Sunday, December 30, 2012

Out with the old, in with the new—I hope things change, but stay the same too


I have to admit, these final days of 2012 haven’t exactly been the best ones I’ve had this year.  While I got to spend a few quality hours back home with family on Christmas, work has pretty much consumed my time since then.  Besides the year-end insanity of old contracts ending & new contracts starting, we’re also going live with a new line of business on Jan 1.

(I probably shouldn’t be talking about it here, suffice it to say I kinda lost my head at work on Friday & yelled a certain deity’s name at someone in the office.  Oh boy did he have it coming & oh boy I can’t believe he ran to someone else about it, given what I get from him.  I sure hope he doesn’t need help with something anytime soon!)  

Anyway, I’m counting on 2013 being a good year.  I just know this is the year I finally drop these pesky 20+ pounds, build those bookcases that I’ve been tripping over since I stacked ‘em in my bedroom in 2011, and make peace with my noisy gay neighbor (but I’m not ruling out murder just yet).  Someone at work made the comment that ‘13’ does not bode well for us, and while I can’t speak for everyone, I’ve always found the years that ended in ‘3’ to be good ones.  I’m sure my sister Shawn would agree (she was born in ‘63) and I can still remember getting that awesome chemistry set for Christmas in ‘73, making that final student loan payment in 1993, getting my drivers license & car in time for 2003… see what I mean?

Well, I hope everyone here is anticipating a good year ahead too—and if not a great one, at least one like my favorite Lennon Sister Peggy sings below:  “May no trouble travel your way.”  :)  Take care everybody, talk to you again soon.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas to family, friends & visitors to the Teepee (did I miss anyone?)

Just wanted to send some heartfelt good wishes to all the people out there who take the time to visit my little corner of the world here.   I’m always surprised when I click on that Visitors map (on the lower right of this page) and see the various locations people are coming from:  San Francisco, Chile, Japan, Toronto, Massachusetts… I don’t know what everyone thinks of my teepee, but I hope you know how much I enjoy seeing you on here! 

As some of you already know, this is my beautiful niece Sophia Lindon; she’s striking a pose for my sister’s Christmas card.  I just thought I’d share it with all of you too.

Thanks again, Everybody—Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what we do or don’t believe; God bless us, everyone


Last night I fell asleep on my couch, worn out from the long week and still trying to digest the tragic events that had occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary hours earlier, spilling out of both my tv & laptop.  I woke up sometime around 3:40am, turned off my tv & fell back asleep.  When I awoke this morning, I turned on the tv again, watched those same people report the same horrific chain of events, then looked at Facebook and saw a friend had posted this:

STUDENT:  God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools?

GOD:  I am not allowed in schools.

At first it annoyed me:  a so-called Christian using yesterday’s tragedy to promote their personal beliefs about putting prayer back in public schools.  (Dude, face the facts—classrooms aren’t full of little caucasian Presbyterians anymore.)   Anyway, I didn’t stay bothered for long.  The guy who posted it is a kind & good person, and if he sees this as an opportunity to promote some personal feelings, more power to him. 

So I suppose if I wanted to share MY feelings about this tragedy, I’d ask what is it going to take for the government to step in and do something about all these guns?  Last year there were approximately 50 gun-related homicides in countries like Germany and the UK; in the United States there were 10,000.  So what’s more insane, the 20 year old who walked into that school & shot those poor babies or labeling the thousands of Americans shot dead every year as an “unfortunate statistic”?

We need to face some sad truths: the majority of us are not intelligent or wary enough to own a firearm.  It’s proven everyday.  And all of those angry, defensive rants about having the right to bear arms and that it’s right there in the Constitution doesn’t justify all this bloodshed.  (If you want to protect your home, keep a baseball bat by your bed or front door.  No curious kid is going to accidentally club himself to death with a baseball bat.)  Why can’t we be like Australia or Finland?  You can only own a gun in those countries if can prove to your local police you NEED to own one.  Why can’t we have those same laws here?  Are they smarter than us?  They probably think so. 

While I admit I’m not a religious man, personal beliefs about God & such things shouldn’t matter right now.  So I’m going to say a prayer for those innocent souls taken far too soon because frankly it just feels like the right thing to do, and while I’m at it, for this little one too, my niece Sophia. 

I just hope & pray she gets to see the bright future she deserves.   

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Puttin’ on the ritz: Christmas parties sure aren’t what they used to be


Earlier yesterday in the office, I jotted off a quick message to my friend Pen & wished her a good weekend.  I said my work-group was having their holiday party tonight, but I wasn’t going.

Friends & coworkers:  Erin, Kathy, Danielle & Gwen are celebrating the holidays with pickle-back shots

Anyway, I explained that it was just an informal gathering at some watering hole for an extended Happy Hour (I forgot to mention that there may be some bowling afterwards).  And while I feel pretty close to this crew, I’m just not a bar guy.  Pen replied that she felt the same way, and a dinner in a nice restaurant would’ve been a nice idea, or even one of those Gateway Clipper dinner cruises.  (The Gateway Clipper is a fleet of five riverboats that travel up & down the Monongahela year-round, providing dinner & dancing.)  I agreed, but truth be told it’s been a long week—it was black & raining outside—and I was more than ready to just go home, throw on a pair of soft pajama bottoms and flop down on the couch with my tv remote in one hand & a fried egg sandwich in the other.  

It got me to thinking though, about the holiday parties I used to attend in the 1990s.  Man, things sure were different then!  From 1989-1998 I worked for a small but prestigious consulting group, Omega Systems.  And every year, they would host these HUGE Christmas parties for both their employees and their clients (making the event more like a business presentation—it was strongly suggested you be there).  In fact, one year my date (a fellow Omega employee) had one too many & proceeded to ask where the timeclock was, she was ready to punch out and go home.  

I never minded going one bit though—I loved ‘em.  They were huge, lavish affairs that spared no expense.  And aside from one noisome year (when it was held downtown at the Omni-William Penn & I dragged my poor sister Shawn along), they were always at the LeMont, a pricey restaurant on Mt. Washington with great floor to ceiling windows that overlooked the city.  

If you’re fortunate enough to dine at the Lemont, be sure to send one of their ‘Wish you were here’ postcards to family & friends!

There would always be a small jazz combo (for mingling) and later a full-blown dance orchestra.  Omega would hand out pricey gift-bags or holiday baskets afterwards, and while I would probably wrinkle my nose at all that opulence today, at the time I was just some country bumpkin who was new to the city, and excited to have my own business cards & be surrounded by all that bourgeois wealth.  Do companies even do this anymore? 

Well, that was fifteen years ago and I probably earned less than half of what I make today; I no longer wear a suit to the office, heck I don’t even have to be IN the office five days a week; but things sure felt a lot more successful then!  (Oh and for the record—a pickleback is a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle brine; who knew?)  And on that festive note… 

Merry Christmas, Everyone

Monday, November 26, 2012

I know I haven’t been writing, but I’m not hanging up my hat just yet

Before I say another thing—I hope everyone reading this had a nice Thanksgiving.  My sister Shawn & her husband Jim had their usual feast, and I spent the four day holiday weekend immersed in a whole lot of nothing, it was terrific. 

And now it’s Monday night, and I have the volume on my tv up a little louder than necessary because I’m attempting to drown out the assorted going-ons coming from that bothersome gay couple who moved into the apartment next to mine. 

Why does their stereo have such a heavy bass?  And why do they have to be so dramatic about everything?  They’re over there arguing right now over what their favorite Christmas song should be!

Try as I might, I don’t find them entertaining in the least.  Ironically, I signed the yearly lease for my place only a couple weeks before they moved in, and I don’t think I would’ve been so quick to do that had I known this pair was moving in.  I may be locked in for now, but I’ve still been spending my free time looking at apartment listings in my area; it’s not like I live in Alcatraz (yet).  

Of course, who’s to say I wouldn’t wind up with someone equally annoying at my next place, if not more so.  I sure had things good with my former next door neighbor, I just assumed we lived in a soundproofed building.  Wrong—so wrong.

Oh and for the record, last week I called the company that manages this building to see if they might lean on these two mofos a little—a young woman named Stacey informed me there was nothing they could do.  “But if it helps Doug, I live in an apartment too and my neighbor is always shouting at his tv!  So I know just how you feel!”   No Stacey, that doesn’t help me in the least.  She said the best she could do at this point is log my complaint, and if I feel things are that bad, call the police. 

Stacey, what do I tell the cops?   “Donny wants their favorite Christmas song to be ‘Blue Christmas’ and Tommy is having a royal snit about it, you better get over here right away!” 

Anyway, I apologize for sharing all of that… it does help to vent.  I just wanted the world out there to know I’m still alive & kicking, and boring as ever!  And as soon as I have something more to write about (and hopefully soon, I’m more anxious than anyone reading this) I’ll be sure to share.   Thanks as always for checking in.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why fight the future when it has cool gadgets like this-- I’m in love with my new Nook HD+


I honestly wasn’t planning to share this recent acquisition of mine on here, who needs to read about someone’s latest  gizmo?  Everybody has something, be it my 8 year old niece’s new ipod Touch or the college kids on my bus staring zombie-like at their iPhones or the various women on there reading Fifty Shades of Gray on their Kindles. 

(For the record, when I’m on the bus I prefer to stare dumbly out the window & make believe this is my final trip downtown, because it’s 2025 and I’m finally retiring from spreadsheets & office drama, and somehow, I don’t look or feel any older than I do right now.)  But that’s another story.

Anyway—a couple months ago I thought I’d surprise myself with one of those newfangled computer tablets for my birthday.  (I already own a 7” ereader, but I wanted something bigger like the Apple iPad—without shelling out 700.00, let alone buying into the Apple ecosystem.)  I did a lot of reading up on what was out there, and right when I was down to two models (the soon to be released Google Nexus 10, and the 9” Amazon Fire HD), Barnes & Noble announced THEIR entry into things, the Nook HD+.  It took me about 5 minutes to decide this was what I wanted.

I don’t read comic books like I used to, but wow electronic comics are awesome on this device; after 25 years I’m going back to reading monthly issues of Batman!

I’m not going to go into all the boring specs for this device (there’s a hundred different reviews out there that already do, and they all love this thing too).  But let me say this:

The Nook HD+ is both thinner & lighter than the Fire, and has the same screen size and clarity (it’s amazing) of an iPad.  And it’s around half the price.  No it doesn’t have 250,000 apps to choose from like in the Apple iStore, but B&N has all the popular ones, and they even added a “Nook TV & Movie Store” too for streaming hi-def movies.  It also syncs with your Hotmail or Gmail (or Yahoo or even your workmail if you’re a glutton for punishment).  Awesome web browser & music player too.

     books  apps  webs 

    Screens displaying my books, apps & favorite websites (click on any to enlarge)

Besides apps, music, movies, web browsing (and e-books of course), the Nook HD shines with magazines & catalogs.  (If you subscribe to Entertainment Weekly like I do, it’s delivered to your tablet too, free of charge.)  

llbean2LL Bean catalog will now come to my Nook HD instead of my mailbox, it looks just like the printed version & you can even flip or curl the pages

And finally, if all of this isn’t enough the machine can even detect ghosts too.  I recently bought the “Ghost Radar” app (pricier than most, it was $1.99)  which turns your Nook into an EMF detector like the ones on those paranormal investigation shows.  It has a nifty radar screen, and even translates the pulses to words (because ghosts like to talk too, duh).  So the other night I activated it, set it on my counter and went about my business.

A couple hours later I noticed a couple ‘orbs’ on the radar (two yellow, one red) and I cautiously approached it & said “Hello?  Is someone here with me?” and it said “Here”.  I said “Who’s here?”  I waited a minute then said “Do you want to talk to me?”   It said “Richard.  Where.”   I jumped about two feet—my next door neighbor Rich (who lived beside me 12 years) just moved out of here a month ago.  C’mon, that’s too much to be a coincidence!  (I have proof it said this too, the app keeps a time-log of all words spoken.)

I started to say “I’m sorry but he doesn’t live here anymore, he bought a house over in Ben Avon” andt then it hit me—I’d probably be talking to some imaginary person (like crazy people tend to do) and if there really WAS a ghost here, it didn’t want to talk to me anyway!  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Does my new neighbor know he’s living next door to a tough guy? I don’t think so

I miss my neighbor Rich.  He lived in the apartment adjoining mine.  (We shared the same livingroom wall.)  He lived here for 12 years, and moved out 3 weeks ago.

Rich was a small & quiet man who didn’t make a lot of noise.  If he did, I never heard anything—well, aside from the night the Steelers lost to Greene Bay during the 2011 Superbowl, and I heard a muffled  ‘Nooooooo!’ coming from the wall behind me. 

(It was either Rich or the ghost of a real Steelers fan watching that game with me, I’m guessing the former.)  Our apartments are separated by a concrete firewall that’s virtually soundproof.

At least I thought that was the case, until last Sunday when the gayest man I’ve ever met moved into Rich’s old apartment.  I heard hammers pounding and cries of anguish for 3 days straight.  (It looks like he moved half of IKEA in there, too.)   He christened his new pad by plopping down a big flowery welcome mat outside his front door & then called up his friend Tommy while in the hallway. “All moved in Tommy, THANKS FOR NOTHING!” and then went inside & slammed his door.  Omigod, he’s a genuine drama queen!  I suddenly felt my machismo coming on.

I’m not sure why, but I always feel the need to balance out the testosterone levels in my general vicinity.  Why is that?  If I’m at the barbershop & a couple guys are jawing about beer, ballgames & broads I go into some sort of ‘mild gay’ mode and make a face, then curtly ask Angie to trim my eyebrows too, they’re positively RAGGED.  On the other hand, when my gay coworker tells me about the hot Latino man he met on his recent trip to Miami, my voice drops an octave & I suddenly get the urge to run outside and chop some wood or something.  

So last night around 8:00, I’m sitting here on the couch and eating a lemon cupcake, and reading “Confessions of a Prairie Bitch” (Nellie Olsen’s autobiography, omigod it’s so funny) when I suddenly hear a shrill scream through my livingroom wall.  My firewall?  My soundproof firewall?!  I jump up and open my front door & stick my head in the hallway, and now I can hear loud shouts coming from my new neighbor’s apartment. 

He’s screaming “Whore, whore!  Go on, get out!  Date whoever you want I don’t care!” and his visitor is saying “Just have one drink with me, c’mon”  and then I hear a glass shattering.  Omigod, really?  His visitor says “I’m going to walk right out that door, is that what you want?” 

Dude, I wish you’d ask me what I want!

I stepped back into my apartment, quietly shut my front door, and returned to my reading.  Then I heard a THUMP and a muffled “Get off me!  Get!  Off!  Me!”  I closed that sissy-ass book, flipped on the tv, saw “Star Trek” was on MeTV.  Thank God, Klingons!  I jacked up the volume, then stomped into the kitchen and heated up some sloppy joe sauce I made earlier in the day.  That’ll show ‘em!

I have a feeling that welcome mat is going to meet up with unfortunate circumstances if he’s not careful…  Just sayin’!  Shifty

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A little fuss, a little muss: The single man’s guide to Chicken Parmesan


I have a confession, which shouldn’t surprise anybody; when you’re a single man who lives a block’s walking distance from a sandwich shop, Chinese restaurant and three pizzerias—you don’t exactly do a lot of cooking on the weekend.

But a body (particularly a middle aged one) can only take so much chopped ham, sausage pizza & szechuan anything so sometimes you need to go into that kitchen and cook a real meal.  (By the way, people have the impression I can cook & I’m sorry to say that I don’t consider frying a pork chop or microwaving some Hungry Jack Mashed Potatoes as any culinary feat.)  But gosh darn it, this dish takes real ingredients, some real prep, and both looks & tastes real good!

ApacheDug’s Chicken Parmesan

  • Sargento sliced Mozarella cheese
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Ragu Robusto Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Sauce
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 thin-sliced boneless chicken breasts

1. Beat the egg & 1/3 cup milk together (do it in a Pyrex measuring cup—no splatter) and pour into a shallow dish, then soak those chicken breasts in the mixture for a couple minutes.  (I halved each of those 2 breasts first.) 

Now pour 1 cup of those italian bread crumbs on a plate & roll the wet chicken around in them—get them fully crumbed.  (Hey, do you have a bread bag?  Pour the crumbs in one, drop the chicken parts in & shake!)

2.  Have a nice big frying pan ready—heat up 1/4 cup of that extra virgin olive oil & carefully put those chicken breasts in the pan.

3.  Cook on low-medium heat, turning occasionally until they’re golden brown.  (Don’t worry if the chicken is fully cooked.  Trust me, they will be later.)

4.  You have one of those glass baking dishes, right?  I have a square one.  Add a little Ragu Roasted Garlic Sauce to coat the bottom, & arrange those golden chicken breasts in the baking dish.

5.  I laid 6 slices of the Sargento Mozzarella cheese on top of the chicken.

6.  Pour that jar of Ragu Robusto Roasted Garlic on top, sprinkle on a healthy dose of grated Parmesan cheese, & slide this into the oven, uncovered

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for around 35 minutes.   Oh baby, look what you got!

Now I’ll assume you were using those 35 minutes to boil some spaghetti on top of the stove.  (This makes enough for 3-4 servings, so it’s up to you how many noodles to cook.)  Ladle that hot sauce over a side of hot spaghetti & OF COURSE sprinkle more grated parmesan on top of everything—that’s why they call it chicken parmesan!


Friday, October 12, 2012

I may not take a good picture, but it’s that time of year y’know!


You would think with the number of photos of myself on my blog, that I must think I have one helluva face.  (Well, there’s not that many on here, but I suppose there’s enough.)

The thing is, it couldn’t be further from the truth.  It seems to me that regardless of one’s looks, some people always seem to take a good picture & some simply don’t, and I’m one of the latter.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad picture of my sister Shawn, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a photo of myself where I didn’t flinch a little.  Okay, sometimes a lot.  Like this morning, after I saw this one.

Last night when I was going to bed, I noticed my right eye was burning a little.  When I awoke this morning, it was swelled up.  This is like the FOURTH time in the last 3 months!   The first time I worried it was pinkeye; the second time my sister insisted it was pinkeye, & the third time my coworker Kathy asked me if I washed my hands after using the bathroom (because that’s how you get pinkeye).  But the local pharmacist looked at it that third time and wondered if it was an allergy.  She said “it’s that time of year, you know.”   No I didn’t know, but it sounded good to me.  (And for the record, I DO wash my hands after I use the bathroom—every time!)

Anyway, it appears I have it again.  I was scheduled to work from home today (thank goodness) so when 4:30 rolled around, I walked up the street to get some eye-drops, and to show that pharmacist my swelled eye again.  She wasn’t there, a younger woman was in her place.  I figured okay, I’ll get a second opinion then.  I approached this one & said “can I ask you a question about my eyes?”  She said sure & asked me to come closer.  She said “are you having trouble sleeping?”  I said no, and she said “you can try cucumber slices, they really do help; if you’re looking for something right away, I can recommend a good concealer.”  I said “For pinkeye?”  She startled a little and said “You think you have pinkeye?  You’d need to see a doctor.  I thought you were asking about those dark circles.”  

On a happier note, as I was leaving the drugstore (eyedrops check—concealer, no) I saw my dentist climbing into his car (dammit that dude drives a silver-blue BMW) and I said “Hey Doc!”  He looked up & said “Doug where have you been and what’s wrong with your eye?”  He walked over to get a better look and I said “I think it’s an allergy, it could be be pinkeye” and he asked if there was any discharge.  I said no but this was the fourth time in the last four months and he replied “sounds more like an allergy, it’s that time of year, y’know.”

I actually feel a lot better now, I guess it does help to see a doctor.  Winking smile

Saturday, October 6, 2012

If you listen closely to those voices from the past, you will hear a kindred spirit


Remember pen pals?  When I was in the third grade at South Ward Elementary, our teacher told us that we were going to start a pen pal program with another class of kids our age from England.  England! 

I was given the name & address of a boy named James, & I excitedly wrote him a lot of nonsense, and peppered it with questions asking what he liked to do in his spare time, has he ever been in a real castle, did he know who Batman was, was he forced to bow when he saw the Queen—it was  pretty embarrassing stuff, but earnest.  A few weeks later I got a letter back from James, and all I can remember him writing was that he’d never met the Queen, his gran had a cat named Winks that was blind in one eye & he had a dog named Sam.  Oh, and he knew who Batman was but “picture books were for kids.”  Dude, how old were you?  I was eight! 

I’ve been reminded of James as I’ve recently begun talking—no, exchanging some pretty long letters to be exact--with someone I knew from a long time ago.  We actually graduated in the same high school class, but the photo below is when I knew her best, in sixth grade at Lippencott Elementary.Sixth grade, Mr. Rumancik

I’m the one standing next to our teacher, Mr. Rumancik, in the ‘short boys’ row.  (My friend doesn’t wish to be identified—at least not yet—but she’s here too.)  We’ve been exchanging a lot of emails these past several weeks, so for now I’ll simply refer to her as my pen-pal.  When we first began writing, I told Pen (I’ve shortened it already) a favorite memory of mine from sixth grade.  At the time this class photo was taken, I was good friends with her brother, who was a year younger than us.  And in the spring of ‘73, he invited me to their farm for an overnight visit.

So that Friday I brought my older brother’s gym-bag along to school (packed with comic books, striped pajamas & toothbrush) and rode the bus home with my friend & his sister, my classmate.  I didn’t think we’d be seeing much of her when we got off that school bus, as we didn’t really talk a lot in school and I assumed she’d be off somewhere doing girl-things.  (You know, like at recess—boys had one side of the schoolyard, girls had the other.)   But the three of us wound up spending a lot of time together, and I was surprised at how outgoing Pen was, and fun to be with.  Later that night, after her brother got sleepy & went to bed, she and I sat up and talked about school and things we enjoyed doing, and I remember thinking “who is this girl and what happened to that shy girl in my class?”  And for the next couple days or so when I would see her at school, I would nod and smile hello at her, as if we shared a secret. 

The friendship with her brother didn’t last long, I think that one-year difference in age played a big part; but I also realized that night, when Pen & I sat up and talked and laughed (until her mom came downstairs & asked us to keep it down) that you can have younger or older friends, but no one really gets you like the people your own age.  And the older I get, the more this hits home. 

In a few short weeks, I’m going to be 51.  So why is it the older I get, the younger everyone else around me seems?  New neighbors, people I ride the bus with, professional colleagues, friends I’ve made online.  It may just be a year or two, but I am friends with people that are younger than me by a decade, and there’s even a few that were born around the same time I was in college or making my way in the world. 

 I received this letter from our congressman in 1978 for winning a dorky ‘Literary Award’;  not only did my penpal remember this, but the paddling I got from that teacher above too

I’m not saying that half-century mark is the only thing we have in common, but for some reason I take comfort in it.  To be honest it’s almost quaint, this flourish of letters on both our parts.  When I told my sister Shawn about all the recent correspondence, she said “what’s going on here, where is this headed, what’s the plan?” 

I told her I don’t know.  It’s not like we’ve exchanged photos of ourselves or even phone numbers.  I would guess we’re just sharing and seeing where it takes us.  (Or until one of us develops carpal tunnel syndrome from all the writing!)  I do know that a week or so ago when I learned a couple of our ancestors had the same surname and shared this with her, she said “I hope we don’t discover we’re related, I like to think of us as kindred spirits, not kinfolk.” 

It was a nice thing to say.  I said I felt the same way too.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Think of me as Jimmy Stewart in “Rear Window” (okay, without the broken leg or classy chick)


Okay, I just signed my lease for what will now be my 16th year in this apartment building.  My rent was increased $21.00 a month (to $556.00) which isn’t going to break me, but it did encourage me to spend a week or so looking at other places in my neighborhood--only to discover I still have a pretty good deal here.  Big surprise, I’m staying put for another year.

I can’t believe I’ve been here this long though; if others had a say in my living arrangements I’d be long gone.  There’s one in particular, my friend & coworker Kathy who looks for every opportunity to tell me it’s time to move.  If I report that my 91 year old neighbor just died, she says “poison air…you gotta get out of there!”   If I complain that the guy who lives across from me slams his door when he comes & goes, she tells me it’s only so long before he Hulk-smashes my own door down & rips my head off.  If I said “a sack of money just fell from the sky & landed on my balcony”  Kathy would say “McDougall, that’s drug money—please get the hell out of there!”

So last week when a young Indian couple moved into the empty apartment down the hall (and the guy was wearing a turban), I wanted to tell somebody, but I knew Kathy would probably drive over here with a U-Haul—so I told my other friend Danielle instead.  She said  “Ooh, you’re going to come to work smelling like curry now!”  I just looked at her.  Then she said “You know you’re not just getting that couple, right?  Their whole family will move in there too!”  I said “It’s only a one-bedroom, Danielle” and she replied “that’s how they LIKE it, packed in like a can of sardines!” 

Meanwhile, in the last week or so I have seen a pair of elderly Indian women enter & exit that apartment, and a gorgeous twentysomething woman straight out of Bollywood with 4-5 giggling Indian girls in bright colors (and all looking 10 years old) following behind her.  Then there was an elderly Indian man going in there the other day with a paper sack full of big yellow flowers, and last night the original turban-guy was attempting to lug a giant baby stroller up the stairs.   It’s a one bedroom unit, people!  What’s going on in there!?   No matter—I’m fine.

Remember the movie “Rear Window” with Jimmy Stewart & Grace Kelly?  Jimmy plays a photographer for “LIFE” Magazine, holed up in his shabby one bedroom walk-up with a broken leg.  Grace Kelly is his gorgeous Madison Avenue girlfriend who can’t figure out why Jimmy prefers slumming it, when he could probably afford ritzier digs—but Jimmy will have none of it.  He’s just fine where he is, thank you very much.

“Oh darling, you’re missing out on all the finer things in life!  You can’t live here forever, you know!” 

The truth is, my place reminds me of Jimmy’s digs a bit; it’s a little worn from wear.  My patio door is fogged in a few spots (something to do with leaking gas between the double-pane glass that 2 bottles of Windex won’t clean off). 

My kitchen is pretty outdated too, there’s no granite countertops or stainless steel appliances (but I do have some really nice ceramic tile flooring in there).  It’s a small place, and I’m planning to paint a couple walls a different color, just to shake things up.  Things could be worse.

So why am I still here?  I haven’t completely ruled out finding someone in a pretty dress someday, but if she starts asking questions, here’s what I’ll tell her:  I like this neighborhood—I’m able to walk anywhere I need to go.  My dentist, the barber, the supermarket, a couple pizza places, even a decent restaurant or two—just a stroll up the street.  It may not have the “cool factor” of the Southside, but it doesn’t have all those bars either.  (I’ll take dudes in turbans over drunks any day.)

Why not a house here?  I just don’t want all that room unless I’m sharing it with someone.  A place with more swag like in Sewickley?  It’d be nice but I’d rather have it in the bank instead.  If I’m going to impress someone, it’s not going to be because I live next door to a Bentley dealership!  (Okay maybe that would impress, but I think I’d have to be driving one of ‘em too.)

All of this just to explain why I signed that lease again & am in no big hurry to live in the lap of HGTV luxury.  So until Grace Kelly comes along, or I remain single, retire early & move back home someday, this “home away from home” set-up suits me just fine.  (But I’d sure like to know what’s going in that other apartment!)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Forgive me for I have sinned: My top ten lame confessions for the summer of 2012


My friend Gary is a curious person; we met a few years ago on a retro-TV message board, got into a heated discussion about the Brady Bunch of all things, and ever since then, one of us will contact the other if we come across some obscure bit of trivia—we’ll have a laugh then catch up on more normal things.

So a couple days after Labor Day, Gary emailed me to ask if I owned “Police Woman” on DVD yet (no) and then proceeded to tell me how much he dreaded the end of summer, it was time for his “yearly confession”.

(Gary’s a Catholic & explained to me that he prefers to do his penance after he’s gotten everything he can out of the summer.)  When I asked him what sort of stuff he confesses to, he said “Well, I blew $750.00 in Atlantic City one weekend”  and when I asked if gambling was a sin, he said “It is when you tell your old man your car’s in the shop and you need $750.00.”   Gary, please tell me you didn’t really do that.  Anyway, I told him I was glad I wasn’t Catholic as I have nothing good to confess, and he said “Bullshit!  You’d have that priest in the box for a day.”

I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and while I don’t know what Catholics confess to (but I have a pretty good idea), I came up with my own list of how I’ve sinned this summer:

 10. It’s not exactly kosher  

I’ve been living alone for over 20 years and until this past summer, it never occurred to me to buy bacon.  Then one day in June, my pal Erin & I were talking how nice it’d be to find a good BLT for lunch & it hit me, why aren’t I making these things at home? I’m now on my fourth pack of the stuff since June.  I need an exorcism, I’m possessed by fatty pork!


9. Call me once, shame on you—call me twice, shame on me

My friend Danielle (who’s a volunteer for the Obama campaign) recently told me how exhausting it is to call total strangers to remind ‘em to vote & hopefully support Obama.  “Doug I’ve called 128 people so far, only 4 answered and one asked if I was out of my effing mind.”

I told her when I get those calls, I either say “Go Romney!” or “Go Obama!” depending on the party calling (just to get these mofos off my phone).  She is now officially hating on me.  Sorry, Danielle!

8. Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo  so please don’t call while my favorite TV show is on!  I shamefully admit that I am hooked on America’s favorite Redneck Family.  Sketti with butter & ketchup—who knew?  I’ll never buy Prego again!

 7. They’re only leaves (& maybe the occasional bird dropping… a little dirt never hurt anybody) 

Residents on the uppermost floors are asked not to sweep debris from their balconies to the balconies below.  Thank you, Lobos Management

I don’t think the guy who lives below me gives a crap, so until he comes up here & complains (like my former neighbor did) I think I’m good!

6. I’m not a good loser  It’s taken me 7 weeks to lose 1.5 lbs; those Dr. Oz pills didn’t help & neither does that bacon.   

sexy indian5. I love my screensaver of my niece Sophia very, very much

but I love sexy women dressed in skimpy Native American costumes too, so when I came across this curvy lady in my online travels, I figured it was time I replaced that photo of Sophie I use for my screensaver for awhile.  Heh!

(FYI, I showed this to a friend of mine & he asked me if she was a genuine Native American.  I figure my niece has more NA blood in her than this chick, DOES IT MATTER?!)

4. “That music will rot your brains out”

So why do I buy stuff like “The Very Best of Patty Duke” for my MP3 player?  A coworker stopped over at my desk the other day & asked if I was okay, it looked like I was in pain; I told her I was, I was listening to Patty Duke sing “Danke Schoen”. 

 3. Promises, promises

When my friend Kar-Kar left UPMC back in May, she said “Douglas I’m worried that after I leave, I’ll never hear from you again!  Tell me I’m worrying for nothing!” 

Oh Karyn, it’s only been a few months!  Besides, you look like you’re doing just fine… (okay, I really do need to call her soon, sorry Kar)

2. Complaining about the weather and it’s been nothing but sun & clear skies for most of the summer.  Kinda makes me feel guilty sitting inside, writing these silly-ass blogs…

1. Arab turmoil in the Middle East, economic woes in the US and I don’t have a clue what’s going on--I’ve been spending all my free time watching PSY do his “Gangnam Style” routine for the last two weeks!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The time my brother convinced me he could make me levitate—and other hocus pocus

Getting my mail hasn’t been a big priority with me lately.  Most of my bills are sent directly to the bank now, and since closing my Netflix account a month or so ago (needed to take a break, is all) I haven’t exactly felt the need to rush downstairs and retrieve the latest LL Bean catalog. 

But my retired neighbor doesn’t know this, so he had no problem knocking on my door while I was getting dressed this morning, just to let me know something has been sticking out of the bottom of my mailbox since Friday.  Thanks Jim!

My older brother Duke & me in the summer of ‘69; I’m getting to this

Anyway, after I thanked him & sent him on his way, I went downstairs & collected my mail—Kuhn’s Market flyer, credit card offer, Entertainment Weekly magazine—and then I noticed this postcard for a new Hypnotherapy office in the North Hills, offering a 20% discount on my first visit:

Our unique, effective and specific techniques will help you:


Improve my golf game?  Where do I sign?  Okay that’s not fair, I haven’t a clue of this shaman’s prowess and for all I know he’s working wonders.   (Hmm… I do see a couple items on this list I wouldn’t mind going into a trance for…)  But the thing is, everytime I see something related to hypnosis, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the real deal.  I’ve been duped before.

Way back in the summer of ‘69, when we still lived in town, my brother Duke approached me one afternoon & said “Let me hypnotize you.”   (That’s my brother & me in the photo above, that same summer.  He was 10, I was 7.)   While I struggled to come up with an answer (I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but I was sure he couldn’t do it) he said “Do you doubt my abilities?  Look what I have!” and held up a hypno-coin.  I think my jaw dropped—I was all too aware of it’s power!

 As an avid comic book fan, I was accustomed to seeing these mysterious devices in every issue of Superman & Batman I could get my hands on.  But where I read the books solely for Supe’s exploits in the 40th century or to drool over Batman’s latest bat-gadgets, my diabolical brother pored over the ads & sent away for stuff like spy scopes & books on becoming a Judo Master. 

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he pulled out that disc, but I was.  I quickly said no.

Duke wasn’t about to let me go that easily though, and asked why not.  I told him I was afraid what he would do once I was under his control.  He thought for a moment, then said “But I can make you levitate.  Wouldn’t you like to float up in the air like Superman?”

Aargh!!  He knew me too well.  As my sister Shawn can attest, it was around this time I was going through a “Please God help me fly” phase, where I would kneel on the sidewalk & pray to God for the ability to fly, then take off running down the street & jump into the air—only to crash on the cement.  God, didn’t you hear me praying up there?  What’s this going to take?  Duke won.  I said yes.

When I asked my brother how this was even possible, he scoffed and reminded me of those magicians that made women float on tv, and said “they don’t use wires, you know.  If you put someone under a deep enough trance, you can command them to float.”

It’s pretty sad, what a seven year old will swallow.

 But you have to understand, Duke was known for being a bookworm; he read constantly, and what kid asks for high school textbooks for Christmas?  My brother, that’s who!  I said it made sense to me, and my thoughts danced with the idea of hovering in the air… maybe after I got good with it, and with the right costume and cape… I told him I was ready.

Duke had me lie down on the couch, while he hovered over me, twirling that infernal disc in my face.  I got the standard routine:  “You are getting very sleepy… when I count to 10 you will fall into a deep sleep…1…2…” 

After he finished counting, I closed my eyes (it seemed like the thing to do) and he asked me if I was under.  I sure didn’t think so, but played along and murmured yes.  Duke then said “If you are REALLY under my control, raise your right arm… your right arm…” I slowly lifted my right hand into the air, and I heard a small, excited gasp.

Now at the time, this was a sensitive topic between Duke & me—I constantly forgot what my right & left was, which angered him to no end.  He would often test me by saying “Hold out your right hand” and I’d give him my left, and he’d yell “You have a 50% chance of getting this correct and you always get it wrong!”  So I think my getting it right this time confirmed to his supercomputer brain I must indeed be in a hypnotic state.

So as I’m laying there, eyes shut & knowing I am NOT hypnotized and wondering how I’ll fake levitating, I hear him get up and move away.  I open my eyes a tiny bit, and see him in the other corner of the room, going thru our mom’s sewing basket.  He pulls out her tomato pin cushion and I shut my eyes again as he makes his way back over to the sofa. 

 Duke bends down and whispers “It is a scientific fact that when a subject is in a deep hypnotic state, you can stick needles in him and he will not feel the pain, and he will not bleed… he will not bleed.  Repeat after me, I will not bleed…” 

What!?  It suddenly dawns on me—Duke wasn’t interested in making me levitate so much as he wanted to create some kind of human pin-cushion.  Why I continued laying there, I don’t know; but now I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed it wouldn’t hurt.  It was right around then that I heard an “OOMPH” sound and opened my eyes.  My dad was standing there, holding Duke by the back of his neck.  He said “What’s wrong with you, boy?  Why are you standing over your brother with a needle?”   Duke looked properly annoyed and Dad looked down at me.  “Were you sleeping?  Did you know this maniac was going to stick you?!”  

I can’t remember what happened after that… you know how kids are, I’m sure I went on my merry way while poor Duke went back to the drawing board.  But to this day, everytime I see one of those twirly-gizmos (which thankfully isn’t often) I can’t help but flinch a little.  My brother wasn’t your typical big brother—but I wouldn’t have wanted things any other way.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

I bought the magic beans, now where’s my beanstalk?


Can I share a little rant here?  I don’t want to open myself up for public ridicule, but I’ve always considered myself a savvy (or cynical) enough person to not to be sold a false bill of goods.  So right now I’m a little surprised that I let myself be duped by some 21st century snake-oil salesman.

My only defense here I suppose is that when you’re desperate enough, you’re going to pat logic on it’s head and tell it to run outside and play, it’s getting in the way of things.

I am like…50 pounds overweight.  And that’s on a good day.  I pretty much have been so for the last decade (though in the last few years, it’s either gone up 4-5 lbs or down 1-2).  I’ve written about it here before, insisted I was losing the pounds ‘for real’ this time, and then things went nowhere (as usual).  I’ve never stopped hoping for some sort of miracle though; don’t we all love miracles?

So a few weeks ago during a ‘work from home’ day, I shut off my laptop promptly at 4pm & flipped on the tv.  ‘Doctor Oz’ was on, I’ve probably seen his show twice.  (But I know all about the man, a respected doctor and surgeon, and one of Oprah’s personal gurus.)   Still, I’m just not into him.  I grabbed for the remote to switch the channel when I heard him say something about a ‘miracle in a bottle’ and “you’re saying these people did nothing and still lost all this weight?  These weight loss numbers are astounding!”  Wait--what? 

Some so-called medical expert was on there, detailing a study done on a group of chubby people in Scranton, Pa.  They were given a dose of pure green coffee bean extract 30 minutes before every meal, and were instructed not to change their diet or ‘up their exercise game’;  yet at the end of the 12 week study, they all lost weight, an average of 18 pounds each, 10% of their body fat.  Dr.Oz was very impressed with the results & told his audience that this is a wonderful discovery.  There’s no reported side effects, the extract isn’t expensive, but be sure to buy it PURE, in a vegetable-capsule form. 


“The great and powerful Oz has spoken—now go!”

Now normally I’d hear something like this & think “I need to research this on my own first, and maybe in a couple months if no one has reported growing an extra arm or head…”  but then I remembered that a few months previous, when the great & powerful Oz told his fatter watchers to load up on raspberry ketones, it sent their price soaring thru the roof (and off the shelves of every pharmacy for months).  So I flipped open my laptop again and jumped on—I found them!  And just as the wizard specified, ‘pure’ extract in vegetable capsule form.  I patted myself on the back for my quick actions & promptly ordered a bottle.  No wait, Amazon—I want TWO bottles!  Heh heh!  

Fortunately, I didn’t have a long wait; they arrived in just a few days.

Back in June, anxious for some real motivation, I joined a ‘Weight Race’ with a few others in my office.  Friday mornings we report our weight, and a chart is sent out showing your current numbers, your loss or gain for that week & a final column showing your success (or failure) to date.   I had ended my first couple weigh-ins actually going up a pound, before finally losing 2, 3 & then 5 pounds total.  Then things stopped—and for the next few weeks, no change.  (Miriam, one of the others in the race says “you’re not gaining—and you’re still ahead of everyone else!”  which is no real help, it only means we’re a pretty sad group.)  But now I had an ace in my sleeve, my magic beans!  I begin doing just as the doctor ordered—800 mgs with a glass of water, twice a day (and 30 minutes before eating).

Bean Week 1:  No change.  Well, this stuff doesn’t happen overnight.

Bean Week 2:  No change.  Well, a little more exercise wouldn’t hurt either.


So here’s my dilemma; I only have enough of those infernal pills to last me 7 more days (I ordered a month’s supply).  If I go thru my final week’s supply & still see no results, do I admit I’ve been suckered?  Or do I say 'wait I haven’t been suckered enough, it’s only been a month & that was a 12 week study’? 

THAT’S the question; I’ll come back in a week & let you know if there’s been any changes, and what I’m going to do next.  (And hopefully this is the last time I let someone sell me some miracle in a bottle!)

Well, it’s now week 4 & there’s been a change alright, I’ve gained 2 lbs. from a week ago.  Time to stop looking for answers in a bottle and get busy.