Sunday, March 31, 2019

Short but tweet; March tweets of the month

It was a paltry harvest this month, but a fairly nutritious yield. I don't know why I'm prolific some months (60-plus tweets) and others like this feeble (about 20). I am becoming more demanding. Yes, only the finest tweets make the cut at 8days2Amish!

• I may be wrong, but I have to believe there's at least one impostor '80's tribute band out there performing under the name, "Huey Lewis & The Fake News.”

• I used to dream I would become a great writer. And I ofter hear from readers who declare I am, indeed, a great writer. Advice to aspiring writers: Dream not of becoming a great writer. Instead dream of becoming a successful writer. 

• Questions I'm glad I never felt compelled to ask Arnold Palmer: "So what's Michael Jackson really like?”

• It seems utterly contradictory, but you can't be a true optimist until you come to terms with the fact we're all gonna die.

• "Use All The Crayons!" Colorful Living tip no. 973: "Spend a weekend willing yourself to blink more slowly. That way you’ll be better prepared to savor all the wonders everyone says go by in the blink of an eye.”

• As a student of history, I'm aware man has throughout time gone to war over land, women, pride, minerals and all manner of perceived injustice. As a student of breakfast, I am confounded man has yet to feel a need to go to war over bacon.

• My understanding of human nature tells me that many of the people striving to get to the land of milk and honey will once they arrive immediately begin complaining everything is too sticky.

• Proof of our collective child-raising failure is apparent in that if you ask 100 children what he or she would like to be when they grow up, not one will say, "I just want to be happy!”

• Because the angry word has the potential to be useful during this time of so much neighborly hostility, I propose today every one tries to create a situation where it makes perfect sense to shout "Nottafinga!" at someone with whom you disagree.

• Negative: Projections indicate entire planet will soon be 20-feet deep in discarded styrofoam. Positive: Airplane crash fatalities will be reduced to zero.

• Because it could make for riveting TV, I hope to one day hear a talk host announce to a panel of windy blabbermouths, "A landmark study reveals conclusively that the fewer words a person says on TV talk shows the more likely that they're a bonafide genius. Discuss.”

• The older I get the more appreciative I become of the wisdom of one old bartender who said, "Kid, count yourself lucky if the people who say they like you actually like you and the people who say they love you at least put up with all your bullshit.”

• Which seems sillier: a child believing in Santa Claus or an adult believing that Jesus Christ, a man whose ancestors were uniformly Middle Easterners, was a lily white dude. And would it hurt your faith if scholars revealed Jesus looked more like bin Laden than Ryan Seacrest?

• Pundits saying Trump entitled to a victory lap; Fitness experts advise he take it on a very short track.

• How much more challenging would it be for Christian believers to convince skeptics about the Resurrection if Scripture said it happened on April 1?

• How come I can eat 50 regular Peeps in one sitting, but the thought of sitting down to eat a steak-sized Peep turns my stomach?

• Val and I enjoyed "Green Book," but were put off by Viggo Mortensen's hammy performance & rapacious eating. We still love Viggo, but one more role like that and he'll to us be Piggo Mortensen.

• My life is a fulfilling one. My days strewn with challenge and accomplishment. So how is it I so often yearn for the days when my idea of true productivity was an afternoon when I could boast of acquiring six new labels for my beer can collection?

Related … (Does anyone read these?)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The joys of saying "I told you so ..."

I have to tell you right up front you’re not going to like this one. So don’t say I didn’t warn you. But I’ve got to call you out for your poor judgement and duplicity. 

First, you’re persisting in reading despite my honest admission that this one’s a stinker. 

Second, I know you’ve been lying. It’s a huge lie, one I’ll bet you tell at least once every six or so months (once a week if you’re raising sassy kids).

The whopper in question?

“I hate to say I told you so …”

Sound familiar?

Saying “I told you so,” to someone who’s just ignored your best advice and fallen flat on their face is one of life’s most sublime joys. It’s maybe the only lie we can tell that allows to simultaneously appear both wise and obnoxious.

And a squall of ITYSs are bound for me as soon as I post this and it’s all because of the innocuous looking picture up top.

Because as soon as I post this, my phone is going to detonate with a profanity-laced ITYS. Or maybe my friend Jim’ll resort to fireworks and sky writing.

It’s what I’d do.

Because for, oh, about six months now Jim, an omnibus Tin Lizzy golf/drinking/music/book buddy, and I have been engaged in a tipsy sort of whodunnit over the objects in the picture.

We’ve been swapping books for more than a year now and he meets the key requirements of every good book buddy, those being shared interests, a reverence for the printed word, careful book stewardship (it’s a book, not a coaster), and an understanding that burrowed books must be returned in a timely manner.

That last part is key.

To not return a book is in some cases and depending on the book a capital offense. To book lovers, books mean that much — more than even some of our children.

Unlike a child, a good book doesn’t bum dough off you, hog the TV remote during March Madness, nor rat you out for farting at the dinner table on Taco Tuesday, a night when farting at the dinner table should be a sporting event unto itself.

Well, about six or so months ago, Jim asked when I planned on returning the Graham Nash book and the Mark Knopfler CD you see above.

Return ‘em? Sorry, ol’ pal, I said. I clearly remember returning them to you about a month ago. 

This was a lie. Jim drinks 1800 Tequila; I guzzle Wild Turkey. There is nothing “clearly” recollected when the two of get together.

But I hadn’t seen either around the house or the office, the only two places where I’d have had my hands on the items. I said they had to be in his house someplace. “Either that or you lost them,” I taunted.

He'd bring it up about once a week. The book, especially, was a sore spot, as it was a gift from his girlfriend. A keepsake.

But that didn’t make me feel any less righteous. 

I felt that way right up to Saturday while during a rare burst of spring cleaning, I saw an unusual looking bag near the shelves where I keep my treasured books.

Spoiler alert! It was Jim’s book/CD.

I decided to use the belated find as a teachable moment for the kids. I explained the situation and asked what they thought we should do.

Our options, I said, were to do the right thing and admit my error; burn the books and go to my grave insisting I was right and Jim was an idiot; or sneak them into Jim’s house and leave them somewhere he’d find them in another 10 or 15 years when I’ll be dead and he’ll feel the kind of shame from which he’d never recover.

I was perversely pleased that no one said I should do the right thing.

In the end, this is what I decided to do and in about five minutes from now submit to a howling ITYS.

And you?

You get nothing. A sloppy, rather formulaic ending to a blog that inside of one week you won’t even remember reading. A complete waste of time.

I hate to say I told you so …

Related …

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

My surprising feat of strength & March 29 guest bartending in Irwin

I did something unintentional the other day in my office that literally caused the jaws of both my daughters to drop. They could not believe their eyes.

It was like they’d seen me do something that shattered their every notion of me as their father, like I revealed I was a spy or a stealth member of SEAL Team 6.

What had they seen the old man do?

Ten measly pull-ups.

Well, it was more like a sloppy eight, but we live in a round-up world. Heck, years from now I’ll likely inflate the figure to 50.

I was surprised they were surprised. Are their classmates so soft that the pull up or chin up has become an Olympian-worthy feat of strength? Or have I set the bar so low the kids are gobsmacked when they see me do anything more challenging than rising from the recliner to fetch my own beer.

The literal bar, by the way, was in the house when we moved in. I took it to my office at The Pond where I could do 20 (round-up) pull-ups. This was back, too, when it was my custom to daily do one pushup for every year I’d been alive, a custom I let pass at 50 when the ground seemed to get too far away to warrant the effort.

The pull up bar made the migration from The Pond to The Tin Lizzy

The girls like to test themselves and I thought I’d show them how it’s done.

My goal was never to be a real tough guy, but I did want to be considered a real tough writer.

Because you just never know. I might one day get into one of those petty so-you-think-you’re-better-than-me arguments with, say, J.K. Rowling, and I could at least save face by whipping her best-selling ass in an arm wrestling contest.

For those keeping score at home, Rowling’s sold 120 million books; I’ve sold 10,000.

And, yeah, darn it, that 10,000 is another massive round-up.

The admiring reaction of my daughters now has me feeling prideful about the pull ups/chin ups. I’m bragging and eager to show off, but am saddened to find no one gives a crap.

I told two buddies about it and they were utterly indifferent. They immediately switched the topic to the difference between pull ups and chin ups (pull ups are palms facing out/chin ups facing you).

This was not at all what I’d hoped for. I guess I was hoping both men would shower me with compliments or at the very least ask to squeeze my biceps, something I’d expect from most women and any man given to random fits of insatiable curiosity. 

(Note: I welcome anyone who sees me to come right up and start squeezing me like you’re a careful shopper and I’m your perspective cantaloupe!)

So now I’m searching for another way to get people to react with mind-blowing stupefaction to something they were utterly unprepared to see me do. I think I’ve found it.

You can come watch me work a real job!

Believe it or not.

RISE Westmoreland has asked me to tend bar Friday, March 29, from 8 to 9 p.m. for a fundraiser at Quinn’s Brewery in Irwin. That I’ll only tend bar for an hour indicates to me that they know everything there is to know about me and my work ethic.

I’m taking all bets from those who’ll wager I’ll either quit or be fired before my hour is up.

RISE (Recognize. Intervene. Support. Educate.) is a non-profit formed by Suzanne Clawson Dzvonick in the tragic wake of our school shooting scourge. It provides free social and emotional curriculum aimed at recognizing and de-stigmatizing mental health issues in schools.

I won’t be selling books, but will be happy to sign any book you bring in.

Including ones I didn’t even write!

I’ll be there at 6:30. I hope you’ll stop by and say hello and support this worthy cause.

And keep your chin up. Good people everywhere are working to eliminate the issues that bedevil us all.

You can pull up a chair. Together we’ll round up some laughs.

Related … 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Our dear friend Sue is gone; here's one way her memory will go on forever and ever

Being alive in a small town means you spend a substantial amount of time mourning those who suddenly or otherwise no longer are. You attend a lot of funerals. 

Each is compelling and sad in its own way so I’m often drawn to write about them.

This can be tricky. I don’t want to say anything rude or be less than honest memorializing, say, a beloved town drunk. 

And you don’t want to by omission snub someone by ignoring their passing, but I worry saluting so many would be unwise. The topic might become maudlin for Midwest readers who enjoy reading about things like the day the barnstorming troupe of gypsy strippers showed up at the Tin Lizzy (link below).

But the passing of Susan Sniezek, 69, is too momentous to ignore. I loved her very much. Everyone did. And we love Marty, her husband of 50 years, and their daughter, Jenn, and her wonderful family.

They’re just these incredibly warm and funny people, the kind when as soon as you walk away from seeing them you immediately begin looking forward to the next time you get to see them.

Now, none of us will ever see Sue again.

But, I swear, none of us will ever forget her. 

I could tell stories all day, but because of my stated fears of the blog becoming stale, I promise I’ll only mention her name once more and it won’t be until the very end. And instead of death, we’ll talk about life.

Because on the very day our friend died, a baby girl was born in the same hospital. Her parents named her Rachel. Here’s some rosy speculation of how Rachel’s life could go if she turns out blessed the way few are. 

Her parents will be wise and loving. She will be raised with a spirit of playful adventure. As a youth, she will travel to places like Norway where she will dance and sing so exuberantly on public transportation that even work-weary Norwegian commuters will be cheered by the youthful Yanks.

She will meet a young veteran who drives an ice cream truck and woos her with free treats. It will be the beginning of a more than 50-year romance so vivacious it will inspire countless young couples that a marriage like theirs is worthy of emulation.

There marriage will involve enduring joy that will brighten memories and unbidden heartbreak that will bestow soulful compassion for those who grieve.

She’ll be the kind of mother who lets expectant mothers see that raising a sweet, beautiful daughter — and every single daughter is somehow sweet and beautiful — is life’s greatest joy. 

Rachel will engage in an active and euphoric social life and when the bar door swings opens and people see her blond hair and smiling face walk in all will be more glad they decided to visit the club on that day.

Heck, all will be more glad to be alive. 

She’ll be the kind of parent who never misses her daughter’s activities and audibly cheers her on and only slightly less audibly cheers on all the other kids. 

From both teams.

Other people will throw fine seasonal parties. For Rachel and her dear husband, the parties will never end. They will turn their spacious basement into a lively saloon where all will be welcome.

Maybe they’ll call it, oh, the “Neon Moon.”

She’ll never outgrow her sweetly childish love for Christmas and will festoon her home with more than 600 Santa Claus holiday knick knacks. By doing so, she’ll let everyone know it’s okay to be a kid again at Christmas, and all year-round, really. 

And when news spreads around this small town that Rachel is sick, the whole town will say fervent prayers that God intervene because towns like this need our Rachels.

And, hallelujah, God will listen.

And one day many blessed years later some old men will be sitting on a park bench and maybe see Rachel pushing a stroller with her adored granddaughter.

“Well, here comes Rachel,” one might say to the other. “Isn’t she beautiful. Loved by men, admired by women, resented by none, hers is a light that illuminates the whole world, the kind that will never truly die.”

“Yep, she’s one of the kindest, most generous and sweetest people I’ve ever known. Truly, 1-in-a-million.”

“More like 1-in-100-million.”

“Reminds me of Sue Sniezek.”

Related … 

• At the risk of appearing self-serving, here’s Sue and her granddaughter Martina at the 1:50 mark in a promotional video. She was a big supporter of my writing and a true friend.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Chris Rodell: Palmer author/ Latrobe tour guide

Go ahead. I’ll let you start with the jokes at my expense. Jokes like:

“What, are you going to start the tour by announcing, ‘This is the bar stool I daily drink upon for three hours. I invite you to sit here and watch me until 6 o’clock when I go to the second floor bar where I sit and drink for another three hours!”

No, sorry, it won’t be a tour of the heirloom Latrobe taverns I’ve spent a good portion of my happy life getting pointlessly soused.

In fact, the origins of the idea are as wholesome as a “Waltons” marathon on the Hallmark Channel.

One of my oldest friends is planning a father-son golf outing and when he was asked to do something memorable he thought of me.

“I’m aiming for a round at Latrobe C.C. with you acting as tour guide and then afterwards sitting around the campfire with you regaling us with your stories,” he said. “There would be about 20 of us.”

It was like I was that famous reindeer and he was Santa saying, “Rudolph, with your nose so bright …”

Who says no to Santa?

In fact, I’d been trying in vain to think of a way to capitalize on the interest in my Palmer book — in all my books — and the people who travel from all over to immerse themselves in Palmer heritage you can only find in Latrobe.

And when my friend said — tour guide — a light went off.

Hence, the crass headline above this post. I want anyone who searches for things to do in Latrobe to come right here.

Hiya! Thanks for stopping by!

But I already have a built-in constituency from the book, the one Super Bowl broadcaster Jim Nantz, ahem, says is “the best book anyone’s written about Palmer.”

I’ve been delighted over the past year to have so many readers turn into actual friends when they visit Latrobe and want to include stopping at the ballyhooed Tin Lizzy as part of their trip. They invariably get in touch and I show them around while telling my stories.

Like a tour guide!

And it’s been wholly organic. I find that cool.

Just this week I agreed to provide 150 signed “Palmer: Homespun” books and tell stories at the Doug Wood Golf Classic benefitting Seton Hill College. I’m in touch with area golf courses about doing the same for their outings.

And reaction to my talks continue to be effusive. I spoke to 40 residents this week at a North Huntington senior-living community center. It went so well they demanded an encore. Not that day. They want me back in two weeks to do the whole speech over again!

Some might wonder if the demographics of the age bracket might mean the booking is a result of simple forgetfulness. What’ll I do if that turns out to be the case?

Show up and sell books every other Wednesday until someone catches on!

I couldn’t be more pleased with the reaction to the book, but thought by Christmas it would have run its course. Now I realize it may enjoy perennial interest.

Just like the man the book’s all about.

So please get in touch if any of this sounds appealing. I can provide signed gift books and cheer for your area golf outing, or simply meet for post-round Tin Lizzy beers with you and your buddies.

That’s basically what I’ve been doing since the book came out so I’m happy to sort of formalize something that’ll always be defiantly informal. It’s something I envision as an small adjunct to my primary writing, a sort of cottage industry, albeit one where all the cottages serve hootch.

Either way, it promises to be another fun summer here in Latrobe. I invite you to be a part of it.

I’ll be happy to help bring it to life. 

It would be a delightful irony if something that’s long been disparaged as contributing to my financial and reputational ruin — sitting in a bar drinking — could boomerang and become a boon to both.

Note: As if to prove a point, as I was putting the finishing touches on this the phone cha-cha-cha-ed. It was my friend Scott Levin at the Youngstown Grille. In between running a great local diner, he’s sold nearly 100 of my books to his hungry customers. “Hey, bud,” he said, “there’s a guy from Virginia who wants to buy two books and I’m almost out. Can you bring up some more right now?” I could. Jeff used to live here and caddied at Latrobe Country Club. He said he couldn’t wait to read the book and was really happy to meet me. “Any chance,” Jeff asked, “we could meet for a beer later? Ever go to the Tin Lizzy?”

Related … (Does anybody read these?)