Monday, January 31, 2011

$#*! My Dad Did

There were lots of comments on my last post, regarding how my dad is a great role model for how to screw with people.  And because I only scratched the surface with that post, and because Dad loves being the center of attention, I figured I’d tell you a couple more stories.  (Several of which HE suggested, mind you.)

The first place we lived in Columbus (Ohio) was right across an alley from a synagogue.  Dad used to get a big kick out of it every time Mom would cook bacon with the windows open on Saturday mornings.  He wasn’t really “driving” that one, but I remember how funny he thought that was.  (I didn’t really get the joke until much later.)

One of the first stories I remember about Dad messing with people was when I was in early Jr. High.  We lived in another place in Columbus, cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood, and some of the neighbors were known for being a little fussy.  At one get-together early in our tenure there, one of the neighbor ladies was talking about how she heard that another neighbor wanted all of his underwear labeled by day, so it would wear out evenly. 

Dad said, “Don’t laugh… I have labels put in my underwear too…” He paused before delivering the punch line…  “January, February, March…”

They gave us a wide berth, after that.

We got along real well with our next-door neighbors though.  They were some nice, down-to-earth West Virginians.  Dad once complained to him about his own abysmal golf game.  (Dad was never much of a golfer.) 

I don’t know why I even have clubs any more, for all the good they do me,” he said.

Later that spring, the neighbor was out in his back yard and happened to look over at our garden, which was right alongside our chain-link border fence.  Dad had his tomato plants staked to his golf clubs.

The neighbor thought that was the funniest thing ever.  “Why in the world are you using golf clubs?” he asked.

Puts iron in the soil,” Dad answered.

For the rest of the summer, whenever the neighbors had guests, he’d drag them out to the back fence to show them his crazy neighbor’s garden.

When we moved up to the farmlands of northwest Ohio, it was a completely different scene.  Houses were interspersed between fields and much farther apart.  We happened to have one neighbor that was close by, with our barn in between the houses. 

I have to establish some background before I continue with the mind-game stories.

Our neighbors were people that seemed better suited for a gated community than open farmlands.  We knew they were a bit “off” when we first moved in.  The first thing they suggested to us is that we take down the sun-porch from the front of the house, and put up pillars.

Fucking pillars!  Like it was “Tara” or something.  We pegged them as tools pretty quickly.

They were a prototypical WASPy couple.  He was a big blond dude, broad shoulders, about 6’2”.  Former athlete.  She was his little blond cheerleader.  They had one little blond boy, Chad, and a baby blond girl.  During the big jogging craze of the 70s, Mrs. Blond decided to jog.  She would put on her best fashionable tracksuit and jog.  Up and down the driveway.  She could have even jogged the perimeter of their property and have it add up pretty well.  But no… up and down the driveway, back and forth, about 35 yards each way.  Weird.

A little later, they decided to take up tennis.  They got matching tennis outfits, got some fancy new aluminum rackets and took tennis lessons.  I don’t know how it came about, exactly, but Mr. Blond wanted to know if he would play them in doubles.  Now, Mom was not then, nor has ever been an athlete.  So Dad suggested he team up with our neighbor across the street, Mrs. Mo.  (“Mo” is short for a very long and very Polish name with more consonants per square inch than a Warsaw phone book.)

The Mo family were athletes.  Mrs. Mo was the only girl in a family of large brothers, one of whom was an NFL lineman.  Her son was a middle linebacker in high school.  I believe she was an athlete as well, but I don’t know any specifics. 

But Dad didn’t even have a proper tennis racket.  The only one we had in the house was this old thing we picked up at a garage sale, which had steel strings.  Every time you’d hit a ball, it would go, “Sproiiiiiiiing!”
It looked just like this.  Who knew it was an actual ‘antique?’

So my little 5’9” Dad, with his steel-stringed racket, who hadn’t played tennis in years, and Mrs. Mo took on the Blonds on the tennis court.  I thought for sure it would be an embarrassment, and I was right.

Dad and Mrs. Mo kicked their asses all over the court.  I wasn’t there, but it must have something to behold.  Dad said they were just atrocious… could barely get the ball over the net.  It must have been quite a sight to see the two short, stocky, older players with the “Sproiiiiiiing” running the young jocks off the court. 

Anyway, for whatever the quirks, we all started out friendly enough.  But shortly after, the friction started to build.  Mostly, it was because of the boy, who was prone to wander.  He’d stroll over and start with a million questions about what we were doing and generally stay under-foot.  One time he went into our storage shed and turned the key on our lawn tractor.  It didn’t start, but it drained the battery, so Dad had to pony up for a new one.  He never mentioned it to the Blonds.

During this time, we also had a dog… my beloved golden retriever, Jesse, who I got as a puppy for my 15th birthday.  As we were out in farm country, we didn’t keep her tied up.  One day when I came home from school, she wasn’t there.  Normally, she was ALWAYS there to meet my school bus.  (God, I loved that dog.)  Anyway, we looked all over the place and couldn’t find her.  Eventually we called the pound and yup, there she was.  We then learned that our neighbors, the Blonds, called in a complaint on her, because she knocked down one of their kids.

Now, anyone that knows golden retrievers knows that they’re harmless and are rarely aggressive.  Obviously, my Jesse was much bigger than the little kid so I can see how she got knocked down.  But wouldn’t a phone call to us be a better choice than having the freakin’ dog catcher come pick her up?  They knew whose dog it was.  Still, we didn’t say anything right then.

Later that week, Dad was out in the back yard and heard the Blond kids calling the dog over into their yard.  That’s when Dad went ballistic.  They’re calling the pound when their fucking kids are calling the dog over???  He called up Mr. Blond and reamed him a new one, right through his designer tracksuit.    Man, it was brutal.  Dad also told him about how his brat screwed up our tractor but we didn’t say anything about it.  What would they have done in a similar situation, called the cops?

Anyway, we didn’t have much to do with them after that.  From then on, Dad took every opportunity to screw with his head.

Most of the opportunities came because of the way our properties were laid out.  Like I said, our barn ran lengthwise between our houses.  And we had about 3 or 4 feet of property on the other side of the barn.  Basically, it was turf that we never really saw, but was right there for them to see every day.
Pillars?  Really?

First, there was the lawn cutting wars.  As you might imagine, the Blonds were pretty fussy about their lawn.  So Dad would time it so that he cut his grass 2 or 3 days after the Blonds did, so that ours would look more manicured.  Invariably, Mr. Blond would come out afterwards and re-cut the parts that bordered ours, so not to look bad in comparison.

Then Dad decided that each time he cut the grass, he’s take one less swipe along the border, effectively making it appear that our part was smaller.  The actual goal was to get Mr. Blond to start cutting our grass.  Dad knew that Mr. Blond would never let a single uncut section remain between our properties, so he’d invariably break down and cut it himself.  Dad eventually got him to cut about 4 feet of our lot before Mr. Blond let it go.

Then Dad stopped cutting the strip on the other side of the barn entirely.  Eventually Mr. Blond ended up cutting it too.  It was probably a better deal for him anyway, because unlike my dad, HE wouldn’t blow the grass clippings into his garden.

Psychological warfare is fun!

My brother Ed even got into the act one Saturday afternoon, by shooting bottle rockets over our barn from our back yard.  Most of them blew up in the air, out of harm’s way, but one took off a little low.  It shot over the low end of the barn, scooted into the Blonds’ garage and blew up there... while Mr. Blond and the brat were inside it.  He came running around the end of the barn and yelled at us to knock it off.  We said we were sorry and he went back home. 

I looked at Ed and said, “So what are we going to do with the rest of them.”

Ed just giggled and lit another one, sending it into the garage again.  But this time, we got the hell out of Dodge and ran back in the house.  Dad thought it was funny as hell.

My favorite story is this, and I really have no idea what even started it. 

Dad took a tape measure out to the other side of the barn one day, (again, out of sight from our house but right beside their house) and started making some measurements.  Almost immediately, Mr. Blond approached to ask what he was doing.

Dad said, “Well, I’ve been thinking about raising some pigs and I thought this would be the best place for the pen.”

Dad said Mr. Blond turned an even whiter shade of white and just said, Pigs?

Dad went on about how they would keep us stocked with meat and bacon, and that Mr. Blond should try to make sure the kids didn’t bother his pigs.  He made some marks and put a few stakes in the ground, then went back in the house, leaving the big guy to stew about this new development.

Of course, there were no pigs.  Dad was completely screwing with him.  But the thing is, he totally would have if he could have gotten either of his sons to buy in on the plan.  He traveled too much to care for the pigs himself so Ed and I would have had to do most of it.  This was one of the few times my brother and I were on the same page.  We told him there was no way we were taking care of any pigs.
I had friends that had pigs… I knew how much work it was to keep them.

Dad was mildly disappointed.  It would have been his crowning glory… investing in raising thousands of pounds of pig, for no other reason but to annoy the neighbors.

So you see?  You’ve all been saying that now you understand where I get it… Now you understand the depths of the condition.

I think it also explains my fascination with bacon, as well.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Like Father, Like Son

I got an email this week about my dad’s doctor’s appointment and it totally cracked me up.

I know, you wouldn’t think that’s a topic given to laughs, but you don’t’ know my dad. 

First of all, Dad’s a workout freak.  Every morning, he goes into his workout room, puts on a music DVD by the Stones, Santana, ZZ Top, George Thorogood, or the Dixie Chicks, gets on his elliptical trainer (it’s kind of like a low-impact treadmill), and goes for about a half an hour. 

For the last year, Dad’s been having pains around his groin muscle that’s made it hard to lift his legs.  He stopped the exercise in hopes the rest would heal the groin muscle, but even after months it was still painful.  He’s been to a number of doctors but no one has been able to identify the problem.  He’s been taking steroids for it, and that alleviates the pain but as soon as he stops, the pain returns.

Anyway, he was finally diagnosed properly (inflamed bursa sac) and referred to a doctor at the Andrews Institute, who specializes in this particular malady.  This doctor has an outpatient procedure he does, so Dad got an appointment this week.  Mom emailed me about their high hopes that he’d be ready for the Steelers' Big Dance next weekend.

I wrote back that I was glad to hear it, saying  "He can’t be dancing in the streets if he has a bad groin."

After the treatment, Dad emailed me and told me about what happened when he made the co-pay for the procedure and examined the receipt from the receptionist:

The full page receipt said my diagnosis was ‘Chronic Growing Pain,’ instead of Chronic Groin Pain.  You know me; I just couldn’t let it go.  So I go back up to the receptionist and asked if they had some kind of prejudice against short people.  She stammered when she was looking at the receipt and thought I was serious.  We all had a good laugh, anyway.

And you all wonder where I get my wise-ass tendencies.  I totally would have done something similar.  I couldn’t have done the same joke though… no growing pains here… I’m 6’3”.  Now Dad on the other hand… He topped out long ago at 5’9” and has been shrinking ever since.  I expect one day I’m going to go look for him and all I’ll find is a pair of shoes with a Steelers cap sitting on them.

Last March when I did a couple posts about pranks, I mentioned some of the goofy shit my Grandpa used to do, but Dad was always yanking people as well.  I have no doubt it had an effect on me because I do the same stuff whenever possible. 

This is one of my all time favorite stories, and also goes to show that nature must love a good prank, because sometimes all the cards fall just right.

Back in the 70s, when Dad was traveling a lot, he was out in New Jersey on business.  His friend Lou worked in the plant he was visiting so while he was there, they decided to catch a Phillies baseball game at Veterans’ Stadium in Philadelphia.  (Wherever possible, Dad always went to games when he was traveling; baseball, football, hockey... whatever was in season.) 

At one point during the later innings, Dad wrote a number down in his program: 45,173.*

Louie saw that and asked, “What’s that for?

Dad said, “That’s what I think the attendance is.”

Lou said, “How the hell do you know that?

Dad said, “Well, I’ve been looking up and down the sections and doing a little math in my head and this is what I came up with.”

Lou let it drop and the game went on.

Then shortly afterwards, between innings, the scoreboard lit up with a “Guess the Attendance” game and put up four answers from which to choose.

Lou said, “Hey, there’s your number up on the board!

Some other people around overheard and wondered what was going on.  Louie explained to everyone how Dad had made some calculations and came up with one of those exact numbers.

On the scoreboard, they slowly eliminated one figure and then another, until there was nothing left but two numbers: my dad’s and another one.  Then the other one disappeared.  Dad totally nailed the attendance figure, right down to the person.

Everyone around him made a big fuss about it and gave Dad high fives and congratulations.

What no one there noticed was that a guy behind Dad was listening to the game on a transistor radio.  Earlier, Dad had overheard the announcer give the attendance figure and he jotted it down.  When Lou asked about it, he just pulled that calculations story out of his ass.  He didn’t know it was going to end up being a big scoreboard thing, but when it did, he just went with it.  Like I said, something in nature must love a good joke.

I don’t think he ever told Louie where he really got the number; he just let everyone think he was a mathematical genius.

Naturally, that was the wisest course of action.  Remember, they were in Philly.  The fans there are not usually known for their consideration or understanding.

Thanks, Dad, for showing your impressionable sons how much fun it is to screw with people.  Life lessons don’t come any better than that.

*I have no idea what the actual attendance figure was; in the scheme of the story, it doesn't really matter.  I used this particular number because it matched the  one in the picture.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Carrying a Toon

I was emailing with blog and Real Life friend Bea the other day and we ended up delving into cartoons.  I think it started when I said she’d better hope I didn’t suggest that she take responsibility for another department’s documents:

bluz: You better hope I don’t recommend that!  (… twirling moustache and rubbing hands together in an evil manner…)

Bea: Snidely Whiplash, is that you?

bluz: At your service, um… (What’s the girl’s name that’s always getting tied to the tracks?)

Bea: Nell Fenwick

bluz: Right!  Nelllllllll.

It must have been really uncomfortable laying on the hard, bumpy track.  I mean, what if the train wasn’t supposed to come by that day?  She’d be out there a really long time.  There has to have been a better way of whacking someone.

And the poor engineer… I can just see him coming home after a long day… “Geez, there was another one out there today… I sure wish someone would hurry up and invent brakes.”

Bea:  Kind of like the MARC Train… all the passengers would be mad because Nell got hit and it held up their daily commute.

bluz:  Right… they all have places to go and gold to pan for…

We veered off the tracks ourselves right about there but it made me start thinking about the cartoons of my youth, and where some of the clich├ęs came from.  I mean, was that really a thing back then?  Murder by simultaneous decapitation and double amputation, via locomotive?  If Snidely Whiplash really wanted her dead, why not put a simple 2 in the back of her head.

Ooh, maybe he really WANTED to get caught by Dudley Dooright.  He might have had a “thing” for the big Mountie and wanted to volunteer to be his "mountee."

And it’s not just the cartoons.  Even as a kid, I used to wonder why all the super-villains felt the need to set these elaborate traps to kill Batman.  If the Joker would just put one minion behind a door with a .45, suddenly Gotham City would be a free-crime zone.  Obviously the cops didn’t know what to do, besides huddle up in the Mayor’s office and ring up the Bat Cave.  Even I knew that all they had to do was go out and arrest anyone wearing an elaborate costume or a long-sleeved t-shirt with horizontal stripes.

But every week, the crook would set up some ridiculous death machine that was more complicated than a Mousetrap game and just as reliable.  Maybe they wanted to be caught, just like Snidely.

Catwoman was another story.  Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  She used to tingle my loins and make my hormones fizz like a Mento in a bottle of Diet Coke.  Even in 3rd grade, I wanted to do things to her of which the ASPCA would not approve.
Me-yow!  Julie Newmar, call me.  I don’t care if you’re old, OR dead.

Batman wanted her bad; you just know it.  I noticed she seemed to get away more than the other villains.  That was good, because I wanted her to keep coming back.  (But to stop trying to kill Batman.)  And she totally could have kicked Batgirl’s ass.

But cartoons were always a big deal.  We used to live for Saturday mornings.  Rocky and Bullwinkle were cool, but once I saw them as an older guy, I realized that most of the stuff went right over my head.

Like Boris Badanov?  Yeah, I got that it sounded Russian and he was bad.  I obviously had no idea it was a reference to classic Russian literature.  If Boris had any sense, he would have spent less time chasing moose and squirrel and more time trying to peel Natasha out of that slinky purple dress.
“Oh boy, she’s wearing a thong!”

But I always liked the college they’d mention, “Whatsamatta U.”  They must have had a good debate team, since their name was in the form of a question.

Ultimately, I was always a Loony Tunes boy.  I loved me some Bugs Bunny, especially the ones with Yosemite Sam or the Tasmanian Devil.  At the time, I was never partial to Foghorn Leghorn, but later I grew to really appreciate his one-line insults:

That boy’s about as subtle as a hand grenade in a barrel of oatmeal.”

“Nice girl, but about as sharp as a sack of wet mice.”

Classic.

When I was in college, Mel Blanc, the voice of the Looney Tunes, came to campus for a lecture.  No way would I miss that.  Nor did many other students there at the time.  He packed the Student Union ballroom with young adults that were dying to hear him talk about Bugs, Daffy, Foghorn, Tweety and the rest of the crew.  I tell you, he held that ballroom in the palm of his hand… just totally killed.

It sad that kids cartoons nowadays, suck.  And I mean that literally.  All the fun, mayhem and anarchy that characterized the cartoons of my youth has been sucked right out and replaced with sound moral values and product tie-ins.  Where’s the fun in that?  Tom and Jerry used to beat the living shit out of each other.  Same with the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.  Now cartoons have to be about something redeeming like not hitting your sister, staying away from strangers, or learning Spanish.

Dios mio!

The only decent cartoons left are for the grownups.  To me, South Park is the gold standard; kinda like the Simpsons on steroids.  Plus, they’re timelier.  If a big story breaks on Sunday, South Park has an episode on the air by Wednesday.

And any cartoon whose portrayal of Jesus that not only gives Him his own cable access show, but also shows Him in a pay-per-view boxing match against Satan, busting the boys out of an Middle Eastern jail and singing a medley of Christmas songs with Santa Claus, just doesn’t care about convention.

But on further review, maybe there was more to the old cartoons than met the eye.  As I was looking for a pic of Snidely Whiplash to use, I found this:

What I never understood as a boy is apparent here.  Snidely wanted to be walked on by Dudley.  Dudley was feeling up Nell, and she only had eyes for the horse.

Old cartoons were the best!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Odd Bits - The Pittsburgh Tourist Edition

As I mentioned this weekend, my friend Sitcom Kelly (and her badass Steelers-manicured fingernails) was at the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh.  Turns out she had some pretty good seats… Row G, lower bowl, closed end zone.

Throughout the game, I sent her text messages to update her on the temperature, and regarding anything that was mentioned on TV but not apparent from the stands.  Obviously, I told her she needn’t text me back, given the difficulty it would cause to keep putting gloves on and off.  Also, I wouldn’t want her to chip the badass manicure.

I talked to her today and she mentioned that she hoped it would stay presentable for the Super Bowl.  I told her that she could always touch it up with white-out and a Sharpie.

One of the features they had for the game was that the Steelers took a panoramic picture of the entire stadium.  They then published the pic on their website so people could scan around, zoom in and find themselves in the crowd.  It took me a while, and some considerable direction from her, but I finally found her:
You could see she had some nice close-up seats.  I considered not putting in the arrow, because she’s pretty conspicuous, being the only one wearing a blue coat, in a sea of black and gold.

Zoomed in, you can see Sitcom Kelly, and her Sitcom Mom to the left.  And I think that’s Family Guy on Mom’s other side.

Sitcom Kelly took a bunch of pictures of her own and promised to send me some.  I’ll run them here if they turn out to be more that just shots of her beer and food.

This was Sitcom Kelly’s first trip to Heinz Field for a game and she was genuinely impressed with the facility and atmosphere.  Certainly was a big game to start out with, huh? 

When she got back, she told me, “I gotta get those season tickets!”  (She’s on the waiting list.)  “I wanna go to some more of these!  Only maybe in October, so I don’t have to walk around like the Michelin Man, under 6 layers of clothing.”

And show off the badass manicure.

She considered getting a face-paint logo but figured that it would end up smearing and looking more like the eye-black the players wear. 

She got the same effect anyway, once the wind made her eyes water and mascara run.

I don’t think that look will help lure any unsuspecting ballplayers back to The Pit.

Getting The Goods
I am all about getting good swag.

Since the Steelers win on Sunday, I’ve been getting inundated with offers from various retailers to buy AFC Champions apparel and Super Bowl XLV stuff.

I never, ever buy Championship Game apparel.  And I never buy Super Bowl apparel until after the Super Bowl.  It’s a total sucker-bet, if you ask me.

If your team happens to lose the Super Bowl, your Championship Game stuff becomes a painful reminder of that which you long to forget.  It’s the same with the regular Super Bowl stuff.  It’s only cool if you win.  And if you DO win, you want the Super Bowl Champions apparel, and it makes the Conference Championship gear pretty much irrelevant.

I know from which I speak.  The Steelers have only lost one Super Bowl, but my brother and dad were there.  They brought me back a hat and a pin, for which I was grateful.  And I already had the AFC Champions hat.  But given that they lost, and recalling the painful manner in which it happened, I could never bring myself to wear any of it. 

I much prefer to pretend that game never happened.

I put in to take off work on the Monday after the Super Bowl.  I figure, either way, I won’t be fit to work.  If they win, I’ll either be entirely too partied out and will spend the day online furiously buying Super Bowl Champions swag.  The biggest down side to that is that all my “6-Time Super Bowl Champions” stuff will be obsolete and I’ll have to restock with “7-Time Super Bowl Champions” stuff.  I hate being out of date.

If we lose, however, I’ll be heading for the Bay Bridge, with plans to hurl myself into the Chesapeake.

Perhaps I can get some Ratbird fans to join me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

SBXLV


Holy crap.

Dear Steelers,
Would it be possible, please, to win a game without giving me a fucking heart attack?

Thanks,
Your buddy, bluz

Steelers/Jets Pre-Game Festivities

I hate waiting for game time.  The AFC Championship game doesn’t start until 6:30 so all I have to do today is write this, pace around and watch the Packers/Bears game.  At least that’s a good excuse to start drinking.

The weekend began well… the Penguins won against Carolina last night, even playing without their two stars, Sidney Crosby and Geno Malkin.  In a show of support for the Steelers, Pens goalie skated out to receive his “3 Stars” designation wearing a Steeler helmet and waving a Terrible Towel.
Picture from The Pensblog

I love when the different sports support each other.  This is also a good omen because last week, the Pens won right before the Steelers went out and crushed the Ratbirds’ dreams.

In fact, there was one of those Mayor Bets for the occasion.  Today I found the YouTube video that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was forced to make.
Be sure to stay for the “out-take,” after the brief interlude of Ratbird bullshit.

I like our mayor.  She’s doing a decent job, I think, given the severe nature of the problems that face this city.  But I am speechless when she mentions how fair-minded and civil that Baltimoreans about their football team.  In fact, I almost spit my Diet Coke all over my monitor.  But she’s a politician, so I imagine she’s required to feed into that civic delusion… at least as long as she wants to get re-elected. 

Nailing It
My friend Sitcom Kelly is going to be at the game.  I spent part of the week giving her guidance on what to do, where to go, and most importantly, how to stay warm.  (Layers, hand-warmer packets, and cardboard!)  They’re saying the game-time temps will be in the single digits.

For some reason, she wanted to get her nails done with a Steelers theme, and lo and behold, found someone in Baltimore that would do it.
Notice the strategic placement of the logo… on the perfect finger for showing it off to Jets fans.

I’m not sure it was worth the effort though.  Might have been more practical to paint the logos on the outsides of a pair of gloves.  Come to think of it, I probably shouldn’t expect many texts from Kelly tonight.  Might not be the best time to have your fingers out, tapping on tiny little keys.

Coping Skills
As I mentioned in my last post, today is former Steelers announcer, the late Myron Cope’s birthday.
Photo courtesy of Dan Gigler and the PG’s Blog n Gold.

Last year, I did a post dedicated to our beloved Myron, (which has been drawing a bajillion hits this week), explaining the strange attraction between a city and the most unlikely radio voice or TV face ever.  It certainly wouldn’t be beyond the pale to suggest that maybe ol’ Myron can keep an eye over his boys tonight, and maybe, if necessary, nudge a football a foot or so off line.

Myron is best known as the inventor of the Terrible Towel.  You can’t underestimate the lengths to which Pittsburgh has adopted this symbol, but the pictures below demonstrate it perfectly.

Pittsburghers are literally born into the Steeler Nation.  Photos are from an email my dad sent me.

If you’ve never heard Myron do a game, listen to this video clip I put together for my Myron post.  They don’t make media guys like this any more.

So we have the Jets tonight and I’m basically pretty happy about that.  The Steelers get the game at home rather than having to go to New England, which is a big help, for no other reason than crowd noise.  And it’s going to be so cold; I’m hoping it will really affect the Jets’ California boy quarterback, Sanchez. 

The only down side to not playing the Patriots is that I was happily anticipating using this clip of one of my favorite football songs.  Produced by Pittsburgh’s Randy Bauman of WDVE, it’s a simple tune called “Tom Brady’s a C*nt.”  It’s from 2004 or 2005, so it’s a bit dated, although no less valid in general sentiment.  

The Mojo Boogie
No surprises, I’m going with exactly what I wore for the last game: black Polamalu jersey, cream-colored Steelers ¾ sleeve V-neck, Stillers T-shirt, Steelers socks and AC/DC flannel pants.

And now, all I can do is wait.  All things will be clear in the morning.  Either our season will be over, or we’re going to the Super Bowl. 

Here we go!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Odd Bits - The Coincidental Edition

In the previous post, I took the title from a line of dialogue from the Eddie Murphy concert film, “Delirious.”  This was huge back when I was in college (or shortly after I got out.)  So in comments, I was explaining to Cassie, my favorite chronologically challenged mother, what it all meant.

I explained that it came from Murphy’s bit where he was impersonating various singers.  He was talking about how Michael Jackson would get all sensitive on the ladies, and cry if he wasn’t getting through.  He then did a spot on impression of MJ singing “She’s Out of My Life,” before dissolving into tears and saying, “Tito, get me some tissues… Jermaine, stop teasing.”

I loved this bit, but even more, I loved the bit that followed, when he did an extended impression of James Brown.  He just killed it and it eventually gave birth to one of my favorite SNL sketches, “James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub.” 

When I was making the response comment, I went to YouTube to look up the MJ clip, so I could reference it.  But afterward, I just had to play the James Brown bit.  Still kills me, I swear.

Now, to the reason I’m explaining all this…  On the way to work this morning, what should appear on my MP-3 player?  Eddie Murphy’s James Brown bit.  I laughed all the way to the subway.  Then on the way home?  James Brown’s Living in America came on.  How does it know?  Spooky. 

Office Steeler Rebels-Update
Remember how I have my workplace Steelers Underground Fan Club?  We had a pre-game pizza dinner in the top floor boardroom.  Thirteen of us got together for a little pizza, a little Steelers fellowship and a lot of joking on the Ratbird fans.  It was so much fun to see the other Execs wander by, look in, and just shake their head.

One of our group sent around an email detailing the staggering number of incidences of the number “7” surrounding this Steelers post season:

“Number 7 (Ben), playing in his 7th year, going after the 7th Steelers Super Bowl, just racked up his 7th win in his last 7 starts against the Ravens, winning by 7 points. The Steelers have won 7 AFC Championship games and lost 7 since the AFL-NFL merger of 19"7"0. After the seventies dynasty, beginning with the 1980 season, the Jets game will be the 7th AFC Championship game hosted by the Steelers, in their 77th season.

And if they win we'll be in seventh heaven.”
One of our members outdid herself by not only bringing Steelers plates, cups and balloons, but chocolates!

And if that’s not enough, Sunday would be the birthday of Steelers beloved radio announcer, the late Myron Cope.   We have way too much going for us to lose this game, right?  Right?

More Stillers Laughs
My dad emailed me this joke… it’s been around for some time, but the beauty is that you can fill in any group you want.  Anyway, it cracked me up, so I thought I’d share:

A Pittsburgh Steelers Fan is drinking in a New York bar when he gets a call on his cell phone. He hangs up, grinning from ear to ear, and orders a round of drinks for everybody in the bar, announcing his wife has produced a typical Steeler baby boy weighing 25 pounds.

Nobody can believe that any new baby can weigh in at 25 pounds, but the Steeler Fan just shrugs, "That's about average back home, folks, like I said, my boy's a typical Pittsburgh baby boy."

Congratulations showered him from all around, along with many exclamations of "WOW!" One woman actually fainted due to sympathy pains.

Two weeks later, he returns to the bar.

The bartender says, "Say, you're the father of that typical Pittsburgh baby that weighed 25 pounds at birth. Everybody's been making bets about how big he'd be in two weeksSo how much does he weigh now?"

The proud father answers, "Seventeen  pounds."

The bartender is puzzled, concerned, and a little suspicious.

"What happened? He already weighed 25 pounds the day he was born!"

 The Pittsburgh father takes a slow swig from his Iron City Light beer, wipes his lips on his shirt sleeve, leans into the bartender and proudly says,

"...Had him circumcised."

To go out with a bang, my dad also sent me a new Steelers song.  I swear, every year there must be at least a dozen new Steelers songs released.  Many are pretty crappy, but I really liked this one.  Check it out.  Any song that makes fun of the Ratbirds is OK with me!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Tito, Hand Me a Tissue"

Yesterday I posted a picture of my Raven’s Fan Therapy Station, which featured a giant garbage bag filled with tissues.  I captioned it, “Don’t ask how I came to have a garbage bag full of tissues.”

Naturally, that’s what I was asked, and by my Mom, no less.  I answered the question in comments, but thought I’d share the answer here because it reminded me of some other repressed childhood trauma.

In September, our company had a team building “Minute to Win It” competition for the execs, where they competed in a series of simple, yet challenging events.  One of the simpler ones was a race to see who would be the first to pull all the tissues out of a box, using only one hand.  Obviously, that left a huge pile of tissues lying around.

My department, who also set up the event, is instrumental in driving the company’s “Green” efforts. So I mentioned to one of our crew, “I hope you’re not planning on tossing all those perfectly good tissues…”  Next day, he showed up at my cube with a trash bag filled with tissues.  I’ve been taking out a dozen or so at a time and putting them into my tissue box on my desk.  I hate to waste anything… tissues, food, or opportunities to needle Ratbird fans.

So when the Steelers won on Saturday, it occurred to me that it would make a nice visual for my Ravens Fan Therapy Station.

In discussing this with Mom (via email) she said, “I have this thing about tissues because my Mom NEVER allowed them. (She would have recycled toilet paper if she could).  Now, I feel compelled to use every last one in a hotel room or anywhere they're available.  Forbidden fruit.  How weird is that?

I think that’s very weird, but it explains a lot.  In fact, I said, it explains a lot about Exhibit 912 of Examples of How I Was Abused as a Child.  (Among them: the infamous Pop Tart and sugared cereal ban.)

My family never had tissues, ever.  I had to carry a hanky as a boy, and so did everyone in my extended family.  Sure, it’s cost effective, but it was also effective in making sure I was teased and looked upon with scorn by every girl that saw me during Fall ragweed season, winter cold season, spring pollen season and summer “everything” season.

Septembers were the worst.  You’re in your new class and kids are sizing each other up, especially me because for all the moving around we did, I always seemed to be the new kid.  It's pretty hard to appear cool when you have to honk your nose every other minute.  By lunch time, my hanky would be soaking wet to the point that it created wet spots on the outside of my pants pocket.

You know what the allergy snots are like… you just blow your nose and blow your nose and it’s just like a faucet.  There’s no “substance,” like when you have a cold, and there is absolutely no end to it.  It’s impossible to just blow it all out.

They used to give me “Allerest” allergy medicine sometimes, but that really didn’t do much for me.  I’m sure they called it “Allerest” because even when I took it, alla’rest of the kids in class were pretty much avoiding me. 

By the time I was in junior high, I was taking Contac cold medicine, which was pretty strong.  Didn’t phase me though… sometimes I’d even have to take a second one when the first one didn’t work.  My brother, who had the same problems I did, couldn’t even take them at all.  One Contac would wipe him right out. 

So even at the point that I moved out of the house, I always carried a hanky.  I remember when I was living in Cleveland, in my mid-20s, I got into a big row with my girlfriend because when she was doing the laundry, she threw my hanky in the trash rather than put it in the washer.  She said the thought of it made her gag.

We had quite a tussle about that… I was a broke record store manager living in Cleveland; I didn’t have the cash to keep throwing at new hankies.  Literally, hankies were all I knew.  I had absolutely no other frame of reference regarding how to handle frequent nose-blowing.  Not that my symptoms were really that bad.  I found that once I moved from rural NW Ohio to the more industrial environment of Cleveland, my allergy symptoms vanished for long stretches.  Maybe smog and pollution kills pollen, I don’t know.

Later, after we broke up, (not over hankies, but God, my life with her was an epic story… for another day), and I’d moved to upstate NY, her reaction stuck in my mind, so I bought my first box of tissues.  Leaving the poor air quality of Cleveland for the clean Adirondack air brought my allergies right back.  It didn’t take much longer before tissues were a new way of life.
“You can have my box of Kleenex when you pry it from my cold, snotty, germ-covered hand.”

Like right now, I have 5 open boxes of tissues:

Dining room table (where I eat in the morning and also w/in reach of my PC.  Also, Pinky uses them for napkins, which drives me nuts.  The napkins are right there too, but she says it’s easier to pull out the tissues.)
By the couch for watching TV
By the bed, for the night-time sniffles
In my bathroom.  (These are the low-grade store brand ones that I use mostly for lining the sink when I trim my beard.)
On my desk at work (which is now fed by the Giant Garbage Bag’O Tissues.)

Basically, where ever I’m going to linger, I have a box of tissues near by.  Who wants to tear across a room to try to grab a tissue while you’re holding in a sneeze?  You can end up carpet bombing the whole place.

It’s funny though; I still carry a hanky every day, to take care of the occasional sniffle on the train, especially when it’s cold.  But more often, I use it to mop the sweat off my forehead (where there’s a LOT of room for sweat to accumulate) so I don’t stain my ball caps.

But best of all, they finally invented an allergy medicine that works for me, Zyrtec.  The funny thing is that a doctor prescribed it for me about 10 years ago it to control a chronic hive condition (yet another story).  Once I started taking them for the hives, I immediately discovered that my allergy symptoms had dried right up!  What a nice side effect, for a change.  It’s like finding out Viagra also makes you able to fly.

Lastly, just in case you were born after the mid 80’s (coughCassiecough) and you’re puzzled about this post’s title, it comes from Eddie Murphy’s stand-up comedy movie “Delirious.”  I was either going to call it that, or “Hanks for the Memories.” 

You’re welcome.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Steelers-Ravens Monday at the Office

I thought I’d put up a quick post about everything that happened at the office today, as this triumphant Steeler fan returned to work amidst all the Ratbird fans.

Here’s what happened:

(crickets…)

Nada.  Nothing.  Not a peep.  No purple in sight, no Ratbird fans that want to discuss the game.  Well, my boss wanted to talk about the game, and he is a Rats fan, but he is actually pretty reasonable about it.  And he actually likes the Steelers and will root for them once the Ratbirds are done.  And one other guy came by to congratulate me (as if I'd done anything).

So, not being one to take being ignored, I decided I needed to stir the pot a bit.  So I decorated.
The outside of my cube, decorated with Sunday’s front page and sports page from Baltimore Sun.  Also, at the upper right, there’s last week’s notice for Purple Friday… which I took the opportunity to revoke for the rest of the year.

But don’t think I’m totally heartless.  I’m actually worried about the well being of the Rattie fans, so I decided to create a Therapy Station.
Don’t ask how I came to have a garbage bag full of tissues.

This is a close-up of the sign. 
See?  I care about their needs!

I also had the opportunity to peruse some of the Baltimore Sun’s blogs and the commenters are seriously losing their minds.  The biggest bone of contention was the holding penalty that negated the Rats’ long punt return for a touchdown.  Everyone was screaming about the “bad call,” complete with allegations of conspiracy and favoritism.

But on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s blog by former columnist Bob Smizik, a commenter posted this picture from that punt return:
That, my friends, is holding.  Case closed.

I seriously hope the Steelers now go on to beat the Jets and play in the Super Bowl.  But if they don’t, I can live with it.  Because regardless of what happens, I’m safe in the knowledge that they put the Ratbirds out of business for the 2nd time in 3 years.

And as you know, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beat the Steelers? Nevermore!


Is it just me, or is the sun a little sunnier and my Diet Coke a little cokier this morning?

Life is good at the House of Bluz this morning, after the Steelers’ huge 2nd half comeback against the Ratbirds.  My black Polamalu jersey and other mojo gear got the job done.  And once again, I reclaim my title as Poster Boy for Schadenfreude.

Also, please allow me the opportunity to celebrate my prescient abilities to identify the excuses to be used by the fans and media in this town, to explain how victory was so unjustly snatched away from their dear football “team.”

Yesterday, I wrote:
But whenever the Steelers beat the Ratbirds, there is always an excuse.  It’s the League, the officials, bad calls, bad non-calls, and the ever popular, “We beat ourselves.”  That one’s the most annoying because in most cases, it’s designed for the sole purpose of avoiding giving any credit to the other team.”

Cut to the 3rd paragraph of the lead story in the Baltimore Sun sports page, quoting Rats QB Joe Flacco: “When you look at those turnovers… and then you could look at it and say we beat ourselves.”

That didn’t take very long.  So, the turnovers by the Ravens were because they beat themselves.  But let me guess, the turnovers by the Steelers were due to the incredible ability of the Rats’ defense, right?

Speaking of, in the same article, Sun homer and hack Jamison Hensley goes on to say this about Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble, “In a pile, the Ravens’ Dannell Ellerbe knocked the ball from Mendenhall.” 

I’m not sure what Hensley was smoking, because everyone in America watching the game on TV could see that Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu knocked the ball out with his elbow.  But the hack writer doesn’t want to mention that little fact because it might accidentally take a chink out of the idea that the Ratbirds defense is the bestest ever.  Plus, “we beat ourselves” is the Rats’ excuse and no one else is allowed to use it.

Again, in the same article, the writer says of the Steelers opening drive: “Helped by a questionable 37-yard pass interference penalty on the Ravens’ Josh Wilson…”

Oh that’s the questionable call?  And no mention of the 31-yard interference penalty called on the Steelers?  That one was legit, right?  The one that gave the Rats the ball right up in the red zone?  Not even worth mentioning, huh?  (FYI, in my opinion, both were legitimate penalties.)

At least there were a couple of players that spoke the truth.  Terrell Suggs, who spent the day rampaging through the Steelers backfield and generally being a beast, said this: “We didn’t put them away.  We have nobody to blame but ourselves.  We have to take a long look at ourselvesYou can’t say the refs took one.”

Hmmm.  When I first marked this quote for use, I read it as he was taking accountability.  But in reading it again here, it does seem like a longer, more indirect way of saying “We beat ourselves.”  At least he wasn’t blaming the refs.  (The fans will take care of that… just check any Ratbird blog in the state, today.)

I will also give Rats’ cornerback Lardarius Webb some credit.  He’s the guy that got torched by Ben’s long pass to rookie Antonio Brown for a 58-yard completion on 3rd and 19.  He said, “He just ran by me, man.  That’s it.  I wasn’t expecting something different.  He just ran by me.”

I was stunned.  This is a Ratbird player actually giving credit to an opponent for playing better.  Obviously, Webb hasn’t been with the team that long and may not have fully gotten through their media-quote playbook.  I’m sure they’ll give him a crash course in the off-season to make sure he learns his lines.

But with the media in this town, you can’t trust them to run it, if it goes contrary to the expected company line.  In the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Rats’ coach John Harbaugh is quoted saying: “It was one heck of a comeback, and the Steelers earned it.”

Obviously, there is no such quote in The Sun.  That would go against the “They stole it/We beat ourselves” company line.

Another item not mentioned in the media here is that the Steelers lost their starting cornerback and both starting tackles during the game.  They literally did not have another offensive lineman to put in the game if there were to be another injury.  And what did the substitutes do?  Drove down the field for the winning touchdown.  Granted, none of them blocked Suggs worth a damn…

If I may address a few facts here, the Rats gained a total of 126 yards of total offense, including 28 yards in the entire second half.  That is not “beating yourself,” that is getting owned by another defense. 

Also, throughout this entire season, fans have been complaining about Rats’ offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for going conservative once they have the lead.  This time, up 14 in the second half, he kept his foot on the gas and called a number of passes, leading to a couple of turnovers.  Guess who’s now getting criticized for NOT going conservative?  Just goes to show, “the fans” don’t know jack shit.  (Except me, of course…) (Snork…)

One other item of interest… just to combat the “The refs robbed us” contingent, the Rats were called for 6 penalties for 74 yards.  The Steelers were called for 9 penalties and 93 yards.  Yeah, the refs are reeeeeeally bending over backwards for the Steelers, aren’t they?  So when Hines Ward and Ed Reed get into that scuffle where they both take pokes at each other, then 4 other guys jump on Hines in the pile-up and only Hines gets penalized, that’s Steelers bias, right?

I agree that the officiating was not good, but I didn’t see a slant one way or another.  The refs had entirely too large of a presence in the game.  It was like you could never just enjoy or appreciate a play without worrying about what the penalty would be.

Anyway, I get to enjoy going to work tomorrow.  I get to revel in the sweet salty tears of the Ratbird fans and listen to them squawk about the grave injustices that must have been done to their purple warriors.

Hey Rattie fans… I’ve got a purple warrior you can worship, right here!