Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March Tweets of the Month (Covfefe!)

This is the 10th original blog post since the Covid-19 catalyst really demanded all our attention. The 10th, in fact, since March 12, prior to which I had never even typed the word and was likely to have confused it with Covfefe-22. And 10 is the most in any month of blogging since May 17. Lesson:
The virus may kill millions, but it’s revived “Eight Days to Amish!”

Tweets of the month from

The picture? It was from a ’15 Vegas press junket to Strip Gun Club. I remain flabbergasted I was around all those lethal weapons and all that ammo and couldn’t find one person who didn’t deserve killing.

Also, please understand this blog and my books are commerce masquerading as carefree fun. Any donations or book purchases will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

• If I were a true believer in the inevitability of the zombie apocalypse, I'd take the utmost care in selecting my daily footwear. A quality shoe is in so many ways beneficial to your typical walker. Never hurts to be stylish either!

• I wonder if any of the forward-thinkers at PETA have game-planned a pro-active position paper anticipating Jurassic scenarios where the organization defends the dinosaur's absolute right to roam free in the cities and the countrysides.

• Researchers point out coronavirus disproportionately afflicting Fox News demographic. I wonder what the reaction of Fox News hosts will be if researchers declare watching Fox News CAUSES Corona Virus.

• If Jeremiah was, indeed, a bullfrog, who drove him to the liquor store to get his mighty fine wine? So much of the story remains untold.

• It infuriates me when I realize I'm 57 and my idea of a really great day is one that involves me finding a quarter. 

• Need something to read while self-quarantining? Social-distancing book special! All books $15 -- plus free shipping continental US! Read all about people being social until you can be social again, too! 

• The word quarantine refers to a period of time spent in isolation to determine healthfulness. It has been in use since the 15th century. The word Qur'antine refers to a period of isolation spent converting to Islam. It's been in use for about a minute.

• The trouble with most conspiracy theories is that while they make you feel smart they're simultaneously making you look dumb.

• It’s heartening to see so many people being kind, encouraging and working toward shared goals. The pity is it always takes the world coming apart to bring people together.

• To save humanity, The Greatest Generation was tasked to go overseas and spill blood to fight tyrannical fascism. Today, our generations in order to save humanity, are being tasked to stay at home and binge watch Netflix. I'm perfectly fine with that.

• I’m surprised by how many people who seem to think if they disparage #COVID19 loudly and brashly enough, they need not fear it. People, it's a germ. You can't hurt its feelings.

• If they gave the death sentence for killing time could you live forever? 

• Podiatrists with empty appointment calendars are light on their feet.

• How will you feel if you avoid #COVID2019 and live to be 103 and get to heaven and find all the good parking spaces have been taken?

• My greatest fear is that the only "sport" contested all summer involves excessive hot dog consumption and that by then I’ll be so bereft I’ll actually give a damn ... Well, that's not my greatest fear. But it's in the Top 500!

• I guess I can understand the rationale, but it's still jarring. Wikipedia lists Charles Manson's occupation as "singer-songwriter" and he is thus in their eyes professional peers with Taylor Swift.

• I’m amazed to learn germs can jump nearly 6 feet. This would be remarkable if germs had legs. But they do not. How do they do it? Six feet! It would be like me broad jumping from here and landing in Denver. ESPN ought to organize germ olympics. I'd watch.

• Irony of living in these uncertain times is how so much uncertainty could produce so many who are absolutely certain they're never wrong

• Reading newspapers on-line is to reading actual newspapers what phone sex is to actual lovemaking. Gone is the soul, the serendipity and chance to get your hands good and dirty during the touchy endeavor.

• People are critical of hoarders and those trying to make an indecent profit off their stash, but to me it makes perfect sense. The biggest assholes are always going to need the most toilet paper.

• I’m amazed that weeks into this crisis and many partisans still think Coronavirus has a scoreboard with tallies for Republicans and Democrats.

Monday, March 30, 2020

TP art in a time of TP hoarding

I believe most people use toilet paper without ever devoting even a minute of thought to the men and women who make toilet paper.

I think that stinks — and I’m talking about thoughtlessness, not the reason behind the need for TP.

Not me.

I think about them often.

I wonder if they’re coy about telling strangers how they earn their daily bread. Like do they say they’re bakers or florists.

Me, I think I’d try and glamorize it.

Bar stranger: “I work in a bank. What do you do?”

Me: “I’m a superhero. I wipe out assholes!”

I’m most curious about the people who work in the toilet paper art department

Never noticed the art? Look carefully. Most every name brand roll has a decorative imprint on it. It may be flowers, patterns or simple grids. And for every one some young go-getter was tasked to bring some soulful creativity to the job.

TP Boss: “Johnnie, I want you to summon your inner Michelangelo and come up with a pattern that’ll really move our customers after their bowels have been really moving. Something playful and warm. I want to see some samples by 5 o’clock.”

Maybe Johnnie has always dreamed of being an artist. Maybe he thinks this is his big chance. And maybe he’s crushed when the boss says, “Sorry, Johnnie, but we’re going to go with the paisley number that Johnnie came up with.”

(I imagine every guy who works at TP factory is named Johnnie).

Hamburg-based Turkish toilet paper artist Sakir Gkebag — and try fitting that and a studio  address on a business card — uses toilet paper as his medium. He
says he seeks to “find the poetry in the everyday.” He uses — some would say misuses — hundreds of rolls of toilet paper to create his whimsical works.

I imagine his Hamburg studio is today being guarded like Fort Knox. And, guaranteed, the name Sakir Gkebag will pop unkindly in my head next time I’m low on paper and we’ve just returned from a family meal at the local Don Patron.

Toilet paper is, as it turns out, yet another reminder of how our innovations have made us softer than our predecessors. 

Not only would they ridicule our panic toilet paper hoarding, they’d advise us that just about any object would do for a scrape in a pinch. 

Ancient Romans in their communal lavatories used to use a sponge on a stick, which they would pass on to their neighboring squatter.

The notion and given what I know about skid marks it makes me question the Caesarian wisdom of making all the togas from white cloth.

It wasn’t long ago that those answering nature’s call would use leaves, corn cobs, moss — even sea shells:

Young boy: “Hey Nana! It sounds like the ocean in this sea shell.”

Nana: “And it smells like Carson Street after the bars close!”

I gleaned these insights from this revealing Washington Post Ronald Blumer article. Blumer is the author of, “Wiped: “The Curious History of Toilet Paper.”

He says there’s no need to hoard, that TP is a locally grown and processed product that rakes in $2.5 billion each year. You could say it’s on a roll.

“We shall have many problems in the coming months, but a shortage of this ‘greatest necessity of the age’ is not something we have to worry about,” Blumer says.

As we conclude for the day, my thoughts keep returning to the fable of Johnny and his nemesis, also Johnny.

For clarity, I should maybe dub them Johnnie No. 1 and Johnnie No. 2, but given we’re talking about bodily functions, it might only further confuse.

One is bound to be disappointed.

Bummed out, even.

The other will be happy. Bummed in, I guess you could say.

I’d hope Johnnie wouldn’t let it go to his head. 

Of course, even the winning Johnnie must come to terms that most people will ignore his creative labors and use it to wipe their asses.

When it comes to toilet paper art, truly everyones a critic in the end, which I guess makes sense because eventually all TP winds up in the end.


Friday, March 27, 2020

Cracks in my invincibilities

I confess now to the conceit that I once felt certain I was going to survive to a ripe old age. 

In fact, when I turned 50 and was asked to include my age on any application, I would write “050,” so confident was I of triple-digit longevity.

And there were times, yes, when I with swelled-head would think I was destined to surpass even 100 years. Say, 105? 110?

No. I was thinking 501.

That, I was sure, would give me all the time I’d need to wring all the fun there was to be had in this wonderful life. 

Now, I wonder if I can make it to next Tuesday.

I will. You will, too. But after lives of so much swagger and gusto it’s odd to feel so vincible.

Have you ever heard that word before? I had not. But I suspected its existence because the French word “invincible” includes the obvious prefix. If insane is the opposite of sane then it stands to reason for every “invincible” — “That which cannot be vanquished, overcome, or subdued; unconquerable” — there’d be a vincible.

Think spring breakers ignoring pandemic-spread guideline restrictions.

Used in a sentence: “Major League Baseball has postponed the season so it may be months before we learn just how vincible the Pittsburgh Pirates really are.”

Really, it’s a nifty word. It’s just one I never believed would apply to me and the whole human race.

I always believed if anything was going to wipe out the human race it would be the human race. There’s a cockeyed comfort to the mindset.

So I was at peace I could at any moment die at the hands of Islamic terrorists, attention-seeking White Supremacists, an impatient roadrager or any garden-variety nuclear oops.

Now, I feel resentful to have overcome so many existential threats only to find myself cowering before a germ.

And our war weapons against this foe — soap & water, social distancing — don’t inspire. They belittle.

I’ve joked that this is the longest I’ve been sober since the 4th grade, but the essence is correct. A friendly tavern has always been my native habitat.

It’s a cruel fate that the things we need to get through any crisis — a friendly handshake, a reassuring hug — are the very things that could fuel the worsening of this one.

I saw a friend the other day. He was on an essential road crew and I was out for a walk. We spoke from across the recommended 6-foot gulf.

“I never realized how dull my life was until I had to stop going to bars and stay in with my family,” he said, laughing but not joking. “I heard  some are saying this could last 18 months. In that time, my wife could divorce me. I could find and marry another woman, wear out my welcome with her and out of pity wind up back with my original wife.

“And there’d be no one to tell the story.”

I love the time I spend with my family, but I’m missing all the time I’d spend at the bars.

I miss my friends, I miss friendly strangers, and I miss the absorbing weirdos who’d spill out wonderfully human stories of incarceration or recklessness when I’d ask them what they’d been up to. 

I miss going to ethnic restaurants, book stores, movie theaters and I miss hearing an audience crack up at one of my book talks.

I miss when people didn’t post on FB that they’d just found some TP with the same euphoria that they used to announce raffle winnings.

I miss when I didn’t wake up feeling so goddamned vincible.

I texted a friend the other day and asked his prediction as to when he believed we convivial people would rise again.

He texted back a single word.


Really, I’m not afraid of Covid-19 or any of the other things that could slay me.

I don’t fear dying.

I fear dying of boredom.

Related …

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Space Station 'nauts could repopulate planet

At times like these, the native optimist in me is at war with my inner doomsday realist, the one who senses an existential threat.

It looks like in order to keep the economy humming, many people are willing to risk the continuity of the species. I find the idea of a whimsically imposed  Easter deadline ludicrous, especially when our best experts predict by Easter our major cities will be seeing long lines of dead.

I used to trust in the Biblical balm of Matthew 5:3 that states “the meek shall inherit the Earth.”

It’s a lovely sentiment because it automatically seems to rule out obnoxious talk show hosts and their guests. But  the rise of social media reveals a more obvious flaw in the declaration. 

There are no meek left! I know a few folks who can be described as demure, coy, and refined — and you’re all reading my blog. You’re sexy, too!

Just not meek.

So who will inherit the earth?

Their names are Andrew Morgan, Oleg Skripochka and Jessica Meir.

Or as I call them Adam, Adam and Eve.

They are currently the only earthlings not on earth. Commercial flights (already infected) don’t count.

The trio have been manning the International Space Station since prior to the advent of the coronavirus.

It’s a stupendous failure of marketing that we know nothing about these highly accomplished individuals (all white) who appear so rigidly straight arrow the odds of them having ever told a fart joke, much less farted, are astronomical.

But for them what isn’t?

On paper at least, this is an impressive trio.

Morgan, 44, is a Morgantown native who now considers New Castle home. A West Point grad, he is an MD with a specialty in sports medicine. He’s served with the special forces and has four children.

Skripochka, 50, is a Russian cosmonaut and a recipient of the Hero of the Russian Federation. That may be impressive or it may be one of those fraudulent honors Putin gives away like candy. Trump maybe has a drawer full of ‘em.

One interesting fact about Skripochka. In 2010 — and this was all unofficial — he while on a spacewalk slipped from an unsecured tether and began drifting to certain annihilation in the great black yonder. Miraculously, he bounced off an antenna and was able to grasp a fortuitously positioned hand railing before drifting off to a grisly demise.

That brings us to Meir, 42, of Caribou, Maine, and to me the most impressive of the crew. Not only is she an astronaut, she’s a marine biologist, a physiologist and a Harvard professor of anesthesia. Her bio says she studied diving habits of emperor penguins in Antarctica and migratory patterns of bar-headed geese over the Himalayas.

One possible complication to her assuming the role of Eve v. 2.0. 

She’s never been married. She’s, perhaps, a lesbian, which would be an inconvenience to say the least for any woman with a mortal duty to repopulate the planet.

More likely, she’s never found a man her equal. I don’t doubt it. I’ve sat next to men in bars nearly my whole life and if I had a choice between studying your typical male in a bar or, say, a bar-headed goose, I’d pick the bird.

Imagine the head start humanity will get with a gene pool seeded by these three achievers. You might be dismayed that Skripochka, a man who forgot to secure his own lifeline, is one-third of humanity’s future, but I hate to think of a future that didn’t include for purposes of levity some Three Stooges elements.

I doubt you’ll hear about it, but some ISS drama may soon take place.

Morgan, Skripochka and Meir are due to be replaced by a new (tainted) crew in just a few weeks.

What if they refuse to answer the door when the replacements knock?

That’s what I’d do. Yes, I’d  slide the little chain over the door, shut out the lights and just pretend no one was home.

In space, no one can hear you ring the doorbell.

It’ll make a great movie.

I’d cast Viggo Mortensen as Morgan because we love him in “Captain Fantastic;” Ana de Armas as Meir because we love her in “Knives Out;” and I’d cast Kevin Spacey to play Skripochka.

Why him?

Despite his recent troubles, I think any movie about space ought to have at least a little Spacey.

Related …

Monday, March 23, 2020

"Moby Dick," Melville & me

I try and read “Moby Dick” every five years or so because I find I discover something new every time.

For instance: I just realized the only character in “Moby Dick” with a proper first and last name is Moby Dick. The rest — Ishmael, Ahab, Starbuck, Flask, Stubb, Pip, Queequeg, etc — have only one name.

Another Did You Know? The world’s most popular coffee chain was nearly named after Capt. Ahab’s accursed vessel, but marketing strategists opined people might be reluctant to pay $5.50 for a latte from a place whose name is pronounced “PEE-quod.”

Hence, Starbucks.

It’s trivia like this that led me to conjure what is, to me, one of my best lines:

“If fans of the band The Grateful Dead are called Deadheads, what does that make those of us who revere the book ‘Moby Dick?’”

I find a way to work that one into nearly everyone of my talks. It always gets a surprised burst of laughter. It’s kind of an inside joke everyone can get so everyone who hears it feels a little smarter.

I feel a cruel sort of kinship to author Herman Melville. It’s easy to peg us both as colossal bottom-line failures.

In fact, Melville’s enduring masterpiece, “Moby Dick,” was judged such a flop he ceased writing novels and spent the remainder of his life as a customs house agent. I don’t know what that is, but I’ll wager the duty doesn’t require a stunt double.

And a flop it was.

One 1851 release review said: “The style of his tale is in places disfigured by mad (rather than bad) English; and its catastrophe is hastily, weakly, and obscurely managed.”

Another wrote: “Ahab's long soliloquies induce weariness or skipping,” which is true, by the way. I often skip dozens of pages at a time, but, ouch.

A PBS feature on Melville says it wasn’t until 30 years after his 1891 death — he was 71 — that critics and readers began to appreciate him and that by the 1940s, Americans at last recognized his genius.

Would I accept that swap, everlasting posthumous glory following a life of fret and woe over every measly cent?

Call him Ishmael.

Call me ChecksInTheMail.

I wonder if he, like me, contemplated dubious measures to secure fame or at least respectful acknowledgement when simply doing good work didn’t work.

It’s why I intend on naming my next book, “A New York Times Best Seller.” That way if any one ever asks, so, have you ever written a New York Times best seller? I can say, yes, in fact I did. In 2020 I wrote “A New York Times Best Seller.”

Financial stability, you see, is my great white whale. I, its Ahab. 

Among the slew of painful cancellations imposed by COVID-19 precautions were two high school career days. I’m disappointed because I love doing these. Understand, I’d never mislead a child considering his or her life path.

It’s why I always ask the students two questions. The first is who wants to be a writer? In any group of 20, a handful of, well, hands raise (I think about half are just being polite).

Then I ask my second question: “Now, who wants to be rich!”

Every single hand shoots up, including all the teachers.

“Want to become rich? Become a writer like me,” I say.

Then I spend the next 20 or so minutes regaling the students about the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done, etc.

“Truly,” I tell them, “I’m one of the richest men you’ve ever met. And it’s all thanks to being a writer.”

I truly believe that.

And I vow to continue believing it. Heck, I’m convinced my next book will be a New York Times best seller — and won’t that be swell!

Some of this may sound preposterous, like crazy talk from a guy who should bail on his dreams and put in an application down at the customs house.

But what do you expect from a stubborn old dickhead like me?

Friday, March 20, 2020

World going to hell & all I wanted was a Cadbury Egg

Many frontline medical men and women are risking their lives to save total strangers.

Today, I risked my life because I was craving one of those Cadbury eggs.

Chocolate shell, creamy filling, I just love ‘em. How much? The day chickens start laying Cadbury eggs is the day I vow I’ll become a chicken farmer

The coronavirus crisis is challenging us all to differentiate between wants and needs.

For instance, I didn’t want to put air in my tires, but the “low tire air pressure” snitch light was on and I figured I needed to.

So this morning I drove the 0.06 miles between my office and Sheetz, the near-ubiquitous convenience mart that sells pretty much everything except sheets. I tried to think how I could maximize my time spent in the danger zone.

Did I need batteries? Milk? Bread? Another 100 yards of abrasive TP?

I did not. So I wouldn’t have to enter the store. This was reassuring because we all now know how a deliberate mingle with potential carriers can get you killed.

Still, some carefree part of my brain signaled, psst, you know Cadbury eggs are right there by the register and you love Cadbury eggs.

But what if someone saw me? What if someone took a picture on buying candy as the world was going into lockdown? Would someone candy shame me on Facebook?

I thought of a dozen common sense arguments Dr. Anthony Fauci would make against the purchase.

But the craving was intense.

A big part of my concerns is that the COVID-19 germ has in my eyes achieved mythic status. It’s the uber-virus. It’s bent on world domination. It will wipe out anything that gets in its way. It’s behaving like a Fascist European nation did in 1939.

That nation’s name? It’s pronounced GERM-a-nee.

Let’s just assume that’s a coincidence.

I remain stunned that we need to keep six feet between us or the germ can leap from an infected carrier to a healthy innocent.

It boggles the mind.

First of all, why would it risk leaving any host that still had a heartbeat? It’s not only impractical, it’s downright rude.

More fearsome to me is the idea that these germs can launch off one person and land on another 4- to 5-feet away.

Chart it to scale and it’d be like me broad jumping from Latrobe and sticking the landing in Denver.

For cryin’ out loud, they don’t even have legs, much less wings.

We’re entering an interesting phase of the crisis. Even the skeptics are becoming convinced this is, duh, something serious. And you’re starting to see predictable social media spats between people who disagree on the best way to flatten the curve.

The whole “judge-not-lest-ye-be-judged” mindset is the second thing to go in a crisis. 

The first?

Toilet paper!

People are critical of hoarders and those trying to make an indecent profit off their stash, but to me it makes perfect sense.

The biggest assholes are always going to need the most toilet paper.

I apologize for that. We’re all under a lot of stress.

I wonder if my jocular tone might dismay some of you who’d conclude I just don’t get it, that writing about candy when the whole world is going to hell demeans so much suffering.

But I have to be honest and right then at that moment I wanted nothing on Earth more than that sweet confection. 

Does the confession make me a scoundrel? A lout? Maybe, say, a cad?

Or am I sugar-coating it? Will steadfast readers depart? Could this bury me?

Did I lay an egg?





Geez, it’s like I’ve lost all perspective.

Maybe it’s just a coping mechanism. 

Or maybe it’s a case of wanting something really bad so for at least a moment you forget about getting something really bad nobody wants.