Monday, November 20, 2017

My new "Crayons DELUXE!" is dedicated to ...

Spoiler alert!

It’s dedicated to Dave Carfang (first on right above).

The dedication, and forgive its indulgence, reads in full, “This book is dedicated to the joyful souls whose laughter is so explosive, so infectious and so euphoric it makes storytellers run red lights when we think of anything so provocatively funny it just might do the trick.

“Thus, this book is dedicated to our friend Dave Carfang.”

Who’s Dave Carfang?

A son of the great Dick Carfang and nephew of Ed Carfang (also great), Dave and I became friends in about 2005. He came into my life a year before our daughter Lucy (she’s great, too, just in ways that have nothing to do with running a swell neighborhood tavern).

The June 2006 introduction of Lucy necessitated a .075 mile move from our cozy little starter house to a 3-bedroom split level up in the woods above Youngstown.

The house is wonderful. Two fireplaces, vaulted living room ceilings and an elevated back porch that looks deep into the lush sylvan part of Pennsylvania.

One problem: no obvious space for a home office.

That meant I’d either have to find a cheap — really cheap apartment — or secure gainful employment at an actual office.

Kidding! The cut-rate apartment was the only option.

I talked to a bunch of friends and the cheapest offer was $250 a month for way more than I’d need.

I was lamenting the situation to Dave one day and he said, “I have a place upstairs I’ll let you have for free!”

I shrewdly negotiated up to $150 a month. But for the next eight years it was perfect. It was shabby, but it had a full kitchen and a shower. 

Best of all, 37 steps from my desk was The Pond in all its glory.

I like to tell people that if I wasn’t on my bar stool by 4:30, guys would start banging on the ceiling. That’s an artful lie.

I was always on my barstool 30 minutes before the rest of regulars got there.

I’ve been lucky in my friendships since, gee, about 3rd grade. I think it’s because I stroll through life with what’s been described as a shit-eatin’ grin, a phrase I’ve never understood.

I wear a violent frown if I bite into a stale Cheeto.

I guess I appear sufficiently goofy enough that serious people never look at me and say, “Hon, let’s go sit next to that guy. He looks real serious, too.”

But The Pond was unique. There were every day about a dozen lively personalities seated elbow-to-elbow engaged in the kind of banter that enriched not just my writing, but my every day.

Regulars included cops, lawyers, coaches, electricians, postal workers, teachers, reporters, mill workers, accountants, mayors, farmers, car salesman and me.

And we all came and we all stayed and stayed and stayed because we all loved Dave.

I remember Val asking after one marathon session what we men talked about for all that time. I said, “We talk about sports, we talk about politics and we talk about how different our lives would be if we went to a bar where women went.”
Some times our wives — and by “our” wives, I mean “my” wife — got justifiably angry when “we” stayed too long.

But on some days the camaraderie was too perfect, too rip-roaring, to depart. And then Paul would come in and it would get even better. And who can leave a bar when Paul’s in there?

And I mean what I say about trying to be funny just to make Dave laugh. Sure, I had a vested interest.

See, Dave used to put classic sports trivia — real brain twisters — on the electronic bar chalkboard. We’d maniacally puzzle over the answers for hours.

That was the glorious days prior to infernal smart phones. I’ll never forget the day Dave berated two young guys who spoiled the fun by looking up the answer to the question, “Who is the only MLB player to hit an inside-the-park, grand slam, walk-off home run?” (It’s Roberto Clemente).

“That’s it,” he said. “No more bar trivia!”

Of course, great bar trivia’s loss became my gain.

Dave began putting my tweets of the week on the board. As he’s never owned a smart phone, much less a computer, I’d dutifully print them out for him. Having my very own public twitter board did wonders for my following, at least among staggering local inebriates.

The very first one he used is now No. 644 (out of 1,001) in “Crayons DELUXE!” It is: “A gym beam requires steady footwork. A Jim Beam isn’t nearly as fussy.”

So life moves on. What was once perfect is now past.

I’m now happily lodged in the Tin Lizzy — and there are a bunch of stories about my 2-year tenure there among the 57 essays in the new edition. And I still enjoy going to The Pond to watch sports while acknowledging things change.

More about the new book tomorrow.

But today I am moved to salute our good friend Dave and his pivotal role in doing something that made so many so happy for so long.

Men like him do something every day that make men like me want to be sharp, to be funny.

To, by God, be alive.

So do readers like you.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Lucky Lindy" was a bigamist; Neil Armstrong a bore

So as an antidote to so many stories of so many men behaving so badly, I was reading a book about Neil Armstrong, our premier astronaut who, it seems, never even once entertained a single dirty thought. Thus, his biography is a bit of a bore. 

No orgies, no binges, no excess, no salacious episodes where he invites aspiring female comics to his hotel room so he can liberate his penis.

Armstrong, who died in 2012, never once sought to capitalize on his historic fame. A man celebrated for in July 1969 being the first to step on the desolate surface of the moon lived his entire life as if he’d never find any human fulfillment in Vegas.

I kept waiting to learn if he ever cut loose and maybe snacked on a Twinkie.

But the Jay Barbree book, “Neil Armstrong: A Life in Flight,” was not without merit. For instance, I scored a dandy brain barnacle about another American icon.

A brain barnacle is what I call trivial facts powerful enough to survive a cranial power spraying. Once grasped, they never departs. Guaranteed, this one is something I’ll bring up every time I hear the name Charles Lindbergh.

Turns out Lindbergh was a bigamist. And not a little bigamist. He was a big bigamist.

“Lucky Lindy” fathered 13 children to four women!

Sounds more like “Get Lucky Lindy.”

Who knew a man who became famous in 1927 for the first trans-Atlantic flight had so much in common with so many 21st century NBA stalwarts?

I learned this after reading how Armstrong was honored when Lindbergh showed up July 16, 1969, to watch Apollo 11 lift off for the moon. I was surprised Lindbergh was still alive in ’69. He seemed to me to spring from an entirely different epoch. But I was mistaken.

He was 25 in ’27, thus 67 at lift-off. He’d die three years later of lymphoma complications in Maui, where he spent his final years — and he’d been getting laid years before landing in Hawaii. 

Yet his life after the flight that made him famous was spackled with darkness. How much of that was a reflection of having had his 20-month-old son, Charles Jr., kidnapped and murdered is one for psychological speculation.

I was moved to look up Lindbergh to confirm my recollection he was a Nazi sympathizer.

He was. A moralizing anti-Semite, he campaigned vociferously against FDR and any argument America should enter WWII on behalf of Britain and proudly wore the Order of the German Eagle presented to him by Hitler henchman Hermann Goring. 

And through it all he espoused the sanctity of holy matrimony and derided womanizers for their petty infidelities.

Here, apparently, the pilot was just wingin’ it. Because in addition to the six children he had with his life-long wife Anne Morrow, he fathered seven more to three European mistresses. On his deathbed, he wrote letters to the women imploring them to preserve his silent hypocrisies beyond the grave. 

As the truth began to emerge, Reeve Lindbergh, his youngest daughter wrote, “This story (of her father’s double life) reflects absolutely Byzantine layers of deception on the part of our shared father. These children did not even know who he was! He used a pseudonym with them (To protect them, perhaps? To protect himself, absolutely!)”

So that’s the warts ’n’ all story of one of the most venerated men in American history, just another male icon laid low it seems by unstemmed surges of excess testosterone. 

And I’m left to wonder if the only way to keep men grounded is to send us all to the moon.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

The deadly echo of "Now is not the time"

(462 words)

I’m growing nostalgic for the days when at least one hometown witness to slaughter would tell reporters, man, I never dreamed something like this could happen here.

We’re reaching a point where it’s happening every where, all the time to every one.

It’d be a dereliction of duty if every governor of every state didn’t have in his or her “A” file a written-in-advance statement mourning the loss of (pick one) 50/25/10 (pick one) worshippers/concert goers/grade schoolers ready to recite to the press.

“Our prayers are with … investigation will proceed … come together … first responders … now is not the time …”

Now is not the time.

Now is not the time.

More and more, “now is not the time” is sounding like a Satanic echo.

For God’s sake, when will the time come? How high does the stack of innocent bodies have to be for the alarm to sound?

We’re supposed to be reassured when Trump and the NRA point out (correctly) that the only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a good man (or woman) with a gun.

True. Johnnie Langendorff is a hero. He ran to the sound of gunfire to eliminate a lethal threat.

So to those of you keeping score at home, the final is 1-26.

And now we’re hearing reports he may have eaten his final bullet so who knows how that effects the point spread.

I always like the part when law enforcers announce, hallelujah, this wasn’t terrorism, like we should feel relief it wasn’t ISIS, but just another angry white man with lots of grudges and guns. 


Texas attorney general Ken Paxton says the solution is for more church goers to start packing. 

Assuming he’s a Christian, it sounds like he’s putting more faith in Smith & Wesson than he is in Jesus.

I’d like to ask Paxton if he believes allowing North Korea and every other nation on earth easy access to nuclear weapons will make us all safer.

It’s an extension of the same logic.

I’m linking below some of the ideas I’ve put forth on reducing gun violence. Some are sensible, some are wacky, and some are merely provocative. At this point, I simply want to see something -- anything -- done that’ll budge us off our lethal dead lock.

I believe if we continue to do absolutely nothing, it’s a lock our futures are filled with more dead.

Trump says this isn’t a gun issue. He says it’s a mental health issue. And he’s half right — and, oh, how I wish he could be at least half right even just half the time.. 

It is a mental health issue.

By continuing to do nothing at all, we’re proving we’re all out of our minds.

Related …

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Movember story of why I shaved my 'stache

I foolishly thought I was years beyond altering my appearance to secure the love of a pretty girl.


And now if I happen to be standing at the bus stop next to anyone wearing an “I’M WITH STUPID” t-shirt, I’ll be without dispute.

What happened is as plain as what’s under the nose on my face.

Yes, I let a girl talk me into shaving my mustache because she swore it would make me appear more handsome.

Amazing I’d fall for that, right?

As if!

But this girl is just so beautiful. She’s sweet. She’s mischievous.

She’s 11.

I believe it will solve a lot of the world’s problems if every little girl wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night knowing she has her Daddy wrapped right around her little finger.

I think too many wonderful women lack confidence.

The other side of the gender coin is too many men have way too much confidence over meager achievement.

It’s the reason in my talks I never fail to include this truthfulness about the major difference between males and females: “Women look into mirrors and see flaws no one else can detect. Men look into those same mirrors and see perfection … no one else can detect.”

In fact, the essential inspiration for that wisdom is Val and myself. My wife is beautiful but thinks she isn’t.

I think I’m handsome … and I am!

Cappuccino-colored eyes, crooked grin, a manly scar or two. And for 34 years a devil-may-care mustache that reflected my personality; part go to hell, part heaven can wait.

I loved my mustache and would always defend it anytime someone criticized it as being too cheesy or too porno (which, depending on the critic, I choose to view as a compliment).

I always had my mustache’s back — and I mean that in every sense.

But it was different when Lucy said she thought I’d look better without the ‘stache.

“Dad, I think you’ll look much more handsome without it,” she said. “You have such a nice face. You shouldn’t cover so much of it up.” 

I spoil my daughters. Not with money, certainly, of which I have squat. No, I spoil them with affection and attention. Whether they one day lament my indulgences weren’t of a more material bent is a moot point.

I gives what I gots.

So, yeah, at her strategic and persistent urging, I shaved a part of my face I only previously shaved for driver’s license photo ID stunts.

I did it for her.

Shaving the upper lip felt strange, like taking off my pants in public. A decades-old mustache changes the structure of the face by diminishing the lip.

I knew Val would hate it, but with her encouragement I believed Lucy would love it.

So I was dumbfounded by the dismayed look on her face as she climbed off the school bus and saw my shiny new face.

“You look terrible!” she said.

But didn’t you say I’d be even more handsome?

“I was wrong,” she said. “Oh, boy, was I wrong.”

Then she laughed, a cold, cunning laugh. I felt stupid.

Had I been played? Was she testing her skills at manipulating her old man? Had my appearance been a pawn in her game?

I don’t know.

But this I do know: I’m going to think long and hard if a pretty little girl says I’ll look more handsome with a shaved head.

Related …

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Twick 'r Tweet! Best of October

Following me on twitter @8days2Amish is like spending time deep inside my head only without all the hangovers.

• It’s unfathomable to imagine how much better off the world would be if every time we felt moved by a good intention we acted on it.

• Trump 1st lady kerfuffle ratifies wisdom of Willie Nelson who said, "There are no ex-wives. There are only additional wives" 

• I’m on a quest to read the nutrition label on communion wafer package to learn calorie count for body of Christ.

• What did the Kansas vulture say when his long lost son came home and asked what’s for dinner? “Carrion, my wayward son!”

• My most earnest wish is to impress upon my daughters the devout importance of being empathetic for the struggles of our fellow man. Instead, all I've done is to impress upon them the devout importance of trying new items on pizza. #WorldsBestDad

• If "Papadopoulus" were a drinking game I'd have been all gooned up hours ago. 

• Paul must be confused. When I was young and my heart was an open book, I never said live and let live.

• Those who prophesize celeb deaths come in 3s can rest easy. Tom Petty's greatness qualifies in triplicate.

• Difference between Petty and Springsteen: Petty had one really bad song ("Wasted Life." Springsteen had one really bad decade.

• Our dreams of ever seeing a Traveling Wilbury's reunion tour have suddenly become even more remote.

• The last Tom Petty song on the last Heartbreakers album is "Shadow People," a song about disaffected loners shooting up a bunch of strangers.

• Ever since his April death, any time a celeb like Petty dies find myself wondering "So, what'll Don Rickles have to say to him?”

• An AK-47 is capable of shooting 600 bullets per minute and right now someone is in the name of progress working to develop the AK-48.

• This is part of Vegas investigation where whole country breathlessly awaits news whether shooter's car did or did not have a Trump bumper sticker.

• I wonder how many clever headline writers from the '60s included the word "unhinged" when describing Jim Morrison & The Doors.

• Reason Mick Jagger sometimes seems bitchy is coz while he's 1 of 10 coolest people on planet, he realizes he's only the 3rd coolest Stone.

• I’ll no longer tolerate so much social media ignorance from so-called "friends" who should know better. They're not cookies. They're bakies.

• It contradicts logic that a man whose name is pronounced Vin SKULL-y would shun a decent hair piece.

• If you're livin' in New Orleans and your nickname ain't Fats then you ain't really livin'. #RIPFatsDomino

• I’m not saying I believe in ghosts, but I no longer go on the 3rd floor of the Tin Lizzy after dark.

• I’m pioneering a new parenting technique where I only love child being nicest to me at the time. I call it "Conditional Love.”

• Peace will remain elusive until humans recognize the ironic folly of calling most intensively defended regions "De-Militarized Zones.”

• Good morning Facebook! Looking forward to another day of you bringing the world closer together while simultaneously tearing it apart.

• Harvey Weinstein reportedly in sex rehab. It'd be funny if all the counselors were smokin’ hot.

• Everything I read about Trump's call to soldier's widow reminds me of scene when Sgt Frank Drebin tried to console Nordberg's wife.

• I know we're raised to believe when we die we go down to hell or up to heaven. Me? I hope when I die I get to where I'm going by waterslide.

• The last phone number humans will collectively remember is 867-5309.

• I hope Harvey Weinstein is around to see the movie they make about Harvey Weinstein & I hope it stars Paul Giamatti & wins a bunch of Oscars.

• We now have verified audio admission that #HarveyWeinstein is a pig who mistreats women. Boy, am I glad I didn't vote for him for prez.

• In order to lend precision to your putdowns, descending order of IQ stupidity is Moron (50-69), Imbecile (20-49) & Idiot (below 20) #moron 

• True confidence is to be 65, look like this & think, yeah, beautiful young women sleep w/ me 'cause I'm just so damn sexy. #HarveyWeinstein

• Dallas has a grassy knoll. St. Vincent College Bearcats in Latrobe have Noll-y grass. #ChuckNollField.

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