Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January Tweets of the Month!

Donald Trump’s twitter feed has 23 million; Barack Obama, 82 million. A twitter feed purporting to be God has just 217,000. 

My 8days2Amish has just 1,658. I’m not saying I should have as many as Trump or Obama, but you’d think the following wisdoms would at least lead to as many as God.

No matter. It all winds up here on the blog sooner or later. Thanks for reading!

• I hope 2017 is the year when someone -- anyone -- tells me I'm great and dumps a big bucket of Gatorade over my head. 

• I may be misjudging the man, but I suspect every time Trump leaves the White House he steals a towel or two.

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

• You can play a mean bluegrass banjo or country fiddle on earth & it won't matter. Once you get to heaven, everyone's in a soul band.

• A pessimist dwells on the fact that Smallpox killed 15 million. An optimist says at least it wasn't Bigpox.

• If they gave the death sentence for killing time could you live forever? 

• Scientists say earth is 4.543 billion years old. Wikipedia says "Catwoman" actress Eartha Kitt died in 2008 at the age of 81.

• I used to pretend I was too sick to go to school. Now, I pretend I'm not hungover nights after I swore to wife I wouldn't drink too much.

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

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

• Does being a Born-Again Christian mean you get to eat twice as much as you did before?

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

• Pessimists suffer from pre-traumatic stress disorder.

• “London Bridges Falling Down" is a popular nursery rhyme. London britches falling down is a sartorial scandal of epic proportions.

• Try and do at least one thing each week that will blow your hair back and allow you to scream, “Wheeeeeeee!!!"

• Scientists who declare matter cannot be created nor destroyed have never observed a bar of soap in a shower.

• I’d like to attend a church where the pastor says, "Spoiler alert!" before even familiar Bible stories like the crucifixion.

• I’m dumbfounded I'll be 54 next month and I still haven't sucked face with Madonna. Oh, well, there's still a few weeks so who knows?

• 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.

• I’m tickled by the irony that a story about golden showers was the result of leaks. 

• Cell phone etiquette will improve when anyone found in breach is forced to exchange current phone for one of these.

• I have to think in heaven we still have birthdays, but we'll celebrate them on the day we died. And the cake is always angel food. 

• We now have ability to forever preserve things that 10 years ago we would have destroyed as being too stupid for anyone else to ever see.

• I haven't gazed closely enough, but I wonder if among the heavens there's a star named Ringo.

• Has the advent of ubiquitous smart phones meant the death of the rhetorical question?

• Divided country meant no matter who won election, Friday's swearing-in was destined to become a swearing-at.

• Reckless abandon is redundant. Anyone ever heard of careful abandon?

• I wonder if in the annals of mob history a man named Stone was ever asked to kill two men named Byrd.

• I remain amazed "beer" & "mirror," words with just one letter in common, are near-perfect rhyme. Beer, is there nothing you can't do?

• The self-loathing conservatives feel at supporting Trump must be akin to what dying vegetarians feel when they realize they’re about to turn zombie.

• I don't understand why my racist friends get angry when I point out they are racists. Does it bother me when they say I'm lazy?

• Trump laying wreath at Tomb of the Unknowns? If he doesn't like people who were caught, what must he think of the ultimate quitters?

• If we had to have a reality show host for president, why couldn't it have been Jeff Probst?

• All you need to know about man is 1st match was invented in 1836; 1st smoke detector, 1956. Don't get me started on birth control.

• May not be in our lifetimes but at some point some high school band'll road trip to the moon. They're going to have to sell lots of hoagies.

• I wonder if smart alec bacteria ever introduce themselves with “Spoiler alert!” at fridge parties and still think it’s funny.

• Prediction: Atlanta 56, New England 32. Those aren’t scores. Those are high temperatures in each city game day. 

• Looking in the mirror when you wake up can ruin your psyche for the whole day. Me, I try not to look until I've had at least three beers.

• Trying to justify value of writing to people who don't read is like trying to justify the value of fresh air to fish.

• Single apple seed weighs 700 mg but sinks. A battleship weighs 45k tons, but does not. What would happen to battleship full of apple seeds?

• You never hear about it amongst other Biblical miseries but another thing about hell that sucks is everyone gets a really bad roommate 

• Easiest way to differentiate carpenter bees from others is that carpenter bees are the ones wearing the really tiny tool belts.

• Nearly 7 billion people on earth. Total has me wondering when earth will become one giant graveyard.

• The idea behind "pursuit of happiness" misleads. Find a comfy enough chair & pursuit becomes unnecessary. Happiness'll finds you.

• I vow to continue saying 'Happy New Year!' right up thru July 5 when it'll become seasonally appropriate to resume saying "Merry Christmas!”

• We live in a time when many people aren't truly happy unless they're truly angry.

• People in an uproar over Trump's actions during his first hundred days. Not me. I'm terrified about what'll happen his last 100 days.

• The only thing getting me through this tumult is the knowledge that right now Bruce Springsteen is probably writing another fierce rock 'n' roll album that will in a fair and balanced way lyrically explain whether or not I'm on the right side of history.

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Friday, January 27, 2017

The many ways in which I'm like Henry David Thoreau

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me earlier, but the writer with whom I have the most in common is none other than Henry David Thoreau.

He began writing “Walden” while spending two years living in the woods on Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. 

I wrote “Use All The Crayons!” while spending eight years drinking at The Pond near Latrobe, Pennsylvania!

He was a Harvard divinity student who wrote: “The unconsciousness of man is the consciousness of God.”

I was an Ohio University C student who wrote: “I wonder if temperature in heaven is individualized or if some old ladies complain it's always too cold & bundle up in sweaters.”

He believed in the abolition of racial injustice and once wrote: “The only house in a Slave state in which a free man can abide with honor is a government prison.”

I believe in the abolition of racial injustice and once wrote: “As a believer in American equality, I don't miss Jim Crow; as a believer in American folk music, I do miss Jim Croce.”

Reading “Walden” in college was a foundational experience for me back when I was seeking a life-guiding ethos. He talked about shedding our petty contrivances in favor of spiritual elevation. A Thoreau-guided life promised transcendence, simplicity and soulful peace untainted by crass materialism.

It promised all the things an idealistic young man craves save two, all but two.

Babes and margaritas!

Happily, I had a friend who turned me onto young Jimmy Buffett and — cheers! — my formative years segued into what seemed like one long tequila commercial.

Now I’m more than halfway through with my mortal portion and I’m wondering what happened to the Thoreau part of me. It still informs so much of philosophizing.

Heck, both my book and my blog titles hint at the benefits of the simple life, an existence devoted to companionship, reading and embracing the vivacious joys each day offers.

Yet, I spend my nearly every waking moment fretting about money and persistent fears of failure.

What gives? How did Thoreau throughout his entire life maintain his aesthetic core?

I decided to investigate. The answer was as plain as the nose on his face.

Thoreau never got laid! A man known for his earthiness never got down and dirty.

That has to be it.

Living in the woods for most any guy with drinking buddies would be a cinch. You’d never get lonely because your married friends could come visit. They’d bring beer, chips and maybe some woodsie wieners.

It’d be like an endless tailgate party, one where you didn’t have to worry about the daintiness of urinating in some stuffy Port-O-John.

Was his apparent celibacy self-imposed as, perhaps, a way to achieve higher understanding? Maybe not. This from the Thoreau Wikipedia “personal appearance” chapter: “Thoreau was a homely man, with a nose that he called ‘my most prominent feature.’”

Dissed by Wikipedia, one of the most bland websites in all creation! I can only guess Wikipedia’s never gazed in a Wikimirror.

So I don’t feel too bad I haven’t lived up to the Thoreau standard set in the revered “Walden.”

I’m blessed to have a darling wife and daughters. That I lay awake at night trying to conjure ways to be a better provider for them is a small price to pay for all they give me, even when prices to pay are for things like college, car insurance and new iPhones.

Then there’s this: I read it took Thoreau five years to sell 2,000 copies. This may be difficult for you precious millennials to comprehend, but the only Amazon in 1854 was a piranha-infested river in South America.

I wonder if the old technophobe would appreciate the irony that a Facebook page dedicated to him has 293,404 likes.

Me, I’ve sold more than twice that many “Crayons!” books in just four years.

And the poor guy died at just 44 after contracting bronchitis while walking in the woods during a thunderstorm. 

What? You thought this apostle of the pastoral fell into a primitive combine?

On his deathbed he said what to me is the most blessedly elegant observation anyone’s ever made about the relationship between mankind and our creator. Had he, it was asked, made his peace with God?

“I did not know we’d ever quarreled.”

How profound. I’ve never written anything so sublime.

But the day’s young and The Pond is open for business again. And I can’t think of a better place to make a real splash than a place called The Pond.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Beds of nails, gator rasslin': My stunt stories

The way you hear our president talking about the “dishonest media” you’d think he’d want us fed to the alligators, heaved from airplanes, shackled, made to lay on beds of nails and smashed with sledgehammers.

In my case, it’d all be redundant.

Been there, done that.

Of course, I’m no longer part of the actual media. I’m some kind of oddball hybrid. I write, but mostly it’s for myself, so it’s like a presumptuous sort of hobby.

It’s been more than 25 years since I did any real reporting; i.e. covering council meetings, checking police reports, using deliberately enigmatic Latin abbreviations like i.e.

But all but one of those adventures befell me during the 10 swashbuckling years I wrote for National Enquirer, back before it become so political.

I was reminded of them the other night when I had drinks with a former student of mine.

You didn’t know? Yes, I from 2006-2010 taught creative non-fiction at Point Park University. They canned me when they realized — experience be damned — I was less credentialed than the grad students I was teaching.

It’s a pity. Many told me I was an outstanding professor and I enjoyed the opportunity.

Many of them have gone onto stellar careers in journalism, not an easy feat in these tumultuous days of shifting media outlets. Many are working at newspapers, some at magazines, some at feisty startups.

I’m proud of the guy who told me he’d recently been tased!

We met for drinks last week. He’s a truly great writer/reporter and the recipient of the only “A” I ever bestowed.

He just scored a book contract about how tasers are affecting law enforcement and as part of his research agreed to be a victim.

Spoiler alert: It hurt!

His tale had me recollecting all the foolhardy experiences I endured for the sake of a story. To say I did it to earn a buck (usually $1,000 of ‘em) would be untrue. I did it all because I knew I’d one day want to be the kind of person I was destined to become.

A really swell bullshitter.

I guess the first true stunt story I did was skydiving for the Nashville Banner. I remember the jump master being this big mean dude, a U.S. Ranger who’d served two tours in Vietnam.

It’s scary being in a perfectly good airplane cruising at 3,000 feet when they open the door and tell you to step outside and stand on the strut. But disobeying Sgt. Slaughter after a day of drills was scarier.

When he said jump …


I clearly remember two sensations: silence and testicular agony.

It’s shouting loud being in a plane when the door’s open. But it becomes instantly and completely quiet when your static-line chute deploys.

As for the pain, they’d cinched the ball harness super tight, assuring me it was all procedural. I imagine they were cackling about it because for the entire two-minute descent I sky danced kicking my legs right and left trying in vain to find an illusive comfort sweet spot.

It hurt so bad I didn’t get to enjoy the jump.

So went a second time. And it was spectacular.

Would I go again?

Probably. I did the Skyjump in Vegas in ’13 and it was a similar thrill.

What I won’t do again — ever — is lay on a bed of nails and have an Ohio mystic put 50 pounds of concrete on my chest and smash it with a sledgehammer.

That was an Enquirer stunt story supposed to demonstrate the power of the mind over pain. The mystic was Komar the Great. He in 1997 was in the Guinness book of records for various feats of strength including longest barefoot fire walk, ascending knife-edge ladders and having 825 pounds placed on his chest while laying on a bed of nails.

His real name was Vernon Craig. He was a Wilmot, Ohio, cheesemaker and for a guy renown for hot feet, he was pretty cool.

I once had my leg broken in three places on a high school hockey breakaway. That hurt.

But nothing in my life hurt like the bed of nails. Now, the point of the story was to demonstrate the power of the mind over pain. So I’m either really smart or really stupid because it hurt like hell.

I remember praying the photographer wouldn’t screw up and demand an encore.

The story became the only Enquirer feature I did that was totally false. The headline: “I lay on a bed of nails and took a sledgehammer blow — but I felt no pain!”

I later complained to the editor about the lie.

“Well,” he said, “it wouldn’t be news if we wrote, ‘Enquirer reporter lays on bed nails — and feels incredible pain!’”

So in their eyes it was a victimless crime.

The alligator wrestling is a fun one to knock off the bucket list. I had a keen interest in gators ever since the Miami Herald ran my story about a blind Everglades gator wrestler. 

So my buddy George and I were one day day-tripping across central Florida when we saw signs for Gatorland. We pulled in and I asked the office if I could do a story about the attraction that had been around since ’49.

Well, they couldn’t have been more accommodating. A mirthful guide took George and I on a behind-the-scenes tour, even taking us on a field stroll amidst all the big monsters, some as big as 12-feet. It was exhilarating although I never felt we were in danger.

The gators had no menace and behaved like they were sedated, which was only fair because I’m sure George and I were.

The picture above is from later in the day when they put me on an island pen in front of a group of spectators and let me “wrestle” a feisty 7-footer. I snagged it by the tail and struggled to keep it from dragging me into the moat. They’re very strong.

The match didn’t last long and critics will point out it wasn’t true wrestling, but for story purposes I was in a pen with a real gator and only one of made it back to the parking lot.

I’ve worn kilts through construction zones, been shackled to my wife for 72 hours to test our love, and once gained 20-pounds in one week eating just like Elvis.

It’s been a lot of fun. The best part wasn’t so much what I did, but with whom I did it. Writing stories has led me into the lives of a carnival of characters and that includes all the ones who were characters in carnivals.

That’s what I’d tell journalism students if I was ever asked to advise those interested in the art of storytelling.

Being part of what is being derided as the “dishonest media” is both fun and noble.

It sure was for me.


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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let there pee light! My new toilet night light

An unbidden gift from a Nashville wit reminds me I might be better off posting observations about things like luxury accessory goods than midnight bathroom habits.

Then maybe today I’d have a flashy new Rolex instead of a flashing new toilet bowl night light.

But you take what you can get so that’s how I wound up last night installing my new illumibowl to our bedroom toilet.

This all started with the following post:

“I used to think they were called the wee-wee hours because they were the clock's smallest numbers. As I age I'm becoming convinced they're called the wee-wee hours because it's when many adults get out of bed to wee-wee.”

The illumibowl is a device intended to give soft target light to those who pee in the middle of the night so in their staggered state they don’t pee all over the place.

Understand, the post wasn’t a cry for help. Night or day, my bladder does not (yet) boss me around and, night or day, I’m a sniper.

This was due wholly to my old man’s unconventional potty training techniques.

When I was young and in need of relief, he’d take a still-smoking cigarette and lead me into the bathroom. He’d lift the seat and drop the butt — zzzzz — into the water.

“That’s the pirate ship the evil prince sent to steal our treasure chest,” he’d say. “Now, sink it!”

Oh, how I remember guzzling gallons of water just to reload the cannon. As I aged, the ammunition changed to lager beer, but I’ve always felt the same sense of mission.

Apparently, other men aren’t as vigilant because the illumibowl is a marketing sensation.

It boasts it eliminates blind stumbles in the dark, reduces messy missing and the unfortunate tumble into the toilets.

They make that last one sound more dreadful than it has to be. A wet tushie would be mostly uncomfortable, but doesn’t meet my graphic definition of “falling into the toilet.”

I once did a harrowing story about an elderly WWII vet, a survivor of the Bataan Death March, who literally fell into his toilet. It was an old rural outhouse with rotted wood floors that collapsed under the old soldier’s weight.

I doubt an illumibowl would have spared the hero from the day-long horrors that followed. That duty was left to a wandering mailman, thus presenting the potential for a vivid new coda to that “Neither snow nor rain …” bit.

The illumibowl’s featured been on “Shark Tank,” a fitting platform for a device associated with another kind of tank. 

It comes in eight rotating colors and when you open the lid the whole bowl glows like the enigmatic suitcase does in “Pulp Fiction.” It’s so beautiful you have to take a moment to realize it’s, in fact, a place to crap. 

But I admire anything that bestows unnecessary beauty to something so humble and utilitarian as a toilet so I love my new illumibowl.

Plus, it’s motion activated and it’s always fun to try and foil anything that declares itself motion activating. I feel like I’m practicing my burglar skills if can make it to the toilet without detection.

It’s the same sort of challenge I accept whenever I’m informed my fancy hotel suite has a lid that’s deemed “anti-slam.” Oh, yeah? We’ll see about that.

Boy, the hours I’ve spent trying to disprove that boast.

Coincidentally, my illumibowl arrived and was installed on the very same day I brought home from the library the 2016 Eric Jay Dolin book, “Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse.”

The book tells the story “of America through the prism of its beloved coastal sentinels.”

I’m looking forward to reading the book and learning how those monumental lights save lives by keeping ships off our shores. And I’m looking forward to seeing how illumibowl helps keep the tinkle off our tile.

From coast to commode.

From pee to shining pee!

Sorry. Freudian slip. 

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