Friday, March 29, 2013

Barking about doggie birthday parties

One of Pittsburgh’s nicest hotels isn’t going to the dogs. The dogs are going to it.

Val and I attended a swank doggie birthday party yesterday at the Fairmont hosted on behalf of Edie, a 3-year-old boxer lab mix (above) who spends her days in the lobby of one of Pittsburgh’s most posh properties.

They had a lobby party for her and about 20 local dogs, many of them from Pittsburgh’s Animal Friends shelter.

It was the only party I’ve ever been to where bitch, bitch, bitch didn’t turn out to be a real drag.

I was invited, I guess, because I wrote a travel story about Edie and the Pittsburgh Fairmont in 2011.

Back then Fairmont hotels were on a bona fide hiring binge of fidos who preferred bones to bucks -- and you get bonus points if you can guess which lines I’m lazily lifting from that old piece (that’s one).

Animal loving hotel management thought it would relax the lobbies to have a gentle pooch lounging around. So they began working with Circle Tail companion dogs near Cincinnati to locate the perfect lobby dogs.

Anyone who’s seen “The Pink Panther” knows, lobby dogs can be problematic. In the movie, Inspector Clouseau approaches a pooch and asks the front desk clerk, “Does your dog bite?”

“No,” the clerk says.

So Clouseau bends over to give the pup a friendly pet. That’s when the dog nearly snaps Clouseau’s fingers off.

Incredulous, Clouseau says, “I thought you said your dog does not bite!”

“That,” the clerk says, “is not my dog.”

I really have to get busy re-pitching the story of Edie to travel outlets because it’s a great story. See Circle Tail sounds like every other canine obedience school. It is not.

Part of the rehab involves each dog spending months in a local state prison working with inmates devoted to socializing once-neglected animals -- and I imagine there’s some very poignant kinship in those relationships.

Edie was chosen as perfect for the Pittsburgh Fairmont because she’d failed at task competence. She was incapable of work. She could only schmooze.

So you have Edie, an orphan dog who flunked out of school, did time in prison and still landed a cushy job where she gets to snooze thorough work and still get lavished with praise and gourmet treats just for being agreeable and not pooping on the floors.

Nice work if you can get it.

She’s also exempt from the hotel’s policy that frowns on employee fraternization. She spends most of her nights with the hotel’s public relations director, but will once in while go home with others.

So she doesn’t get in trouble for sleeping around. Lucky pup.

We were only there about 30 minutes, but I really enjoyed it. It had me missing my dog.

Not Snickers. That’s my daughters’ dog. I miss our old dog, Casey, the sweetest and most stupid Golden Retriever that ever lived.

Snickers is the world’s most high-strung dog, the antithesis of what I want for my home, the place I go to seek solace.

His pedigree is mysterious. A sidewalk stranger dumped him on our daughters and disappeared. The girls say he must be a little terrier and a little shih tzu -- and the phonetic pronunciation of the latter is too obvious for even me to touch.

I’ve speculated he’s a little Moe, a little Larry and a little Curly. Collectively, I love the The Stooges, but just imagine if you combined Moe’s meanness, Curly’s violence and Larry’s stupidity and distilled it all down into one four-legged body.

That’s Snickers.

I re-read this link to this 2010 post I succinctly titled “I hate my dog” to see if my feelings have softened. They have not.

I tried to think how it would have been if we’d have brought Snickers to Edie’s party. It would have, I’m sure, been hell. He’d have yipped the whole time, strained at the leash like a lunatic and probably peed all over my church shoes.

Understand, the invitation said we were welcome to bring him.

Maybe I missed an opportunity.

The invitation said nothing about having to bring him back.

Related . . .

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gay marriage: Be still my beating heart

The typical human heart beats about 3.5 billion times in an average life and it’s been estimated the heart of a man or woman who lives to 100 will beat 4,204,800,000 times.

A one, anna two, anna three . . .

I contend pharmaceutical companies will soon develop drugs that will artificially and safely slow or stop our heart beats during things like sleep or required attendance at Will Farrell movies we’d rather not see. 

This could prolong heart life by as much as 50 years without missing a beat.

Well, you know what I mean

But you’ll need a faithful spouse or legally recognized significant other you trust to ensure they will bring you back to life rather than let you expire from an empty heart.

I was happy to see so many happy hearts beating faster yesterday.

Yet, it all felt so odd to me and it took most of the day before I understood why.

It was because I’d never experienced a day when public opinion so successfully swamped history.

The Supreme Court’s eventual ruling in Hollingsworth v. Perry is already being steam rolled into irrelevance. It should ratify what solid and growing majorities of Americans already understand is just. Or else it can disgrace itself with another Scalia-authored scold that every Republican left of Rick Santorum will soon legislate into judicial obsolescence.

Today, even conservative senators like Rob Portman are waking up saying, “My God, I have to face the fact that there is a gay person in my family  . . . and I taught him how to play catch!”

No civil rights issue in history has moved from controversial to affirmation so swiftly.

I guess it happened so much more quickly for gays than African-Americans because no conservative senator’s son ever sat his old man down and said, “Dad, I’m black. I was born black and from now on I’m going to stop pretending I’m white. Deal with it.”

Mine is probably the last generation of Americans that grew up telling ignorant gay jokes without feeling any hostility toward gays. Calling someone gay for liking things like Duran Duran was just a convenient put-down.

I remember laughing at an old Eddie Murphy routine where he talked about couples he thought would be funny homosexuals. He mentioned Ralph Cramden and Ed Norton from “The Honeymooners” and Fred and Barney from “The Flintstones.”

We knew gay men and women, but felt we didn’t have enough in common with them to hang out. They were different. They were alien. To us, they were a little scary.

I contend that’s not prejudice. In many regards, we felt the same way about gays as we did about heterosexual girls.

Talking to them just made us feel awkward.

But we knew instinctively when something was or wasn’t fair and we grew up to become men and women who are appalled at any injustice or cruelty inflicted on anyone based on how they look, where they worship or who they love.

It is patently un-American.

So today I’m thrilled for gays, as I am for America that after centuries of inaccurate boasting is finally, inch by inch, becoming an idealistic land where all men and women are created equal.

And I’m most thrilled for my daughters’ generation and all those that will follow.

They will grow up in an America where “being gay” is one less careless insult they can let slip that might hurt the feelings of a shy friend, where it’s one less pejorative that might sting a still-developing soul that needs nurturing. 

Their America will be different than the one in which I grew up. It will be a more inclusionary, creative and vibrant nation. It will be an even better America.

It will be an America where loving songs by bands like Duran Duran isn’t gay.

It’s just tasteless.

Related . . .

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Save health care: Dock doc pay!

Recent revelations that Pittsburgh health care giant UPMC lavishes its top employees with excessive perks and pay made my blood boil.

I don’t know what UPMC would charge to cure boiling blood, but I’m sure it would be expensive.

It takes a lot of money to fund CEO Jeffrey Romoff’s life as the head of the gargantuan non-profit, a “non-profit” that last year posted $5.7 billion in net patient revenue.

A suit filed last week says Romoff makes $6 million a year and conducts his business in what’s been described as Pittsburgh’s most expensive office. The suit says he has “a private chef and dining room, a chauffeur and a private jet.”

The part about the chauffeur and the private jet confused me. Does the chauffeur fly the jet? There’s a certain structural agreement to having a private chef and a dining room.

But you have to figure to have a chauffeur you’d think you’d need a cushy limo, and to have a private jet you think you’d need a pilot, too. Doesn’t seem to be Romoff’s style to be driven around in a Smart Car.

Anything smart about the medical industry would seem to be at odds with all we know about how they do business.

We all know fraud and waste are at the heart of our medical health care costs. I think I remember seeing hospitals bill patients something like $12 for a single Q-tip.

This is insane.

Side note: I’m about to embark on a campaign to eliminate the nonsensical word insane from our vocabularies. Insane implies being within the realm of sane. Clearly, the word should be outsane. The difference is making me crazy.

So where do we go with all this? These stories aren’t anything new.

We need to uproot the entitlement mentality that infects the people to whom we go to cure us.

How do we do that?

We begin by reducing the average annual doctor salary of all new med school grads from $200,000 to $75,000. And we cap it at that for 20 years. Those who agree to this stipulation will have their student loans federally subsidized through eventual savings.

And $75,000 is nothing to sneeze at -- even for doctors who specialize in treating allergies. It’s $25,000 more than the national average, or about what top golf instructors earn each year to cure slices, hooks, yips and other swing things that trouble most men more than their morbid obesity.

Too many men and women get into medicine because they see it as an avenue to wealth. They see doctors’ Cadillacs filling up the country club parking lots, their boats in the pricey harbor yacht slips and their pampered behinds in the cushioned seats in the luxury boxes at the Steeler games.

The lifestyle sends a powerful message to college students who are motivated solely by material gain -- and I trust those docs less than the ones who admit to pursuing a medical career for free drugs distributed by cheerleader pharmaceutical reps.

Removing the financial incentive would attract people who are motivated to get into the healing business based on the novel idea of wanting to make sick people well. 

One of my favorite stories of all-time was one about a doctor in Amish country who used to accept live chickens for payment. The only thing that prevented it from being my very favorite story was I couldn’t get him to say he’d give eggs for change.

I asked him why he ran his private practice in a way that ran so counter to corporate mindsets.

“It’s because I put helping people above profiting from them,” he said. 

He didn’t care what he earned as long as his wife knew how to cook a tasty chicken.

We need people like that in every profession, especially the ones that are all about helping people.

To think there are so many in the medical profession who think otherwise makes me sick.

Maybe that’s all part of the plan.

They behave in ways that sicken us so they can continue to charge exorbitant and fraudulent fees for cures that forever elude.

Related . . .

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cryin' horseradish tears over profane love songs

If we catch the town’s one traffic light, we can make it to church in just over 4 minutes without having to violate any of the posted traffic laws.

My wife plays the church organ there and there are times when she’s made it, I’m sure, in 90 seconds. Even though there are hairpin turns she takes on two wheels, she’s never had an accident or run over the neighbor’s goat.

God must watch over tardy Lutheran church organists determined to sooth the saved with a soulful prelude. He must watch over goats, too.

I’m never in that big of a hurry to get to church. I enjoy church, but I know if I get there a little late it’s not like I’m going to miss an important plot line that will leave me confused about the role of religion in our lives.

Well, leave me more confused.

I’ll remember yesterday as the day when I tried in vain to set the record for the world’s slowest drive to church.

I was trying to stretch it to five minutes and 30 seconds.


I wanted the girls to hear the first 3:24 of Bruce Springsteen’s “Queen of the Supermarket.” It came on the XM “E Street Radio” channel about two minutes into our drive. 

It’s controversial with some fans who think the dippy lyrics about him falling in love with a supermarket check out girl are preposterous. They’re right. 

I like it because at the 3:24 mark of 4:39 song, Springsteen lets fly with a gratuitous F-bomb to emphasize his feelings for the hairnet honey.

I contend he, too, is embarrassed about the song and included the F-word to ensure it would never be played on commercial radio. It’s very odd.

Still, I thought hearing the F-word in an otherwise sweet love song would be a great way to enliven the minute or two before Palm Sunday worship. 

That my daughters weren’t interested and hustled off to the pews made me wonder dumbfounded what kind of righteous kids my wife is raising while I’m spending all my nights and most of my days in a tavern.

Part of me was sad.

Coincidentally, three hours later tears were streaming down my cheeks. I was crying harder than I’ve ever cried in my life.

It wasn’t because my daughters didn’t share my appreciation of pre-church profanity.

No, yesterday was Kielbasa Day at Angry Bill’s. The day includes making and encasing 100-pounds of pork kielbasa and 40-pounds of pungent vinegar-enriched horseradish.

I’ve written about Angry Bill the bartender before. In fact, he’s on page 28 of my book where I compare him to Nick the bartender in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” only he’s the perpetually nasty one in Pottersville after it’s revealed what the world would be like if George Bailey’d never been born and everyone everywhere is crabby and mean.

The nickname’s unfair to Bill. He’s a great guy who at times could justifiably be called Hilarious Bill, Thoughtful Bill, Kind Bill, Generous Bill and Caring Bill.

So maybe it would be accurate to call him Emotional Bill, but that might draw a more therapeutic clientele to The Pond and I’m sure he’d eventually become Homicidal Bill and Dave would need to find a new bartender for Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I’m vague on Kielbasa Day origins, but this was the third time I’ve attended. About 20 of us show up around 10 a.m., with four or five guys grinding the sausage and churning it into about 40 yards of lamb intestinal casings. 

For those of you who’ve adhered to the old Otto von Bismarck phrase about avoiding watching sausage and laws being made let me enlighten you about the former:

It’s not bad. It’s mostly a bunch of us standing around drinking and making dick jokes as the sausage packs into the condom-like casings. So it’s probably a lot like what happens in congress only with us sipping week-old ridge moonshine instead of heirloom Scotch like the must do on Capitol Hill.

Making horseradish in a poorly ventilated basement, now that’s another matter.

I’ve for years sniffed horseradish to clear the sinuses when I’m feeling a cold coming on. But that’s about a 30-second exposure to a teaspoon of the stuff.

This was the basement detonation of a biological weapon, simultaneously devastating and exhilarating.

It was disconcerting to be standing elbow to elbow with some of my best buddies, tears streaming down our faces, noses running and saying to one another, “Man, this sure is f---ing fun!”

And hearing them say right back, “It sure f---ing is!”

That sharing such profane fellowship with my pre-adolescent daughters is still years off makes me sad.

To me it’s a crying shame.

It really f---ing is.

Related . . .

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Re-Run Sunday: On Easter, let's resurrect the name Judas

Just got back from church and a wonderful reading of The Passion. Of course, no matter how compelling the story my mind must wander. Today it went back to whatever happened to the name Judas. So I thought I'd rerun this one from Easter 2010. Enjoy your Sunday!

This is the weekend when I’m always chagrined we didn’t have a son. By God, I’d have named him Judas.

One of the keys to succeeding in this life is simply to exceed expectations.

Being called Judas in the 21st century would ensure this. No name in history is freighted with worse connotations than Judas and that would forever work in the kid’s favor.

Fair-minded evaluators would say, “Naturally, I had my suspicions Judas was going to be a real turncoat, but I find him to be very trustworthy. I recommend we give him a raise. Let’s start with 30 pieces of silver and see if he counters.”

I’m always fascinated why some Biblical names -- Noah, Joshua, Samuel -- endure, while others do not.

I’ve never met an Obadiah, a Nahum or a Habakkuk and that strikes me as strange. The world is awash with so many religious fanatics you’d think at least a few of them would honor the obscure Old Testament prophets rather than name yet another child Bob or Pete.

When Mr. and Mrs. Pilate named their son Pontius they had no way of knowing they were passing along a handle with would terminate with his historic misdeeds. I feel for them. They must have been busting with pride that their son had risen to be a powerful Hebrew governor.

Here in America, we’re always harping at politicians for doing what Pilate did: he slavishly followed the polls. Of course, our president with two Old Testament-sounding names is in trouble for doing just the opposite. Sometimes you just can’t win.

With Pilate, they should have just term limited the guy, not the name. Because when you think about it Pontius is a great sounding name. It should be in play.

I think it would be fun for a family that was really into aviation to name a son Pontius and steer him into the airlines just so one day our routine flights from Pittsburgh to Charlotte could be enlivened by hearing the speaker crackle: “Hello, my name’s Pontius and I’ll be your pilot today ...”

I’ve always loved the Elton John song, “Levon,” and am stirred by the line, “He called his child Jesus, ‘cause he liked the name.”

Levon’s Jesus aspires to go to Venus on a balloon. I try to never let the senselessness of the lyric interfere with my enjoyment of a really great tune.

There has to be scores of men named Joseph who’ve married women named Mary, but I wager not a one of them had the playful audacity to name a son Jesus.

Too bad. A trio like that could start a dandy end-of-days cult and that’s where the real money is. Sex, too, from what I hear.

People of Spanish descent have no such sheepishness about naming males Jesus. They pronounce it with a joyful sounding “Hey! Zeus!” which always sounds like an informal shout out to a remote and powerful god with a human weakness for mortal women.

Kind of like Tiger.

Major League baseball is littered with Jesuses. The lowly Pittsburgh Pirates organization has a bunch of them, including Jesus Brito whom we acquired in January from the Cleveland Indians.

And, get this, Jesus Brito was born in 1987 on December 25. I’m not kidding.

I don’t care whether this Jesus can walk on water or not. I’ll be happy if he can bat a measly .280 with runners in scoring position.

I like to think one day I’d be at the ballpark when some Jesus turns water into wine, but I know cheapskate owner Bob Nutting would spoil the miracle by charging $7.50 for a 4-ounce plastic cup of the stuff.

I have so little faith in the Pirates organization that I know if this Jesus ever gets good my buddies and I will scornfully recall the day we traded a guy named Jesus who was born on Christmas Day for two has-beens and a player to be named later.

But back to Judas. He’s enjoying something of a renaissance. Biblical scholars are saying Judas was really Jesus’s BFF and the only one the Nazarene could trust to fulfill scriptural destiny.

How they divined this, I have no idea. Maybe Judas had a Facebook page no one’d ever bothered to check.

Of course, my name has a powerful Biblical connection.

I am Christ-opher.

Before I’d bothered to look it up, I’d always assumed the “Christ” meant “Messiah” and “opher” meant “who toils in blogger obscurity,” and I was only living up to half the bargain.

In actuality, it means “one who bears Christ in his heart.”

That pleases me.

Still, I think I’d have done better associated with the worst name in the Bible, rather than the best.

And, hell, it’s been ages since anyone’s offered me a cash equivalent of 30 pieces of silver to do anything.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Setting the record straight: Lies I told The PG

My friends at the bar had sporting fun over this excellent article all about me and my book that appeared in yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“I must congratulate you,” one said, “on nurturing this conceit that you’re some tremendous humanitarian for the purposes of hocking your book.”

I thanked him for the spice his sarcasm adds to my day.

But he’s correct. The flattering article makes me seem like one of the world’s greatest guys, a generous and caring man whose every motivation is the well being of his fellow man.

How’d this happen?

Well, I’m the story’s only source and budgetary necessities have laid waste to newspaper fact-checking departments.

So if a reporter asks me what kind of guy I am, sure, I’m going to say I’m a real sweetheart. Happily, I have a cheerful book out there that supports the contention.

It would be fun to see what a real warts ‘n’ all portrait of me would say. But no reputable news organization would bother to undertake the task and my wife’s too busy to do it herself, thank God.

And, geez, would that be a best-seller with the boys at the bar.

But I thought I would try and balance the perception by giving the honest version of the 19-question “Snapshot” that accompanied the print version of the story.

I’ve never been asked these questions with the understanding they’d receive a wide readership. But I think anyone who’s ever seen the profile of a Playboy Playmate of the Month has put themselves in their shoes -- if they’re even wearing shoes -- and asked themselves how they’d answer.

Like, “That’s odd, my turn offs are traffic, bad breath and rude people, too. I think me and Miss March might really it it off!”

These questions aren’t as easy as they look because they all tempt you to lie a little.  You want people to think you’re cool and fun so they’ll buy your book or maybe invite you to a party full of interesting folks.

So I’ll set the record straight here with my actual answer and the true answer, where it applies.

Age: 50

True. I flinched just a bit when I wrote it. Would people be more impressed if I’d answered 29? Strangers would, but you can’t lie on the age question.

Hometown: Raised in Mt. Lebanon; now lives in Latrobe.

True. In Pittsburgh, Mt. Lebanon connotes privilege and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a fact I used to dodge. No more. I’m proud of where I’ve been and where I’m at. I love it here in Latrobe and we’re not going anywhere.

• Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Ohio University.

True. Lots of people like to pad their resumes in this regard. Not me. Being a Bobcat is one of my most proud attributes. It’s where I learned to drink responsibly whenever I should and irresponsibly whenever I can. It’s where I became who I am. Go Bobcats!

Family: Wife, Valerie; daughters Josie, 12 and Lucy, 6.


What’s important: Family and fun.

True, in the broadest sense. It’s a tricky question. Because I’ll catch hell from all quarters if I put “Staying on my bartender’s good side.” So I gave the safe answer. You see a lot of people who put “God” in there, first even. Sorry, God, but I wasn’t going to do that. Hope you understand.

First job: Newspaper carrier for the Pittsburgh Press.

True. Not a traditional job. Should I have put pizza maker? No. Delivering newspapers was such a great job for a kid. Sorry it’s not around anymore.

• When you were a kid, you wanted to: Skip School

True and a genius answer. I thought about putting astronaut or ball player, but I remember some of my happiest childhood memories occurred when I was skipping school. But I became so enamored with this answer it became a detrimental influence to several of the following questions.

• Hobbies: Reading, golf, recreational tavern time at The Pond in Latrobe.

Mostly true. I love to read and golf, but crafting a way to include my bar hobby, which I had to do, is a lie. Recreational tavern time? What the hell does that mean? Putting “drinking beer for a couple hours every other day or so,” makes me sound like a drunk. The honest answer would be “drinking,” but there’s so much more to it -- laughing, watching sports -- that I felt the dodgy “recreational tavern time” would work. Plus, that gave me a chance to mention Dave’s bar and that pleased him, which I’m always happy to do. The world will be a better place when convivial men and women like me can say, “I like to drink!” without crabby folks getting all judgmental. 

What’s playing on your TV: “Breaking Bad” re-runs.

Partially true. It’s our favorite and the one we’ll watch over and over. But we also love “Justified,” and “Homeland.” Our lunch routine includes “The Price Is Right!” Showcase Showdown followed by classic “Hawaii Five-0” reruns. I picked “Breaking Bad” because I thought it was the one that would make me appear most cool and, remember, that’s the motivation behind each and every answer, true or false.

What’s playing on your iPod: Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Todd Snider, Joe Ely.

One-quarter true. According to my iTunes play count, my top five most played songs are Mark Knopfler, Mark Knopfler, Mark Knopfler, Ray Davies and Bob Dylan. The first Van Morrison song doesn’t come until 15 and is preceded by more songs from Knopfler and ones by Stephen Bruton, Alan Jackson and the Rolling Stones. Snider and Ely don’t appear until well into the hundreds, so clearly I was calculating including them would appear cool. And I do love them. Josie asked me the other day who my favorite band was. I told her it depends on my mood. Then I went on to bore her with a 20-minute discourse on how much music means to me (she stopped even pretending to listen after two minutes). It’s an issue I plan to blog about soon, but the essence was I’m glad I’m not one of those people who can blurt out one name and be done with it. Music matters so much more than that. Honestly, I’ll take anyone of the four I mentioned with me on the deserted island.

Fantasy dinner date: Bill Clinton

False. I love Clinton, but the word “fantasy” makes this a difficult answer. For me fantasy includes nudity and I don’t want to see Bubba in the buff. I suppose my fantasy dinner date would be Rachel McAdams. She’s the perfect combo of sweet and sexy. Many guys try and score points by answering, “My darling wife.” I wasn’t going to do that because Val would know I was bullshitting, just as she would if she put, “My aristocratic and refined husband.” Her fantasy dinner date? The girl who plays Michonne on “Walking Dead,” a woman she once described on Facebook as “dreamy,” which still freaks the hell out of me.

Who would play you in a movie about your life: Matthew Broderick.

False. This is where the “skip school” answer again rears its head. Someone about 30 years ago said I looked like Broderick, so there is some ancient validity to the answer. But again with “cool” as my lighthouse, I answered him because I thought people would think of “Ferris Bueller” and perpetuate the conceit about me being this carefree hipster who writes self-help books about happiness. It’s a tough question. A great answer would have been Fred Flintstone.

Guilty pleasure: Playing hookie to watch Pirate baseball.

False. I love doing this, but I feel no guilt about it whatsoever. I suppose I should have answered splurging on sushi without my wife knowing about it, but then she’d read about it and I’d feel truly guilty. She reads about one out of four of my blogs and I’m hoping she’s skipping this one.

Favorite spot in the whole world: Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands.

False, but only because I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some great places. The butt-kissy answer is “At home in front of the fire with my darling family and our stupid dog!” I almost put Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies, or New Orleans. But Val and I did have a great vacation at B.E.Y.C. and it’s obscure enough to boost my cool factor, I think.

If you had to do it all over again, you would: “Be more contemptuous of all authority.”

False. I took a lot of advice from more elderly idiots throughout my life, but that’s all part of growing up. No, if I was honest I’d have said something about screwing more babes before I got married. I had an old-fashioned view of integrity that kept me from cheating on girls who probably wouldn’t have really cared. But how would it have looked if I’d have answered: “More sex with bimbos!” Honest, but not cool.

Proudest moment so far: “Authoring a widely rejected self-published book that is showing signs it has a chance of being a sensation.”

False. I’m hopeful about the book, but it’s too early to say I’m proud. I’m proud of our daughters and my marriage, but nobody wants to read about that. Plus, I was running out of questions and wanted to hype the book some more.

• What’s on your bucket list: “Go another 20 years without having a job and somehow parlaying that into an actual job.”

False. A real whopper. Please! Please! Please, someone give me a job! Any job! I’d love to have a job that paid well, offered benefits, and had boss who was appreciative of my skills, one that rewarded me with influence and prestige.

I guess that’s on your bucket list, too.

Related . . .

Thursday, March 21, 2013

All about my facial hairs

The barber was concluding my trim when he asked a question no barber’d ever asked me before.

“Do you want me to groom your eyebrows?”

“Why would I want you to do that?”

“So people will be able to distinguish you from common barn animals. You’re starting to sprout strays.”

I hadn’t noticed. I’m so busy cataloguing hairs that are no longer there that I hadn’t detected that my eyebrows seemed to be going through unusual growth spurts, a sort of eyebrow puberty.

I told him to leave them alone.

I’m on to barbers. I know it’s in their self-interest to advise every man with hair that he’ll be more attractive with only a thin fringe up top. Beards? Sure, but nothing scraggly.

Keeping each and every hair short and precise ensures more frequent visits. 

It’s part of the code, I guess, and the reason why no one’s ever seen a shaggy barber.

It’s now my goal to grow eyebrows so thick and luxurious that downpours and noon sunshine will be unable to penetrate the canopy.

It’ll save me a fortune on hats, shades and sunscreen. 

Why I care even a whit about my facial hair is a mystery even to me.

No one else cares. Certainly not my family.

I shaved off my winter beard on Sunday. For years, I’ve begun growing a beard on Halloween and regardless of the forecast shaving it on St. Patrick’s Day. I began doing this routine because I figured it would be fun for our daughters.

I could be their own personal Groundhog Phil. When they’d see my chin free of whiskers, they’d know Spring was just around the corner.

So here’s what happened this year: Nothing.

No one noticed the first day. Or the second. Or the third!

Finally, it dawned on our 6-year-old that a handy tool she used to inflict random pain was missing from my face. She enjoyed giving the beard a quick, cruel yank anytime she’d catch me foolishly dozing in the big easy chair.

Once, just to test the powers of their observation, I shaved the right side of my mustache and the left of my beard and sat through dinner without anyone noticing (you can see a picture at this post).

Finally, I instigated a tickle fest with the little one who was 3 at the time. I got right in her face until she stopped laughing long enough to observe, “Someone took Daddy’s mustache.”

In fact, I’ll die before I let anyone take my mustache.

I’ve spent more time caring for and nurturing it than I have either of our daughters. It’s my first born. Plus, unlike the children, it’s never sassed me or say I embarrass it in front of its mustache friends.

Why would it? My mustache knows I have its back.

These are exciting times for me and my mustache. One of my most distinguishing characteristics is that the right side of my ‘stache is dark, while the left is mostly white.

Many men have what are commonly called salt and pepper mustaches.

I do, too, but my shakers are on opposite sides of the table.

It’s an odd ebony and ivory thing right beneath my nose and I’m eager for pepper to give way to salt. I believe it’ll make me look more distinguished.

Right now I look like one of those vain asses who dyes his mustache, but can’t commit to dying both sides. I guess that means I look half-assed.

What’s ironic is I’m devoting all this attention to my facial hair while the rest of my head hair is succumbing to male pattern baldness.

It’s like an old prison movie where a few flunkies distract the hacks so the gang in Cell Block C can escape over the wall while no one’s looking.

I became aware of this last November when I was in Gettysburg with Josie. It was marvelous bonding time. A friend of ours later sent me a picture that showed Josie from behind with some guy I initially thought was some balding stranger.

Livid, I called the photog and demanded he identify the chrome dome with his arm around my daughter.

Think anyone can persuade me to reveal the sad punchline to this story?

Not by the now shorn hairs on my chinny chin chin.

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