Tuesday, August 31, 2021

August tweets of the month (may contain some nudity)

Sorry to let you down, but I was just kiddin' about the nudity. I hear nudity can really drive up the numbers so I thought I might as well try. All you get are tweets -- although some nudity is implied ...

 • If you think you and your spouse argue over traditional breadwinner roles, be thankful at least you're not nudists. Nudist couples really resent being told who wears the pants in the family.

• I wonder if the proctologist conferences ever have seminars titled "What To Do When You're All Bummed Out," and if that's a good or a bad thing. Or is the whole premise just a tad too, well, cheeky?

• Gentlemen prefer blondes. The rest of us will settle for whatever we can get our hands on.

• I’m feeling bewildered. New Year's Day in August came and went with so little fanfare it's like people don't even consider it a "real" holiday. Did someone declare a "War on New Year's Day in August" and I missed it?

• I don't know what I was expecting to find, but for those of you curious about word origins, the word "Sabbath" has nothing to do with the one day a week when folks used to take a bath.

• Even serenely disposed Siamese twins find it impossible to be anything but beside themselves all the time.

• As there is no discernible difference in the damage to a structure that's burned up and one that's burned down, I propose we start urging news casters to simply say a place burned. Once that's settled we can get to work on the redundancy of saying "out-of-control wild fires.”

• Sleight-of-hand enthralls w/ nimble tricks & dexterity. How come you never hear of anything but sleight-of-hand? There ought to be more sleights. Sleight-of-ankle? Sleight-of-elbow? Can anyone think of an obvious appendage it'd fun to use for magic tricks? I can't. Stumped!

• This is the year we've simultaneously reached peak friend saturation, that is the number of people we'd like to get to know better are outnumbered by the people we wish we'd never met. Thanks, Facebook!

• The phrase "wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy" has lost all currency. Today we're all wishing the worst on actual Facebook friends based purely on whether they choose to wear or not wear a mask.

• Fans of alcoholic irony will be pleased to know that the price of a Manhattan, the popular bourbon-based cocktail, is now $18 in upscale Manhattan bars -- nearing the $24 it cost Dutch traders to purchase in 1626 the entire island that became Manhattan.

• If I understand the priorities of the freedom-lovers who are refusing the vaccine -- and I'm pretty sure I do -- the best way to get them to take the shot is to advertise that  one side effect is 3-hour erections. #VaXXXine

• Doing a Zoom presentation for 250 Arnold Palmer fans tonight. My "things-to-remember list" includes: Be crisp, enunciate and "Don't pull a Toobin!" And yes I love it that a guy yanking off during a Zoom call can be said to be "pullin' a Toobin!”

• I just don't understand how in a world with millions upon millions of refrigerators, all with ice-making capacity, we still worry about the melting of the polar ice caps.

• Do you think Mary and Joseph had a gender reveal party or did they surmise that would be too anti-climactic?

• I’ve taken to answering questions about the severity of my Parkinson's by saying, "Well, I'm still kickin'." This gives my friends the opportunity to decide if I'm being metaphorical or if a random kicking motion is just another peculiar symptom of motor skills gone awry.

• Think having multiple towns named Ocean City is confusing now? Wait 'til full effects of climate change are felt. Every city will be an Ocean City.

• My antipathy towards our space-racin' billionaires may be greater than yours, but who else thinks next time Bezos, Musk & Branson are all in outer space at once, we should move earth to a remote part of the universe when they're not looking.

Monday, August 30, 2021

I'm lazy, you're busy. Which is worse?


(950 words)

The story has now become legend and is recounted scornfully whenever I encounter any of the principles or their descendants in public. The details are intended to embarrass.

Don’t they understand it’s impossible to embarrass the man whose entire career has been one long self-inflicted embarrassment?

Here’s their version of what happened.

Twenty-five years ago, Val and I lived in a small house that shared a common drive-way with two other families that had 2 teen girls apiece. One of the women was divorced, the other had (still does) a great husband. And it was idyllic. 

We all got along, supplied tools and recipe ingredients when needed and without fail exchanged waves and pleasantries with every encounter.

No one ever mentions any of that.

All that’s mentioned is the snow.

Now, winter snow is not uncommon here in western Pennsylvania. It wasn’t an unusual snow. It wasn’t life-threatening. No one lost power or had to consider the cannibal option when the fridge went empty. 

It was just a normal snow. As I recall it, it wasn’t even winter. It was on the cusp of spring. 

Val was working and I was home alone — and those are circumstances that could apply to most any story involving my wife and I.

But one of the neighbor women came up with the grim thought that the adults (the husband wasn’t there) and one or two of the kiddos ought to clear the 125-foot gravel-based driveway of snow. The other concurred. 

I guess they thought that I, the by default Alpha (lone) male, would see them toiling spring into action and like the fabled John Henry, that steel-drivin’ man, blast a path through the snow spacious enough to accommodate the family jalopies.

I don’t recall what I did. I may have browsed porn, nursed a hangover or been enthralled by a Nickelodeon rerun marathon of “The  Andy Griffith Show.”

What didn’t I do? 

Lift a finger to help the fair damsels out of their self-imposed distress. I did,  however, lift a different digit. I remember going to the window and giving them the thumb’s up for their efforts.

I suspect my thinking was along the lines of my late father who at some point in the late winter would just surrender his snow shoveling duties and say with admirable wisdom, “The good Lord put it there, the good Lord can take it away.”

I must have inherited the mindset from the old man. If I did, it’s all I inherited. He never earned enough to leave his impoverished children a single red cent

As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

I mention this story now because there’s a sickness racing through the country, one that can’t be cured with masks, Fauci-approved vaccines or horse-deworming agents.

People are afraid to be lazy.

Chances are you’ll correspond with at least five people today and you’ll out of habit and politeness ask, hey, how are you doing? And, guaranteed, each one of them will respond, “Busy!”

We want people to think we’re industrious, productive, always on the go! Go!Go!

It’s exhausting. 

It’s as if giving the impression that we have idle time or are relaxed or unstressed is some kind or crime against nature. 

I yearn to hear someone say they’re serene, refreshed or — the best answer of all — horny!

At this point, I must reveal the little conspiracy you and I share: if either of us ever says we’re busy, it’s an obvious lie. How so?

If you have time to read this far into my blog, you’re never truly busy. And if I have time to compose it, well …

You want busy? Go back just three or four generations. None of us is as busy as our ancestors — our female ancestors.

Many of our great-grandmothers had to lug heavy water pails from the backyard well, chop firewood to heat the water and break out the gnarled wash boards  to wash the family duds.

Imagine the godsend today’s washers and driers would be to them. Given the spare time, I doubt they would have spent it, say, washing a mule.

No, they would have likely fixed themselves a turn-of-the-century martini, put their aching feet up and waited for Ellen to come on. The wait, by the way, would have been roughly 95 years.

They would have reveled in their leisure. They would think our work-obsessed culture was insane.

If you find yourself pretending you’re always busy, I’d urge you to practice what I call strategic laziness. 

I deploy it any time I scheme to get out of work I consider unnecessary or otherwise stupid. It’s a combination that involves one part reasoning, one part resentment and three parts delay, delay, delay. It sounds easier than it is. Ironically, avoiding hard work is hard work.

Resisting being goaded into shoveling snow that in one or two days will disappear without my intervention is a perfect example.

I reasoned I’d be more comfortable inside, rather than outside shoveling; I resented the implication that I should shovel due to some misguided idea of foolish chivalry. And because I’d committed to delay, delay, delay, I knew the job would get done without me. 

That’s just what happened.

I wish I could say during those two hours I divined some idea that will eventually benefit all mankind. But really, I think all I divined was it’s unwise to let Otis the ton drunk in the Mayberry jail when the dynamite-eating goat is in there, too.

Score one for strategic laziness.

It’s necessary because we live at a juncture in history where it’s truly possible to be  busy around the clock.

It just isn’t advisable.

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Thursday, August 26, 2021

I told black man they all look alike


I was yesterday guilty of saying one of the most stereotypical racist statements from our long shameful history of bigotry.

I told a black man they all looked alike.

Well, two of ‘em do.

Can you believe it? Me, a Biden-votin’, Obama-lovin’, anthem-kneeler defendin’, LBGQUT-etc/whatever embracin’, MAGA bashin’, QAnon ridiculin’, immigrant welcome wagon drivin’, progressive said something blatantly racist.

And it happened right here in the Tin Lizzy, a bar where guys like me are outnumbered about 25-to-1 by Trump lovin’, Ashli Babbit reverin’, insurrection plottin’, Fauci-hatin’, vote suppressin’, Cyber Ninja-cheerin’, armed-to-the-teeth, er … drinkin’ buddies!

I may be exaggerating a bit. Using the plural teeth with some of them is a tad extravagant. 

The point is I’m the last guy anyone there would think would utter a racist remark to a black man.

Here’s what happened. I was meeting another old white guy for lunch. Seated at the bar was a younger, maybe 30-ish black man. This was, in fact, remarkable. It’s rare to see his kind in the Tin Lizzy.

And by “his kind” I mean men under 40.

He graciously moved down one stool to make room for me and my friend.

Then he asked me if I thought he smelled bad.

I took a big sniff and told him, no, he was odor free. It was, to me, a peculiar introductory question. But I rarely encounter any black people in my lily white world and didn’t know if this was a customary ice-breaker.

Then he told me four hours previous he’d been skunked. His pit bull, one with apparently malfunctioning taste buds, had seized Pepe Le Pew in its mighty jaws. The skunk reflexively began to defend itself the only way it could.

It began to spray. All over the dog and my new friend.

“I took four showers and I wasn’t sure I got it all,” he said.

I congratulated him on his thoroughness. The dog?

He found a service that would clean it for $40, a real bargain we agreed. “I’d have paid twice that.”

(Note to fans of moronic sitcoms: Bathing the skunked animal in tomato juice does NOT work.)

So he’d told me a good story so I decided to take affirmative action. I stuck my hand out and said, “My name’s Chris.”

We shook hands and he said he was Darren.

“Yeah,” I said, “I’ve seen you downstairs. Nice to meetcha.”

“Downstairs?” he said. “I’ve never been downstairs.”

“Sure you have,” I said. “I’ve seen you down there a few times.”

“Not me. Must be someone else.”

“Well,” I said, “if it’s not you, then there’s a guy who looks exactly like you.”

“Black guy?”

“Yes, he is.”

“Oh, you know we all look alike.”

Well, I know two of ‘em who do.

But I was embarrassed. Here I was, a white man getting red-faced in front of a black man. We were trending toward using all the crayons. 

Really, it’s a shame that I live in a place where seeing a BIPOC — just learned it (Black, Indigenous People of Color!) — is an exotic event.

Many of our leading racists would have us live in a land of strict segregation. They see it as our only path to racial peace.

I’m the exact opposite. I’m for lavish mingling.

If it were up to me I’d be in charge of an exchange program where vans full of urban BIPOCs — I love typing this! — would be bussed from, say, a bar in Pittsburgh’s Hill District to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Then a bunch of us POPIBAAs (Paunchy Old Palefaces Immobilized By Age/Alcohol) could head to the city on a cultural exchange program that would bridge so many hateful and useless divides.

We could explain to them why so many conservative whites are furious when store clerks say “Happy Holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!”

They could explain to us why so many liberal blacks are furious that conservative whites keep murdering their unarmed brothers and sisters for jogging in neighborhoods with a high percentage of Buicks parked in the driveways.

If nothing else, I hope my friend Darren comes around.

I could teach him how to appreciate fine craft beers brewed here in the Laurel Highlands.

He could teach me how a young black man gets around in a world where so many people hate him just because he was born black.

And it’d be great if he could teach me how to recognize the differences between him and that other black dude.

Because black guys matter.

Black gals, too.

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Monday, August 23, 2021

Wild chickens roaming our yard


(440 words)

You’d think the guy who drinks the Wild Turkey would have been the first to see the wild chickens, but you’d be mistaken.

Still haven’t seen them. 

Maybe if I keep drinking more of the one I’ll see the other.

I don’t know how comfortable I am living up in the woods with a flock of wild chickens.

At least we assume they’re wild. They don’t have collars or respond to universal commands like, “Sit!” or “Stay!”

There’s a chance they may belong to some new neighbors. As I will relate, I’m well-aware of the phenomenon of people who raise chickens for fresh eggs. They could be carefree about their incarceration and seeing the benefits of their being free range chickens.

I’m fine with that philosophy right until we see roaming in our yard a pack of free-range pit bulls.

Our property has seen bears, deer, turkey, foxes, ‘coons — all sorts of wildlife.

These are our first chicken visitors.

I’d put up “NO CHICKEN!” signs in the yard, but I fear they’d just thumb their noses at the notice. That is, assuming chicken have thumbs. I know by the menus of the restaurants we patronize they have chicken fingers.

This is as good a time as any for my inevitable chicken finger joke: “Ask the waitress if she has chicken fingers. When she says yes, say, ‘You’re too hard on yourself. Sure, they’re ugly, but they still appear human.”

The waitress will usually laugh, but I’m always prepared to eat my food seasoned with waitress spit.

As I mentioned, I’ve been alert to the home chicken phenomenon since May 2014. I had what to me was a prestigious book signing at the venerable Carnegie Library in Oakland. Library staff were lavish in their promotions. I brought 80 copies of my then-new “Use All The Crayons!” book and lugged them across the vast parking lot to the library auditorium.

And not one person showed up.


It was humiliating.

There were 302,505 people residing in Pittsburgh that day and each and every one of them had something better to do than hear me talk.

Library staffers felt bad for me. One said she couldn’t understand it. Why just the week before they’d had 105 people show up for an author talk.

What was the topic, I asked.

“How to raise chickens in your living room.”

I don’t have to tell you what kind of mood I’ve been in ever since.



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