Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First day of school for a real Lulu

It used to be I got sent to see the principal all the time. These days, the principal comes to see me.

He comes in for a drink or two in the local watering hole where I’m a regular and I’m always glad to see him. He’s a great guy.

It’s odd because my reaction to seeing the principal always used to be to reflexively turn around, bend over, and tense up my butt cheeks.

I wonder if I am among the last students to receive corporal punishment at a public school. It probably happened six or seven times.

I was a recidivist troublemaker throughout my primary school years. I’d skip class, instigate cafeteria food fights, and could be counted on to wage war against the boredom inherent in the penal aspects of mandatory public education.

I wonder if my darling Lucy will be the same.

I kind of hope so.

Tomorrow is her first day of kindergarden and she’s showing signs she’ll react to compulsory education the same way I did.

Like me, she may cry uncontrollably.

I clearly remember my bewilderment and anguish at being ripped from home and bused into a sprawling mass of runny nosed tots who were all clearly my intellectual inferiors.

Yes, unfounded arrogance even at age 5.

At home, Lucy (given name Lucinda, aka Lulu, Lu) is a ceaseless yapper, more animated than the Cartoon Network. She’s temperamental, her affections as explosive as her tantrums, a real dickens.

Yet in public she becomes a stoic. When people compliment her she stares at her shoes. She freezes around other children, too.

It happened yesterday at the orientation for kindergarten, a German word that literally means “children’s garden.”

By my discerning eye, this one needed some weeding.

There are 21 students, 13 of them exuberant boys whose Ritalin prescriptions seem to have lapsed.

I was there for one hour with them and I felt like racing out for medication.

Teachers are such a popular punching bag by people who resent their benefits and their suntanned summers. Not me.

I don’t know how they do it. School bus drivers, too.

Lucy’s teacher is sweet sunshine. She’s very pretty and looks like she was constructed in a secret lab dedicated to making gentle and enthused teachers who’ll nurture the special needs of each of our precious children.

I’m happy she’ll be there to help shepherd Lucy through the journey where she’ll begin to meet the best and worst totems of all life has to offer.

I’m at once apprehensive and thrilled for my daughter to be tossed into the unholy mix.

Thinking back, it seems like I cried for what must have been two weeks.

I wonder if I needed to go through that to make the rest of it so special.

Because my school days were wonderful. I made so many great friends who helped make laughter a habit.

I didn’t feel the need to cry until I had kids of my own and started watching “Big Fish” every Father’s Day.

And it’s all because of what I learned in school that had nothing to do with what school was intent on teaching me.

I learned to befriend bullies, respect savants and crew around with the cut-ups who turned dreary math classes into devilish fun.

I learned to love being human and to love human beings.

It’s one reason why, even as I tremble for my little angel, I’d never dream of home schooling my children and becoming part of movement that seems dominated by Barack-hating, vaccination-shunning, Darwin-bashing, global-warming doubting, socially backward Troglodytes.

Not to sound judgmental.

So welcome to the world, kid. I hope you give them all hell.

I know you’ve got plenty of that in you.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Exploding heads? Cheney wrong again

Capital police have yet to report an epidemic of exploding craniums in Washington. Thus, the man who more than anyone assured America that Iraq abounded with WMD is wrong again.

Dick Cheney said the release of his self-indulgently titled “In My Time” would cause “heads to explode”

It’s typical bravado from a trigger-happy chicken hawk who sought and received five deferments to duck duty in Vietnam, yet never personally drew human blood until 2006 when a Texas lawyer forgot to duck when Cheney nearly cooked his goose.

And to further add to the fowl coincidences, both men were hunting a bird whose name is pronounced exactly the same as a previous VP under a previous Bush.

It stretches the credulity of all the old birds-in-the-bush aphorisms.

I nearly had a vested interest in the release of the Cheney book and exploding heads would have certainly goosed up sales in a fanciful project over which I still feel sentimental.

It was 2009 when Cheney was becoming so visible I suggested he replace Simon Cowell as a take-no-prisoners judge on “American Idol.”

Remember? Obama had just taken office and Cheney was predicting so much imminent doom I was surprised anyone was still bothering to peruse the seed catalogues.

He hinted bin Laden was probably chortling over having such a rank amateur as Obama going after him.

And Cheney may have been right about that. We’ll never know.

So Cheney seemed a natural to step in for Cowell. Who wouldn’t have tuned in to hear him tell some “Freebird” mangling hillbilly, “You can’t sing, you’re ugly and you smell like Detroit during a garbage strike.

“I’d advise you to go back to welding bent tailpipes, but I’ll be happy to shove you out the window if you’re just going to stand there and pout. It’s up to you friend. I don’t care one way or the other.”

He remains one of the most fascinating political characters of our time and is certainly the most frightening.

Besides being an uber-war monger with that fistful of deferments, he’s a dour moralist with two DUIs. He’s the leader of the far right movement that rails against gay marriage, yet he’s the doting grandfather to two children who are being raised in an alternative lifestyle loathed by his many ardent supporters.

I through tightly clenched teeth found psycho-analyzing him irresistible.

I wondered if my bitter partisanship was blinding me to a side of Cheney he sought to conceal.

Like perhaps the presence of a soul.

I had so much fun with it I decided to dash off a jiffy book proposal called, “The Audacious, Startling True Adventures of Pvt. Cheney -- Stealth Superhero!” It’s marooned at the orphanage section for unwanted stories at www.chrisrodell.com.

I was sure I had a smash hit on my hands and pitched it to some publishers who -- and this is symptomatic of my many failures -- said, wow, this is a great, hilarious, if only you’d have thought of this about six months ago!

What’s funny is whenever I’m invited to speak to high school or college journalism students, the story that gets the most enthusiastic comment is invariably the one about Pvt. Cheney and it’s always from the students who look the most thoroughly burned out, God bless ‘em.

Makes me hope burn outs gravitate to the publishing world before it’s too late for me.

I’m sure the book would be enjoying a nice little run right now.

It’s bound to have been more entertaining than Cheney score settling bore, which reviews are saying is just his way to kill time.

And, hey, I’m all for that.

It’s a vast improvement over all that Cheney was responsible for killing from 2003-2008.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Steve Jobs: American iCon

The still-glowing reaction to the retirement of Steve Jobs highlights what’s wrong with American entrepreneurship these days. Everyone said he’s a genius, our most creative thinker, a brilliant tactical leader.

What went unmentioned is Jobs should go down as one of America’s most colossal disappointments.

And that’s by even his own standard.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak: “He was always thinking about those great people that drove humanity to a higher level. People like Shakespeare, you know, like Isaac Newton.”

Sorry. His contributions are more in line with the recently deceased Elliot Handler who died July 21 in Los Angeles. He was 95.

Never heard of him? He was the founder of Mattel who invented Barbie, Ken and Hot Wheels.

He was a toymaker.

That’s all Jobs is.

He devoted much of the last 15 years figuring out nifty ways we could increase the number of songs we carry around in our pockets.

Just about every word I’ve written since 1998 has been on a Mac computer. I love Apple. I love my iPod. I’ve had an iPhone for less than a year and whenever I have any problem my first thought is, “How can what’s in my pocket solve this?”

Much of the world shares my mania for this. That’s why Apple now has more money in the bank ($75 billion) than the U.S. federal government, ($73 billion).

That’s why for the last 10 years I kept thinking, “Okay, now’s the time to take some of that money and some of that genius, put away the toys, and go to work on solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

A man like Jobs and his team -- and they all call themselves “geniuses” and have the t-shirts to back the boast -- shouldn’t be devoting their lives to improving the interface for games like Angry Birds.

If he truly aspired to greatness, he could have walked into a board meeting and said, “Okay, the technology behind the internal combustion engine is 160 years old, it consumes dirty fossil fuels that cost nearly $4 a gallon. We’re taking the next six months to invent a green iEngine that converts leaves and weeds into ozone that’ll float up into the atmosphere where it belongs. I want 10 ideas on my desk by noon tomorrow.”

He’d make a tidy profit on that, for sure. Or he could act like a truly great man and give it away for free.

Sound farfetched? Too socialistic?

Jonas Salk (1914-1995) devoted years of his life to creating a vaccine to wipe out polio, the most terrifying disease known to man. It could have made him a spectacular fortune. Instead, he gave it away.

For free.

“There is no patent,” he said in response to a question at a nationally televised press conference. “Could you patent the sun?”

Now, that’s a truly great man. A Pittsburgher, too. Like me.

Jobs’s health is a mysterious but clearly difficult situation for him. Certainly, he’s already faced thoughts of his own mortality.

Great men at the end think they haven’t done nearly enough.

It happens to famous artists, philosophers, scientists, musicians, architects, inventors and to the magnificent Renaissance man who was all those things rolled into one.

“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

Those were the last words of Leonard da Vinci.

To me the most compelling example of this poignancy was detailed in Stephen Spielberg’s 1993 film, “Schindler’s List.” It’s almost too heartbreaking for me to watch again.

Oskar Schindler risked his life to deceive the Nazis that Jews at his factory were essential to the war effort. He saved over 1,100 innocents from certain doom.

Yet, at the end the film shows him wallowing in despair over what he did not do. His wristwatch, he said, could have spared two more; his car perhaps a dozen.

These were great men with humanity’s best interests in their hearts.

Do not dare include Jobs among that list.

He was smart guy who made a lot of money giving us the moronic diversions we crave.

The world’s going to hell.

Thanks to Steve Jobs, at least we’ll all be groovin’ when we get there.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes, promiscuity and Pat Robertson

It’s not really a natural disaster if people are bummin’ they missed it.

All the news channels rushed in with “Breaking News” bulletins about the Tuesday earthquake that registered 5.8 on the seismic Richter scale, not to be confused with the structurally stout Andy Richter scale.

It seemed to rivet the nation -- and that’s a useful civic reaction to a situation where things like tectonic plates are coming apart.

As expected, we’ve seen scores of interviews with disheveled office workers saying it lasted 30 seconds and involved a lot of uncontrollable shaking.

One said it felt like being on a wooden roller coaster. Another said her whole world shook.

There wasn’t much property damage and everyone feels a little exhilarated.

It’s kind of like everyone on the East Coast enjoyed a simultaneous orgasm.

That leaves me faking it. I didn’t feel a thing.

This happens at the same time OKCupid released a list saying Pittsburgh is America’s third most promiscuous city.

Lot of good that does me.

I have only myself to blame. It was my idea to in 1992 shack up with the fair Valerie and stroll eyes wide open down the path to marriage, fatherhood and the sexual oatmeal of monogamy.

Yes, that’s my fault.

I saw footage of the White House shaking and wondered if Republicans will try and blame the earthquake on Obama.

That’s, of course, crazy. It couldn’t be his fault.

It couldn’t be the San Andreas Fault either.

This will smack of regional jingoism, but besides urban sprawl, challenging winters and New Jersey, I didn’t realize the East Coast even had any faults.

When things like this happen we mortals are left to wonder why. We beseech higher powers for understanding.

But who needs higher powers when we have Pat Robertson?

He’s a reliable translator when it comes to so-called “Acts of God” and divine explanation as to why the poor bastards really had it coming.

For example, he said Haiti’s 2010 earthquake was the result of a voodoo pact with the Devil.

So Haiti gets hit with an earthquake and it’s because it’s home to Satanic forces.

And Virginia gets hit with an earthquake because it’s home to, hmmm . . . who?

Pat Robertson!

He lives in Virginia Beach. So do my in-laws.

I’m saying that for full disclosure purposes and not because I have any of the petty vindictiveness Robertson attributes to God.

Now Virginia is in some projected paths of Hurricane Irene.

Looks like God’s just getting warmed up.

I’d go to church more if Pat says God told him to skedaddle to the magnificent woods of northern Minnesota and a massive volcano suddenly erupted there up from amidst the timbers.

I wonder why acts of God always involve death and destruction. Pat hasn’t said He’s told him so, but I’d have to think God doesn’t like being indelibly linked with earth’s worst disasters.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day. Wasn’t that an act of God?

Our nation’s right now a nervous wreck. We’ve suffered through economic tumult, NFL labor strife and now eastern earthquakes and the thought that Will Smith might soon be single.

I hope someday soon a slew of really good newsworthy advances happen that’ll take the edge right off.

I hope gas prices plummet after someone invents a truly green engine that runs on grass clippings. I hope due to an accounting error the federal government learns it’s actually in surplus and everyone is getting a check for $5,000 in time for today’s Happy Hour.

I hope we hear an entire broadcast of “Breaking News” that doesn’t involve anything getting broken.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pittsburgh needs a Gene Kelly statue . . . now!

Next year will be the 100th birthday of beloved actor and Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly (August 23, 1912).

I figure that gives me plenty of time to make an iconic 750,000-popsicle stick statue of him “Singin’ in the Rain” and affix it to a lamp post in Pittsburgh’s landmark Market Square.

I think that kind of eyeball evidence might be what it takes to get city officials interested doing what ought to come naturally.

Ever since I returned from a 2008 trip to write about golf in Wisconsin, I’ve been consumed with the idea of Pittsburgh building a Kelly statue in the heart of the city.

I love Pittsburgh, but sometimes I want to take its leadership and bat them over over their collective heads with a hearty loaf of Mancini’s Italian bread. A statue of Kelly singin’ in the rain from a Market Square lamppost would bring international attention to the city, not to mention tourist dollars.

And thanks to a February msnbc.com story about America’s best pop culture statues, I’m something of an expert. Civic leaders gushed about their rockin’ Ray Charles, their over-sized Albert Einstein and their little stoned Yoda.

I wish I had the eloquence to convince city leaders that the Kelly statue would earn Pittsburgh accolades and loot.

If I can’t maybe The Fonz can.

An official for Visit Milwaukee told me that the statue of Milwaukee “native” Arthur Fonzerelli of “Happy Days” fame the city erected in 2007 has been an wholesome godsend to downtown tourism.

“It cost us $90,000 in donated sponsorships to build and has in just two years earned us more than $9.5 million in worldwide media value,” he said.

Today, a steady stream of visitors to central Milwaukee stop by the downtown river plaza to ape it up with the “Bronz Fonz.”

Now -- ehhh! -- we all love Fonzie. But Gene Kelly is one of America’s most sparkling icons.

And for me it’s all because of that joyful dance he made famous in the 1952 movie.

The American Film Institute in 2007 ranked “Singin’ in the Rain” as the fifth greatest American movie of all time. These experts in cinematic glories ranked it ahead of “Gone With The Wind” (6), and “The Wizard of Oz,” (10).

Only “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather,” “Casablanca” and “Raging Bull” ranked (in order) better than the great Kelly vehicle.

Not a man or woman alive can’t relate at some level to that euphoric dance.

Released nearly two years before the birth of Howard Stern, that dance is an upraised middle finger to anyone who finds themselves caught without an umbrella in the crapstorm of life.

Check it out. The sequence is 4 minutes, 36 seconds of pure magic.

It’s particularly relevant to a perpetual underdog of a city like Pittsburgh, despite consistent top rankings in numerous “most livable city” listings.

I hope somebody in the city picks up the baton and runs with it. One year is plenty of time to raise awareness, funds and construct a statue that will give Pittsburgh a joyful jolt of publicity and a euphoric new image that will resonate around the world.

I’d do it myself, but I’ve got a full plate. Tonight we’re watching “Singin’ in the Rain.”

And I have lots and lots of popsicles to eat.

Monday, August 22, 2011

We Sons of Dead Fathers

I watched one of my oldest and best buddies come unglued last week.

He told me how much I meant to him. He said he admired me. He for the first time called me “Chris” without a profane modifier.

It was completely out of character. I’ve known him 30 years and the hallmark of our relationship has always been an enduring exchange of insult that elevated humiliation to high art.

It’s just what guys do.

I wrote about him last year in this post about his indifferent reaction to my near-death experience from choking on a chunk of bacon-armored shrimp at a NYC dim sum.

What could cause someone so sarcastic and sacrilegious to express such common humanity?

He’s taken membership in man’s most macabre club.

He’s now one of The Sons of Dead Fathers.

John’s dad died last week. He was 70.

Like so many of my good friends’ parents, I barely knew him.

It’s a real flaw of mine, one I’m trying to change. I think I was raised to hold parents in high regard and have thus been eager to hustle myself and my friends away from them so we can commence to swearing, drinking and talking about how our parents are always driving us crazy.

That’s begun to change as I’ve become a parent myself and have come to understand most parents are just folks, too, and unworthy of any special regard.

I wish I’d have known John’s dad better. He sounds like a hoot. At least that’s the way his grieving son described him.

It’s an alchemic trick of time and nature that the flaws of a father turn to charms the instant the father expires.

This became clear to me as the two of us were out waking John’s dad in a Pittsburgh-area tavern. John told story after story of his father’s insane rages in traffic, at home and in restaurants that didn’t serve A-1 Steak Sauce.

I kept hearing these stories and exclaiming, “Wow! What a jerk!”

And John would just laugh and say, “No, he was a really great guy! He never hit my Mom and the only time I ever thought he was gonna hit me was when I accidentally spilled some oil on a car he really loved.”

That’s one of the things about The Sons of Dead Fathers Club. Only sons of perfect dads earn entry. And dead fathers are always perfect.

There’s not a single flaw of my father’s smudged character that I couldn’t dismiss as a sign of the times, a bad break or a valiant response to a deck that always seemed stacked against him.

He was the perfect father.

I thought so even before he died and I told him that.

And that’s the key to finding peace in mourning a relationship that’s fraught with so much euphoria and despair.

That’s one of the first things I told John when he called seeking my advice on how to deal with the emotional tumult.

“I remember how beautifully you handled the death of your father,” he said. “You were so graceful.”

I was?

I don’t remember feeling very graceful.

I remember feeling devastated. I remember feeling rage over my shortcomings and forlornness that the man who’d given me so much love and laughter was gone from my life forever.

The only thing that got me through it and still does -- and I think about that man many times every day -- was that he knew I really loved him.

I don’t know how I’d be feeling today if he’d thought otherwise.

We were blindsided by his sudden death in 2004. It was different with John. They all saw it coming.

That gave John time to make peace with a complicated relationship.

And that’s an important lesson to all the sons and all the daughters of fathers with whom they occasionally war, confound and share mutual wonders about whether one or the other was somehow switched at birth.

You need to tell the people who matter you love them if you want to eventually carry on with your life giving the impression of inner grace.

It’s cool to convey that with friends, too. It’s what John and I did beneath the surface of our talk about our dead fathers

And now I know that John knows that I know that he really loves me.

And, yeah, I love him, too.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dream job: Some of my recent stories

The following is the most memorable of the all the hundreds of reader comments from six of my msnbc.com stories published over the past month. It was signed, “Stop the Hypocrisy.”

“When I grow up, I wanna write fluff pieces just like this for a major news organization and get paid for it. Beats workin’.’’

Yeah, me, too.

I was at party yesterday chatting with a friend about our boyhood days when we both used to deliver newspapers.

We talked about idiosyncratic customers, cheap tippers, and the youthful steadfastness it took to put the newspapers behind all the doors on the days when it was about 2 degrees outside.

Today he has a successful landscaping business and I’m wishing I could resume delivering newspapers.

I used to make about $150 a week delivering the old Pittsburgh Press. Good loot back then.

What’s surprising is that’s just about what I’m making now writing stories for what by every measure is one of the world’s more prestigious news outlets, and the only one that combines the titans of two industries, Microsoft and NBC.

Wow. You’d think working for them wouldn’t make me nostalgic for the days when I used to deliver newspapers.

But I doubt anyone wants to read another selfish rant about my inabilities to earn a decent living. Whaaaa!

So I think I’ll just list links and observations about some of the stories I’ve really enjoyed doing. And I really have.

Pittsburgh’s Cartoon Museum -- I’m always thrilled to do a story promoting any Pittsburgh business or attraction. As I do with every story, I dutifully alerted the two businesses mentioned in the story and thanked them for their cooperation. Neither responded and that’s just downright unneighborly, especially for a city that likes to claim Mr. Rogers as its own. And he’s not, you know. He’s like me, from Latrobe, where good manners still matter.

Stargazers seeking new Dark Ages -- This one was great fun and is, I think, the kind of story I’ll be able to use over and over again with different publishers for the next 20 years or until light pollution disappears. I liked the lead on this one too for the way it combines Biblical allusions with secular realities. The GOP could use a little bit of that sort of thing.

Cricket spittin’ & other wacky fair stunts -- The “Stop the Hypocrisy” guy is right. Getting paid to write this kind of stuff is really fun. I just wish I could get paid more. This story, too, gave me what I thought was a good blog item about Rick Santorum and Man Marrying Dogs. That’s very important to me. The surge in readership lately has me believing the blog will eventually earn money and that would be a wonderful solution to so many of my difficulties. I hope you’ll help make it happen by referring the blog to friendlies and influentials.

Hot As Hell? Try Cool, California -- This is the fluff piece that so upset the reader whose name demands the cessation of hypocrisy. Really, me and this guy have so much in common. We both want to get paid for writing nonsense. We both despise people saying one thing and doing another. It is odd he’d want to say something hurtful about someone with whom he should be collegial.

Berlin Wall 50th anniversary -- If you’re going to read one story of this batch, this is the one. It’s downright scholarly. It combines travel with history and social observation. I tracked down some great sources, one an MP from Checkpoint Charlie the night the Berlin Wall went up, and the other a former Berlin law student who risked his life helping 68 East Germans escape to freedom. Lots of great comments to this one and not a snarky one in the bunch.

Mississippi Riverboat cruising making a comeback -- I was very pleased they assigned me this one. It really allowed me to immerse myself in some great Mark Twain history and get to know head Twainiac Cindy Lovell, director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. This is another one that filled my plate with so many great story ideas I hope to farm out to other outlets.

So there’s a list of some of the things I’ve been working on in my professional capacity.

The stories get great reaction and one day when I grow up I want to write fluff pieces just like them for a major news organization and get paid for it.

Beats workin’.

Or so I’m told.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

End world hunger! Be an airhead!

At least once a month I’m given a reminder as to why my annual expense on the Oxford English Dictionary membership is such a worthy splurge.
The word-of-the-day feature always surprises me with delightful new definitions that tickle my intellect, lead to story ideas or sometimes solve seemingly tricky problems.
That makes Wednesday’s word a sort of three-fer.
I love the word, plan on pitching it as a story idea and, yeah, it offers a breathtaking way to end world hunger.
All that for just $295 a year.
The word is “breatharian.”
Definition: “A person who consumes or claims to require no nutrients other than those absorbed from the air and, in some cases, sunlight.”
First a quibble. The word, initially cited in 1979, is formed on the same basis as vegetarian (people who eat only vegetables) and thus suffers from some clumsy construction I’d like to tidy up.
Based on vegetarian, the word should be “airarian.”
And, yeah, let’s work at overcoming the pejorative connotations of the word and get to the point where we can just call them all airheads.
The practice has mystical roots with Catholics believing fasting saints needed not food nor water and more recently Hindus who believe any person can give up sustenance altogether and live off what they call “prana,” “living on light” or “living on air.”
I spend a lot of time worrying about world hunger.
I’ve suggested both hunger and morbid obesity could be eliminated in one fell swoop if everyone agreed to eat just two square meals a day.
It was I who last year floated the theory that world hunger will be eliminated when scientists learn to clone and farm 70-ton sauropods, a dinosaur capable of feeding a typical family of four for about 120 years, providing the family has an industrial freezer the size of your typical Chuck E. Cheese.
The problem is all my solutions center around consumption.
Now along comes a solution that literally out of thin air turns my ideas on their heads.
All that’s needed to sustain breatharians is air and sunshine, elements that are drive-thru ready every time you roll down your car window.
I do wonder if meteorological conditions will factor into health.
Will people in dark and cloudy places like Seattle be preternaturally thin? Will folks in sun-drenched Yuma turn tubby from all the fresh air and sunshine?
(Trivial aside: Residents of Yuma refer to themselves as Yumans. So my bucket list now includes the goal of running in one of the town’s 5Ks so I can snag what’s bound to be a nifty Yuman Race t-shirt.)
Of course, I’m eager to learn more and am open-minded about going foodless.
I dream of a world of plenty where everyone feels strong and well-fed, a world where none of my shirts is stained with mustard and all the wars are fought with farts.
That’s why I’m thrilled Latrobe could this weekend be a beacon to global breatharians.
Yes, it’s the Westmoreland County Airshow! Gate tickets $10; children 10 and under free!
I’d have to think breatharians would be attracted to something billed as an “airshow,” even if they’ll wind up confused by the carnival food, stunt planes, wingwalkers and BigFoot, the original monster truck.
Still, I’m hopeful this weekend I’ll meet a breatharian who’ll be willing to share his mystical secrets with me.
I’ll take the guy out to dinner.
Heck, I’ll even treat.
That’s sure to be another plus.
Breatharians are bound to be cheap dates.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What they're saying 'bout me

This has been a frustrating summer for those of us who enjoy going to the movies. I see interesting trailers and get gassed by the blurbs assuring greatness -- “Adrenaline-Fueled Thrill Ride!” -- and am inevitably letdown when I parse the source.

The blurb authors are more often than not anonymous little bloggers frustrated by their inability to score a larger readership.

Of course, who am I to cast aspersions? And who’s to say their opinion is unworthy?

Social media rules. We live in truly democratic times. All voices are equal and have an opportunity to resonate.

People are always talking about each of us and posting comments in various places where we voluntarily leave our intellectual footprints.

I thought I’d post some of the things people are saying about me so you, the reader, can decide if I am a movie you’d want to see.

• “Chris, you’ll always be COOL to us and a work of ART!” -- How sweet is that? This was from an e-mail exchange I was having with one of the wonderful folks who helped set up my recent Philadelphia visit. They’d read some of my blog posts about Philadelphia including this one where I talk about the coolest I’ve ever been. Of course, they were exaggerating, but they’ve always been nice to me so I choose to believe there was some truth to the gushy sentiment.

• “Oh, yeah, you’re really, really cool.” -- This was from my 10-year-old daughter. It’s essentially the same thing as the Philly folks said but it was dripping with sarcasm. She doesn’t think I’m cool at all (She’s wrong. I’m really, really cool).

• “Reading your collection of tweets is the perfect way to start a day!” -- This is flattering, but I think I’d have to go with sex. That’s the perfect way to start the day. But check out my twitticisms @8days2amish, have some sex, and compare for yourself. Maybe I’m wrong!

• “You’re stressing me out!” -- This was Josie. She said it as she ran screaming into her room after I’d detailed some of the tasks at which she was failing. Later when she emerged composed from her room, I knelt down and put my arms on her shoulders and told she was confused. Stress, I said, isn’t doing household tasks. Stress is not having a real job, having a wife who’s legitimately concerned about money, and two daughters who want things I can’t afford and do not help out around the house. “You see,” I said, “10-year-old girls don’t have stress. They cause it.”

• “I absolutely loved this post!” -- Author Greg Olear has written a book called “fathermucker” about the joys and tribulations of being a Dad. As part of the strong roll-out for the book’s October 4 release, he’s asked for contributions to the dandy blog of the same name and he took one of mine. That's a reader comment. You can check it out here. I’m happy to contribute and hope Spielberg gets so fed up over the bickering between Di Caprio and Pitt over who gets the to play the “fathermucker” lead he asks Greg to do it himself.

• “He’s not weird. He’s good.” -- This was from Lucy who was 4 last year when one of Josie’s friends observed, “Your Dad’s really weird.” It was so endearing my heart still flutters when I think about it and it is a soulful balm all these days when she indicates she’s completely reversed her opinion. In fact, it would be overwhelming to try and detail the number of times she and her sister daily declare, “You’re so weird!”

• “Profound AND funny!” -- This comment was in reaction to my tweet: “Honesty without tact is like brain surgery without anesthesia. The operation could cure, but the complications can kill.” I agree and again wonder if it’s about time I seek a job writing the notes they put inside the fortune cookies.

• “Man, are you drunk!” -- Note the punctuation: it’s not a concerned, “Man, are you drunk?” Nope, it was an emphatic declaration. This was from the golf weekend up with my cousin’s husband when I severely overestimated my competency to consume massive quantities of Jack Daniel’s. I had a hell of a good time.

• “I can’t believe you’re not hungover!” -- Any regard I lost the previous evening by my drunken antics was overcome the next morning when my new friends observed me up and at ‘em right at reveille. They were impressed I could golf, eat, joke and resume drinking with what should have been a horse-killing hangover.

• “You think you’re so funny.” -- Again, Josie, and, yeah, I suppose I do. I know I’m not ambitious, wise, mechanical, handsome, punctual, fit, sober, well-rested, solvent or serious. I guess that just leaves funny.

• “He cried the whole time!” -- This was Josie’s observation of me after the outstanding “Freedom Rising” show at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. It rings all the bells of why I love this big, flawed and exuberant country. I told her I wasn’t crying. I was merely eye-oozing patriotic poignancy.

• “It would be fun to see you surprise the girls with a really close-cropped look!” -- That was Val’s way of saying, “You’ve looked really stupid for the past year trying to grow hippie hair when you have so little of it left.” She was right and I was grateful for her tact.

• “You look like a #@&% idiot.” -- My bar friends who make up in directness for all they lack in tact.

• “This is the worst idea for a blog post ever!” -- This is from one of the many voices I hear in my head.

• “People are gonna really love this one!” -- This is from a different one.

I’d better stop now. I’m beginning to sense the girls are right.

Maybe I am really weird.