11. two weeks.

From now through Nov. 28, one state will occupy an inordinate amount of my time and energy.


One week from today, Ohio State plays its final home game of the season against Michigan State. In recent years, the game against Sparty has been the biggest one on the conference schedule, at least in a practical sense; there are teams I want to beat more every year — hello, Penn State — but this one has become the game of year. Besides being good, there are some losses to State bad enough — and recent enough (B1G title game two years ago, and the 1998 Reason Why I Hate Nick Saban Game) — that this one will always have my attention.

Plus, it’s fun to see we can make Mark Dantonio look even grumpier than usual.

The annual game against that other school from that state — The One Up North — has lost some luster recently, because TTUN has been, well, bad. It turned down the intensity of the rivalry a bit and, worse, it damaged the reputation of the conference, because one of it’s marquee schools wasn’t playing up to standard.


I want cake now!

And then this guy came back. And he has his team playing … better.

Why do I hate Jim Harbaugh? It goes back to this, a thing that even colored my opinion of him when he coached my 49ers:

I’ll tell you more about what I think about Jim Harbaugh and that team he coaches when the time comes. Until then, let’s all be sure we remember this:


That’s where the bar has been set, boys and girls. And that’s a thing for the schools in Michigan to keep in mind.

9. elementary.

By the time you read this, I should be on my way home from the Honda dealer in my No Really It’s Actually Fixed This Time, 10-Year-Old, 245,000-Miles-On-It Element. At least, that’s what I was promised this afternoon.

I don’t really have lot to add at this point — unless the car isn’t actually fixed, in which case it would be likely that I’d have a few more things to say — but I will use this as an excuse to post one of my favorite photos of the car ever taken.

hot dog

photo credit: drunk dude

This was after the 2009 Ohio State-Toledo game in Cleveland Browns Stadium. And someone found a creative use for a leftover hot dog from one of the absolutely insane tailgate parties in The Pit.

And now I’m hungry. Hope my car gets me home in time for dinner.

5. run for your life.


I started running in October 2011. And I got to the point where I craved. it.

It was important back then. I was a 45-year-old fat guy, working a stressful job and hoping against hope that my family’s medical history — heart issues, diabetes, hypertension — wouldn’t catch up with me for a while.

And it worked. I got through the three-month buildup and successfully completed my first 5K, the annual Jingle Bell run on the North Shore. And I lost weight from a peak of something north of 260 the summer before, down to 240 before the end of the year.

I kept going because I was enjoying myself. I had to work on Christmas night that year, and instead of taking a nap I ran my own 5K along the North Shore Trail — and I still count that as the best run I’ve ever had. There were great Saturday morning runs in North Park all through the winter; those were my long runs to get ready for that spring’s Pittsburgh half.

All that work peaked about six weeks prior to the event, with an 8.5-mile run through the North Side and Downtown. Long-time UC readers may recall that one as The Run With The Bloody Nipples (and the reason why I still have a tube of Lansinoh in our bathroom closet); I remember it as the run when I hurt my groin. I didn’t really have time to rest before the race, but — as I learned while running a 10K while we visited my sister in April — running through it didn’t work so well either.

So. No half. I was crushed.

And I’ve never really come back consistently. I’ve done a few Pittsburgh Marathon 5Ks since then and I half-heartedly trained for the first EQT 10-Miler, which I managed to complete without dying only by the grace of Fred, who pretty much dragged me through the entire course.

But the on-again, off-again thing has been switched back on, thanks to the diabeetus. In other words, one of those things I was kind of worried about when I started back in 2011 had suddenly become very real.

Among the best things I can do to help manage the disease is to lose more weight, and I know from experience that I do that when I run. I’m not sure that I appreciate fear as a motivator this time around, but I’m also painfully aware (literally — the neuropathy is noticable if I sit on my ass too much) what the potential alternatives, one of which is, you know, dying.

But here’s the good part: The fear is diminishing. I’m getting to the point where I enjoy it again. I still have hard mornings, the one where I’m tired or resentful of the reason why I’m getting up at 5:45 a.m.


I’m going to keep pushing, though. That’s the only way I’m going to see sunrises like this one.


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:

FullSizeRender (6)

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.

FullSizeRender (5)

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 should know better than to stroll through the produce section of Whole Foods A) while I’m hungry and B) just two days after I get paid. But in our most recent trip, it worked out well.

Because there it was, a display of good-sized, bright green artichokes. Three chokes for five bucks. And after a quick consultation with Mrs. Crappy, three good ones made it into our cart. And because it had been years since I’d had one — I think just once since our honeymoon — I was pretty excited.

Artichokes are difficult. They’re pointy and tough, and preparing them takes a while, even if the process isn’t especially difficult. Even eating them isn’t intuitive (“Whaddaya mean I scrape them with my teeth?”).

I can’t make them appear any less mysterious, but I can tell you what I did when we cooked and ate all three on Saturday … and I hope that will help.


Get a pot big enough to hold all the artichokes you’re cooking. Fill it about halfway with water. Into the water, you’ll add:

  • A couple bay leaves.
  • Four cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.
  • A couple of lemons, quartered.
  • Some white wine (something between a quarter cup and a half cup).
  • Some parsley (we didn’t have fresh parsley at home, so I put in a handful of dried).
  • A drizzle of olive oil.
  • Towards the end of cooking, melt a stick or two of butter in a separate pan, and have some extra lemon wedges handy.
They look delicious, even in the pot.

They look delicious, even in the pot.

Trim the tops and the stems of the chokes and add them to the simmering pot tops down. Let them bubble for about 30 minutes before you start checking to see if they’re finished. When a knife runs through the stems without resistance, they’re ready to eat. Make sure they’re well drained before you serve.


I misspoke earlier. Eating artichokes isn’t difficult, but it is different. Remove a couple outer layers of leaves before you serve the chokes — they’re generally too tough to be enjoyable. Then you remove a leaf at a time, dip it into a bowl of melted butter (I like it with a squeeze of lemon juice too) and scrape the bottom two-thirds of the leaf across your top teeth.

Yes. Really.

The scraping removes the meat from the leaf — that delicious, butter-soaked meat that’s been stewing in garlic, lemons, wine and parsley for 30 to 45 minutes. And that’s How You Eat An Artichoke (Part One).

Part Two? That happens when you get down to the really flimsy leaves in the middle of the artichoke. You can eat those, sure; you can also ditch them and dig down to the artichoke’s heart. To get there, remove any remaining leaves and then dig out the the thistle-y part that’s covering the heart. Once the heart is exposed, dig out a bite with a spoon — you could eat the whole thing, but I think it tastes better to leave some of the artichoke’s outer layer behind — dip it in the butter and go to town. The flavor is unlike anything else you’ll ever encounter. It is also amazing.

choke dinner

Artichokes were a special treat when I was growing up, and I think they’ll remain that way now that we’ve kind of broken the seal.

But there’s nothing that says we can treat ourselves a little more often than usual.

the beam.

This is awesome on all kinds of levels, but I was especially excited to see some tight shots of The Beam, the big thing with the piano strings that Mickey’s beating on. Those vibrations, when amplified through a concert PA system in an arena like, say, Richfield Coliseum, could rattle your sternum. If I were to ever assemble a bucket list, playing a Beam at high volume would be near the top.