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.

3. out of my element.

my car towed

When my Element — my 10-year-old, 245,000-miles-on-it Element — ran into a deer two weeks ago, I was crestfallen. Though I was able to drive it home, the damage was bad, and I assumed that our insurance company would total the best car I’ve ever owned.

But as I found out just a day later, the Element would not only be fixed but that I had a generous allowance for a rental car for the duration of the repairs. Happy that this process would be relatively painless, I called the closest Enterprise office and asked them to hold a small car — appropriate for city driving and, especially, city parking — that I’d pick up after work.

And that’s where this story really begins.

I filled out the paperwork at Enterprise and waited anxiously while the guy disappeared in back to bring my car around. And as it turned out, my request for a small car got me this instead.

fancy car front

Yes. That’s a white 2016 Dodge Charger. And if there was a car that represented the complete opposite of everything that is me, it might be a white 2016 Dodge Charger.

I actually asked the guy at Enterprise if he had … pretty much anything else available. I have to drive in the city, I told him, and finding on-street parking in that thing will pretty much be a nightmare. Sorry, the kid said, that’s what we have.

fancy dash

Still shaking my head, I climbed into the black leather driver’s seat, hit the start button — only push to start for Uncle Crappy from now on, boys and girls — and powered up McKnight Road and through the North Hills.

fancy car 1

To Giant Eagle.

Especially at first, I was conflicted about this car. There is no question: It’s niiiiiiice. Brand new, just 1,100 miles. And man, it wants to go. In short, it’s a fun ride.

But let’s go back to the part about me so not being a white Dodge Charger person. That guy is a bit more of a yinzer than I am. He listens to WDVE. He had a mullet when he was younger, but his hair has grown up (some). He wears camp shirts and nice loafers with no socks. Now that I think of it, he is a younger version of this guy:


And that’s fine. But it’s not me.

I’ve had fun with the Charger — there are some interesting back roads not terribly far from our house is all I’ll say about that — but our time is drawing to a close. It sounds like the Element — my 10-year-old, 245,000-miles-on-it Element — is going to be fixed up, fully inspected and ready to pick up on Wednesday. It’s a different kind of fun, to be sure, but I’m going to be awfully happy to be back in a car that fits me.

pied piper.

A few years ago, I told you the story of getting a birthday present from Tiffany for Mrs. Crappy — and the subsequent discovery that carrying a bag from Tiffany through Ross Park Mall was the surest way to get noticed by women I had ever seen.

Over the weekend, Mrs. Crappy discovered the male equivalent.

As some of you know, Mrs. Crappy recently started working a big-box home improvement store. As per her preference, she is working in the lawn and garden department, which gives her a lot of time outdoors and around the fun, summer-y gadgets that seem to universally make everyone happy.

Especially guys, it seems.


While working over the weekend, she had to load up a big, fancy gas grill on one of the carts and haul it across the store to a customer who needed to finish his shopping in the contractors’ section. And as she pushed the grill from one side of the store to the other, she noticed that every single guy she passed stopped and turn to watch the grill pass by.

To summarize: To attract women, carry a Tiffany-blue shopping bag. To attract men, a gigantic grill will do the trick.

Superficial? Sure. But it would have worked for me.

in just a little bit.

I never really believed that blogging was work.

Until recently — sometime last year, I guess — it wasn’t.

I open this blog several times a week, with plenty of ideas for posts, like, say, the Urban Garden Party at the Mattress Factory (Oh my god awesome), our Phish shows at Star Lake and Blossom (#turnpiketour), the 5K we just did in Canonsburg (fat, sweaty slow guy), the upcoming football season, the current baseball season (and my renewed hope for an Indians-Pirates World Series), food, beer, friends and, especially, my family.

And I look at the blank window, the one I’m supposed to fill with words. And nothing, except for a mild feeling of dread, shows up.

I spend a lot of time with the Internet. I enjoy it. It has changed my life for the better; most of the friendships I have in Pittsburgh I have because of one form of Uncle Crappy or another. But I’m finding that maintaining all that stuff — to the degree that makes me happy, anyway — has become increasingly tiring.

I also do this for work. And I’m trying to do it more — and better — there. That means paying more attention to the work Twitter and FB accounts. That means getting back to daily Newsbreaks. That means a post a week on the beer blog. And that means helping others with the stuff they want to do. Upshot: It means I’m spending more time doing this professionally than I ever have before. And that’s a good thing, although it leaves me with even less time and energy for my personal stuff.

And that’s how we got here.

I’m tired. And rather than continue to pretend that I’m going to just pick up regular posting again — and feeling like an asshole when I inevitably don’t — I’m going to give myself a break. I’m going to call it a break rather than something else more, uh, permanent, because I’m not sure that I’m done blogging here.

Although that could be the case. I wish I could say for sure, but I can’t.

I’m also going to step away from some of the more time-intensive aspects of social media for a while (and no, I don’t know what “a while” means). There are some personal things I’ll continue — I’m really digging Instagram and I’m way too competitive to give my Foursquare mayorships — and my professional accounts will likely be more active in the meantime (you guys are welcome there as well).

I don’t know what’s next. My Internet Life has paid countless dividends, and I can’t see ever giving it up completely. But maybe I’m going to try to focus on my In-Real-Life Life for a while.

And while I figure out what I’m doing, please enjoy these pictures of Miles. Because cat pictures are what the Internet is really about, right?


I used to give myself a massive case of the heebie-jeebies as I drove between Athens and Pittsburgh when Mrs. Crappy was still in school. Between Marietta and Belpre, there is a series of industrial plants  — power plants and chemical plants, mainly — and especially at night, driving by the hulking scaffolds and towers was enough to plant some ominous, post-apocalyptic visions in my head as I drove by.

To double my fun, I once stumbled upon a looped AM broadcast in or near Belpre: a scratchy female voice telling me over and over and over that this is where I should tune if something were ever to happen at one of the plants. That sort of thing also has freaked me out for as long as I can remember — or, at least, since the time I became aware of what those Emergency Broadcast System cut-ins on TV and the radio were really for (The Day After, anyone?). The combination of that voice and the sight of the looming plants alongside the Ohio River was more than enough to completely freak me out every time I drove by.

(I found a similar snippet at the end of “Poor Places,” on Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot record — a disembodied female voice, repeating “Yankee. Hotel. Foxtrot.” over and over through the torrent of noise at the end of the song — and at night, it produces a similar result, for me anyway.)

On two different instances, once directed to me and earlier today, when Burgh Baby and Ginny were having a Twitter staring contest, my friend Goob has plopped this video down right in front of me:

And I proceed to freak out all over again.