Friday, September 27, 2019

Banned from Latrobe C.C. ... Me!

The call informing me I was no longer welcome at Latrobe Country Club came coincidentally three years to the day after Arnold Palmer died. Now, that’s another thing I never thought I’d have in common with Ben Roethlisberger.

Ben was banned for refusing to sign autographs.

I was now being forbidden from signing them. I called the organizer of an area charity raising funds to fight the rare disease that killed his little boy and said, sorry, I can’t help.

Can anyone sense there are elements of over-reaction in this unfolding story?

Either way, we’re left with one of the most powerful and lucrative enterprises in sports business pitted against me, author of the blog that was recently named the “32nd Best Blog and Website for Amish Readers.”

How did we get here?

I’ve for more than 20 years enjoyed stellar two-way relations with leaders and rank-and-file employees of Orlando-based Arnold Palmer Enterprises. I liked them, they liked me. How much?

In 2012, I was feted at an interview/luncheon among eight company leaders where I was given a hand-shake deal on a job that would pay in the neighborhood of $70,000 plus benefits (see detail-laden link below).

And you need to understand the heirloom significance of the term “handshake deal” to the legend of Arnold Palmer. It’s foundational to his success and stature.

So did I get the job?

I don’t know.

It’s been seven years and I’ve yet to hear back. My calls and letters were all ignored. I think my wife still thinks I made the whole thing up.

I finally wrote about it in 2014, the day after I appeared in the wonderful Golf Channel documentary on Mr. Palmer.

My post was scathing. Sample line: “This isn’t behavior worthy of Arnold Palmer. This is behavior barely worthy of weasels.”

What was the reaction?

There was none. I continued to get all the opportunities I enjoyed prior to my bitter screed. In fact, an evident acclaim began to build around my Palmer Q & A’s, so much so that the vaunted chairman of APE invited himself into one of our last sessions, an imposing move that would have rattled less seasoned writers. 

His post-interview evaluation as he shook my hand (hand shake!): “They all said you were the best. They were right. Well done.”

No repercussions there. And there were none in September 2016 when a top Palmer company executive, grieving the legend's death three days prior, said, “Chris, you are the voice of Arnie’s Army.”

Google “Voice of Arnie’s Army.” You won’t get a network announcer, a Golf Channel executive or one of the flaccid sycophants from the tour press tent.

You get me. And that was a year before I wrote the book Jim Nantz said is “the best book anyone’s written about Arnold Palmer.”

Well, brace yourself, because The Voice has something that needs to be said. It is:

“No one who earns their living standing behind the name of Arnold Palmer should ever treat anyone the way Orlando-based representatives of APE have now twice and without apology treated me.”

This brings us to my second indiscretion (see second link). I used the blog to personally bash the Bay Hill director of golf. I was angry how he’d responded  to my Christmas week call of cheer with pouting complaints and surly threats.

I momentarily thought I’d called, not Arnold Palmer's club, but Sergio Garcia’s.

I let it slide for three months — didn’t want to do anything rash — before responding. Did I go too far? Probably. Was I justified? I think so.

I think it just galled me that people who are well-compensated to extol the values of Arnold Palmer fail to live up to them. My experience isn’t nearly as intense, but I still consider it a privilege to respond to strangers the way he would.

Especially at Christmas!

In lieu of that, how can we end this unseemliness?

Well, let me be the mature one.

First, I’ll not mention either incident again, despite provocations like today’s embarrassment, if my Bay Hill friend apologizes. He must have been having a bad day. No one rises to that professional elevation being the kind of jerk he was with me for two excrutiating minutes.

The second condition is even easier to settle. Just someone — anyone — from Orlando answer one question:

About that hand shake job offer, geez, when can I start?

I think a company like yours would love to employ at least one guy who really, really cares about responding to difficult situations the way most of us used to think Arnold Palmer would. 

Related …

Monday, September 23, 2019

Fall book signings in libraries, stores & bars

I had a friend ask me if I’d be going on a book tour to promote the October release of, “Growing Up in the Real Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

I told him my book tour never ends. It’s me going from my office on the third floor at the Tin Lizzy down to the first floor to sell six, pop into Flappers to sell three, and then returning to the third floor again and again.

The tavern, so full of character (and characters), is like an interesting and reliable drinking buddy in my blog and books. And lots and lots of readers are eager to experience it.

I never meant for it to happen, but the result has enriched me both financially and personally.

In just the past month, readers from Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, Virginia, Tennessee and Florida have all popped in or called in advance to arrange a howdy. The mostly have area ties, but some go out their way to visit.

All are welcome under any circumstances, but I’m especially fond of the shy pop-ins. I hear the steps creaking as they make their tentative approach.

“Oh,” they’ll say, “we hope we’re not disturbing you.”

The exact wording allows me to break the ice with a self-deprecating joke:

“You’re too late,” I say, “I’ve been disturbed since 1992.”

That’s when someone suggested I’d make a fortune freelance writing.

I am very lucky.

Interest seems high. And the folks who’ve read the book have been complimentary. 

I am busy booking speaking engagements and am grateful to all the groups who are having me back so soon after the Palmer book talk. I know there are bound to be some rotarians who’ll be rolling their eyes when they see it’s me again with many of the same old jokes, the same old stories.

To them, I say …

“Just be glad you’re not my wife!”

From my pitch sheet:

“Part history, part biography, ‘Growing UP …’ is a freewheeling conversation about what makes this one small town so special. One big reason is Fred Rogers, a man visionary educators are beginning to equate with spiritual leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. It tells the stories of couples he married, souls he saved and if calling him ‘Christ-like’ is blasphemous or accurate. It has previously untold stories of Rogers being a life-saving superhero and of him being perfectly human. It’s about how Latrobe influenced young Fred; how adult Fred influenced it; and how both influenced the author and the world. In a world that cries out for civility and healing, it’s the only book about Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood by an author who actually lives there.”

If you’re not tired of me and would like me to share my stories with your group — any group — please get in touch. I’ll travel pretty much all over western Pennsylvania.

Or you’re all welcome to come here to the Tin Lizzy. 

Successful authors enjoy book tours.

I’m satisfied being one of those authors where the book tours come to him.


October 9, Life Options Pittsburgh (“Crayons!”)

Oct. 10, Riverstone Bookstore, McCandless Crossings, Pittsburgh (North Hills), 7 pm

Oct. 11-13, Ft. Ligonier Days, Second Chapter Books, Ligonier

Oct. 26, Jeannette Public Library, 1 pm

Oct. 27, Ligonier Library, 2 pm

November 2, Greensburg-Hempfield Area Library, 2 pm

Nov. 4, Mt. Pleasant Public Library, 6 pm

Nov. 9, Vandergrift Public Library, noon

Nov. 12, Ohio Co. Public Library, Lunch w/ Authors, Wheeling, WV., noon

Nov. 14, Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce, noon, TBD
      Adams Memorial Library, Latrobe, 6 pm

Nov. 18, Murrysville Community Library, 6:30 pm

Nov. 19, New Florence Public Library, 7 pm

Nov. 22, (tentative) Barnes & Noble, Greensburg (movie debut party)

Nov. 23, Barnes & Noble, Altoona, 1 pm

Nov. 29, Tin Lizzy/Flappers Black Friday bar celebration, 7 pm

December 1, Barnes & Noble, Greensburg, 2 pm

Dec. 12, Upper St. Clair Library, 7 pm

Jan. 29, Bethel Park Library, 7 pm

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Video review says "Crayons!" makes dental drill a laugh

Just one day later and I can’t remember how I found something I will now never forget. 

Kinda sounds like a sentiment that ought to be on a floral anniversary card (Happy Day-Before 23rd Anniversary, VLR!). 

But, no, this wasn’t about anniversaries, birthdays or other hallmarks of familial importance.

This is all about smiles!

The American Dental Association recommends you see a dentist every six months. Or you could just once read “Use All The Crayon! The Colorful Guide to Simple Human Happiness.”

While the dentist is drilling your teeth.

Without Novocaine! 

That’s the YouTube testimony of certified wellness guru Deborah Edwards, who was on the Mind Body Spirit Network giving her entirely unsolicited review of the book I still believe will one day explode into the national consciousness. And if it does, it’ll be because of fans like Edwards and videos like the one I link to below (I hate to direct you elsewhere once I have your attention)

Allow me to summarize.

This was on the wellness network’s High Vibe Tribe Book Review.

Host/Founder Liz Gracia intros Edwards who begins to beam as she holds up an image of the book’s cover. She is in her Happy Place.

She talks about the book’s structure, cites some examples and says the book will brighten every life. That’s all good. Then she takes it into a realm I never imagined. And remember, a man once said me and this book cured his hangover.
“I was in the dentist chair,” she says. “I was listening to this book and my dentist is drilling in mouth — and I’m laughing! It kind of set him off a little bit. He kept going, ‘You okay?’ And I’d say, ‘Yeah. Ha! Ha!’ He finishes and says, ‘Deborah, I gotta tell you, I’m not accustomed to people laughing in my chair.’ It’s just such an enjoyable book.”

I’m watching this and it’s such a great story I begin to feel faint, like an unprincipled dentist had just given me too much nitrous oxide. 

She concludes and it’s apparent her buoyancy is contagious. Gracia is laughing. She can’t believe my book made Edwards giggle through a dental drilling. “I’m assuming,” she said, “you had novocaine.”

She did not!

And it’s all on YouTube.

So, in the last six months … 

• I’ve delivered a well-received commencement address for a local high school.

 • A popular Governor agreed to provide the foreword for my new book. Republican Tom Ridge says, “Rodell writes about Latrobe the way Sinatra sings about New York, unflinching about the gritty realities, but with abiding affection and relentless positivity about the future.”

• A dear friend who ministers at a Ligonier church based her sermon on “Use All The Crayons!” It was wonderful. Why haven’t I blogged about that heirloom honor? I believe it would be impossible for me to write about without being blasphemous. For example, “It was the best time I’ve ever had in church. I think it was cause we spent more time praising me than we did what’s His name.”

And now comes this incredible endorsement in a forum rich with opportunity.

I consider these substantial achievement and wonder …

How the heck can I guy who can boast all that be so broke?

Understand, I’m not depressed. Just confused.

I remain convinced — now more than ever — that I’m on the verge of a breakthrough that’ll fulfill the latent promise of all these misspent years, nearly three decades of cheerful dissipation.

But what if never happens?

It’ll for me be a mortal disappointment I’ll need to numb.

Good thing I now know where to find some surplus novocaine.

• Here’s the video review.

Related …

Monday, September 16, 2019

The story of the fearless windshield surfing insect of indeterminate sex & species

I didn’t notice the stowaway until I began accelerating and when I did I became so mesmerized I nearly drove off the road and straight into a tree.

Some six-legged insect had affixed itself to my windshield and was hanging on for dear life. About the size and stoutness of a kid’s tiny Tonka toy, it looked sort of like what you’d get if you mated a cockroach with a grasshopper. I gave up scanning insect mug shots when I feared I was becoming, well, all bug-eyed.

I’d just turned left out of the Tin Lizzy on my way to Giant Eagle to pick up some lunch groceries.

Was it on my windshield on purpose or by accident? Was it trying to flee an oppressive bug spouse, a real louse? Or was it old-fashioned wanderlust.

I’d be traveling 2.3 miles on Arnold Palmer Drive past Arnold Palmer’s home, office, golf club and enough other Palmer-named landmarks to have me again wondering why we just don’t change the town name to Palmerville.

If the bug was enjoying the scenic ride it didn’t show.

Maybe it was a Nicklaus fan.

I say “it” because I was also unable to determine if it was a male or female. If it had a gender-defining penis — or penises; logically one per each pair of legs — they were so microscopic it was a don’t ask/don’t tell situation.

While we’re on the subject, cockroaches are to literalists like me almost as poorly named as the titmouse, which disappoints on every level.

I was amazed at its ability to stay stuck to the windshield of a car going nearly 40 mph. Each of its six feet were no bigger than a period on a page. How is that possible?

Maybe it had been walking on gum and gotten its feet really sticky.

I tried to divine what was in its heart. Was it sad? Carefree? Do bugs even have hearts? 

Life without a heart or a penis would be a real drag, but that’s from a purely male perspective.

So I make it all the way to Giant Eagle and the bug hasn’t budged. I shopped hurriedly to see if it’s still there or has maybe while I was waiting for chipped ham learned to communicate and convey its intent, kind of like the namesake spider in “Charlotte’s Web.”

I decide if it’s still there I will make every effort return it to its approximate homestead. I envision a homecoming scene where this bug and its equally weird-looking family have this homecoming like it’s the Biblical return of the prodigal son.

And if it’s gone I’ll just try to stop obsessing because, c’mon, it’s just a stupid bug.

It’s still there! Hasn’t moved even a hair.

I begin to race back, which is good, because I all of a sudden have a furniture truck with an impatient driver right on my rear.

My plan is give the bug a jiffy jolt of wiper fluid to gently dislodge it from its impossibly smooth perch. Thus startled, it’ll look back at me and I’ll point to the safety of the sidewalk.

Here’s what happened:

He clung so steadfastly to the windshield I started to get pissed and really blasted the wiper fluid. The fire hosing finally severed its bond and caused it to cartwheel and begin to wildly flap its wings. It rolled over the roof and smashed — SPLAT!— right into the windshield of the furniture truck.

I could tell it was a direct hit by the brilliant arc it made when the annoyed driver used his wipers to try and vacate the stain.

A grand adventure that began with a remarkable feat on one windshield ended with a smear on another.

And now who gives a shit?

Besides, I mean, your basic dung beetle, but that goes without saying. 

Related …

Monday, September 9, 2019

Thoughts on this blog being named 32nd best Amish blog in the world

It happened almost exactly as I’m about to tell and even if it didn’t I’d have for story purposes pretended that it did so the point is moot.

The particulars are unimportant, but Val and I were butting heads over a local bulk grocery store run by a fundamentalist religious sect.

That description usually implies dour dispositions and doomsday rapture dates occurring at least once every calendar year.

But the people at Lapp’s are nothing like that. They all smile, are courteous and run the store with such cheerful efficiency I can only pity the supervisor tasked with selecting the employee of the month. They’re all deserving.

So Val contends they are Mennonites. I say with conviction they are Amish. My smug assurances leads her right into my little trap.

“And what makes you such an expert?”

She’s pitched the slugger what baseball announcers call a hanging curve.

“What makes me such an expert?” I thunder. “Let me tell you: I’m the author of the 32nd best blog for Amish people on the whole flat earth!”

And that’s an assumption. For all I know, the Amish believe earth is cubic. Despite the honor, my working knowledge of Amish practices is next to nothing.

It’s right here at this Feedspot list headlined “Top 50 Blogs and websites for Amish Readers.

I’m no. 32.

For perspective, the Top 4 listed are in order: “Amish Wisdom Beyond the Bonnets,” “Amish America,” “Ohio’s Amish Country,” and “The Amish Catholic.”

The titles make them all seem worthy and earnest blogs devoted to spreading awareness and understanding of these curious people.

I didn’t bother to check, but it’s a safe bet none of these Amish-centric blogs have a post like this one about how the giant dildo got stuck in my head.

Has me thinking the folks who chose this blog as one of the top 50 blogs for Amish readers declined to actually bother to read the blog. And I am once again reminded what a bone-headed idea it was to call this, “Eight Days To Amish.”

Why 8Days2Amish?

It stems from my days at The Pond when I was for $30 a month cherrypicking wifi off my apartment neighbor. He moved out and took his wifi with him. Well, $60 a month was too much for me so I decided to go without. Being too broke to afford internet was a blow to my self esteem. I wondered what would come next.

“Would I trade my kids for cattle? Start churning my own butter? Why I’m practically eight days to Amish.”

Could it be any more misleadingly nichey?

I wonder if I’d be more successful had I appealed to patriotism with, say, “Eight Days to Freedom!”

Or leisure: “Eight Days to Beer!”

Or a crafty hybrid: “Eight Days to Free Beer!”

I’m instead 11 years into this pointless blogging gig and wondering if I’ll be invited to an awards banquet where the gobs and shoo-fly pie are pretty much guaranteed to outnumber the complimentary hookers.

And I feel bad for two people.

The first is that kid who’s thirsting for spiritual solace.

Scientology has too many Hollywood glitter shitters. He doesn’t have the pipes to sing with the Baptists. And the snake handlers service conflicts with dart night down at the local tavern.

He needs religion. He needs it fast.

He finds my blog is the 32nd best Amish blog in the world and, hey, it hints he can become Amish in just eight days.

He reads the blog and becomes enraged. It has nothing to do with becoming Amish.

In the end he doesn’t go Lutheran. He doesn’t go Catholic.

He goes to Hell!

The other guy for whom I feel bad?

It’s the guy who actually writes about the Amish because he believes it is the way to assured salvation. He puts his heart and soul into the blog. He’s told he’s being considered for inclusion on the prestigious Top 50 best Amish blogs list and that could mean a significant boost in his profile and income.

And then he’s told — bummer — he came in at No. 51.

Related …

Friday, September 6, 2019

When homesickness hits home

I still remember the departure like it was yesterday.

It was around this time in 1981. I was leaving for my freshman year at Ohio University. My parents were about to experience their first night as empty nesters. 

My buddy’s car had been packed, gassed up, ready to roll. I climbed in and took one last look at the folks, two of the best, most-loving parents any boy could ever hope to have.

They were bawling!

Did I pause to comfort or reassure?

An unfeeling little bastard even then, I told my buddy to floor it. I distinctly remember thinking, “This is the greatest day of my life!”

And it was. The shackles were off. I was embarking on a time of discovery, self-fulfillment and unbroken pursuit of simple human happiness — what kids today call a “gap year.”

Mine’s been a gap life.

Last week the shoe was on the other foot. We took Josie to Saint Vincent where she is studying history. 

If you’re unfamiliar, Saint Vincent is about 4 miles from our home. When the leaves descend we’ll be able to see her dorm room from our back porch.

If you think that’s idyllic, you’re mistaken.

For a sweet girl whose most indelible impression is sunny poise, that little dorm room might as well be on Pluto.

She’s feeling homesick while barely leaving home.

Has it ever happened to you? Ever felt that forlornness over the recollection of something that once was and may never be again?

Homesickness is maybe our most poignant emotion.

It’s indicative of heartfelt appreciation for where you’ve been and uncertainty it can be duplicated anyplace else.

I wish I could assure it can and it will.

Ah, life, so full of sweet soulful suffering.

I asked my older brother if he ever felt homesick in Athens. He began attending there in ’79 and the great times I had visiting him assured I’d go there. Never even considered any place else.

To my surprise, this popular accomplished leader — a bartender and ladies’ man — had been homesick. He felt marooned, out of  place, in over his head.

How did he get through it?

He summoned the world’s greatest drinking buddy.

He summoned Dad!

There’s never been a man better suited for that kind rescue mission — cheering up a sad son in a midwestern college with a party school reputation. I close my eyes and can see it now …

“Rachel, the boy needs me in Athens. He’s homesick. I figure I’ll be back in 2 years. That’s a long time, I know, but I think anyone who stays in Athens that long is automatically handed an Inter-personal Communication degree."

I’ve had some well-meaning friends suggest it’ll be to her long-term benefit for us to tell her to tough it out, to in essence change the locks.

To them I respond with, depending on our degree of friendship, varying levels of caustic profanity.

No matter what they teach her at Saint Vincent, she’ll never be in a position of having to lead troops into battle.

She doesn’t need to be tough. She doesn’t need to be calloused. 

She needs to be happy.

That’s Rule No. 1.

I advise her if she starts feeling sad, she can always come home. 

Come home for dinner. Come home for lunch. If you’re in your dorm and you see some particularly entertaining lunatic on “The Price Is Right,” come home and we’ll watch the “Showcase Showdown” together.

Come on down!

The mindset mirrors the musical advice a loving father gives his daughter in the peerless Alan Jackson 2015 song called coincidentally, I guess, “You Can Always Come Home.”

It says, yes, by all means pursue your dreams, find your own path, but if you stumble or lose your way, darlin’, you can always come home.

Homesickness is an interesting word that means the opposite of what it describes.  

I’ve made many mistakes in my life, but today I’m proud to say I raised a child who’s homesick rather than one who’s sick of home.

Many of us are today saying prayers for those left homeless in Alabama, the Bahamas and other places devastated by Hurricane Dorian.

It’s petty, I know, but I’m including prayers that God will provide solace to all those freshman who are struggling to fit in until their hearts catch up with their ambitions..

Related …