Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ancora Imparo

According to David Markson's The Last Novel, Michelangelo, at the age of eighty-seven, said, "Ancora imparo"--still, I'm learning. Ergo, far be it from me, at forty-nine and with a slightly less impressive resume than Mr. Michelangelo, to say I know it all. Not a bad mantra to keep front and center in one's everyday life, ancora imparo (I'm going to choose to say it ala Don Vito Corleone, just because). It might save you a lot of frustration, consternation, and downright anger, let alone uttering sentences that begin, "But I thought ... " Besides, it might also save you a lot of wincing from acquaintances at cocktail parties if you simply say, "Ancora imparo," (again, I think Don Vito would work best in this instance) rather than that Sally Fieldsesque modern translation, "I'm a life-long learner!" (Fine, Sally. BTW, AARP is calling with more bonus rewards points for you; get a third bottle of Ex-Lax free when you buy just one.)

Anyway, to prove my ancora imparo bone fides, here's a small sampling of what I have learned, still, just in the six days since my last post. First, I learned that when faced with a brewing donnybrook between two middle-aged women holiday shoppers one minute before your shift ends two days before Christmas ("Call a cop and have me charged with battery? You don't even know what battery is!"--that's verbatim), rather than saying a quick silent, "Lord, make me a channel of your peace," and stepping into the fray to play U.N. Peacekeeper, it's much better to say a rather loud "Merry Christmas, everyone," and just walk (and keep walking) away. I've also learned that a slow leak in one of your car tires never slows down, it only speeds up, and that buying a new tire is one thing, but when the mechanic mentions four new struts, it ain't no cheap talk. I learned (coincidentally in the car repair waiting area) that Leeza Gibbons is still on TV, hosting, and--it was a wait long enough for me to see the credits roll--executive producing a show called America Now (which, beg pardon, Leeza, isn't quite "now," as the taped segments made no mention of the holidays or a blizzard stomping half the country). I also learned (well, had my learning refined) that my sister and brother-in-law put Gatsby totally to shame--they throw wonderful parties, with sincerity! I learned that in this fast-paced world of ours, the Christmas Season indeed ends at midnight on Christmas: I received three pieces of mail today. Yep, bill bill bill. After having coffee with one former student and then a few hours later running into a couple of former students in a bar, I learned 16 is a far far cry from 29. I learned that a cheese ball that looks like a somewhat unappetizing meatloaf is actually just about the heavenliest tasting thing on Earth. I'm learning as I type and look out the window, that with today's radars, when a weatherman says twenty-four hours prior that it will start snowing at 11 a.m. tomorrow and not let up for another twenty-four hours, he's pretty damned accurate. A couple of my nieces are apparently quite adept blizzard, what blizzard automobile drivers. I think I already knew this, but it was confirmed to me on Christmas, that only a Jesuit priest could/would bring Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov into a true-meaning-of-Christmas sermon. And yes, mother, with aplomb, he did it with aplomb. Most viscerally, though, I have learned in the last week that despite centuries of good publicity, those Mayans didn't know shit.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Penultimate? Not Likely, Unless ...

So it's the day before the alleged end of the world. Kind of makes me a little less enthusiastic to shave, do a load of laundry, or eat sensibly. So, basically, today is like any other. Besides I've always been a little fonder of the Incas than the Mayans--their marching band was classier, I think. Now I admit, whenever I hear about scientists all of a sudden discovering that some near-miss asteroid is just two days away (I'm not buying it, telescope men--on one hand you're telling me about some small planet trillions of light years [and can we stop the confusing mixing of time and space with the concept of light years? Yes, I get it, but you're scientists, for God's {or no God's, whatever} sake--do some easy translating into miles for me, please] away from Earth, and then you're all like, oops, low bridge! here comes a [relatively] tiny rock hurtling at us now!), I do kind of think maybe the world could end just like that, not with a whimper but a bang. But still, call me skeptical. I do believe in a higher power--one whose sense of irony, appropriateness, and dark humor is no match for ours--so I'm thinking there's no way the world is ending tomorrow, Friday, December 21st, 2012, unless certain things--a tidying up of sorts--occur first. Take for instance the following ten have-to-happen-'fore-the-world-ends scenarios. If I hear of, oh, five or six of them happening by the eleven o'clock news, then maybe I'll start ducking and praying and even shaving (who doesn't want to greet Doomsday with a smooth face?).

The World Ain't Ending Unless These Things Happen First
  • Pete Rose dies and his arm continues signing his name for another 12 hours
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is captured on video reading a Philip Roth novel (and smiling), humming "Hava Nagila," and eating a knish
  • Harry Reid talks and sounds like a man
  • John Boehner looks pale
  • Cleveland is named the World's No.1 Tourist Destination and Place To Retire
  • Tom Waits clears his throat, starts singing, and sounds just like John Denver
  • Honey Boo Boo releases a video of her reading and deconstructing Sartre's Being and Nothingness
  • Pope Benedict tweets: "What the hell, let women be priests"
  • Donald Trump shuts up
  • I get a new job

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Shirt Off Her Back

If you ask for an inch, Aunt Yvette will give you a yard, except she's not exactly linear; she'll probably give you an entire hectare. She abides by no modern, made-up, self-serving law like don't wear white after Labor Day ("What ain't a day of labor?" she protests). Verity isn't her God-given middle name for nothing. The Golden Rule is the land where she's pitched her tent, for the duration. "I can't spell the word 'me' without the letters o-t-h-e-r-s," she insists. She's a true super model.

And so it came as no surprise (a little shock, sure, but those don't mean much) the other day when I zipped into Giant Eagle looking for a block of American because you can't have cheeseburgers without cheese, and discovered Aunt Yvette studying the Goudas sans top. "Aunt Yvette," I began, a little embarrassed at first, I admit, but then I remembered Aunt Yvette is the least embarrassment-inducing person I know, "aren't you, well, aren't you a mite cold here in the refrigerated section?" "State of mind, son, state of mind. Haven't I told you that before? Besides, I've got natural insulation. The best kind. Who eats this stuff anyway," she inquired while tossing aside a wheel of brie. "I just thank God for gravity and a stretchy waistband. Otherwise some nosy, ashamed of the human body type would probably take issue with my natural assets. Never underestimate the efficacy of a stretchy waistband, by the way." Because we look after each other in this town, I asked, "So what did happen to your shirt anyway, Aunt Yvette?" Ultimately she opted for some sharp cheddar and made to move on, but although she can be short, Aunt Yvette is never not polite. "Fella outside in the parking lot asking for money. Said his house burned down. Said all he had was the clothes on his back, which was kind of misinformation seeing that all he had on was a pair of shorts. So I gave him five dollars and my shirt. If he doesn't have one, and I've got more at home, I kind of have to give it to him, don't you reckon? Excuse me, I've got to go get some bread."

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Holidays From The Kitschies

My how time scoots along, don't it? It seems like just a fortnight ago that Jenny was settling into her second month of pregnancy, Denny was beginning to squint at the cereal box too much, baby Lenny was just starting to come to grips with Daddy Kenny's moustache, and all of us Kitschies were trimming (finding the right slots for all the aluminum branches) the tree. And now look at us: Jenny is navigating month 14 with aplomb, Denny's cool eyewear is the hit of his entire Cub Scout Pack, baby Lenny is starting to sprout an authentic Kitschie 'do, and Kenny's still gloating over his second place finish in the William H. Macy lookalike contest at the Halloween Bowl-a-Thon down at Wonder Lanes (and a 583 series to boot, a personal best! Look out Earl Anthony!) (We hear next year's contest might be an Al Franken lookalike; Denny's ecstatic).

Kenny's typewriter repair business, Tabs, is clicking along, and he's even taken on some tape recorder and VCR work. What the man can't do with a pair of pliers and a mortgage payment hanging over his head, hunh? Once again, he's been re-elected, unanimously, to his position as recording secretary for the local Kiwanis. Despite having increasingly less (hey, English teachers, I do believe that's what you call an oxymoron!) space to move around in in the kitchen, Jenny's specialized catering service business, Celery Surprise, is the envy of her quilting circle. Denny--no surprise there--ranks number one in his Home School class, and is slowly making progress in conquering his fear of blinking, having distinctly winked at a squirrel the other day during Nature Play. Lenny is quite the self-starter when it comes to burping. What more can a family wish for? Happy Holidays to all, from Kenny, Jenny, Denny, Lenny, (and--news flash!--Penny on the way, eventually!) Kitschie!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Look At Me, World

I am happy to announce that in two days, Thursday, December 13th, at 7 p.m., to be precise, I will be reading poetry along with my good friend Joe Toner at the Bertram Woods Library in Shaker Heights, OH. Most previous attendees of our past readings are still alive, so I can safely invite any and all to this wonderful evening. As usual, though, this procrastinating poet is busily scribbling the soon-to-be inspiring-awe poems as we speak. Ergo, the blog's taking a bit of a backseat for the next few days. Never fear, though--I've used all my technological skills to copy and paste parts of an earlier, relevant post for your entertainment today. What follows, then, is a primer on How To Behave At A Poetry Reading:

Kneeling in praise is optional, but deeply appreciated.

First, the event, naturally, is free, but as Emily Post makes clear, gifts of neither small nor large but medium, say tens and twenties, unmarked bills is kind of de rigueur; and it goes without saying that poets don't have time to make change, so if you bring a fifty or hundred, be prepared to part with it. Polite applause after each and every poem read is mandatory, but a bit blase. Cries of "ole," coupled with hula hoops tossed stageward, and public avowals of treating the poets to a nice dinner (two drink minimum) in the near future are all pretty standard displays of affection and gratitude toward poets these days.

If one doesn't quite "get" a given poem, or loses one's concentration during a poem, usually due to one's involuntary swooning at the poet's dreamy blue eyes, simply ride it out to the end of the poem, offer one of those learned, I've-just-been-provoked-into-thinking-about-life-in-a-totally-new-way-and-my-life-will-never-be-the-same-again "hmms." If nothing more, this small auditory recognition of the poet's genius will cow the person sitting next to you, who is probably equally lost, into getting with the program and offering a similar "hmmm" at the conclusion of the next poem, so that by the end of the evening, each poem read will culminate with a group "hmmm" that will make the poet feel as if he or she is the wisest person in the world (a state of mind all poets dwell in, but to receive the collective "hmmm" power from the usual crowd of 15-20 hearty souls can help ward off the poet's eventual madness for a good 'nother six to eight months).

All poets carry sharp, hefty rocks in their trousers; yawn once at your peril and you'll discover why.

After the reading, feel free to approach the poet, but under no circumstances say anything like, "I thought poems were supposed to rhyme," or "Great stuff, bard boy," or "My uncle used to rhyme a bit in his periods of lucidity," or "I guess they give away those poetic licenses in boxes of Cracker Jacks these days, hunh?" Instead, say something like, "Your eminence, genius is too small a word for you."

If bored senseless, envision the poet at the podium envisioning the audience naked and hang your head in shame, or, if you're feeling cocky, start winking at the poet unabashedly.

Concentrate hard so that you remember one line from the poet. Afterward, recite the line to the poet and say, "Now that line I remember."

Have fun, but in this case, not too much fun; we'll be in a library after all.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I Heard The News That Night

I can't believe I'm old enough to say I can't believe it was thirty-two years ago today that John Lennon was killed. In fact, I was mere months from becoming a legal adult that Monday night in 1980. Just think, Lennon's been dead twice as long as most Americans (at least those over 55 or so) knew him alive. Like most Americans, it seems, I first heard of Lennon's murder from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football, which has me thinking about a couple of things today.

I wonder if we're quickly moving past, or already are past, the time when we "hear" news. I probably listen to radio now more than I ever had, but I'm sure I'm way in the minority on that score. And, not being much of a TV watcher myself, it seems that more and more people aren't watching live TV but watching streams and DVD collections of shows. Everybody pretty much wears a phone around the clock these days, but it seems like people spend a lot more time reading, touching, and typing on their phones than actually using them to talk to somebody. Just the other day I saw a headline for a story about some poor parents learning about the death of their child on facebook. It seems like we're much more apt to read the news these days than to hear it. Read it via text, or facebook, or Twitter or whatever--certainly not via the so yesterday medium of the (apparently dying) newspaper (oh, the are-you-a-fossilized-relic looks and comments I get from my young co-workers as I tote in my daily newspaper every day and spend my lunch break reading it). I remember, months after Lennon's death, turning on the afternoon TV to catch up on the latest doings of Luke and Laura on General Hospital and getting instead Frank Reynolds telling me about Reagan getting shot. I remember hearing the late great Peter Jennings--on the radio--gasping as he watched the first World Trade Center tower fall. Call me needy or what you will, but I kind of take contextual comfort in hearing jarring news from familiar voices (ah, the good old days when Howard Cosell's sui generis voice was as familiar as anything). I was texted/tweeted the news today? Oh boy.

I could have the specifics screwed up here a little bit, but I distinctly remember Cosell eloquently reciting the "May your hands always be busy/May your feet always be swift" lines from Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" during the telecast of a Muhammad Ali fight (I'm thinking it was his triumphant second fight with Leon Spinks, in New Orleans?). I can't remember how having Cosell quote Dylan affected my adolescent self-defined-cool-factor (I'm hip to Bob but none of my friends are), but I thought then, and still do, that it was not only apt, but pretty cool. All of which makes me wonder who'll deliver the sad but inevitable news to me that Bob has passed. If it's going to be a sportscaster (and I'm not foolish--things have changed--I sadly doubt Bob's death would merit breaking news mention during a nationally televised sporting event), but please, if it's going to be a sportscaster, please God, make it the great and utterly respectful Al Michaels and not that sanctimonious Bob Costas. Mike Tirico and not Jim Nantz. Dan Patrick and not Chris Berman. Verne Lundquist and not Brent Musburger.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pre-Sale: Happenings 19 Days Before The 12 Days Of Christmas

A partridge is treeless, having been evicted the night before from the apple tree for a rather unseemly act of moral outrage. Having spied the would-be lover sitting under the apple tree with a floozy definitely somebody else than the songster's "me," Danny, said partridge, took it upon himself to "dispense" his rather liquidy disapproval from above. He's currently lining up appointments with a realtor to check out possibilities in the peach orchard and hoping he doesn't have to sublet slum it on the other side of the tracks where the pears grow.

Two turtle doves are still in therapy, trying to decide whether they are birds or reptiles.

Three French hens, as per usual, are melodramatically going through the rather ennui-ish motions of negotiating the intricacies of the modern avian menage a trois. Presently Jean puffs Gauloises, Jeanette frets on the bidet, and Pepe dons his mime outfit for another day's labor.

Four colly birds are sitting on a telephone wire singing Leonard Cohen songs to squirrels running up and down the nearby pole.

Five cheap aluminum rings sit misplaced somewhere on a charlatan's shelf, awaiting the arrival of the gold spray paint, which has been back ordered at Marc's for like six long weeks now.

Six frustrated geese are wondering if they'll ever get any action while on the alert, as always, for down foragers.

Seven swans are plotting the ultimate Speedo Outlet heist.

Eight maids are lolling about the lounge watching the complete Bachelor series on pirated DVDs and trying to bully Les, their eunuch, into doing their chores for them. Les silently wishes he could grow a pair and report the maids' sloth to the boss.

Nine ladies, still despondent about not making the cut for this year's Rockettes line-up and eating too many Skittles, are a few days away from coming up with the idea of launching their own troupe, the Nono-Kettes.

Ten lords are knee-deep (and knee-aching) in boot camp, limbering up their limbs and glutes. As of this morning, thanks to the intensive training, there's a lot more bleeping than leaping going on.

Eleven bored plumbers fill their work trucks with the implements of their trade, dreaming of more exciting lives.

Twelve separate percussionists in twelve separate towns, bummed out about being unceremoniously sacked from their most recent gigs as mallet-wielding timekeepers for various bad cover bands, each post simultaneous ads on Craigslist that all boil down to this message: "Awesome drummer seeks like-minded dudes into Rush and TSO."

And wandering aimlessly from mall to plaza to his favorites bar to a stack of mail-order catalogs, one clueless, alliteration-adoring would-be true-lover, whose silly Romantic notions won't allow him to just go buy an Apple Store gift card and get it over with already, wonders just what in the hell can he get her this Christmas.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Phew! "A Few (the most frustratingly ambiguous word in any language) Moments" Really Did Take Only A Few Moments

Sorry, I've been away from this blog for a few days more than I'd like; chalk it up to insecurity. Not my usual attache case of insecurities (ubiquitous), but the fact that my internet security system had lapsed and I had to wait a couple days for a replacement. I've been zapped before, so I was treading oh so softly 'round the web the last few days. But now I'm installed, re-booted, activated, and seemingly safe--and therein lies today's tale.

My technological phobias begin with "batteries not included," so you can imagine the paranoia I felt when I inserted the disc into my drive and began the often excruciating process of installing a piece of software. I always want to be deaf in such circumstances. The clicks and revvings and ticks and brakings of a spinning disc in my drive make me want to dive for cover with a fire extinguisher--must high tech be so frightfully noisy? And then there's always the possibility that I will be faced with a choice other than continue/cancel: I speak a very halting computerese, so anything beyond continue/cancel takes me back to my lifelong recurring nightmare that I'm in Bulgaria, ask for directions to a bathroom, and end up in a torture dungeon run by renegade Bulgarian nuns. Luckily, though, tonight all I had to do was "continue." Twice, downloading updates and installing, I had to sit through that wonderful computer tease of the percentage count. You know, watching the numbers climb from 0 to 100 as the computer goes about its business. Being something of a counting aficionado (on a completely sub-Rain Man basis), I kind of like this digital ritual. If you're not in total luck and the numbers whiz by faster than you count, you find yourself trying to figure out the rhythm of the numbers climb. You get your internal clock adjusted during the 1-10 accrual, wondering, is it really going to be this slow, or is something going to kick in  and the numbers start flashing by. My favorite percentage climb is the uneven but eventually reliable cluster-climb, as I like to call it. You know, a jump of seven numbers quickly, pause, two more, pause, pause, pause, four more, pause, seven, etc. Oh, the zen-like experiences our non-computerized ancestors knew not. Tonight's percentage climbs--both of them--were slow, methodical, hit-every-digit-from-one-to-a-hundred-for-a-few-seconds-at-least ones. Frustrating by the teens, maddening by the twenties, eventually I adapted to the digital war of attrition. I studied the font-look of each numeral and tried to recall where I had seen the identical numerical representation before--the 5 tonight looked just like the 5 on Cleveland's WEWS TV station. Then, as the climb inexorably reached into the fifties, I meditated on the per cent sign--%. Now I've never been a math genius, so let me tell you, tonight when I realized that what I thought had always been some goofy, idiosyncratic symbol is really just a representation of a ratio, i.e. per cent, I was mildly wowed. By the seventies, though, I was back to the mundane, closing my eyes and trying to open them at the exact instant the number changed to its successor. Let me just say, justifiably, no one has ever complimented me on my rhythm. Suddenly, though, I was into the nineties, and the countdown to liftoff took over.

After the two percentage climbs of downloading and installing, I was presented with the next step in the process--"revising your settings." I blanched. Existentially, I feel like I've been perpetually revising my settings since the age of twelve--and I have the graying hair loss to prove it. And then the computer hit me--THIS MAY TAKE A FEW MOMENTS . . .

Good God, don't say that, then add that elipsis, almost as a winking insulting afterthought (which in words translates to "or this could take the rest of your sane life"). Is there a more ambiguity-laden/stuffed/crammed/overflowing sentence in any language than those six words--This may take a few moments? That specific "a" thrown in as cruel irony in the midst of five super-ambiguous, unspecific words. For your homework tonight, kids, meditate on the potential heinosity of the seemingly insignificant words "this," "may," "take," and "moments"; I'll take on "few" right here. Beauty might indeed lie in the eye of the beholder, but outside of a few of our crazy fellow humans, most of us cheer in roughly the same ballpark when it comes to beauty, right? You don't find too many people who'll switch the adjectives when talking about the wonderful smell of fresh coffee and the yuck odor of a hackle-raised skunk. But, in any context, try to get a few people to come up with a consensus of what exactly "few" represents and you're in for a McConnell-Reid donnybrook 100% of the time.  Just consider, at random, these phrases: "Oh, just a few beers," "Yeah, I've put on a few pounds since I first slipped into that wedding tux," or "The repairs to your automobile will cost you a few bucks, sir." You see? You'd think the dictionary, as usual, would provide, um, the definitive answer to the few quandry, right? Well, try this one on for size: "few--not many, but more than one; dating from before 900." Considering that "many" is just a few fewer ticks on the ambiguity meter than few, and that mankind is still trying to figure out the extent of "more than one," the dictionary definition of "few" fails miserably. Just what's a man to do when offered a bag of M&Ms and told to "have a few"?

These were just a few of my thoughts while staring at the "This may take a few moments" message on my computer screen, which was sorely lacking in a percentage climb. Few moments--can I go floss my teeth, walk the dog, tile the kitchen, or read War and Peace during the duration? What? In my lifetime, I've lost tons of data, sat through eight commercials, waited fifteen minutes for the next available teller, and spent an afternoon trying to channel a thousand dollars into my checking account in the auto repair waiting room. God bless her, but I bet Mrs. Hoffa is still waiting for Jimmy to return from his "this will only take a few moments" errand.

Lo and behold, though, the computer's few moments this time ended up being indeed not (too) many moments. And I've been basking in security ever since. Phew!, I said, and got on with my life. Phew!, I said? Indeed I did. Phew! (go ahead, try to type the word phew! without the exclamation point--few can, I bet). Wait a few moments, I said. There's got to be a connection. Few. Phew! Back to phew--vocalic gesture expressing weariness, impatience, surprise, relief, etc., attested from 1604Um (I love definitions that send you flipping through a few more thumb-indexed pages in order to comprehend), vocalic--of, pertaining to, or resembling a vowel. Now I've long had my doubts about the relative collective wit and wisdom of the denizens of the early 17th century, but no more. After mankind somehow survived for more than a few hundred years with the nuisance word few, those Enlightened Elizabethans came up with a pretty good rejoinder to the potential woes of few, phew! Phew!, the natural response (see how it cuts both ways--weariness and impatience, but also surprise and relief) to the perils of few. Just think of your relieved phew! when hearing your designated driver say, "I had only two beers," or when you manage to shoehorn your flabbier body back into that tux, or when Mr. Goodwrench says the total comes to $297.17 (not to tangent here, but isn't $300 the threshold of all auto repairs? No matter how much money you do or don't have, anything under $300 and you feel lucky; anything over and you've been screwed).

So, indeed, I'm secure (computer-wise, at least) again, and it only took a few moments, enabling this screed. Back in a few days.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Have Belly, Should Putt

It would be a stretch to say I embrace change. Instead, I brace myself, hide, rationalize, then begrudgingly adapt. Just yesterday, in some odd conversation with a customer, I was asked if I had gotten rid of cable. "I never have had cable," was my conversation-ending retort. So let's just say that in most things, especially technological, I lag behind the curve; curves are best appreciated from behind, some wag once said. Anyway, despite what so far appears to be a rather slow news day, I had to dig a bit to find the most earth-shattering piece of news, in its context (the world of golf, which, if we're getting honest here, easily ranks in my Top Ten Worlds [and if this were July, not cold November, I might bump into the Top Five]), one is likely to see this week. A virtual Katrandyostrophe this: The governing bodies of the world of golf, the United States Golf Association and the British version (the Royal something or other), have decided to outlaw the use of the so-called "belly putter" beginning in a couple years. I don't want to get too technical here (or anywhere, for that matter), but suffice it to say that the belly putter--and all its permutations--which has been increasingly used to great success by all sorts of golfers, permits the golfer to anchor his longish putter against his body, often the abdomen (or belly, depending on the golfer) instead of having the putter "swing free of the body" as had always been the case (contrast the photo above with that of one of the most vociferous denunciators of the belly putter, Tiger Woods, below).

Of course I met this news with loud applause, not just because I'm a Tiger fan who abhors technological change and who, nearing fifty, still putts--much to the amusement of my playing partners and opponents--with his grandfather's old (it was old when he was still using it twenty years ago) putter. The belly putter just doesn't look right. It looks alien. Now I know that "looking alien" on the golf course is a subjective opinion, especially with the garb that often passes for appropriate on the golf course, but still, get it out of here has long been my one and only thought re belly putters. But then, in the middle of my victory dance this morning (Ding Dong the Belly Putter's Dead!), I had a most surprising thought about the validity of belly putters (don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone; I wonder what Joni Mitchell's handicap is): belly putters!

Is there a more lovable, cushiony word in any language than belly? I'm on record elsewhere for my affection for the word, so I won't regurgitate it all here, but I'm thinking about the concept of tradition here. Before there was mega-pumped and -toned Tiger and all his wannabes, there was Fat Jack. There was Roger Maltbie. There was Billy Casper. The belly has long occupied a glorious spot (or several) in the world of golf. Are we in danger of throwing the belly out with the belly putter, I wonder? Young hotshot golfer Keegan Bradley, one of the most successful of the new wave of belly putter putters (young, lean, and growing up with the belly putter, rather than coming to it after years of the yips and trying and failing at everything else), reportedly vows to fight the new ruling. I hope he loses, but wins if he gains.

I hope he loses, but wins if he gains--let me explain that golf koan. I propose that the USGA and the Royal Whatever amend their ban on belly putters to allow any golfer with a certifiable belly to use the belly putter. That's it, so simple--if you have a real belly, then you get to putt with the belly putter; if not, back to the old "free swinging" putters. Six pack abs? No belly putter for you. Keg-like torso--let me show you our new line of belly putters. Name me one fat guy who's been able to beat the super-fit Tiger. I say, and the American electorate seems to back me up on this, level the playing field--give the fat guys a competitive compensatory entitlement. Think of the jobs this could create: Belly Certifiers at every golf course and pro shop in the world! Uh, sir, if you're going to pull that belly putter out of your bag, I'm going to have to ask you to lift that paisley shirt up. I'm sorry, I can't sell you that belly putter because obviously you've been doing your regular morning crunches. Hey, pipsqueak Keegan, start eating mounds of pasta and drinking lots of brew if you want to wield that freakish looking putter on this Tour.

Compromise, right? With this kind of thinking the fiscal cliff turns into a lowly speed bump on the cart path. Get to it gentlemen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Today, That Is

Some days just make sense. Today, for instance. Having a Monday off helps, as well as having the Cleveland Browns win the day before (Mondays off aren't too infrequent, but Browns Victory Mondays are a very rare occasion). I'm still burping a slew of family Thanksgiving get-together delicious dinners, including easily the best turkey I've ever eaten. Chef Brother-In-Law claims the secret is in the brining, and who am I to cast doubt--so moist, so tender, so gob-smacking wonderful. I got a bunch of laundry done today, some long-overdue housework (I even broke out the toilet brush and gave the commode a twice over). I made a rapprochement visit to CVS and was rewarded with coupons right up my alley--razorblades and aspirin--and even had a nice chat with a Jehovah's Witness who came up with a great image while spreading his health over wealth gospel--"Ever see a bank truck following a hearse?" All I need to do is channel the winning numbers for Wednesday's record PowerBall drawing and the day will be complete.

Is it any wonder, then, that the song that has been hounding (in a good sense) me for a few days is "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'" from Oklahoma!? Now my disdain for Broadway musicals is ample, but I've always kind of had a secret hankering for Oklahoma!, God only knows why. But isn't this the way life works? Chalk it up to the brine, but Thanksgiving night I had a strange dream where I informed an old friend that on her next birthday I would be on her front step early in the morning serenading her and the entire neighborhood with "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'." I was actually singing the song in the dream. Then last night, flicking channels aimlessly, I happened upon a PBS documentary about Oscar Hammerstein II, the lyricist for Oklahoma!The King and I, South Pacific, etc. Coincidence? I don't think so. Naturally, I woke up early this morning feeling oh so good, and the song, after playing it a few times on my computer and youtubing it, has been happily stuck in my head. God I love the line about the breeze not missing any trees and the one about the weeping willow "laughing at me," and I get giddy every time I hear that bouncing, frolicking "Everything's goin' my way." Thank you Mr. Hammerstein, for most this amazing day.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

To Be Thankful Or Not To Be Thankful: Separating The Riff From The Raff

On this wonderfully concocted day of thanks, there is a litany of things for which to give thanks, beginning with the undeniably sacrosanct: the Lord, family, friends, daily bread, mashed potatoes, football. But as you work your way down your thankful for list, you might find yourself running out of time, this day being no longer than yesterday or tomorrow (unless you're working retail tomorrow, when if so, the day is interminable). And so, as always, I am here to provide a gratis service to my devoted readers by pointing out some things that deserve our thanks and things that really don't warrant any kind of gratitude.

My handy cyber crutch,, informs me that the term riff raff, originating some six hundred years ago in some place known as Middle England, means people, or a group of people, regarded as disreputable or worthless; the lowest classes; rabble; trash, rubbish. Now as we all know, that which might be considered disreputable or worthless can often be quite appealing, charming even. After all, I think it was the estimable Orson Bean who said, one man's trash is another's treasure. And so, to save you some time on this holiest of unholy days, I present to you a quick guide to separating the riff (good trash, as represented by the Human Riff, Keith Richards) from the raff (bad trash, as represented by Raffi, just because), that trash which we should be thankful for, from that which we needn't bother.

Chris Berman: undeniably trashy, the worst kind of yukster, tolerable only in five-second sound bites, but harmlessly entertaining and benign--Riff

Bob Costas: insufferable, waxy, pontifical, extreme blowhard (which makes Berman a blowsoft, I guess), monumentally unfunny (it's been, what, more than thirty years and I'm still waiting for Costas to say something genuinely funny, although he tries to like every fifteen seconds)--Raff

Realizing your riff/raff distinctions speak for themselves--Riff

Explaining your riff/raff distinctions--Raff

Reruns of the The Gong Show--Riff

Any reality show/game show of the last thirty years--Raff

Cotton Candy--Riff


Paula Broadwell--Riff

Jill Kelley--Raff

Gas station donuts--Riff

Gas station hot dogs--Raff



Trailer Parks--Riff


Dumpster diving--Riff

Metal detecting--Raff

Vendredi Noir--Riff

Black Friday--Raff

Two cars (one on blocks) in the short driveway and another two parked on the lawn (like my neighbors)--Riff

Backing out the Audi into the street and blocking traffic so that the Escalade can get out of the long driveway and transport folks to Black Friday doorbuster sales--Raff

Junk mail--Riff


Spitting onto the sidewalk--Riff

Holding one nostril closed while expelling God knows what onto the sidewalk from the other--Raff

Writing a reminder on your hand--Riff

Writing a reminder on any kind of personal device--Raff

Running through a sputtering sprinkler--Riff

Soaking in an above-ground backyard pool--Raff

Napping on the couch post-prandially, Thanksgiving--Riff

Talking about tryptophan pre-prandially, Thanksgiving--Raff

Inspired by this wise post to comment on anything stupid, "That's so raff"--Riff

Inspired by this wise post to comment on anything cool, "Riff, man"--Raff

Monday, November 19, 2012

When Your Drugstore Becomes A Bit Of A Pest

I don't need this. Just when I thought the fantods were disappearing and my life was getting back to a modicum of normalcy (I've even gotten over my fear of campaign ads and am feeling kind of nostalgic about that rich former socialist warning us lackadaisical capitalists that the end is nigh), I find myself hounded yet again by another innocuous yet oddly vexing entity--my local drugstore, CVS. I count three different CVS locations as my regular store--making at least one stop at each every week, with another four or five satellite ones I am known to patronize. I admit it, I like the store. Most of them are laid out pretty identically, so I know exactly where to go to find the few items I regularly need (yes, I have shopped in one and left the store surprised to find myself at a different location than I thought I was at while in the store). The staff at all the stores are uniformly friendly. I'm not one much for comparison shopping, but I never leave a CVS thinking I've overspent. In short, my CVS experience over the years has been thoroughly satisfactory. Thus, the deeper pain I now feel at CVS's betrayal. Well, betrayal might be too harsh; let's try "judgmental intrusion," okay?

Rewards card. Coupons. Positive sounding words, right? Not anymore. The other evening I bought my usual at CVS: a pack of smokes and a loaf of bread. "Why yes I do," I responded to the nice clerk who asked if I had a CVS rewards card. I whipped out my keys, flipped through my twenty or other (not nearly as dog-eared) rewards cards, found the CVS one, and held it out for the clerk to scan. After paying, I waited for what had been my favorite moment (or four) of the entire CVS shopping experience--the coupon unspooling. If you too are a CVS addict, you know the moment(s) well--the cash register spits out a small forest of thermal tape with your transaction info and then, depending if you're a lucky shopper, loads of coupons (I always feel a little sad when I'm unspooled a lone coupon rather than a small basketful [that long, multi-couponed white register tape with the black ink is like a colorblind man's lei, let me tell you]). This particular night I felt like an old lady hitting three plums on a slot machine--my glee at the tufts of register tape spitting out of the machine was only tempered by the thought of what coupons I'd miss out on when the machine ran out of tape to unspool before my coupons had stopped frothing over. Oh boy, I thought, what shopping I've got in store for me over the next couple weeks, as I calmly pocketed the (forget lei, this was a wedding dress train) receipt (a cool and an experienced--and now formerly happy--CVS shopper saves the Holy Reading of The Coupon Scroll for a private moment; he doesn't jump up and down two feet from the register and celebrate getting 15% off his next purchase of laundry detergent--tres gauche). So, two steps out of the store, I looked at the receipt. I've been pissed ever since.

The first coupon offered me a 20% off "shopping pass" (man, I want coupons; "shopping pass" sounds a tad hoity toity for my sundry shopping needs) if I got a flu shot "today." Well, first of all, while I like and respect all CVS employees, I'm not sure I want to trust the one administering the shots on the night shift, probably the same high school kid who just rang up my purchase and bestowed upon me said wedding train receipt. Second, and most important, while I thank CVS for looking out for my health during the cold and flu season, I kind of don't like them attempting to bribe me into getting a flu shot, being opposed to flu shots in principle (well, not a very principled principle--I just don't want to get a shot of any kind) as I am (I buy an annual bottle of NyQuil and take my chances, and thus far I've never had a heinous flu experience; NyQuil not only seems to battle quite effectively any flu-like symptoms, but it delivers the best knockout punch this side of an Uma Thurman uppercut). Okay, fine, CVS is just trying to be nice, and how are they to know my stand on flu shots?

But that "how are they supposed to know" is the crux of my anger at the remaining coupons I received the other night. Look, I'm no techie, but I "get" data mining and modern marketing techniques. I know THEY--in this instance, CVS--know all about me. I know CVS knows about everything I buy via my little rewards card (ooh, I just noticed the CVS rewards card is called ExtraCare; I'm beginning to get the pejorative meaning of both of those words). I've received enough coupons offering me deals on quit smoking products and $.50 off candy bars to know these coupons aren't generated randomly, or generically. It's not exactly Big Brother, more like pesky Auntie Gertie. But what the hell. The next coupon I received was for "$2 off any Beauty purchase $10 or more" (I nearly hurled my loaf of bread through the store window when I read that). I don't do beauty, and certainly not Beauty, and definitely certainly not at $10+. I might do buy soap, but I don't make beauty "purchases." What kind of BS is this CVS? Are you assuming I need to make a Beauty purchase? Are you assuming, based on my usual mundane purchases, that I must be a rather unbeautiful consumer and thus could use a couple bucks off some beauty product? How dare you judge me like this, CVS. Either that or your data mining's wires are horribly crossed; some poor multi-beauty-purchaser is scratching his or her pretty little head as he or she is staring at a coupon for Gatorade or Hot Pockets.

And then, as if CVS was reading my very real-time thoughts, came the final coup(de grace)on: "$1 off any one Lean Cuisine Frozen Meal." Fine, I've exceeded my last year's total purchase of Hershey's with Almonds bars, you don't have to rub it in. Does this ExtraCare card make me look fat? Maybe I do need a flu-shot/beauty spritz/xx lbs. diet makeover, but it's really none of CVS's business, is it? Well, sure their business kind of consists of helping make that makeover, but only if I choose them, right? It shouldn't be their business to guilt me/bait me into making that makeover. From time to time I've wondered just what CVS stands for. Now I know--Conscience Victimizing Syndicate. And by the way, I've had a Lean Cuisine Frozen Meal before. A mouse-sized ort of cheese on top of a lone Ritz cracker is more filling. Walgreen's here I come.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Conspiracy Of Whackiness: Explaining My Silence

I take the initial blame. The overriding reason why this blog has been dormant for so long is my own doing (non-doing? undoing?), but then events spun out of control. It is only with the passing into a state of desuetude of two American icons (Philip Roth and the Twinkie [no link necessary; I'm sure you've heard of that crash and burn]) that I now feel not only the need but the compulsion to break the bonds of wily silence and speak out once again about the silliness that surrounds me and all of us.

It all started so innocently. As Labor Day kicked the Presidential Campaign season into full gear, I made the decision to be undecided. Hell, I undecisively decided, if all the attention in the Free World was now being directed at the foolish people who couldn't make up their minds between two rather starkly different candidates, far be it from me to pass up the opportunity to be shamelessly pandered to--so I threw my dunce cap in with the foolish, shoulder-shrugging horde. Silly me. I figured a week--tops--of silence from this worldwide (yes, I get hits from India, Russia, and even North Dakota) hub of wisdom would mobilize both political parties into beating a path to my door, slavishly courting me, and trying to persuade me with all sorts of promises to make up my mind already. Surely the Republicans would notice I was refraining from posting an all-too-easy roasting of Paul Ryan and his Eddie-Munster-dressing-up-for-Halloween-as-Ronald-Reagan-while-wearing-Obama-ears costume and think, hmmm, maybe the guy's not all Democrat as we suspected. Surely the Democrats, with all their high-tech data mining et al., would smell something amiss in my failure to make nonsense jokes about the 47% or, much later, those binders full of women. But nothing. No pandering on my doorstep. Enter hubris: Well, fine, I'll just wait them out. This blogger has indeed learned something from reaching across the aisle and hitting the unbudging stone wall that is Mitch McConnell. I dug in.

That's when the conspiracy started. After a week or two of refusing to let the malarkey that accumulates in my brain to escape via my fingertips, I had a most unexpected revolt on my hands--my humorous brain cells petitioned to secede from my cerebral cortex. "There is no humor in being undecided," was their one and only cry of protest. "But this is the most important election in my lifetime," I responded in plagiarizing zeal. "I will not endure it without being pandered to." And then, unlike those secessionary-minded Texans who we all wish would just go ahead and do it then, my funny brain cells didn't laze around waiting for the world to give a damn, they split immediately. All I'll say is that it's very painful to follow the Cleveland Browns in-season without a sense of humor. Dark autumn days indeed.

And then, as I found it impossible to muster even a chuckle at Newt Gingrich's prediction that Romney would win in a landslide, I started getting a cluster of bullying emails from a Tampa woman who identified herself as Kelley Jill. She admitted that she had tried and failed to become a lieutenant groupie at MacDill Air Force Base (not even that ripe name could get me to chortle back in those arid days) and had now set her sights on becoming a blogger groupie. "Why me?" I repeated for the millionth time in my life. She cryptically answered, "Panache." Well, before I knew it, Ms. Jill had hacked past my seemingly iron-clad firewall and accessed my file of half-written, eventually-given-up-on would-be blog posts and threatened to publish them "to the universe." My God, I thought, any ten-second stumbled-upon reader of this blog recognizes its integrity--I can't have the universe reading my discarded, not-up-to-the-usual-high-snuffiness musings on the cuteness of porcupines, the genius of the word pshaw, the remote possibility that in the proper light and in the proper fleece jacket, Paul Ryan might maybe could get my vote as an also-ran in People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive Sporting an Eddie Munster 'Do Poll. So I played ball with Ms. Jill for a couple weeks, which, I might add, was only possible to do completely humorlessly--so, even in a storm, there's some sunshine. We exchanged emails, I admit, and even let her in on a few secrets re parentheses placement.

But then, speaking of storms, Sandy hit. Before I knew it, Kelley Jill was onto her next obsession: Pudgy politicans with thick accents intoning, "I don't give a damn" at every possible photo op. Of course, that did actually make me guffaw, and so I was all set to start blogging again, but Sandy took out my power for a few days. When it came back on, naturally, I was in a period of mourning for Karl Rove's sanity and just couldn't write a thing--on a grocery list from the time, all I could manage was the "or" of orange juice, a fitting conundrum for an at-one-time proud undecided (I did make up my mind eventually and voted for Roseanne Barr; she always makes me laugh).

The thaw actually began late on election night. My favorite moment of the entire campaign came when Obama and family came out to the cheering masses in Chicago and cute little Sasha had to tug at dad's coat and tell him twice, "behind you," to get him to turn around and acknowledge the supporters sitting behind the stage. Wow, the most powerful man in the world being told what to do by an eleven-year-old girl--pricelessly amusing.

"Behind you." That notion tugged at my own coattails. Ah yes, I realized after much soul-searching, behind me: spitoutyourgum. Can I commit, though, I wondered. Well, if Mitch McConnell can still be Mitch McConnell, and if the world can go on surprising us in its silliness (Broadwell, this Ben Ghazi character, bus drivers in Cleveland getting assaulted right and left, Wile E. Coyote allusions all over fiscal cliff stories, etc.) after such a supposedly important election, I guess I can do my part. Texas beware: my humorous brain cells are sheepishly returning to the fold one by one, admitting it's a cold world out there. And now, with the literary genius of Philip Roth calling it quits, and the completely absurd and superfluous and mindlessly delicious Twinkie disappearing from our diets, someone has to step into the void. Here I am.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Advice To The Kid Given The Choice Today Between Jumping In Puddles Or Going To Chuck E Cheese

Listen kid, for what it's worth, this old man says jump in the puddles. I know your mom was upset and issued a rather stern ultimatum in the parking lot, one that seemed unfair--either jump in the parking lot's puddles or continue on to Chuck E Cheese and somebody's birthday party (obviously not your birthday party, because I assume if it were your birthday she'd indulge you a bit and let you do both)--but that's life kid, you can't always do everything. Now I know she said, "The choice is yours," but I'm thinking she was bluffing a bit (although, who knows, maybe she was looking for a way out of going to Chuck E Cheese for another kid's party--God knows she wouldn't have been the first--and if she'd saved the receipt, she could have easily gotten a refund on that nicely wrapped present she carried in one arm while the other coaxed you away from that puddle, and she could have easily left a message, or, better yet, God bless modern technology, texted some reason as to why you and she couldn't make the party). But in the larger scheme of things, she was most correct--the choice is yours: a day (or life) of jumping in puddles or going to Chuck E Cheese. It's only my opinion, but I say take the puddle route over the Chuck E Cheese route. Chuck E Cheese is noisy and the games are all pretty regimented--and costly. Jumping in puddles is really a lot more fun. You can make up your own games and noises. Chuck E Cheese, like cockroaches, will always be there. Puddles come and go, which means their pleasures are more to be treasured. Looking back on it, I'm sure you'll prize the muddy splotches on your legs and clothes over some plastic Chuck E Cheese token and a balloon that'll soon lose its air. One can do much worse than be a jumper of puddles. The choice is yours.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Being A Non-Prince In Cleveland Never Felt So Good

What the hell.

I'm watching and reading all the news about Isaac the next big hurricane. Count on it: Every year just around the time football is revving up, there's a news story showing empty shopping market shelves, cars lined up at gas pumps, people boarding up houses, and always the same middle-aged, tanned, guy-who-stepped-out-of-a-Jimmy-Buffett-song talking about riding the storm out and he survived that big one twelve years ago, and four years ago, and by God and whiskey he's gonna survive this one. And every year as I watch all this in Cleveland, where maybe it gets a little too hot, or maybe a little too cold, or maybe there's too much snow for a couple days, I think, how can those people stand it? How can they live there where every year for two or three months they have to live with the imminent possibility of boarding up, packing up, fleeing, losing it all? Don't they ever consider moving, for the mental health benefits, if nothing else? But for the first time last night--call it wisdom with age, maybe--as I watched and listened to Jimmy Buffett guy, I actually stood--if not walked a mile--in his flip flops for a second or two and thought, does he watch ESPN and read the sports pages, and does he ever consider the fans of Cleveland sports teams (the Indians, who've won maybe five games in the last month, or the Browns, who've won no more than five games in a season for just about a generation, and whose fans--two weeks before this season even starts--are already calling sports talk shows and speculating about who the next coach will be and who should be the number one pick in next year's draft) and think to himself, as he places another big piece of ply board over another window, just like he did last month or last year: God, how can those fans in Cleveland stand it year after year--bungling, no-hope teams filled with cast-offs and suspect prospects and chronically injured never weres? Don't they ever consider moving, for the mental health benefits, if nothing else?

And then I flick from The Weather Channel to E!, turn from the front page to the gossip page, and I consider the naked truth about being a globetrotting, whore mongering prince in this day and age. Time was, and was and was, the naked truth about being a globetrotting, whore mongering prince was, no lie, about as good as it could get. For decades, centuries, millennia, princes have had the run of the world's pleasures. Whatever and whomever they wanted to indulge, plunder, pinch, imbibe, was theirs, usually not even for the asking. Royal privilege. And as for word of any indiscretions getting out and round the kingdom, forget it. The four magical, royal words--Off with his head--sufficed to keep a lid on things, so to speak. But now? Oh Lord, randy Prince Harry must be cursing his fate, and thousands and thousands of lascivious ancestors, that his royal playtime comes not just in the world of fiendish paparazzi and cable TV--his poor mother knew all that--but in a world where everybody carries a camera/video recorder. Should we be shocked that a charming prince is rompingly exercising his birthright's pleasures in his royal birthday suit (sorry, but all the crown jewel jokes have been taken) with naked commoners in history's latest Sin City? Hardly. I mean, come on, for a prince like Harry, those not cognizant of history (royals debauching themselves on a royal level) are condemned not to get any. Given the photos available, we might be shocked only at his modesty. But does the guy get a break? Does the world just shrug its common shoulders and say, princes will be princes? Not in this day and age, Harry. Sorry.

And so, today I'm recalculating my dreams. Out is the one about being the Prince of New Orleans, celebrating another Super Bowl victory in the buff with a dozen or score of my drunkest friends. In is the one where it's less than 85 degrees the next time I have to mow the lawn, the Browns and Indians finish .500, and Prince finally puts out another decent album.

What the hell, Cleveland, you're all right.

Friday, August 24, 2012


I don't know about you (well, I do know that presently you have way too much time on your hands), but few things in life give me more pleasure than bringing together two of my friends, who previously had not known each other, and seeing them hit it off and become friends themselves. Santa himself can't know such joy. Anyway.

I've known Leopold for more than thirty years. He's a good guy. We met in high school, in the late 1970s, when our hair grew aggressively. In early 1987, when we were young professionals and our hair was a bit more kempt and less dense, we watched the Cleveland Browns play the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. The infamous Drive game, when John Elway drove his Broncos 98 yards in a couple minutes to tie the game and went on to win it in overtime, thus depriving the Browns of their, to date, best chance at reaching a Super Bowl. Any true Clevelander over the age of 28 knows exactly where he or she watched that game. For Leopold, he quite rightly dates his life to pre-Drive and post-Drive. Next time I saw him was two weeks later, when we got together to fulfill our man duties and watch the Super Bowl, as painful as it was that day--even the Broncos' blow-out loss didn't salve too many wounds. Leopold looked awful--in two weeks time he had lost all his once thick mane of hair but for two wispy clumps of dried out, colorless locks, one above his left ear, the other in the back of his head down by his neck.

"It's just fallen out in clumps," Leopold explained to my dumbfounded face, as I fridged the beer and he uncapped two-week-old chip dip, "ever since that night. Elway probably hadn't even dried himself off from that post-game shower before the first handful dropped off my head." By the Pro Bowl the next week, Leopold was completely bald, as he still is, nearly 26 years later. Two marriages come and gone since then, the Browns themselves gone and come back, with nary a Super Bowl even sniffed for 20 years, and Leopold is still bald. Enough time has passed that Leopold's shiny pate doesn't stand out at high school reunions, but the pain is still there. Or really, the pine.

"Phantom lock pine," Leopold explained to me, in strict confidence, a few years ago, when I caught him in the middle of a round of golf taking off his cap and running his hand through sweaty hair that wasn't there at all. "It's constant. The yearning to sweep hair off my forehead, tangle and untangle a few strands idly when I'm at work, and, oh, the best, most painful, to do that double-handed, simultaneous quick flick of the hair from off the sideburns to behind the ears. You know that feeling you get when you realize you should have gotten a haircut two weeks ago? Constant. I constantly feel like I need a haircut, but I had a permanent haircut years ago! I need a straitjacket. You cannot believe the strength and willpower it takes for me in public to resist the urge to play and tousle and tease my hair that isn't there, that hasn't been there in decades!"

He was in pain, obviously. "Why don't you--"

"Eighty-five dollars an hour. I did go see someone, a psychiatrist specializing in follicle issues. I was the first male client she had seen in six years. Her advice? Wear a hat and take up smoking. She laughingly dismissed my claim that Phantom Lock Pine was a very real and incapacitating disorder."

I see Leopold about two or three times a year now. At first I was self-conscious, but finally he said, "Go ahead, do what you have to with your hair--you've got a little cowlicky thing going on on the right--I kind of enjoy the vicarious thing." Poor guy.

Then there's Graciola. I met her a year and a half ago. She works the nightshift at a Speedway gas station cum convenience store. We struck up a friendship over our mutual love of Brisk lemonade. One time I stared too awkwardly at her ever-moving hands and fingers as we waited for my debit card to be authorized. "I'm sorry," she said, clearly embarrassed. "I've got this thing about wielding clippers." My debit card cleared and I hastily took my lemonade and Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar with Almonds and drove off. Two nights later, she was waiting for me. She was on break, she had bought me some lemonade, we sat on the sidewalk out near the ice freezer and the propane tanks. She told me her sad story. As near as she could tell, she said it all started in childhood. She always played with dolls in her backyard, and was always hearing it from her mother to pick them up afterward. One day, as she ate her breakfast--Fruit Loops, she's pretty sure--she looked out the window just as the landscaper was mowing the back lawn. A doll, Molly Malarkey, lay face down in some pachysandra, with its red hair spilling over onto the lawn. The landscaper, who it turned out was colorblind, red-green deficiency, didn't see a thing and mowed off Molly's red hair. "Ever since then, I've had this love-hate thing with hair, with the cutting of hair. All I want to do is cut hair, but I have a tremendous, physical aversion to hair, which explains this," she said, and pointed to her own butch-cropped pale brown hair. "I lasted fifteen whole minutes at the beautician academy. Now I'm nothing but an air barber," she said, and quickly clipped her fingers away at the night.

Well, four months after that night, after many calming, delicate conversations--separate--with the two of them, I finally managed to get Leopold and Graciola to meet. What seemed like a disaster the first five minutes, has transformed into a great friendship, the depths of which I know not nor care not; I'm just happy these two forlorn souls have met. Last night, as I plunked down my Brisk and Hershey's on the counter and asked Graciola how it was going (it in the general sense, not necessarily the Leopold sense), she just grinned and said, "Like this," and showed me her phone with the latest text from Leopold: "Big presentation later this week. Think u can take a bit off the top n sides?" I looked up and Graciola smiled, and her hands were peacefully hanging at her sides.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Enough With The Negative Advertising: 10 Things That Take The Perfect Amount Of Time

Holy George McGovern! It's not even Labor Day and we've all had enough of the negative advertising, haven't we? It's bad enough that people running for high office engage in the kind of nasty, distorted mudslinging of one another that directly goes against all their platitudes about a "better America," but now it seems that the negativity is infectious. I ran across this de facto ad on Buzzfeed, one of my favorite sites for finding out all the stupid, must-read crap floating around the internet. Samsung, in an effort to tout the speed of its latest computer, has concocted a list of ten things that "we" wish took less than ten seconds. I flatter Samsung with the word "concoct"; all they did was round up the usual suspects--do we really need somebody else telling us the DMV is a time-killer? It took me about seventeen seconds to scroll through the list; seventeen seconds I'll never get back. So let's get iconoclastically positive here and make a different, more ebullient list.

Ten Things That Take The Perfect Amount Of Time

  1. Eating a banana: From the sensuous peeling, to the not-at-all-challenging biting and practically-melts-in-your-mouth chewing, is there a more satisfying (and salubrious) mutli-dimensional experience that takes less time than re-booting a frozen Samsung computer than this?
  2. Watching a perfect tee shot: Granted, this one comes with qualification. It might take you, as it does me, several frustrating (i.e. sliced, hooked, topped, popped, whiffed, etc.) attempts, but when all the wrong things about your swing somehow harmonically converge to offset one another and you hit the sweet spot and that pale, dimpled nemesis flies high and long and straight and takes a good bounce down the fairway, you feel a little bit like Him/Herself sitting back on that grand Seventh Day and taking in the view, and saying, "Hmmm, not bad." Any longer would border on hubris, any shorter would be not enough.
  3. Writing a "back in 5 minutes" post-it: Given the short duration of your absence and the need to inform your audience/customers of your absence, this is perfect. If you're going to be away less time, it's a waste of time to write the post-it; if you're going to be away longer, you got some 'splaining to do.
  4. A sneeze: Not the allergen-induced onslaught of rapid ah-choos, nor the three-day phlegm fest of the common cold, but the out of nowhere, here and gone one-off bone-rattling sneeze. When executed to perfection--the instant brain-alert that makes you instantly realize, oh no, everything in life's on hold for the next few seconds, to that glorious intake of breath before lift-off ("ah") to that cathartic, ultimate experience of living in the moment expulsion ("choo") and the quick recovery time of receiving God's blessing--the sneeze is about as close to perfect timing as possible.
  5. Napping: Be it a five minute power nod off or a luxurious two-hour asylum snooze, any nap is perfect.
  6. Watching a Road Runner cartoon: How long are these things, five, six minutes? An hour? Who knows, but they're perfect. Any longer and your nerves would start to fray and you'd be cursing Road Runner's smugness and Wile E.'s stupidity. Your suspension of disbelief that allows you to believe the rock Wile E. just painted black could grant passage to Road Runner but stop Wile E. dead in his tracks would disintegrate. Your annoyance at the shoddy craftsmanship of the Acme Co. would have you flinging various catalogs at Wile E. You might end up hearing Beep Beep in your head for eternity. But any shorter, and you'd miss the complete arc of the existential story. The transformation of your emotions from glee at Road Runner's insouciance to sympathy for Wile E.'s tortured existence. You'd miss the musing upon the anvil's place in human history that always occurs. You'd stop identifying with Wile E.'s amazing recovery from certain death to attempt another scheme. Come to think of it, the exact duration of a Road Runner cartoon might be the perfect time frame for just about anything in life: X will only take as long as a Road Runner cartoon? I'll endure.
  7. "ABC" by the Jackson 5: Pop perfection.
  8. Cooking spaghetti: I am certainly no culinary master; food is merely functional, tasty at best. If it takes more time to make it than consume it, I'm skeptical. Spaghetti, given this credo, is perfect (sauce out of a jar, naturally; no simmering, stirring, pinching things into it for hours).
  9. Proclaiming, "Ah, go to Hell!": Conversations, dialogues, debates, arguments--all of them can go on much too long, with a whole array of negative consequences. But with one simple--and quick--"Ah, go to Hell" (the "Ah" is essential, and can be accompanied with a rather limp-wristed, dismissive wave of the hand), the stake is decisively driven. The long-time assumed aphorism that the first one to raise his or her voice in an argument loses begs for revision in these crasser, more combative times. I say, the first one to proclaim AGTH wins, no questions asked. (Now's not the time to wax philosophic about the contrasting perfect words Heaven and Hell --Hell with its one-syllable stab, its bombastic and culminating double L; Heaven with its two-syllable elongation, its mighty V; the same Heh- beginning.) In fact, I say whichever candidate is the first to ditch all those despicable negative ads and resorts to a short (and cheap, austere), eight second ad showing five seconds of the opponent's highfalutin' gibberish followed by a quick cut to the candidate simply proclaiming, "Ah go to Hell!" would win in a landslide.
  10. Reading my blog posts: What the hell, like Wile E. Coyote, a man can keep on concocting and hoping.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

An Oldster Re-Fashions A Youngster's Song

Well, the toe bone is connected to Epsom Salts
And the foot bone is connected to ongoing litigation involving Medicare, the insurance industry, and Payday Loans, Inc.
And the ankle bone is connected to God only knows what.
The shin bone is connected to the slings and arrows of absurd misfortune
And the knee bone is connected to Dial-A-Prayer
While the thigh bone is connected to a heating pad.
The hip bone is connected to Mother Nature's storm center
And the tail bone is connected to this EZ Lift Chair.
The back bone is connected to Edvard Munch's psyche
And the breast bone is connected to the hopes of Ponce de Leon.
The shoulder bone is connected to Advil
All the arm elbow wrist hand and finger bones seem to be connected to someone else's nervous system
And the neck bone is connected to Meyerwitz, Meyerwitz, and Pane and Sons.
The jaw bone is connected to Ensure
The nose bone is connected to a sink of dirty dishes at the moment
The ear bone has been disconnected
And the head bone is looking to connect with a soft pillow.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Or Was It Just A Mirage?

On the average, I would safely surmise, any sentient human over the age of, say, twelve, questions his or her sanity seventeen times a day. Anything below ten, well, you're well on your way. And so it should come as no surprise that less than 24 hours ago I experienced a particularly biting such questioning. Unlike most of these daily self-examinations, though, this one wasn't so fleeting; it's obviously stayed with me some time, and has grown from the usual minuscule pop quiz to a full-blown essay question. Allow me to impinge upon your time to act as my grader.

Monday, while driving the same backroads I usually take to work, I saw a yard sign. Now although it's not quite election season, when lawns everywhere will be dotted and clotted with red and blue signs, lawn signs this time of year are not infrequent sights. Just two weeks ago on one little half mile stretch of road, I counted at least half a dozen garage sale signs. Throw in the flood of For Sale signs, and one more hand-written sign shouldn't cause any concern, let alone a red alert sanity check. But this one was different. I swear on my stack of Bob Dylan CDs, LPs, and cassettes, this particular sign read: Wanted: Men Who Love To Sing, with a phone number below. What the hell is that, I wondered, practically ramming the curb and ricocheting off a USA Mail truck parked on the bend just beyond said house. The notion of a yard sign advertising for singing males intrigued me all day, and I even told Co-Workers about it--which might have been a fatal mistake.

For two whole days I pondered the significance of a yard sign calling for singing-loving men. I was thrilled, though a bit surprised, that in this day of internet access to communities of the most obscure and nicheiest interests, somebody would go the ancient fashioned route to trawl for like-minded fanatics. Could such a sign really pull in interested people located as it was on a not too heavily traveled street, where at most passersby only caught a fleeting glimpse of it? And really, the more I pondered the whole thing, what was the motive behind the sign, the actual motive among the myriad ones my mind kept coming up with: was it just a hopeful plea from some frustrated ex-glee club guy? a weird cult? some kind of cryptic message decipherable only by the erudite in-the-know? an invitation to a gay slumber party? a lonely woman looking for a suitable serenader? Cher looking for back-up singers? the Mormon Tabernacle Choir setting up a satellite Cleveland operation? My mind reeled.

I tossed and turned all Monday night, wondering whether I should take the grand step from being a lazy make-it-up-as-you-go-along blogger to being a full participatory journalist. Damn the fact that I can't sing; by the time they found that out I'd be deep within the fortress of the singing-loving-males club. I'd have a story. I looked ahead to this very blog post with relish--I'd have quite a story to tell. So I used my off day Tuesday preparing myself. I figured I'd get the phone number on my way to work Wednesday--yesterday--make the call, find out the real facts, and regale you all with what I'd discovered about such a strange sign. All day Tuesday I practiced various possible approaches to the phone call. Should I start with a one-man imitation of the Three Stooges' famous "hello, Hello, HELLO!"? Or maybe, more impressively, (singing) "ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A BASSO? or maybe a tenor? in a pinch, or maybe with a pinch, I could even do castrato!"?  Should I take a no nonsense approach and demand immediately, "Look, I don't have time to play around. When do we hit the road, and do I get my own dressing room?" Or do I assume the sign was indeed a cryptic message to some sleeper cell of spies and just say, "Aunt Emma is in the henhouse. Would you like to knit yourself a sweater?" and see if within twelve hours I don't find myself on Cyprus running guns and saving damsels? Good God I barely slept Tuesday night.

And so it was yesterday that I turned onto the street with uncontained excitement. Pen and pad by my side, I slowed the car as I approached the bend. I figured it would take me three seconds to stop, copy the phone number, and be on my way quickly--just in case the Feds had been alerted and were eyeballing any passerby taking a too keen interest in the sign. But. What the hell? Really, where the hell? The sign was gone. Previous to Monday, the last time I had been on the road was last Thursday (community "Home Days" or some such nonsense over the weekend had changed my route)--so the sign couldn't have been up for more than three or four days. Why was it gone? Surely in such a short time with such a crude form of advertising, the person(s) so desperately in need of singing-loving males couldn't have reached his or her or their quota. Had the neighbors revolted, upset that so many cars were doing driveway turn-arounds and lingering on the street, sussing the sign and finding pen and paper to copy the phone number? Had some especially sharp and no-doubt-soon-to-be-promoted cop been alerted by the cryptic message on the sign and had thus busted up whatever shenanigans had been going on inside? Or, God forbid, had that poor person just looking for a little male-singing companionship despaired after a couple of days of no phone calls and given it all up? Once again, the mind reeled.

And reeled and reeled. Or could it all, please no, been nothing? Not real, but imagined somehow in my obviously-now-fer-piece-around-the-bend mind? Was it a mirage? I've never seen a desert; I've never experienced a mirage. Is there a verb form? To mirage? Is this another heinous effect of global warming? That people in areas such as the Great Lakes will now be suffering desert-like mirages? Isn't a mirage basically a good thing--seeing an oasis in the desert where there isn't one? Don't you just mirage things you want, desire? To what has my mind eddied that I'm miraging a sign seeking singing-loving males? What's next, seeing a skywriting plane spelling out in white wisps, "Need an anvil? Call Carl at ... "? Just how comfortable is a straitjacket?

Monday, August 13, 2012

One Bucket Warming, Rep. Ryan: Passing The Hunh? Test

Any casual reader of this little nook on the internet knows that I would much rather be writing whimsical (at my best) gibberish (at my most) than getting all political, but residing (and suffering) as I do in the very county where supposedly more presidential election advertising dollars are being spent than any other place in America, I have the right to be a quasi pundit at least once a month for the next three. Besides, if the vice presidency of the United States doesn't call for a little whimsical gibberish, what does? As one whose relationship with the "mainstream media" (has "stream" ever been used more aptly?) is akin to a rubbernecker on the freeway, I say unequivocally that very little piques my gawking attention more than the quadrennial fuss over a presidential candidate's "choice of a running mate." I mean, just the thrill of hearing and reading the use of the verb "vet" so many times in two or three days is like Christmas in August. Woe to him or her not thoroughly vetted--poor Thomas Eagleton is waiting with your hair shirt.

And so it has been with glee over the past 48 hours that I have read and listened to all the early returns on Mitt Romney's "tabbing" of Paul Ryan to "join his team." Ah, sly Mitt, though, announcing his choice on a Saturday morning, which has forced the second-line wags to weigh in first, thus allowing the main-line nabobs (hence my two cents here, Monday, rather than then, Saturday) to digest the immediate reaction before thundering forward with the duly considered truth. Everybody's got an angle, everybody's got a theory, not only about why Ryan but about what Ryan means and will mean. Hogwash, I say. Or, more to the point, Sacrifice Bunt. I don't know who said it first, but it's true and it applies here: the sacrifice bunt is the only play in baseball that, when successful, both sides cheer. Which translates into, big deal, let's wait some more and see whose Big Deal it really is--can Romney drive in the run from second, or will Obama pitch his way out of a jam? Who knows? I've read conservatives love the pick and so do liberals, so so what?

So what because we're talking vice president here, maybe the most powerful so what on the planet, but still, at its most fundamental, so what. To me, and I bet most people not getting paid to ruminate, pontificate, and fulminate, the choice of a vice presidential running mate begins and ends with the Hunh? Test. Hunh? in all its wonderful various intonations and connotations (and no doubt, for some, Sarah Palin expanded the range of possible intonations of Hunh? to include breathier ones--Uh Hunh, you can be my Commander-in-Chief any day!). The first part of the two-part Hunh? Test is the immediate Who He/She? part. If that part takes more than a nano-second or two, prepare your concession speech, Mr. Nominee. The second part of the Hunh? Test is more visceral and sadder (and oxymoronic)--can I see this person as my President in the event of an unforeseen tragedy (cue dire music for the "a mere heartbeat away" line)? Now I know that's a loaded question in this time of severe partisanship where the thought of four more years of Obama or at least four years of Romney sends either one half of the country or the other running to the borders screaming Armageddon and the Death of the Constitution, but really, it can be tolerated. President Dole? President Bentsen? President Kemp? President Biden? I will survive. I'll get back to you on President Quayle, President Edwards, and President Palin. But President Ryan? Well, I've never been a Tom Clancy fan, but yes, President Ryan, I can breathe. My first, and thus far only, real reaction to Ryan is that his voice sounds a little too male-cheerleader nagging for me, but really, for the sake of the Union, I can get over that.

So, congratulations Mr. Ryan, you've passed the Hunh? Test. Now what? Well, as history shows, not much, besides a whirlwind, hoarse-inducing (what will that nagging voice sound like come November 6?) few months. On November 7 you'll either become (but for that errant heartbeat, or lack thereof) the most irrelevant person in the country next to Patrick Duffy's (yes, I checked, he's still alive) pr guy, or you'll be the instant frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2016. Because, really, all this nattering nonsense of the last few days and a few more to come notwithstanding, who really cares? Show me eight people, beyond immediate family and friends, who have actually cast (and let's take a moment to hail that great verb--like casting a lonely, worm-wriggling fishing line, in hopes that it might bring in some daily sustenance) their presidential vote based on the vice president, and I'll show you eight people who couldn't spell the term Electrical Collage, let alone define it. Name me one influential vice president in history (okay, fine conspiracy fans, the Johnsons, maybe) other than Darth Dick Cheney (or Duck as his hunting buddies call him). I'll be waiting for your answer until Sasha and Malia are answering to the call of "Grandma!" And please, spare me the usual talk this time every four years of a "shared Presidency." If your ego is big enough to think you should be President, big enough to actually run for President, and big enough to actually be nominated for President, sharing isn't in your lexicon. The semiotics of that picture above are enough to tell you all you need to know about the reality of the kind of sharing that would take place between Romney and Ryan--you wear the jacket, I'll wear the tie. Hey buddy, start practicing that grim look that hides the thought, Who died?, for all the foreign non-major funerals you'll be attending.

Well, there was one influential vice president in history, John Nance Garner IV. Who he? Hunh? FDR's vice president from 1933-1941. He was the one who said the vice presidency was "not worth a bucket of warm piss." Which in turn made him the only vice president who said anything meaningful enough to be bowdlerized, the more familiar saying being "bucket of warm spit." I give Garner moxie points, but not poetic ones. I actually prefer the spit imagery. Less powerful, more inconsequential. Apt. I ain't going to do the math here, but it seems to me "vice presidential nominee" might be a near-exact anagram of "perceived expediency."

So, Mr. Ryan, have fun, and enjoy the ride for the next few months. Come November 7 you're either looking at four maybe eight years of frustrating boredom with mercury rising saliva all the while thinking nothing but 2020, or you'll be crowned The Next One, in which case, see Giuliani, Edwards, Palin, et al. Fun, hunh?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Where The Guys Are

So I get a frantic phone call the other night from some other guy named Dan. Unusually for him, he's pretty desperate. He tells me I'm just about his last hope. I argue that I'd feel out of place, don't have anything to wear, need a haircut, my second chin's sporting an eleven-o'clock shadow, I don't wear shoes that don't flaunt my unseemly toes this time of year, I seem to have misplaced my box of Q-Tips for like the last fortnight or so, I haven't tied a tie this decade--the usual--but he's adamant. Offers me a 40% off coupon at a dry cleaner's, says it's time I expand my horizons, there'll be $2 Guinness pints. I say why didn't you say so. He says don't be late. That's how I found myself on the other side of the tracks from the semi-weekly-or-is-it-monthly Oddfellows meeting, way on the other side, at a bar simply called The Bar, at the weekly meeting of the Regular Guys.

Let Me Be Frank About It checks my ID at the door and scoffs. "You should trade names with this guy," and introduces me to Sloppy Joe, who looks like I usually do when I'm not so gussied up. I find a seat at the bar and order a pint from some guy named Moe. Next to me are Yesiree Bob and No Way Jose, carrying on some kind of existential argument that will go on all night; Bob ends up buying all their rounds. By and by the entertainment strikes up--Joe Blow on a solo tuba. No Shit Sherlock drops by to tell me I'm sitting in a bar while You Don't No Jack holds court and whips everybody's ass over at the Trivia Contest. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the place hits up everyone else, asking if they'd like to be the fourth in their golf outing next Tuesday. I spy Tricky Dick pickpocketing Peter and then telling Paul, "Here's that twenty I owe you." Uncle Sam and John Bull are over in the corner arguing about tea while John Q. Public stands in the middle of the joint saying hello to everybody. As the bar clock hits the hour mark Steady Eddie does another shot. Even Steven is here, but nobody can find Waldo. Johnny Boy comes in carrying a surfboard, but Charlie shoos him away and he leaves. We hardly knew him. By this time I have to hit the head and am rather disconcerted that the guy next to me at the urinals seems to have wandering eyes. I close up shop quickly and pass Yesiree Bob on his way in. I hear Bob say, "Hey Tom, how's the squint tonight?" Back at the bar I find Kilroy's been there and all the guys are taking up a collection for Pete's sake. I throw in a couple bucks and get my ass outta there, tearing off my clip-on tie as soon I can.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Tell-Tale Sign You're An Aged Rock Star

Each generation is presented with new, never experienced before challenges. Think of the cohort who invented the wheel, then had to cope with their teenagers taking the first ever joy rides. Or the first Catholics who suddenly had to get culinarily creative on a Friday night. Or Morse's peers who had to deal with the first prank telegraph messages (just what is the dot-dash configuration of "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?"?). Obviously, the daunting, never-before-have-people-had-to-face-this challenge of the present generation is, what to do with aging rock stars. It's amazing to think of it, but many of the Founding Fathers (or Queens, and here's to you, Little Richard) of Rock'n'Roll are still alive--Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the previously mentioned Mr. Penniman. Hell, Elvis would be/is only 77. All hail them and the rest, but still, we as fans are faced with several thorny issues concerning how to deal with these former paragons of youth now that they ain't that young anymore.

For years now we've rather naturally taken in stride the gradual steps of an aging career: the balding, the hearing loss, the myriad "comeback" tours and albums (when you've got at least three of each on your resume, you know you're getting old, Mr. Rock Star), the Rock Hall induction, the Super Bowl gig, the tribute albums and concerts, the third or fourth box sets, the ironic singing of lines penned in youth--and all of that's just the last thirty years of Pete Townshend's life. Like Medicare, senior coffee at McDonald's, and EZ Lift chairs for the rest of us, an entire network of safety nets has been erected to ease the once callow, rebellious rocker into senescence. There's Unplugged, and Storytellers, the duets album, the album of standards, the greatest hits live album, the hook-up with the hip young producer album, the songwriters in the round concerts, the rock cruises, and the inevitable writing of the memoirs (David Ritz thanks you all). Say what you will about Elvis's tragic death, but the man put out a lot of schlock when he was alive, and, all the merchandising since his death notwithstanding, imagine the crap he would have made lo these last 35 years!

But, accustomed as I am--and I'm sure you are--to all of this by now, the question that has bugged me for some time is, what's the Rubicon, what's the jump the shark/couch moment, the definitive dividing line between being an aging rock star--where we can salute the career, bask in past glories, honor, if a bit sadly, the god while he or she is still alive --and being an aged rock star, where the whole thing is just downright depressing and should be kept away from the public? Well, like Steve Jobs must have felt years ago when he realized, "Phones, my God! Who knew? The future is phones!" yesterday I had a eureka moment concerning this aging/aged rock thing. I now know the exact moment when it is clear that our beloved aging rock star, the hero of our youth, has landed at the bottom of the slippery slope and is now not simply completely irrelevant but is dangerous to our collective joie de vire and should be put out to pasture for good--however you want to define that euphemistic idiomatic phrase.

But first let me qualify things. I love the Rolling Stones. It might be an oldies station playing it, but whenever I hear "Jumpin' Jack Flash," or "Brown Sugar" or "The Last Time" on the radio, they all still sound like the freshest, nastiest thing on any airwaves. If I were a pugilistic sort, I'm sure by now my oft-repeated, and oft-scoffed at, statement of incontrovertible fact that the Stones were/are/and ever shall be greater than the Beatles would have gotten me engaged in many a fisticuffs over the years. It's such a foundational truth, that I guess only the hoariest, most despicable cliche applies--you look up Rock'n'Roll in the dictionary, and you'll find a picture of the Stones.

Of course, duh, I'm speaking of the Rolling Stones only in the first 20 years of their by now 50 year existence (sic). Go ahead, name three great songs the Stones have made in the past thirty years; here's a hint, I'll be beyond aged by the time you can even muster an argument for the third one. Hell, they've made a grand total of six, 6! albums in the past thirty years. (By the way, the answer is one. One great song in the last thirty years: "The Worst," off Voodoo Lounge; a Keith song, ironically, from 1994!).

Now I won't bother going through yet again the "pathetic parodies of themselves," "only in it for the (huge amount of ) money" arguments. You've read them all before. And will undoubtedly read them again as they mount whatever becomes their 50 Year Celebration, i.e., hopefully, Swan Song, in the next few months. No, my beef at the moment is with Keef. The Human Riff. The alleged poster boy of all things Rock. Mick is Mick, always was, always will be. God save him. Ronnie's just a hired gun. Charlie is irreproachable; always was and always will be the coolest guy Rock has ever created. But Keith. My God. Years ago I thought it, and I still do, now more fervently than ever--every day he lives he gets less cool. For thirty years now he's been trading on the lovable bad guy schtick. Now he's Goofy Grandpa, professionally raconteuring rather than rocking and touring. We love you Keith, always have and always will, but shut up and go away already.

And what has brought me to such apostasy today? What has me so sacrilegiously blaspheming the mighty Keith Richards? The eureka moment I experienced yesterday. The discovery of the tell-tale sign that the aging rocker has become aged. The end of the living rock god's relevant life: At the bookstore where I work, we received two remaindered (duh) copies of Keith's autobiography, Life, IN LARGE PRINT! Trust me, I know the book retailing business. Keith's audience is not the LARGE PRINT audience. Unless he's ditched Patti and is shacking up with Debbie Macomber, Danielle Steel, or Barbara Taylor Bradford, Keith Richards has no place in the LARGE PRINT section of a bookstore. Good God, Keith, I know you've raised reckless nonchalance to an art form, but why in the name of Robert Johnson did you sign a publishing contract that allowed them to print your book in LARGE PRINT? If you do ever tour again, you better have a special ring of seats for AARP members, where earplugs, Depends, and seat cushions are included in the senior discount price. You never even made a standards album, Keith! How can you go LARGE PRINT on us?