Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tweets of the Month

I’m friends with about a dozen guys who if they were to die of coronavirus would gladly have engraved on their tombstones, "I STILL say it's a hoax!”

• How many of you could stand living in a world where workers we now deem essential earn what you earn and you what they? As a writer who earns squat I exempt myself from the question. 

• How many of you would take a pill that would prevent coronavirus but had one side effect: It would completely & emphatically change your opinion on Trump. That is, if you love him, you'd now viscerally & vocally detest him. And vice versa. I'll bet most of you couldn't do it.

• How unsettling will it be to your faith if Jesus returns Sunday, but he's wearing one of those HAZ-MAT suits?

• I think we're fast approaching a day where safe sex is all safe and no sex.

• I always chuckle at the inaccuracy when I hear people say the world can be cruel. Sillies, the Earth is inanimate and does not have emotions so Earth is never cruel. Earth is indifferent. Now Earthlings …

• And while we're at it, how come we're Earthlings instead of Earthians, ala Martians. I know of no equivalent. No Pittsburgherlings. No Frenchlings. Earthling sounds like the name for a captivity-bred panda

• A 2- to 3- percent mortality sacrifice to preserve the economy is acceptable to me as long as I can be assured the toll doesn't include anyone I love, anyone I like, none of my favorite bartenders, Ray Wylie Hubbard, me or you. The rest of yinz? Been nice knowin' ya ...

• There’s something so unnerving about being engaged in a life-and-death struggle against an enemy our soldiers can't confuse or infuriate with a well-timed moon.

• I’m rigorous about my social distancing while never criticizing people who're casual about it. Still seems rude to me. I say this while acknowledging infecting me with coronavirus would be the height of rudeness.

• I’m going to install a trampoline in the bathroom so when I announce I'm going to jump in the shower I can really -- oh, just forget it!

• Some projections maintain coronavirus self-quarantine could last another interminable 18 month. Months, days & endless hour after endless hour ... still not enough time to make me ever want to sit through "The Irishman" again.

• Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. How come something collectively referred to as "The Seven Deadly Sins" simultaneously check all the boxes for one really lively party.

• I refuse to be swept up in cynicism. I believe our best days remain ahead of us. The arts will flourish. Poverty and injustice will be vanquished & humans will enjoy an era were reason prevails. There will still be conflict, but in the future our wars will be fought with farts.

• I try and see the reason behind decisions I don't understand and believe even in divisive issues people with whom I disagree are acting in good faith. But when I hear someone - anyone - prefers regular Oreos over Double Stuf, I'm like, "What are you? Some kind of #%&*! idiot?”

• I’m buoyed by the fact that given our access to social media, prop pets/babies and our innate creativity then if we're destined to slide into another depression future historians will dub this The Cheerful Depression.

• Wonder if guys in heaven talk about earth bodies the way they talk about old cars: "It was bald, had a great big ass, tiny li’l pecker but, man, the thing got great mileage.”

• My desire to live a long time is at odds with my eagerness to donate all my still-healthy organs to needy less fortunates.

• We live in a time when being right or being wrong matters less than always having someone to blame when it all goes to hell. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Romancing the shoe; arch comments on footwear

I don’t recall the instigation for the research, but the result stuck with me:

Man, the only animal to spend 80 percent of its entire day either in bed or on its ass, is the only one to feel the need to pay lavish amounts for footwear.

How much?

Consumer websites calculate the amount is $79.9 billion.

That’s just here in America, a land that’s mostly been paved and landscaped for at least 100 years; $79.9 billion! 

For some perspective, Americans in 2019 spent $119 billion on beer and $36 billion on chicken wings. Both substantial sums, sure, but beer and wings are essential to human existence. Whether we’ll perish without either one or the other is an experiment of which I want no part.

But could you live without shoes (not to mention podiatrists, chiropractors or Dr. Scholl’s corn, callus and bunion relief pads)?

Your hairier ancestors did. Anthropologists estimate humans did not begin wearing shoes until just 40,000 years ago.

I say “just” because we’ve been walking upright for roughly six million years. The key word here is roughly.

Imagine strolling barefoot through the Jurassic wilderness. There’d be jagged rock formations, knife-like sawgrass, hot magma and for as far as the eye could see huge steamy stacks of gooey stegosaurus poop. I’ve seen no evidence of it, but I have to imagine there were ample cave drawings advising people to please wipe their feet before entering. 

Now imagine — not strolling through that hostile landscape — but running for your very life. Imagine being chased by a hungry T-Rex determined to convert you into a steaming pile of dino doo-doo.

I don’t know whether early man was capable of coherent thought, but I have to imagine the last thought of many forlorn cavemen went something like: “Boy has this day sucked. Not a wink of sleep. That egg I was going to have for breakfast hatched and walked away and the missus is still sore at me for not wiping my feet.”

I keep coming back to this because on some things I feel a kinship to cavemen.

“Now I’ve got to outrun this dinosaur or miss bowling night with Barney. Oh, well. Bare-feets don’t fail me now!”

I find it impossible to channel cavemen without lapsing into recollections of Fred Flintstone.

When you think of it in those terms, the shoe was our most essential innovation, much more so than the wheel, which didn’t roll onto the scene until about 3500 BC.

Quick point: I wonder how many hundreds of years it took to follow-up the invention of the wheel with the necessary invention of the axle and if, prior to that, even a single caveman became adept at the unicycle. I imagine a caveman on a unicycle would have done well on a prehistoric version of “Cavemen Got Talent.”

I guess this has all been on my mind lately because of something even more absurd, more preposterous, than the fact that man — oh my and, yes, women — is spending $93 billion on footwear each year.

And that is the fact that I’ve become an enthusiastic part of it.

Yes, me, a 57-year-old self-quarantining man who can go days without a soul seeing his soles, enjoys splurging on fancy shoes. I’ve spent over $850 on shoes in the past 18 months. (The above are brand new Johnston & Murphy Wagner Cap Toes, originally $164, but I shrewdly waited for the inevitable sale and got ‘em for $44 or just $4.40 per toe. Sweet!)

Prior to this binge, I probably hadn’t spent a total of $850 on shoes in 20 years, most of that on what are for marketing purposes are called athletic shoes or what I now call utility shoes. Put me in a $200 pair of Air Jordans and the only way I’d be capable of doing anything remotely athletic was if Michael Jordan let me ride around atop his shoulders.
Even more preposterous than the expense is that the odds are increasing that within five years I’ll be eligible for handicapped parking privileges. Thus are the eventualities of having Parkinson’s Disease, with which I was diagnosed in Feb. 2018 or about the time I began scanning Allen Edmonds, J & M, Beckett & Simonon and other websites devoted to quality shoes.

I’ll leave it to the pop psychiatrists to pore over that coincidental timing.

So as the world slides whoopsie-daisy into a second Great Depression, a man with no job, decreasing mobility and a bleak future is spending hundreds of dollars on fancy footwear few will ever see.

By God, I make Fred Flintstone look by comparison like a genius.

But I’m finding after years of indifference that when the feet are happy the rest of the body can’t help but tag along.

Another oddity: My shoe infatuation has me considering a career change. I’m thinking about becoming —- brace yourself — a …

Shoe shine boy!

This occurred to me yesterday afternoon, which I spent polishing and waxing my shoes as a vital part of caring for and extending the life of my stylish investment.

With the air perfumed with saddle soap, polish and warm carnauba wax, discouraged from leaving the house, it dawned on me how I, a man with unreliable balance and a pronounced limp, had stumbled into a most satisfying hobby.

I thought, you know there’s probably a lot of men with nice shoes who’ll pay $12 to ensure their shoes maintain their heavenly shimmer. Get in touch if you’re interested.

This sounds more promising than the other job I was contemplating; that being — I hope you’re still braced —

Census taker!

Because all this wild talk of me seeking gainful employment is likely making you woozy, let me be realistic. This is likely the the first step in a journey that will lead to an interesting book. I’ve enjoyed immersion world history books on seemingly mundane topics like salt, cod and paper — and those are just the ones done by talented author Mark Kurlansky.

A light-hearted book by a man who with every step is losing the ability to walk and suddenly becomes infatuated with fancy shoes might draw some interest. Plus it would give me a chance to unload on the foot puns — and wouldn’t that be a, er, kick!

It would also give me justification for splurging on the tan Beckett & Simonon Yates Oxfords wingtips I’ve begun to covet. 

But, really, it’s difficult to right now justify. I already have six pairs of dapper shoes, ones for every occasion. And that’s optimistically assuming society will again enter a time when conditions allow for the occasional occasion.

Until then, I really don’t need more show-off shoes. My problem isn’t having too many shoes.

My problem is having too few feet!

Related …

Monday, April 20, 2020

What constant prayer can achieve

It was way back in ’08 when I first proposed that America needed a “National No-Prayer Week.”

The premise was that maybe after more than 2,000 years of fervent prayer — prayer for everything from world peace to that the floating guppie would reanimate —  maybe God had fallen behind, that maybe He could use a break. 

I wasn’t suggesting anyone stop believing in God. Just for one week quit bugging him.

This was back when I mistakenly believed I could solve all my occupational woes by crafting one big idea that would have me simultaneously hailed as either a visionary on Fox News and a heretic on CNN or vice versa.

Remember 2008? It was a time of conflict, ignorance and widespread division that fell along political and cultural divides.

Or as I call it, “The Good ol’ Days!”

But with all the global tumult, I’ve put a renewed focus on saving the human race through prayer. 

Only this time instead of suggesting we stop praying my idea is that we start praying … and NEVER stop.

It may surprise most of you, my heathen friends, but I’m a praying fool. I pray all the time, most notably at the family dinner table. It’s a role I relish because I want our daughters to know we can, in my opinion, address the Almighty in casual terms about mundane matters. 

I think we construct obstacles between ourselves and our Creator when we say our prayers with speech that feels foreign coming out of our own mouth. 

It’s why, too, I conclude prayers with things like asking God to tell Tom Petty we still miss him.

This alertness proved helpful Easter Sunday when I turned the holy communications over to the females. I did this because I’m in a bit of a prayer rut.

My prayers have become mopey and aggrieved, not like I’m addressing our deity, but like I’m complaining to the Wendy’s drive-thru manager over the dorky kid giving me a medium Coke and charging us for the Biggie.

“Dear God … Please rid the world of coronavirus, rampant injustice, poverty, petty hatreds, the tyrannical rule of Roger Goodell  and all the other punishing crap that makes being alive such sorry condition. I mean … Dear God!” 

So insolent. So disrespectful. I knew I needed a break.

So on Easter, I began my aloud prayer with, “Dear God … thank you for this food and for all this government-sanctioned family togetherness. Oh, man, our blessings in that realm sure are ample. I’ll now, Lord, turn it over to Val, Josie and Lucy who I now invite to share with you in silence their gratitudes and concerns.”

The immediate effect was peacefulness. The house was blessedly still and quiet.

Ten seconds passed. My head was bowed and my eyes were closed I suspect the girls were already beginning to exchange nervous looks.

Ten seconds is a long time to be thrown into a blind date with The Creator.

At 20 seconds, I began to wonder who’d break first. I could, by now, feel their eyes on me, waiting for me to conclude. But I had no intention of relenting. I wanted them to pray ’til Kingdom come.

Maybe God would answer their prayers.

Maybe He did because at 30 seconds Val abruptly interjected “Amen! Let’s eat.”

Who knows? Maybe Mommy’s action was exactly what they were praying for. Someday I’ll ask. 

Either way, it’s more evidence my supper table schemes are working.

The kids listen to my prayers!

I just wish I could be sure God does.

Related …

Friday, April 17, 2020

Massive book giveaway: just can't help myself

I can’t explain why I feel compelled to help total strangers when I’m incapable of even helping myself. I guess I just can’t help myself.

It’s why I’ve spent the last week lavishly signing and at my own expense mailing more than 100 copies of “Use All The Crayons!” to people I’ll never meet.

I know people are anxious, scared and could use a chuckle. So I posted this and the above picture on the popular “Across Westmoreland” Facebook page.

“Know someone who’s struggling through quarantine and could use a little soulful reinforcement? Get in touch and I’ll send them a FREE crayon-signed copy of my most popular book, “Use All The Crayons! The Colorful Guide to Simple Human Happiness.” Why free? Because it’s what I on Page 1 vowed I’d do when the book came out in 2012.”

No fine print. No restrictions. No litmus tests.

I don’t know whether recipients like or dislike Trump, if they’re cheap bastards or if they intend to use the book’s pages for when the TP stash runs out. For all I know, some could be Satan-worshipping anarchists or — worse — New England Patriot fans!

I believe when you set out to do a good deed, you should never self-regulate the impulse.

It’s not the most prudent idea, but I just can’t help myself.

I thought I’d get maybe a dozen requests.

I got 100 in two days and the giveaway has concluded.

The books? I paid for them long ago. I probably have about 400 of them up here in my office.

See there are obvious incentives to ordering large quantities of books because the more copies the print the less per-book it costs. I know writers who order in sets of 100 so they aren’t burdened by surplus.

In my steadfast belief that I’m always on the verge of a surge in interest in my books, I order mine in blocks of 1,000.

Optimism is my default mindset so I just can’t help myself.

But then something like coronavirus hits and I’m for now stuck with enough books to construct a little fort.

So the books are paid for and there are few things more useless than books in boxes. Good things happen when people read this book. So a giveaway makes promotional sense. 

But it costs $3.25 to mail one book to California. That to me is a bargain. But it costs the same amount to mail the same book to Derry. That to me is a bit much, so I usually just drive it because all that postage really adds up.

Some might suggest I ask the recipients to pony up say $5 to cover postage in order to trigger the freebie.

Never. I believe doing so would taint the whole endeavor. Maybe my ideas of altruism are too romantic, but I just can’t help myself. 

Do I sign each book? Oh, boy, do I. I use no fewer than a dozen different crayons to color five different elements. I could just sign my name and I doubt anyone would feel cheated like I do when I mail books to Derry, but I think the crayon doodles make it special so I just can’t help myself.

I seem to recall using the phrase, “These are tough times,” back when Bob Nutting raised the price of ballpark beers a quarter or two.

Now these, man, these are tough times (although I’m still pissed about the overpriced beers).

You may be like me, incapable of sewing masks or spelling nurses in frontline triage stations.

But there will always be small, simple ways to make things better for millions of people one person at a time. We each do what we can.

And I truly believe in the big picture/long run helping others helps ourselves.

It’s just what I believe in my heart and I just can’t help myself.

Related …

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Quarantine sex: Married vs. single

Ran into a younger drinking buddy while I was out strolling. From the CDC-recommended 6-foot distance he began to tell me that while, yes, it was a bit of a bummer that coronavirus has killed 120,000 so far, it has led to a happy boost in the frequency of times he’s getting laid.

Gotta love a horny man’s perspective.

“We’re screwing near ‘round the clock,” he said. “It’s like the only thing we have in common. I swear, I think she was about to break up with me and then this self-quarantine thing hit and she didn’t want to be alone. Plus, I know a guy who distributes the toilet paper at the chain drug stores and he tips me off when the truck pulls in.”

Go ahead and scoff, but I know enduring marriages built on less.

He said he was convinced from his own experience the world would surely see a coronavirus baby boom next January.

He then sought corroboration from me. He wanted to know: Had I, a 57-year-old, married father of at-home teens, experienced a similar spike in lusty couplings with the woman who’s been my bedmate since 1992?

Instead of answering truthfully, I told him I had to split and said I hoped I’d see him later. And by later I meant after he’s had kids and been married for a decade or two.

I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to you long-time marrieds but there will be no pornographic scrapbook stenciled with the title, “What Mommy & Daddy Did During The Great COVID-19 Pandemic,” coming from the Rodell house anytime soon.

I adore my family, but I confess to feelings of envy at my friend’s situation — and that’s not even counting the TP truck tipster.

The kids rule the quarantine and part of me resents them for it.

Well, two parts of me.

Yes, it’s one of life’s cruelest ironies that the natural result of carefree sex are children whose very existence seems meant to ensure you’ll never have sex again.

One of my good buddies has been married 30 years to the same still-lovely bride said they accepted a challenge to confirm their affections by having intercourse 30 consecutive days.

They bailed after just five.

“It got boring real fast,” he says. “It just felt so obligatory, like we were in the Army.”

His analogy seems apt. I know many guys in the army who felt they were always screwed.

Part of my problem might be my picky insistence on having everything the way I want.

For instance, I demand we play loud music. I maintain this insistence even though I know it would alarm the kids and bring them running to the master bedroom where they’d see something that would give them a whole new definition of alarming.

I’m one of those parents who think children should believe theirs were immaculate conceptions. It’s bound to elevate their self-esteem if their birth circumstances were the same as the Savior’s.

Worse is I’m very particular about the music cranked up during l’amour.

It must be Johnnie Cash, The Man in Black. I shout right along with Johnny.

Not tender love songs. No, give me the prison songs. To me even “Folsom Prison Blues” becomes a quarantine sort of love song …

I hear the train a comin'
It's rolling round the bend
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when.
I'm stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin' on …

And, oh, and how I enjoy it when the carnal timing works out and I get to sing …

My name is Sue!
How do you do?

I know many of you are probably thinking it’s selfish of me to dominate the music selection. Well, one time I made the mistake of letting her pick. She went and ruined the mood — not to mention my fragile ego — when she said, gee, she was for some reason all of a sudden thinking Meatloaf.

This is the point where I confess to some exaggerations in an attempt at humor.

Man, I’m lucky my wife puts up with all my crap.

Gotta give her a lot of credit.

Something tells me she’ll prefer that to Cash.

Related …

Friday, April 10, 2020

A dozen random Good Friday I-wonders

• I wonder if Jesus rolls His eyes anytime He hears we mortal sinners refer to the worst day of His entire life as Good Friday. “Good Friday? Oh, it was the best! One heck of a swell time!” I hope He’s not sarcastic. Sarcasm’d be unbecoming Savior behavior.”

• I wonder if your soul can get sent to hell for being sacrilegious on Earth. I hope not  because I’m a sacrilegious as all get out. I don’t do it to disparage friends of faith, whom I admire, but I don’t see the point of having a brain if you didn’t use it. It makes me spiritual soulmates with Thomas Jefferson who said, “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”

• I wonder if my grandfather has in his afterlife met either God or Jefferson. He had what to me is one of the great philosophical questions of all time and he said he was going to ask it to God. The question: “I know you created heaven and earth, but who or what created you?”

• I wonder if he remembers me telling him he was being presumptuous about going to heaven. What if, I said, he was sent to the other place and he was allowed to ask Satan one question. What would he ask? Quick as a whip he said, “So when’s Chris getting here?”

• I wonder who determined coronavirus should become COVID-19? I don’t know which I like least.

• I wonder how many people who are ignoring sound science and going to packed Easter Sunday services like to ridicule snake handlers as backwards morons.

• I wonder how the faithful will react if Jesus comes back on Easter but is dressed head-to-toe in military grade PPE.

• I wonder if Lazarus had any siblings and they resented him because he had two birthdays each year.

• I wonder how many of you remember this ’17 story about the Easter Sunday church service when my declining mother nearly choked to death at the altar on a communion wafer. If it’s not sacrilegious it’s at least plenty irreverent.

• I wonder if my friends think I’m being snobby by declining their zoom bull sessions. I generally detest having to talk on the phone and the idea of having to “appear” on it is even more distasteful.

• I wonder if any of you will be impressed that I researched the reason why the day we slayed the Savior is somehow “Good” Friday. Blame it on our nimble, ever-shifting language. Turns out “good” used to mean “holy,” and that, too, was before, thanks to Michael Jackson, that “bad” meant “good.”

• Lastly, I wonder if it makes me a bad person to on this holy Good Friday wish it were just a regular old Good Time Friday.