Friday, July 31, 2020

Tweets of the (last two) months!

• I’m a law-and-order guy who believes not until all the laws are equitably applied to all the people can true order ever be enforced or expected. 

• Any man who says he's his own worst critic is either single or delusional.

• With National Nude Recreation week one month away, I think it's time to issue this reminder: A game of 8-ball played by two naked men is still called 8-ball.

• I’d like to hear a canine translation of what dogs say to other dogs when they discuss how humans package food. "So she left this box of Pop Tarts on the table. I jump right up there, but the Pop Tarts are wrapped in foil that's inside pressed cardboard. I was so pissed. I mean, what do you do if you need a Pop Tart, like, right away?”

• Daughter, 14, expressed an interest in becoming a songwriter. I approved saying writing songs -- good songs --will bestow ways to cope with all life's problems. Then I disapproved because writing songs -- good songs -- has a way of bestowing all life's problems.

• I’m beginning to long for the days when what passed for coherent GOP strategy started with, "Now, let's hold on and first hear what Sarah has to say …"

• Foot Facts — The average person takes between 8,000- and 10,000 steps a day. That adds up to 115,000 miles in a lifetime — four  times the circumference of the globe. Question: if for one day we all together walked toward the rising sun, could we reverse time?

• Many are saying they're avoiding social media. Too divisive. Not me. I check it every 10 minutes to see how many more of my jackass friends used the 10-week quarantine to become constitutional scholars.

• Question: If a surgeon botches a boob job can they still call it a real bust?

The next great American spectator sport will involve people who revere Donald Trump erecting statues of Donald Trump  and trying to defend them from being destroyed by protestors who despise Donald Trump. Question: Which band or artist should be tabbed for the Bridgestone Halftime Show?

• Do you remember when your biggest concern was that some minimum wage grocery store clerk would benignly wish you Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas? Ah, the good ol' days …

• In heaven, all the cakes are angel food. Heck, when you get right down to it, in heaven even things like Cheetos are angel food.

• Proper mimes can be safe, but never sound.

Q: If they fought a battle between all the FB friends you genuinely like and all the ones you secretly don't, who'd win?
A: No one. It’s a trick question. You should genuinely like ALL your friends!

• Happy #bobbybonilladay. It was Bonilla, a Pirate in '91, who inspired one of the all-time great perspective quotes from Bucco manager Jim Leyland. Bonilla said $24 million offer wasn't enough and he had to "take care" of his family. Leyland said, "Hell, for $24 million he can take care of Guam.”

• Our greatest frustrations stem from when we demand protection from those incapable of providing it.

• Because we're all under some pressure to balance the language and be more even handed, I intend to spend the day thinking of whom I can accurately describe as a "daughter of a bitch." Then I'm going to start working on a book I'll call "Famous Sons of Famous Bitches!" 

• I almost made the mistake of responding to a friend's sweet compliment by declaring she's " too kind." Too kind? In a weary world where many people are mean from their toes to their teeth, no one can ever be "too kind." From today on, I bask in any surplus kindness. Bring it!

• America being torn apart over removal of Confederate statues. What's next? Will Germans commence removal of all their Hitler park statues? 

• When I see the family wreckage that often results from excessive money and the resulting greed, by God, I'm proud to be poor. That feeling persists right up to the moment the Xfinity bill arrives. 

• Cynics say we're destined for another Civil War. I say no way. There was no Facebook in the 1860s so there were no angry exchanges, cruel put-downs and mocking disdain that make being small-town neighbors so tough. Civil War? This has all the makings of an Un-Civil War.

• 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.

• Congratulations Facebook, now entering your 17th year of letting the most reckless among us to ascribe the worst of our political enemies to people we once considered our best of friends.

• You saying, "Now, I'm not a racist, but ..." and then saying something incredibly racist is like me saying, "Now, I'm not lazy, but ..." and immediately laying down to take nap.

• I encourage everyone to wear masks because they'll reduce the spread of germs that make people sick. Next, we'll encourage many of you to wear muzzles because they'll reduce the spread of your obnoxious opinions that make people sick.

• Until there's, say, an Attila The Plumber or an Attila The Uber Driver, I believe it's unnecessary to refer to the 1st Century ruler as "Attila The Hun." There's only one Attila. And does anyone know even one Hun? Anyone who's a little bit Hunnish? A l’l Huny.

• At one time and to even the leading scholars of the era, even The Dark Ages were considered "Modern Times." 

• I’m at first gratified that today in America we are taking meaningful steps to end racial inequality, but then become incredulous when I realize it's 2020 and America today is 244 years old.

• In 1996, Tom Petty and Johnny Cash, two icons worth a combined $190 million, came together to make an album called "Unchained." That they didn't call it "Petty Cash" is to me a bitter disappointment

• So, the Invisible Man eats a visible hoagie. At what point in the digestive process does the hoagie disappear?

• ”... and on the seventh day, He rested." See, God may have created Heaven and Earth, but in His infinity wisdom He knew better than to create a lawn that would need mowing every Sunday.

• The world will be better off if we get away from TVs that have 1,000 channels with 20 that broadcast news 24/7 and get back to TVs that have 20 channels with one that seems to broadcast Gilligan 24/7.

• I do not like eating outside. I do not like heat. I do not like noise. I do not like sharing my meal with things that sting. History lesson: Outside is the reason man invented inside.

• It’s rare to find an ice cube that's actually cubic. In fact, most ice is rhombus shaped. It's ironic, but saying ice rhombus wouldn't sound cool even though it's all ice ... Had to get that off my chest.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Tin Man Shoe Shine open for business!

Here’s a sampling of the supportive comments I got when I told friends I am starting a shoe shine business:

“You’re kidding, right?

“Did Val throw you out before or after you told her?”

“What? Did you think opening a bait shop would thrust you into a tougher tax bracket?”

As an old worm farmer, I should have thought of a bait shop first. Worms are good office mates — quiet, industrious, don’t cause office squabbles by wearing their tiny MAGA hats.

But selling worms by the cup sounds boring and I’m afraid it would lead to exotic recipe browsing whenever my stomach began to growl.

So please give a warm welcome to …


“He’s Got the Heart if You’ve Got the Soles!”

Tin Man is an obvious nod to my Tin Lizzy base of operations. The name won out over …

• “Goodfella Shoe Shine! I Got Your %#$@-in’ Shine Box Right Here!

• “Toe-tal Eclipse of the Shoe: Shines So Dazzling They Blind!

• “The Shining: Heeere’s Johnny … With Your Like-New Shiny Shoes!”

So why shine shoes (Professional shine, $8; Presidential Shine, $15)?

About two years ago, I started becoming enamored with nice shoes. This roughly coincides with when the goddamned Parkinson’s began to impose a limp. I figured quality shoes would ease any discomfort.

And I sensed there might be an interesting book in it. The proposal I’m pitching is called, “No Business like Shoe Business.”

It’s about how man, the only animal to spend 80 percent of its entire existence on its back or its butt, became the only animal to spend $93 billion-a-year on footwear.

I got a pair if nice if unpretentious dress shoes — Johnston & Murphy, Oxford black CapToes, $199 — and from scratch began to acquire the brushes, polishes, waxes and dressings one needs to enhance the appearance of fine leather shoes.

I’d stumbled — limped, really — into a satisfying hobby. Shining shoes with the aromatic potions felt therapeutic.

But I only had two pair of dress shoes. I’ve since learned the average man has 12 pair of shoes; the average woman 27 (four pairs of which never leave the box).

I began to realize I was scanning pricey shoe web sites with the same enthusiasm the adolescent me once saved for the porno magazines.

I dream of buying some real show off shoes.

Still, I could own two dozen pair of shoes and not exhaust all the polishes.

A community shoe shine business could solve a lot of problems. I could pitch it to church men’s groups and tie it in with book talks.

I see no downside.

I already have one satisfied customer. Prominent Latrobe attorney and all-around good guy Chuck Mason got two pairs of loafers done last week. That’s them up top (afters above). I contend the difference is dazzling.

So please get in touch, my local friends, if you have some shoes that could use a shining. People who matter will notice.

Plus, there’s this from master English shoe maker George Glasgow Sr.:

“Invest heavily in your bed and your shoes. Because if you’re not in one then you’re in the other!”

Related …

Monday, July 27, 2020

Friend asks, "Life, is that all there is?"

My friend could no longer conceal his melancholy. He set down his craft beer, looked at me plaintively and asked, “I wake up everyday, wonder about the world and ask myself, ‘Is this all there is?’”

The sentiment is baffling to me because I have one of those indestructible egos that has me thinking having Friday afternoon porch drinks with me should be plenty.

Sure, there’s pandemic mayhem, racial unrest and the prospect that soon Trump and Biden will at a combined age of 151 years soon begin pandering to 18 year olds over things like the new Taylor Swift album, but being defiantly alive is still pretty cool.

Is this all there is?

Baseball’s back, there’s encouraging vaccine news and somewhere crowded with shiny supermodels Mick Jagger just turned 77.

Is this all there is?

Yes! So let’s be thankful for every hug, giggle, sunset, friendship, cuddle and moment of the day when we deliberately choose to listen to music instead of watch the news.

I don’t remember the instigation, but I once challenged myself to compose the most depressing summation of life there’s ever been.

Why there have been days when I challenge myself to think of things like that instead of challenging myself to earn actual income is a philosophical puzzler for another day.

But here it is:

“Life is a series of disappointments, each one greater than the last, leading inexorable to the grave.”

Now, that’s morose.
I have to say, it was fun to write something so out of character, like Adam Sandler must feel when he plays someone with a brain.

There’s two reasons I didn’t share that with my melancholy friend.

First, we were on the second floor porch overlooking the Tin Lizzy parking lot. I thought the devastating line may have caused him to jump and I didn’t want him denting my car.

Second, it’s utter nonsense. Hoo-ha. A life without any light or laughter? Has that ever happened  even once?

We’re all right now understandably spending time on the front pages. It’s all crisis, death, disruption, tumult and lots of cross words.

But we still live our whole lives back deeper in the paper, clear back on the pages where they print the comics, birth announcements, and the benign kind of crosswords.

Our daughters are 19 and 14. I spend a lot of time trying to conjure the words that will let them still pursue big dreams in a world that momentarily seems godforsaken.

Is finding happiness even possible anymore?

I’d say yes, but it’s wise to seek it in smaller increments.

I tell them to do something they love to do each and every day just because it’s something they love to do each and every day. 

It can be playing with the dog, spending time laughing with friends, learning a musical instrument or writing in a journal. 

You’ll be amazed, I say, at the things those kinds of recreational devotions can lead to.

Because life is a series of unrelated giggles with people you care about leading inexorably to simple human happiness.

It may not be all there is, but it can be enough and that’s all that matters.

Monday, July 20, 2020

I drank alone

It was 1985 when George Thorogood released “I Drink Alone,” his excellent ode to solitary inebriation. I first heard it in a place where drinking alone was a logistical impossibility.

All hail Athens, Ohio!

With nearly 15,000 Ohio University suds guzzlers packed into a small college town with 72 bars within knee-crawling distance the party never ended 

I called it the drinker’s Disneyland

Besides wanton boozin’, the giddy scene included anonymous sex, illicit narcotics, disdain for authority and the pervasive mindset that the moment was all that mattered.

That many who shared these selfish narcissisims have ascended to leadership positions when coronavirus began to wipe out the world is purely coincidental.

But I love the song and the sentiment even as I never dreamed it would apply to me. Sample lyric:

My whole family done give up on and it makes me feel, oh, so bad
The only one who’ll hang out with me is my dear Old Granddad …
And we drink alone

I was then and forever will be a social drinker. I enjoy the company, all the banter and the bitching, that goes along with sitting next to either friend or stranger at the instant their burdens begin to lift and they feel free to cut loose, when all their repressed humanity is allowed to flower.

See, I’m not a solo drinker like, say, Homer Simpson, who when asked if he ever drank alone responded, “Does God count as a person?”

I mention this now because last month at the height of the shutdown I drank alone. Really drank.

Yeah, all by myself.

Well, it felt like Keith Richards was right here swapping shots, but only in spirit, which when you’re drinkin’ alone is better company than many actual folks.

Keith was one circumstantial factor in my decision to get drunk all alone up here in my 3rd floor office.

First of all, we were at the height of Shut Down No. 1. I hadn’t been drinking in 8 weeks, the longest I’d been sober since, gee, 4th grade.

Second, I’d earlier that day been blindsided by a monumental professional disappointment. A local charity had taken steps to purchase 300 copies of my Fred book to to give to area graduates. I was in my car on my way to Pittsburgh to retrieve the books from the printer when the call came informing me, sorry, they’d changed their minds. For God’s sake, they’d already dictated to me what they wanted the thank you inserts to say.

Given what you know about me and my situation, I have one question…

Who wants to buy some books!

Third, I’d been obsessively playing Keith’s 2015 solo album, “Crosseyed Heart.” His solo stuff is fantastic. It must infuriate Mick to know that while he’s one of the five coolest men on the planet, he’s only the third coolest guy in his own band.

Lastly — and this must not be undervalued in the context of this story — I had right there on my desk an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee sippin’ whiskey.

That’s Keith’s favorite!

I’d bought it for a visiting friend who blew me off. My friend may have let me down, but Keith never will.

So given the confluence of circumstances, I did what came natural.

I drank alone.

I figured I was entitled to tie one on, to get sloshed, pie-eyed, skunked, hammered, all tanked up, tipsy, three sheets to the wind.

With Keith as my soulmate, I proceeded to do shot-after-shot straight from the bottle. With the music cranked, I got good and drunk all by myself.

I took the bitter edges off what had been a really bad day. I rosied up my outlook on life and drained about three-quarters of that straight up Jack.

Then I napped on my desk.

So what did I learn?

When the situation calls for it, I can be my very own best drinking buddy. I now understand why for all these years friends, bartenders and total strangers have kept buying me drinks when I tried to leave the bar. Over the years, it probably adds up to a small fortune in free drinks.

And I guess that’s why, given my precarious finances, I’ll always be a social drinker.

When you drink alone, the next round is always on you.

Related …

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Today my 5th anniversary at Tin Lizzy; Stop in!

Had I known I was destined for local infamy, I would have certainly kept the registered legal notice.

Because it was historic. I mean, lots of garden variety bums get thrown out of Latrobe bars, but I’ve never heard of any who’ve been evicted from one.

It takes real staying power to require an attorney to file papers demanding your removal. 

Well, either staying power or a really big ass.

But that’s what happened to me 5-years-ago this week. And — get this — it wasn’t just any bar. It was The Pond! At the time, Latrobe’s best bar!

I was telling this story the other day with all the dramatic flourishes to Buck Pawlosky, owner of the Tin Lizzy and since this very day in 2015, my landlord.

I wish I could say, he kept interjecting, “Then what happened? Then what happened? Don’t leave anything out! Details! I want details!”

But he said none of that. He stood there with the look of a man who is impatient for someone to buy him a martini. It’s his native dispoosition.

When I finished, he said, “Has it really been 5 years? Seems more like 2.”

I don’t know whether that conveys he’s enjoyed my company or if he was thinking, well, it’s about time to start drawing up eviction papers of my own.

But it really has been 5 years.

A change in Pond ownership meant they were clearing the building and that meant after 8 years there, I had to go.

It hit me hard. Not only was I losing my regular bar and all my A-Team drinkin’ buddies, I was losing my office — my identity.

I was adrift. I was bereft. And, yes, I was thirsty.

I stopped in to The Tin Lizzy and told Micah the bartender of my woe. In an instant, he transformed from bartender to problem solver/realtor. He said the whole 3rd floor was vacant. He gave me a tour.

It was disheveled and in need of repair. Parts of it looked like it could use a good scrubbing.

We were practically twins!

I hung posters, pictures, keepsakes and cranked up the stereo. I was right at home — that is if home has beneath it three distinct bars, one fantastic kitchen, and numberless interesting and friendly folk.

I contend my office, free of any stuffy pretense, looks like every office would if powerful executives didn’t feel compelled to impress visitors with how their offices looked.

For instance: One year Val asked what I wanted for my birthday. I told her I wanted a Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Poster.

Her: “What are you in the 8th grade?”

Me: “Nope, but my office is.”

I’m reluctant to gush about just how much I enjoy being here because I know Buck will threaten to raise my rent.

In the past three years, I’ve written three popular books with The Tin Lizzy playing an increasingly large role in the stories, so much that numerous readers from all over stop in to see the place and meet me up here in the office. It’s very flattering.

Invariably, each is very respectful, sheepish almost, like they were encroaching on a VIP operating room where solitude was required.

They peek around the corner and say, “Ooh, we’re sorry to disturb you!”

“Disturb me?” I say. “Hell, I’ve been disturbed since 1992!”

(That, by the way, is the year I quit working for other people. Twenty-eight years. Now, THAT’S disturbing.)

But I feel very privileged to enjoy some notoriety in such a charming, quirky place. 

So today calls for a big party. Unfortunately, big parties are to be discouraged these dreadful days.

But if you’re comfortable wearing a mask, all are welcome today — heck, any day — to stop by for a chat, a building looksee and maybe a socially distant beer up here on the 3rd floor, The Land The Mops Forgot.

We can giggle, joke, belch and behave all juvenile like we're still in the 8th grade.

Just like my office.

Related …

Monday, July 13, 2020

A mishmash of catch-up items

I let an important “professional” anniversary pass without comment the week before last. June 30 marked the 28th year since I walked out on the last job I’ll likely ever have. Thus, I’ve only had three jobs since I began sprouting chest hairs — and one of them was at the Pizza Hut. I quit working for the man because I was convinced I had a bright and lucrative future as an author/freelance writer/bon vivant.

A bon vivant is someone who enjoys a sociable and luxurious life.

So I guess I’m one out of three.

• I remember coming home in those early years and Val would ask how my day went, if I’d achieved anything productive. “I won’t know for six months.” I I was lying. Twenty-eight years later and I still don’t know.

• I’ve had people ask me what’s the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging. “That’d be from 1963 through 2008.”

• I am an incorrigible smart ass

• This is my first blog post since June 15 when I wrote about being a white guy and getting out of a traffic citation. I apologize for not blogging more frequently as of late. And why I feel compelled to apologize for not doing something that pays squat is something I can’t explain.

• As of late I was busy putting together this video about how my new book got its new title. The book is a collection of essays taken mostly from this deadbeat blog. I wanted to call the book, “A New York Times Best Seller (by a small town BSer).” ’twas a tantrum of a title by yet another writer who’ll do anything for attention.

• So the new book is called, “Undaunted Optimist: Essays on Life, Laughter & Cheerful Perseverance.” How do I think it’s going to do? I’m, duh, optimistic it’ll do well, but fearful I won’t really know for 28 years. My publisher is encouraging me to stack up pre-orders, as robust interest at this stage will boost launch/marketing budgets. Interested in helping? You can pre-order right here.

• The cover is already scoring a lot of flattering attention. Taken by Brian Henry, it’s one of those pictures that looks so good I’m surprised they let me in it.

• A friend just said I’m “lookin’ fine” in the picture. In fact, that picture was taken in, gulp, 2015. She asked how I’m feeling. I feel good, but not like I felt in ’15. The difference? Today I have Parkinson’s, but in ’15 I was likely hungover so I guess you could call it what the bookies say is a push

• In hindsight, I feel like I lived four straight decades like I was a lit stick of dynamite, ever ready to detonate. Lately, I feel more like a candle, one that gives off a steadier, more illuminating burn. But a prank candle, one that keeps reigniting just when you think you have the damn thing blown out.
• In an effort to preserve the remaining tatters of blog tastefulness I’ll resist seeking the perfect “blow me” punch line to that tempting set up.

• Another milestone surfaces on Wednesday, this one too momentous to ignore. The 15th marks the 5th year since I moved my office from The Pond — incredibly, I was evicted — and into the fabulous Tin Lizzy. I think how I got here and how being here has influenced my writing deserves a stand-along blog post on Wednesday …

Any volunteers?

• I’m not going to call it a party and I don’t want to encourage anyone to violate prudent social distancing protocols, but I’ll have a half-assed open house from 4 to 8 if anyone wants to stop by and say hello. More on Wednesday.

• Thanks for all your cheer and support!