I love The Bible. I’m not a churchgoer and I don’t attempt to live my life according to the interpretations of “teachings” in the Old or New Testament. I just love the book.
It is, after all, our oldest collection of letters and short stories. Which of those parables, lessons and songs are based in fact has been the one unsolved mystery that has driven many scholars’ careers.
Did Noah’s Ark exist?
Was Jesus a man?
If Adam and Eve had three sons, how did the world get populated?
I don’t know (and neither do you); religion doesn’t ask us to prove anything. It asks us to believe.
No, this is not a sermon. Instead, it is a tale about a man named Jeff Bush from Florida who was swallowed by the Earth. His tale did not happen in some long forgotten century before lines of communication. Instead, this poor fellow fell asleep in his bungalow and no one knows if he ever woke up again. What we theorize is that a sinkhole opened beneath his house and he fell to his death, now buried in rubble yards beneath the surface of the planet. Rescuers have yet to find his body.
Jonah was swallowed by a whale.
Lot’s wife (nameless) looked back on Sodom and was turned to salt.
Jeff Bush was swallowed by the Earth.
All that’s left now is to come up with the “why”. Depending on your end game, you could pick any number of horrible sins the man from Seffner, Florida, committed and use the story as your own pulpit weapon. Tell that lesson-story enough over a long enough period of time and, well, you’ve got yourself a genuine one hundred percent parable, brothers and sisters.
Two, three thousand years from now? There might be a Book of Jeff, alongside letters from the AFL-CIO to the FBI describing how St. Jimmy Hoffa was taken from this world. Turn the page and read the tale of Amelia Earhart flying directly to Heaven.
Scoff if you must (go ahead, I’ll wait) but once a really little guy beat the crap out of a really big bully and somebody decided to use that schoolyard fight between David and “the Goliath” as the framework to bring the masses closer to God.
That’s why I love the Bible.
It’s kind of like a really old version of “Unsolved Mysteries”.
Minus Robert Stack.
This week the Powerball looks as though it might push towards another record prize.
And, of course, once again, I believe I will win.
I’d like to thank Jack Whittaker from the state of West Virginia for providing the rest of us with some parameters and guidelines as to what to do when we hit the lottery. I should rephrase that. Mr. Whittaker, who hit the Powerball on Christmas Day some years back for three hundred some odd million, has not actually provided lottery players with helpful hints on what to do. Instead, through his actions we can all learn what not to do when our proverbial ship comes sailing down the Mon.
First, and foremost, stay away from strip clubs. When stating “strip clubs”, I am not referring to any taverns located within walking distance of Pittsburgh’s world-famous Strip District. Some of those, I’m sure, would be fine for a millionaire to frequent. Who knows? Many probably do. My meaning is, instead, those nightclubs where women take off their frilly undergarments to the delight of men who stare on and occasionally offer up a tip consisting of a dollar or two.
It’s not the undergarments that pose the problem.
It’s not even the women themselves.
It’s that whole “tipping” process”.
If the story of Jack Whittaker is to be used as a guide, the strip clubs, and more specifically, the use of tip money at those very clubs, is where we can pinpoint the problem. As the story is told, Mr. Whittaker, a contractor from south central West Virginia who chose the one lump sum payment of just under 160 million dollars, has spent about 161 million dollars in the ensuing years. Quite a bit of that money, it is reported, was spent on strippers.
I like breasts.
I like money.
Now comes the decision.
The next item on the agenda to learn from Mr. Whittaker’s troubles is to nearly immediately place a good attorney on retainer. For, if his story is to be used as a rulebook, sometime within twenty minutes or so of claiming your lottery prize, everyone you have ever done business with will find a reason to bring a lawsuit upon you. Once again, using the reported facts as gleaned from local newspapers, it is estimated that Mr. Whittaker has spent nearly 30 million dollars defending his formerly good name in courts of law since cashing in that big ticket a little more than a decade ago. His lumber suppliers sued him. His customers sued him. A woman he once passed in traffic sued him for pain and suffering because he gave her the finger (that’s a true story, by the way). Not all the lawsuits were successful and some are still pending. Suffice to say that once you become a superstar money man, there will people who will want some of that green for their very own and will be ready willing and able to display their suffering in front of doctors, judges and newspaper reporters to get it.
I like my business.
I like money.
Now comes the decision.
The third lesson to be learned from Jack Whittaker, who recently disclosed he is, unofficially, out of money, is that a big bank account sometimes brings with it a certain lowering of moral standards. I’m not speaking merely of strip clubs, either. Instead, Jack warns us, through his easy-to-read self-destruction, that drugs and alcohol are probably to be steered clear of while counting. After telling a reporter from the Charleston Daily Mail that he walked into his local bank one day last month to retrieve some funs only to find that “someone had stolen all his money form his safe deposit boxes”, Mr. Whittaker admitted that he had recently developed a strong Oxycontin habit.
I like pills.
I like money.
Now comes the decision.
I’m not here to crucify Jack Whittaker. From what I’ve been above to learn, he is a very nice man who, in fact, has given many of his millions to charity, including building a new church for his hometown. The one thing Jack never realized (and I’m sure many of us are in the same weird boat) is that one day, after playing the lottery all of his life, he might actually win the damn thing.
Jack did not have a plan.
Jack did not think it through.
Jack is now broke.
And so I say to you, fellow dreamers, before your ship sails down the Mon to shower you with riches, think not only of what you’d like to buy with your millions, but of the many pitfalls that may ensue. Take Jack Whittaker’s advice, although he did not freely give of it. Learn from his mistakes. Prepare yourself for the impossible. Your numbers may indeed be coming.
And when they do?
You can thank smartphones for your troubles.
I’ve got proof that you once gave me the finger on the parkway.
I’ve already lawyered up.
We West Virginians know how to play that game, homey.
My attorney will be in touch.
Pittsburgh is on a short list to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Here are some possible hometown events:
Event Site: PNC Park
Each runner must race dressed as a stuffed entrée best representing his or her home country. For instance, Italian runners would be wear ravioli costumes, runners from Israel would look like potato knishes, China would send a contingent of egg roll-dressed sprinters, and, of course, the Poles would have a team dressed as the traditional pierogis, complete with glasses and handbags. It is a biathalon, so, mid way through the race, each competitor has to lay down on the infield and shoot at a target using a hot dog launcher.
Parking Chair Hurdles:
Event Site: Main Street, Canonsburg
Contestants line up three hours before the Canonsburg Fourth of July Parade and, at the sound of the starter’s gun, race from one end of town to the other, jumping over pre-arranged lawn chairs. Medalists will finish in one of the top three positions without having knocked over a chair, torn a ribbon or disrupted the Canon-Mac Marching Band’s version of “Wooly-Bully”
Milk, Bread and Toilet Paper Relay:
Event Site: Giant Eagle, Crafton-Ingram
Teams of three grandmothers from each nation must enter a completely packed Giant Eagle immediately after a forecast of “a possible 1-3 inches of snow”. One must gather each of three items as another stands in line, saving a place and the third, or “anchor” must decide between “Sudden Death”, “Striking Distance” or “Jack Reacher” from the Red Box Kiosk.
West Virginia Yard Trampoline:
Event Site: Pleasant Valley Mobile Home Court, Weirton
Teams are made up of couples and their offspring. Male contestants must purchase a backyard trampoline from Pool City, then partially assemble it, tiring and giving up before raising the protective barriers around the outsides. A team of thirteen children, all conceived by the female contestant (through one or more fathers, including their own) must jump on the trampoline at once. While the female contestant crushes and snorts stolen Oxycontin tablets, the male contestant siphons gasoline from the neighbor’s pickup. The last child with all his or her limbs attached wins.
Southside Alley Whiz:
Event Site: Just off Carson Street
Contestants must finish a six-pack of beer between 1:55 and 2 am. After leaving Jack’s, they must completely drain their bladders before ordering and eating monkey on a stick from the Asian stand in the abandoned lot near Diesel. The first three contestants to plead their way out of a ticket for public indecency by proving they know a current or former Steeler and promising the police officer an autographed Terrible Towel wins a medal.
Event Sites: Ft. Pitt and Squirrel Hill Tunnels
Contestants, competing while riding shotgun in a minivan packed with 8 and 9 year old girls soccer players from Moon, must sing along with “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen as it broadcast from DVE. Contestants must continue singing while passing through each tunnel, even as the sound of the song disappears due to bad reception or one of the girls changes the station to KISS just in time to hear some rap crap you’ve never heard of from some guy who has a name that makes no sense. Contestant who is closest to being exactly on time as Freddy Mercury’s voice is once again heard at the end of the tunnel will proudly be adorned with a medal for his/her country.
Cheerleader Car Wash:
Event Site: Parking Lot, Big Lots, McKnight Road
Middle Aged male contestants must pilot salt and mud strewn SUV’s into the playing surface, keeping eyes straight ahead as teams of nubile teenaged girls from North Hills High, wearing cutoffs, bikini tops and giggling smiles, soak one another with suds and water as the contestants pre-menopausal wives prattle on about living room paint choices as the North Hills Marching Indian Band plays the “Rock and Roll Part II” by Gary Glitter.
Operation Shut Down Freestyle:
Event Site: PNC Park
Contestant must convince Pirates management to pay contestant outrageous amounts of money to perform tasks they once were capable of performing but can no longer perform, or, for a higher score from the international judges, receive pay for failing to achieve promised or perceived skills predicted by scouts from years ago.
Orange Belt Marathon:
Event Site: Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Armstrong and Washington Counties
Contestants attempt to follow the Orange Belt to its conclusion. There will be no winner. This event has never been completed.
Event Site: Kennywood
Contestants amassing the highest three scores at the Skee Ball machines located in Kennywood’s Midway will have their choice of a Gold Medal, A Silver Medal, A Bronze Medal, or any stuffed animal from the bottom two shelves. In addition, for every 100 tickets earned by each contestant, his or her home country will receive three free games of Whac
Mr. Lincoln? Have a seat. Bill Henderson, Henderson Polling and Livery. We’d like to thank you for coming in. We’re all just darned excited to be working the campaign. We’ve got about four more months before the election and thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the numbers. To be honest, Abe (can I call you Abe?), the numbers don’t look that great. Numbers don’t lie, Abe. We at the firm think it’s time to do a little image adjusting. Nothing major, mind you - just a tweak here and there.
Let’s get to it.
First, how married are we to this “ending slavery” thing? The latest numbers indicate that a majority of people, especially those in Mississippi, might not support a Lincoln candidacy that would free slaves. You see, Abe, the latest polls show that paying someone money to pick cotton costs more than beating someone to pick cotton.
It’s the economy, stupid.
No, no, no. Please don’t take that as an insult. This is politics, Abe. It’s not personal. I don’t mean that you are stupid. It’s just that the idea of destroying half the country’s economic power might not fly in some of the nation – you know - the white states. We’re in no way impugning your educational background, Mr. Lincoln. We’re here to help you win an election. By the way, for our promotional department, where did you earn your degree? Where were you educated?
You were home-schooled in a log cabin? What do you mean?
Ah. You taught yourself. I see. Well, let’s try to keep that between the people in this room, all right. No reason to mention that on the campaign trail. People like houses, Abe. Cabins are so yesterday. Did you go on to further your education? No? Well, we were informed you had passed the bar exam and you’re a practicing lawyer in Illinois. You passed the bar without a high school diploma? Geez. I have to tell you, Abe. That smacks of improprieties. Smells fishy, you know? I tell you what. Let’s just avoid the entire education question for the short term.
Let’s get back to this slavery issue. We’ve decided that rather than say “all men are created equal” we might go with the more palatable “the state of our union is strong”. It’s positive. It’s uplifting. It avoids controversy and it steers the conversation away from the fact that, as of this week, there are six states that have gone ahead and started their own country.
What’s that? All men are created equal? We’ll, that’s great sentiment, sir, but the facts speak a different story. Saying something like that would work to get us the black vote, which is noble, but we here at Henderson Polling and Livery deal with winning elections. The fact is there is no black vote. They’re slaves. They don’t count. Remember Dred Scott? In the eyes of the Supreme Court, they’re no more than mules. That’s a fact. How can we make this thing stick if you can’t stay on message?
Bottom line, Abraham. Do you want to win this election?
I thought so.
Don’t mention slaves.
Next. This may seem a trivial thing, but numbers indicate otherwise. How comfortable are you with the name Abe? Nothing. No. Not a problem. Unless, of course, you take into consideration that it’s a Jewish name. Some of our respondents in the latest polls have taken to calling you “Hebe” Lincoln, or – what was that other, Jim? Yes, that’s right. “Hebe-ra-ham” Lincoln.
Frankly, Mr. Lincoln, a Jew who wants to free the slaves - that’s a tough sell.
So, what’s your middle name? What do you mean you don’t have one? Everyone’s got a middle name. Not you. All right. Look. I have to tell you. That’s not trustworthy. People like a man with three names. What was that one the boys came up with, Jerry? Yes. That’s it. Matthew. What do you think? Matthew A. Lincoln. “Honest Matt”.
Okay, okay. Have it your way. We’re not married to it. Just do us a favor and give it some thought before a final decision. And remember – no Jew names.
Let’s see. We talked about the slaves, the name, stay away from your background. Are we done here, Bill?
Don’t freak out, now. Just hear us. Look at these numbers. “Would you vote for a man with a beard?” Out of 80 respondents, 68 said “no”, 8 said “yes” and 4 died of typhoid before completing the questionnaire. Let’s face facts. You can’t fool all of the people, Matt. You look Amish. People don’t want Amish leaders. They’re think you’re some kind of backwoods farmer who grew up reading by the light of an oil lamp.
What’s that? You are? You did?
Well, then it’s definite. No mention of background until our people can construct a more acceptable version. So, let’s shave, Mr. Lincoln. And let’s win that Presidency. Trust us. This time next year, as you sit behind your desk in the White House, overlooking a strongly united nation of slave owners, you, President Matthew A. Lincoln, will thank us.
Oh. One more thing before we break for lunch. You’re still keeping that nut ball of a wife locked away in the basement like we asked, right?
A huge meteor struck the Earth in Siberia Friday morning. Estimated to be the size of a school bus, weighing 14,000 pounds, traveling at 33,000 per hour, it exploded 12 miles above the Earth’s surface, releasing a blast that shattered windows in office buildings for miles around the city of Chelyabinsk before breaking into pieces, the largest of which landed in frozen Chebarkul Lake.
There will be no ice fishing this weekend.
Nameless scientists described the blast caused by the meteor as having the power of “twenty atomic bombs”. These unnamed experts were not quite as good as the first group, the ones who compared it to a school bus. We’ve all seen a school bus. None of us have seen an atomic bomb blast. Chances are, the “scientists” being named in news reports have not seen one, either. Bomb. Not bus.
We get the idea, though. And even if we don’t, there were wonderful Siberians who were willing to walk outside, into their brisk last morning on Earth, the day when the bombs fell, to record the event with their smart phones. The big space rock hit the lake at about 9:30 in the morning, just in time to assure everyone in Chelyabinsk that nothing whatsoever would be accomplished that day.
“I’ve got an appointment to have my tires rotated.”
“Sorry. Meteor. I’m drinking. Want some?”
One thousand people were injured by debris, mostly shattered window glass. Nearly one hundred were hospitalized. And, because no one really knew what the heck was going on, everybody was traumatized for at least the rest of the day, or until Siberia’s Action News Team showed cell video of two kids fighting in a middle school rest room.
The good news is that no one was killed. The great news is that, for many of us who grew up reading comic books and sci-fi, this could be the start of something really, really significant. This school bus sized, 20 atomic bomb meteor, sent screaming to Earth, exploding in the sky, splashing into a lake, could be the arrival of Superman.
Or, it could be the beginning of War of the Worlds.
One thing’s for certain: Al Gore will somehow tie it to global warming.