hi. wilford. nice to meet you.


Old habits die hard. And I’m still a fan of the network evening news shows, something that have been a staple of my life since I was a kid.

When I was 10 and watching Walter Cronkite, I don’t think I paid much attention to the commercials and what they said about the demographics of the show’s audience (and in those days, when everyone watched, they probably didn’t say much).

These days, though, they’re hard to miss. Who’s watching NBC Nightly News? Old people. Who have diabetes.

Oh, hey. There’s an eye-opener.

As some of you know already, since the previous post, New Doc has confirmed her initial diagnosis of type II diabetes. I take Metformin morning and evening. I give myself insulin injections each night. I constantly think about how many grams of carbohydrates are in pretty much everything I put in my mouth. And I’ve already been told that more meds are likely.

I am one of those old people. Who have diabetes.

It’s not all awful. I’ve lost something like 15 pounds since New Doc and I first talked about this. That’s come from running and not-frequent-enough yoga sessions. Giving up pop. Eating less. Eating vegetarian when I can. And not drinking much at all.

I’ve also let the full beard come back and scheduled a sitting for a second tattoo. Trust me — these things are related.

The dietary restrictions aren’t as bad as I had expected. A discussion with an RN who specializes in treating diabetes was a huge relief; basically, nothing is off limits, as long as I’m mindful about daily intake of carbohydrates. The vegetarian stuff isn’t even necessary, although it will make weight loss easier and that’s the single best thing I can do to keep my sugar levels — and my occasional A1C readings — under control.

It’s the other stuff that’s harder. If I let myself dwell on what I shouldn’t do, it gets depressing. I’m not digging telling our friends what’s going on and seeing them look at me as though I am damaged. I’ve chucked the Chucks, for the most part — I need to take care of my feet, in both the diabetic sense and so I can continue running comfortably — and even though I know it’s a little thing, it feels like a pretty significant concession to age and the disease. And there’s the scary — and very real — possibility that I could do everything right – everything – and still lose a limb, or my sight, or my life.

And finally, there are those fucking Nightly News commercials. Maaaaan, I don’t want that to be me.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always handle this well. But when I’m able to step back for a second – when I can see that this doesn’t have to define who I am – I can accept what’s going on. It doesn’t seem as overwhelming as it did back in August. It might even be that I’m OK. Even for an old guy.


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I’m not ready. But I kind of have to be.

Until very recently, the milestone I’m approaching — that would be turning 50 in almost exactly 14 months — has mostly been a source of comedy for me. It’s easy to joke about the difference in ages between me and pretty much all of my friends and colleagues in Pittsburgh; I’m older than nearly everyone — by two decades or more in some cases — so when I hear you guys gripe about how far away we are from eighties and nineties, a smirk and a glance over the tops of my glasses will almost always get a laugh. And if I can get a cheap laugh, I’ll go for it, nearly every time.

I think I’ve said here before — and I know I’ve talked about this to a bunch of you in person — I have no idea how someone who is almost 50 is supposed to act. I don’t wake up in the morning and think about having survived nearly a half-century on this planet. I supposed it’s possible that I’ll wake up one day and realize that I’m trying to behave like someone ten (or 15, or 20) years younger than me, and that I need to knock it off. But I definitely need more sleep these days, and it takes me longer in the mornings to loosen up to the degree that I’m not shuffling around the house like I’m an old guy.

The upshot: I feel older, but I’ve never felt like I’m almost 50.

And that’s why the discussions I’ve been having with our new doctor are so disconcerting.

Mrs. Crappy and I both took on a new doc at the recommendation of friends who have been seeing her for a while. I like her a lot. Her manner is similar to what I’ve always guessed being a patient of the Coochie Doctor would be: she is positive, energetic, willing to joke a bit while still being matter-of-fact about what we’re doing. I liked our previous doc too (the change in jobs meant a change in insurance carriers and, therefore, a change in doctors), but in retrospect, I think we were too close to being contemporaries to deal with the things I’m going to have to deal with.

And there is a list.

I’ve seen New Doc twice now. The first time I visited, my blood pressure was sky high, something we’re attributing in part to being nervous about that first checkup; on the second visit, it was 125/85, a reading she was very happy about.

The other good thing: between the first and second visits, I had bloodwork done. And in her words, it was perfect — all the cholesterols, all of that stuff, all much better than she expected to see, especially for someone with a family history of heart problems.

Except for one thing. Blood sugar.

There will be another blood draw next week and another appointment the week after that, but New Doc was careful to make sure I understood this: given my family history, diabetes was likely to be a thing for me from here on in.

And man, I am unhappy about this.

The obvious things that could help are going or already gone. There is no more sweetened cereal in the house. Those freaking fruit popsicles that I used to satisfy my powerful sweet tooth. The Pepsi Max-and-Pop Tart breakfasts are a thing of the past. I don’t know what all the rules are now — I’ll see a nutritionist sometime here in the future — but that stuff is easy to figure out.

And then we discussed carbs, and all that entails. New Doc mentioned a list that includes replacements for many of my favorite things, pasta being chief among those. Sweet potatoes instead of those giant baked ones from Idaho. Beer is an issue. I think about how much I love food, trying new restaurants, visiting the homes of friends who are willing to cook — and there are a bunch of you — and I think about having to give up nearly all of that.

And suddenly, life looks pretty gray.

I will do what New Doc and the nutritionist ask me to do. I will do everything I can to control this without insulin, because that’s a complication I don’t want to have to deal with.

And, eventually, I will remember some of the things I’ve heard in the 14 months since I started yoga — setting aside the attachments to the things that brought me here in favor of appreciating what’s in front of me right now. When I’m able to do that consistently, I’ll be in much better shape.

I’m not there now. Acceptance will take some time.

When I was home for my high school reunion in July, I was struck by how many of the people I see only every five years had become old, not so much physically but in action and attitude. I left feeling thankful that I wasn’t there yet.

I’m doubting that now.

This feeling will pass. I will become accustomed to a new routine, a new normal. Sweets will be a rare treat instead of a nightly habit. I will find a brand of whole wheat pasta that doesn’t make me want to cry. I will be healthier and better for the effort.

But for now, I just feel old.

you did WHAT?

flaky brick

Lookin’ good.

After I posted stuff about my new tattoo over the weekend, one of the biggest things I was curious about was the reaction of my parents. On Tuesday, Father of Uncle Crappy emailed this:

Couple of afternoons ago, I was in the kitchen chopping celery for a meat loaf and Pat asked, “Guess what YOUR son has done now?”

After thinking of a few possibilities, she said it was a tattoo. Hmmmm.

I considered a few possibilities … A big U of M “M” with a screw going into it … the scores of the Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon games … and my fave: a tank with the gun blazing with a pithy slogan like “Guts. Glory. Tanks.” or perhaps “Give War A Chance”.

Then she said it was a brick from Athens.

Perfect, I thought, a tribute to the ancient writer/philosophers like Plato and Socrates.

Then she said it was Athens, OHIO. Hmmmm.

Why not? You love Athens and OU. I think it is cool.

I came very close to getting a small USMC tat … one less person in line at the parlor at Oceanside and I probably would have one.

I’m anxious to see it (and you guys!)

Love, Dad

And now I’m thinking about a tattoo of Plato. Hmmmm.


As mid-life crises go, getting a tattoo is way less expensive than a sports car. And when you’re working with a print-journalism salary, that’s kind of an important thing to consider.

But once that decision is made, you’re faced with another: What’s the tattoo going to be?

I’ve known for several years that I wanted to get one, and I realized late last year that I didn’t care to follow the original plan, which was to get one in observance of my 50th birthday.

Nope. Not waiting. But then — what’s it going to be? Ohio related? Yes. Something football? Nah, that’s too easy. A design featuring the state’s borders? I’d never come up with one as cool as Bethany’s. Something related to OU? That’s closer, but still — a green paw print didn’t seem distinctive enough, and I wanted something to emphasize Athens rather than the university.

And then I came to the things that have always served as my favorite icon of the town that still feels like my spiritual home, the thing that we’ve given to friends as wedding presents and that we’ve used as decoration around our apartments and houses. They’re pretty much ubiquitous in town and, since I left town, they’ve even spawned a merchandise line.

athens street

If you’ve lived in Athens, these will look familiar. They pave the main streets Uptown, and you don’t have to look hard around the rest of town to find them (like, say, in the lightly traveled alley across the street from my apartment on West State at Shafer — which is definitely NOT the source of Athens Block bricks I’ve relied on for several years. Ahem).

With that in mind, I set out to find a Pittsburgh artist who, based on a pretty vague description from me, could draw a convincing, detailed brick on my arm. And as it turned out, I didn’t have to look far — Erin at Kyklops was recommended to me by a couple different people, and because I knew her a little bit already, the decision was easy.

And now that it’s done? The decision seems even smarter now than it did before. With just one brief meeting with our brick — and the previously mentioned vague set of instructions from me — Erin came up with exactly what I had in mind:

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Answers: No, it didn’t hurt, until Erin finished up with some detail stuff right at the end; beyond that, the physical part of getting a tattoo is just kind of annoying, an irritation. No, I was never concerned about getting one, not from the standpoint of any kind of risk (seeing the attention paid to cleanliness at Kyklops actually reminded me of being in a doctor’s office, with much more interesting stuff on the walls), and not from the standpoint that OH MY GOD YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE THAT ON YOUR BODY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE — which is why I was certain about the design, the shop and the artist. And yes, I’m probably going to get more.

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A final word about Erin: She’s really good, and she’s fun to hang out with for a couple hours while she pokes at your skin. I will go back to her; if you’re in or around Pittsburgh and you’re looking for an artist, you should go see her too.

In the last few months I went from having a vague notion that this would be something I’d do in a couple years to realizing that it was kind of dumb for me to wait this long. This is the kind of outward expression of who I am that I’ve always done — this version is just a little more permanent. It feels right to have this on my arm. And it will feel just as right to get a couple more.


I’ve never been to Rhode Island. I now have a reason to go.

Mrs. Crappy has a subscription to Cook’s Country magazine and we received a new issue last week. The magazine publishes an index of sorts on back cover, and as soon as I looked at the new one, I saw something I knew I had to make right away: a big batch of Rhode Island Dynamites.

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The magazine explained that the sandwiches are a staple of Woonsocket; they’re a bit like Sloppy Joes, but spicier and with a turn towards an Italian flavor profile — in other words, right smack in my wheelhouse.

I can’t link to the Cook’s Country recipe, because they require a subscription; instead, I’ll take you through the modified version I made yesterday.

What you need:

  • 2 pounds ground beef (the magazine suggests 85/15)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jarred hot cherry peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon brine from the jarred cherry peppers
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • A bag of deli rolls (6-inch sub rolls are the traditional thing)

What you do:

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven, medium-high heat. Add the beef and water (which will help keep the meat tender). Season with salt and pepper (about a 1/4 teaspoon each). Break up beef with a spatula and brown until most of the liquid has cooked off and meat starts to sizzle.

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2) Add onions and bell peppers, along with another 1/4 teaspoon shot of salt and pepper. Stir frequently until veggies are soft.

3) Add cherry peppers, brine, tomato paste, garlic, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes. Stir until paste is fully mixed with the rest of the stuff.


4) Stir in tomato sauce. Turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Stir occasionally. When it thickens to your taste, season with salt and pepper to taste, scoop into the rolls and serve.

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What I could have done:

The original recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of the diced cherry peppers, 2 tablespoons of the brine and a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes, but Mrs. Crappy requested a less spicy version, so I toned it down to the measurements in the recipe above. I think I went too far in the safe direction and next time, I’ll go more towards the what the original recipe calls for. Another variation I’ll try: using sweet cherry peppers instead of hot.

Even with my overly-cautious modifications, the sandwiches are delicious — layers of flavor and, as I said before, nearly perfect for my comfort-food sensibilities. I will eat these again and again, even if I never actually make it to Rhode Island.

hope you’re thirsty.

It’s a pretty simple theme. And all you have to do to take advantage is find the guy in the red hat.

As we’ve done for several years, we’re volunteering again at a Pittsburgh Marathon fluid station. As we done for not quite as many years, we’re working the Mile 6 station, on Western Avenue near the Humane Society’s North Side shelter. And as we’ve been able to do since we’ve worked that station, we hope to set up on the right side of the street — for those of you who are running — near First Niagara Bank.


Find the hat. Get a high five.

So if you’re running on Sunday morning, look for me and the same red Ohio
State bucket hat I wear every year. Find me, and that’s where the tag line comes in:

Hugs. High fives. And the best water on the course.

See you Sunday morning, yinz guys.