Every headline tells a story

I wrote a lot of headlines during my years in the newspaper business. So it’s not all that unusual that I pay more attention to them than does the average reader. In some ways, to me, the headline is more important than the story – if it’s a good one, it’ll not only lure me to read the story beneath it, it very well may entertain me, intrigue me, even more than it informs me.

A really good newspaper headline is brevity at its best – saying more than enough in as few words as possible. Heck, many times telling the story better than the story. And sometimes, unintentionally, telling an even better story than the story beneath it.

The other day I was surfing the Internet, looking for off-beat news items for blog material. I have a few favorite sites that yield a lot of great weird nuggets of inspiration. But on this day, going from one item to the next, the stories just weren’t living up to their headlines. I was getting frustrated. I wasn’t getting what I needed.

And then I realized I was working far too hard. If the headlines are better than the stories, well dammit, then just go with the headlines.

ROSACEA IS CAUSED BY DEAD MITES POOPING ON YOUR FACE

MTV MAKES THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE, CANCELS “JERSEY SHORE”

STARVING YOURSELF MAY NOT MAKE YOU LIVE LONGER AFTER ALL

MAN ROBBED AT BUS STOP IS GIVEN BUS FARE BY HIS ROBBERS

THIS CHUNK OF WHALE PUKE IS WORTH MORE THAN YOUR CAR

IDIOT NEARLY DIES TRYING TO MAIL HIMSELF IN A BOX TO HIS GIRLFRIEND

TEACHER ACCUSED OF HELPING “DUMB AS HELL” KIDS CHEAT

MAN NAMES STORE “HITLER,” CLAIMS HE DIDN’T KNOW WHO HITLER WAS

VICIOUS SPAT ENDS WITH WOMAN CASTRATING MAN WITH HER BARE HANDS

DROUGHT BRINGS GRIEF TO COW POOP-THROWING COMMUNITY

CHARITY BREAST SQUEEZE PUTS THE FUN BACK INTO FUNDRAISING

Need I say more? I didn’t really think so.

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Some secrets are best left secret

Meet Besse Cooper. Besse once worked as a schoolteacher in Georgia. Doesn’t she look like a nice old lady?

I don’t mean old. I mean OLD. Besse is sitting in front of her birthday cake. Those candles add up to 116 years. And that, spelled out, is One Hundred and Sixteen years.

Besse is one of only eight people in the world, one of only four Americans, to reach the overly-ripe old age of 116. At this time she is officially the oldest person in the world.

They’ve named a bridge after her. That humbled her, sort of. “I’m glad I gave them a reason to name it,” she quipped.

And, just as what happens to every oldest person on Earth who ends up within earshot of a reporter, she too was asked the same old, age-old question: What’s the secret of your longevity?

“I mind my own business – and I don’t eat junk food.”

I could be wrong, but I think the old bird cut the reporter down to size and answered the question – in the same sentence.

Now, Besse here, made me smile as well as made me think. I’m 54 years old. I would have to live another 62 years to reach 116 years old. And that, spelled out, is Sixty-two years.

Sheesh. It’s going to take a long time to get to that point in my life. Even longer than it’s taken me to get to this point in my life. But gee, just think of all the things I can look forward to.

  • I’ll have to fill out a federal income tax form 62 more times. And I’ll have to come up with 62 more creative ways to claim my pets as dependents.
  • I’ll get to live through 2016, 2020, 2024, 2028, 2032, 2036, 2040, 2044, 2048, 2052, 2056, 2060, 2064, 2068 and 2072. And that means I’ll also have to live through watching 124 more Republican and Democratic National Conventions on television. And maybe only once, stay awake during one of them.
  • I’ve got 62 more years to say to myself that this is the year I’m going to open that 401K account and start saving for my retirement. After all, I’m not going to want to work forever, right?
  • I’ll be able to shovel snow during 62 more winters, mow grass during 62 more summers, rake leaves during 62 more autumns and slip in mud during 62 more springs.
  • I’ll have 62 more years to work on solving one of the world’s greatest riddles: When two socks go into a clothes dryer, why does only one come out?
  • I’ll have plenty of time to come up with a cleverly snide answer to the question: What’s your secret to longevity?

Wow. So much to live through, and so much time to do it in. I know what I’m going to do first-thing tomorrow.

Go right out and buy myself 116 Big Macs.

Allowances?! There are no allowances in childhood!

Today I stumbled upon a small news item that hit me in the head like Moe. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAs, the average allowance for the average American kid is $15 a week.

They score for chores? Taking out the trash, walking the dog, mowing the lawn … $15 a week. Sheesh. I was an average American kid. I had chores. I never got an allowance.

What’s worse, according to the survey, only 1 percent of the parents said their children save any of that parental payout. According to the rest, their kids immediately blow their weekly wad on toys and entertainment.

That seals it. Today’s tadpoles are … soft. And a quick flip through my stash of childhood photos proves it. When I was a kid, when you needed something, you worked for it.

Let’s say you needed a new t-shirt. Ask your parents to take you to the mall and give you the money to buy it? Yeah, right. Not quite.

First, we had to plant the cotton.

That’s me on the right. Oh, and that plow? I had to whittle that out of a tree trunk. With a butter knife.

Then, we had to pick it.

You may notice that we have no shoes on here. We ate them for lunch.

Oh, but we weren’t done yet. You can’t wear a bunch of cotton balls. We had to turn that cottton into thread. And then into cloth.

Yup, that’s me. I think I was making new underwear here.

OK,  so you’ve made your cloth, now what?

The adults on the left used sewing machines to make their clothes. And as for me there? I had to sharpen my fingernail to use it as a needle.

I even had to clean up the place at the end of the day.

That guy behind me is there to make sure I don’t run off with the broom and pawn it.

See what I mean? Kids today … soft, soft, soft.

And another thing. I noticed a school bus drive by the house today and realized that the new school year’s about to start.

School buses. To take the kids to school every day. And bring them home again.

Hell, when I was a kid and had to go to school …

Around the living room in 80 days

As of today, exactly 80 days have passed since June 7.

I was in a hospital for six of them. Which means, thanks to my lightning-quick mental calculation skills, I have been in this house for … 74 days.

I’ve been living within these walls for every hour, every minute, every single second of every one of those days. Well, with the exception of about 11 times, for short trips. By my best guesstimation, those add up to about 13 hours.

So, that means, subtracting that time … I’ve been living within these walls, nearly non-stop, for 1,763 hours. That’s 105,780 minutes. Which also is 6,346,800 seconds. Or maybe 62.7 bizzillion nano-seconds.

Hmmmm … very interesting. Explains a lot.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What was that? What were you saying, I couldn’t hear you.”

My wife is down the hall, sitting in the computer room and yelling out to me. I am in the where-I-am-living room.

“Sorry, I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to Rocky.”

“What’d you say?”

“I said I was talking to Rocky!”

“You’re talking to Rocky.”

“Well, yes. In a manner of speaking.”

“You’re talking to Rocky, in a manner of speaking.”

“Yeah. I’m talking to Rocky, and he’s listening. It’s a manner of speaking. Sort of.”

“Don’t make me get up and count your pills again.”

“Shhh, Rock. Hold that thought. I’ll get back to you when the coast is clear.”

I hear you … I don’t know what you’re saying, but I hear you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hi hon, it’s me. Whatcha doing?”

“Hello dear. I know it’s you. We have caller ID at work.”

“Oh, what cutting-edge technology that is. Anyway, I wanted to ask you if I can use the credit card.”

“Why do you need to use the credit card? You’re at home. What for?”

“I’ve been watching this really educational program on TV and if I call and order within the next 20 minutes, they’ll double my order, the same price as one, just pay additional shipping and handling.”

“You’re watching infomercials.”

“Right, we’re talking lots of info here. And if I call in the next 17 minutes, they’ll double my order and I’ll get two 16-ounce Real-Rubber-in-a-Cans instead of one. I want to spray it on the bottoms of my feet and see if I can bounce my legs up onto the couch instead of hooking them with my cane and pulling them up. I think we’re talking a potential medical miracle here. So, whatdaya say.”

“Sigh – I’ve got to get a padlock for that medicine cabinet. I’m hanging up now.”

I dunno – it sure sounded like a good idea to me.

I’m not dead … I’m feeling better!

“It’s going to take at least three months.”

“You never told me that.”

“Yes, I did. You’ve had two total knee replacements done within the span of six weeks time. That’s two major surgeries, one nearly right after another. That means a lot of muscle, bone and nerve pain and healing. And all that takes time, at least three months, and that’s on the optimistic side.”

“You never told me that.”

“Yes, I did. The pain and discomfort will be with you for quite a while. Your rehab and return to normal is going to take a long time. You know it’s getting better, but it often can be a slow process.”

“You never told me that.”

“Yes, I did. You knew it would take time, which is why you need to be more patient. And also that there’s no reason for you to be concerned about asking for refills of your pain meds.”

“Thank God you told me that. Tell me again.”

I mean, really, in the grand scope of things, what I had done can’t even be called a flesh wound.

Well, hello there.

So nice to be feeling alive, nearly human and almost funny enough to be writing again. Today, logging back on here for the first time in forever, I discovered a profoundly gratifying thing – many of you have continued to visit and have been reading old bits of my blog often and regularly, despite my far-too-long MIA status.

To everyone, thank you. Seeing something like this tells me two things. One, that I better get writing right away before the crap in the archives gets so old it’s beyond mold, and no one ever comes back.

And two, some of you must have even better drugs than I do.

Thank God for that.

Second verse, same as the first …

What’s even funnier than a blogger with one titanium knee?

A blogger with two titanium knees!

Well, let’s hope that’s true. As I did just last month, I’m once again heading into the hospital in a few hours for my second knee replacement operation. I figured I’ve been having so much fun with the first one, hell, who wouldn’t want to do it all over again?

And this way I’ll have matching leg scars. Neato.

Just wanted to let you and the rest of my fantastic readers know that I may not be around for a few days, but I’ll be back soon. Definitely before the new pain meds run out – as I mentioned the last time, I do seem to be a more creative writer while under the influence. Let’s see if I can keep the streak going.

So, have no fear, I shall return. And maybe then, with two new knees, I can fulfill my physical therapist’s expectations for me and my rehab. Igor tells me if I work real hard and put my heart and soul into it, I soon will be able to …

… walk this way.

Man is no match for his mother

The grainy, semi-focused security-camera video didn’t seem much different than any other one aired by the local TV news. A man approaches a counter, drops down a bag of Doritos and hands the clerk a couple of bucks to pay for it. Then he reaches under his shirt, pulls out a gun and asks for his change in ones, fives, tens and twenties. All of them.

But then, he glances to his left and freezes. A woman appears at the bottom of the frame. She’s yelling at him, he’s staring at her. She calmly reaches out and grabs the gun by the barrel, pulls it out of his hand and then pushes him out through the door.

Huh?

What did I tell you about playing with guns and pointing them at people?

Life Lesson No. 374: When about to hold up the neighborhood store, first, do your research. Scan the aisles to make sure Mom and/or Dad aren’t shopping at the moment. The would-be robber had been snagged by his mother.

Now, you may be thinking that an event like this is a rarity and you’d be right. But take it from me, the power of a mother over her children is very, very real. And displays of it, even in extreme real-life situations like this, are more commonplace than you might think. Unless you’re a mother, of course.

Not being a mother myself, at least literally, how do I know this? Because I witnessed this power during one of the closest near-death experiences I’ve had so far in my life. And I’ve had a few.

It happened while I was working part-time as a bouncer at a bar in a rather well-to-do nearby suburb. Only problem was the bar wasn’t so well-to-do.

That’s me on the left, played by Sam Eliott, in the bouncer movie, “Roadhouse”. The guy on the right? I taught him everything.

On one side was a large college campus surrounded by affluent residences. On the other was the neighboring town – a mostly farm-based burg. Needless to say, these rather disparate social sects didn’t always mesh well. My job was to see that they didn’t wreck the place or kill each other. But first I had to ID everyone to prove they were humans of legal age and/or indeed truly certified, state-registered humanoids.

Wasn’t a bad job. Routine, really. Me, the bartender and the waitresses sober. Every one else, not.

One Friday night seemed pretty much like the previous ones.

Until the Friday night I saw them.

Well, initially I saw only one. The man coming to the door was big, dark, hairy and scary. And not looking to be in too pleasant of a mood. As he opened the door wide, two much smaller males scurried out from behind him.

They were from the next town. Salt-of-the-earth types, shall we say. Well, closer to dirt-of-the-earth, since most of it was all over them. Plowing was done and it was time for fun.

“Hi guys, I need to see some identification.”

Though I would learn later he was a man of few words, the towering, dark scowling one spoke first.

“You’re kidding me.”

That was followed by a grunt as he walked right by me and straight to the bar.

Being a native English speaker, I quickly translated: Now don’t you worry, kind sir. I assure you that my identification is fine, in order and with me. Thank you so much for asking and have a nice day.

“Don’t take it personal,” one of scurrying companions said with a smile while holding out his license for me. “It takes a while for Johnny to warm up to people.”

“Warm up? From the looks of him, I’m surprised he’d wait that long. Just kill them and eat them raw, like sushi.”

The only other Johnny I’d ever met before this was an American bison my uncle bought one summer to add to his animal farm. He kept him in the bull’s pen at my grandfather’s farm while he prepared its new prairie at his place.

The damn thing was a Mack truck with hair, hooves and horns; the meanest, scariest animal I’ve ever encountered – lions, tigers and bears (oh my), rogue elephants and Sasquatch included. If Johnny’s general dispostion was indicative of the species, and I was a native American when millions roamed the plains, the only way I’d have hunted them was with an M1 tank.

Make that two M1 tanks.

But my grandfather, being the consummate farmer and animal man, within a few weeks had Johnny eating out of his hand and following him around the pen like a hulking black Labrador retreiver on Qualudes.

Everybody else just looked like a bale of hay to him.

So, if Johnny’s companion that night had told me my grandfather had taught Johnny to talk, stand on his hind legs and drink beer, I would have believed every word. Would have to, I was looking at the finished product.

After that, things seemed to settle down to the normal Friday night routine. Man drinks beer. Woman drinks beer. Woman and man see each other. Woman and man can’t quite see each other clearly. Poof – love at first inebriated sight.

But what I also was beginning to notice was that Johnny was drinking beer. I mean, a lot of beer. Given his size, I figured the holding tank had to be pretty big. But, no matter the size of the man or his tank, eventually the beer always, always will conquer him.

I waited. I watched. I prayed. It didn’t work.

One the scurrying ones had reached his limit. Turned and said something to Johnny. I have no doubt he was convinced it was the funniest, wittiest thing ever uttered by one man to another. Too bad Johnny wasn’t one of them.

Time to go to work.

Lord, though I’m about to step into the Valley of Death, located in between these two devils, I pray that I will show no fear, and not pee myself until after I’m dead.

“Excuse me, guys. Didn’t mean to cut through here but Johnny, I noticed your beer there is almost gone. Since I was just passing by, how about I buy you another one?”

“Get out of my way.”

You picked a fine time to leave me, dear Lord.

It seemed that diplomacy and outright bribery wasn’t going to work here. Next: Try honesty.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that Johnny. I don’t know what this guy said or did, but you can’t kill him. And you can’t kill me either. I’m just doing my job. Sucks to be me.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“No I’m not and it’s nice of you to recognize me. I’m the bouncer at the door, remember?”

At this point, Johnny stopped talking. But he didn’t stop glaring at me. These were two not very good signs.

To my left, I could hear the bartender swear under her breath. And pick up the phone.

“Margaret? Sorry Margaret, I know it’s late. It’s me. You’d better get down here. Quick as you can.” She hung up.

Now, not knowing who Margaret was, my best educated guess was St. Margaret, matron saint of bouncers. The bartender had called her to head on down, gather up the remnants of my body and soul and carry them off to that big beer cooler in the sky.

I was just glad to be wearing clean underwear. For the moment.

Then the bartender spoke again. This time to the still-glaring Johnny and as loud as she could.

“Johnny, cut this shit out! I called your mother and she’s on the way!”

Ever wonder what Moses was thinking and feeling when he watched the Red Sea part in front of him? I have. And I know.

Holy crap, it actually worked.

I could have hit Johnny with a sledgehammer tied to the front end of a John Deere and not stopped him as quickly as the words, “your mother”. It was the most astounding thing I’d ever seen.

“You still gonna buy me that beer?”

“Uh, yeah. Of course, why wouldn’t I?”

Johnny sat down, drank his beer and waited. The scurrying ones left, pronto. Must have heard their mothers calling them too. A few minutes later, the door opened and I turned to see who it was. Didn’t quite believe it, though.

No lie, she couldn’t have been five feet tall. She was dressed in a coat, then a housecoat, then probably her pajamas. She looked pleasant, sweet, grandmotherly. And really, really pissed.

She stuck her head inside, found her son and spoke.

“Johnny! Let’s go!”

Johnny didn’t look. Just finished his beer, got up and quietly walked out. I looked at the bartender. She just raised her arms, shrugged, and smiled.

Me? I exhaled.