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Monday Meme: Wiener Crash (with poem)

wienermobileI’m thinking on this
Monday Meme thing:
how long can it last?
A good meme is hard
to find, frankly; fortunately
I’ve found this frank foible
that’s far and away
the facebook favorite
of the day..

No Bologna! Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Crashes Near Harrisburg

I’ve noticed, via diligent research, that this isn’t an isolated incident.  Pleasantly, the wienermobile is eminently meme-worthy….
5de90e87e7d915a50075b9537eada20f oscar-mayer-wienermobile-stuck-in-snow-randomLOLz


Deer Day

hunting groupI don’t know about where you live, but it’s yet another holiday where I live.  The kids don’t have school, and the woods aren’t safe to walk in–nor will they be for the next several weeks because it is The First Day of Deer Season.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  When I grew up and left this region, forging out into the great wide beyond, I was surprised to find that this integral component of the Thanksgiving-New Years train was not ubiquitous–just as friends of mine from other corners of the galaxy find it absurd that Westsylvania almost screeches to a stop so we can shoot us some deer.

img-001So, starting well before dawn, hundreds of thousands of hunters, most of them clad in the legally mandated square inch coverage of the color called “blaze orange,” made their ways to the edge of their chosen stalking grounds this morning.  Some go alone, some in pairs, but many go in groups, taking turns “driving” or waiting in ambush for their prey.  Many climb trees and wait patiently in tree stands, chewing on jerky and peeing in a plastic bottle, waiting for that chance at a trophy, and a freezer filled with meat.

I never understood the allure.  My paternal grandpa loved deer hunting–it was part of his farm-raised heritage. Few things were more exciting than when the men in the family–Grandpa, Uncle Bob, even my dad–would decide to go deer spotting in Uncle Bob’s old Ford f-250 Hi-Boy: the men three across in the cab, six pack at their feet, and eight or ten kids, cousins and barefooted Appalachian neighbors, loose in the bed of the truck.  We’d rumble through the hollows and over hills, stopping at cornfields and cemetery borders–anywhere with a view–to play a spotlight over the fields, looking for the gemlike twinkle of deer eyes in the dark. When found, their heads and white Fears-Study11-10tails would flash up, eyes peering futilely into the light, muscles rigidly poised for flight, and my grandpa would let loose with the loudest, shrillest whistle a tobacco-chewing man could make, a near-supernatural tool that froze the animals in place long enough to see if a buck was amidst the herd and, if so, how big and how many points.

Ironically, Grandpa was never much for the thrill of the hunt.  He walked the woods nearly daily, making observations, tending his salt lick, reading tracks.  By the time Deer Day came around, he knew the buck he was going to take, and he knew where and when.  By nine a.m. the deer would be dressed and hung upside down between two trees, it’s offal shared with the frightening pack of beagles Grandpa kept fenced behind his shed. For him, the preparation for the hunt was a year long ritual, but the hunt itself a pragmatic affair: meat in the freezer, and (this disgusted me) in several dozen mason jars on the shelves in the larder–right up there beside the peaches and green beans.

Not me.  I’m not a voracious meat eater to begin with, but I do enjoy it a few times a month–but when I get meat, I want it the way God intended it: on a plastic tray, wrapped in cellophane.

deer-hunting-400x300And maybe that’s why it didn’t make sense to me for a long time, why hunting is observed with pietistic reverence by so many of my neighbors.  Yesterday, my wife took a long one-way run south of town, and I drove out to retrieve her since we needed to take a trip to the county recycling center to drop off items that aren’t dealt with curbside.  I waited for her in the parking lot of a Sheetz store–think: steroidal convenience store with 24 gasoline pumps, genuine steamed latte, and everything in between.  Around me at least half a dozen obvious hunting groups were gearing up, gassing up, and stocking  up on last minute supplies.

I was surprised to find myself a little envious.  Some of the groups were peers–several guys of the same approximate age–while others seemed to be family members, mulch-generational, kids and fathers and grandfathers.  One group was earnestly dumping ice into coolers, another lounged about a large utility trailer loaded down with coolers, plastic storage crates, and a pair of large 4-man ATVs that, for all the world, looked like moon buggys. As a man who was once a boy, the whole thing looked like a blast.  The moon buggy guys were gnawing on hoagies and sipping giant sodas, laughing at something. This wasn’t just about hunting–it was about relationships, camaraderie, family.

A woman I know calls this week “Holy Week” because the men in her family abandon all outside responsibilities and considerations, while she is left to hold things together, but in such a way that the unpredictable circumstances of the week are not intruded upon by daily rituals like meals, hauling the younger children from place to place, homework, school, etc.  She complains, but she’s clearly complicit–a woman like her, she could drop an iron fist and call an end to all the shenanigans.

The one element of hunting that I don’t fall for is that it includes a reverence for the natural world, as our local newspaper stated in an illuminating article–I know a lot of these guys, and for the younger ones, at least, hunting is what it is, but there’s no reverence unless reverence involves tearing through the forest in those ATVs, ripping up land, tossing trash around, firing weapons indiscriminately.  I’m not judging–a lot of that sounds like a blast.  I’m not a combustion-engine outdoorsman: ATVs, motorcycles, and all that motorized junk has little allure to me (it looks like fun, I’ll admit, but as a hobby…meh)–but I am saying, it’s not reverence.  Likewise, the gobbledygook  about hunters being conservationists.  Some are, many aren’t–a good majority of hunters are working class pragmatists who still follow the old “highest use” doctrine on wild country: if it’s not being “exploited” it’s being wasted.  You know: drill baby, drill.  Or log.  Or mine.  It’s about jobs that feed families, about money in threadbare pockets.

I get that, and I don’t care about that either.  Outdoor writers and hunter advocates make up that conservation and “reverence” bullshit and spout it around as if there is some reason to justify hunting, to validate it, to elevate it philosophically–when the fact of the matter is that hunting, as a tradition, stands well enough on it’s own.  The primary game animal in Pennsylvania, the White-tailed deer, is a beautiful creature, lean and large thanks for the abundance offered by both our resplendent wild places and the buffet bonanza offered by transitional zones ripe with gardens and manicured shrubbery.  In that regard, the Whitetail is in fact almost a plague–and as a gardener living in a community where dear are plenty and firearms can’t be fired, I’m in favor of anythings short of a 12′ fence that keeps deer at bay.

Commentary Journal Photo I Like

Local Football Playoffs–An Update

Tsudy blasts a hole for Zilinskas. Awesome photo by Scoopbug (give them money)

I’ve been talking about the local high school football team a lot over the past two months–it’s been an exciting year, watching kids I’ve known since preschool and kindergarten compete like the fine young men they’ve become, and I feel compelled to keep you informed.  Just in case.

There was a considerable supply of joy in Mudville on Friday night, and the local High School team fought it’s way through the opening round of the playoffs.  It is a big deal, considering this particular group of kids has never been wildly successful, but they pulled together at the right time, with a effort worthy of high praise.  We’re a small, rural college town on the periphery of the powerful, Pittsburgh-based WPIAL league, with just 38 guys on the roster.*  Usually, when it comes time for the playoffs, you hear a lot of “almosts” and “nearlys” around town, but this is a rare year.  We have a core of exceptional talents and a whole lot of kids who have worked hard year-round to learn the skills they need to do their part. It has been an honor watching them reach their potential after a rocky start.

J D Hilditch gets a sack. Awesome photo by Scoopbug (give them money)
J D Hilditch gets a sack. Awesome photo by Scoopbug (give them money)

On Friday night, the sky thick with a drizzling rain that verged on sleet, the guys took it to a talented team from West Mifflin, a team which, by statistics, seemed virtually identical to ours–with the difference being that we’ve been powered by an accomplished passing game, while West Mifflin brought in a 1700+ yard running back and a team know for it’s speeding ground game.  Our team responded with a slug to the jaw as West Mifflin clamped down on our star receivers, running the ball down their throats all evening.  When Old Road Apples favorite Connor Tshudy went down with an injury after pounding his way to 50 yards on 8 carries in the first half, the next guy up came in after halftime and got things done in a big way.

At the end of the night, the good guys won 42-12, and will move on next Friday to face Central Valley, a juggernaut of a team with D1 recruits, the number one seed in the league, and a #4 overall ranking in the state going into last weekend’s games.  On paper, it doesn’t seem like our guys have a chance, but I wouldn’t bet against the team I’ve been watching this season.,20871635/

*Not that we’re complaining…some kids do more with a whole hell of a lot less.  (updated link to follow tonight)

Commentary link Photo I Like Yinzerism/Pittsburgh Advocacy

Is Pittsburgh The New Austin?


Clickhole poses the question, making a compelling argument:–1227

…but no, gentle readers, Pittsburgh is neither the new Austin nor next Portland.  Those places were just plain old rough drafts for the final, perfected product.


And The Home Team Makes The Playoffs

Indiana vs Hollidaysburg Football Photo by: Scoopbug

Friday night, the local high school team, which we follow more closely than usual of late, owing to our familiarity with many of the players, pulled out another big win, and I’d be remiss not to mention it.  We live in a small town–about 30,000 folks in the two municipalities that, together, form our community, a university town surrounded by rolling foothills, agricultural land, spent coal mines and natural gas wells.  We’ve known a lot of these young men since preschool and kindergarten, and have watched them grow from awkward kids into accomplished athletes, students, and gentlemen.,20821395/

It’s a down year, numbers-wise, for a school that’s not the biggest in it’s class to begin with.  Our school district is fortunate to offer kids a lot of opportunities–and the number of participants is down in general, although this year’s success should help.  The quality of play is not down, however.  The quarterback and receivers are arguably the best group of skill players ever put together locally, all time, and while not just a small in number, but physically smaller than many other teams, these kids never stop putting up a fight.  Perhaps more importantly, the guys I know are good, polite, academically accomplished students who don’t fit the usual stereotypes of high school jocks, particularly football players. I’m sure they’ve got their secrets–I know I did–but I have to say I’ve been honored to have them represent our community.

Of course, the pair of them who date my daughters better not take this praise for granted, and would still be wise to fear me.



Weekend Report: Kennywood, Todd Snider, Football, Apples.

I worked a late day Friday, cleaning up leaves on a pleasant autumn afternoon, under bright clear skies, the hills around we alight with gold and fiery red leaves.  Fall is 50005524_20852slipping away quickly.  It always does.  Since my children were young I have counseled them to keep their heads up and their eyes open during these first two weeks of October, when the leaves catch fire and fall.  By Halloween the hills will be be gray, save for stubborn oaks which hold their leathery leaves, faded to brown, deep into the winter.

PHOTOS: Above and Below, The Indiana Gazette

Exhausted by the time I retreated indoors near dusk, my wife off on a “girls night out” dinner & wine binge with a group of friends, I shuttled my kids to the football field, having begged off myself.  I was tired, hungry, and flushed from a day spent Knoch vs. Indiana football INDY # 8 Knoch#outdoors–I returned home to have leftover spaghetti for dinner while I listened to the game on the radio.  Of course, it turned out to be one of the more exciting games in recent history: the home team triumphed at the very end of a hard-fought, back and forth battle in which numerous game, season, and career records were set by our talented quarterback and wide receiver duo.  I sure can pick the right time to be a lazy dog and stay home, can’t I?

Saturday was big event day–we herded up our friends Brian & Ann, our daughters, two of their friends, and all of their boyfriends into both the van and the Chuckwagon and drove the kids down to Kennywood, Pittsburgh’s legendary amusement park, for Kennywood’s Phatom Fright Night–an annual event in which ghouls haunt the creepy park (bringing all your Scooby Gang nightmares to bear and remember that Pittsburgh is pretty much the center of the Zombie Underground) and kids get to ride roller coasters and freeze their butts off on cold October nights.  We dumped the kids and left the Chuckwagon in the lot for them to use as emergency shelter–a smart move, as it turns out.

We old farts rolled down along the Monongahela river to Pittsburgh’s Southside, the historical working class district that’s gone and turned itself into a carnival-like nightspot.  It was predictably crowded with revelers, but we lucked into a parking space just a block from our destination, the funky old Rex Theater, where we met up with some more friends to take in a much-awaited Todd Snider concert.

We were a little disappointed at first–the show had originally been billed as having Elizabeth Cook as the opening act, and the talented and charismatic singer would have been a perfect match for Snider’s outgoing persona.  Alas, we got a guy named Jesse Aycock, who was as quiet and earnest and introspective as Snider is larger-than-life, even in the Rex’s super-intimate setting. We felt bad for Aycock, whose simple, maudlin, acoustic ballads and lack of interaction with the audience was poorly suited for a crowd that was already anxious to see the main attraction.

Snider didn’t disappoint, either.  He sauntered out on stage to the tunes of Booker T. & The MG’s “Green Onion” like he owned the place, in his stocking feet, an old sweater, sniderblue jeans and his trademark hat, and quickly announced that he’d be playing two sets and we’d hear everything we wanted to hear–all the “good stuff” he enthused, because he knew how folks hate to get to a show when the artist plays what “he” wants, and everyone is thinking, “not all that new shit, damn.”  And true to his word, he pounded through the next 2.5 hours hitting most of his most popular songs, drawing cheers and sing-a-longs, wild applause and deep satisfaction from the crowd.

The only downer was an obnoxious drunk woman who was making everyone around her miserable.  When she shouted a request in the midst of one song, Snider finally stopped, leaned forward, and said, “I’ll be glad to play whatever y’all want me to play, but it’d be great if you waited until the end of one song before yelling for the next one.”  Chastened, the woman relented for a few songs but eventually started yelling and blabbing loudly.  Snider stopped again and begged her “Please, for the love of god and all those people around you would you kindly shut up?  I mean, you’ve been talking all night what could you possibly have left to say?  I now know more about you than I know about some of my friends.”  She didn’t make it another song before, now clearly defiant, she was at it again.  The bouncers finally dragged her out, earning an enthusiastic round of applause, but Snider was clearly rattled and banged through about 8 songs without stopping, when it’s usually his style to tell hilarious stories and interact with the audience.  Not that 7 or 8 straight Todd Snider songs live in a small club is bad!  Jesse Aycock joined him for the encore–after a pair of 90 minute sets–that was as rousing as it was generous.  Aycock redeemed himself with some sweet slide guitar work as Snider’s side man, and the pair closed with a cool acoustic ballad version of “Freebird” that had the crowd laughing, at first (I always yell “Freebird!” at conerts) and holding up their lighters.  Old school.  Did I mention that this show cost $20?  Awesome, I know.

We grabbed some pizza down the s street, noting that the light rain had turned to sleet, then rolled back to Kennywood to retrieve 8 very cold, tired, and happy teenagers.  They all slept, while Brian and I kept up a steady conversation to stay awake, and made it back home around 230am.  Long day.  Good day.  (Set list at the end of the post)

On Sunday we slept in late and never did much of anything–replaced a brake light on the family van, did some grocery shopping, and picked up a peck of apples at a local orchard.  It’s been cool and bright all year, and the fresh apples are out of this world this year–perfect conditions, and the orchard expects to be open until Thanksgiving.  Lots of apple pie in my immediate future.

I spent the rest of the day nodding off, or shambling around the house in as stupor.  All in all, though, it was an outstanding weekend.

Todd Snider Live, October 18th, 2014
Pittsburgh, PA   Rex Theater

Set One:
Good Fortune
Is This Thing Working
Everything Else…Except For Nothing
Greencastle Blues
[The Frisbie Story]
Big Finish
Play A Train Song
[Skip Litz Story]
Good News Blues>
The Last Laugh> Good News Blues>
You Got To Take Sick And Die
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Ballad Of The Devil’s Backbone Tavern
Hey Hey
Mr. Bojangles
Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance

Set Two:
Statistician’s Blues
Easy Money
D.B. Cooper
[HWA Church]
Alright Guy
Stuck On The Corner
Beer Run>
Age Like Wine> Beer Run
Looking For A Job>
I’m Free
Lonely Girl
Doublewide Blues
Jaded Lover
[Mark Marchetti Story]
Somebody’s Coming
Enjoy Yourself
Can’t Complain
Better Than Ever Blues, Part 2
Free Bird

Sideshow Blues> *
Working Man’s Blues *
* w/ Jesse Aycock

Photo I Took

Autumn: Big Rocks




Commentary Photo I Took

Autumn Puddle, Rock & Bent Trees

I’m not going to name my favorite hike in western Pennsylvania because then maybe you’ll go there.
Puddle, Rock & Bent Trees

Commentary Journal sheer awesomeness video

Homecoming Football Game

So, the Homecoming football game turned out well.  It rained before and after the game, but not during, and the kids did pretty well.  A news team from KDKA-2 Pittsburgh showed up–cool for the kids.  Blows my mind to watch this video, though, despite being there in person: I’ve known at lot of these kids since elementary school, some longer–and now they’re so old.  Don’t I sound like a doddering fool?  And: hats over to “unstoppable” Connor.  Nice game.


My Photos: Rainy Idlewild Summer Night

One evening a few years back a swift and torrential rainstorm hit our favorite amusement park, Idlewild in Ligonier, PA, with ten minutes of sideways rain and wind.  After a long, fiercely hot day, the relief was almost welcomed.  Better still, when the rain passed the park stayed open even though the lions share of the crowds ran for home like a flock of mewing sheep.  We few who remained had the place to ourselves for the last 90 minutes of the day–no lines, the fallen rains rising as mists from the warm earth, and the extraordinarily subtle play of the bright lights within the mist.  We rode the rollercoaster 8 times in a row without waiting.  And yes, at the end, there were funnel cakes.
2008 Idlewild_069

2008 Idlewild_070


2008 Idlewild_089

2008 Idlewild_0912008 Idlewild_0842008 Idlewild_085.