A good bit of the meager amount of content posted to Uncle Crappy recently has been about grief, specifically about how I’ve tried to deal with the death of Juan two plus years ago.

That came up again this week, as I returned to Columbus for a day or two so I could help Juan’s mother go through stuff — some of which was his — as she prepares to downsize from her condo to a smaller apartment.

We had a good day. It was sad for both of us, but we laughed a lot … especially at the number of red Solo cups she had stashed with her Fourth of July decorations. It was a productive day, and Mary is closer to being ready to hold an auction for the stuff she can’t take with her.

If you put any credence into Kubler-Ross stages of grief — they are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — I’d say I’m solidly in the acceptance stage in relation to Juan’s death like 90 percent of the time. There are still little moments when that’s not the case, but for the most part, I’m at peace with his passing.

Here’s a thing I haven’t mentioned on Uncle Crappy: I’m on strike. Have been for seven months.

And it’s a struggle.

Money is tight. We’re super busy fundraising and taking care of other strike stuff. It makes finding the time to hold down a side gig a challenge.

And there is the added stress of what’s going on at the PG. A bunch of my colleagues decided that going on strike wasn’t for them … and they crossed the picket line (which is pretty much virtual these days, as most are working remotely). So the PG’s site is still getting updated. The daily e-edition still lands in inboxes every day. And, twice a week, there is still a print edition.

That’s frustrating as hell, boys and girls. Our best guess is that if the Steelers beat writers, for example, had come out, the strike would have been over in a couple weeks, rather than stretching past half of a year. And it is annoying to watch those people work and enjoy the salaries and benefits that the union, the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, earned for them.

But here’s the bigger thing: I’m struggling with what this means for me. If the strike were to end today (spoiler alert: Not likely), I’d go back, but probably not for long; working at the PG no longer feels like my dream job.

For a while — and as recently as most of last year — it was. I had a fantastic editor. I worked with great people. And the atmosphere in the newsroom had recovered from the pit that it landed in in 2020.

For me, that’s all gone. Forever. And it’s sad and aggravating all at once.

I’m in therapy. This situation I’m in occasionally feels desperate enough that I needed to talk with someone about it. And last week, she said something that really struck me.

My ranting was kind of all over the place. Do I go back? Am I done with journalism? Why did this have to happen? Is it time for a new job? What do I do with all of the opinions about what course I should be taking? WHY, for fuck’s sake … WHY?

“You’re grieving,” she said. “You’re mourning what you had there before the strike.”

I stared at her face on the screen. And it dawned on me that she was exactly right.

So let’s go back to Kubler-Ross and the stages of grief. It’s important to remember that they’re not necessarily experienced in linear fashion, which is why there are days when it feels like I experience anger, bargaining (with myself — the company isn’t especially good with bargaining) and depression simultaneously.

My therapist told me to do something that addressed the idea I was experiencing grief because of this shit show. This is it.

I think I’m past denial. And I’m a loooooong way from acceptance. But maybe, with some more work, I’ll get there. Soon, I hope.

right in front of me.

Not my ticket. I was 14 and my parents wouldn’t let me ride my moped to Colorado.

A couple days ago, I needed to run to grab a thing at Ikea and some stuff at another couple places nearby. In Pittsburgh, that entails getting on the Parkway West and driving for longer than it should actually take, because Parkway West traffic, duh.

I settled into the car and called up the Dead show from the University of Colorado’s arena on Dec. 9, 1981 on my iPod and let it play while I headed toward the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

That Boulder show was the first bit of live Grateful Dead I had heard besides stuff the band had released. Steve, Mark and I were just getting into the Dead, and (I think) the older brother of a friend hooked us up with copies of the cassettes of the show, labeled “Boulder 1″ and Boulder 2”; the funny thing was that none of us knew enough about the band to notice that the tape labels were on the wrong sets, but that didn’t matter. It was a hot show, no matter what was played when.

The mislabeled Boulder 2 tape closed with what is still my favorite version of China > Rider of all time. It crushes all of the combo’s expected peaks and Garcia’s guitar is especially good. And that’s where I was in the playlist as I charged out to Robinson on the parkway: Jerry was tearing up a solo just before Weir delivered the “Sun’s gonna shine…” line, and I was feeling good.

When Jerry started on his line “I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train,” my bliss was interrupted by a car that jumped into the fast lane just ahead of mine. I was annoyed for sure, until I saw what the universe had just handed to me: the license plate on the car that cut me off began with the letters JSK.

I broke into a grin. And said, out loud, to whomever was listening, “You are that light, my friend. You are.”

In just over two weeks, we’re going to meet in Columbus to celebrate Steven’s life. And I say “we” because if you knew Steven, I hope I see you there, at the service (1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14 at Northwest United Methodist Church, 5200 Riverside Drive) or at the picnic after (3 p.m. at the North Shelter House in Thompson Park).

You don’t have to bring much, besides a hug for Mary and smiles, hugs and memories for everyone else. I’m getting better at smiling when I think of Steve instead of feeling sad, but his death is still — and will be for quite a while — a hard thing for me to digest; if it is for you as well, let’s help each other out on Aug. 14. See you then.

not that terrible.

Oh, look — someone from The Simpsons found a copy of Uncle Crappy’s bracket.

Folks, I have to apologize. I normally would have had this update ready by midweek at the latest, but real life got in the way in a pretty significant manner this week.

But writing about basketball — and the Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*) is the kind of distraction I need — so let’s get down to bidness.

As longtime AUCNFFC players will recall, no one has any points yet — that doesn’t happen until teams actually reach the Final Four after Monday night’s games.

We can, however, begin to ascertain how things might shake out, based on the results of the first weekend. Quite a few of us picked Ohio State as our eventual champion, for example — and that’s not going to work out so well. A few others of us went all in on the Big Ten — and that’s really not going to work so well.

But most of us — well over half, in fact — were able avoid real disasters associated with early upsets, and are therefore in pretty good shape. And there two of us — just two of us — who have an intact Final Four still alive.

I have done no math associated with this so far, but in general, I’d give the advantage to those who are still working with their pick to be national champion over those who are trying to move on without. And so, we begin with the bad news and move on to the good.

One FF team alive, champ pick is out:

  • Strang
  • Trailion

One FF team/champ alive:

  • Susan

Two FF teams alive, champ is out

  • Mrs. Crappy
  • Cleveland Kelsey
  • Kewyson
  • Spoon

Three FF teams alive, champ is out

  • Uncle Crappy
  • Lianne
  • Carla
  • Pgh Rugby Ref

Three FF team/champ alive

  • Socialist Joe
  • Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
  • Aunt Annoyed Angel
  • Mister G
  • Styx 4 Curl Girl
  • Chachi
  • Calipanthergrl
  • Dudders
  • North Coast Matt
  • Sports Chump
  • MFulk
  • Dish
  • JCK158
  • Scooter

And our best of the best, as we go through the second weekend of FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*):

All FF picks/champ still alive

  • Miss C
  • Red Buppy

There is one more player I haven’t mentioned, and that’s Juan, oh he of little basketball knowledge. When I started this thing, I was concerned that I wouldn’t get enough entries to make it interesting, so I badgered the hell out of my family and close friends to get in. Most were accommodating, but Juan dug in his heels, giving me BS reasons like “I don’t like college basketball” and “Why are you torturing me?” When he finally made it clear that he was out, I decided to enter him anyway, using a variety of methods that pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn’t come close to ever winning this thing. He grumbled about it at first, but eventually came to appreciate that he would be entered in AUCNFFC with zero effort and almost zero chance of stressing about it at all. It became a standing joke, one of a looooooong list of standing jokes we had between us.

Juan — that’s not his actual name — was my friend who died this week. We’re not going to worry about his picks for the rest of FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*), and if I do this again next year, I suspect the tournament will be named in his honor. Which he would find as funny as I would hope.

I hope your teams do well this weekend, and I’ll be back on Tuesday — I promise this time — with the first look at our official FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) standings.

i wasn’t ready.

I had to come sit outside. Away from TV, my phone, music in the kitchen. Just the moon, a few stars, some wispy clouds and the soft lights of our front porch. It had been a gorgeous day, and it was still warmer than you’d expect for a late-March evening in Pittsburgh.

I didn’t know what to do. I was utterly unprepared.

After a few minutes, I began to hear a dad and his young son walking up the street towards our house. The boy is happily chattering away and I hear him say, “Hey! Let’s play I Spy!” Dad agrees, and as they reach the side of our driveway, the boy spies, with his little eye, something white. Dad looks across the street, points at a neighbor’s white minivan and says, “Is it the van?” The kid releases his father’s hand long enough to clap.

“OK! My turn!”

I’m smiling now.

Dad glances at the flowerbed next to the driveway. “I spy with my little eye something yellow!” There is silence for a split second before the son shouts, “Is it the flowers?”

Dad says it is. The boy giggles. I realize our daffodils have started to pop. I hadn’t noticed before. I mean, the last two days have been pretty hard.

I’m still smiling — genuinely smiling — when Dad and the now-skipping boy spot me on the stoop. The man asks how I’m doing and I return the greeting. The boy turns a little shy but says he’s good, and thanks me when I wish them a good night.

That little bit — the bouncy, happy kid in the orange shirt, the yellow flowers starting to appear — was enough to lift me up out of my seat.

My smile faded, though. I had to go tell Mrs. Crappy that my best friend — the one I met pretty much as soon as we started seventh grade, the one who roared with me through Athens and Granville and New York and Colorado and Columbus, the one who was my best man at our wedding — died this afternoon.

I will see you again someday, my friend. Love you.