Friday, March 30, 2012

My absence/their fonder hearts

It was the Roman poet Sextus Propertius who is said to have given the world the first notion that absence makes the heart grow fonder when he wrote, “Always toward absent lovers love’s tide stronger flows.”

That his name endures in the canon of great poets more than 2000 years after his pre-Christ passing is remarkable, especially for a poet inept at composing even simple nursery rhyme.

My appreciation of poetry is sadly deficient and I admit when I saw the name Sextus Propertius my first thought was, man, I’ll bet it’s funny when they read his name aloud in high school English.

But his initial wisdom persists, as I am reminded whenever I return home from a jaunt.

Happened again Monday when the 5-year-old toddled off the school bus and dashed straight into my arms. I’d been away seven nights and had just returned the previous evening with a bagful of girly goodies.

“Daddy,” she said, “when we get home will you help me change into the new shirt you brought me and then come outside and play with me?”

It was so beautiful and heartfelt I decided right then and there -- to hell with my busy schedule -- I was going to be 15 minutes late for Happy Hour.

Father of the Year Award, here I come!

Who says I’m not sentimental?

I’m becoming aware that I’m loved most by the people who see me least.

I suspect that’s the way it is with most of us. The people we see less often recall the laughter and forget the pettiness. An occasional wisdom will resonate and fleeting bone-headedness will be dismissed. Embarrassing personal problems like chronic and uncontrollable flatulence are mostly gone with the wind.

The trick in life is being around enough to remind loved ones you’re part of their lives while being absent enough for them to miss you even a little.

I have momentarily achieved that balance.

Right up until I vamoosed the girls were all raring for me to go. They complained about my constantly being around, my insistence on watching the Penguin games instead of their Disney Channel shows, and they revolted at the olfactory offense that’s part of my lifelong struggle with chronic and uncontrollable flatulence.

And for me a road trip is a traveling two-fer. The kids miss me and I get to make a host of new friends because I’m becoming a master at the art of fleeting first impressions, at least among drunken strangers, my sweet spot demographic.

I think I’m popular with those kinds of folks because I’m convivial, never ask pesky questions that don’t involve another round of liquor, and the only time anyone hears me going bitch, bitch, bitch is if I’m telling a story about a successful dog grooming venture.

I like to think these methods would work as well making friends with sober strangers as it does with drunken ones, but it sounds too boring to bother trying.

Of course, given these preoccupations with being too present too often, I often fret if I blog too frequently or the posts go on too long.

So I think I’ll quit now and allow you to enjoy basking in the goodness of me being gone.

Plus, I need to catch up on those 15 minutes of Happy Hour I lost Monday when I was out playing with the kid.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Return of the panic attacks

Lewis Grizzard, the late, great Southern humorist, used to say he belonged to a no-fly club. Their motto:

“If given a choice, we will never fly. If given no choice, we will never fly sober.”

I wholeheartedly support the sentiment without practicing it.

But I thought long and hard about getting all gooned up for a long flight from Houston to Pittsburgh Sunday night.

I thought it might help me from succumbing to a panic attack, something that hadn’t happened in almost 10 years.

First a little background.

I have no fear of flying. I’ve flown in hot air balloons, bi-planes, stunt jets, have twice gone skydiving and once leaned out the open cargo bay deck while tethered to a C-45 military mule that was cruising at 10,000 feet.

It was all very cool, as I like to think I am.

My odd problem isn’t flying.

It’s flying commercial.

In that regard, my panic attacks make perfect sense.

Few people recall it, but one of the biggest news stories of the summer of 2001 was the congressional consideration of a passenger bill of rights.

The flying public was fed-up.

Exhibit A in the necessity of the legislation was a Northwest Airline flight from, I think, Detroit.

I vividly remember reading all about it in a front page story from the Wall Street Journal. It told in painstaking detail what happened on the flight where weather delays necessitated passengers be held captive on the tarmac. This one lasted nine hours.

Toilets backed up, stagnant air fouled, children screamed, passengers fought; To this day, I remain amazed someone didn’t pull the emergency chute and slide to sweet freedom.

There’s no explaining the irrational mind of man.

I made the mistake of reading every word of the story and thinking, man, if that ever happens to me I’ll go right out of my mind.

This seemed unlikely because it seemed to herald a tipping point where everyone agreed, enough’s enough, this must never happen again.

You may not remember it because of another big news story that swept it from the front pages.

That was 9/11, the day when passenger rights instantly became a quaint notion of bygone days.

Of course, you can by now guess what happened to me on my first post-9/11 flight.

Dangerous weather diverted my New York to Pittsburgh flight to Cleveland. Every 15 minutes, the pilot came on and updated us that we’d soon be on our way.

We were stuck there four hours.

I can tell you from personal experience that a jail cell is less confining than coach seats on a 737. In a jail cell, you can at least get up and pace.

In a typical jetliner, you can’t move even an inch. The feeling becomes more acute when the plane isn’t going anywhere either.

It began with a cold sweat and an overwhelming need to get up and run. I felt as if I’d been sealed in a great big coffin. I knew once the plane got rolling, I’d be fine, but I felt if I remained in that middle seat I’d go out of my mind.

Here’s another thing: There’s an utter lack of humanity on commercial flights. No one jokes. Few are civil. It’s oppressive, as is the entire air travel experience.

Looking back I wonder if one of the triggers may have been I-90.

I could practically see it from my seat. The very next day my buddies and I had planned to drive to Detroit to catch some baseball games. I knew if I could just get off that plane I could arrange for them to pick me up on the way. My unjust incarceration would be over.

I finally bolted from my seat and confided to the flight attendant I was coming unglued.

Well, she couldn’t have been nicer if she’d have pulled my head to her breast and told me to call her Mommy.

“A lot of people have been having strange reactions since 9/11,” she said.

She gave me a cool, damp towel to put on my neck and let me stand there near the open door. Just seeing access to escape soothed me. The panic passed.

But once I’d experienced it, I became hyper-aware it could happen again. And it did. Two more flights in the next six months experienced delays, one of them for two hours while they fixed a stupid Julia Roberts movie that wouldn’t play.

I’ve hated Julia ever since.

Somehow, I made peace with the discomforts of flight and have been what passes for normal for the last decade.

So none of that was on my mind as I strapped into my aisle seat for last week’s flight to Houston. As I settled in, I noticed that the guys in the middle seat beside and behind me were buddies.

“Here, you guys are friends. Take my seat,” I offered.

What a great guy! They were very appreciative at my generosity.

Had I surveilled the seats previous to opening my mouth, I never would have made the offer.

Occupying the aisle and window were two enormous stoics. They didn’t nod at me or acknowledge a fellow human being would be practically in their lap for the next three hours. I began feeling the stirrings of the old panic.

It built for over a minute before I said enough. I told the guy I’d changed my mind. I needed my aisle seat back. Pronto.

The sudden retraction of my offer baffled them. I didn’t care.

There’s no explaining this irrational mind of mine.

The return flight was sober and uneventful. I had an aisle seat and a slender female next to me who smiled when I sat down and engaged in pleasantries.

So it seems the requirements for guys like me to fly are an aisle seat, on-time flights and petite seat mates who look like they might hold my hand if I start feeling odd agitations.

My fear is the airlines might read this and realize a good percentage of their customers would pay extra for these kinds of civilities that should be common practice.

Maybe I should think about hiring a skinny hooker to fly with me next time.

It’d probably be cheaper than flying first class.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March Madness: The Tweet 20

I dedicate this Twitter round-up to my new followers listed below and those of you check out the trio of tweets along the right side bar of my home blog. And, yeah, to those who just stop by on occasion to check out the blog.

Thanks -- Will Black (@rockerWillBlack), The Weeklings (@TheWeeklings), Elda Nealey (@Elda_Nealey), Libby Shields (@Travelingsingle), Kelsey Varwig (@KVarwig), Batto Rupp (@battopydp0), and my new buddy Gary Trask (@golfergt).

In honor of March Madness, here’s my Sweet 16 tweets from the past month. Actually, four more than 16 so I guess it’s the Tweet 20.

• Male Santorum supporter yelled, "I love you, Rick!" during speech. I imagine he was pepper-sprayed, advised to never enlist and taken to an undisclosed location to pray the gay away.

• Gitmo tortures continue. New $750K soccer field isn't so inmates can play. No, they'll be forced to watch others play. Cheney strikes again!

• I'm so convinced multi-tasking is harmful to thoughtful productivity I vow to never again walk and chew gum at the same time.

• Just realized: three of my all-time best buddies are named John, Paul and George. I guess that makes me Ringo. What an artistic pity.

• Really popular all-you-can-eat buffets are places where the crowd never thins.

• That "waste not, want not" is a load of crap. I waste nothing, yet still want everything.

• Rick Santorum's kids stare at him the way the apostles must have stared at Jesus after he told a really great joke.

• Anyone know if the Doomsday Clock has a snooze alarm?

• My daughter's becoming such an ardent feminist she's arguing Idaho should change the name of its state capital to Girlse.

• I predict within 5 years ads projected monthly onto the full moon will be common. My money says Geico will be first.

• Does anyone know what the "i" in iPod or iPhone stands for because iDon’t.

• Does anyone know why Apple products are made to be obsolete in six months when they should be relevant for six years because iDon’t

• Anyone know why Apple spends its time tinkering with updates when they should be reinventing the internal combustion engine 'cause iDon’t.

• I'll bet they eat a lot cereal in the land of milk and honey.

• If Flex Seal works as well on underarms as it does on screendoor boats I'll never need Right Guard again!

• People would be more choosy about their lovers if we actually became screwed to the people we've screwed.

• Daughter, 11, is starting to make hurtful observations about my increasing decrepitness. I'm sure grow out of it by the time she's 40.

• Is everyone around Al Roker always drunk or does being around Al Roker just make people act drunk?

• The common term "pinch hit" makes baseball seem more violent than it is.

• Did the flag have to go through puberty before it became Ol' Glory?

Blog coming attractions

During the week I’ve been away, I’ve posted just two blogs and fulfilled not a single professional obligation that could lead to wages.

Yet, to which endeavor do I feel the more pressing obligation?

Yes, blog on! Ignore the logical pursuit of income in favor of all the freebie fun here at!

Heck, I’m so near to Amish these days it’d be prudent if I spent the whole time making batches of candles for when they come to shut off the lights.

Being away on my golf trip to the Gulf Coast (in fact, it was an assignment), fills my blog dance card with plenty of story options, but precious little time to write them.

As I’m off my near-daily routine, I suspect you may be, too. So instead of plunging back in with something topical and, perhaps, heavy with thought, I figured it’d be best to present you with a slate of coming attractions.

• “Return of the Panic Attacks” -- About 10 years ago I began disappointing myself by having mild panic attacks on airplanes. As I hope you’ll see, they didn’t stem from an irrational fear of flying. They stemmed from an irrational fear of being crammed together with so many other people who fly. It happened momentarily again on the packed flight to Houston, no one noticed it and I was able to overcome it without alcoholic assistance. But I think you’ll find it interesting. I know I do. Starring Jimmy Stewart.

• “My New Friend Dated the Houston Weather Girl!” -- I met some really great folks on this trip, including a new buddy who told me about his adventures dating Local Weather Girl. And guess what? She was an awful bitch who didn’t like The Beatles. The Beatles! This screw-ball romcom promises high-pressure fun when a sunshine guy collides with a storm system that leaves destruction in its blond wake.

• “I Don’t Gamble” -- Actually, that title’s misleading. I may have spent the last seven days in some of the finest casinos east of the Mississippi River, but I didn’t wager a dime. I contend my entire life as a freelancer is a higher stakes wager than anything you can bet in a casino. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the hapless freelancer who rolls the dice on life, this one got raves at Sundance.

• “American Skin (41 Shots)” -- Geez, am I finding lots of reasons to include Springsteen mentions in my stories these days. The Trayvon Martin story was coming to a boil while I was in a region of America that has struggled with race relations to often horrific results. Commentators are saying what happened on a well-armed neighborhood watch in Sanford, Florida, is stirring a national conversation about race relations. I can think of one voice absent from the discussion. That would be Trayvon’s. Recommended for mature audiences only.

• “9 Downing Street” -- I’ve just begun reading Adam Hochschild’s World War I book, “To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion,” and was struck by references to one of the most famous addresses in the world, 10 Downing Street, home of the British prime minister. It seems so perfectly ordinary, it got me wondering about who dwelt in 1-9 Downing Street and if there was a pub on the corner or perhaps a laundromat. This straight-to-video mockumentary stars the voice of Michael Moore.

Those are just a few of the topics I hope to tackle over the next few days. As always, I’m grateful to anyone who reads this stuff and takes the time to share it with friends. The enthusiasm I hear for it blows me away.

I’ll be posting a Twitter round-up later today as a small gesture for having been away for so long.

That means there’s plenty of time for you to stretch your legs before the feature begins.

So let’s all go to the lobby! Let’s all go to the lobby! Let’s all go to the lobby and have ourselves some snacks!

Because that’s entertainment.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Re-Run Sunday: Cigar store ambiance enhanced by breasts

Back to work tomorrow, or back to what for me passes for work. In the meantime, here's a story form April 2009 about my visit to a Pittsburgh cigar camp that was enhanced by the surprise appearance of two topless women.

In my endless quest to find the coolest place in Pittsburgh, I’m often responsible for rounding up a posse.

Sound easy? It never is. Maybe I’m just not dangerous enough. I could probably get a gang of guys together if I said we were going to book a day-long trip to Pittsburgh’s best strip clubs.

But that’s never been my idea of cool because I’m a fairly chatty guy. If a naked woman slides up to me in a bar that’s pulsing with music by the artist who was formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince, she’s likely to pose me the question, “Are you feeling hot?”

Most guys will pant, “Yeah, baby!”

I’ll say, “Well, this print shirt is a comfortable cotton-polyester blend. Today’s forecast calls for mild temperatures with low humidity, so, no, I’m not hot. If you, wearing nothing but that immodest little G-string flossing your tattooed derriere, are feeling warm then you might be coming down with Swine Flu.”

I already have access to a fine naked woman. She’d probably agree with the stripper that I talk too much and do too little, but my wife would be referring to common household chores and not randy action.

At least I hope that’d be her only complaint.

My idea of a really cool time is a long day in downtown Pittsburgh cheering the home teams, hitting lively bars and enjoying a really fine cigar with my buddies.

So I was disappointed when none of my friends agreed to join me Saturday for a day that involved a crucial Pittsburgh Penguin playoff game and the NFL draft. The excuses were universally lame and reminded me of my songwriting buddy Quinn Fallon and his lyrical lament about the sad decline of guys who used to be nothing but fun.

“These are dark days for black sheep.”

I was undaunted. If I lived in any city in the planet, I could find a Pittsburgh bar and make friends the way Detroit used to make sports cars.

I know I can make them in the city that has thousands of great Pittsburgh bars filled with great Pittsburghers.

I thought I’d start with the cigar in a little place that would certainly be on the list when anyone’s debating the coolest places in the city. On Saturdays the regulars fill maybe a dozen donated refugee easy chairs and cloud the room with thick aromatic smoke.

I stepped into the enormous humidor and nosed around until I found a robust Dominican that looked like a policeman’s night stick. It would occupy me for an hour’s worth of idleness. Upon returning to the smoke-filled sitting room, I blinked through the haze. There off in the distance I spied something surprising.

Could it be? Were those what I thought they were?

They were!

Breasts ahoy!

There were four of them (breasts, not women). It caught me by surprise because I’ve been going there on and off for years and have never once seen a single boob in the place -- and by boob I’m extending the definition to the customers. Doctors, judges, executives -- cigar stores attract a classy clientele.

It would be wrong to say the two girls were strippers, at least they weren’t for this sunny afternoon. They weren’t performing. They weren’t dancers either. The Pens were on TV and only the most creative dancers could writhe suggestively to the color commentary of guys like Eddie Olczyk.

It was a harmonious coincidence that during this Earth Day week these girls were hybrids. They made friendly with the customers. They walked around suggestively. They didn’t hold lit cigars, but they were truly smoking.

They wore short tight black dresses from which they would capriciously liberate their breasts as if to give them a good airing out. But I’m sure that was not their purpose. Who in the world would go to a smoke-filled cigar store to air out breasts?

There were a bunch of men’s magazines on the tables and I thought about telling the girls I’ve written for Playboy and Maxim, but knew I couldn’t prove it without looking pathetic. So I thought it best for me to just sit there quietly and, well, be observant.

So I sat and listened while the girls talked about pedicures, farm animals and whether men would prefer three breasts on a woman or one really big one (most of the men were traditionalists, but if forced to choose, we opted for the singleton over the trio).

It was a splendid afternoon. As I smoked my cigar down to its bitter butt, I set it in the ashtray and pulled two $10s from my wallet. I gave one to each of the smiling girls.

I turned to the store owner and made a snap judgement, “Thanks for a great afternoon. You, sir, have the coolest place in Pittsburgh.”

And that’s coming from an expert who understands how fabric and meteorology can affect a man’s feel for when things start getting really hot.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Re-run Friday? Go Bobcats!

One of my favorite songs is the Joe Ely 1992 version of the Robert Earl Keen song, “The Road Goes on Forever (and the Party Never Ends).”

You’re to be forgiven if you think it’s about a golf writer on assignment to write about the golf and grub along the northern rim of the Gulf of Mexico.

But this road’s been going on a long time and the party’s end is no where in sight. Just got into Gulf Shores and will be playing the fabulous Kiva Dunes.

Then I’ll nestle into the club’s grille room to watch my Ohio Bobcats try and unseat the first seeded North Carolina Tar Heels. So I thought in honor of Athens and the Bobcats, I’d re-run this August post from the day it was announced Ohio U. was once again named the No. 1 party school in America.

Go Bobcats! I’m proud to know you.

It’s probably because of my years at Ohio University I drink responsibly whenever I should and irresponsibly whenever I can.

It’s a vast over-simplification to say, but the only thing I can recall learning with any clarity there from 1981-1985 was never mix Ouzo and beer. In the same glass.

We used to do that all the time and, guaranteed, whenever we did someone was bound to lose their pants.

You can’t spell bourbon or ouzo without OU.

It was a fountain of knowledge where I went to drink.

Those were some of the T-shirts they sold on campus when I was there. I still see variations of them when I go back once every year or so to see the old gang.

We fly or drive in from all over the country and get two or three rooms at the diviest hotel down near the Hocking River. In a town where big guys are called “Tiny,” the hotel on the lowest point in southeastern Ohio is called The Highlander.

Tell someone who attended most any other college a group of 40 somethings are going to go back to the university they all attended in the 1980s and many assume lecherous activities will ensue.

They think the guys will slip off their wedding rings and spend their nights chasing around the comely innocents.

This is wrong on multiple levels. First: I never met an innocent at OU, not to be confused, please, with Ohio State University in Columbus.

Second: most of us are too fatigued and too wise to chase anything anymore.

Third -- and this is key: there’s not a soul within a 50-mile radius more important to us than the dozen or so people clustered around those tables tilting from too many pitchers of beer.

It was after leaving Athens I began to understand games were for people who were inept at the art of conversation.

Why would you engage in any distraction that kept you from learning more about the people sitting right next to you?

Those were some of the things that crossed my mind when I learned Ohio University was named by the Princeton Review as the No. 1 Party School in America.

It’s a chicken and egg sort of question, but I didn’t go to Athens because it was a party school. But I did go there because at the time the Ohio drinking age was 18.

I learned later on -- surprise! -- it had a great school for journalism. Hey, I liked to journalize!

If anything exceeds its reputation for being a party school, it is its reputation for grooming dynamic journalists.

Media big shots Roger Ailes and Matt Lauer graduated from there. Legendary actor Paul Newman dropped out of there.

My academic achievements fall somewhere deep in the middle of that spectrum.

I remember when I went for one of my first post-graduate interviews. It was at the Nashville Banner. The managing editor, a fine southern gentleman, saw Ohio University on my resume and asked if that’s where Woody Hayes coached.

No, sir, that was Zero State in Columbus.

“How long were you on the school paper?” he asked.

One year, I told him.

“What’d you do the other three years, drink beer?”

Yes, sir.

“Good. I did it for four.”

In a world where crabby tight asses seem to make all the rules and then more rules regarding the original rules, convivial folk will always have a way of finding one another.

I got that job and it was instrumental in launching a career that has led me to friendships with some of the world’s most fascinating individuals.

Athens was where I became who I am.

So cheers, Ohio University. I’ve been under your influence for 30 years now.

And gloriously under the influence for many of those years.

And it’s all just been one hell of a good time.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My hands are beautiful to behold!

I know some readers worry when my blog frequency decreases. They wonder if I’m too hungover to type, have lost interest or, gadzooks, found a job.

My voice has been absent from many topical issues this week because it’s been occupied saying things like, “Please bring me another Jack Daniels.”

But I owe you an explanation as to why I’ve been tardy in addressing some of the important issues roiling the news and here it is:

I don’t care.

I accepted an invitation to travel to the lovely gulf coast region of Biloxi, Mississippi, and Gulf Shores, Alabama. I’m with about 10 other friendly golf writers on a lavish five-day ramble upon the golf courses, through the casinos and in some of the finest restaurants in the Old South.

I’m having a ball. I really enjoy mingling with other writers, especially sports writers.

These guys are so professional and accomplished -- and by that I mean they have actual jobs.

They’re here to learn about how the gulf shores are coming back -- yes, still -- from the 2005 devastation of Hurricane Katrina (the BP recovery, by comparison was a blip and BP’s getting high marks for their efforts). These journalists will return and write stories informing their readers about the opportunities, the hospitality and why this a great time to visit.

Me, I’m eager to share what for me will be the most memorable revelation from the entire trip. In fact, it’s too momentous to wait for my return and I’m interrupting my frolic to issue this breaking news bulletin:

I have beautiful hands!

They’re strong, supple and when Southern women gaze upon them they think romantic thoughts.

I learned this last night when the whole gang, including three of our female hosts, went out for our nightcaps following our evening feast.

One of the ladies, an auburn-haired young beauty, said, “I wanted to tell you we noticed something about you. You have the nicest hands we’ve ever seen on a man. They’re just beautiful.”

I set down my drink and peeked at the paws.

Proportioned, taut, masculine veins pulsing beneath the manly tanned canvass. She was right. They’re gorgeous!

In fact, at that moment the only flaw I could detect was my damn wedding ring was on Lefty.

Now I’m not saying that by complimenting my beautiful hands in a crowded tavern, she was hinting she was eager for me to take them and start rubbing them up and down on her.

But it’s difficult for any man, especially those of us with juvenile dispositions, to hear a fine-looking young woman compliment us and not think, hey, she’s really digging me. I still got it. I’m the man.

I am old enough to be her father. In fact, the night before I almost pretended to be her father.

A security guard carded her as we walked into the casino. She was outraged, which was just silly, of course.

He’s just doing his job, the inconvenience was minimal and the day will soon come when she’ll be flattered by the request.

Yet, she scolded him.

I told her I had half a mind to go back to the old gentleman and tell him I was her father and wanted to apologize for her poor manners. I’d blame it all on her lousy mother.

I enjoy role playing and thought if I could get security on my side maybe he’d look the other way if I tried to steal a few chips from the blackjack table.

By now everyone at the table was staring at my hands.

One guy asked if I ever used my hands for purposes alluded to in the “Seinfeld” episode where George Constanza became a hand model.

I’m not going to say here what I said there, but I will say here what I said there was a total lie.

I tried to deflect some of the attention by asking her if there was a part of her body about which she was particularly proud.

There is. She’s proud of her shapely legs.

She should be. They’re ravishing -- almost as nice as my hands.

I asked if she preferred one leg over the other. She doesn’t and I complimented her for being even-handed regarding her legs.

So now I have this unexpected new life-complicating vanity to lug around. For instance, this story took me nearly three times as long to write because I’m trying not to type as hard as I did before I learned my hands belong on the cover of romance novels.

I’ll try not to let my hands go to my head -- unless I feel something itchy.

I’m bringing my hands home to Pennsylvania on Sunday and will be happy to share them with anyone who appreciates true beauty.

I’ll even let you take your picture next to them. You can use it for your Facebook profile.

One thing I won’t do is tolerate any teasing. I don’t want people to make fun of them for being so beautiful.

Tease me about their beauty and I won’t show you the hands.

You’ll just get the finger.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On matters Springsteen

In the two weeks since the release of “Wrecking Ball,” the new Bruce Springsteen album, it’s become a pastime of mine to hear what the people who hate it have to say.

And hate it some people do. I don’t think they hate it so much as they hate that so many people like me think it’s really great.

That’s what infuriates them. I understand this emotion. I used to get furious when something I didn’t like became wildly popular. But I learned long ago there was nothing I could do about tastes that differ from mine and I’d be forced to get along in a world that includes things like Madonna, the Dallas Cowboys and fundamentalist Christians.

The hatred of “Wrecking Ball” would be understandable if it was emanating exclusively from gluttonous bankers.

Bankers, Wall Street fat-cats and people who put “Mitt is It!” bumper stickers on their Escalades come in for melodic tongue-lashings in stand-out songs like “Jack of All Trades,” “Easy Money,” and “Shackled and Drawn.”

Springsteen hints they are evil, lacking souls and responsible for national desolation and it’s understandable their feelings are being hurt.

The poor dears.

I’m among the 99 percent who feel better hearing someone bash the crap out of the one percent, particularly when it’s set to a really tuneful beat.

What surprises me is to discover many of the people who hate the album aren’t bankers, mothers of bankers or banker trophy wives.

No, they are hardcore Springsteen fans.

I know this because I listen to E Street Radio on Sirius XM satellite radio. It’s where people debate Springsteen lyrics the way papal scholars ponder things like Dead Sea Scrolls.

Every word, every nuance is deciphered and placed in grand context.

It’s a place where the truest of the true fans congregate. I’m guessing about 20 percent of them, presumably all Republicans, call and say it’s wrong for Springsteen to weigh in so heavily on political matters. They don’t like that one of America’s greatest and most popular artists is taking political sides opposite of theirs.

How can this guy, one of the wealthiest men in America, write songs bashing people for being wealthy, goes one common complaint.

It’s strange to me because I never hear anyone complain when Mick Jagger sings a song about a night when he’s having trouble getting laid.

Well, let me explain how one of our wealthiest artists can write songs that resonate with people who are poor or resent the disparity of wealth so evident in America.

It’s called empathy. It’s an artistic gift with which he was born.

I hear songs on “Wrecking Ball” and believe he understands what it’s like to be poor, forlorn and ticked off that so few have so much.

Springsteen is one of those musicians who would still be singing songs about injustice if he was doing it on street corners. Becoming rich was just a by-product of doing what he was bound to do.

And I’d rather him write songs trying to relate to my life than write songs that would make me hate him for his.

Because he could write a song about his millions and how Obama takes his calls and name it “Thurston Howell III Blues,” but it would feel less authentic than the ones about how it hurts him to see people struggling when he knows we can do better.

Less authentic even than criticizing one of our greatest performers for being political.

One of the features of E Street Radio is it allows any listener the opportunity to be guest DJ. You could say it’s very Democratic!

It’s a tricky endeavor for those selected because the picks have to be idiosyncratic enough for hardcore fans, yet appealing enough to resonate with casual listeners. You look lame if you pick pick “Dancing in the Dark,” “Badlands,” “Born to Run” and other greatest hits.

So here are my l0 essential Springsteen songs I’ll play if I’m ever picked to be guest DJ:

• “Blinded By The Light,” 1972 -- The first song on his first album. This still exudes the jaunty joy that have made him so indelible for 40 years. What a great first impression. "Mama told me not to look into the sights of the sun . . . Whoa! But mama! That's where the fun is!"

• “Spare Parts,” 1987 -- The emotions his songs evoke range from euphoric to rage, but the ones that ring loudest with me, as you'll see, are the ones that celebrate perseverance. I like it when he stacks the deck against people like godforsaken Janey and has her raise her middle finger against fate and just keep on fighting.

• “I Wanna Be With You,” 1998 -- This is one of those joyous rarities from the “Tracks” compilation that casual fans have to hear. What’s remarkable about Springsteen is how many truly great songs of his just fell straight through the cracks. He’d be one of our greatest artists if he’d only released the songs he never released.

• “This Hard Land,” 1995 -- This one earned inclusion on his greatest hits package before most of America had even heard its opening harmonica toots. Even bald guys can feel the wind rushing through their hair when they crank this one up. To me, it’s right up there with “America the Beautiful” as far evoking marrow-stirring feelings about our mutual love for America.

• “Incident on 57th Street,” 1973 -- The E Street Band sounds so lavish and the storytelling so luxurious this one feels like a trip to one of the classier opium dens from days of yore. I don’t know how people who like to get high can listen to this one without getting high.

• “Part Man/Part Monkey,” 1998 -- Another rarity from the often uneven “Tracks.” It has a reggae jungle rhythm and tells the story of the Scopes Monkey Trail, coming down squarely on the side evolution. Fear not, it’s not about politics. It’s about hormones.

• “Point Blank,” 1981 -- It always surprises me when this one’s never included on everyone’s guest DJ list. It’s noir and always makes me think it’s Humphrey Bogart on the dance floor who ends up with blood all over him.

• “American Skin (41 Shots)” 2003 -- Not just Springsteen’s most powerful song. Maybe the most powerful song ever written. It’s about the shooting of an unarmed young black man who was killed because he looked suspicious. Starting to sound familiar? I can’t listen to this one in front of my daughters because I don’t want them to see the old man cry.

• “One Step Up,” 1987 -- Betrayal, lust and infidelity set to a waltz disguised as humble human frailty.

• “Wrecking Ball,” 2012 -- Written to memorialize the demolition of the old Giants Stadium, he’s also singing about his aging self. “Rocky Ground,” “Land of Hope and Dreams,” I’m not even sure the title cut is my favorite song on the new album, but it has so much anthemic euphoria it must be offered on my guest DJ list.