Sunday, January 30, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 30 - A new guilty pleasure?

No long rants from me today.  Yay for that.  Instead, as I was goofing off on the computer I ran into a show that I had never seen before.  Called "1000 Ways to Die" it is just that, people who end up dieing in the most weird fashions.  I am probably late to the party on this one, but for those like me who hadn't seen this show before here is a sample

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 29 - The nonexistent book tour

Well, yesterday I said the blog will move on, and move on it shall. Truth be told I ended up receiving an unexpected benefit from yesterday's blog, something that I had not planned on but had happened nonetheless.

There was obviously some anger in what I posted yesterday, especially towards the very end of the post. And it had been building for a couple of days, literally just simmering under the surface. It was coming out at all of the most inopportune times, people who had no need to feel my wrath were subject to it anyway. My patience for anything but the most menial of this was pretty much nonexistent.

Then I wrote and a funny thing happened, it was like a burden had been lifted from my shoulders, and things started to gain their proper perspective. That doesn't take away the sadness, or the absolute disdain I feel for those that rightly deserve it, but there are fewer victims of friendly fire now, which is a good thing.

I did another DeLuca's breakfast this morning, Sammy and I went for the first time since my first week after vacation. I didn't get too crazy with the choice today, just the simple egg routine, though I did opt for the ground beef patties for the breakfast meat. Not too bad, I could see getting that every now and again. It isn't as good as having chorizo with breakfast, but it could be a nice change of pace once in a while.

Other than that the day remained pretty much uneventful. I went into work, did my order and came home. Que sera, sera and all that jazz. I did send a copy the link to my last blog entry off to Lynn just to get her opinion of it. I wanted a little outside perspective from someone that normally doesn't read the page. She seem to think I should write a book. I seem to think most of my blog entries feel like books and that is more than enough. For that brief moment of having that idea in my head (which I quickly dismissed as not being nearly interesting enough to write a book) I remembered something Christopher Hitchens once said in an interview. I believe it was on Charlie Rose, but I could be mistaken. He was asked why he never wrote fiction, and what he said struck me. Not because of some study to back up his claim (I wouldn't know if any such study existed) but because he is a far more well versed literary guy than myself. He said most of the great writers of fiction he knew were also musically inclined, almost like the creative processes were similar in being able to make music and create stories out of literally nothing, and he believed that because he had no musical skill set, he was more apt to write non fiction than fiction. I can't say that what he suggested is a universal rule, but it has stuck with me as being at least interesting, and anyone who has ever heard me sing would know that anything I would write would most definitely be listed in the non fiction category. Of all of the things I have written for this blog in the years I have been doing it, which is at least 7 years now, not once have I dabbled n fiction or even had the slightest interest in doing so.

Speaking of Hitchens, I did catch his interview on C SPAN this past weekend, one of if not the first such interview he has granted since being diagnosed with cancer. Some of it was noteworthy in that, since his diagnosis, he talked about many people writing him or asking him if his position on God and the afterlife had changed now that he was diagnosed with what may turn out to be a terminal disease. Trust me when I say that if you thought his opinion had changed, you really need to read more Hitchens. In fact at one point in the interview he was asked if, given his current diagnosis, if he had a chance to go back and change the way he did some things, most notably his smoking and drinking, of which he was an avid consumer of both vices. And true to form he said no, sure he might have stopped smoking a little sooner, but in the grand scheme of things those vices helped make him what he was (and that alcohol tended to make some people far more interesting than they would otherwise be) and that it had actually helped with the whole creative process. Maybe that is what I need to do then, start blogging drunk and see if the page takes off. I have already got the smoking thing going on, there is a pack on my desk right beside my keyboard as I type, but I am not getting that creative RJ Reynolds buzz.

Since I do not have that buzz I think I will cut this short, or at least shorter than most. Good night everyone. Be back manana.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Multiply Day 28 - Doug tribute

  I hate doing blog entries like this. In the grand scheme of things I would rather be yakking about the mundane or trivial, or to bore you all to tears, my life as I know it. Those blogs draw rave reviews as we all know. But that is not where I am going today, instead it will be one last entry about “Uncle Dougie” and then the blog moves on, because in my heart of hearts I sincerely believe Doug would want it that way. I remember Doug's last day on the air, it really didn't have to be his last day, his contract ran through the end of December, but when he found out the station wasn't going to renew his deal for another year or two, he asked and was granted an early release from that deal (roughly two weeks early) simply because he didn't want his last shows to be nothing but goodbyes, he viewed that as bad radio. In the same manner I will try not to do any bad blogging and leave this last post stand on it's own merit before moving on to other things.

I can't recall the first time I heard Doug or what he was talking about on that first time I heard him. I just found it to be good radio, entertaining and funny and eclectic compared to some of the other offerings on the dial, so when I first located his show on 1250 AM WTAE I tried to make it a point to listen whenever I could. The station had what would now be considered a local Who's Who of talk talent, Doug Hoerth, Lynn Cullen, Phil Musick, Myron Cope. All names that those who followed the genre of talk radio in this town surely remember with fondness.

I know at the time I was attending classes at the University of Pittsburgh and working in the kitchen at The Attic. There were many times when I annoyed the people in the kitchen because rather than listen to the latest punk/alternative thing coming down the pike, instead I had the radio tuned to 1250 because I usually liked what I heard. Through a process of being lucky and being in the right place at the right time, my job at The Attic lead directly into my first job in radio, when my sheer circumstance I happened to be working one night when the program director of 1360 AM WIXZ, Sean Carroll, happened into the bar with some friends of his. His station was doing all sports at the time, almost all of the programming coming from a satellite feed, save for some local high school sports and weekend programming that originated in the studios. We struck up a conversation and after springing for a couple of rounds of drinks for his table (I was the bartender that night on the outdoor deck, so I could do such things) he offered me a chance to be an intern in the fall of that year, 1996.

So in August of that year I started my internship, mostly a few evenings a week doing odd things like putting together stats packages for the high school football pregame show we did, or setting up interviews to get soundbites for our sports updates that ran three times an hour. Because I would be in the car heading out of town during rush hour for those shifts I would naturally find myself caught in traffic and listening to the radio, during the time when Doug and Laurence (Gaines, who I have talked about previously in this blog, Laurence passed away a little over a year ago) would be doing their afternoon drive show. The stuff they would do on the air was hilarious. On the air, Doug was an open book about his life, and it was an odd tale of a recovering alcoholic, complete with all of the problems many of us have, relationships, marriage, divorce, ailments, you name it, if it was part of Doug's life, Doug talked about it. We also got a peek into his life outside of radio, which was best described as reclusive and simple. There weren't a lot of extravagances in it, he would readily talk about how in his apartment he had the following, one plate, one spoon and one pot for heating things up. Yet the manner in which he did it was such that it drew the listener in, the way he told a story was fascinating, and because he was so forthright in how he lived and open about his life, it gave him the ability to tell a tall tale and have people believe it. After all, if he was going to be this honest about his life, certainly he wouldn't lie about other things, would he? As a result he was able to pull off some of the most outlandish and longest running gags on radio, because he wasn't above coming back to them and adding to the narrative from time to time. So Doug would be able to convince a significant portion of his audience of tall tales like when he said that Don Ho and Julio Iglesias where in fact brothers separated at birth. Sure it sounds silly now, but at the time you would be surprised how many people bought it. There were others, North Dakota really wasn't a state, that two of his colleagues at 1250, Lynn Cullen ( a staunch liberal) and Dimitri Vassilaros (a staunch libertarian) had in fact ran off and gotten married. I would sit in my car and listen to this, as well as his and Laurence's impressions on everything from the “Godfather” to Little Richard and just marvel at how they could pull this off on a daily basis. If there was a guest on the show, anyone from a porn star to a politician, Doug had the amazing ability to be so well versed in the topic at hand that one had to wonder just what he didn't know. And the same demeanor that allowed him to pull off his bits was able to pull some of the most interesting stories out of his guests.

I was lucky. Not many people can say that, but being stuck in rush hour traffic gave me a reason to listen, even if he was on a different station than the one I worked for.

Then the roof caved in at 1250. The station was sold and resold a number of times. Talents that had a home found that their services were no longer required. The station that was doing talk was in the process of changing formats and switching to sports talk, which is exactly what the station I was working at had been doing, but on a lesser signal and with no name local talent. So when 1250 flipped and had some local flavor (as well as a couple of contracts with local teams for play by play), the days for 1360 and sports talk were numbered. Doug and Laurence managed to survive the initial purge at 1250, but not in a manner that benefited them, they were moved from doing a 3 hour show in evening drive to a 5 hour show during morning drive.

As luck would have it, I stayed on at 1360 after my internship and since 1250 flipped formats, so did we, going to a talk format and picking up a few of the talents that 1250 had let go, such as Lynn Cullen, Jane Nugent, and Scott Shalloway. As an added bonus, we started programming 24 hours a day, running Art Bell overnights and since I was low man on the totem pole, it was my job to run the board for Bell's show, a thankless task that consisted of staying up all night to listen to all kinds of crazy conspiracy nonsense. The only things that made the night bearable were the cheap chili dogs and the Crossroads across the street and the notion that when I got off of work I could listen to Doug on the way home. By this time I had figured out enough of the public transportation system in Pittsburgh that a car was not a necessity, plus after having the side of the car hit by a snow plow, the plusses and minuses of having a car in the city from a financial standpoint leaned heavily on the minus category. Any additional travel time I may have by no longer driving was made easier by knowing I could just pop on the headphones and listen to Doug and Laurence to ease the mind of this weary traveller.

Then it happened. A chance to meet Doug. He and Laurence were doing a show and they both mentioned that they wanted something. Doug offered $20 to the first person who could bring him a pack of cigarettes to the studio, while Laurence was looking for a copy of the season finale of “Homicide: Life on the Street”. Since I had set my VCR to tape the show, and because I had a few dollars in my pocket, I took up the challenge, I could be the cool guy who knocked out both requests at the same time, so I hopped off my bus, went and got the tape, stopped and picked up two packs of cigarettes (they were on sale, buy one, get one free so I was going to be super cool) and I made my way to the 1250 studios. I got there and told the receptionist why I was there and less than 5 minutes later here comes this guy, not frail looking, but thin, in a t shirt and sweatpants with a $20 bill in his hand. I must say it wasn't how I pictured Doug Hoerth would look, not that I had a specific image in mind, but I wasn't planning on sweat pants, that's for sure. Content that I had my one and only fleeting brush with greatness when it came to Doug, I left, hopped a bus and went home. Fate had other plans however.

As 1250 drifted more to a sports format eventually Doug's show was cancelled as well, and with it Doug's morning show with Laurence came to and end.

Meanwhile back at the 1360 ranch, the process of changing our station from one which did sports talk to one which did talk was taking place. We had already hired Lynn, Jane and Scott and were in the process of trying to do local talk all day during the days (Jane and Scott were both weekend programs, Jane's focusing on gardening, Scott's like his column for the PG, was a nature type show) and we had signed on Jerry Bowyer, at that time head of a local think tank, the Allegheny Institute, to host a show as well. With Doug now no longer employed, the station went and hired him as well, giving us three weekday talents to host a 3 hour show each, giving us local talk for a good portion of the broadcast day. Unlike Doug, the station did not bother to offer a contract to Laurence, maybe they thought that they had no need for another producer, of which we had three, or maybe they were just to cheap, I do not know, but Doug's sojourn to our station would be sans Laurence. It should be noted that while Laurence did not get to make the move to our station, he did land on his feet, he became the producer of the nationally syndicated Bev Smith Show from the AURN studios in downtown Pittsburgh. And Laurence would remain one of Doug's most frequent guests, so there were plenty of opportunities for listeners to hear the band back together again during Doug's time on 1360.

While Doug and I were working for the same station, I didn't get to hear his show as much as I did previously because we were on at different times of the day, I was working with Jerry Bowyer on mornings, while Doug's show was on in afternoons, usually when I was busy trying to help line up guests for Jerry's show, or out working a second job which was par for the course for much of my time in radio. Doug and I would know  each other enough after a time to say hi to each other while passing in the hall, but I can't say we really knew each other much beyond that.

Of course if there is one thing in radio that is constant it is that nothing ever stays the same for too long. After working with Jerry for roughly 5 years, he had requested a change in time slot. It had nothing to do with how the show was being run, it had to do with the fact that he had bought a new house a little further away from Pittsburgh and the hour long commute was a little much for him with his other commitments (which are many and varied and would require an awful long listing of irrelevant information to be posted here) and Jerry was also getting offers to do other radio shows, both in Pittsburgh and in other markets around the country. I know just before he left our station (he would have a brief run on 101.5 FM, a Christian station before leaving the radio business due to health concerns) he would do a 3pm-6pm show for us, then drive up the road and do a show from another studio, a three hour show that was being broadcast in Los Angeles. 

Jerry's decision meant that we had to rearrange the deck chairs a little bit and as a result Doug got shifted to mornings with me. We had a weird policy, where unlike the show hosts, the producers at the station pretty much kept their time slots, so I would produce for whoever was on in the mornings and not just follow around a specific show. I had heard enough of Doug's show over the years that I “got it” as he would say. He often said, half jokingly, that some people just didn't get him, and that may very well be true. By the same token I had listened to what he and Laurence did together, if there was anyone who really got Doug it was Laurence, and I realized that I was never going to be another Laurence. It just wasn't in my DNA as it were. But I had an understanding going in of what type of show Doug wanted to do, and some of the things that Doug would find funny or interesting. But as much as I got Doug and had an understanding of his show, I also knew a sad fact, that being that when he and Laurence were forced into mornings on 1250, doing a 5 hour show every day, it wasn't a shift he liked all that much. Maybe it was being up that early, maybe it was the fact that the 1250 signal was for sale more often than a congressional vote during those years, but he didn't view it as an ideal time slot for his talents. Now here I am being told I will be producing Doug's show, but during a time of day that in the past he didn't like doing radio, that being mornings.

I can't tell you how that first show went off, I doubt it was perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but a couple of things began to develop. One, we would always go out just before the show for a cigarette together and two, during that cigarette break I would give him a heads up of the show prep I had gathered off of the web for him and he would always remind me that we were not to talk about the show beforehand. Whatever was to happen over the next three hours, Doug wanted it to be a spontaneous thing. Sure, like he and Laurence, Doug and I would develop “bits” over time, little things that would constantly be part of the show, like every so often Doug would read Rosie O Donnel's blog entry. If you have never read it, consider yourself lucky, it can best be described as a train wreck. So Doug would read this blog, using his typical New York/ New Jersey gangster voice he was known for slipping into from time to time, and while he was reading it I would be playing this god awful French song, “Rosie” by Michel Polnareff that I had found on Kazaa one night.

It was during my time with Doug that he started to come into the 20th century a little bit as well. He was renowned for talking about how little he actually owned, the one spoon, one plate and one pot again coming to mind, yet for Christmas that year one of his friends, Zimp, had gotten him a computer, a tool Doug thought he would never need or use. Oh how wrong he was, and sadly because we were under certain constraints about what we could and couldn't do on the air, many of those stories about Doug and the internet never saw the broadcasting light of day.

True story coming up. It is well known that Doug had a thing for nostalgia, old time radio shows and radio hosts, older movies like “Blazing Saddles” and “The Godfather” and an absolute love for old music, lots of 50s and 60s rock and roll stuff (he would also host an oldies show on our sister station, 1320 on Sunday nights, where you could see that side of his character as well) and now that he had access to a computer he was becoming just amazed at all of the stuff that was on there. Air checks of people and shows he used to listen to, trivia of people that he watched on TV growing up, information about places all over the world. These are all things that we, as semi techie type people (I say that because you either have a blog or are reading this, so you have a workable Internet savvy toolset), but for Doug who was late to the party, it was like Christmas morning all over again, and I was enjoying watching this unfold. Because of Doug's varied interests in all things old time, eventually he took it upon himself to look up some older porn stars. During one such trip on the world wide web, his computer froze up. Just locked up and wouldn't do anything. Because this problem couldn't be solved by any of the three tools in the Hoerth household; the plate, the pot or the spoon he did the following, he ripped the plug out of the socket and ran from the room. When he told me this I doubled over with laughter and I wished he would have used this on the air, but I know us talking about internet porn, no matter how funny or how tamped down we did it, would have never passed muster with the powers that be.

For 9 glorious months I was Doug's producer before another rearranging of the deck chairs at the station would place me with Lynn Cullen, but during those 9 months I can honestly say that, save for having a guest booked, by and large it was 9 months of just seat of your pants radio, whatever tangent Doug was going to go off on, you just went along for the ride, and more often than not you were thankful for the experience. One of the most humbling moments of my time at the station came toward the end of that run, we all knew that the show was being moved and because producers stayed in the same slot I was not going to be Doug's producer in his new time slot, and I also knew previously how much Doug had not liked the 5am-10am slot at his previous station, yet he came to me and said that he really enjoyed doing mornings and was going to miss having me as his producer. Please, this was a guy that was an idol in my eyes, one that I was so eager to meet that I went out and bought him a pack of cigarettes years earlier in hopes I might get a chance to meet him. No Doug, trust me, the pleasure was all mine.

Not that that would be the last I saw of Doug, we aren't to the teary eyed farewell yet. He was just moving timeslots after all. And he still let me have a hand in his show, I was still trying to do some things for him, and did manage after nearly two years of tracking him down of getting Doug an interview with Christopher Hitchens (yes blog readers, you can partially blame Doug for my fascination with Hitchens). It was something Doug asked me to look into when we started working together, but it would seem every time I would get a lead it would dry up, and the one time I thought I might be able to actually put an interview together, Hitchens ends up in a place in Iran where he can't communicate out, lest it be discovered where he was. Finally though Doug did get his Hitchens interview, and I got to go back to being more of a fan than a day to day presence on the show. Doug did have me back a number of times, as old time followers to the blog can attest, he would do a Friday Group show, where he would invite three people, usually friends of his or other times it would be people he selected at random from asking people if they wanted to be on the show and he would then spend three hours in studio with whatever collection of people he put in there. I was part of that group on quite a few occasions. And when I sat in as a guest host for Lynn, or when I was invited on OffQ, one of the first people who would give me feedback on how I did would be Doug.

Every now and then I would be stuck at the radio station doing production work on Sunday nights and I would get to see another side of Doug, the music side as I would be in the neighboring booth trying to get some recording done, usually backed up commercial inventory, or dropping programming into the system for the following weekend, and there Doug would be in all his glory, singing and dancing along with the music, sometimes the music would be turned up so loud that trying to get recording done in the neighboring studio was problematic at best. We would even have discussions about the Sunday night show, Doug believed that even if the station decided to drop the talk show, he was under the understanding that he would at least still have his 6 hours Sunday nights of spinning oldies. Sadly that wasn't to be the case.

When Doug was pulled aside by management in early December of 2007 and told that his contract was not going to be renewed, not only were they taking away the talk show, something that he had thought was a distinct possibility given the economics of radio, but that they were taking away his Sunday night show as well. It was probably as devastating a blow as could be given to him. He had reached the point age wise where local stations would be wary of taking him on because the audience he would draw would not be the one advertisers covet, and he had been at this for too long (27 years in Pittsburgh) to just pack up and start from square one in a new market. Instead it left him a broken man, a man who had one defining skill set, that of being a radio personality, and no place to ply his trade.

I would end up talking to Doug a handful of times after he was let go, it would seem we always had other things to do, and at best our chances of reaching each other turned into an elongated game of phone tag, nearly as long as tracking down Hitchens was. Others were more lucky in that regard, there were some friends who got to talk to him on a more frequent basis, or break bread with him at one of his favorite dining spots, usually Eat N Park or The Rusty Nail, and some people like Laurence would urge Doug to get back in the game, whether it be on another radio station, or via the web by either podcasting, video streaming or some other means. Despite Laurence's prodding Doug never pursued those avenues, or any other for that matter. I know he had kicked around the idea of writing a book at one point, I suggested to him if he really wanted to he might want to talk to Mark Madden, a local talk show host who considers Doug one of his most profound influences and has done some book writing in the past including being an editor on Ric Flair's autobiography. Whether he actually followed up on any of that advice I do not know, but since no book was ever written I am guessing probably not.

Then roughly a year ago Laurence passed away, again something readers of the blog already know, and it was pretty much the last straw for Doug. He had referred to his 5 years working with Laurence and the 5 happiest years of his life, and anyone who listened to those two together could easily understand why. I talked to Doug once or twice after Laurence had passed and as Lynn put it most adeptly, Doug was bereft. In radio you can have the most talented person, but if they are surrounded by people of lesser skills it shows on the air. So on those occasions when you have people of comparable yet immeasurable skill sets working together, that too shows through and that was the case with Doug and Laurence and the city of Pittsburgh should feel blessed for having the time with both of them that they had.

As you know, the story winds down from there, to Wednesday when I first got the call from Phil Marcus at work saying that Doug had died. Despite both Phil and I being out of radio for a while now, he and I are still in touch and usually take in a lunch or dinner now and then. When I first heard he had called at work, I was hoping that was what the call would be about, so when I returned his call and got the news, it was just devastating. I hopped on a computer at work and checked with the local papers websites to confirm the story. The Post Gazette had just a small blurb at the time, it was still relatively breaking news in newspaper time so that wasn't a shocker (the other, longer version is already posted on this blog as stolen content). What was a shocker was when I checked out the other local paper, the Tribune Review, and saw their first story on Doug. Not because of the news of his passing, which by now I had at least had accepted as fact, but because of what was in it.

From the article

In a statement, Alan Serena, vice president for operations at Renda Broadcasting in Green Tree, said Hoerth knew so much about many different topics.

“His WPTT afternoon shows were entertaining and not what you typically expected to hear on a talk station. From politics to pro wrestling to porn stars, Doug was as well versed as he was diverse in his subject matter,” Serena wrote. “His passion was music, especially the oldies he played Sunday nights on WJAS. He was a unique individual. Off air he was a quiet, reclusive person. News of his sudden passing was sad. I know a lot of Pittsburghers hope they get a chance to say their final farewells to a broadcasting legend.”

This is the part of the entry where my anger is going to shine through. Yes, the very person who pulled Doug aside and said that his shows weren't good enough for Doug's contract to be renewed now wants to speak all glowingly about Doug. Excuse me while I say, Alan, shut the fuck up. In all of my years of knowing Doug, not once did he say a bad thing about the station. When they wanted him to tone down his show from what he did on 1250, he did that. When they wanted him to jump from timeslot to timeslot, he did that too, and not one negative word was uttered by Doug through this entire process. When they left Doug with the impression that no matter what happened Doug would still have his Sunday night Oldies show and then they took that away from him as well and now Alan has the gall to speak so glowingly about a man and a talent that he basically kicked to the curb, really fuck you Alan. I don't know how anyone could work for you right now without feeling a little sick in their stomach. It's one thing for someone who worked with or around Doug to speak highly of him, it is quite another when someone who valued him so little that he didn't want Doug on his airwaves to now come out and speak so glowingly. Alan, you are right about one thing, there are places for people to say their final farewells. As Lynn pointed out in her podcast on the 27th, the Twitterverse literally lit up on the news Doug had passed, many of the TV stations in town have comment threads for Doug, Facebook fan groups for Doug have been inundated with comments, audio clips of his show have even started popping up on Youtube so there are plenty of outlets for those that wish to say goodbye to Doug and thankfully none of them involve any of your stations, you hypocritical bastard.

Sorry, but I really needed to get that off of my chest. Yes there is some anger still built up, one might say it is part of the grieving process, I would say that it is just appropriately focused outrage.

My anger aside, it doesn't change the inarguable fact that Doug is gone, and Pittsburgh is a lesser city for it. There really is only one way to end this entry, and anyone who is a Doug fan knows what it is. For those that aren't, it is the song he closed every show with....

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 27 - Disclaimer

I am in the middle of a long winded blog entry, far longer than I thought it would be when I first sat down.  I don't want you to feel I am neglecting the page, far from it actually, but it is far better to get this entry right than to throw it on the blog haphazardly, so instead today you only get a warning, that being that a long entry is forthcoming.  There are no rules against me blogging that I am blogging, so this will have to do.  There is plenty of stolen content to occupy your time if you need stuff, and entry and a one hour video in the comments to that entry which should cover any and all withdrawal symptoms you may be having.

Stolen Content - Sad

For those of you who were here yesterday and read the post you already know what this is about.  You got a brief look in as it were.  The story behind it is just sad.  I wish I had the vocabulary to come up with something better than that three letter description, but if it is out there it is eluding me at this point.

Obituary: Doug Hoerth / Off-the-cuff 'Uncle Dougie' had 3-decade radio run in Pittsburgh
Died Jan. 25, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Doug Hoerth, a Pittsburgh radio talk show fixture for nearly three decades whose on-air "Uncle Dougie" persona regaled listeners with discussions, dissections and debates of pop culture, current events, the arcane, and the good, bad and ugly of his personal life, was found dead in his Bellevue apartment Tuesday evening. He was 66.

His body was discovered by Bellevue police, who were dispatched to check on his well being because Mr. Hoerth's former co-worker Phil Lenz couldn't reach him for about a week, although the two close friends usually talked every other day. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office ruled Wednesday that Mr. Hoerth died of natural causes.

Mr. Lenz and others who knew Mr. Hoerth said he had become unmoored, lonely and, in a way, had given up on life when he lost his last on-air job, at WPTT-AM, in December 2007. They said he further fell into depression in November 2009 upon the death of Laurence Gaines Jr., 43, his good friend, former producer and on-air sidekick at WTAE-AM from 1993 through 1998.

"The sad thing is that once he lost his radio show the last time and he knew he was not going to get back on the air, it broke his heart," said close friend Bill Zimpleman, who had known the broadcaster since shortly after Mr. Hoerth went on the air here in September 1980.

"He felt, 'What's the use of doing anything any more?' He became a recluse. He didn't eat much and lost a lot of weight."

And, he said, the situation was compounded with Mr. Gaines' death. "That hit him hard. He loved Laurence. He and Laurence did a great radio show together. He was hurt so bad when Laurence died. He was one of the few friends he had beside myself."

Former radio talk show host Lynn Cullen said that for Mr. Hoerth, her WTAE co-worker for about a decade, being on the radio was much more than a job.

"He was very gifted. He was made for radio. It was his life. His audience was his family. And when both were taken away from him, I think he was bereft," she said. "He was also bereft by [Mr. Gaines' death]. No two people were funnier on the air together. I think Laurence's premature death took so much from Doug, coming after he'd lost his show."

In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary about Mr. Gaines, Mr. Hoerth said their years working together "were five of the happiest years of my life."

His happiness was palpable whenever he was on the air, his joy carried undiminished by the radio waves.

"I love what I do for a living," he said in a 1996 Post-Gazette profile. "They pay me to have fun on the radio ... and I get my own sandbox and I get what's inside my system out of my system."

Zany, irreverent and freewheeling -- more frat boy than shock-jock -- Mr. Hoerth constructed a spontaneous show around all the things on his mind right then and there -- from the glory of early rock 'n' roll to his take on the news of the day to whose presidential candidate's wife was hotter, to acting out the lines from favorite movies, such as "The Godfather" and "Blazing Saddles." He interviewed an eclectic mix of guests and wasn't above spoofing listeners, famously having them believe for years that singers Don Ho and Julio Iglesias were brothers separated at birth.

But when it came to his own life, Mr. Hoerth was brutally honest. Listeners knew -- because he told them -- that he was an only child from Bricktown, N.J., a recovering alcoholic and a former bug exterminator in Florida. His lifelong dream to be on the radio came true after he called a Florida talk show and told the general manager he could do better than any of his disc jockeys.

"He was so open -- some would say too open -- about every aspect of his life," Ms. Cullen said. "His audience lived through the minutiae of his relationships, marriage, divorce -- through his hemorrhoids -- and yet he could pull it off."

His multisubject, multidimensional, usually funny and sometimes poignant show reflected the varied interests, knowledge and moods of its host, she said.

"He knew everything about '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll. ... He was an extraordinary interviewer. He never went to college, but he knew more about more stuff than most people with college degrees. He was self-educated, with a voracious mind and a steel trap memory. He was one of the greatest storytellers in broadcasting. He could hold an audience."

On Nov. 2, 2005, a little more than two years before his last contract expired and wasn't renewed, Mr. Hoerth marked his 25th anniversary on the Pittsburgh airwaves -- an amazing run for a radio talent in a single market. "The reason I've lasted is I never lost my passion for this," he said at the time.

He first signed on Nov. 2, 1980, on WWSW-AM followed by stints at KQV-AM, KDKA and WTAE-AM before joining WPTT in January 1999. He also hosted "Uncle Dougie's Rock 'n' Roll Oldies Party" on sister station WJAS-AM.

"The Doug Hoerth Silver Anniversary Special" covered some of his career highlights and included excerpts from notable interviews, such as the late writer/radio personality Jean Shepherd and the late Pittsburgh radio personality Rege Cordic and the late Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince.

"It's very sad. In my mind, he was one of the best talk show hosts there was," said Mr. Lenz, who was chief engineer at WPTT and WJAS. "He could talk politics but that wasn't his show. His show was whatever he wanted to talk about. Doug was a comic."

Mr. Hoerth daily read nine newspapers, Mr. Lenz said, and had a phenomenal memory. Because of that "he knew how to make good radio. I think he did better interviews than anybody on the face of this earth."

Ms. Cullen, who noted Mr. Hoerth's generosity toward her when she started in radio in 1986, said it was a sad reflection on the current state of talk radio that a talent like Mr. Hoerth couldn't find work.

"Radio changed," she noted. "It stopped wanting the audience he attracted ... older baby boomers. And because there's not the kind of eclectic talk he specialized in. Nobody does that anymore. Radio only wants vituperative political talk. He could do it, but that was not what wanted to do."

Mr. Hoerth, who had no surviving family members, requested there be no service for him but his friends said they may hold some kind of a memorial.

Mr. Zimpleman, who had dinner with Mr. Hoerth at the Bellevue Eat'n Park nearly every Tuesday, said Mr. Hoerth would bring to their get-togethers a list of things he wanted to talk about -- just like the lists he once prepared for his radio shows.

"He just loved to be on the radio," Mr. Zimpleman said of his departed friend. "He just wished he could still be on."

Michael A. Fuoco: or 412-263-1968. Staff writers Mackenzie Carpenter and Adrian McCoy contributed.

First published on January 27, 2011 at 12:00 am

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 26 - Reprints

I come to the blog with bad news today, as I was at work I received a call from Phil Marcus.  Normally if I get a call from Phil it involves when we will next be going out for lunch or dinner and where, but those calls are almost always reserved for home and not work, so my curiosity was piqued.  I wish it hadn't been.  The call was to inform me that Doug Hoerth was found dead in his apartment.  When I got home there were messages from a couple of other people as well, Lynn called me and Marla left me a message in my Facebook inbox. 

Rather than go into a long story of what Doug meant to me, instead I am going to repost something that I had written in my Yahoo 360 days, back on 11/05/2005 when Doug was being recognized for 25 tears in broadcasting. (I will try to fix any typos from back then, but the content will remain the same.)

      Well, let's get the congratulatory stuff out of the way first.  Kudos to one Doug Hoerth on his 25 years of broadcasting here in the 'Burgh.  Doug has worked at a handful of stations in this market, currently he is employed by our station.  I have always been a fan of his, so it was more than fun to actually sit in as his producer for the 9 months we had him on in the mornings (he has since been moved to the afternoon drive).   I would explain what goes through producing a typical episode of the Doug Hoerth Show, but there is no such animal.  Asking Doug what the show was about ahead of time was pointless, because either he didn't know, or he had an idea, but he didn't want to tell in order to keep the show "fresh".  Needless to say, doing his show meant you basically had to plan on most anything happening. 


      For me, prepping for his show involved reading a lot every morning, at least enough to make myself familiar with the contents of the NY Post, NY Daily News, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Drudge Report, and Radar Online.  And that was just to cover the bases.  It was also a good idea to have taken a look at the traffic person (Trisha Pittman) over on Channel 11, because we would most likely be talking about her fashion sense, which is very good by the way.


       A little after 7am, the show would start.  By the time we got out of the news break at the top of the hour, I had also checked out the weather person on Channel 11 (Krista Viarreal) and her fashion sense, which usually consisted of a comment on how she stole Doug's drapes again, a cursory glance at Denise Austin on Lifetime (she can't really be 48 and look that good can she?) and some channel hopping, because who knows what Doug is watching on the TV in his booth.

     The conversations that would happen before we went on the air were probably as funny, if not moreso than anything we did on the air.  Prime example, one morning we were doing our channel hopping prior to the show and we ended up on a faith healer (7am cable is quite an experience) who was all but slapping these people as they would fall back or collapse before claiming that they were healed (Praise the Lord!).  Well this one woman came up to the Reverend (Ernest Ainsley is his name if I remember correctly) and while I had the sound off (I usually watch with close captioning so as not to interfere with any open mikes) I could tell by the pics that first she was very heavy and second that she was very heavy in the chest department as well.  Mr. Ainsley goes about his ritual (about 5 minutes after the hour, with us starting the radio show about 6 after the hour) and low and behold she is healed.  Not just healed, but excitedly healed as she bounded around the stage in all her glory, her massive mammaries going in all sorts of directions.  Now mind you, the clock is ticking on us to start the show, and just before we go on the air, I talk into Doug's headset and say the following "You would think while God was around, he would have fixed her bra as well".  We must have laughed through the entire first segment of the show, with most everyone else just not in on the joke.  This is what we would call par for the course, usually one of us breaking the other up before we go on the air.  I can't describe how much fun it was to do that show.   Not that we didn't have our serious moments, but at the end of the day we are still just doing a show, and truth be told, lots of people would kill to be doing what we were doing, so we had fun with it.

    Kudos Uncle Douggie, it nice know that after 25 years, the City of Pittsburgh had an official Doug Hoerth Day, a honor that both you and Boy George can now lay claim too.  I heard they were going to have a Rosie O'Donnell Day as well, but when they went to give her the key to the city, she thought it was a Cheeto, and ate it. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 24 - Building blocks

Sorry for the delay, I went to open OpenOffice so I could start typing and got an error. That's what I get for updating I guess. I ended up reinstalling the program and all seems to be good now. Far better for me to tinker on the home computer than the one at work, though they want me to do that as well.

As I mentioned before, the store asked me to get a new laptop for one of our locations, the one they had was on its last legs. Someone may have been able to perform a magic trick or two and get a little more time out of it, but if they could it was well beyond my skill set. Instead they had me fetch a new one, and it arrived and I got all of the basics squared away, internet access up and running, all of the programs open and installed (Open Office, Adaware, etc.)and all was about as good as I could get it. That isn't all that needs done however, there is still the matter of installing the store's inventory software. I have no idea where that is even located or if they had another outfit come in with their own stuff and install it without leaving a backup copy, so for now the laptop is a glorified paperweight. John, one of my bosses, was on the phone today seeing about what it would take to get the laptop up and running the store's program and the person he was talking to suggested going into the network, finding the program on one of the other computers in the network and then downloading and installing it from there to the laptop. John looked at me and I just said, “sorry, that's above my pay grade”. In theory I might be able to do it, but I don't want the responsibility if it goes all wrong, and give my limited experience with computers (and even less with networks) I would say its a coin flip whether I get it right or not, and with those odds I would rather leave it to the professionals.

Not that I don't have enough on my plate already, I am in the process of redesigning an entire store section. That is something that when I started blogging many years ago I never figured I would have to write. But after doing ordering for better than a year and gettinbg a bead on things I think will sell (versus those that don't, which is just wasted square footage) this may be my most ambitious undertaking because I am assuming what I am about to do will a) look respectable and b) be profitable. Believe it or not, while I have almost a blank check when it comes to ordering, I am still mindful that the money I am spending is not my own and ideally if I am spending it I am hoping that more money comes back in than goes out. After all, as I like to joke, I make 7 figures a year if you include the decimal point.

Not that there is a ton of risk in what I am doing, I am just basically buiding a new beverage section to carry some items we don't have, 12 packs of cans, 6 packs of bottles etc. and the product is guaranteed, if it deosn't sell we can get credit for it, but this is still my first real stamp in the store, a section that at the end of the dfay I can say, yeah I did that, and therefore I would like it if it wasn't an abject failure.

I did start the first of my books today. I haven't gotten that far into it yet, but so far it isn't bad. I am thinking I might try getting a little more reading in before bed tonight. It is an okay book so far, not a “can't put it down” book, but enjoyable when I have a few extra moments to read. Perhaps that is what I will do once I finish this and finish watching the State of the Union address. Yeah I am watching which another fine reason why I sit at home alone pretty much every night. There just aren't many women who are all gung ho about having a night in and watching the President on TV. Tust me, even if you throw in free pizza, there are rarely any takers on that offer. So I guess that means more food for me.

Speaking of more food, time for me to cram something into my face. Hopefully my mouth will be open for the occasion.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 25 - Book em Dano

Whew, I'm back.  Not without issues.  The plan was I was going to sit down and watch "Chuck" then hop over to the computer and start today's blog entry.  Funny thing happened on the way to the Coliseum however.

I fired up Adaware, it seemed like a good way to pass the time while I watched an episode on Family Guy", but when I came back to the computer the internet connection was lost.  Modem resets did nothing, restarting the computer did nothing, even trying to repair the connection did nothing.  I finally managed to reestablish access after going in and doing a system restore.  With that out of the way I believe I can proceed.

I finally managed to get my books today, and part of me is tempted to just curl up in my recliner and start reading.  It has been far too long since I have been able to do so that I am longing for the opportunity.  It also means that I will finally be able to kick off this year's version of the Neverending Thread after waiting for far too long.  I had almost reached the point where I was going to go out and buy a book any old place just to satisfy my reading craving.  But thankfully my books did arrive after a mess of a delivery which I covered previously.  The only thing to add to that would be that after work today I had to make the trip to the Post Office to pick up my package to complete my less than stellar dealings with them.  

Back when I was but a pup a trip to the local Post Office just consisted of me going and opening my box (I had a PO box then) and taking the mail out.  If I needed anything I would just go to the window (there was never a line) and would be in and out in 5 minutes or less.  Sadly those were the good old days, now a trip to the Post Office consists of standing in line with people who come ill prepared and Postal employees who make McDonald's workers look highly motivated by comparison.  Customers who are there to pick up a package don't have their slip with them, nor do they know what type of package they are getting, employees then set about on a nature walk through the building trying to find said package.  It is just a clusterfuck and the less I go to the Post Office anymore the happier I am.

Okay, I should quit griping, I did get my books after all and after yesterday it is official, the Steelers will be playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks.  A  24-19 win over the N Y Jets put the Steelers in their 8th Super Bowl, where they have a 6-1 record in their previous 7 visits.  But the game actually started for me when Amy and I went to breakfast at DeLuca's.  We went later than normal, 8:30am, but the place still wasn't busy, we got a table right away.  We were there maybe 15 minutes when some people came in wearing Jets jerseys, and literally everyone in the place started booing them.  Not in a mean way, there were no insults flying around, just in a playful "hey, welcome to Pittsburgh but we like our team" way.  It was more funny than anything else.  

After breakfast I came home, did some stuff on the computer, including yesterday's entry, and then set about to watch the football games.  Because I do not have cable, I ended up finding a feed on the web for both football games, a Channel 10 in some part of Sweden.  They carried the US feeds of the games, but the commercials breaks were all Swedish commercials, which were actually more entertaining than the ones that are usually on American channels.  After ffirst watching the Packers, then the Steelers win to set up the matchup for the Super Bowl, I hopped over to C Span, where they had an interview with Christopher Hitchens on their Q and A show.  It was the first interview I have seen with him since he has started cancer treatments.  He looked about as well as can be expected for having cancer of the esophagus that has mastisized.  A little thinner than I remembered but still plenty of the sharp Hitchen's commentary I have come to enjoy.  By the time it was all said and done I had watched 7 hours or so of TV on my computer.  And people wonder why I don't pay for cable.  

Well I better wrap this up.  I have some books to get to after all.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 23 - Pictures I didn't have to take

I had been looking for something in the past something that I could never quite find.  Basically it is the trip into the city of Pittsburgh through the Fort Pitt Tunnels.  What makes the trip unique compared to other cities is that the journey starts on one end where you have no idea that at the other end of the tunnel the city is literally going to just open up for you.  It gets talked about a lot as far as one of the selling points of the region, but talking about it and actually getting visuals of it are quite another.

The problem isn't the lack of videos, many people have filmed going through the tunnel and coming out on the other end, the problem is that the quality of such videos is suspect at best.  Lots of hand held jerky camera movements that fail to do an adequate job of conveying just how unique an entrance to a city it actually is.  I found this, it is as close to a good video as I have seen in a while, enough so that it is officially blog worthy.  For those that live here, suck it up and remember just how cool coming here can be, for those not from here hopefully you will enjoy the video as well.

Stolen Content - Might doesn't make right

A little offering this morning before I head out to breakfast

How to Continue the Obama Upswing

One idea he should embrace: a ban on extended ammo clips.

The Wall Street Journal: January 21, 2011

The State of the Union Address is usually among the most important and least memorable of presidential speeches. The speech itself, in an august setting, is an opportunity for a president to break through in a new way. TV and radio carry it live, and it’s hard for the average citizen to avoid seeing at least a piece of it. It’s a real chance for a White House to tell the American people “This is where we stand, this is why we are here, this is what we believe in.”

But most State of the Unions don’t measure up. They get beaten down by the staffing process and flattened by the laundry-list aspects: “We’ll do this and this and this.” There’s always too much going on in the speech, and in the end it’s usually, in Churchill’s phrase, a pudding without a theme.

And they run long. One reason is that you want to make a speech unavoidable. The longer it is, the greater the chance people will see some part of it. Another is that in the 1960s network anchors started noting how many times the president was “interrupted by applause.” This made everyone in every White House since want to get their guy more applause than the previous guy. Congressmen pop up and down like manic gophers in an attempt to show support. A president is left standing up there for an hour and 20 minutes with the blood starting to pool in his calves and a look on his face that says, “I really want to look like I’m interested in what I’m saying, but we’re 22 minutes in and I’m just thinking about dinner.” They eat lightly before the speech. They are hungry after.

This year, members of Congress may sit together, not divided by party. After the trauma of Tucson that would be all to the good, a physical expression of a national longing that will never go away, that we be one country. Watch for the White House to craft semi-ringing and wholly anodyne statements that will allow members of both parties to leap to their feet together, such as “Now and always, America stands for freedom.” This will leave people at home thinking “Boy, they like this guy more than I thought.”

A prediction: President Obama’s speech will be unusually good. Why? Because he’s showing signs of understanding that if you say something simply, clearly and sparingly, it can stick. As a rule, when Mr. Obama speaks, he literally says too many words, and they’re not especially interesting words. They’re dull and bureaucratic or windy and vague, too round and soft to pierce and enter your brain.

The speech takes place at the midpoint of his administration and at the beginning of what may turn out to be a Clintonesque comeback. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll notes this week that his approval rating is at 53%, up eight points since December. That’s quite a jump and can be explained by changes in his recent governing style and decisions: agreeing to the Bush tax cuts, losing a chief of staff who was a tough little gut-crunching pol and gaining one who seems more at home in the world of . . . well, the world. There was the moving speech in Tucson after the shootings, an unembarrassing and possibly helpful summit with President Hu Jintao of China, and an elegant and grown-up state dinner in which everyone seemed to know what they were doing with the exception of Barbra Streisand, who on being asked why she was there said she once worked in a Chinese restaurant. But she added color.

A big thing the president has going for him now, and part of the reason for his improved fortunes, is that he was chastened in 2010. Americans like chastened presidents, especially ones who have acted with extreme ambition and lack of humility. Americans know their presidents have extraordinary power, and so they enjoy reminding them who’s boss. In the 2010 election they did just that. But after humbling him, they will, in their fairness, give him a second look at some point. Voters also did for the president what he could not do for himself: They surgically removed Nancy Pelosi from his hip by taking away her majority and her speakership. He can now stand alone.

So the president is in a good position, on the way up after two years on the way down. A great question is: Does he know he’s on the way up because his style and decisions have become more centrist? Do the people around him know it? If they know why, they can continue it, and if they don’t, they won’t.

Here are three things he can do in the speech that would be surprising, shrewd, centrist and good policy. The first may seem small but is not. Normal people are not afraid of a lowering of discourse in political speech. They don’t like it, but it’s not keeping them up nights. Normal people are afraid of nuts with guns. That keeps them up nights. They know our society has grown more broken, families more sundered, our culture more degraded, and they fear it is producing more lost and disturbed young people. They fear those young people walking into a school or a mall with a semiautomatic pistol with an extended clip.

What civilian needs a pistol with a magazine that loads 33 bullets and allows you to kill that many people without even stopping to reload? No one but people with bad intent. Those clips were banned once; the president should call for reimposing the ban. The Republican Party will not go to the wall to defend extended clips. The problem is the Democratic Party, which overreached after the assassinations of the 1960s, talked about banning all handguns, and suffered a lasting political setback. Now Democrats are so spooked that they won’t even move forward on small and obvious things like this. The president should seize the moment and come out strong for a ban.

Second, his words on health care should not be defiant, high-handed or intransigent. The House this week voted to repeal ObamaCare. If the bill gets to his desk, he will veto it. But shrewdness here would be in conciliation. He should sincerely—underline sincerely—offer to discuss changing those parts of the law Republicans find most objectionable.

Third, he should argue for extension of the debt limit by offering a grand bargain: In return, he will work hand in hand with Republicans to cut or limit spending that can reasonably and quickly be cut or limited. This too would win support, and respect, from centrists and others.

The great thing for the president is that expectations are low. The political class sees him making a comeback; they’re eager to see and laud the speech. But again, no one expects much from a State of the Union, and the president’s reputation as a giver of speeches is wildly inflated. What he says is not usually interesting. He is interesting, but what he says is usually not. In this he is like Bill Clinton.

He is a president with everything to gain from shrewd decisions, moderate thinking, and respect for the center. He seems to have learned that wanting popularity and public approval is not, actually, below him. In fact, it’s part of his job.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 22 - Yesterday was shorter

Guess who's back? If you guessed anyone but me, you must go back and start again. For the rest of you, it is indeed me and we have lots to get to so let's begin shall we.

First, sorry about the abbreviated entry yesterday, as I explained I ended up napping and then waking up late and in order for an entry to be done within the time frame of one per day I had less than 30 minutes to do something. Once I start talking, or typing, 30 minutes is not going to be nearly enough. Plus I was using Open Office for typing, just because my mistypings stick out there as I am doing them, rather than Wordpad where I have to wait until I copy and paste into Multiply and then track back. Well Open Office was saying that an updated version was available, so I figured I would just to a quick entry and then go about updating. All seems to have went well, I am now using Open Office again as I type this and I haven't had any problems yet, though it is still very early.

The nap was a bad idea however. Not that I planned napping, I was sitting in my recliner watching the Simpsons when I saw a promo for Monk come on TV. The station I was watching airs two episodes of Monk on Friday night so I was thinking to myself I will have to get up and change the channel, and that is really the last thing I thought because I was out like a light within a minute of having that realization.

Problem is when I finally did wake up I couldn't get back to sleep. I putzed around on the internet, first heading over to Facebook where at midnight my Madden app resets, so I started playing off a few games there, then over to Pogo to play a game to work on a badge, then back to Multiply to do a couple of hockey videos, back to Facebook at 1am to catch the Super Scratch Off reset, play off my Booty Slot credits, then to Swagbucks to collect my free daily bucks, where I found out my Shop and Earn bucks were credited from the TV I bought from Walmart for Christmas, so I had enough for another $5 Amazon gift card, which meant I had to go to Gmail to confirm my order. Then I decided to get off of the web for a bit and played some Diablo 2 on Battlenet. I finished a quest there and it is like 3am, so I decide to appease the lesser angels of my nature and brew a pot of coffee. Caffeine in hand I went and checked a couple of message boards I post on (I don't only write here after all, what you think I only did this? Really? Back to the top of the page for you). I also was listening to the radio, Fox Sports was coming in locally without other programming mixing in with it so it was tolerable, and checked on my fantasy hockey team. I am still in third place in that league, I flirted with first place for a couple of week just before Christmas but then I got the fantasy lump of coal in my stocking and was relegated back to third. Third would still be good for money (I paid for this league, unlike football) but I would just be basically getting my entry fee back. I made one move on the free agent wire, looked at a trade that was offered to me (I didn't get to act one way or the other, the trade offer was pulled before I could decide). Then I headed over to Scratchix, where I have been faithfully sending out my tickets daily, even if I haven't been scratching them all that much. I had over 2000 tickets accumulated, so I decided I should scratch off a few, I burned off a little over 800, I won one more token for an Amazon gift card and one ticket for $2, though given I expect to never be paid anything I am not all that excited, as evidenced by the fact that I let myself get over 2000 tickets to begin with. By this time it is nearing 6am, so I just decide to stay up and go to breakfast at Pamela's. I know I have a breakfast planned for Sunday at DeLuca's. But I was up and I had money so what the hell. Besides, I had to go into work anyway, so I might as well stop and have some good eats along the way.

But before I continue forward I need to take a step back. After all I am leaving out all of yesterday by simply saying that I napped too much. I did have one of my “snappage” moments. Snappage is when, in a relatively quick period of time, my concerns for someone or something change to a complete opposite degree. It isn't a jump the shark moment, because when something jumps the shark there has to be an investment ahead of time. So when Fonzie actually did jump the shark, part of the problem is that there was significant investment in time prior to that moment that made that moment all the more depressing for the viewer. For me that would be the wiping from existence of the Peter Parker/Mary Jane marriage in Spiderman, at that point the book jumped the shark and I haven't been back. Snappage is different in that there is no prior investment. Anyway at work one of the packages I ordered finally arrived, the laptop for our other store. Because I have been nominated as tech support guy, that meant I had to go to the other store and at least get the fundamentals out of the way, taking the old one out, putting the new one in. I don't have access to the actual store software they use, so I couldn't install that, but I could at least get the new laptop up and running and connected to the internet. All of that happened in relative short order, so once that was done I stepped outside and had a cigarette and when I did I noticed something in the doorway. It was a weekly bus pass for the Port Authority. Usually I buy a bus pass for myself, so at first I thought maybe I dropped it when I went to get my cigarettes, but my bus pass was still in my pocket, so now I have two of them. Not that a second one does me much good, it is only good for the rest of Friday and Saturday before it needs renewed, so it isn't like I could even sell it to someone for more than like a buck or two. Then, as I am standing there a female comes out of the store and she starts checking her pockets like she has lost something. The angels of my better nature said that she might have lost her bus pass, the angels of my lesser nature say finders keepers. I caved in to my better angels and asked if she lost something, to which she doesn't reply, she is just yakking on her cell phone and furiously checking her pockets. So I ask her again if she dropped something and she yells at me that I can't help her. Literally, just yelled and at that moment snappage occurred. Whether she was missing the bus pass or not I didn't care, I was actually hoping she did lose it because she was never going to get it back from me. For all I could care she could walk the rest of the week, and given it was 0 degrees outside this morning, hopefully freeze in the process. Instead I took the bus pass back to our main store and gave it to one of my coworkers to use for the next couple of days, maybe save them a buck or two (a ride on PAT is now $2.25, so if someone used it for one day of work that is still $4.50 they don't have to spend, not including any other place they would choose to go with it).

My books that I have been blogging about both have and have not arrived. Yes, there is a story with that so allow me to explain. We being with the tracking information on my order. See if you can see what is wrong with this picture.

Date Time Location Event Details

January 22, 2011 03:35:00 PM Pittsburgh PA US Delivery attempted

January 22, 2011 03:35:00 PM --- Available for pickup

January 22, 2011 03:34:00 PM Pittsburgh PA US Delivered

January 18, 2011 09:50:00 AM Pittsburgh PA US Out for delivery

January 18, 2011 06:40:00 AM Pittsburgh PA US Arrival Scan

January 15, 2011 02:10:44 AM Fedex Smartpost Leetsdale PA US Departure Scan

January 14, 2011 11:03:36 AM Fedex Smartpost Leetsdale PA US Arrival Scan

January 12, 2011 02:05:00 AM US Shipment has left seller facility and is in transit

First I should note that the facility in which the package originated is in Lexington, Kentucky just in case you were curious. Now again I ask if anyone has caught the problem yet.

For those that haven't figured it out yet, here is the answer. The distance between Lexington, Kentucky and Leetsdale is 288 miles, a distance that was covered in 2 days. The distance between Leetsdale and Pittsburgh is 14 miles. So my package (which was not express or any other quick delivery for those that are asking) went 288 miles in two days, then took 3 days to go 14. And then, even after actually being in the proper city of Pittsburgh, it took 4 days to deliver to me. Well hold that thought, because they really didn't deliver to me at all, they left a note in my mailbox saying I could go pick it up at the local post office. As you can see that delivery was made at 3:35pm today (Saturday), but the local post office is only open for customers until 2pm on Saturday, so a package that was actually in Pittsburgh on the morning of January 18th can't be picked up ion Pittsburgh till the morning of January 24th. Apparently we have opted around these parts to go back to the Pony Express or carrier pigeon or something, because I think if you give me 6 days to get there, I can pretty much walk to any post office in Pittsburgh and just grab the damn thing myself. This my friends is another fine example of government work. If you had done this poor of a job at your local place of employment, trust me, your ass would be out in the street.

Just hopped over to Facebook and received a message from my aunt, DeLuca's is on for tomorrow at 8:30am. I hope she knows what she is doing, I expect there will be a line by that time, not that I mind waiting in the cold, the thoughts of a good DeLuca's breakfast will keep me warm, but I doubt we will be seated as soon as we get there. Between the normal rush that would happen on a weekend and the fact that the Steelers are hosting the AFC Championship game later that day, I expect the Strip District will be buzzing tomorrow morning with people out buying Steelers paraphernalia and what not.

With that said I should probably call it a nite. Sure I could pontificate on Keith Olbermann getting fired from MSNBC, or ending his contract or however it is getting spun, but really it is just one less gas bag out there, and that is a good thing. Now if only we could rid ourselves of a few dozen more maybe we will not have to talk about global warming as much.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 21 - 2 hour delay, no morning kindergarten

I will say that I had ideas for today's entry, a couple different ones actually which is more than most days.  Then a rather bad thing happened, I climbed into my recliner to watch a little TV and I fell asleep.  That means I have roughly 19 minutes until this project fails on day 21.  So this is nothing more than a placeholder, nothing of merit is to be written, no drawn out blog topics, just a note saying I didn't forget about the page, just ran out of time.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 20 - Going all kind of Jack Handy

On my way to work this morning I was thinking about the blog. Not what I should put into it next, but the whole thing I have started and whether or not it is a good idea. I'll admit it is really early in the year to be second guessing myself, but it does occupy time while on the bus.

So I am thinking that to a certain extent I like what I am doing, I am not in love with it by any stretch of the imagination, but there are very few things that I am in love with. And there certainly are days where I feel more like I am mailing it in than actually writing anything of substance. I guess that is part of the challenge when one grinds out an entry a day. Sure there are others that do it, and hats off to them, but for me I just can't conjure up that creativity at the drop of a hat, so I end up blogging more like a baseball player in a hitting slump, just hoping something drops in on the page that breaks up a hitless streak.

Sure it would be nice if creative genius and opportunity were to coincide, but usually any really good ideas I have to blog about happen when I am not near a computer, likewise when I have time to sit down I am most likely at the back end of a long day where my mind has punched out a couple of hours ago, even if the body is still working..

Like today for instance, I am sure I had seen or heard things that would have made a great launching point for a blog entry, but truck three deliveries, two placed orders, bunches of paperwork and filling in for a call off on register later and my goals went from being clever to making sure I got my phone bill paid and food in my belly. Still if I am ever going to get any better at this I guess I have to just keep doing it. Not that I am sure what would be considered a success. After all if 365 days later I still suck, then that isn't good, nor is it good if I am just counting down the days till this project runs its course or until I tire of it completely and just go back to my former status quo. Maybe the best thing I can think of happening is that after 365 straight days of this would be that I just continue on with day 366, not because I have to but because I want to. For now though, I think I am still in the have to phase.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 19 - Finders Keepers

I better get cracking if I plan on putting an entry in for today. Sorry I was a little distracted there, but I have once again been tinkering with Diablo 2 on Battlenet. I was talking about the game with Clare at work the other day and it has again sparked my interest in playing. Of course it has been so long since I have played the online version that all of my characters are out of date so I had to start at the beginning, which is fine I guess. Worse fates have befallen far greater men.

Today had the makings of a sucky day. I got to work and it started okay, everything was moving along at a decent pace. Sammy and I got all of the coolers stocked early enough, which is good because the Pepsi rep was due in to place an order and I had to put in a Coke order. We used to have a Coke rep but Ed kicked him out of the store so the burden of putting together a Coke order falls squarely on my shoulders. In any event, since the coolers were done I decided to go ahead and put together a Coke order and call it in. Just as I am on the phone discussing said order Sammy gives me a buzz on the walkie talkie saying that our new open air cooler arrived.

Yes, I am now carrying a walkie talkie at work. Actually it was my idea, we had a pair of them in the office that weren't being used, so I took it upon myself to see if there was a problem with them or not. Turns out there wasn't, they just needed charged up, so I went ahead and did that and then I gave one to Sammy and kept one for myself to wear while we are at work, that way we can be in touch with each other without the hassle of tracking people down, which can be troublesome at times because there are times where I am at the other store downtown, or one of us is sent of on an errand to Office Depot or something and the walkie talkies so far have proved useful and good enough that we have been able to keep in touch where we are downtown.

Anyway, the open air cooler was supposed to arrive on Monday, when it didn't show I assumed that it would be coming next week. Bad assumption on my part there. It was coming from the same people that do our grocery deliveries, so if the cooler was there so was today's delivery and I was stuck on the phone doing a Coke order. I managed to get through it as fast as possible, which isn't all that fast because after you place the order they read everything back to you and when you are getting 61 cases of product it can take a few minutes. But I did get done in time to find that they were taking the new cooler off of the truck, though I didn't get done soon enough to help clear out the old cooler. But we got the new cooler into the store after a bit of a hassle getting it off of the truck and through the door. We got it all situated where it was going to go, grabbed the plug to put it into the outlet only to find it didn't fit. It is the wrong line, a 220 line and the outlet isn't set up for that. Had they let us know ahead of time we could have had our electrician come in and rewire the outlet, but since they didn't we now have a three shelf cooler sitting on the floor with no product in it.

Next was the grocery order, which wasn't too bad save for the fact that as soon as we started checking it in and putting it away Brian shows up and he needs some people out as his Range Rover because he picked up plastic bags for the store and salt for the sidewalk. Yes it is that time of year around here as evidenced by the following video from yesterday, when it was just warm enough to rain a little overnight, but the ground wasn't warm so the rain would hit the pavement and freeze creating situations like this.

So now Brian's stuff is in the store and back to checking the grocery order in. There was more stuff to go down to the stockroom than usual because I spent part of yesterday downsizing the dollar section. We have a few items that retail for $1, the thing is hen we buy them we have to buy an entire case. It sells okay, there are some items like microwave popcorn, spaghetti sauce, mac and cheese and laundry detergent in there that sell pretty well, but I am in the process of building a new section for Pepsi where we will sell 12 packs of cans and 6 packs of 24 ounce bottles so I needed the shelf space. Items that used to have two or three rows were condensed down to one row, meaning all of the excesses ended up in the stockroom for the time being. So any dollar items I bought today (and there were a few) at least half of their cases ended up going downstairs, so more lugging of product for me. Yay!

Finally the Pepsi rep arrives, but before I can begin walking through tomorrow's order with him, I have to sit through a meeting with him and Brian while they discuss the particulars of the pending new Pepsi section I wish to build. Lots of price points and CMA money discussions. CMA money is the money we get for allotting space to Pepsi in our contract. They get X amount of cooler space in the contract and we get Y amount of dollars for providing it for them. The issue is whether or not by giving them shelf space as well that counts toward our space allotment for the current contract. If you think it is boring reading it, you should try living it sometime.

Between the time in the meeting and the time I started going through the order with the rep I was interrupted no less than 5 different times. I would like to think it is because I was popular, but I am not quite that foolish, so it took all of my nerve just to not scream at people to tell them to leave me alone. I mean it was obvious I was a tad bit occupied, there was nothing happening that was so earth shattering that it demanded my immediate attention. So by the end of the day I was pretty annoyed. Then a funny thing happened. I started finding stuff.

First there was the 42 cents I found while putting groceries away. Then it was the 26 Coke Reward points I found (two caps, two 12 pack codes), then it was another 3 cents on my walk home from the bus stop. Then when I got home my mailbox was full of cigarette coupons, which I can take to work and get cash for. $11.63 worth to be precise. That will make a nice dent on my charge sheet at work. I even got another survey to do online to add to my MySurvey account, which is closing on $5 now. The only thing that didn't show up was my books once again, despite the fact that according to the tracking info they were sent to my place yesterday morning. Perhaps they had a fender bender like a few other people.

Oh well, that's pretty much it for today. I need to finish this off and get some sleep.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Multiply 365 Day 18 - Special Ed

I promise I will write more today than yesterday.  Not that it would be much of a stretch, I could probably stop after this sentence and achieve that goal.  But I will soldier on, it is either that or continue singing while I eat my dinner.

I have this bad habit when it comes to food, I make songs from it.  It was a habit born long ago, probably back in the days when I ran the dinner shift at The Attic, where around closing time for the kitchen I would start singing "Since I Don't Have You".  Of course I would replace the lyrics a little bit

Now I don't have chicken wings
And I don't have onion rings
Since I don't have food

That bad habit has continued since my Attic days, usually either in my kitchen, or when I am stocking the shelves at work.  Sonny and Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" is always good, and as a plus you can use it for either mac and cheese or pork and beans

Cheese, cheese, mac and cheese (or beans, beans, pork and beans)
You hear the people of the town, they call for

Tonight saw me cooking in my own kitchens, singing "chili mac, when are you coming back?  Oh chili, oh chili...

Okay, enough with my bad habits that entertain no one but me.  There are other things to get to, starting with Ed.

For those not in the loop, and I'd like to believe there are new people stopping here all the time  (it's my own delusion and I plan to keep it)  where I work has a unique management structure in that we have an owner, Brian, who bought the business off of his father Ed.  Even though Ed is no longer owner, or even on the payroll for that matter, when he is there during the summer months he is the de facto guy in charge, even if Brian is around.  But Ed always winters in Florida, so during this time of year Brian goes back to assuming the mantle of the guy in charge.  But just because Ed is away doesn't mean Ed is away.  It is not uncommon for him to call the store three or four times a day from Florida.  Or we could have what happened yesterday.

I am sitting in the office breaking down an invoice from 7 Up and going over a grocery invoice as well, since we had two deliveries arrive yesterday.  Sammy comes into the office and says there is a delivery for us, some licorice had come in.  Since the grocery order was already put away, I knew it wasn't something I ordered or something that was on our invoice.  All Sammy had was a packing slip from the order, not even an invoice since apparently the order was paid for in advance.  Since I knew nothing about this order I asked Brian about it and he is all excited because this order that Ed placed is finally here and it's the best licorice ever and we have to have it.  Fine, whatever, let's just get this candy in and put it away then, at least somebody knows about it.

Sammy tells me he is going to drop the order down the chute.  Because we have a two floor business, the sales floor is upstairs, the stock room and office are in the basement, there is a chute from the sidewalk down to the basement.  Thing is,  we usually just bring groceries to be put away right onto the sales floor and then, when we have put everything away we will take any left over stuff to the basement, so the idea of using the chute for candy struck me as odd.  Until I saw the order.  Ed, while sitting in Florida, took it upon himself to order over $1000 of licorice.  We literally got 12 different displays of it.  Not small displays either, but large enough that it was literally an entire palette on the truck.  Each display has 75 bags of licorice, so doing the math I now have to sell 900 bags of licorice at $2.19 a bag for us to hit our standard markup.  Don't be surprised if come December I am still blogging about licorice that we haven't sold yet.  

Speaking of things I may end up blogging about, I should warn you ahead of time that I may (or may not) end up doing more blogging about Swagbucks in the future.  Not that I am trying to convince you to join, but I did sign up on their page because they were looking for people who blog.  I have to imagine that after a small sampling of my page I will scare them off, using words like asshat aren't all that family friendly, but I threw my hat in the ring nonetheless.  If I am somehow picked then it will be more Swagbucks for me in the future, but it will also mean more Swagbucks related info on the page for you.  

I am listening to Pandora as I blog and tonight it is kinda sucky.  It is almost just alternating songs between The Cure and The Smiths.  Mind you I like both groups but damn, show some variety will you.  I think I got one Pixies song that I was happy to hear but much of the rest of it is just Cure/Smith/Cure/Smiths.  

Hopefully I fixed the problem a little bit, I gave them some new bands to pick from.  It got me Modest Mouse followed by U2 so we are making progress.  Good thing to, I have already run out of skips.  That is probably what I miss about Lauchcast the most, since I got a premium account for being a Verizon DSL customer I could skip as many crappy songs as I wanted to.  Now I am limited in my number of skips and after that I am forced to use the mute option until the song ends, then it automatically pauses at the end of the song.   

My books still haven't arrived.  Amazingly according to the tracking information they arrived in Pittsburgh this morning and were out for delivery at 9am.  Yet they aren't here some 13 hours later.  I think we can assume they will not be arriving today.  On the plus side, at least Prestige is not the carrier this time.  I would pretty much expect to not receive them at all if that were the case.  And really, the expected delivery date when I placed the order was the 20th, so I may end up getting them a day early.  I should stop complaining, but I am just psyched about the possibility of having a book to read again.

The tweakage worked.  I got an Interpol song followed by MGMT.  I could almost get my freak on to "Electric Feel".  

Well I should probably do a quick spell check and post this thing.  I just looked at the time and realized that I missed another fine episode of "Cheaters"  where Joey Greco and the gang climb into the Mystery Machine to confront the dastardly two timer who would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids.  

Asshat - My best shot

Guns can be used for many reasons.  Some people use them for sport, whether that be skeet shooting or hunting, others use them for protection and others still use them to commit crimes.  But one thing guns aren't good for is putting out fires.  This week's Asshat, Stephen Forthman, apparently didn't get the memo.

Man who doesn't dial 911 loses home to inferno

News Sentinel (Knoxville, Tennessee)
January 14, 2011

NORTH KNOXVILLE - Stephen Forthman shoots first and asks questions later. He wears a shirt proudly displaying the words "I don't dial 911" next to a picture of a hand gripping a sixshooter. When it comes time to contact local emergency services for assistance, he'd rather just shoot at the problem until it goes away - even when the problem is his own home being on fire.

No injuries were reported in a large structural house fire in North Knoxville at Forthman's residence on Whittle Springs Road yesterday.

Knoxville firefighters were alerted by neighbors at 2:15 p.m. of smoke at the residence, according to Knoxville Fire Department spokesman Capt.

John Nickleton. The Knoxville Fire Department responded to an initial report of heavy smoke coming from the garage, and of a large bearded man in the front yard screaming and shooting into the house.

"At first I didn't even notice the fire," said neighbor Tricia Perkinson. "I heard gunshots coming from across the street. When I looked outside, I saw Steve in his front yard waving a gun at the house. He was yelling obscenities and just shooting. He was saying, 'You better get out of here you bleeping bleep.' I thought he had lost his mind. Then I saw the smoke."

"When we arrived at the scene, the house was completely engulfed in flames," said firefighter Daniel Cummings. "Outside, the homeowner was shouting and firing a semiautomatic pistol into the fire."

Firefighters were able to contain the flames to the Forthman residence, but the massive fire gutted the two-story home. Police were called to restrain Forthman, who had to be disarmed and handcuffed before he would stop shooting at the blaze.

Fire investigators are expected to return to the scene today to determine the fire's cause.

This isn't the first time Forthman has refused to dial 911. In 2004, Forthman tried to shoot himself in the torso after having chest pains. His brother-in-law wrestled a rifle away from Forthman and called an ambulance.

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News Sentinel (Knoxville, Tennessee)

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