Monday, August 19, 2019
Because this story is ostensibly about distractions and I wouldn’t want your mind to wander, I’ll start with the headline tease that likely snagged your attention in the first place.
Octomom is alive and well in Laguna Niguel, California, striving to finish her autobiography, recovering from a booze and pill addiction and doing what the NYTimes says is a bang-up job of raising her 14 children. Headline: “The Octomom proves us all wrong: The Happy Household of a former Tabloid Curiosity.
And — good news, fellas! — the gal’s still single!
I know all this and more because Val and I over one vacation breakfast in Chincoteague, Virginia, explained to the kids the who, what, where, why and how of Nadya Suleman, 44, the woman who in 2010 gave birth to 8 children because, I guess, there’s something about having six kids that leaves one unfulfilled.
Did I mention she’s still single?
How the conversation led to Octomom, I cannot recall.
A widely-debunked myth claims we use just 10 percent of our brains. Nonsense, say top neurologists. All of our brains are active nearly all of the time.
They say this like it’s meant to reassure we’re deserving of being the planet’s dominant life form and thus get a pass for indifferently extinguishing all the others.
Me, I have more respect for the brain power of the common canine.
Even a stupid dog is the more efficient thinker.
A dog’s thoughts can be roughly dropped into four categories: eat, play, sleep and screw. Romantics might be tempted to lump play and screw into the same category. But I’ve seen horny dogs in action and unless you consider a quick butt sniff romance, I’ll contend there’s a difference between play (chasing a tennis ball) and screwing (google it).
Imagine how much happier and more productive we’d all be if we thought with the discipline of dogs.
Alas, it’s not to be.
See, I use 100 percent of my brain, but it’s devoted to learning and retaining things like the marital status of Octomom.
In the hour I’ve spent composing this blog — talk about your pointless distractions — this is a partial list of the distractions that have rolled like vapid tumbleweeds across the wasteland of my mind.
Baseball, lunch, Jeff Probst, golf, bourbon, firewood, sex, Elizabeth Banks, sex, the new Springsteen movie, mosquitos, Stones on tour, pizza, book sales, my in-grown toenail and is it time to water Buck’s plants up here on the 3rd floor (no, but I did it anyway).
You know something a dog never thinks about? Jay Thomas. He played Eddie LeBec on “Cheers.” He died two years ago Saturday at the age of 69.
I’ve been thinking about him ever since a friend sent me a link to a commercial that showed George Washington driving a car. As I know what a black hole of distraction YouTube can be, I pondered if I had time to watch the 30-second clip.
Then I figured since I had time for that I had the 4:45 it’d take to watch Thomas tell David Letterman the uproarious story of the day he met the Lone Ranger. It’s absolutely hilarious. Letterman says it’s the funniest story he’s ever heard. Check it out.
I now watch it whenever I find myself getting depressed by distracting news about climate change, gun violence or polls that hint Trump will win again.
I’m using 100 percent of my brain but, unlike the dog, about 97 percent of it is pointless BS. I worry I’m changing my cranial composition from gray matter to fecal.
It’s a pity the Nazis so thoroughly polluted the term, because I could really use a leisurely stretch in a concentration camp.
Really, there ought to be a camp where adults could go to learn how to concentrate.
The blog result would be fewer stupid distractions: more coherence, less Jay Thomas.
We’d pick a topic and wring everything we could out of it, which in the case of Octomom we can only hope wouldn’t result in more children.
The last thing I’d recommend for an aspiring writer like Suleman is more runny-nosed distractions running through your home.
Especially if you’re prone to having them all running through your head.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
It took a 55-foot keelboat and two 35-foot supply boats for the 27-man Lewis and Clark expedition to in 1804 traverse the continent.
I figure if the attempt were made today they’d need a third boat just for sun screen.
After an otherwise splendid week on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, I can report that a day at the beach is no longer a day at the beach.
It all starts with the messy, time-consuming and distasteful task of applying sun screen. Dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30 with some saying as high as 50.
Given doomsday climate change predictions, I imagine in five years it’ll be SPF 5000, but that’ll be moot because by then our idea of an adventure vacation will be anything outside and above ground.
The sun, our most necessary element in sustaining human life, is also becoming the element most likely to wipe it out.
It’s good for us; it’s bad for us.
So more and more a day at the beach is like unprotected sex with an old hooker.
Fun for the whole family!
I think the inefficiency of proper sunscreening is what gets me most. First of all, by this time of year we have a closet full of half-used sunscreens of varying potencies. So if I’m determined to get to the prudent SPF 50, I must resort to math.
I find one half-empty SPF 25 and two nearly done SPF 15s. That’s an excess total of SPF 60 — a waste of 10 perfectly good SPFs.
So by my way of thinking, I need to even the score by choosing to leave 10 percent of my body sunscreen free. I chose to sacrifice the thighs.
Wouldn’t you know it? That’s the same day my thighs got sunburned!
With us, sunscreen application is a family affair. We all gather on the porch and slather it on the parts of ourselves we can reach. Once that’s rubbed in, we form a little Conga line, oldest to youngest and do one another’s backs. Val then does mine.
It’s a little awkward so the only sound you hear is a reverse slurping sound a near-empty bottle makes when the contents evades the hole and you got to flip the lid and give it a shake or two.
When this is done, I head to the bedroom, close the door, pull down my swim trunks and secretly spray my testicles with shark repellent.
Don’t tell me you wouldn’t feel stupid going to all that trouble to avoid a little sunburn only to wind up standing there in the surf waving goodbye to a shark that’s swimming away with your balls in his mouth.
None of this would be worth it if the beach didn’t have the ocean and the ocean didn’t have waves.
I wonder if it has something to do with returning to our Darwinian roots, but stepping into a bracing ocean and allowing yourself to be pummeled by relentless waves is utterly euphoric.
Better still is being a dad to children, 18 and 13, who prefer having actual fun to appearing cooly aloof. Val, too.
The girls let these huge waves knock the literal snot out them.
I can’t think of any other physical activity that leads to a similar result that is so joyful.
Our little one — she’s nearly as big as me — was particularly ecstatic. I hope I never forget that look of wonder, fear and brave anticipation on her face as she felt and saw a monster wave about to crash down on her head.
Pity the youth too umbilically tethered to their devices to experience such electrifying recklessness.
Even the ominous appearance of jellyfish did not deter the fun and, in fact, led to a burst of female team building when they ganged up on me for joking the jellyfish were simply looking for compatible peanut butter fish.
We rode bikes, saw the native horses, hiked, dined, ran into some old friends and enjoyed some truly spectacular family time.
In short, we had a ball.
And thanks to my judicious use of shark repellent, the Chincoteague-area sharks did not.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
I think being pre-occupied with death is a not unhealthy byproduct of being occupied with life.
So many ways to die means there ought to be just one way to live and that’s exuberantly. I’ve felt that way ever since it dawned on me that I, aw shucks, wasn’t going to live forever.
It’s becoming more acute with me lately. It’s either the near daily news reminder I could get killed going to either — pick one — a store/gym/bar/school/church/movie/other or selfishly fretting about my own prospects, but I’m dwelling on my own mortality more than ever.
It’s more an awareness than a fear. But it’s only human to want to extend our portion.
I figure seven more lifetimes ought to do it.
With one additional lifetime I’d like to devote myself to earning some serious dough. I’ve never had crazy money. It’s never been a priority. But choosing to live an interesting life over a well-compensated one not only is unconventional, it is in many ways just plain stupid. I never intended it to be this way and I remain optimistic upcoming endeavors will alter the situation, but being low income (often NO income) is no way to live. I’d like to have another lifetime to see if a reasonably bright guy like myself could score some scratch if he made that tawdry goal a priority.
I’d like a lifetime to play golf. I’ve been a pretty decent golfer twice in my life, for about a total of nine days with only five of them involving actual rounds of golf. They were really great days. I know many good golfers and they make being skillful at golf seem as satisfying as I feel after composing some wisdom worthy of being said aloud in my Yoda voice. Give me an entire lifetime to play, enjoy and get good at golf.
What kind of human being wouldn’t want a whole lifetime to lavish on helping human beings? When a school girl asked Albert Einstein to share with her the meaning of life, the genius said in essence it was to help one another. Wouldn’t you like an entire life to spend making the world a better place? To feeding the hungry? To comforting the sick? And bringing cheer to the hopeless? I regretfully confess there’s no reason why I haven’t in Lifetime No. 1 done more of that.
I’d like one lifetime to stand for something, something that matters. I’m cursed with an ability to usually see multiple sides to every argument. We Americans have spent much of the last three years vehemently arguing over fences. Now, there’s only two sides to a fence yet I see maybe six different arguments. I’d revel to have one lifetime where I was absolutely certain I knew all the facts to every argument and that those who disagree with me were not only idiots, they were evil idiots. It would be so much simpler than cerebral subtlety.
Or I’d like a lifetime that coincided with a universal mindset that it’s better to walk in another person’s shoes than to seize that same person by their throats.
I’d like a lifetime to spend in the study of faith. I’m a spiritual, at times nearly mystical, person. But I admire men and women of unshakable faith who enjoy rock-like foundations in what it all means and all that comes next. Talk of any afterlife always reminds me of the famous last words of Apple salesman (not a genius) and founder Steve Jobs who is purported to have said as he drifted into the other realm, “Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow!” My fear is my death bed exclamation will be, “Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!”
And I’d like another lifetime to live this lifetime all over again just exactly as it’s been. Nothing — nothing — has worked out the way I’d imagined it would when I was young and certain my life would result in fame, fortune and healthy longevity. But it’s all been just so interesting and happy I’d like to start it all over again just so I could experience all the very same loves and laughs once again. Thanks to those of you who’ve been a part of it.
And because that’s only six lifetimes and I said seven I’ll choose to do the last one twice!
Monday, August 5, 2019
It would be a better story if I could honestly say I was there the night Capt. Tony told my buddies he didn’t respect any man who hadn’t spent at least one night in jail.
But that wouldn’t be the truth.
It was Spring Break back in 1985 and my buddies were in Key West while I was back home in Pittsburgh (no dough). And it would be an even better story if I could honestly say at that very moment I was in jail for doing something bone-headed like, say, being drunk and cutting the heads off of municipal parking meters. That’s how they snagged Lucas Jackson in “Cool Hand Luke,” my favorite character from my favorite movie.
I wish I had been there and had heard the words straight from the mouth of Tony Tarracino, aka Capt. Tony, legendary owner of his namesake bar immortalized that very year by Jimmy Buffett in “Last Mango in Paris.” This was back before Buffett became a conglomerate dabbling in restaurants, satellite radio, senior living.
Back when he still had what I guess you’d call beach cred.
The captain believed any man worth his salt had to at least once give The Man The Finger and spend at least a night in the slammer. It was a rite of passage.
It made sense to me and — boom — like that within the next year I was tossed into the Dormont Muncipal Jail for a crime I did commit (sorta).
Why I chose to follow the second-hand advice of a drunken old sea captain over the respectable multitudes urging me toward prudence and occupational responsibility is the story of my life.
But — aye, aye — the captain was correct. Doing at least one night in jail did bestow some worldliness. It gave me a great story (link below) and led to what was until recently one of my favorite bar conversation starters:
“Tell me about the night you spent in jail.”
You’ll be surprised by how many now-respectable men have had momentary bouts of lawlessness that led to a night in the Iron Bar Hotel.
The stories are often hilarious, even more so because the illegality is usually something they were once ashamed to admit. What was once taboo has become humor.
The stories usually involve drugs, drunkeness and midnight mischief. I’m friends with a guy who stole a bulldozer and took it for a 6 mph joy ride down Main Street before realizing too late he was unskilled at knowing how to bring the machine to a complete halt.
I know some guys who were busted breaking into a car impound lot to steal back their car and in their drunken confusion would up stealing the wrong car.
So I felt I was on stable ground Friday when I asked a buddy my light-hearted question: “Tell me about the night you spent in jail.”
“Which one? There were 528 of them.”
I’ll reveal no details that might lead any snoops to track down his identity except for this: His incarceration made national news and involved a cross-country ride in the caged back of a van driven by the man who would become famous as “Dog The Bounty Hunter,” and included two months with Unabomber Ted Kaczynski as his cell mate and that the terrorist was pretty cool.
It would be a better story if I could say my friend busted Ted for using his toothbrush, but that wouldn’t be true.
It was the most compelling (and entertaining) tale I’ve ever heard in response to my jocular question. And it was the last time I’ll ask it.
Our scars are the most interesting and revealing features of an aging man. But there are sound reasons why some men tend secrets.
Who am I to tap dance among the tombstones in search of bar giggles?
And I fear I, a mostly privileged aging white dude, might one day with buddy-buddy familiarity ask the wrong black man to regale me with some jaunty tales about his experiences with the law and he’ll want to kill me.
I’ll have it coming.
That’s the truth.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
I’m uncertain how I got the dildo stuck in my head, but I can assure you it didn’t enter through one of my ears. Heck, I know better to shove a cotton-tipped swab in there let alone a big honking dildo.
Blame the Oxford English Dictionary. That’s up in my head, too, and it’s way, way bigger (135 pounds) than your common love toy.
See, I’m a word guy. Words fascinate me. I enjoy knowing where they came from and when they reached the point of critical mass and someone decided, well, enough people are using this word so we ought to explain it and stick it in a dictionary.
The word “dictionary,” by the way, dates back to 1480 and means, “A book which explains or translates, usually in alphabetical order, the words of a language or languages, giving for each word its typical spelling and usage.”
A little verbose, isn’t it? But who can blame the dictionary for being, well, wordy.
Here’s another quibble: I contend if dictionary publishers were serious about their mission they’d call dictionaries, “definitionaries.”
But I still love them in spite of their occasional incompetence.
I mean, who am I to cast stones in that realm?
Anyhoo, I keep two of ‘em on my desk, a 150,000-word hard cover American Heritage, and a duct-taped paperback (75,000) I’ve held in my hands nearly once a week since 1979.
Guess what: They’re still not enough.
I need more. Bigger. Enhanced girth.
And, yes, we’re still talking dictionaries. We’ll get to the dildos.
But for true word sleuths, there’s nothing like the OED. It has the definitions of 600,000 words. My ardor for it is so all encompassing that one of my failed years — and I’m about oh-fer-25 in that regard — was devoted to trying to create a word and whoring it out so compellingly that word would earn OED recognition in record time.
At the time I was seized by the idea that the only thing easier than writing one book a year was writing just one word. And, yes, to emphasize my fecklessness, I even wrote a book proposal about my word: “Zeitgust! How Words Become Words & a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Dash at Dictionary Recognition.”
“Zeitgust! A contrived and deliberate act of trying to mass manipulate popular culture to an individual whim.”
So how come I have dildo on the brain?
Blame Jason Priestly. I saw the old “Beverly Hills 90210” actor making the rounds and instantly thought, “Dildo!”
Not prick, cock, pecker, wang, dork or dong.
Priestly starred in a well-crafted SNL skit, “The Life and Times of Johnny Hildo” from ’92 (cast: Hartman, Rock, Spade, Myers. Wow). The premise was Priestly was Hildo who in three acts is ridiculed for having a name that sounds like dildo.
Classmates, perspective dates, professors all thoughtlessly call Hildo, Dildo until he blows up: “It’s Hildo, damnit! Hildo!”
The shot cuts to a mock newspaper picture of Hildo under the headline, “Crazed Dildo Kills 7!”
He’s then shown being marched into a cell where he’s greeted by cell mate Kevin Nealon who extends a hand in friendship: “Hi Hildo. Nice to meet you.” Hildo is floored. Did someone just call him Hildo?”
“That’s your name, isn’t it,” says Nealon, who completes the introduction by saying, “My name is Larry …”
And that’s why the sight of Priestly sent me scrambling for the on-line dictionary.
I had to know: how old is dildo?
Dildo is 421 years old!
This is bound to sound sexist, but I’d have thought the women folk in 1598 would have been too busy cooking for the men, cleaning for men and laying down on the straw for the 0.08 seconds it took to satisfy men. Too busy to enjoy what I’ve heard referred to as the external hard drive.
The idea that anyone back then had time for recreational sex while I guess there were still one or two dinosaurs roaming the neighborhood seems preposterous.
Who knew sex was fun before the 1960s?
Oh, and did you know the band Steely Dan took its name from a strap-on dildo in the William S. Burroughs book “Naked Lunch?”
Sorry for all these silly diversions. But once I get going about word origins I’m apt to get off on tangents.
And what story about dildos would be complete without a little getting off?
These tweets are from 8Days2Amish. For those who prefer longer form posts, check back around noon today when I’ll post something meatier. It’s about dildos.
• It says something wonderful about simple human decency that ever since word got 'round I have an incurable disease more people have told me I look great than ever told me back when, gee, I really looked great.
• Being responsible for transporting the graduation cake from the baker to the pavilion is like being responsible for transporting the baby but without the baby seat.
• You can gauge the true happiness of any person or family by the amount of time it takes for the smile to leave their faces after the picture's been taken.
• I predict the next big body alteration movement will be the detachable nipple, so urged by the fashion industry for a sleeker bosom. Think people panic over a lost contact lens? You wait.
• I wonder if fruit flies ever tire of their holier-than-thou diet one day and just say, "Screw it. Tonight I'm having cheeseburger!”
• Megan Rapinoe says #USWomensSoccerTeam victory has team "on Cloud 9." She's mistaken. On-going gender equality issues mean they're only on Cloud 5.
• Bible makes clear God has blessed man with the gift of free will. Show of hands: who follows the news and wishes He would become just a bit more of a control freak?
• Some believe I'm motivated to get out of all work by sheer laziness. Wrong. I labor to get out of all stupid work by what I call strategic laziness. It's not as easy as it looks. Ironically, avoiding hard work is hard work.
• There must be a baker's equivalent to "piece of cake" that is not "piece of cake." Because if a baker says something is going to be a piece of cake and shows up with a pie instead he could be accused of loafing -- and don't get me started on bakers who loaf.
• Do us all a favor: Next time anyone asks how you're doing, don't say, "Busy!" We're all busy and saying so only reinforces the mistaken belief that there is something wrong with having nothing to do. Instead say you're happy or hopeful. Or better still, say you're horny!
• Man, the only animal to spend 80 percent of its time either seated or laying down, is also the only animal to spend billions on footwear.
• I enjoy looking at pictures from old high school year books and trying to guess which students are aliens and which are human. Usually in cases like this, my guess is they're all the former.
• Devoted linguists who spend an inordinate amount of time studying obscure dialects forgotten by all but the most arcane scholars are Accent-rics.
• This is the season when warm temperatures confuse people into thinking we should be doing everything outside. Let me remind you that very little has changed since the age of the cavemen. Outside is the reason man invented inside.
• I’ll bet there are many days each week when Dick Cheney wakes up and is stunned to realize he is no longer President of the United States.
• The next breakthrough in the battle against climate change will result when some genius discovers a way to convert all our fake laughter into clean renewable energy.
• Chicken wings are among our most ubiquitous meals, yet in all my life I've never seen a single airborne chicken. Question: How different will our urban landscapes become when our nation's menus begin including pigeon wings?
• Dictionary definition of dictionary is “A book which explains or translates, usually in alphabetical order, the words of a language or languages, giving for each word its typical spelling and usage.” A bit verbose, isn’t it? Guess I can't blame the dictionary for being, well, wordy.
• We somehow wind up missing so much whenever we always end up going exactly where we think we need to go.
• Unlike here on Earth, I hope in heaven -- fingers crossed -- I become blessed with the ability to fix things. But I worry in heaven nothing'll ever break and my feelings of uselessness will persist.
• There ought to be a game show where top rock stars are quizzed on things like who can say things like, "Are you ready to rock!" in the most foreign languages.
• The deep, soulful satisfaction I get from squashing a common house fly with a lightning-like bare-handed swat has me re-thinking my native pacifisms.
• Freedom (pronounced FREE-dumb) isn't free. And dumb can be pretty pricey, too.
• People who say Jerry Falwell Jr. sold his soul to support Trump have it all wrong. Conservative Christians who at face value support Trump have no souls.
• I appreciate the wisdom of the Bible verse that advises we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But speaking for narcissists everywhere, the premise is just preposterous.
• When you're in worship and the preacher begins telling stories of notable Bible figures, do you in your mind picture them as having perfect teeth? That's probably unrealistic. Question: Could you follow The Savior if He had real Billy Bob teeth?
• A game show where contestants had to pick between Mr. Keith impostors and the real deal might be popular: "Toby or Not Toby: That Is the Question!”
• 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.
• I agree with the shrill MAGA voices who say in America today minorities need to “know their place.” Well, my dark-skinned brothers and sisters, your place is right beside me. Unfortunately for both of us, we’re both way back in line behind a bunch of much richer white guys.