assuming things like Hershey bars and Big Macs were unavailable 140 million years ago.
Sadly, my grand theory was met by looks of stunned silence. It was clear they were intellectually incapable of grasping the genius of my idea.
Must not have eaten enough brain food.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
One Pill Makes You Larger
One Pill Makes You Small
And the Ones that Mother Gives You
Don’t Do Anything At All
Grace Slick, a direct descendant of Mayflower pilgrims and the first person to say “m-----f----r” on live TV, wrote those words in 1966.
In an era when psychedelic rock was beginning to share the pop charts with Pat Boone, Slick had to assure nervous radio programmers the song “White Rabbit” was just her rockin’ tribute to “Alice in Wonderland.”
More than 40 years later the majority of the TV program sponsors are the ones touting just how truly wonderful drugs really are. And they do so with the same kind of homespun themes that once made shows like “The Waltons” so popular, although the Waltons -- “Goodnight, John Boy!” -- never felt compelled to warn that viewing might lead to thoughts of suicide.
A 2009 study by UCLA indicates the average drug-drenched American is exposed to 18 hours of drug ads each week.
I spend a lot of time thinking about drugs and it is making me sick. Over-the-counter remedies for my many illnesses are available all over right here in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
And that’s the problem.
The cure is the cause and vice versa.
Yes, Latrobe, hometown and inspiration for “Mister” Fred Rogers, is losing its charming drive-in theater.
The property owners cut the legs off a family business that had been leasing it for at least the 20 years I’ve lived here.
In its place will soon be yet another bland big box drug store that will be indistinguishable from the five already here serving a town of about 9,000 residents.
Come September, pills in Latrobe will outnumber the people by about 50,000-to-1. We can’t gobble them up fast enough.
Man, am I going to miss that drive-in.
We’d take our two girls, 10 and 4, there about five or six times every summer.
Each time -- the movies rarely mattered -- it was a wonderful slice of Americana in a town that takes a back seat to no other when it comes to true Americana.
As mentioned, Fred Rogers (1929-2003) was born here and his family’s McFeely-Rogers Foundation has been a local font of benign largesse since 1953.
Of course, just about everyone knows Latrobe for another famous son, Arnold Palmer. He still lives here seven months a year.
When Rogers and Palmer were graduating Latrobe High School in 1946 and ’47 respectively, the men would seem to have absolutely nothing in common but hometown roots.
All these years later, they share at least one uncommon distinction: both are recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom: Rogers from 2002, Palmer from 2004.
And as far as drug stores go, Latrobe used to be home to a dandy.
It was here in 1904 apprentice pharmacist David Evans Strickler took time away from his potions and invented the first banana split. It happened in the old Tassel Pharmacy down on Ligonier Street.
“I used to have a banana split every day at lunch down at the Valley Dairy,” Palmer once said. “They’re delicious. I never knew they’d become world famous.”
Imagine, a drug store that sold something, anything, involving nutritional fruit.
That drug store is long gone, as are the values it represented.
I’m guessing there’s bound to be a pill that could send me back to the days of drive-ins and soda shoppe drug stores before chain pharmacies became more spacious than automobile showrooms and saturation drug ads began warning me and my children about the dangers of three-hour erections.
It’s one pill I’d be tempted to pop.
In 2009, the drug industry reported $643 billion in revenues, with almost half -- $289 billion -- being sold in the U.S.A. Drug revenues have been growing at 12 percent a year for the past 12 years.
The combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses combined ($33.7 billion).
The industry is currently earning $100 billion revenue more than the total sales of the once-vaunted U.S. automobile industry.
And why not?
Who needs a gas guzzler when there’s a really swell trip waiting for you right there behind the bathroom mirror?