Tuesday, November 30, 2021

November Tweets of the Month!


Hi! This above was from a couple years ago. It's a picture of my battle-scarred first box of crayons from when I used to wear every crayon down to the sorry nub. Note, the top row, far left: The caucasian crayon is hardly used at all. In fact, you can almost discern a spectrum from top to bottom, left to right, with the primary colors being heavily used ... Gosh, I really tend to dwell on crayon usage.

• I understand we're all hyper-sensitive about race issues these days, but I hope we never get to the point where my black brothers and sisters become blind to the humanity of my empathetic ice-breaker/greeting of "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?"

• On this Cyber Monday, I’d like to pay homage to our computer overlords by vowing to never again use the phrase “command” when it comes to me and computers. It’s more accurate for me to from now on call “commands” “suggestions.” #SuggAltDel

• I’m lately finding myself getting angry at my car. Its insatiable thirst for fossil fuel means it consumes gas even when it's not in motion. I foresee a future where "smart" cars only run when the accelerator is depressed. You know, like stupid golf carts have been for 60 years!

• It’s not uncommon for me to hear friends confide they believe I'll one day become a famous writer, but it won't happen until after I'm dead. I share this around the supper table and I can tell my dear loved ones are thinking, "Should we kill him now or just hope for the best?”

• Had an embarrassing lunch with an old friend last week. He wouldn't quit putting his hands on my knees. Everyone was staring. It got so bad I nearly felt compelled to put pants on.

• I’ll be speaking today to Ligonier Valley HS students about how to succeed in life ... and you thought mask mandates were controversial.

• On this day we as a nation should vow to never again say Happy Veteran's Day until we're certain we've done everything we can to ensure every veteran is happy. #VeteransDay2021

• French police close highway after random pig stops traffic. #RogueHog

• Reuters headline -- "Russia/West in row over climate change solutions" -- has me worried ill-timed bickering over rising seas will result in all of us dealing with a different kind of row. (Picture of couple in boat rowing)

• One was one of history's most bloodthirsty tyrants. The other a humble tender of ovens. But they both bore the same name so there had to be a way to differentiate the two. That's how one became Atilla the Hun while the other Atilla the Baker.

• It’s been said hydrogen is the most abundant substance in the universe. It was created in the Big Bang. Don't believe it. From my observations, the most abundant substance in the universe is cardboard. It was created by Jeff Bezos.

• Spent a frantic 30 minutes this morning searching for misplaced car keys. Was so elated when I found them I'm vowing to lose them at least once a week.

• If a diplomatic rooster tries to avert a cock fight is it fair to call him chicken?

• Red & blue states are behaving like conjoined twins fighting over whose turn it is to use the penis they share.  They tolerate no compromise and revel in scorched-earth tactics that guarantee the only one who's getting screwed is one another.

• This Jake Gyllenhaall/TaylorSwift dust-up brings back some painful memories of my youth. To my everlasting shame, I once mistreated a beautiful young songwriter and without mentioning my name, she bashed the hell out of me in chart-topping song. It was 1973. The singer is Carly Simon. The song is "You're So Vain." And I was 10. But c'mon! Being 10 and dating Carly Simon! It was bound to go to my head.

• I suspect it’s universal for every region to have a neighborly punching bag to make fun of for perceived or obvious stupidity. It’s why N. Dakotans make fun of S. Dakotans, Ohioans mock West Virginians, etc. But is it truly universal?  And if so how often are we the butt of the jokes? Like is some alien wise guy on Kepler-23b entertaining his friends by saying, “Three Earthlings walk into a bar …”

• Here’s one the best brains at #COP26, guaranteed, won't think of: Hook every treadmill and exercise bike up on the planet to generators to produce the cleanest & greenest alternative energy known to man.

• Fuddy-Daddy: A male parent who wishes, goldarnit, TVs would go back to just 13 channels, that phones were still phone-shaped and that his adult kids still looked up to him the way they did when he was 32 and they were 4.

• When the end is near I believe it'll still be possible to buy time, but I'm pretty sure payment will involve an unforgiving sort of lay-away plan best described as “grave.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Farts for Peace! How flatulence can save your Thanksgiving

Before we get to an anthropological dissertation about flatulence, I must begin with a confession that will shock many of you. Here goes:

I am a bigamist.

I for years have kept a secret family, entirely separate from and unbeknownst to the family I splash all over Facebook so people will think I’m a swell guy in the traditional sense.

Coincidentally, my secret family consists of a wife to whom I’ve been married 25 years and two daughters, ages 21 and 15 — just like my Facebook family! In fact, my two families are exactly the same in every respect save for one characteristic of my shame family:

My shame family farts.

Oh, boy, do they. They let ‘em rip.

My primary family doesn’t fart. They never have. None of ‘em. Not even once. They’re the ones who know to not under any circumstances accept my pleas that someone — for the love of God — please pull my finger.

So if you think any thing you’re about to read is based on the actions of my Facebook wife or either of our Facebook daughters, you are mistaken. They’re far too proper to stoop to farting which, by the way, is a posture I recommend for beginners.

All the observations are based solely on what I’ll for now call my Fart Family.

I’ve heard it said the Inuit have 47 different words for snow.

I’ll wager we have that many for the fart. There’s the bottom burp, butt bugle, the one-cheek squeak, the anal ahem, ass thunder, backdoor breeze, the stinker. As a kid, we used to for some forgotten reason call it “shooting a bunny.”

I mention this because I’m toying with the idea of really letting one rip at the Thanksgiving dinner table. 

“Pass the stuffing — ttttthhhhhhhhuuulllppp!

A real plate rattler.

The key will be to maintain a poker face while everyone at the table stares gape-jawed at me awaiting some awkward apology, one that would not be forthcoming.

The trigger will be the instant Grandpa brings up politics.

I think this is the Thanksgiving America should welcome the fart to the dinner table.

I fear too many meals are jeopardized by partisan bellyachers eager to ruin this special holiday by monologuing about Trump, Fauci, Rittenhouse, Kamala, Tomlin, Taylor Swift vs. Jake Gyllenhaal or any of the radioactive topics people use to divide us.

A fart would emphatically change the conversation. 

America is tearing herself apart. Let the fart bring her together!

Everyone loves to fart. More satisfying than even a splashy sneeze, a fart is considered in some earthy nations a sign of appreciation for a satisfying meal, although I hope for the sake of our nation’s waitresses  the custom doesn’t replace folding money in the tip realm.

My Fart Family would roar their approval. A good, loud fart is to them a benchmark others strive to beat — and, yes, I deliberately chose to use the term benchmark for a bodily function that has the potential to leave marks on benches. 

They understand flatulence is a natural by-product of a healthy digestive system. They demonstrate their advocacy by farting in ways that fill me with recollections of the old fraternity house in Athens, Ohio.

My eyes tear up just recalling the ambiance — and those tears aren’t from sweet nostalgia. My eyes still sting from the stink.

Those were the days when young like-minded scholars could expound for hours on topics like: “If farting were an Olympic event, what would the matches look like?”

The precise wording was key because, of course, lighting farts is a marvelous spectacle so matches would be involved. Or maybe a lighter. Or how about …

The Olympic Torch!

I’ve ignited the interest of my Fart Family when I told them of an old friend who used to speculate on what life would be like if we could all see farts.

“It’s coming straight for us! Duck!”

Feel free to take my idea about farting should your drunken uncle decide to share his expertise on topics like epidemiology or constitutional law.

There are bound to be some of you who think I’m just being silly. That I’m pulling your leg.

I certainly am not pulling your leg.

But in keeping with the spirit of the sentiment, I'll be happy to pull your finger.

Subscribe to my “Use All The Crayons!” newsletter — just $5 month/$50 a year — and get all my best stuff delivered twice-weekly to your inbox!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

When drinking buddies become alcoholics

(786 words)

I know of two very dear friends who are going through serious alcohol addiction problems and all I can think to say to them is “Cheers!”

I’m not joking and I fear for my friends. They’ve lost families, jobs and, I guess, hope.

It seems with alcoholics the only thing that never departs is their thirst. 

I’m utterly ill-equipped on what to say to friends who were HOF drinking buddies and have gone on to become problem drinkers.

A lecture from me is probably about 40 years too late. Had I been prescient back then, I would have maybe said, “Fellas, here it is 1981 and here we are, freshman at Ohio University. We are surrounded by parties in the dorms, the frat houses and in bar-after-bar on fabled Court Street.

“Now, we can accept any of the numerous offers to go and drink to excess, but that will hurt our grades and lead to bad habits that will catch up to us in, oh, the year 2021.

“Because I strive to be prescient — or at least how to use ‘prescient’ properly in a sentence — I suggest we stay here at Alden Library studying ECON 101 and learning about Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand.”

Had I said that, I’m sure one or two of them would have shown me their Visible Fingers.

Instead, we went to the bars.

And we never left. The fun I had in college was one of my life’s most indelible experiences.

It was in Athens I became who I am, a guy who drinks responsibly whenever he should and irresponsibly whenever he can. And my life has been nothing but fun. No DUIs, no rehabs, no interventions.

Of course, it’s only Tuesday so who knows what the week has in store!

It’s fair to wonder if I’d be more successful — or forget the more, just successful — if I’d been more moderate in my consumption.

I don’t think so. It’s not like I work in an air traffic control tower or am the guy they summon when delivering the triplets gets tricky.

I think excessive drinking were the problem it would show in productivity. But I’m nothing if not prolific. I’ve written close to a million words over the past 30 years (full disclosure: To make it appear I’m working hard, I use many of them twice. I use many of them twice).

The problem is it seems they aren’t the right words. None of my books have been mainstream hits.

That’s not a drinkin’ problem. 

It’s a thinkin’ problem!

I was telling all this to another very good friend of mine. He’s a celebrity in his field which is helpful because his field is a field. The man’s a farmer.

He told me the story of how in his 30s he realized he was drinking way too much and decided he needed AA or else he’d lose his family, his business and the promise his future held and eventually fulfilled.

He’d been 13 years sober when he was asked to deliver his product to a famous chef. The chef was busy when he arrived but arranged for him to enjoy a glass of champagne from a $500 bottle of fancy French hootch. The maitre’d offered five times and my friend five times said no.

He had a different answer on the sixth offer. He said, “What can it hurt?”

He drank.  His first thought was, “This is wonderful! What have I been missing?” His next thought was, “What stupid behavior will I regress to now?”

Happily, there was no party-boy “Animal House” regression, a surprising result, perhaps, from a gentleman whose farm houses animals. 

He and his wife are today very convivial company and our treasured friends. He had a problem drinking. I’m happy he solved his problem and resumed his drinking.

Val and I are currently immersed in the Hulu show “Dopesick,” starring Michael Keaton about the opioid crisis.

It’s riveting. Dreadful. With two episodes remaining, we’re fairly certain there will be no silver linings. The addicts lived and died and there was nothing anyone could say or do to quell their cravings.

Is that where my friends are? How come some of us become alcoholics while others do not?

Again, I don’t know what I could say in that situation.

All I can do is hope they get the help they need and let them know I love them — drunk or sober — for all they’ve meant to me. And that one day they’ll announce a cure for the things we demonize and have the potential to become, to some, truly demonic.

I’ll drink to that. 

It’s just what I’ve always done.

Subscribe to my “Use All The Crayons!” newsletter — just $5 month/$50 a year — and get all my best stuff delivered twice-weekly to your inbox!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Paul Newman & some favorite scenes from some favorite actors


I’m in the midst of bitter falling out with an entity I’ve for my entire life turned to for comfort, solace and at times when I’m home alone soft-core porn.

Yes, TV and I are on the outs.

For something that offers so much, it gives so little. Bruce Springsteen in 1992 wrote “57 Channels and Nothin’ On,” to lament the state of TV.

Today things have gotten both better and worse. Today we have 1,000 channels with either nothing on or with something on we’re unable to locate — like one of the three migratory remotes needed to access Channel 2.

Worse, it’s the interminable time we waste standing absolutely immobile in a staring contest with the screen as one channel or another scrolls our lives away before it decides to act.

It’s so bad I’m thinking of jogging in place with the remote in my hand so I can build up my couch potato appetite for the Fritos and dip I enjoy if the TV can ever begin to screen the old Jack Lord “”Hawaii Five-O” episodes I construct my day around.

I mention all this to highlight the serendipitous joy I felt when the TV by complete accident stuck viewer gold.

I was using my flat-robotic voice-activating remote voice to browse Netflix when it malfunctioned — surprise, surprise — and took me to a channel I did not know existed. It only heard half my command and took me to a channel called “Flix.”

I wonder in hindsight if there’s a channel called “Net” which streams programs about things like basketball hoops and commercial fishing.

Anyway, Flix pops up and lo-and-behold, Flix is right in the middle of one of the greatest guy movies ever made.

It’s showing “Slap Shot!”

And, hallelujah, it was the scene prior to one of my favorite scenes, the one were Coach Dunlap (the peerless Paul Newman) picks up the Hanson Brothers at the depot and profanely discovers they brought their toys with them.

Here’s the 2:50 clip. It’s okay. You can depart the blog to watch it. I understand guys. Hell, I’ll watch it with you.

There! It’s funny the first time and it’s still funny the 500th time. 

My viewing was enhanced by the appearance of my wife. She’s a cinematic sort of anthropologist eager to divine why men like me like movies like “Slap Shot.” Deeper still, she seeks to figure out what Newman, an actor she admires, is doing in a movie so juvenile.

“Was he at a low point in his career and just needed the work?” she asked. It’s like she thinks Newman’s only in the film because he lost a bet.

In fact, Newman was just a couple years off from Oscar nominations for landmark movies like “The Sting” and “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.” It was the mid-1975. He could have had his pick of movies.

And he picked “Slap Shot!”

So here, if you have nothing better to do, is a brief  list of some of my favorite actors in some of my favorite scenes. These are ones I wish my TV would find for me by mistake when I can’t find them on purpose.

• Gregory Peck — “The Guns of Navarone” (1961); This is a great gung-ho WWII movie and this scene where Peck berates candy-ass David Niven always sends chills up my spine

• Tom Hanks — “Saving Private Ryan” (1998); “What’s the pool on me up to?” On Veterans Day ’21, maybe the finest, most poignant four minutes about war ever filmed. 

• Henry Fonda — “On Golden Pond” (1981), I love the scene where his prospective son-in-law asks if he can sleep with his daughter. Fonda’s deadpan crackles throughout the scene. It’s Dabney Doleman’s best scene, too.

• Robert Duval — “Lonesome Dove” (1989), I contend Larry McMurtry’s Augustus McCrae is the most compelling character in American literature and no one could play him like Duval. I love the scene where he cheats at cards to get a free poke, but the hanging of Jake Spoon is indelible. Trivia: McMurtry claimed he grew up in a part of Texas so desolate his phone number was 10.

• Jack Nicholson — “A Few Good Men” (1992); I doubt I’ll get any arguments on this one.

• Robert Redford — “The Natural” (1984); Redford is at his best, I think, in “The Sting,” but I never miss a spring training viewing of “The Natural.” I wish baseball could recapture the emotions of this movie and I wish Roy Hobbs played for the Pirates.

• Paul Newman — “Cool Hand Luke” (1967); Every scene from the entire film.

Subscribe to my “Use All The Crayons!” newsletter — just $5 month/$50 a year — and get all my best stuff delivered twice-weekly to your inbox!

Monday, November 1, 2021

Bored sailors, broken supply chains & what Alex Haley has to do with it


(755 words)


I try and commit to memory as many interesting facts as I can. You just never know when a conversation needs a little jolt to keep it percolating.

Thanks to my friend Jim H., here’s all I know about the South Pacific island of Guam: US Navy sailors contend it is so boring the name’s letters stand for “Get Up And Masturbate.”

I think of Guam whenever I think of anyone in a situation so utterly tedious that men feel compelled to engage in what our fundamentalist friends call “the sin of Onan.”

What bored women do in a similar predicament I cannot fathom and reckless speculation could only lead to a loss of readership which would lead to reduced opportunity and next thing you know for me it’s … 

Hello Guam, here I come!

I mention this now because there is an outbreak of boredom so profound, so poignant, I feel compelled to address it. I do so out of common humanity and because, gee, there but for the grace, etc.

I’m talking about the godforsaken crews of the hundreds of massive cargo ships marooned off our coasts waiting for persistent supply chain problems to be resolved.

It’s been said that being at sea is like being in prison with the possibility of being drowned.

There are right now, I’m sure, many men so forlorn they are looking at drowning as the rosier option. They are hungry, they miss their families, their futures look bleak.

I don’t think people are aware of just how massive these ships are. A length of 1,300 feet is not uncommon. So that is like tipping the Empire State Building on its side, caulking all the windows and setting sail for Taiwan.

More than 700 men and women go to work each day in the Empire building. Guaranteed, many of them start the day as strangers and end the day screwing each other’s brains out in the maintenance closet before going home and answering, “Fine,” when their spouse asks, “And how was your day?”

Know how many sailors are required to keep your typical mega-ship ship shape?

About 20. And they’ve been together for going on six months with no relief in sight. The same 20 faces. Same annoying habits. Same petty grudges. Day after day after day.

The cast of “Survivor” is bigger (and guaranteed, more diverse) and they’re together just 26 days. And by the final tribal counsel, many of the hatreds are primal.

Then there are the logistics. Provisions are being rationed.

Understand, being anchored 20 miles off the California coast puts you just outside the nearest Domino’s delivery zone. And you can forget about hearing the food truck’s honking horn.

As any swabby familiar with maritime history knows, they’re just a few chunks of moldy hard tack away from turning Gilligan into stew.

I guess I’m hyper-sensitive to their predicament because by this point in my career I imagined I’d be among them.

Not as a sailor.

As a best-selling author.

It was 1986. I was a young reporter at the Nashville Banner. My editor said, “Kid, get your ass over Vandy. You’ve got an 20 minutes with Alex Haley. Make ‘em count. Get his golden insights on the future.”

Well, we talked for more than an hour. And a kinder, more warm and open-hearted gentleman I’ve never met. (note the earnestness of the handsome devil on the right, above).

We talked about baseball, grandparents, beach vacations and the chances a young reporter would find love in Music City; he assured me it would happen (he was mistaken).

And we talked about writing. Thanks to “Roots,” he was a rich and famous author, but his passion for the craft of writing matched mine. I burned with desire to be a great writer.

Still do!

He urged me to one day follow in his footsteps.

Or wake, really.

Alex Haley did the majority of his writing, months at a time, on board desolate overseas freighters.

“It’s perfect,” he said. “No distractions. No phones. No one to pester you. It’s just you, your typewriter and a stack of blank paper. Food’s good, too.”

To this day, I dream of what it would be like to write in such grand isolation, as if that’s still possible anywhere in the solar system.

But those youthful ambitions have been dashed.

Today, I struggle to get noticed in a world where teen tik tokkers set the pace.

Alex Haley wrote “Roots.”

I wrote “When Bad Things Happen to Good Golfers.”

Do I despair?


I hold the future in my hands!

That means there’s just one thing for me to do. “Get Up And …”


And I mean go to work.

Not to, say, Onan.

This from my Navy friend, Jim H.

I'm sure they are (going nuts). You may be surprised to hear, the longest I was ever continuously underway was 30 days, but that was a busy time, compared with sitting at anchor, something I never did for more than a few days at a time. Now, that really would be a major drag. The biggest thing about it was access to unlimited fresh water. When the ship is tied up to the pier, it gets all the fresh water you could possibly want, for showering, for drinking, and for laundry, piped aboard through clean firehoses. But when you're not tied up to the pier, water use is restricted. A Navy ship can make its own fresh water by desalinating sea water, but it's not a generous amount of water. You can still shower, but it's Navy-style: get wet, turn off water, soap up, rinse off. It's way, way better than nothing, but after 30 days in a row, inevitably everybody gets a little funky around the edges, and a so-called "Hollywood shower," with the water running continuously, becomes a real luxury. Same with laundry. I can't even imagine what it would be like to sit at anchor for weeks on end, those poor merchant sailors must really be suffering, unless they're getting regular and substantial re-supplies from the shore establishment. To this day, almost 40 years later, clean laundry and a daily Hollywood shower -- sometimes two in one day! -- are enough to make my day. I know, the bar is pretty low.

Subscribe to my “Use All The Crayons!” newsletter — just $5 month/$50 a year — and get all my best stuff delivered twice-weekly to your inbox!