Thursday, August 31, 2023

It'll always be Twitter to me

 Honestly, I don't even post on Twitter anymore. It's tainted. But what am I going to call these monthly round-ups? Xs of the Month? Best X ever? The options are fraught. You get the idea. So here are Tweets of the Month! 

• In the future, weaponry will become so abundant, so accurate and so lethal my fear is that in the future there will be no future.

• It’s like there's a global committee out there that meets with just one goal: How can we make soccer more boring? In soccer even one goal is purely aspirational On a day when the US Women's Soccer suffered (I'm sure viewers suffered, too) a 0-0 tie with Portugal, I read that people are now playing "walking soccer." I'm guessing it'll be the first sport where scores are measured in negative numbers. Can''t wait for the obvious next steps: Stationary soccer and the inevitable Rocker Soccer!

• I’m troubled lately by the growing conviction that our mortal Savior was highly unpopular. I mean, only 12 people showed up for his last supper. If I announced today on Facebook that in four days I was to be crucified and was throwing a Wing Nite last supper here at the Tin Lizzy, I’ll bet I could get three times that, not to mention plus more than 100 likes. I wonder if spousal attitudes came into play. Old Testament battle ax wife: “You’re not going anywhere with that troublemaker Jesus. Did you hear how he wrecked the temple because he didn’t think the money changers should be allowed in? All right, I give up. You can go to his ‘last supper’ but only if there’s at least one adult there. Someone honest. Someone trustworthy. Someone like Judas!”

• The ancient Romans use a Latin phrase "omne trium perfectum" to describe the superstition that good things come in threes. Or some of you may be more familiar with the French phrase used to describe the same thing, "menage a trois.”

• Yet another unforeseen consequence of climate change is animals that were once earthbound will suddenly become airborne. For instance, who isn't enchanted by the delightful humming bird? Wait until you get a load of the stealth menace of the dreaded ... humming cat!

• A healthy hen can deliver 250 intact eggs each and every year. My question: At what point do the gender reveal parties cease?

• It’s by now abundantly clear either though ignorance or reckless bravado, our deer are totally disregarding the "Deer X-ing signs. They X where ever the hell they feel like X-ing. How can you tell the difference between the stupid deer and the ones that think they're being cool? The ones that think they're being cool are vaping.

• I’m nostalgic for the days when if you wanted to share a great TV show with a friend, you wouldn't tell them to find Roku, Fubo, Hulu or some other hard-to-remember name with a trendy "U." You'd just tell them a channel number. Usually just two digits. Then you'd tell them a day and time and then the very next morning, everyone in America would be singing, "Makin' your way in the world today takes everything you've got ..." It happened like that with lots of shows back then. It happens no more.

• I don’t know if the guy or gal who came up with the name ever even opened a bottle of the stuff, but if they’d ever spilled a tall, cool glass full of it in their laps they would never have called Canada “Dry.”

• We’ve been taught to believe that heroes run toward the sound of gunfire. Today the sound of gunfire is coming from Jacksonville. The echo of lethal gunfire is still ringing in from Detroit, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook … The ceaseless gunfire is coming from every direction all at once. It's bound to confuse the heroes who know not where to run. And when the gunfire outnumbers the heroes, there is only one thing left for the rest of us to do. Everybody run. Run for your lives.

• When I was a kid, there was one kind of Pringles & they were all Pringle-flavored. They fit on one tidy shelf. Today Pringles come in 25 different flavors and they require five shelves. It's that way with Utz, Herr's, Lay's, etc., and now chips hog an entire aisle. I predict in the near future chip varietals will take up whole store except for one lonely shelf for toilet paper, milk, bread and a grape.

• I must have a low threshold for mystery 'cause anytime someone breathlessly announces, "The suspense is killing me!" I'm already dying of boredom.

• I was railing against this world of woe to some friends who advised me to embrace the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer — “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.” I thought about it, but decided instead to pray that God grant me god-like powers for just 12 hours. Goodbye war in Ukraine! Goodbye climate change! Goodbye credit card debt! Hello bestseller lists!

• Earth tones -- gray, brown, forest -- are associated with colors that dominate nature. But climate change and rampant wildfires are changing nature's palette. More and more, earth tones are primarily red, ember, lava, inferno, etc. I fear if we don't find timely solutions then our future will involve just one earth tone: cinder. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

How to Make Friends

 (990 words)

This is the week I used to tell the kids one of my favorite wisdoms, one that positively rings with cheer and hopefulness.

“Remember, today you could be introduced to someone you’ve never met who is destined to become the best friend you’ll ever have.”

It’s true on the first day of school and it’s true any time you walk out your door. None of us has any idea what fate is going to shove into our path.

We look at strangers differently when we realize there’s a chance that dorky new kid in the mail room will one day be the one who’s asked to deliver the toast at your wedding and the eulogy at your funeral.

As our girls have gotten older, I’ve re-structured the advice to encompass modern predicaments.

I say, “Choose your friends on how well you’ll get along should you ever become cellmates.”

This stems in part from personal experience. It was back in 1990, and me and a buddy got tossed into the Dormont slammer for drunk & disorderly. (I was neither). We composed letters to public defenders, railed against injustice, dreamt of righteous vindication  and emerged feeling a warm kinship with Nelson Mandela, who’d been a political prisoner for 27 years

We’d been in stir for, oh, about 10 hours.

I couldn’t have asked for a better cellmate. It made us friends forever. Lifers, if you will.

I’ve never been able to make money, but I’ve always had the happy knack for knowing how to make friends.

That I’m incapable of simultaneously doing both is, to me, puzzling.

I have no doubt that many of the wealthiest men & women in America would trade their gift for making money with my gift for making friends — a deal I’d refuse without even a moment of just consideration.

(That primal scream you just heard was my wife who tends to view the whole situation with a not irrational chagrin that many years ago fell for the dude with all the friends and none of the money.)

Who can blame her?

Anyhoo, what kind of a friend would I be if I didn’t share with you what I think are the keys to making friends.

First, you could take the low-hanging fruit and go the needy friend route. These are the drama queens, the substance abusers, the fools for love.

There is a certain nobility in befriending the friendless.

But know this: It’s okay to have needy friends, but you need to understand the more needy friends you acquire the greater the risk that you are becoming someone else’s needy friend.

There’s only so much you can do to help someone else before you start hurting yourself.

Here’s a tip: Be friendly with everyone but strive for friendships with those who’ll harmonize with you through both whispers and screams.

How do you find tha person? Zero in on who’s laughing when you say something funny. You don’t have to necessarily be funny to to get people to laugh. Adam Sandler proves this every 6 months or so. Having even one person who gets your jokes is essential

I don’t believe in love at first sight. But I do believe in drinkin’ buddies at first sight.

It usually happens when someone in a position of authority says something blatantly stupid. You glance around the room to see if anyone else is alert to the fact that we’re all at the mercy of titled incompetents.

Invariably, you’ll lock eyes with someone like-minded. Approach when available and say, “I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going to need a drink or two to unpack this. Want to join me?”

I hear that’s how Cheech & Chong got their start.

Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough, the surest way to make friends is to cease being an asshole.

I know this because two of the nicest things anyone’s ever said about me were both anal in nature.

One was on my last day at my last job. It was at the Tribune-Review, July 2, 1992. I was making the rounds in the building. I ran into one of the press men and told him it was goodbye.

Without pausing for even a handshake, he said, “Well, we’re going to miss you. You’re one of the few guys in that newsroom who doesn’t behave like he has a giant stick up his ass.”

It brought tears to my eyes —not because the compliment was so well-concealed. I teared up in friendly empathy over anyone who must go through life with a giant stick up his or her ass. 

The other is a long story that I’ll brutally summarize so you can get free to start making great new friends.

I was in a minor accident where I foolishly tried to beat a monster truck through a stale yellow light. We each pulled into a nearby lot and commenced the tense incident reconstruction.

We agreed on every point until got to a key aspect about turn signals. He said his was on. I said it was not. At stake was insurance blame assignment and possibly thousands of dollars in increased premiums.

We were both adamant then he abruptly conceded. I must have been right, he said.

“Anyone can tell just by looking at you, you’re not an asshole.”

You’ll think I’m being facetious, but it is a real blessing to effortlessly not look like an asshole. 

Who would have guessed two proctological references would make such dandy credentials for close friendships?

So those are some tips on what to do if you want to make new friends or if all your current ones turn cold.

People are so sensitive these days. You just never know when something you say or post might get misinterpreted and people who once stood by you flee at the first hint of controversy.

Well, all but me. 

That’s what friends are for.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The tattoo I'm thinking of getting ...


I did something this week I swore I’d never do, something I’ve viciously mocked others for doing.

I contacted a tattoo parlor about getting some ink.

We’ll get into all of that but first I need to wrestle with why it was a parlor.

The venerable Oxford English Dictionary says parlor (they spell it, parlour, the Limeys) is “a room or place for talking.”


I talk everywhere I go. Talk all the time. Wide awake or sound asleep.  I just can’t shut the hell up. I even talk out loud to myself when I’m driving down the road. Does that turn my crappy Ford Fusion into a car parlor?

Parlor sounds so dainty. You don’t hear parlor being used much to describe a place of business. In fact, the only other parlor that’s commonly used — or at least it was `about 30 years ago — is the fabled pizza parlor

I used to work at a place commonly referred to as a pizza parlor. It was a neighborhood joint. Good food, reasonable prices. I did that for a few years until I got called up to the big leagues: I became the starting cook at the Pizza Hut, then the New York Yankees of the ubiquitous flavorless pizza industry.

After that I worked at a couple newspaper parlors and eventually at the National Enquirer parlor.  Lots of talk went on there and most every conversation began with, ‘Pssst …”

Back to the tattoo parlor.

If you’ve ever heard me speak at a library, it’s likely you heard me open with this gem: “People who want to appear more colorful get tattoos. People who want to become more colorful, get library cards.”

It’s a strong line because it feels like you’re sticking it to the bullies. Plus, there’s a lot of truth to it. The more time you spend reading in libraries, the more interesting you’re bound to become.

But I don’t begrudge anyone who through their tattoo displays the kind of wit we’ll need to differentiate the robots from the human. For instance, George Carlin advised men to get a groin tattoo that reads, “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY PULL HANDLE.”

So, I could get a tattoo, but it would have to be the perfect tattoo.

Then, I realized it’s been there all along. In fact, it was one of the first items I dreamed up for the book that would become “Use All The Crayons! The Colorful Guide to Simple Human Happiness.”

I recalled it all these years later after being introduced at a golf event to four lovely fellows who I was told “were artists at the local tattoo parlor.”


I thought it would be nice spending a few hours with them in the parlor. Distractedly, I glanced at my wrist watch. It hasn’t kept time for six months. But getting it jump started usually costs between $20 and $35 depending, I guess, if the jeweler’s T-Mobile bill is due that day or not.

Why wear a wrist watch that doesn’t work?

It looks good on a sleeveless arm. It’s the same reason some dandies wear necklaces

Then there’s this. I was too busy.

You could say I couldn’t find the time, but that would be fraudulent.

Finding the time isn’t difficult. Time is everywhere. It’s on the walls, in our cars, in our pockets.

On one hand we’ve never been busier, yet on the other we have all the time in the world.

I like my watch very much. It was a gift from a Vegas host for a story I did about 15 years ago.

It’s been appraised at $1,200 and looking at it makes me happy I never became so pompous I disdain material things. But it’s not the watch I would have picked.

I’d have picked a Rolex, the finest in luxury watches. One of my good friends had a high-profile role with Arnold Palmer, a Rolex sponsor. The watchmakers gave him one just for being a swell dude.

Just like me!

I don’t know what kind of Rolex he wore, but I was told my friend’s watch was worth about $18,000.

I figure I’d have to internally grow six extra kidneys and donate them to ailing Rolex executives for them to give me one

So years ago I expressed my craven covetousness in “Crayons!” deluxe: “No. 11 …  ‘Get a $75 tattoo of an $18,000 wrist watch.’”

Now, that’s colorful. Very unique. Idiosyncratic. Only one problem:

My tastes had changed. An $18,000 Rolex tattoo just wouldn’t do.

Today, I need a $17.8 million one. I needed the Paul Newman Daytona Rolex, well, a tattoo replica of it.

It was perfect because Newman is my favorite actor. “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Verdict,” “Slap Shot,” ‘Butch and Sundance,” “The Sting,” I’d revere him even if he wasn’t one of Hollywood’s finest. He’s also a devoted and creative philanthropist and a charter member of Richard Nixon’s Enemies’ list.

His watch was auctioned in June to an anonymous bidder for the jaw-dropping sum.

A tattoo of one is, in fact, preferable in many ways to the real thing.

Think about it. It’s water proof. Hard to misplace, Your greedy descendants won’t fight over it, and only a truly ghoulish thief would try and steal it.

Still, a tattoo is so not me.

But that’s not what stopped me. What did?

The tattoo industry is too immature.

Let me explain. The tattoo guy said in order for me to get the kind of detail I’d need for it to be recognized as a Rolex, the tat would need to be as big as my palm. It would look like a hood ornament on my wrist or the kind of kitsch the hip hop performers wear around their necks to alarm gents like me.

“Maybe in a few years we’ll be able to detail like that, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

Structural immaturity is an interesting predicament for an industry that’s been run predominantly by people defiantly reluctant to mature.

I could wind up with a crude tattoo that looks less like a real Rolex and more like a cheap knockoff Rolex, albeit one that’s a subcutaneous impostor either way.

It is a true conundrum.

I wish I had time to think about it. But the world is moving too quickly and I need to unwind. 

Too bad. Because when it comes to making time stand still, a tattooed wrist watch is hard to beat.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Firetruck racing to end boring parades

(657 words)

 One if the most satisfying aspects of spending so much time staring out the window is being the recipient of radom genius thoughts. It’s a sort of brain lightning. You see solutions to problems that have for years bedeviled your fellow man.

Problems like way too many firetrucks.

That’s just the way my brain works. I wish mine worked like Dr. Jonas Salk’s did. The window he looked out of showed him the cure for polio and millions of lives were saved.

Oh, well. That’s enough about him.

Now, many of you are wondering how having too many firetrucks could be a problem. I sense this acutely from any of you who might be reading this post while standing locked inside a burning building.

Well, it’s not, per se, the glut of them that’s the problem. It’s that so many of them show up to participate in our summer holiday parades leading to common complaints. The parade takes too long. Too many firetrucks. Seen it all before.

Now, I take a back seat to no one in support of our local volunteers. The work they do at all hours and under all conditions saves lives — not to mention tax revenues — for the benefit of all. Even me! And I’m the guy that finds it irresistible to refrain from telling this Happy Hour joke I repeat every Friday when the shrill fire whistle sounds to summon these brave volunteers drop whatever they’re doing to do something heroic.

So as they’re rushing to put themselves in harm’s way, I say loud enough for the whole bar to hear …

“Now, I’m not saying our volunteers join for purely social reasons. I’m sure it’s just a happy coincidence that every Friday at 5 p.m. the local whore house catches on fire!”

So they deserve our salutes on the Fourth of July when they assemble en masse in the back streets of Latrobe awaiting their turn to idle at about 4 mph down Latrobe’s main street.

I’ve been going to Latrobe’s Fourth of July parade for nearly 40 years so I reckon I’ve seen. oh, about 400,000 fire trucks creep past me. I’ve seen them in rain. Seen ‘em when it was chilly and I seen ’em when it was roasting. And every time I’ve seen ‘em I’ve probably thought the same thing.

“There goes another dang firetruck. Nearly indistinguishable every other firetruck. Is this thing ever going to end?”

I recognized my thinking was shallow. These men and women are heroes. Their trucks mechanical marvels. This should be celebrated.

And staring out the window, just thinking about solutions to the problems vexing humanity it came to me.

The problem isn’t that the parades are too long. The problem is that the trucks move too slow.

The firetrucks should be required to race through the entire parade route as if they were responding to a report that an area orphanage had caught fire. The sirens would wail, the lights would flash, the engines would roar. 

Imagine the exhilaration.

Of course, this is inherently dangerous. Narrow streets. Twenty-five ton firetrucks careening pedal to the metal, barely in control. There are bound to be accidents.

And what better place to have one than amidst a sea of alert first responders?

Community teams could be lining the parade route, standing by with the Jaws of Life  — and Jaws of Life I’m not referring to the tubby glutton who keeps the food trucks in business.

There could be competitive aspects to the endeavor: Fastest heat, fewest  casualties, least amount of space-saver folding chairs clipped.

Maybe “Survivor” host Jeff Probst could host.

But with racing firetrucks covering in 90 seconds what used to take nearly a dawdling hour, the parade would conclude in a jiffy.  

Problem solved.

I wonder if Jonas Salk ever thought about things like too many firetrucks at the Fourth of July parade.

If I’d have been him, I’d have thought about changing my name to one that isn’t pronounced “SOCK.”