Monday, October 31, 2016

A month in my mind; October's best tweets

Follow me @8days2Amish! It's like spending the entire month inside my head but without the hangovers...

• Ever-present distractions & video substitutes, for the first time in history humans are at risk of engaging in deliberate illiteracy.

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

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

• Being "left to their own devices," once a stinging form of social abandonment, is now the preferred human activity.

• I’m one of those Christians who believes in God, but has trouble God could ever believe in me.

• Trump is the only man in America whom if you said, "Roy Cohn would be proud of you," would think it's a compliment. 

• I’m eager to find a website that archives audios of man’s greatest speeches, but said in the voice of Elmer Fudd. Yes, I have a dweam.

• I wonder if in the interest of modernity Fairfax, Va., is thinking about becoming Fairtext, Va.

• I wonder if in heaven all the movies are G-rated because that's a potential flaw.

• In heaven, the bottom lines will be determined by artists and that means in heaven the bottom lines will be squiggly rainbows.

• I’m confused about pejorative origins of the word “hardship.” Hardship should be good. History would be different if Titanic were a hardship.

• I know it's going to lead to trouble, but I can't resist putting lit matches under ears of strangers & asking, "Are your ears burning?”

• There ought to be a country song called, "I Married a Country Song" and my wife ought to write it.

• My failures have been so persistent my delusions of grandeur have become delusions of mediocrity.

• I wonder if fundamentalist climate change deniers see any irony in having sons named Noah.

• Right now every coach, player and commentator is saying some version of the exact same thing. Rejoice, NFL! We've achieved parroty! 

• If something as adversarially named as opposable thumbs can work hand-in-hand, how come the rest of us can’t?

• Any time anyone tells me I'm good listener I want to say, really, I'm just good at smiling and nodding, but all I do is smile and nod.

• Given our societal lasciviousness, I'm surprised I've never seen shirt buttons that look like stiff nipples.

• I predict this is the week Trump declares he will rename Gulf of Mexico the Gulf of Make America Great Again.

• How did ammunition get shorted to ammo instead of ammu? Is a word pronounced "am-MOO" too bovine for tough guys?

• I sometimes ask myself if I drink too much. I usually say no. I do this out loud and using two different voices like I'm on stage. 

• A woman decides with in 5 seconds whether or not to have sex with a man? That's a lie. I've been married 20 yrs & my wife's still not sure.

• I wonder if there are any bell & whistle stores that boast they sell bells & whistles with all the bells & whistles.

• I so love deadpan humor I can only conclude it killed the livepan kind.

• It’s now been 10 days. So this is the longest Arnold Palmer's gone without signing an autograph in 60 years.

• In the future, early voting will become so popular elections Election Day will be unnecessary.

• Just realized: For the first time in my life, I can probably beat Arnold Palmer at golf - but he'll still have to give strokes. 

• Some succeed by digging deep hopes to remove precious metals. If I ever succeed it’ll be ‘cause I’ve dug many shallow holes & planted seeds.

• In the future, "stupid" will be spelled "stoopid" so we can add additional "o's" to illustrate the degree of stoopidity.

• Haven’t had so much as a cold in years. I'd say I was healthy as a horse if I could verify horses suffer from occasional hangovers.

• Just occurred to me: Elvis Presley & Arnold Palmer will be seated near each other if there are homerooms in heaven.

• If house was on fire would you save photo albums or phone? Trick question. Your photo album is your phone and your phone is always there.

• Ideas about how to advance more quickly through lines are queue tips.

• Saw an incongruous scene at Steeler game. Native American Indians in ceremonial dress dancing at scoreboard pavillion. #Yinzdians?

• In order to ease passenger nerves, I propose airlines hire only pilots named Landon so it'll sound like: "Your pilot today will be landin’"

• The Rolling Stones today have more greatest hits albums (14) than most bands have great hits.

• Pokey school bus  made me late for "Price is Right" Showdown. Can't help but think this wouldn't have happened if Arnold Palmer hadn't died.

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

• 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’m looking forward to reading serious analytic stories about how 16 qualified men couldn't beat Donald Trump, but one woman could.

• The chances of finding suits in a suitcase are even less than those of anyone ever finding gloves in a glovebox.

• A gym beam requires steady footwork. A Jim Beam isn't nearly as fussy.

• Lovebirds are fine, but it's too narrow a description for many personalities. There ought to be lovedogs, lovelizards, lovemonkeys, etc.

• I figured out why Earth is such a mess: It's bi-polar!

• Those who obsess over audacious bucket lists go beyond the pail.

• My mind's been wandering so long I'm surprised it's not appeared on someone's milk carton.

• The pessimist bemoans all the traitors who've thrown him under the bus. The optimist thinks one day he'll make a really swell bus mechanic.

• What is it about the language that makes "The Steel Curtain" sound so much more fearsome than "The Steel Drapes?”

• People who say revenge is a dish best served cold fail to realize if revenge had a drive-thru traffic would be lined up for miles.

• I’m still mystified why more transgender people don't congregate in a Wisconsin town named Sheboygan.

• We hear lots about Jesus as the Son of God. I wonder about Uncle Jesus. Wouldn't it have been cool to say Jesus was your Uncle?

• People convicted of road rage offenses should be sentenced to master and when possible go from here to there via tap dance.

• We live in a time when never before have so many unhappy people had the ability to appear so joyously otherwise. Thank you, Facebook!

Related …

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mom's hip nipples & breast cancer awareness (from '13)

Me and the girls were coming home from seeing Pittsburgh’s giant rubber duckie when Nana told us the story of her migrating nipples.

It was a very surreal day.

I had trouble believing something that consequential could move around so easily.

And I’m talking about her nipples, not the great big duck, which I understand can be moved with a tug boat and steel cables.

So many conversations with my dear mother -- she’ll be 81 in December -- are surreal these days. It’s a running soundtrack of our hour-long drives from her home in Pittsburgh’s South Hills to visit in our Latrobe home. 

I ought to podcast them.

I drive a 2007 Saturn Vue, but when she’s in the car it feels like we’re motoring down the Parkway East in that psychedelic boat the Gene Wilder character skippered in the first and still-superior Willie Wonka movie from 1971.

I have trouble separating hallucination from reality.

She has dementia, but it’s a sly sort. She’s at a stage where she’ll sometimes do and say things that will have you conclude, yep, she’s lost it. Then in the very next sentence she’ll make perfect sense.

The combination disorients and I find myself spending the next few days trying to reconstruct the bizarre conversations.

That’s why today, four days later, I can’t get her nipples off my mind.

Odd, because I swear I remember her telling me I was a bottle baby.

All the pink fountains are to blame. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many of the city fountains are splashing pink. My car mate daughters, ages 13 and 7, thought that was very cool.

“Why are the fountains pink?” Mom asked.

I explained to her the symbolism. As she lost both her breasts to cancer in 1982, I thought it might be good for her granddaughters to hear about her experience.

Now I’m not so sure.

Because the thrust of Nana’s story didn’t deal with the gravity of this killer disease, prevention or how lifestyle choices can impact women’s health. It dealt instead with migratory nipples.

“I don’t remember the operation,” she said. “All I remember is looking down and seeing my nipples on my hips.”

The recollection enlivened Josie and Lucy.

“Your nipples were on your hips?” asked Josie.

She explained when the doctors told her they were removing her breasts, they said the could save the nipples by temporarily transplanting them to her hips where they’d be nurtured until they could be put back where they belonged.

I hadn’t heard this story. Or maybe I had. I was about 20 when it happened. I was very self-centered at the time and, I’m sure, pre-occupied with the quest for finding handy access to female nipples that weren’t attached to my mother.

Now, I wanted to know all about her hip nipples.

Where they comfortable? Did she have to be careful when she put her keys in her pockets? Could Dad have taken one -- or two -- for the team and had them put on him just below his own?

I looked into the rear view mirror and saw Lucy, the youngest, had zipped down her top and was looking back and forth on her chest like she was observing a volley at a tennis match.

“I remember a lot of discussion with the doctors,” she said. “They said we didn’t have to to save them, but most women did for cosmetic reasons. So when they removed my breasts they took the nipples off and sewed them into my hips.

“A few months later, after the reconstructive surgery, they put the nipples back where they belonged. I don’t think anyone’s seen them ever since.”

We spent much of the remainder of the drive discussing where else Nana’s nipples could have gone with, inevitably, our stupid dog playing a donor role.

It seemed to me like a lost opportunity.

I had hoped my Mom would explain the danger and difficulties associated with surviving breast cancer; that maybe the girls would glean some worldly sympathy for the sisterhood, something their mother and I strongly encourage.

And I was hoping this post would have some heartfelt gravity about how men can support the women in our lives and encourage them to fight this cruel disease.

Instead, in the end it’s just a little piece about nipple mobility.

I guess it’s something I just had to get off my chest.

Related . . .

Friday, October 28, 2016

Lying about my height on my driver's license

My Pennsylvania driver’s license contains one bold-faced lie, a tall tale as it were. 

It says I’m 5-foot-10. I’d need to stand on my tippy toes to reach 5’10.

I’m more like 5’7.

Why I chose to tell such a petty bureaucratic lie, I do not recall.

Maybe I thought a cop would be less likely to tangle with a 5’10 dude. Or maybe I thought the deception would be useful if I was ever ambitious to commit a crime.

It would have been more artful fib if I tried to convince the DMV I was actually a female. It’s not likely they’d have been eager to interrupt their mundane routines by asking me to pull down my pants and prove it.

Maybe I used to think I was 5’10 because I had high hair. I used to have a nice, thick head of hair, a good two-inch cushion up top.

Now, sadly, it’s becoming sparse. Sensing what’s coming, I’m trying to sneak in as many bald jokes in as I can before I become one.

I got a good nasty one off on a bald buddy a couple of weeks ago. He was telling me how his 8-year-old daughter nearly fell off a swinging bridge in the woods and he reached out and grabbed her arm to save her from a trip to the ER.

“I felt just like Harrison Ford in ‘Indiana Jones,’” he said.

I told him it was more like No-Hair-ison Ford.

My 16-year-old daughter is almost as tall as I am and that feels wholly unnatural. I always told her if she ever got as tall as I, I’d immediately resume growing.

I’ve read the average American male is 5’10, so no matter how hard I try I’m destined to be below average.

I felt acutely short all last night when I spotted taller men contemplating using my bald spot for an ash tray.

It was the “Taste The Good Life” charity fundraiser at DiSalvo’s Station right here in Latrobe. It’s a very swanky affair at Latrobe’s finest restaurant.

I can’t afford it — I’m, er, short on cash — but my friend Tom often invites me when one of his more deserving guests bails.

Tom’s a true patron. He enjoys reading my blog, buys my books (for himself and as gifts), occasionally clicks the blog “donate” button and springs for my ticket at lavish cigar events.

If you think that kind of tangible support makes him my favorite reader, you’re wrong.

My very favorite reader is …


I had a great time, but much of the night felt like the “Land of the Giants,” if only the giants were all puffing fine cigars and sipping high-end liquor.

The men all seemed huge.

I’m noticing a trend that those born after me are becoming taller, which also may be a consequence of me growing shorter. Long-time exposure to gravity and loss of bone mass means after the age of 30 we all begin to shrink. Most men shrink an inch; women, two.

But as our time on earth grows shorter, the people with whom we share it are growing taller. We’re evolving.

I read that during the Civil War, the average American soldier was just 5’6. 

Makes me feel like I could have singlehandedly beat the Rebs at Gettysburg.

So we as a people have added four inches in height in just 150 years.

What’ll it mean if the trend accelerates? What if we on average grow another four inches in, say, the next 12 months.

Of course, we’ll need bigger clothes, bigger vehicles and more food to fuel each generation of fresh behemoths.

The pessimists will say the growth will lead to — more irony — shortages and global upheaval will lead to our downfall.

I say nonsense.

The doomsayers fail to acknowledge the obvious.

The human race is finally growing up!

Too bad the only realm it’s happened to me is on my stupid driver’s license.

Related …

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Church rules on cremation & what we did with Dad

Procedural Vatican news about the care and preservation of human cremains has me belatedly wondering if we did the old man right.

Dead 12 years, we cremated the crap out of him in ’04.

Papal officers say cremation is permissible only if the ashy remains aren’t divvied up, strewn about or kept on some mantel at home. They must, instead, be stored in a sacred, church-approved place, someplace holy.

It’d be a relief if there turned out to be a typo that was intended to be someplace “holey.”

Like golf courses!

We’d certainly be in partial compliance.

Between us, my brother and I have scattered portions of our late father at Augusta, Oakmont, Whistling Straits, Firestone and maybe a dozen other golf courses.

Dad loved golf. 

We’re informed it’s improper to divvy, but divvy we did. Me and my brother each took half.

Dad weighed about 200 pounds at the time of his death. Singeing that much bone and sinew at about 1,700-degrees Fahrenheit — the process lasts one to three hours — leaves you with just about five pounds of fine ash.

Mine are in the above wine decanter on the top book shelf in my basement.

I spent a good many hours trimming candid pictures of Dad and affixing them to the wine decanter. It was a true labor of love, love and goopy decoupage.

I keep it on the top shelf — Dad was a top shelf kind of guy — between my two all-time favorite books, “Catch-22” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” 

I spend a lot of time in that basement room watching sports, reading or relaxing by the fire. I’ll often look up and think about Dad. Having him close like that gives me a peaceful feeling.

I guess I’ll never stop missing him.

Despite what the Catholic church says, I’m relieved I don’t have to dress up and go to some sacred property to commune in places where I’m afraid to do things like fart when I feel farting.

Until I’d read the edicts, I thought we were treating Dad’s remain with a precious modicum of dignity.

We don’t keep him in a church, but he is in our hearts, which is better than up our noses.

Keith Richards in ’07 told reporters (he later recanted) that he mingled some of his father’s ashes with some fine cocaine and — Toot! Toot! — snorted the merry mix.

I didn’t see any restrictions against that in the Vatican story, but I guess they felt common decency meant some guidelines could be left unsaid.

They didn’t count on Keith!

Other offbeat options include cremains becoming a part of tattoos, jewelry, fireworks, beer mugs, coral reefs or being shot into space.

Kiss your ash goodbye.

I wish you could have known my father. He was just beloved, a real joy.

In his later years, I used to like to take him to parties or have friends meet him in bars near his South Hills home. All I’d say was, “This is my father. I think you’re going to hit it off.”

Then I’d just watch him talk. He’d ask about their families, where they worked and what kind of beer they kept in the home fridge. He genuinely cared how they were doing. He only talked about himself when he was asked and when he was asked he always answered honestly.

I’ve come to conclude people were just so disarmed that someone so warm and open-minded walked among us.

Everyone who met him carried a part of him with them for the rest of their lives.

The realization has me lamenting all those years we encouraged him to lose weight. In hindsight, we should have encouraged him to gain weight.

Like 5,000 pounds.

I don’t care what the papal poobahs say.

Men that marvelous ought to be spread far and wide.

Related …

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cubs will lose

I was 19 years old the first time I went to Chicago. It was the summer Doug and I barnstormed the Midwest with a traveling carnival.

We made good money, had a great time and learned there were at least a few Illinois girls reckless enough about their reputations to be seen kissing carnies.

During an off-day, I toured the historic Chicago Tribune building and saw the office where Mike Royko wrote the columns that made me want to grow up to be just like him.

I drank beer and ate cheeseburgers in the Billy Goat Tavern.

I was back in the Windy City in 1989 on an a story about luxury train travel, having scored a D.C.-to-Chicago ticket on board the American-Oriental Express. I became friends with a guy in the piano car and we went for downtown drinks and dinner before I had to return. It’s a splendid memory.

The last time I was in Chicago was with three buddies. We were on a Wrigley pilgrimage and saw three games at the hallowed ballpark. What fun we had.

I’m friends with many Cubs fans and am often charmed by the friendliness of the people I meet from the Second City.

So why with all that happy history am I rooting for the Cubs to lose in a heartbreaking fashion?

It’s all because of two guys.

Steve Bartman and the jackass

Note: I didn’t say Steve Bartman and billy goat.

You may know about Bartman. He’s the hapless left field foul line fan who made the common mistake of reaching for a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. The interference may or may not have caused Cubs leftfielder Moises Alou to miss what would have been the second out of the eighth inning.

Whatever. A Florida Marlins rally ensued and the Marlins went on to win the game and the World Series.

The Cubs fans blamed Bartman, then 26. It was ugly. Fans wanted to kill him. Some still do.

A friend of his said told CNN: “It was something like a biblical ‘Give us Barabbas and crucify the other guy,’ you know. It was mob action fueled by a lot of alcohol, a perfect storm of dysfunctional behavior.”

He still gets death threats.

That would never happen in Pittsburgh!

I contend the fabled curse of the billy goat won’t be the reason the Cubs lose this series in seven games (14 inning Game 7).

I believe it’ll be because of Bartman.

And the jackass.

I don’t know his name. I wrote about the incident in this 2008 link, the one I deftly headlined, “I hate the Chicago Cubs.

I don’t think I’ve ever hated a single person more.

Through the years I’ve built him into evil incarnate. 

When I heard years ago ISIL was forming a caliphate with intentions of subjugating the entire Christian world, I thought, “I’ll bet that jackass Cubs fan is behind the whole thing.”

At various times, I’ve endured tech and automotive troubles that have been exacerbated by men who’ve either looked or sounded suspiciously like that jackass Cubs fan.

So, you see, I don’t think the Cubs have a prayer.

But there’s still time. The Cubs could say all is forgiven and invite Bartman to throw out the first pitch at Game 3 Friday night.

Many good Cubs fans realize they put the poor guy through hell with their hatred and death threats. They're eager to make amends. 

It’s never helpful to threaten to kill someone like Bartman.

So go on and make things right. Say you forgive Steve Bartman. 

Then find and kill that jackass.