Thursday, June 30, 2016

June Tweets of the Month

How many other writers could produce such a heady mix of profound and silly? I wonder if I’d be more successful if I confined my disciplines to just one or the other. Oh, well. I can’t help it. I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam. I think that’s from Plato …

Enjoy June’s tweets of the month and follow me @8days2Amish!

• Many writers are on shoe-string budgets. Me, I can't afford shoes with strings. I guess that means I'm on a flip flop budget. 

• Maybe I'm superstitious, but I only buy things like thyme, basil and sage from farmers named Herb.

• It’s your past. Make it as colorful as you wish. I say I put myself through college working as a male stripper.

• Both daughters have caught on, but I still find it irresistible to phone pretending I’m Prez Obama just calling to praise their father. 

• The idea of being a lab rat must seem so prestigious to rats so it must be a cruel disappointment when they learn what it involves

• Asked 9 year old if she knew difference between carpenter bees and regular bees. Said carpenter bees have the tiny tool belts.

• He admires Trump’s spunk, his moxie, but he thinks the kid needs some guidance, the tutelage of an old Washington hand. #Trump/Cheney

• All my life people have been telling me, "Chris you can't do this. You can't do that." They've been right about 90 percent of the time.

• Imagine how much better off we’d all be if humble “Need a penny/Take a penny/ Have a penny/Leave a penny,” were applied on a global level.

• I wish in the interests of polite society that people described as lightning rods attracted actual lightning.

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

• Store receipts getting so long it is now be possible to wrap new toaster in new toaster receipts.

• How come the only ones who seem to get to blither are idiots? I'd just once like to see a blithering weatherman.

• The term "penniless" has lost all value for describing an impoverished individual. Probably been 20 years since Trump's even seen a penny.

• Families are God's way of proving we're incapable of helping even those we love the very most.

• The reward of soothing mediocrity is among society’s most addictive painkillers.

• I’ll bet God wishes terrorists who kill in His name saying "God is great!" would at least add, "But I am not!"

• I’ve made a bold decision: I'm living the rest of my life in italics!

• She’ll deny it, but my wife just hasn't been herself since Heisenberg died. #BreakingBad

• Devotees of irony rejoice! Today we honor as a disciple of peace, a man who got famous beating the living crap out of others. #AliFuneral

• How much more advanced will humanity be when we select mates based on intelligence instead of how nice one’s ass looks in tight jeans?

• How sizable would the yard sale be if you had access to all the stuff enemies through-out your life told you to shove up your ass? 

• I’ve done like the financial wizards advised. I've had nest eggs. The problem is they've always hatched and flown away.

• I detest the term spree killer. It makes it sound like so much fun.

• Anytime you hear of anyone dying suddenly, it should reinforce the need to be always living suddenly ... 

• I’d like to see a boy named Morley engage a girl name Leslie and have them conceive a child they'll name Equally.

• It’s said no two snowflakes are exactly alike. But I was upscale bar this weekend with 30 guys who looked, dressed & thought exactly alike.

• When someone tells me they don't have the time to read I assume they don't have time for sex either. #priorities

• Never forget: A clear, sharp mind is a brute impediment to enjoying so much of life's whimsy and wonder. Bourbon works wonders.

• Reaping what you sew is good unless you’re a dressmaker who grows his or her own cotton then in which case you sew what you reap. 

• It may be that I'll always be broke, but by God I'll never be broken.

• I propose they rename phone book "The Big Book of Names & Numbers of People You Don't Know, Will Never Meet & Will Never Call.”

• I’ve become so trusting of small town values the only time I lock my car is when my keys are in there and I'm not.

• I wonder if Jesus and God do anything special for Father's Day.

•I wonder if parents of boys born above the Arctic Circle ever struggle with the illogic of naming the fair-skinned child Tanner. 

• Jordan Speith talks so much on the golf course he should be called Jordan Spekith.

• Ham radios will resume their popularity when they're constructed of ham. 

• News reports of a local home being ransacked always make me wonder if the suspect is Santa, a man who runs with sacks.

• Today I feel like a futurist, but I predict the feeling will pass.

• It’d be a useful gauge of the woman's native optimism to learn if Carly Fiorina is still introducing herself as Ted Cruz's Veep.

• I wonder if Satanists, like other special interest groups, resent being demonized or consider it a badge of honor.

• The AK 47, one of the deadliest guns ever made, is capable of firing 600 bullets per minute. And right now someone is working on an AK 48.

• It bears repeating: Rhode Island isn't even Rhode Isthmus.

• Daughter, 10, admits she was 3 before she realized my first name wasn't "Daddy." What did she think of all the other kids calling their fathers Daddy? “Copycats!"

• If we ever get another cat I'm going to encourage the kids to name it Copy. Copycat!

Related …

June ’15 Tweets of the Month

June ’14 Tweets of the Month

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

New River Gorge & the story of the Suicidal Corona Drinker (from '15)

It was the kind of unsightly trash a devoted recycler like myself would instinctively take a few steps out of his way to retrieve for proper disposal. I do this especially when, as in this case, it’s in a national park spoiling one of the most spectacular views in America.

But I didn’t budge.

It was a six-pack of 12-ounce Corona glass bottles. Four of the beers had been emptied. Two full ones remained.

I stood there and tried to recall the number of times I’d have wandered 15 steps just for two free Coronas. It was a bunch.

Still, I remained frozen.

My reasoning had nothing to do with beer quality and everything to do with basic math. I knew if I took just one step I’d travel 851 feet.

Straight down.

I was in the middle of the 6/10-mile long, 24-inch maintenance catwalk suspended 20-feet beneath the New River Gorge Bridge, near Fayetteville, West Virginia. 

The beers had been drunk and left there the previous week by a forlorn young man who’d come to that exact spot to end his life.

“He’d broken undetected through all our security measures and walked out onto the middle of bridge and hopped the railing onto this beam,” said Jada, our guide, a pretty WVU Eastern Religious Studies major who’s about to depart for two months of primary studies in Cambodia and Vietnam. “He climbed out to the edge, sat down right there and started getting drunk. He was intent on jumping.”

She told us that and I wondered what some Hindu prophet would say about trying to penetrate the earthly veil by hurtling oneself off one of America’s landmark bridges.

Prior to 1977, it used to take U.S. Rt. 19 motorists 45 minutes to traverse the canyon-pinched New River, along with the nearby Gauley, are among the top white water rafting sites in the world. Today, thanks to the bridge, crossing takes 16,200 or so motorists each day just about 45 seconds. It was until 2002 the world’s highest vehicular bridge.

Yet for all its majesty, it still fits snug in your pocket.

The bridge profile is featured on the back of the 2005 commemorative West Virginia State quarter.

I’d written about the Bridge Walk in ’11 after it’d opened as one of the most unique tourist attractions in all America.

The 24-inch catwalk had for years been a rite-of-passage for local kids wanting to test their mettle. They’d sneak out there and maybe spray paint their names on the beams.

Then in 2010 local entrepreneur Benjy Simpson and five associates secured permission to add $1 million in unobtrusive safety features into the barren passage and on Sept. 26, 2010, opened Bridge Walk. A one-way trip costs $73.

“We’ve had every age from 9- to 95-years-old cross and we’ve had people in wheelchairs,” says Simpson. “Most are there for scenery or are engineering buffs marveling at the construction and many are people trying to overcome a fear of heights. We’ve had about 22,000 guests cross the bridge. Of them, only 70 have turned back.”

Physically, Bridge Walk is unimposing to anyone capable of a strolling a leisurely mile. Walkers are given harnesses and tethered to overhead steel cables.

For our 5 p.m. trip, it was just me, Josie, and Jada.

I’m not going to lie. I was scared the whole way.

I’m one of those guys who has no senseless fear of heights, but a dreadful fear of falling from high places, which I contend is different and makes perfect sense.

I’ve twice gone skydiving and in ’13 did a 102-story static-line leap from the Stratosphere SkyJump in Las Vegas.

I enjoy testing my nerves, but even more enjoy saying I’ve tested my nerves. I love being able to tell stories about adventures others say they’d rather avoid.

Bridge Walk is a perfect example. I know things can go wrong — even though they have never not once on Bridge Walk. And it’s indelible views are, indeed, spectacular.

Josie, being naive about dramatic death, has no fear whatsoever. She skipped along, used the railings for push-ups and was serene in her assurance that nothing could possibly go wrong.

I’d told here the bridge was a popular site for couples to get engaged. Until Jada showed us the castoff Coronas, it never dawned on her something so magnificent could be used as a place for something so dark.

“We don’t know how much he’d drunk before he got there, but at some point after he’d drunk that fourth beer he changed his mind,” Jada said. “He wasn’t going to jump. He didn’t want to die.”

It was an inconvenient place to have such a dramatic change of heart. He became immobilized by fear and alcohol.

He called 911 and explained his predicament. They rushed a crew to the bridge. The clipped in and a very brave first responder did a duty that’ll forever top the stories of the guys who like to brag about the old widow’s kitten they pulled from way up in the big oak.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of the men on the bridge that night and concluded my feet would have been damp.

In either case, I’m sure I’d have wet my pants.

The would-be suicide had to be in frightful condition. He was unstable out on an exposed beam and now consumed with both alcohol and a frantic will to live. One stumble in either direction and he falls the equivalent of the Washington Monument with the Statue of Liberty balanced on top.

The hero had to be nervous, too. He’d taken all the proper precautions, sure, but he was dealing with a drunken wildcard. What if it were a cruel ruse to try and take an innocent with him?

Me, at that height I was too nervous to remove my phone from my buttoned pocket to even snap a telltale picture of the trash, which had been left there because the rescuer was too otherwise occupied care about housekeeping matters.

A conspiracy-mined friend said he wondered if the Bridge Walk people planted the trash and came up with a crafty story.

Sure, anything’s possible, but it isn’t in the best interest of Bridge Walk to do anything that is tantamount to encouraging such lethal lawlessness.

And I don’t know much about Eastern Religions, but I’m sure they include a part about how unethical it would be for Jada to lie to visiting travel writers.

Later, I couldn’t stop thinking about the would-be suicide. I figured it must have been over a broken heart. I wondered about his thought progression as he went through his four beers.

Beer 1: “There’s no hope. This heart break will never heal. This is the only solution.”

Beer 2:  “Well, I’ve made some bad decisions, but I’m glad I got a premium import to soothe my final moments instead of that domestic swill I usually drink.”

Beer 3: “I wonder if this was a mistake. The Pirates are playing the Giants tonight. First pitch is in one hour. The game’ll be on down at the bar. I think Brenda’s working tonight. She was looking fine last week.”

Beer 4: “I want to live! Live! Live! Boy, am I glad I remembered to charge my phone before I came up here …”

It’d be great if we eventually hear how right there on the edge of that iconic bridge, the man’s life turned right around, that he found love, stability and the messianic will to became a role model for all the troubled strugglers who fail to realize that even the darkest day is still just one day.

Because a man-made structure as impressive as the New River Gorge Bridge should never be about anything other than the enduring grandeur of the human spirit. 

It’s out of my realm, but it seems to me the story has all the elements you’d need for a really dandy Corona beer commercial.

Related . . .

Monday, June 27, 2016

So who all's invited to tonight's City Books reading?

You are, of course.

Those of you who take the time to read my blog are my core readership. My alpha, my omega. Your support buoys me when I’m down. Your boundless enthusiasm helps generate fresh ideas when imagination depletes.

Having a local reading without offering you luxury box treatment just wouldn’t seem right. So consider this your invitation to hear me read — read aloud! — from “Last Baby Boomer” tonight at 7 p.m. at City Books on Pittsburgh’s North Side. I’m sending it out special to you and only my closest, most personal friends.

And to the entire rosters of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers and their traveling staff and media.

The Bucs and Dodgers close out a four-game Pittsburgh home stand today at 12:30 p.m. and both will be boarding planes for long cross-country flights. An entertaining satirical book like mine will help pass the time until they can snuggle back into the waiting arms of cuddly hookers and groupies.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto? You’re invited. In fact, it’ll be a stinging insult if Hizzoner blows me off. He’s out and about at so many functions like this every night weary political reporters are beginning to suspect he’s cloned

People who are confused about Brexit are welcome. I know you have many questions and in between readings I’ll try and shed some light on what the changes mean.

For instance, now in order to do any business in the U.K. we’ll all have to begin deliberately misspelling words like color, labor, flavor with their infuriatingly unnecessary “u” (colour, labour, flavour).

The Stanley Cup is invited! I don’t know which of our NHL champion Penguins has the cup tonight, but feel free to bring it to City Books to add some sparkle to the proceedings. 

Open and concealed carry aficionados are welcome. Bring all the hardware you want. I believe word-for-word in our 2nd Amendment so bring as many weapons as you can hoist.

Just promise to leave all the bullets at home.

Denzel Washington, you’re one of my favorite actors so consider this your personal invitation. Denzel is in Pittsburgh filming the August Wilson play, “Fences,” about race relations in Pittsburgh in 1957.

I haven’t read or seen the play but, being a fan of happy endings, I’m optimistic it concludes with blacks and whites marching arm-in-arm into a bright future that includes mutual equality, respect, and an assurance that the then-awful Steelers are going to turn it all around starting in the 1970s. 

I hope Denzel accepts and decides on the spot to option my book(s) for his next production.

So if all the close personal friends I’ve invited show up and buy books, I figure I ought to sell, oh, about 15,000 books.


I’ll be happy if I sell 20.

Really, I did want to extend personal invitations to those who’re particularly supportive, but it seemed like an imposition.

I know you’re busy. The kids have soccer. You’re preparing to leave for summer vacation. You still haven’t watched the concluding Part V of “O.J.: Made in America.”

Plus, I’m sure there are those of you who’ve been burned by promotions like this, ones where “book readings” turns out to be code for “orgy” and you’re not sure what to wear.

It is my understanding this is purely a book reading and at the very least I promise this reader will remain fully dressed.

I hope all the concealed carry fans will be, too.

An orgy doesn’t leave many comfortable options for those eager to conceal.

Related . . .

Friday, June 24, 2016

Does hitting a pink golf ball make me less manly?

So I was standing over the pink golf ball not thinking about keeping my head down, my left arm straight or other routine swing thoughts.

No, I was thinking, “Will hitting this pink golf ball make me less of a man?”

What? You hoped today we’d be talking about Brexit?

Our LBGT community has achieved greater civil rights successes in less time than perhaps any special interest group in history. Even reflexive congressional gay bashers realize it’s stupid politics to be so vocal in their bigoted oppositions.

What’s it going to take to liberate the color pink?

I believe my generation will be the last to use “that’s so gay” as a reflexive put down. Amen.

Blatant homophobia is frowned upon.

Pinkophobia is not.

He-man Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio humiliates his inmates by making them all wear pink underwear. I remember seeing an NBA team make an under-achieving rookie dress all in pink on a road trip to discipline him. And I still see sitcoms that use a pink shirt as code for effeminate behavior.

Pink remains a punchline.

I sensed this as one of my golf buddies insisted it’d be a mistake the play the pink ball I’d found in the woods while looking for my primary shot.

“You’re not seriously thinking about playing that pink ball, are you?” he asked.

It was the kind of question the grade-school bullies ask a pink-loving innocent in the popular children’s book, “Pinkalicious,” all about how pink is something to be ridiculed.

Indeed, I was thinking of hitting a pink golf ball.

I own one dandy pair of pink socks. But I don’t own any pink shirts or pink pants.

I think a pink sports coat would be a summer sartorial success. Maybe one day if I get enough green I’ll buy me some pink.

I’m friends with a man who for years has worn lots of prominent pink. He’s Arnold Palmer. Esquire magazine named him one of its 50 most stylish men two years ago. I remember the picture showed him wearing a dazzling pink.

He’s been proudly wearing pink since way back when pink was primarily associated with gays and commies.

I could play golf in a snazzy pink shirt and could cite Palmer to ease the tease.

But there’s no way I could wear that same pink shirt on a night to drink with rednecks in a blue collar bar.

“The Top Tens” website lists blue as the most popular color followed by red, green, purple, black, orange, yellow, gold, white and lastly, uh, pink.

The list must make lovers of pink see red.

Is latent homophobia the reason pink is so unpopular?

As the father of two daughters, recollections of little loved ones toddling up to me in pink dresses with bright smiles always chases away the blues.

How come color-wise so many things still have to be so black and white?

In fact, they do not.

As gays have added associates to their ever-growing acronym they’ve added colors to their spectrums.

So now the LBGT glorious rainbow has diminished pink’s prominence.

Does that mean pink will become more acceptable to men like me?

These were among my thoughts as I stood over the ball.

So what did I do?

I turned yellow and went white.

I pulled out a traditional golf ball. I didn’t do it because I lack courage.

I did it because I lack a sound golf swing. 

I didn’t want to dribble a bad shot up the cart path and have my buddies blame it on the pink ball. A pink ball needs a stronger proponent than I to strike a blow for our least popular primary color. 

I realize it’s unwise for a man who plays with pink balls to try coming out of the color closet when he can’t even get out of the rough.

Related …