Friday, October 30, 2015

The tweet that cost me a sensitive old buddy

Guess which incendiary @8days2Amish tweet cost me the Facebook friendship of a kid I’ve known for 30 years!

• I wonder if there’s graffiti on the outside walls by the pearly gates and if it says things like, “Angels suck!” and “Satan No. 1!”

• NASA plans asteroid killer to save the world. Don't they know they'll be saving our enemies, too?

• God helps those who help themselves. I only help those who help me. Something to think about next time you need help moving a couch.

• News that a baby born in parking lot of a Dallas strip club has me wondering if the child will be considered Polish 

• I’ll pay no attention to political witch hunts til investigators reveal evidence subject is actual witch.

• Anytime you hear news of anyone dying suddenly, it ought to reinforce the urgency of every moment of every day living suddenly. #Umpqua

• I wonder if Lazarus had siblings who resented it when his parents celebrated two birthdays each year for their every one.

• Today’s one of those days I wish I had discipline to avoid the news  binge watch in 20 years to see how it all ends. 

• True faith isn't belief in God. True faith is when Curly yells, "Moe! Larry! Help! Help!" & believes situation will improve.

• New study says there are 300 sextillion stars in the sky, a word that leads me to believe they are all porn stars

• It reveals an unpleasant cruelty about myself, but I enjoy looking at pictures of tranquilized bears falling out of trees.

• News story that says Trump has license to carry means I hope we see news story that says Trump's accidentally shot his off his own penis.

• It says a lot about our cultural confusions that caffeine free is as popular an option as free caffeine.

• When I hear someone described as being "as honest as the day is long," I wonder if compliment holds the same currency above Arctic Circle.

• When people ask why I consider myself visionary, I say I can envision a day when all our nipples are rectangular. 

• Any boss who, frankly, doesn’t give a damn why today you’re late for work is a Clock Gable.

• It just dawned on me: there'll probably never be another picture of me taken without my shirt on. You're welcome.

• Relying on products called SHAMpoo and CONditioner to look this good makes me feel like I'm being swindled.

• More people would be more happy if they spent more time doing something they loved just because it was something they loved doing

• Reports say Carson a bungler who left sponges in brains. Is that bad? Me, I wish my brain were more sponge-like.

• I wonder if internet creators said, "There, now no one will ever be able to argue over facts ever again.”

• Is it awkward anytime you invite a stand-up guy to a sit down?

• I wonder if clever HVAC men ever entertain themselves at conduit installations by asking, "Tubey or not tubey?”

• Because I'm an optimist about my longevity,  I will henceforth list my age with a prefacing zero: i.e., 052

• GOP desperately seeking leader who can unite diverse wings never realizing birds with united wings incapable of soaring.

• Someday I hope I'm as happy as the gals in the hair commercials. They make having really great hair solves all the world's problems.

• It’s official: Metaphorical train wrecks in D.C. now outnumber actual trains.

• Heading to the funeral of the late, great Angelo Cammarata and wondering if a selfie with my friend in the casket would be inappropriate.

• If Cheap Trick had recorded during Biblical times, "I Want You to Want Me," would be "I Covet You to Covet Me.”

• What the plastic surgeons won't tell you: Smiles are facelifts, too! 

• Most of life's greatest frustrations stem for our demanding perfection from those incapable of delivering mere competence.

• Because of enduring confusion over which is which, I propose we rename Vermont "6," and New Hampshire "9." 

• I plan on devoting tomorrow to conducting comprehensive study on marketing breath mints. I'll call it, "The Tactics of Tic Tacs.”

• If you believe the world's a mess and God is truly our Father, wouldn't you like to hear what Dr. Phil has to say to Him?

• I’m feeling conflicted. I despise bullies, yet long to have a bully pulpit.

• It’d be fun to be scorekeeper the day a dung beetle and a piss ant get into a "You think you're better than me?" contest.

• A Fab Four tribute band named "The Dung Beatles" is bound to be really shitty. 

• What kind of trouser adjustments are needed for pants wearing folks to live in a no-fly zone?

• I’m thinking of changing my pic to a baby shot, but not my baby shot. Like a really beautiful baby. Like baby Rachel McAdams. Who'd know?

• Anyone who says, "Revenge is a dish best served cold," fails to appreciate ensuing gridlock if Revenge had a drive-thru window. 

• I’m such a reflexive pacifist the only thing I instinctively kill is time.

• Foolish mortals! You think you can tell time. Time tells you!

• I believe our homeless problems will one day be vanquished when America becomes more ingenious about what to do with discarded pizza boxes.

• Playboy’s rash decision to stop showing nude women is an about face from a magazine that’s never really been about face.

• The No. 2 pencil is the Seal Team 6 of writing instruments. It gets all the attention and can't understand why it's not No. 1.

• There ought to be a game show that pits fundamentalist Christians against liberal agnostics: "Covet or Shove it?”

• People who ask if I'm disappointed writing doesn't earn more money don't get it. I'd pay to do what I do.

• Where would the people who know you best send your soul: heaven or hell? I hope mine would compromise. New Orleans!

• My wife would be more receptive to my amorous overtures if I didn't insist she conclude each coupling by dumping a big bucket of Gatorade on my head.

• The best prosthetic salesmen and women are blessed with disarming personalities.

• I wonder if more men would care about climate change if scientists started calling shrinking polar caps "Earth's bald spot.”

• Told daughter if she thinks I look embarrassing in my dad jeans I'll just next time pick her up at school wearing my dad speedo.

• Despite the apparent contradiction, it's entirely possible to make an arch comment about someone with flat feet.

• Birds of prey have sharp talons that are incapable of interlocking, just 1 reason why you’ll never see birds of pray.

• "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind:" Proverbs 11:29. "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit Paul Ryan:" GOP2016

• If my life is judged by having raised two well-adjusted and loving daughters, then my life will be judged a success. Otherwise, I'm screwed.

• I’m pioneering a controversial new parenting technique where I only love the child that's being nicest to me. #CONDITIONALlove

• Global warming will ease when scientists divine a way to get the earth to rotate, not around the poles, but in a rotisserie fashion.

• Divorce rates will plunge when judges have discretion to make especially egregious husbands take maiden names of their ex-wives. #divorce

• Do porcine puppeteers pull hamstrings?

• There is a distinct difference between having good friends and friends who are good. I invariably wind up with the former.

• Photos of even unpatriotic chefs making soup are often stirring.

• Is it scandalous behavior or just creative use of space to find a funeral director who has skeletons in his/her closet? 

• I wonder if other owls roll their eyes whenever they hear a "wise" guy owl describe something as a "real hoot.”

• How would profiles differ if men resumed judging women on how good they'd be around a cow? 

• I wonder if some fancy branding guru is trying to persuade AT&T that it would look more tech zippy if it were known as @&T.

• Any biz that calls itself shoppe is automatically more charming. Works for everyone: Ice Cream Shoppe, Halliburton Shoppe, Monstanto Shoppe

• What will you do if you get to heaven and learn it has a No Shoes/No Shirt/No Service policy?

• Reason Mick Jagger sometimes seems bitchy is because while he's one of the 10 coolest people on the planet, he's only 3rd coolest Stone.

Yes, that’s right. The one that infuriated an old friend of mine was the “Tubey or not tube” one.

I jest.

It was the “inherit the wind/Paul Ryan” one. 

I post more political stuff on twitter than I do on Facebook. But I thought the “inherit the wind” one was clever and tame enough to share on Facebook without upsetting any sensitive friends. And, heck, the dang thing includes a Bible verse!

Yet, right after I posted it, a Facebook friend I’ve known since high school put “F YOU” in the comment.

I couldn’t believe it. Was he kidding, I asked? No response. Then he unfriended me. It hurt my feelings.

Just how thin-skinned of a partisan do you have to be to blow up over something as philosophically gentle as that?

I can only conclude he’s having a nervous breakdown over his party’s irrational behavior, which is logical. The GOP is a mess right now.

Party honchos are, in fact, asking themselves if they want to continue functioning, nominally, at least, as a national party.

Tubey or not tubey.

If that’s the way you’re going to be, fine.

It’s your party. Cry if you want to.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter! Or not.

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Our beautiful bullies

I guess they were what you’d call cool girls. Cool for 15. They were each attractive in their own way, supremely self-assured and clumped up all together in a little clique by the side of the high school pool.
There were four of them. Their practice started in 20 minutes.
It was a typical afterschool swim club practice, which meant I was sitting in the stands enjoying my book but attentive to what was going on.
I’d look up from the Churchill biography to make eye contact with my darling little minnow, the 9 year old, when she’d glance in my direction and smile while waiting her turn to ascend the diving platform.
I’d smile back.
I love her with my whole heart.
She is surrounded by other similar sized boys and girls and one older boy who towers over them in size and maturity. He is bigger even than most of the adults.
I know nothing of his situation but am observant enough to speculate.
He is unfit and has been told competitive swimming will dramatically change his body shape. He is eager to do this so he submits to the adolescent indignity of standing in line with children who are roughly half his age and size.
He’s trying so hard, but the changes he’s seeking — and this is a lesson some of us never learn — take time and dedication.
I admire him and the parents who gave him this wise counsel.
I cannot gauge his desperation to be liked or accepted for who he is, but few are the junior high school students who revel in being all alone in what for many is the most difficult years of their foundational lives.
He emerges from the pool with great difficulty. His muscles aren’t strong enough to lift his full girth from the water and he just sort of inelegantly flops out and unfolds his frame to its full 6-foot-1 height.
He has a shy smile as he walks toward the cool girls right in front of me. He makes direct eye contact with each, comes to a stop, and chirps out one word in a bird-like voice.
They pretend they don’t hear him.
He says it again.
It is as if he doesn’t exist.
He walks away. The girls give each other nervous glances. Who does he think he is?
But the boy is blessed with persistence. He makes another lap, struggles out of the water and again approaches.
No reaction.
It happened just like that three more times.
He walks away and this time he does not return. He is defeated. The girls share mean little smiles.
And my heart breaks.
For him, sure. What happened to him was tough to watch, let alone endure.
But it also breaks for the cool girls.
Because I have been cursed with prophesy. I can see the future.
The hair-twirling blonde will be the prettiest girl in high school. The attention she gets for her fine appearance will convince her youthful looks never fade. About this, she is mistaken. In 10 years she will be married to her high school sweetheart, a popular football player. He will spend the next 20 years cheating on her with a succession of younger, prettier girls until divorce lawyers are summoned.
She will spend long hours looking in the mirror and realizing every day for the rest of her life it’s all been downhill since the 2018 senior prom.
The one with the cute pony tail will enjoy a successful administrative career at a nearby university. She’ll find satisfaction in her job, but she’ll wonder if something’s missing. The first marriage didn’t work out. He was a drinker, a mean one. She spends long nights at the office intermittently checking profiles of men who invite prospective dates to come over and cook them dinner. She remembers the one guy who asked if she was good with laundry. She gets together with friends for lunch once a month. They sit around bitching about what jerks men are.
The perky girl will get married and raise a family. She will love her children with fierce devotion, but as the kids get older and find their own diversions she will wonder what happened to the man she married. He’s so distant. He comes home from work and turns on the Penguin games and never even asks about her day. How could he be so indifferent? Doesn’t he know how much it hurts to be ignored?
The fourth girl will get everything she’s ever dreamed of. She will marry a kind, handsome man. He’ll be a good provider, attentive to her emotional needs and will relish spending time with the kids. They will raise these bright, beautiful children with love and wisdom.
And some night, many years from now, she will recall how cruelly she treated that awkward open-faced boy who just wanted someone to acknowledge his existence.
And there in that bed she’ll share with the man she loves, she will shed tears of soulful regret.
“How,” she’ll wonder, “could I have been so mean? What was I thinking?”
I should have said something about simple manners, about our common humanity. 
I should have said, “C’mon, just say hello. You don’t have to kiss the kid. Just be nice. Be human. Show him a little kindness today and, guaranteed, 30 years from now he’ll make your day by telling you at your high school reunion he remembers how sweet you were that day when he felt he was all alone.
“That kid could grow up to be someone special. But you need to understand being nice now will make a difference in your futures, too. You have a chance to make the whole world better and you’re letting it slip away.”
To my everlasting disgust, I said nothing.
What’s the worst that could have happened?
That these cool 15 year old girls would have snickered at my little lecture? That they’d have ignored me?
I like to think at least I’d have been in good company.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Is the Tin Lizzy haunted?

I’ve been here in the Tin Lizzy penthouse for three months now and have yet to see a ghost.
This is disappointing to many people who are either convinced or want to believe the building is haunted.
I can’t say whether I’m disappointed or not.
I guess it'd all depend on the kind of ghost.
A friendly ghost would be cool, as would a topless one. You never hear of nude ghosts, but if I ever get to ghost I’m not wearing a stitch of clothes.
Well, maybe a hat, one with a stylish ostrich feather.
People who work here tell me they know people who swear they’ve seen ghosts.
Buck’s owned the building for, gee, I think about 40 years. He said paranormal enthusiasts often approach him about ghostbusting the 3-story building that dates back to the 1890s. 
“I let ‘em in,” he said. “They always say they’ll give me a full report of their findings, but none of them ever do. I think they’re just getting out of the house to have a good time.”
I can buy that. I used to tell my wife I was in a dart league.
The Tin would be a great place to be a ghost. The basement foundation Rathskeller is positively historic. Buck said the twin fireplaces and sturdy foundation were constructed in the 1750s. I’ve heard the site served as a way-station for the underground railroad.
Lots of Latrobe-area restaurants have pictures of Arnold Palmer from the times he’s stopped by to dine. The Tin Lizzy has those, too.
But the Tin Lizzy is one of the few places left known to be one of Arnold Palmer’s father’s favorite haunts. Old Deacon used to frequent the joint when it was Amer’s Pub, a fact Palmer mentions in his bio, “A Golfer’s Life.”
The 2014 Steve Carell/Channing Tatum/Mark Ruffalo movie “Foxcatcher” about homicidal billionaire John du Pont was filmed near here and the stars stayed at the Marriott SpringHill Suites across from the airport.
Where did they dine? 
Right here.
Jaffre’s is the building’s resident restaurant and chef/owner Mike Jaffre recently posted a '12 snapshot of the signed receipt from the day when Channing Tatum and Steve Carrell were here.
They eventually dined here three times and were cool with the staff and the customers.
I’ve never heard of any stories of homicides happening here, typical precedents for any Hollywood ghost story. It's usually either that or the property was carelessly constructed over some ancient Indian burial ground, which was the premise for “Poltergeist,” another scary flick made even spookier by the fact that four cast members died in the four years after the film was released.
Some explain the curse as being a result of real skeletons being used as props in the movie and the ’86 sequel.
I remember reading a Weekly World News story about a business that was supposedly haunted by a farting ghost. People said they’d be at their desk and be struck by an overpowering stench followed by maniacal laughter.
I wondered if the building had been constructed over the site of what had once been an ancient Indian diaper factory.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a ghost here.
It seems especially haunted on this pre-dawn morning. It’s miserable out with lots of blowing rain, leaves and neighborhood debris.
Up here on the 3rd floor, doors are intermittently slamming and the building creaks like’s it’s eager to settle into a big messy pile.
But it’s always creaking a bit. Just last month I found a loose spot down the hall where I’m convinced if me and three stout buddies jumped up and down just twice we could reduce the whole shebang to rubble.
And it is spooky.
Besides the elemental noise, there is a constant sound track of 1920s big band music — it’s right now “Puttin’ on the Ritz” — to add quaint ambience to Flapper’s, the 2nd floor martini bar and its 1920's throwback theme.
It’s maybe my favorite place to drink here.
But the music always reminds me of what Jack Torrance in “The Shining” heard in the near-deserted Overlook Hotel when he says to an empty bar he’d sell his soul for a drink and a bartender named Lloyd satanically appears.
And if one day I look up and see expressionless twin girls asking if Danny can come out to play, I’m getting the hell out of here.
Now, after what a friend told me, I’m starting to wonder if just by me rattling around by the window up here adds to spectral speculations.
“Yeah, it was about 6:30 Monday morning and I was stopped at the red light,” he said. “I looked up and saw your silhouette up there typing away. I gave a little toot and you looked out and waved.”
I told him he had to be mistaken.
I wasn’t here on Monday.
He swore I was.
Really, it doesn’t matter.
There’s liquor on three floors of this building.
There may not be ghosts, but there’s always been lots of spirits.

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Ghosts and ghostings in haunted Virginia

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My compliments: my day with the PR&LA

Until very recently, most of the compliments people have said to my face have been rectal in nature.
It was like that in ’14 when I lost a bone-headed game of red light chicken with a monster truck near downtown Pittsburgh (link below). The wreck was my fault, sure, but the guy said he had no intention to escalate the legal or administrative stakes.
“I could tell just by looking at you you’re not an (sounds like “castle”).”
Then there was the time in 1992 I quit my job at the newspaper and one of the tough guy pressmen came up said the boys were going to miss me.
“Yeah, you’re about the only guy in the whole newsroom who doesn’t walk around here like he has some giant stick up his (take a wild guess).”
I thanked him and said I’d rush to a proctologist if I ever detected symptoms of any anal arbor.
So the bar for heirloom compliments is, for me, set rather low. Below the belt, certainly.
Maybe that’s what made last night so wonderful.
I had dozens of people come up and say nice things about me and not a one of them involved my lower gastrointestinal tract.
Some of them even said I’d cured their hangovers.
That’s something, according to Scripture, Jesus didn’t even do, although bringing the dead back to life is kind of on par.
I’d spoken early Monday morning to about 50 members of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association at the Doubletree Hotel in Pittsburgh.
It went very well. I’m becoming confident enough in the reaction that I can nitpick my delivery. Some choppiness, some meandering, but all-in-all a solid effort. I’d give it a B.
See for yourself. Here’s a 2:33 dimly lit clip of my silhouette equating my book to the cure for polio.
The only problem — and it was purely logistical — was I didn’t bring enough books. They’d purchased 50 books in advance for guests when they checked in. But they needed 7 more. I’d absentmindedly left extras in the office.
That meant I had to drive back to Latrobe (they’d put me up for the night), grab a stack of books, sign ‘em, and drive back down in the time for the swanky awards dinner.
It’s the kind of inefficiency that drives Val nuts. 
When I phoned her of the necessity she immediately began brainstorming sensible solutions that would save me the trip. In my mind, I envisioned her in front of a giant wall map moving USA flag pins over Pointe du Hoc like Ike did in the hours before D-Day.
I said, no, I’ll endure.
In fact, I was thrilled. The development meant I’d get to enjoy a swell meal, free hootch and maybe make some exciting new connections.
But I left unsaid the biggest reason: I love being in big rooms where drunk people are going to say nice things about me.
That’s exactly what happened.
Understand, these are very convivial folks and I love them. Service people work long, difficult hours and if they’re not smiling sunshine about working on Christmas Eve some anal Ebert is going to post a social media rat slam saying the place is going to hell.
And, God bless ‘em, they love to party.
Me, too!
So we’re boozing at the reception and big grown men (my audience was about 75 percent male) are coming up to me and telling me I was great. 
“I don’t think you know what a tough crowd you were facing,” one guy said. “We were all hungover and you made us laugh and feel better. I can’t wait to read your book.”
It got even better when they opened the doors to the dining hall.
It was like I walked into “Use All The Crayons!” heaven.
The stage was festooned with giant inflatable crayons. The folded napkins at each place setting were different primary colors and all the printed programs sustained the theme.
It was such a signature night for me I kept hoping I’d be invited on stage so I could thank meeting planner Heidi Howard, her friendly staff, and esteemed association president John Longstreet for all their warmth and encouragement.
I was also pleased to see the high regard my friend Joey DiSalvo, owner of Latrobe’s DiSalvo’s Station, is held by his peers. A past board chairman, he is beloved, as was evident in the raucous ovation he received at being introduced.
It couldn’t have all been because Longstreet announced Joey’d secured the gala wine donation.
It was just a splendid day. I feel so blessed.
It had me wondering how different I’d be today if I’d have heard this kind of praise 20 years ago, back when I was by God sure I deserved it.
So much heady praise could have warped me. I might have made a lot more money, but at what cost to my self-effacing personality?
Sure, I might have wound up living in a castle.
But it’s more likely I’d have wound up behaving like a word that sounds like the regal structure.
It’s probably all for the best.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Jonesin' for Xarelto: New Arnold Palmer ad

We’re putting an emphatic pause on this blog’s kneejerk disdain for pharmaceutical greed to celebrate some chest-thumping news here in Latrobe.
Our local country club is featured in what to me is the “Gone With The Wind” of pharmaceutical commercials, a 90-second epic of sweeping drama, humor and potential side effects which may include bleeding, fainting, itching, muscle pain and spasms.
Why the policy hiccup?
Arnold Palmer is endorsing Xarelto!
Networks are airing the second commercial for the drug, but this one was filmed at Latrobe Country Club. Besides Palmer it stars Kevin Nealon, NASCAR driver Brian Vickers and NBA star Chris Bosh.
It’s the first drug ad I’ve DVRd for convenient repeat viewings.
Xarelto prevents strokes by making blood thinner, a fact that leads me to believe Big Pharma is about to seize the obvious opportunity to release yet another erectile dysfunction drug proven to make other things thicker.
They could call it XXXarelto.
The ad’s cool to me because it’s local and because Palmer’s also on the cover of my book endorsing . . .
I remain very proud of that and wish my father had been alive to see it.
He died in 2004 of an aortic embolism. Who knows? Maybe he’d still be alive today had he seen then an ad with Palmer endorsing Xarelto.
Certainly, the old man bought anything Palmer suggested he should, the exceptions being Rolex wrist watches, Cadillac Coup de Villes or other luxury items too cost-prohibitive for an ever-humble optician.
But I thrill to see the commercial because it features the course I play more than any other.
I’m not a member, of course, but I’m friends with members who are kind enough to invite me to join them there. It’s always a treat.
Plus, I like to soulfully celebrate the man while we still can.
He was beloved and then just seemed to disappear. Many of his most ardent fans wondered if he’d died.
Now, he’s back.
But he could go at any minute. The guy’s not getting any younger.
I’m talking, of course, about Kevin Nealon.
He’s a wonderful comic and was uniformly hilarious on SNL from 1987-96, where Nealon, 61, was part of what to me was the show’s best cast.
He wasn’t as big a star as Mike Myers, Dana Carvey or Chris Rock, but he never stumbled and was reliably hilarious as Mr. Subliminal and one half of Hanz and Franz.
Plus, I know the guy loves golf.
Seeing him on TV always makes me happy.
I wish while he was here filming we could have met and had a drink or two. Or maybe popped some freebie Xareltos.
I know nothing about the race car driver and all I know about Chris Bosh was that he was once teammates with LeBron James.
Now, Palmer. Him, I know.
I’ve interviewed him more than 50 times and by now all we do is banter. It’s a real joy to me.
And, honest, I think it is to him, too.
How cool is that?
I had one of my favorite exchanges with him earlier this summer.
We were talking about Westerns and how he was once invited to star in a cowboy flick that never got made.
I asked if he’d ever met John Wayne.
“Never did,” he said. “But I’m good friends with Clint Eastwood. We had dinner last week. We own Pebble Beach together, you know.”
I did know. The pair were part of a group that in 1999 paid $820 million for the earthly Eden.
He was very casual about saying he owned one of the world’s most famous golf resorts. It was sort of like the way I say I own the DVD collections for all six seasons of the John Lithgow sitcom, “3rd Rock from the Sun.”
Not bragging. Just sayin’. 
I asked him how Clint’s doing.
He kind of shrugged in a sympathetic way and said, “Oh, he’s okay. We’re both 86 and we’re both having the same kind of issues.”
He said it in a way that conveyed growing old ain’t for sissies.
His tone led me to ask an impulsive question that immediately resurrected the steely competitor in the aging warrior.
“Who’d win a wrestling match between you and Clint?”
“Oh, I’d kick his ass.”
It was hilarious.
I think his reflexive outburst to challenge surprised him as being somehow impolite and he tried to backtrack.
“He has stand-ins. I do all my own stunts.”
I just love that man.
And to this day I know if I could arrange a pay-per-view wrestling match between Clint Eastwood and Arnold Palmer I’d never have to worry about money ever again.
The concept is something to think about next time you see Palmer, one of America's most ebullient legends, on TV.
Side effects may include irrational exuberance toward hometown celebrity spokespersons.

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