Saturday, September 30, 2017

Stellar tweets of the month(s)

August was the first month in five years of tweeting where I didn’t do an @8days2Amish monthly round-up. There was a huge outcry. Well, an outcry of one. A buddy said he missed it. So for Brent -- and you! -- here are two months worth!

Some of these made their way into my new “Use All The Crayons!” deluxe edition. More on that.

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

• I used to think I had a brain but it was all in my head.

• In 10 hrs this Columbus meeting hall will be filled w/ 200 people who'll be looking at me & thinking, “Geez, is this guy ever going to shut up?”

• I’m so pissed. I just heard they're canceling the eclipse until Comcast can figure out a way to charge us peons to see it. Is this true?

• It’s impossible to calculate how much income I've sacrificed to spend time with my kids. Now I have to impress upon them the need to forever bust their asses so they can afford to take care of me.

• Nearly reached peak internet boredom. Yes, I was thisclose to clicking on a link that promised to inform me of the identity of the one guest Johnny Carson couldn’t stand.

• Spent evening with daughter, 11, at Westmoreland Co. fair. Highlight? While visiting rabbit exhibit, she begged me to quit singing, "Can ... anybody ... find me ... some bunny to love?”

• Optimists understand phrase "familiarity breeds contempt" is not absolute. Sometimes familiarity breeds family.

• The science behind the theory may be flawed, but the 5-second rule is to me the greatest parenting advance in my lifetime. 

• Rumors of centipede infestations have real legs.

• How you aspire to live is your bucket list. How you aspire to die is your kick the bucket list.

• I have no idea what it'll be about but because it's bound to help sales, I vow to name my next book, "The No. 1 New York Times Bestseller!”

• Sloppy WaPo headline says "Millions lack power and water." I think they mean clean water.

• Reports say we're now spending $200 mil/year freeze-removing fat cells. Imagine how much better off we'll be if spent same on stupid cells.

• Woke up bolt upright with a terrifying premonition I'd die a bloody death in New Orleans. Don't care. I'll go back in a heartbeat.

• How many additional calories would you burn each day if everytime you had to change channel you had to rise from the couch and just do it?

• What percentage of malevolent Irma viewers are actively rooting to see an on-air storm chaser get beheaded by a flying pizza box?

• I wonder if the men who nailed Jesus to the cross felt any sense of irony that they were doing it to a carpenter.

• This may sound inconceivable but one day, guaranteed, there will be a McDonald's at the North Pole.

• To be clear, whenever I post anything that says my kids are great what I'm really saying is I'M great & boy, are my kids great. Handsome 2!

• First Harvey, now Irma, then Jose & Katia. And our meteorological conga line of doom rolls on.

• I like it when Trump tweets in ALL CAPS because it lets me know he REALLY means it.

• Amazing new shampoo promises to re-grow hair on bald heads. What happens when you pour some on your palms?

• Teaching a kid to swim by throwing it in the water is like teaching it to fly by throwing it out of an airplane.

• When Satan really gives someone hell is it considered a real estate deal?

• I remain mystified how something called American quarter horses don't have only one leg.

• Some great writers awake & think about writing something people will either enjoy or purchase. I awake & think about what I'll have for lunch

• No one should be allowed to run for public office unless they can prove they once held a job that required a name tag.

• I consider self world's most successful poor man coz I'm happy, loved & optimistic despite being broke. Is this world's wealthiest failure?

• Exploding toilets cause plumbers' lives to flush before their eyes.

• Of all the euphemisms birthed by the Industrial Age, one of the most precious is the locomotive "cow catcher." Right. It "catches" cows.

• Even well-prepared demolition derby students must resign themselves to at least one or two crash courses.

• Here’s a little secret as to why I'm so confident I can write the 60,000-word Palmer book in just 5 weeks: I'm using a bunch of 'em twice.

• Reading on-line is to reading what phone sex is to lovemaking.
Gone is the soul, the serendipity & chance to get your hands good & dirty.

• For posterity's sake, I'm glad my hair styles were post-flat top and preceded the man bun.

• I wonder what Jesus said when some jerk said, "So you think you're better than me?”

• Doggedness is an admirable quality. Dogged people never quit. I'm beginning to understand I'm often overcome with bursts of cattedness.

• I wonder if alpha walruses ever get into beach shoving matches shouting, "I am the walrus!" while another replies, ”No! I am the walrus!”

• I’m so ignorant about automobiles I assume each includes one bisexual part because they call it an alternator.

• Top baby name sites say "Christian" is 54th most popular. I'll let you know when I get to “Atheist."

• If I'm a disaffected youthful loner, I'm not joining any group unless member chair says, "And here's how joining us'll help you get laid…"

• People are so sarcastic these days I'm surprised more of us don't hurt our heads bumping into dense storms of air quotes.

• We live in such porn-drenched times I fully expect to soon see Valentine's cards that say, "I'd give my left nut if you'd tickle my right!”

• Rubbermade, Sterilite, Leaktite, Encore Plastics -- you have your bucket list and I have mine.

• It says something about human nature that all know what it means to belittle someone, but we can't imagine bebigging anyone.

• Thought about taking my watch apart to count all the pieces, but figure I don't have the time to kill.

• Beer drinkers who believe their bladders are half empty are pissimists.

• The purpose of commercial advertising used to be to cajole readers into considering a product. It's now there to punish for trying to read.

• Be so at peace with the world the only thing left to get off your chest are your nipples.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Some productive writers finish one book a year; I finished two on Monday

People have from time-to-time asked what’s the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging.

That would be from 1963 through 2008.

Second longest? August 18 through Monday.

So what was I doing during those sabbaticals?

Well, during the first, I was truly living my life. I buried my father and became one. I started a promising career and abruptly abandoned it five slim years later and got married on September 20, 1996. Happy Anniversary, babe! Love you!

Oh, and I spent a lot of days riding my bike.

What about the most recent disappearance? Was I goofing off?

No, sirree. In fact, I was actually working so hard it felt like I was actually working. First of all was the Arnold Palmer book. I signed the contract on July 31 and the very next day I was in the OR to remove part of my thyroid and a potato-sized lump in my throat that — whew — turned out to be benign.

The contract said I had six weeks to write a 60,000-word book. It was due September 17. I commenced working on it the day I was released from the hospital.

This is evidence of both pluck and stupidity because the operation left my voice a low menacing growl. So when I’d ask some sweet old lady to share her childhood memories of the boy Palmer I’d sound like Dirty Harry about to beat a confession out of some hapless minority.

But I persevered and wound up interviewing more than 200 sources including marquee toppers Jim Nantz and Tom Ridge. And, yes, I made my Monday deadline. 

People are very excited about this book. They think it could make my career. If it does, I know exactly what I’m going to do next. I’m going to find another universally beloved small town American icon, move into their neighborhood and spend the next 25 years quietly ingratiating myself.

But right smack in the middle of this occupational tumult landed another huge opportunity right in my lap. What triggered the surprise good news?

I wrote a one-page thank you note. It was addressed to the staff and tenants at National Church Residences on Lincoln Avenue. It’s where my Mom spent her last year before her July 7th death.

This is the point where some of you might thoughtfully intoning, “Rest In Peace.”

Well, she’d been resting peacefully her whole last year. She had wonderful neighbors and people looking after her. I know I mentioned my gratitude in the letter, written on my cheerfully understated “Use All The Crayons!” letterhead.

The recipients showed the letter to their local managers who showed it to their district managers who showed it to their regional managers. One of them called me three weeks ago. She said she and her team had bought 20 books on-line, loved ‘em, and were wondering if I was available to keynote to 210 of their associates at their regional conference next Thursday in Columbus

I told her I could. She asked my fee. I blurted out what I thought was a preposterous initial offer. She didn’t even counter said, “Great!” and wrote the full check on the spot.

There was only one problem: I only had 27 books left. For a crowd of 210, I usually sell at least 60. At $20 a book that’s a lot of scratch to leave on the table.

I had no choice: It was time to compile and publish the “deluxe” version of  “Use All The Crayons!” It has 1,001 colorful living tips. And instead of 33 essays, deluxe has 57. I figure it’s 80 percent new; it includes the very best from the original and the 800 best from the 3,000 I’ve compiled over the last four years.

And by the oddest of coincidences, in order for me to have enough copies to take to Columbus, I needed to have it all done, proofed and formatted by, yep, September 17.

So, in essence, I published two books in one day; deluxe crayons will be available when I return from Ohio; the Palmer book is due to splash in May.

Robyn John of Apollo Design did another outstanding cover and I can’t say enough about the editing/formatting job done by employee-of-the-year frontrunner Bethany Jones. And many thanks to my old friend Jamie of R.R. Donnelley in Pittsburgh.

I take a bow here, too, because I really busted my rear putting these two together simultaneously under demanding deadline pressure.

The deluxe “Crayons!” is my first exclusive. It won’t be available online; it will give me a tremendous advantage negotiating speaking fees and group sales. For you, my friends, signed copies are just $15.

By the way, these are my last two books. Ever.

If the last six weeks have taught me anything it’s that the big money is — not in writing book — but in writing one page thank you notes.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mourning the death of world's most cheerful man

I’ve lately been waking up angry Dick Guenther taught me to drive when I was 16.

I wish Dick Guenther hadn’t taught me to drive until I was 50.

I was thinking this as I was listening to loved ones memorialize this truly great man on Saturday at Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park near his Castle Shannon home.

See, I was just so stupid when I was 16. Stubborn, selfish, sass-prone — and those are just the character flaws that begin with the letter “s.”

Val asked me why my own old man didn’t teach me that rite of passage. I don’t know. Maybe Dad didn’t have the patience, thought we’d clash or maybe he didn’t want the obligation to cut into his bar time.

Like father, like son!

Or maybe he wanted his impressionable young son to spend one-on-one time with one of the most kind, cheerful, generous and loving men any of us have known. Dick and his surviving wife Bernice were two of my parents’ dearest friends.

Guenther, 92, was a retired postal carrier whose route included Willow Avenue in Shannon. Tony’s Barber Shop was on Willow. It’s where Dad used to take Eric and I for buzzcuts when we were kids.

Our visits, it seemed, always coincided with Dick’s daily delivery. More than four decades later, I remember the details still. 

He'd spring through the door like his blood was carbonated. He’d razz Tony, Tony’d razz back. They’d belittle Pirate pitching from the previous night’s game. Some local politics would be disparaged and, boom, like that he’d be gone. You could hear him resuming his chipper whistling before the door even closed behind him. The whole conversational tornado lasted fewer than 40 seconds.

In its windy wake were smiles. I believe we can truly take soulful nourishment just by observing a happy person living their happy lives.

Guenther was the reason I became so confused when the term “going postal” began to signify workplace violence.

How could anybody who wore the same uniform as Dick Guenther ever have a bad day?

It’s my understanding Guenther’d had only one bad day his entire life. He was visiting France when some strangers tried to kill him.

They were Germans. It was about a month after D-Day. Had I been there, I’d have said, “Whoa! You can’t kill Dick Guenther! This war is the reason the world needs men like him. And he has so much left to do. He’s going to raise three wonderful children and dote on more generations of grandchildren.

“Now, put down those weapons and let’s talk this all out. Who needs a glass of lemonade?”

I hadn’t seen his son, Danny, in nearly forty years. We had a good hug. He said he couldn’t remember ever hearing his Dad complain about anything in his entire life.

I told him I’d found four things to complain about just crossing the church parking lot.

I’m not kidding when I say I regret he taught me to drive when I was 16. Being a bone-headed young fool, I’m sure I asked this truly great man questions about the finer points of parallel parking, proper braking distance and what to do when the lights on the stupid school bus blink red.

Had I been older, more seasoned, more aware, I’d have asked him the really important questions about just how he did it all.

How in this world of hurt and hate did he remain so cheerful? How did he make the daily joy and well-being of others his life’s priority over his own? Did he ever have any idea how inspirational he was being just by being so happy?

Dick Guenther teaching a snotty 16 year old kid how to drive just seems like a blatant squandering of a magnificent natural resource.

He’s a man who could have taught the whole world how to fly.

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