Reading my book is like having that first talk about sex


Canadian humorist and screenwriter Randall Willis reacts to my “Pearls of Writing Wisdom.” Possibly after eating too much poutine…

When I saw the notification on Twitter that Randall Willis had posted a review of my new book, it was the first time in a while that I’d felt nervous about my writing. Not so much because he’s Canadian. Or because he’s a hilarious, award-winning writer and screenwriter. And not even because he knows a lot of guys who play professional hockey and carries a hockey stick in the trunk of his car “just for emergencies.”

Unlike my first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, which was a collection of newspaper columns I’d published over the last 16 years, Pearls of Writing Wisdom: From 16 shucking years as a columnist is more personal because it’s written for writers. Seeing my book in the hands of other writers I know and admire made me nervous in the same way I’d imagine it must feel to host The Oscars; standing in front of an audience of talented peers and hoping to be worthy of their time and attention. Except in this case there’s not even an open bar to loosen things up first.

At least I don’t have Stephen King staring me down from the audience.  Continue reading

Samsung offering free fire extinguisher with each cell phone purchase!

imageTechnology is great.

Except, of course, when it explodes in your pants. I’ve never really liked cell phones to begin with, and now that they’ve started self-detonating, I like them even less.

Curgently, Samsung is investigating why its Galaxy Note 7 phones are bursting into flames — a feature Samsung officials say wasn’t supposed to become available until next year.

As you might expect, cell phone sales have dipped slightly as a result of these incidents. That’s because luxuries like instant messaging, Internet access and live video feeds don’t mean much if your cell phone suddenly ignites into flames, turning your morning commute into a flaming lap dance and an appearance on The World’s Wildest Police Chases.  Continue reading

Emotionally scarring your children is the Halloween ‘circle of life’

imageThough it’s been 15 years, I still remember my youngest son’s first Halloween costume. Because he was too young to walk, the choices were limited to things that could be carried under one arm and then planted on the doorstep. Eventually, I narrowed the options down to the following:

A pumpkin.
A legless pirate.
A meteor.

When considering the merits of each costume option and which elements should be incorporated into them, parents really have only one consideration:

“How do I get the most candy out of my child?”

To me, the sympathy factor for the legless pirate made it a no-brainer. However, I couldn’t overlook the power of cuteness — a quality that was missing from the legless pirate and meteor concepts. I eventually settled on “The Pumpkin, which I’m sad to say, fell short of my candy-yield expectations for that year.

To make matters worse, that was also the year my oldest daughter became an active member of Young Advocates for Keeping Kandy (YAKK).  Continue reading

Making a preemptive strike on our Opinion page

As the elections grow more tense the closer we get to November, the climate of unsubstantiated facts and accusatory rants is slowly spreading from the political stage to social media posts, lines at the supermarket, between pews at church and in the letters we’ve been receiving for our Opinion page at Siuslaw News. For today’s editorial, I felt the need to remind people about the the purpose of the Opinion page, why it’s so important to our democracy… And why, as editor, I have to protect it before it gets too out of hand.


For the first time, I wasn’t chosen last!

imageWhen D.G. Kaye (aka the wonderful Debby Gies) asked me if I’d be the first in her new Friday authors and books series, it was just just like when Ricky Overbite chose me first for kickball, or Sarah Getlost asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance, or Mrs. Flunkem requested I say the Pledge of Alliegence in front of the classroom: I said, “Weeeellll, let me think about it.”

That’s usually when someone snapped their fingers in my face, breaking me out of my daydream to realize I was either the only one who hadn’t been picked for a team, was dancing with the janitor’s broom after the dance or had actually worn my pajamas to school just like in the nightmare.

So, needless to say, when Debby asked me to be her guest today to kick off her new Friday series, I said “OhHeckYes!”

If you aren’t familiar with Debby, you probably need to get out more. She’s the author of several books, a tireless supporter and inspirer of authors, and a gifted humor and memoir writer.

I’m very honored to be her debut guest and hope you’ll join me over at her place, where she asked me a lot of terrific questions that, in some cases, may have been even more interesting than my answers.

To hop over there, just click HERE! (No, not HERE. Back there where it says HERE)


Age is relative, especially for an all-beef patty

imageAs I mentioned, I turned 50 several weeks ago. The good news is I have a friend who just turned 60.

Relative to him, I’m a young man (Of which I will keep reminding him until that sad day when, unexpectedly, he knocks out my front teeth with his walker).

My point is, when it comes to age, what seems relative can quickly change.

Yesterday, for example, I was eating at a fast-food place when I noticed a pair of college-aged girls taking glances at me from another table. This has happened before, which is why I instinctively went through a series of mental checkpoints drawn from previous experience:

1) Is there condiment blowback in my hair, on my chin or around my nostril(s)?
2) What am I wearing today, and is there any part I forgot to snap closed, zip up or buckle down?
3) Did I unknowingly allow any part of my body’s internal gastro process to be heard externally?
4) Am I slouching, hunched or otherwise postured in a manner that makes it appear I’m protecting my $3.99 Value Meal, possibly to the death?

And lastly,
5) Is there someone much younger and better-looking sitting directly behind me?  Continue reading

This Just In! A weekly newspaper edition to my blog

NNW 16 2As National Newspaper Week continues (where have you BEEN?!?), I took the opportunity to write about some of the reasons I’ve enjoyed my 17 years here at our small-town newspaper as a columnist and journalist — and now as its editor.

Over the last several years I’ve heard many people comment how the newspaper industry is a dying institution thanks to the digital age and access to instant information. While it has certainly impacted the larger news formats, I have to disagree with their prognosis when it comes to the continued relevance of small-town papers. I believe they provide our communities with perspectives, information and a voice like no other resource. More than news pushes and canned feeds from automated sources, small-town newspapers offer the most true reflection of their readership and the commuities they serve.

Here’s why…  Continue reading

Returning to normalcy (but consider the source)

imageAs you probably noticed (if not, please pretend you did) that I have been absent from my blog the last few weeks.

While I’d like to say it’s because my vacation spot in the Caribbean was too remote for Wi-Fi, it actually had less to do with banana drinks and tanning lotion, and more to do with a “perfect storm” of life-changing events that I am just now getting a handle on.

The short version? Over the last three weeks I was promoted to Editor at our newspaper (See the card? That makes it official!), my new book was released and I become Membership Chairman for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC).

Oh, and somewhere in there I turned 50.

So what does all of this mean? Essentially it means I’ve been getting my butt kicked. For example, just moving into my new office meant going through 17 years of accumulated crap important journalistic files, moving furniture, painting, hiding graffiti about the previous editor, etc…  Continue reading

Why not start your day with a flaming Pop-Tart?

imageCooking can be dangerous, especially when it includes all three components of what experts call the Triangle of Fire:

1) A heat source
2) Combustible material
3) Our son.

While I can vouch for him having absolutely nothing to do with any wildfires, he was in fact responsible for the 2015 Oak Street popcorn smoke-out. It only took that one experience for us to realize just how dangerous popcorn kernels can be once their internal temperature exceeds 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Let me just say that if your microwavable popcorn bag is ever allowed to expand to the size of your favorite pillow, DO NOT open it.


Our government has special underground dump sights specifically designed for this kind of toxic material; please use them.  Continue reading

Seven more minutes of childhood: a father’s wish on 9-11

imageI’ll never forget how I felt this day 15 years ago as an American, a firefighter and as a father — and how each held its own kind of hurt that has never completely healed.

But of the three, being a father watching the sparkle in my then six-year-old daughter’s eyes noticeably fade just a bit continues to be the memory that lingers most. Each year on this day, I post this in memory of those innocent lives that were lost, as well as for the loss of innocence we all experienced in some way or another…


My alarm clock went off the same as it always did back then, coming to life with the morning news — my preference over the annoying, high-pitched alternative of chatter. Instinctively, I swatted the snooze button and bought myself another seven minutes of sleep.

In the years since, I’ve thought a lot about those seven minutes, and how the simple push of a button postponed a bitter reality for just a little longer. When the news came on again, word of the first airliner crashing into the World Trade Center stopped my hand just short of another seven minutes of blissful ignorance — a time span that now seems like an eternity.

Lying there, listening to the details, I regretted not pushing the button one more time.

A hundred more times.

A thousand.

In that same moment, I also understood that the impassive gaze of terrorism could only be averted for so long, and that, eventually, I’d have to meet it — along with the questioning gaze of my daughter.  Continue reading