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All Thumbs


The number of times I’ve hitchhiked in my life can be counted on just a handful of thumbs. The first might have been when I was 18 and stuck in the bleakness of Canton, NY, and conspired with my friend Chowder to make our way to the next bleak town over, Potsdam, to see the Pink Floyd movie "The Wall." As he and I recall it, we had little trouble getting a ride out to Potsdam in dayight, but ended up walking the whole 11 miles back in the frigid blackness of night. Lesson learned: if drivers can't see you until they are whizzing past at 60 miles an hour on a lonely road, they probably aren't going to pick you up.

A far more memorable hitchhiking experience happened a couple of years later, as I attempted to make my way out of West Berlin, through East Germany, and back into West Germany via my thumb. This may sound incredibly stupid, like maybe I would end up getting captured by the enemy and thrown into an East German jail where I’d be brainwashed into being a Stalinist, but actually it was standard operating procedure for anyone without a car trying to get from West Berlin to West Germany. I had a Eurail Youth Pass, which allowed me to ride the trains as often as I liked in most of western Europe including West Berlin, but was not recognized in East Germany (there weren’t a lot of tourists heading to East Germany back then), in the middle of which West Berlin was an island city. I went to the checkpoint on the outskirts of West Berlin with a piece of cardboard onto which I had scrawled "Munchen," and immediately was picked up by the only two people in all of Germany who didn’t speak English. They weren’t going quite that far, but pointed to a spot on the map where they could drop me off: an industrial town called “Erlangen.” Yes, my train pass would be valid there. It was a good plan.

If I had been the driver and they had been the hitchhikers, I’d have dropped the two Germans off on the side of the road somewhere logical and then would have been on my way. But these two didn’t think this was friendly enough, so instead they took me to a punk bar to introduce me to “young people.” I assured them in perfect English that this wasn’t necessary, despite the fact that my train wasn’t going to arrive until sometime in the middle of the night. I was the opposite of a punk, not a redneck but of a classic rock geek, with a backpack that screamed “American Tourist!” and a pouch that hung around my neck with my money and a passport in it. They didn't understand what I was saying and, anyway, weren’t going to take no for an answer.

When we arrived at the bar, all eyes were on me as the two friendly Deutschlanders asked the bartender to stow my backpack in a back room. It was a tense negotiation but my new friends soon prevailed, then walked me from group to group to see if any of the punks would be willing to take in a refugee at their table. I was mortified. “Just go,” I wanted to say. “For crying out loud I’ll nurse a beer and try not to make eye contact with any of these skinheads!” Soon two young women, one dressed like a normal person and the other punked out with spiked hair, agreed to allow me to impose on their conversation.

I don’t remember how things proceeded, but somehow, over the course of hours, I made friends with these two German punkettes, who eventually saw me off to my train. In my memory, these two German lasses are waving to me in slow motion at 2 in the morning with misty eyes as the train pulls away, having been won over by my American earnestness, but for all I know it was 8 at night and they left me alone on the platform with hours to spare before my train arrived.

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Museum of Styptic Pencils


If you own a styptic pencil as I do, you’ve probably staunched quite a few wounds in your day. You were shaving and cut your lip or some other body part, or you had an accident with the chain saw and, uh-oh, now where is that arm?

What ever happened to that first styptic pencil you owned? Did you throw it out? Or are you maybe still using it, as I’m using mine, because as anyone who’s ever had a styptic pencil knows, they're impossible to fully use up. If you still have yours, would you mind if I borrowed it?

I just so happens that I’m on a committee (chair of the committee, actually) that is exploring the possibility of establishing a museum that will display famous people’s used styptic pencils. You and I might well be included among the famous people whose trusty razor-kit coagulants are offered up for the world to see, which is (if you didn’t realize it) a sort of art. Weird art, yes, but art nevertheless.

You might be wondering what makes the two of us famous enough to have a museum request the honor of hosting our styptic pencils. I’m famous because I was the chair of an exploratory committee. You’re famous because you’re the only person reading my blog.

Wait, don’t go! I was just going to see if you wanted to go out for a beer.

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Give America A Sandwich


America has a football team (The Dallas Cowboys), a football game of the week (Sunday at 4:25, according to Joe Buck on Fox Sports), and a “Football night in America” (Either Sunday night or Monday night – I'm not sure which is day of the week has an agent bold enough to make that claim). And yet it doesn’t have its own sandwich.

I aim to change that.

It can’t be that hard to identify a (typically luncheon) meal of two bread slices separated by layers of meats, cheeses, and/or vegetables deserving of the title “America’s sandwich,” can it? Not with the BLT lurking.

You can have your PB&J, your Turkey Rueben, your Monte Cristo. I’ll stick with a sandwich that contains crispy lettuce, a slice of tomato, and strips of processed pork meat that will eventually kill you, according to the WHO.

Looking to license Band Aids for kids that have images of BLTs on a background of red, white, and blue.

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High Hippies


Back in the day, when I was a regular fixture on the gridiron, doing the helmet-to-helmet thing, talkin' trash, ringing the bells of defenseless receivers (and so forth), I became known as a master of the high-hip block.

You never hear about the high-hip block anymore. There is no Wikipedia entry for it, and if you search the internet for “high-hip block” using your favorite browser (there are more than one, you know), you’ll find lots of information about aligning your hips and of high pressure equipment, but not much about the high-hip block that was an essential element in the Bishop Grimes Cobras (high school) football playbook.

We Cobras ran the triple option, which meant the quarterback had the option of handing off to the fullback, pitching out to the trailing halfback, or taking it himself and getting creamed behind the line of scrimmage (or "line of spinach," as my dearly departed dad used to call it). Usually, he’d select option 3.

But if he decided to pitch, the trailing running back’s only hope of gaining yards was to have the lead back (me, often) lay out like Pete Rose sliding into second, throwing his whole body at the charging cornerback, who’d fight off the block by kneeing running backs like me in the midsection. (By the way, playing this game was actually not a punishment. I volunteered every year to get beaten up).

The HHB was an almost impossible block to throw, despite the years of training some of us received in it. This is probably why it has been abandoned and now lives on only in the memory of old timers like me. Soon, I plan to gather together high hip block aficionados from that era to have one big, blowout extravaganza in Vegas, where we will tell stories of blocking high on the hip, gamble our families’ life savings away, and then let all the details stay in Vegas.

Did you ever throw a high hip block? If you did, I’ll put you on the invite list.

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