Category: Uncategorized

Parsing Draft Kings Urge to MAKE IT GREAT

Just a question. What the hell does it mean when the person the Draft Kings commercial tells me to MAKE IT GREAT. Oh she’s very emphatic about it with those big pauses between words. What exactly am I making great? I imagine it’s Draft Kings’ bottom line because the only money I ever won was way back in the 1980’s.

I was working at CNN in Atlanta and Claus von Bulow was on trial for killing his wife. Somehow I was closest to the day/time the verdict would come in and also correctly bet he’d be convicted. That was good for 25 bucks which I spent on a little wagon with plastic animals for my then two-year old son. Aww.

Oh, I’d won a couple of bucks here and there at the racetrack back in the 70’s and in the slots in Vegas and here in Detroit but overall my betting balance sheet is bright crimson. In short, I’ve never MADE IT GREAT.

I suppose being encouraged to throw away my money on sports by the Draft Kings “hostess” is better than being snarled at by Jamie Foxx in those spots for BetMGM. I know he thinks he’s a pretty cool guy but sticking out your chin, challenging me to back up my hunches by losing my lunch money on who’s gonna knock out whom when just rubs me the wrong way. Then at the end of the spot he kinda rotates his head, holding that sneer as if to say, “hey dumbass. I’m getting paid big bucks to do this commercial, but I bet I just scared you into betting the kid’s college fund on a professional thumb wrestling match in Bulgaria.”

That’s not MAKING IT GREAT. That’s PISSING ME OFF.

Between those two comes the young waif on the Fanduel commercial. I think they gave the poor thing 3.5 seconds to deliver 10 seconds of copy. She’s talking so fast in a practiced monotone I don’t know whether I’m being encouraged to lay down some dollars on a competitive rat wrestling tournament or watching auditions for a new talent show, Zombie Auctioneers.

I know one thing, that young lady wouldn’t screw around. She’d kick it out. MAKEITGREAT! Now if the Draft Kings hostess said it fast like that I might actually WANT to make it great if I could figure out just what I was making great.

Honestly, I would think someone trying to sell you something would say “MAKE IT SNAPPY” but definitely not MAKE IT SNAPPY, which would be irony at best. I mean, who bets on wordplay? Well..I suppose you could. I could see Jamie Foxx staring me down barking, “what’s it gonna be? Paradox or dichotomy? HUH? Double or nothing on parts of speech…back up yo hunch!” Okay okay. A hundred on paradox and gerund. Damn. It came in irony and adverb, which MADE IT GREATLY.

A Lighter Look At the Bolt EUV That Includes Froot Loops

I don’t get to test drive many vehicles but I had a chance to hop in Chevy’s new electric Bolt EUV. It’s a little bigger than the “regular” Bolt EV. The EUV stands for electric utility vehicle. I don’t generally write reviews and the story I wrote for Forbes.com is more of a look at the Bolt EUV from a marketing angle. But since I have this space available, I thought it would fun to add some other thoughts. Oh, you want a review? The short-short very is, if it’s comfortable, drives smoothly, the controls are sensibly placed and easy to use, the cup holders are the right size to prevent my large Tim Hortons coffee from tipping and the sound system isn’t tinny, that’s pretty much all I need.

Oh yeah…lotsa technology. In some vehicles that’s a catch-all term for stuff you paid for but will never bother to learn to operate. When I bought a 2019 Subaru Ascent SUV two years ago it had more screens than my neighborhood multiplex…and the cup holders were smartly snug. I actually spent three days devouring the owners manual to figure out what all the buttons, switches and screens did. Every so often I have to dive back in to remind me what a button is for if I haven’t used it in a long time. I must admit, there are some buttons I’ve never touched because the manual said I’d be safer if I just let them on. I suppose if I wanted to be less safe for some reason I’d flip the switch to “off” but then again if I did that I wouldn’t be using something for which I paid, even though I didn’t request it.

So back to the Bolt EUV. I liked it. The seat was comfortable and for a pretty short guy, I was happy my feet reached the pedals without having to shove my seat up so far the steering wheel was pressed against my chest. As is usual with an electric vehicle, you get instant torque to the wheels since you don’t have to move up through the gears as you do in a car with a gasoline engine and traditional transmission. Hit the pedal, car moves, quickly.

I also like the quietness of an EV because when I sing along with the radio I don’t have to scream at a level that makes the guy in the next car think I spilled my hot coffee in my crotch.

I did think it was curious that when I turned on the radio it was tuned to Howard Stern’s show. Since I ditched my satellite radio subscription after I retired and no long commuted I never really listened to Stern. Now I know why. For about 10 miles I endured some guy crabbing in the most foul language that someone accused him of eating Froot Loops. Why that would upset someone, I have no clue, but he was royally pissed and Stern kept egging him on and thereby pumping up the guy’s profanity. I stayed with it because I just wanted to know how this moron would wrap up his beef, but I had a good laugh imagining the Froot Loops toucan feeling insulted and biting of the guy’s pecker…before I changed stations to 60’s on 6 in a satisfying attempt to recall the years I spent having my severe acne treated by a sadistic dermatologist who took more than casual joy at popping every pimple with something that looked like an shoemakers awl.

It was easy to have such a sophomoric thoughts about Froot Loops guy because I was taking advantage of the Bolt EUV’s coolest technology, the Super Cruise driver assist feature. Previously only available on expensive Cadillacs Super Cruise is available as an option on the Bolt EUV for about $2,200. When you’re on a road compatible with Super Cruise, you engage adaptive cruise control, center the car in its lane and wait for the little light to glow telling you it’s OK to engage Super Cruise. Then you hit another button and the top of the steering wheel glows green when Super Cruise is ready for action. Then you can let go of the wheel and take your feet off the pedals and Super Cruise will take over. You have to pay attention or Super Cruise gets pissed and starts blinking lights and making noises until you take back control. Watch my demo of Super Cruise in the video below.

Super Cruise not only reduces a lot of fatigue when you’re on a long, boring drive, it’s huge fun to pull along someone, make quick eye contact then let go of the wheel and watch the guy’s cheeseburger drop from his mouth. It’s honestly terrific technology and gives you the first taste of what it might be light to cruise in a self-driving vehicle. I should point out, Super Cruise is not a toy to be used to scare the crap out of fellow motorists, but rather an extremely useful tool that helps keep drivers fresh and engaged. If I was buying a Bolt EUV I’d definitely spring for Super Cruise.

Besides, it would leave my hands free for when I get a little hungry…and crave a tangy, sugary bowl of Froot Loops. And I wouldn’t care who knew it.

Mail Bonding Over the Wait For Free Stuff

Sorry I haven’t posted anything lately. I’ve spent a lot of time waiting–my mail. Tom Petty had it right when he described waiting as the “hardest part” because it’s a useless waste of the limited time we have on this orbiting marble. Annoyingly half-full folks may giddily laugh off waiting as “oh, it’s just building anticipation.” That, of course, is not true. It’s time spent not doing what you’d rather, or need to be doing. 

In my case, I’ve wanted to write a blog post you may feel worth your precious time to read. But I’ve found if I decide to use the time I’ve been waiting for do something more useful or fun, the thing for which I’ve been waiting suddenly happens so the other thing now has to be set aside. That’s also annoying.

In the case of my mail, I waited more than a week to receive any. Oh, I receive some sort of mail every single day and I like that. I don’t care if it’s junk or a bill or a circular from a guy who wants to trim my nose hair, whatever appears in my mailbox is like a little surprise package that alternately delights, disappoints or pisses me off. Doesn’t matter. When I go down to my mailbox I want mail in it. The only mail I don’t like is when it’s not mine. The mail carrier on my route has not yet mastered that trick. Oftentimes I will break into a wide grin when I discover my mailbox is full only to be cruelly disappointed when I discover none of that stuff was addressed to me.  Not only didn’t I receive my mail, I now have to shlep down the block to shove the misdirected printed matter in the correct mailbox and hope whoever received mine will act in kind.

Still, I’m no better than one of Pavlov’s dogs. Place mail in box. Arf, arf! I dutifully wag my middle aged ass while lumbering down to my mailbox in hopes of finding a yummy in the form of some dreck asking for money I owe, promising me money I’ll never receive, advertising something I’ll never need or begging me to vote for someone I’d never consider. But there’s a great deal of satisfaction when I can run into the house calling, “mail’s here!” and the family hurries over to see what “gifts” the person driving a vehicle with the wheel on the wrong side has left in our box. As soon as they see what crap it is their gleeful smiles instantly transform into daggers aimed at me, the guy who brought the envelopes of disappointment into our house. 

It’s hard enough to know my own family has taken out their disappointment on me, occasionally mouthing “you bastard” when I bring in a circular for a store that doesn’t even have a location within 200 miles of our town. Well, how can you blame them. How frustrating would it be to see an amazing sale on juice boxes or deer repellant knowing you don’t have a shot at scoring the deal without taking a five-hour drive, burning 50 bucks worth of gas. 

During the week we received no mail for one reason or another I should have simply taken residence in a motel until the crisis past. It’s almost worse to return from the mailbox empty handed than to bring in a bundle of bullshit.  “Whaddya mean there’s NOTHING IN THE BOX! Go back outside and find some!” Indeed, families are helpful during trying times except if their patience is tried while awaiting the arrival of free stuff with stamps. 

I’m happy to say I’ve been welcomed back into the house after mail delivery resumed last week on an everyday basis. We don’t always receive mail addressed to us, but the silver linings are we are learning the names of our neighbors and where exactly they live and if any other them are likely receiving social security checks. Good to know. 

As for me, I’m now done waiting for my mail since it seems to be arriving everyday again at about the same time. But I’ve learned me lesson. If we receive five things, I’m hiding away at least two in case we don’t receive anything the next day. If someone in my family wonders aloud if we’ll receive mail tomorrow, I allow myself to smile confidently while telling them, “just wait.”

The Day Larry Flynt Ran Me Over

On the occasion of Larry Flynt’s passing I thought I’d pass along a brief anecdote of an even briefer, but painful, encounter with with purveyor of porn on a day I was um, hustling, to cover his latest endeavor.

It was back in the 1990’s and Flynt decided to open a Hustler store in downtown Cincinnati–a town once derided by some as “Censor-nati” for its intolerance to the type of content folks like Mr. Flynt promoted.

As you might imagine, Flynt’s new store was not appreciated by many of the Queen City’s conservative subjects, who staged a mighty protest in front of it. On this day Flynt was due in court a few blocks away and that’s why I was there, covering the story for CNN.

We heard Flynt would make an early morning appearance at the store when it opened so my camera crew and I wedged ourselves in the tight space in front of the door so we could get a good shot of the man as he entered and perhaps a comment or two.

As you probably know, Flynt was confined to a wheelchair after he was shot leaving a courthouse in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Ironically, that’s the town where I lived before being transferred to Detroit as its bureau chief by CNN.

Of course Flynt didn’t just have a run of the mill wheelchair. His was gold plated and heavy as hell. I know this because when he finally arrived, he ignored our questions and rolled right over my feet and on into the store. When I complained to him that he ran me over, Flynt, the sensitive guy, laughed and muttered, “tough shit. You were in my way.” Heh..it wasn’t porn he was perpetrating that morning. It was pain. Mine. But it was my solid gold story to tell when the time was right. I guess this is it.

One epilogue to the story. After the court hearing we returned to the Hustler store to get some shots. While we browsed a bit, we enjoyed the patter between an elderly couple and a store clerk on the merits of certain sex toys. They ended up selecting a boxed assortment of which I won’t describe. I’m not sure either was in shape to use them for any length of time, but Gd bless ’em for trying!

Meanwhile, my producer found a copy of Architectural Digest among the porn. The store stocked some non-smut stuff in order to look legit. When she brought the magazine up to pay for it, the grizzled guy behind the counter gave the glossy periodical featuring balusters instead of boobs a curious look, shook his head and mumbled, “can’t say we’ve sold too many of these.”

Remembering Larry King and the Night He Stole My Interview

In the mid-1970’s I was working at radio station WMBO in Auburn, N.Y., about a half hour west of Syracuse. Our station was affiliated with the Mutual Broadcasting System which announced it was launching a national live call-in show with a guy named Larry King. Never heard of him but they way they were promoting the guy you had to believe this was a smart move. Until then the only other live coast-to-coast call-in/opinion radio broadcast was something called “Nitecap” with host Herb Jepko which aired briefly on Mutual. 

Nitecap host Herb Jepko

The network dropped him because Jepko didn’t do controversy. He was based in Salt Lake City, let people say what they wanted, as long as it was nice. He even let them sing. So along came this King character, a transplanted New Yawkuh who did a talk show in Miami Beach that featured celebrities who often played the showrooms of the big hotels there. He was  a character. Brash, blunt and fun to listen to. His show was a hit locally, and then Mutual picked it up and King was a national star landing even bigger celebrities and getting them to spill whatever it is King was after.  

In 1985 I had been working at CNN for four years. The young network struggled to fill the 9 p.m. eastern time hour with anything that pulled in viewers, but then someone had a bright idea of putting Larry King on TV. He had made his name hosting a successful national radio interview and call-in show. It worked. His show, basically a TV version of his radio show, was a mainstay on CNN for 25 years, landing the biggest stars, powerful government leaders and other influential people from all walks of life. 

If there was a breaking story, King had no problem breaking in to put a newsmaker or a CNN correspondent on the air. That’s where our lives intersected ever so briefly.

After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, federal authorities descended on a farm in what’s known as Michigan’s “Thumb” about 90 minutes north of Detroit. The farm was owned by a guy named James Nichols. The feds got a tip that Nichols’s brother Terry and Timothy McVeigh, the chief suspects in the bombing, had practiced building the kind of bombs they used in Oklahoma City and that James may have also been complicit. Indeed, they arrested him and searched the farm and its buildings for evidence. 

As Detroit Bureau Chief and correspondent, I was dispatched up there and spent three days doing live shots. On the first night of became known as the “siege” of the Nichols farm, everyone was trying to figure out who the hell James Nichols is and how he may have been connected with the bombing. Turns out he wasn’t.

We found a guy who knew Nichols and Larry King’s producer wanted me to interview him during Larry’s show. Big time! I was told to “take it slow and draw him out. Really dig into what this guy is all about.” 

Ha! I figured I had plenty of time so when we got on the air I methodically interviewed the guy who said he knew Nichols from the times they spent at the local grain elevator. After about two minutes of establishing how the guy knew Nichols to build his credibility before digging in further, King jumps in. He was having no part of this slow walk into James Nichols’s psyche and barked, “Hey! Just tell me this. Is the guy a nut job?”. 

My guest blanched and took a breath and insisted he did not at all think so, although Nichols did complain rather regularly about the government. King didn’t care for that and kept after this poor farmer trying to get him to say James Nichols was a crazy man who hated the government and could very well have been part of the plot. 

All I could do was stand there. My role obviously over. The guy just kept looking over at me with a look that pleaded, “make this end!”  

Well, it did when King tired of his insistence that Nichols seemed like an ok guy to him who would never be part of such a horrible crime and the segment ended.

Once we were off the air and clear,  all I could say was “sorry” but then the guy surprised me by just smiling and saying “I was on the Larry King show! That’s big!” 

Yes he was. RIP Larry King. A broadcasting legend. 

Senior Moments in the COVID Vaccine Struggle

New York Times

For once it’s great to be an alta cocker. My age makes me eligible to receive a Covid-19 shot. But easier said than done. I’ve discovered when given the opportunity to be inoculated against a deadly virus some senior citizens suddenly become crazed lunatics that look at the process as a mortal combat.

The problem is, even if you’re eligible, you have to make an appointment. But there’s so much competition for the limited number of slots it’s tough to get one, so some serious gaming is going on. 

Oh no, you can’t just ring up your doc and say, “hey, I’m old. I want my shot. When can I come in?” You actually have to score an invitation, fill out a form, get on the list, then pray you don’t get infected before being granted the potentially life-saving first poke, then making another appointment for the second. 

So far I’ve received several such “invitations” from two health care systems, a discount store chain and my county. I’ve dutifully responded hoping my wife and I will be granted slots by the Vicar of Vaccines or whoever is making such decisions. 

What’s really pissing me off are the smug old farts who have somehow received their firsts shots already. I got on social media where I’ve read several posts responding to someone desperately looking for info on how to make an appointment saying something to the effect of “Ha! Me and Shirley got ours yesterday. It was easy, loser. We knew what to do and where to go. We already have appointments for our second shots! Nyahhhhh, nyahhh! Here’s what ya shoulda done…”  

I hope they received placebos. 

Then there’s the absolute disconnect with just who the hospitals are dealing with. There’s an app some of them use where patients can register, monitor their accounts, make/cancel appointments, read their charts and pay their bills. I’m fine with it and use the app successfully all the time. Ha! I was just a smug old fart. But a lotta seniors aren’t comfortable with technology and so they’re completely disenfranchised when the email from the heath care system screams that the only way to register for, and make an appointment is on the app. What’s with this app? I need a nap! 

I was relieved to see, when picking up a prescription yesterday at a big discount store you could actually sign up for an appointment in person at the pharmacy, but even that’s fraught with danger. You ever see a group of seniors vying for a shot at a shot that’ll extend their stay on this planet in the same place at the same time? It’s like Roller Derby–a lotta bony elbows and shouts of “what?” 

Well…I’m hanging in there, anxiously awaiting the magic moment when we’re told the Grand Inoculator will grant us a presence. I figure we’ve got a decent chance since I’m now registered in four different places. Should we score multiple invitations, perhaps there’s a secondary market…yeah…shot scalping. Like old time outside Yankee Stadium when I was a kid.  “Hey! I got two at county health!” Could be an economic shot in the arm. 

Yeah…I Got Screwed in an Election Too

Our deranged POTUS has got me thinking. Hmm…maybe I was the victim of a rigged election. If my fifth grade teacher is still alive I just may have to give her a call, or at least send a strongly worded email. 

Here’s how it went down. April, 1963. I was overwhelmingly elected by my fifth grade class to be its representative on the P.S. 186 Student Council. I had campaigned hard, on the “no more navy bean soup for lunch” platform but already earned popular support and name recognition for my performance as the Cowardly Lion in our class’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.” 

There were smiles all around as the class president read the votes. I had won by a landslide, 32-1. 

Only the guy who played the Tin Man voted against me because he felt my over-the-top delivery of “If I Only Had the Nerve,” clearly upstaged his rather plaintive interpretation of “If I Only Had a Heart, depriving him of the attention of the class cutie, who, incidentally, knocked it out of the park playing Dorothy’s dog, Toto. 

I modestly thanked the class for its support and promised I would be a strong advocate in Student Council, fighting like hell for the right to use Number 3 pencils when Number 2’s were unavailable. That got a big round of support and a ceremonial rubbing of gummy erasers. 

Yes, I was clearly relishing my big victory but the scowl on my teacher’s face merely telegraphed the bomb she was going to drop on me. 

“Edward! I am vetoing your election,” she spat at me. “You talk too much in class and are generally disruptive and that disqualifies you from this honor!”  

It’s true I liked to chat with my classmates and occasionally pull the chair out from some of them as they sat, causing much laughter in room 202 as the poor schlubs splatted their asses on the slick tile floor. After falling for the third time one kid whined at me, asking “why you keep doing that?” I could only reply, “why you so dumb you keep falling for it?” I’ve since had similar conversations with a handful of work supervisors, some of whom took my actions as “bold, out of the box thinking.” 

Well…of course I was incensed at this injustice, as was the class which implored my teacher to reconsider, but she wasn’t budging. I even played the “Lion card” saying my stellar performance bailed out her butt in front of the principal who thought her previous class plays suffered from “tedious treatments of the Industrial Revolution and the invention of lint, blah, blah, blah.” But the production of Oz was so kick ass it drove one parent to exclaim, “A class play that kept me awake!” 

I stewed on being screwed and wrote several notes to the teacher complaining of the injustice and that she had no right to override the class’s clear choice. She just tossed the notes in the waste basket and warned if I kept sending her my strongly worded missives in her next play I would be relegated to a non-speaking role of “Guy tossed by Washington into the Delaware to make room for more salt pork in the boat.” 

Since the Tin Man came in second in the voting, teacher appointed him to the Student Council where he failed miserably..indeed not having the heart for the position nor for the fight against navy bean soup. 

Should I look up my teacher, and if she’s alive, give her a call giving her hell about depriving me of my duly elected position? Probably not. So long ago. Plus, the very next year my sixth grade class elected me to council and I won the school-wide election as Student Council Vice President. But still, I wonder how that call would go…if I only had the nerve….

Making Misbehaved 2020 Go Back and Get it Right

If 2020 was a kid we’d never let him/her get away with myriad of misbehaviors it exhibited over the past 366 days. No…we’d first have a long talk with the kid, make sure there’s an understanding of how badly they screwed up, then make the kid go back and correct those mistakes. If that fails, the errant child is grounded..in this case, the naughty year, meaning no new year for, I dunno, a year. 

You see, it royally ticks me off that 2020 is allowed to skulk into history without any sort of accounting or retribution. Is it fair to a world that has had to endure a deadly pandemic, loser’s tantrum from a roundly rejected POTUS and an all-too-soon ending to Schitts Creek? Sure…just tear off a page from the calendar, ball it up and toss it in the trash and that’s it? 

The parent in me says to order 2020 to think about its utter disregard for the health and well-being of the entire human race, then go back and do it right! No COVID, extend Schitt’s Creek another 10 seasons and send the sulking lame duck home…in silence. But that’s just for starters. Bring back all those lives lost to the pandemic, restore the businesses that went under, reduce Zoom usage to occasional meetings and family reunions or non-contact blind dates, and let our kids go back to school and workers back to the office…safely. 

Bring back hugs and visits that aren’t bisected by acrylic or glass barriers. Abolish pandemic-induced loneliness. Don’t bother restoring hand shakes. Those needed to go anyway. 

We love our sports, but not without the sounds of fans in stadiums and arenas cheering or booing or vendors hawking beers and peanuts. 

No matter how you feel about the presidential election, 2020, you need to go back and teach the loser to take it like a mensch and set an example for our kids that even if you fail, as we all do at some points in our lives, instead of pitching a fit, accept the outcome and move on. 

Of course my vision of forcing a major “do over” on 2020 is impractical since time is a one-way process. But I hope while 2021 was waiting to march in, it was watching and learning and listening…because we won’t accept another year like 2020 and there’s no option for a time out. 

So let’s hope the next 365 days offer the kind of healing and humility so sorely lacking in the previous 366, and the cast of Schitts Creek blesses us with a reunion, and perhaps a bebe.

Happy New Year everyone. I wish you all the best! 

Remembering Phil Niekro and Lessons of Retirement

Sporting News Photo

Every time I’ve thought about the concept of retirement, my thoughts would drift towards the great Atlanta Braves pitcher Phil Niekro. Those thoughts are especially vivid after hearing the sad news he passed away this weekend. 

Why Niekro? My wife and I were in the stands on Sept. 27, 1987 when he pitched in his last game. It was at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. CNN employees at the time were granted tickets to two Braves games each season because the company owned the team. Atlanta was as much in love with Niekro as he was with the city and team, for which he pitched for a quarter century. That’s why it hurt so much when the Braves released him in 1983. He ended up with the Yankees, Indians and Blue Jays for but longed to return to the Braves. When he was 48, the Braves, maybe feeling guilty for their premature jettisoning the pitching legend and fan favorite, offered Niekro the chance to pitch one last game as a Brave. 

It was the last game of the season for the non-contending Braves and we knew this would be it for Niekro regardless of the outcome. He started fine, but the game rapidly got out of hand against the playoff-bound San Francisco Giants. Then, in the third inning, Braves manager Chuck Tanner slowly walked out to the mound, put his arm on Niekro’s shoulders and told him he didn’t want him to be the losing pitcher. There was a long ovation, but it was over. A man’s life’s work done, and that always got to me. 

Throughout my working life I always thought what that would be like to punch out, walk away, say goodbye and never again do what I’d done for so many years. Would I be sad relieved, feel bereft, rudderless, miss the routine, miss the people, miss the work, become a pain in the ass to my wife who was used to me being away during the day, and many, many nights on the road? Did Niekro have those same thoughts as he took in the crowd’s long ovation wondering what the hell was next? 

It turns out, that when I retired in 2016 I had none of those thoughts. The truth is, I was glad to walk out of Fiat Chrysler’s Auburn Hills, Mich. headquarters for the last time. Oh, I would miss my wonderful team, because any success I had during my 11 years there I had because of them, their friendship and support. But I felt like I’d completed my task, Had many successes, overcame tons of challenges and more that anything, owed my family time I spent away chasing stories as a reporter and on business trips for the automakers. Bottom line is, I felt great. Swiped my badge for the last time, took a deep breath, called my wife and told her “we’re retired, let’s have some fun.” 

The one thought I never had, though, was that I would never again do the kind of work I always enjoyed. I love writing, and learning, and writing about what I’ve learned in both my careers as a reporter and corporate communications team leader. I just didn’t love doing it full time anymore and so I’ve spent the last four-plus years taking on some freelance work in both camps working as much or as little as I like. I don’t do it to make a living, I do it because it’s fun, stimulating and natural.  Indeed, Niekro continued to contribute to the Braves as a mentor, allowing him to stay around the game. 

No one put their arm around me as I spent my final moments working full time but I did enjoy a very heartfelt send off that I will always cherish and think about more than you might believe.  

But that day, July 28, 2016, when I left the building and headed for my car in the parking deck, I guess that’s sort of equivalent to the late Mr. Niekro walking off the mound heading for the clubhouse. Thoughts of what we both just left behind fresh and raw, but knowing neither of us was washed up. Sure, we walked away, but not too far. 

RIP Phil Niekro. 

Stonewalling Against The Granite Countertop Infatuation

It seems the world’s gone mad for granite or anything that resembles the hard rock and if your house doesn’t have large slabs of it in the kitchen you may as well figure on living there forever because it won’t sell. 

When we tried to sell our beautiful home three years ago it sat on the market for almost four months because the sheep watching too much HGTV whined it had no granite. Oh, the kitchen counters were clean, flawless and decent looking butcher block but the lookie-loos with rocks in their head demanded rock over the cupboards. 

Even our agent tut-tutted to us we had made a fatal mistake not shelling out thousands of dollars to “update” our kitchen. It was plenty up to date…it just wasn’t up to the current fad hawked incessantly by the producers of House Hunters and other similar programs that completely stage the fake “surprise endings” where the couples “reveal” their decision that had already been made before they rolled one frame of video. 

Ya gotta have granite, and a certain kind of ceiling, and don’t even get me started about hardwood floors. I love that. The couple whines they must have hard wood floors. What’s the first thing people do when they move into a place with hard wood floors? They cover most of it with area rugs and other bits of carpeting! 

What else? Oh…the shows say appliances must…MUST be stainless steel. Another useless feature. Stainless steel isn’t magnetic, yet it attracts every sort of smudge, nose and fingerprint, which means you spend half your day wiping the damn things, when you should be using that valuable time to raid the fridge for beers and fatty snacks. For awhile, appliance makers built the stuff with a sort of textured material that resisted all the things I mentioned above. No..that was too effective, and probably cost a lot less than smudgy stainless steel. 

You see, that’s the other angle. All these useless “must haves” cost a bundle compared to more practical and budget-friendly surfaces. 

We’re in the process of selling a small condo our daughter and partner lived in for six years. Knowing the game, we replaced the carpeting on the first floor with vinyl planking that looks a lot like wood, but is much easier to maintain. The upstairs and finished basement are fully carpeted and are cozy as hell and the entire place has a fresh coat of pain. But NFW we were replacing the perfectly fine laminate counters in the small, galley kitchen. There’s nothing wrong with them and they look pretty damn good. Most importantly, like granite…they’re flat. 

Of course, when discussing the listing price our selling agent fawns over all the stuff we did to make the place attractive, then suddenly her face drops and in a scolding tone informs us, “you could ask so much more…if only you’d put in granite.”  

Not gonna happen. It’s just a matter of principle now–digging in against an overpriced, overhyped igneous intrusion. 

UPDATE 12/23: The condo sold in one day after only two showings. Someone obviously appreciates luscious green laminate!