Thursday, November 30, 2017

November tweets o' the month

It was, perhaps, coincidental that Twitter expanded its character count during the season of bloat. I liked it better when 8Days2Amish had to conform to just 140-characters. It bestowed even stupid tweets with some humble craftsmanship. And I’m starting to sense these would all be better if accompanied by the pictures I post. But that’s not going to happen. 

I hope you’re all having a great day and not letting the insane news blizzard get you down. If it is, I recommend you watch one of The Muppet movies tonight. You’ll feel much better, I swear.

• New York strong. Boston strong. Vegas strong. Orlando strong. How come all this strength leaves me feeling so weak?

• Golf legend Gary Player has just agreed to provide the promotional foreword for my book about Arnold Palmer and Latrobe.

• My annual dilemma: Do I watch last baseball games or record it and watch 2 pitches every night 'til spring training?

• How much more revelatory would Gospels be today had Jesus been subjected to the scrutiny of a Biblical times Facebook?

• If I played guitar I'd right now be forming a band I'd call The Mamas & The Papa Doupolisis.

• We are born free & spend the rest of our lives constructing prisons around ourselves. My prison has zero security, but lots & lots of bars.

• Titans of news/screen/politics fall to charges of sexual harassment. Thank heavens our musical giants always treat women with utmost respect.

• I alone know what killed Tom Petty. It finally dawned on him that Bob Dylan's last four releases were Frank Sinatra cover tunes. It’s killing me, too!

• The homebody in me wonders if archeological scholars have ever found a cave emblazoned w/ primitive drawing & motto, “Cave Sweet Cave.”

• I wonder if females who work at the Elmer’s Glue factory refer themselves as Bond girls of if they think that would make them seem stuck up.

• Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Repeatedly being exposed to opinionated people who enjoy smugly pointing that out is the cause of it.

• Isn’t it time someone tried a new switcheroo?

• I know it'll make me feel ancient, but I'm eager for the day I can tell some young whippersnapper, "I remember the days when tweets were just 140-characters!" 

• Offering a small child a dollar for every leaf he or she can catch falling from a tree on a windy day is as exciting as any professional sport I've ever watched and the beer is way cheaper. It ought to be an Olympic event.

• I know we're getting ahead of ourselves, but what will they call Louis CK's eventual return to performing without using the phrase "Come Back.”

• This is the time of year I always begin wondering if the Republic of Turkey has a national bird and if it could be that obvious …

• I’m beginning to believe Trump. He's not colluding with Russia. His tweets lead me to believe he's colluding with @StephenAtHome Colbert to ensure more late night hilarity.

• On this day in 1851, Herman Melville's epic novel was published forever more leaving the curious among us to wonder if fans of the Grateful Dead are called Deadheads what does that make those of us who revere Moby Dick? 

• I wish media would cease referring to mass murders as shooting "sprees." Sprees connote something joyful, happy. These are rampages.

• A fool enters every room determined to be noticed. A wise person enters every room determined to put even the lonely at ease. I enter rooms determined to become chummy with the bartender.

• I’m growing nostalgic for the bygone days when I couldn't name the Treasury Secretary if you'd offered me a fresh $100 bill. Now, not only am I fully conscious of him, I know people are saying he's married to a Disney villain. 

• I welcome the conversation we're having about harassment and sexual abuse while being chagrined over all the mixed feelings men like me are bound to have when we watch movies like "Animal House.”

• Scars are life’s passports to show where we’ve been and how we’ve lived.

• If a woman or women don't soon accuse me of sexual harassment i fear people will begin accusing me of either having squandered my life being disinterested in sex or, worse, being, yikes, a gentleman.

• I’ll respect craven NFL greed-meisters more if one day they promote a throw-back uni day where the Baltimore Ravens dress as the Cleveland Browns and play a game against the Tennessee Titans dressed as the Houston Oilers.

• Gun violence is so horrendous and rampant that news of a serial killer is on the loose strikes me as quaintly old-fashioned.

• My Thanksgiving prayer this year included a request that God please tell Tom Petty we really miss him.

• In my on-going attempt to help America confront her homophobia, my next book will be an unauthorized sequel to where Andy & Red take their relationship to its logical conclusion, marry & adopt children who help them run an artisanal Mexican goat farm.

• I enjoy the reactions of bus stop strangers when I rush up and desperately ask if any of them have change for a nickel.

• Because I believe words matter, I propose we by acclaimation change the name of the Pakistani capital from Islamabad to Islamagood.

• I think it's so cute when Trump fans say everything will be all right if he'd just stop tweeting.

• Historian David Halberstam was writing about the fall of Gen. Douglas MacArthur when he cited Euripides who in 480 BC said, "Those whom the gods destroy they first make mad." Can anyone help me find a current prospect? Anyone?

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Today it's Matt Lauer; When will a man ever accuse a female boss of sexual harassment? When pigs fly?

Our daughter, 17, asked me a current events question I’ve yet to hear posed by any of the deep thinkers paid big bucks to comment on the news of the day.

“How come there haven’t been any female bosses accused of sexual harassment?”

Because I was wearing my father face, I didn’t crack a reflexive joke, roll my eyes or snort. And I didn’t say the first truth that popped into to my mind, which was, “Because men will happily screw any woman for any reason.”
My verbal response was far more nuanced. I said, “Because most men will happily screw most any woman for most any reason.”

I thought it wise to give my answer a little wiggle room, but I was essentially advising her to watch out ‘cause men are pigs.

Today, wow, it’s Matt Lauer.

Will we ever see a story of a man who felt forced to have sex with a female boss?

Perhaps. I’ll bet there are dozens of enterprising reporters right now pursuing these man-bites-dog stories — and please don’t read anything bitchy into my handy news definition cliche.

It’s gotten so bad I fear if a woman or women don't soon accuse me of sexual harassment people will begin to think I’ve either squandered my life being disinterested in sex or am, worse, a gentleman.

Will any man sleep with any woman for any reason?

It’s beginning to seem that way. I’ve known scores of men who will literally sleep with any woman who’ll nod yes. Heck, it’s not uncommon to hear rural arrests of men apprehended seeking carnal comforts from gentle farm animals.

And at what point your gaze begins drifting away from and begins casting a discerning eye out toward the nearby pasture I cannot fathom.

It is curious we’ve yet to hear even one story of a prominent female boss threatening a subordinate male with occupational retribution for not putting ol’ Percy in the playpen.

Statistically, there are more male supervisors overseeing more females, but that can’t be the explanation.

Are there scores of men sleeping with their female bosses out of self-preservation or because they get to brag to their male counter-parts, hey, I’m going heels-to-Jesus with the boss!

(Bonus points to readers who knew both sex euphemisms were cribbed from Woody Harrelson’s “Tallahassee” character in “Zombieland.”)

Like any thoughtful male, I did some soul searching over whether I was ever guilty of mistreating a subordinate female when I was in a position of power.

The soul searching lasted about 0.005 seconds when it dawned on me I’ve never once in my life been in a position of power over even one female. I haven’t had a job since 1992 and was an underling prior to that.

Occupational fecklessness, you see, is not without its hidden merits.

But it did occur to me that, lo and behold, I was twice brought to heel by better positioned females.

A Pizza Hut shift supervisor once told me if I didn’t stay to close with her on a busy Friday night she’d stick me on weekends the rest of the summer. The carrot sweetener was she’d get a 12-pack for us to split later in the parking lot.

It was a consensual no-brainer and to this day I’m probably the only middle-aged man who starts feeling frisky whenever he drives by a Pizza Hut.

The other incident happened when I was a lowly Latrobe bureau correspondent for The Tribune-Review. Complicit in the scandal was the pretty young Lifestyles editor.

I’ll spare you the unseemly details, but suffice it to say its revelation shocked the newsroom.

I eventually took the only noble resolution.

I married the girl.

Related …

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The why, how & what of new "Crayons DELUXE!"

I’ve described browsing the now sold-out original version of “Use All The Crayons!” as what it’s like spending a jovial hour or two with me in a friendly tavern. There’s laughs, wit, insight, some poignancy and sensations of pleasant refreshment at the conclusion.

If that’s true, then the new “Deluxe!” version is maybe like spending 10 hours with me doing the same thing at the same place.

The activities do not differ, but the duration leads to feelings of bloat, queasiness and a morning-after wish that the whole thing had never happened.

Do I know how to sell a book or what?

Maybe I’ll always be too self-deprecating for my own good or maybe I’m just charmed by any nifty drinking analogy.

You’re welcome for $20 to find out for yourself.

Early reviews are positive. My Tin Lizzy landlord says he reads a little bit every morning and is really enjoying it. He says it cracks him up and puts him in a good mood for the rest of the day.

I’m very flattered and am hopeful many readers will embrace it the same way.

I assembled this book — assembled, not wrote — from my best blog and tweets from the past five years. I figure it’s about 80 percent new, with the rest being relevant Hall of Famers from the first edition.

The original has 501 items and 33 essays; “Deluxe!” has a whopping 1,001 items surrounding 57 essays.

Western Pennsylvania history students will note the significance of the essay totals. The “33” was a nod to erstwhile Rolling Rock beer, once famously brewed in Latrobe; “57” hearkens to Heinz 57, the number of pickle varieties Heinz once offered.

Why “Deluxe?” Why now?

I optimistically believe 2018 will be a breakthrough year for me and my speaking opportunities. This clip of me keynoting in Columbus in September is getting much positive notice.

I self-published now because I was out of books to sell. A new self-published version would give me greater pricing liberty in selling in bulk.

Plus, I just have this treasure chest of fresh stories and lively tweets that people really seem to like. Here are a few of my favorites from the new edition:

39 Consider: A single apple seed weighs 700 mg but sinks in water. A battleship weighs 45,000 tons, but does not. What would happen to battleship full of apple seeds?

91 Ask friends: If fans of the Grateful Dead are called Deadheads, what does that make those of us who revere the book “Moby Dick?”

243 Point out that when Satan gives someone hell it should be considered a real estate transaction.

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

909 Your life will be appreciably more sane if you wake up each day realizing your job isn’t nearly as important as you think it is.

I just put the Kindle version on Amazon for an introductory price of just $3.75 Here’s the link.

Or you, my friends, can get crayon-signed copies for $20 by getting in touch with me. “Deluxe!,” for now, won’t be available in stores anywhere.

It makes a great Christmas gift, especially if you’re on a hefty expense account: A salesman friend of mine just ordered 20 copies to distribute to customers.


But I’m hoping the majority of these books will be sold to people who’ve never heard of me. And that’s one potentially lucrative whopper of a demographic.

So please get in touch if you’re interested in buying signed copies for gifts or for yourself.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

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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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