Fun With Words

As a word guy, I’m enjoying this morning’s perusal of the “Unusual Word” list that I stumbled upon, on…where else…StumbleUpon.

There is some serious fodder here for future musings. For example, I’m thinking of one person in particular I know who fits the description of an “abderian.” I myself have, at times, tended toward behavior that can best be described as “abligurition.”

And right here, in this post today, I’m clearly demonstrating my very own unique talent: adoxography.

And this is only the “A” list!

Okay, gotta dash. I have an appointment with my autotonsorialist.

The A List

The A List


A Song In My Heart

Forty-seven years ago this Fall, a 15-year-old kid wrote a song. Excited to share it, he found a good friend he could trust not to make fun of him. They were attending the same school–a Catholic boarding school hundreds of miles from both of their home towns…a school functioning as a first-step preparatory seminary for the priesthood.

The boy sang the song for his friend, accompanying himself on guitar.

After hearing it, the friend went silent.

The kid who wrote the song left the school the next year. His friend left even before that. The two boys lost track and that was the end of it.

Until last month.


That 15-year-old songwriter–me–and my long-lost buddy reconnected last month via email through other former classmates. I was thrilled to hear from Fes and the two of us shared a bit of our lives. We both sincerely promised to make it to the talked-about reunion, whenever it might happen.

After a few email exchanges, and sharing a few more tidbits and tales, my old friend popped an interesting question: Did I remember a song I had written lo those many years ago? He said he recalled much of it, and wondered if I had written it down and if so, could I share it with him.

I responded that I vaguely recall having toyed around with some song stuff, but that I didn’t have a clear memory of it and no, I hadn’t written it down, or at least hadn’t kept any record of any such songs. So I asked Fes if he remembered enough to share with me what he knew. I was intensely curious by this point.

Within days, Fes recorded and sent me a rendition of “A Song In My Heart” including two whole verses and the full chorus, and only the final two lines of the last verse missing. He accompanied himself on his ever-present companion, “Marty, the Wonderguitar”…his beloved old C. F. Martin 6-string acoustic. He even dubbed in a second singing track for harmony.

I was rendered speechless. Which, by the way, is what Fes told me he had been when he first heard me sing the song for him in 1966. That was why he was silent.

I was blown away, not at first by the clear remembrance of the song, but by the fact Fes remembered nearly all of it intact.

But then the most wonderful thing happened. On hearing it through the first time, I told my wife, “You know, I do sort of recall that. The melody kind of rings a bell.” Then I typed out the lyrics and tabbed it with the chords…listened a couple more times to Fes’s recording…let the lyrics seep in to my memory…and then came the tipping point: full, real, clear recollection. It was the chord progression that did it.

E…F#m…G#m…F#m…E. Up and down that elegant run. Then the little descent into D and back to E as a pivot on the verse-ending signature.

And the chorus, with that little A-to-A-flat dip going into the C#m…

Anyway, for a guy who became a writer of words as a profession and whose paradigm of connecting in the world is verbal…it was a joyful surprise that it was this series of chords that brought it all back.

I now have “A Song In My Heart” for friends like Fes who are kind and gracious enough to do such a thing as this.

And I have a few lines to write to finish “A Song In My Heart”.

It will be a magical book-ending of 47 years of living.

Thank you, Fes. You creative lunatic you.

This one’s for you, Mr. D.

Good morning, my friend,

You’ve had a cannonball shot into your stomach in these last few days and weeks. And I felt it, too, way up here in elk country. But that’s the nature of our soul-mate friendship. Weird, wildly separated by time and distance, yet reading each other’s minds still, and feeling each other’s hearts.

I saw this video this morning. Once again I had you on my mind. Let’s not talk Bucket List…that just speaks to imminence. And we don’t know that yet, for you or me or anyone. But this took me on a wonderful ride today, an incredible list of places, and I felt like you and I were sitting side by side on this goofy plane and taking it all in together. Those silly whoops and hollers are ours. Plus, we just saved a whole lot of money watching a video instead of hiring a cross-continental pilot and plane!

Of course, the Grand Demise hits us all, at some indeterminate time. And that’s the point: We never know when. We don’t know how. But one thing we can know for absolute certain:

The One who made this incredible panorama of life as we know it now, also made a Kingdom that He invites us to.

And it blows this place away.

Be blessed today, my friend, with peace and hope from above, and a whole bunch of love from me.


I’m posting this quickly just to let my faithful reader(s) know that, after hearing about some troubles posting comments here on the blog, I’ve changed the settings so no name or email address login or waist measurements are needed to post your comments.

The management (that’s me, although sometimes Lucy, my faithful Wheaten, takes over) regrets any inconveniences this matter may have caused.

I surely welcome comments, so by all means weigh in early and often now.

And stay tuned for a new post coming up shortly on what it’s like to have one’s neck cut open, esophagus pushed aside, and cervical disks cleaned and fused. True story.

My 50th post. In honor of Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday.

Actually, this post has absolutely nothing to do with MJ or his landmark birthday. It just happened to make for a catchy title as of writing this, my 50th, blog post.

This is about a job I once held, one summer in New Orleans.

“Summer in New Orleans”, of course, conjures up the requisite images of sultry heat and oppressive humidity and fetid air.

Well, this job experience gave new meaning to the word fetid.

My title was Sewage Plant Operator I. The “I” meant rookie. It’s not good being a Sewage Plant Operator. It’s far worse being Sewage Plant Operator Rookie. You get dumped on. In this case…quite literally. To me, it boggles the mind that anyone would deign to establish any amount of longevity at such a place as to earn a “II” or “III” after their title. A “career” in this line of work seems unfathomable.

The sewage operation itself was a technological marvel of simplicity. It takes in, through giant pipes, raw sewage. (I hope I don’t have to explain where this raw sewage comes from, do I?) From there, this thick black elixir goes into giant circular basins, where an enormous “arm” slowly circulates in the basin to separate solids (which slowly but surely sink to the bottom thanks to the arm’s motion) from liquids. During this separation process and beyond, the color never changes. Black it is, black it stays. Black as the ace of spades. Black as death. Black black black.

From there, the “cured” solids are extracted and spread out over the ground on fields where it soaks in and eventually serves as an amazing richening agent to the soil. It’s all quite organic, I’m told. Something else happens here as well, which I’ll get to in a minute.

While the solids are doing their magic, the liquids are then treated and become drinking water. Just kidding. Gave you a start, didn’t I?! Perish the thought…and perish the person who would drink such a brew.

I actually don’t remember exactly how the liquids are finally treated. But I do remember, vividly, poignantly, painfully, a specific spot along their travels to their final destination.

That spot is a pump room, about 15 feet by 15 feet, a concrete-walled room in which a 12-inch-diameter pipe enters, travels through a pump apparatus, and then exits to the next stage of the operation. I recall this area was meant to trap anything thicker than liquid, so the works won’t get gummed up.

This room, I found out later, is also called the Rookie Baptism Room.

I was told that the pipes in the Pump Room had a clog, and I had to go in and undo the clog. The boss made it sound simple and perfunctory enough, although I fully expected it to get a little “dirty” in there. That’s why my fellow plant operators showed me how to don full protective gear: rubber pants, rubber jacket, rubber shoe-covers, thick rubber gloves. Well, not exactly “full” — I didn’t have any protective covering over my face and head. This would prove fateful.

So that simple-enough-sounding task was to go into the pump room, take hold of a valve on the top of the pipe, and then turn the valve so the cover that the T valve holds in place could be removed, at which point I could then extricate the offending material inside.

I never got to the extricating part.

The millisecond the T valve was turned enough to release the pressure inside the pipe, the entire room exploded with shit. Literally. The pressure was such that all that was inside the pipes in that room became one with everything in the room outside the pipes. I was outside the pipes. I became one with the shit.

This is where the lack of headgear became critical.

It’s natural at a moment of great surprise to open one’s mouth. Big mistake. Fortunately, it’s also natural to blink. Big help. At least my eyeballs were not “christened” along with my mouth, face, hair, ears, nose and neck.

As I said, I never got to the actual extrication of the offending material because I was instinctively compelled to vacate the Pump Room in a hurry, nearly tripping over the assembled crew members lurking just outside the door of the pump room, laughing hysterically at me.

The shower lasted a good 20 minutes. I scrubbed til I nearly bled. For hours and maybe days afterward the fetid smell never left my nostrils, either actually, or phantomly.

In that one instant, I passed my rookie test. But I left the employ of the Jefferson Parish Sewage Treatment Facility just three weeks later. That’s because about two weeks later, I had three wisdom teeth taken out. It seemed like a walk in the park compared to the previous sufferings I had endured. I was prescribed pain medication, and it made me so nauseous that I missed a few days of work, and then proved to be semi-worthless even when I was at work. I honestly can’t remember whether I quit before they could fire me, or got fired before I could quit. In any case, that chapter of my life and employment history was over.

A quick postscript: Remember that field I mentioned where the treated sewage solids were spread? During my orientation, a co-worker toured me around the facility, and when we got to the field and I listened to him explain that stage of the plant’s operation, I couldn’t help but note this amazing, perfectly uniform growth of identical-looking small plants covering the entire expansive field.

He explained to me a basic fact of nature: Tomato seeds don’t digest in the human digestive system.

So the seeds had survived the intestines of the contributors and the sewage plant operations on their way to this field of nightmares.

The vision of that field haunts me to this day.

Bon Mots…part 3, or whatever it’s up to.

You gotta love the English language. It keeps you on your toes. I’ve heard it’s one of the most difficult languages for foreigners to learn.

This may be just one of the many reasons why…

Consider these two words:



On the surface, it’s easy to see that “restive” indicates calmness and a sense of relaxation. And “enervating” means getting all jazzed up and excited.

In reality they mean nearly the opposite of what they sound like.

Restive means “unable to keep still or silent; becoming increasingly difficult to control”. And enervating means “causing one to feel drained of energy or vitality”.

It’s enough to make anyone wonder what, say, “spendthrift” means.

Good luck, foreigners.

Jobs. And I’m not talking Steve.

I’m not sure why, but I seem to have had more than my share of jobs in my life. It might have had something to do with ADD. Or restlessness. Or the need for newness. Or boredom. Or lack of commitment. Or impatience with born idiots. Or all of the above.

Or maybe I haven’t had more jobs than the average person who’s lived to my age. You be the judge. Here’s the list of positions I’ve “held”, best I can remember them (and there’s no requirement for minimum time on the job to qualify for the list):

• Newspaper delivery boy  • Grocery store bag boy  • Lawn mower  • Elevator operator  • Telephone solicitor  • Fast food restaurant fry cook and general helper  • Golf course groundskeeper  • Security guard at Super Bowl  • Butcher’s apprentice  • Container company box assembler  • College communications office student worker   • Color-key printing technician  • Sewer plant operator  • Landscaping company crew member  • Tractor operator   • Furniture delivery man  • Cemetery groundskeeper  • Singer/Musician  • Proofreader  • Navy boot camp 2nd squad commander  • Sewing machine and vacuum cleaner salesman  • Oil rig housekeeping/cooking crew member   • Spice salesman  • Rec league referee  • Youth sports coach  • Magazine editorial assistant and copy editor  • Copywriter  • Copy supervisor  • Associate Creative Director  • Creative Director  • Vice President   • President  • Writer

Of course, this list doesn’t include the roles of husband, father, etc. etc. I’m counting only those jobs I’ve received pay for, not those that have cost me large sums.

So, you be the judge as to whether this number of jobs is excessive for a person of my age (though I’m not saying my age, and if you don’t know, don’t ask). But one thing I think you have to admit is that the variety is hard to surpass.

I’ve written about a few of these stints already. For example, the short but thrilling gig as Security Guard at the fourth-ever Super Bowl, held at New Orleans in 1970, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings. I would have paid them to let me do that, much less take minimum wage for the gig. I may write about that one again in some detail.

And I plan on writing about a selection of other jobs as well from time to time. In fact, it strikes me that these could make for an interesting book.

But for now, I’m going to write about one in particular that brings back memories both poignant and painful. Look for it in the next post.

Bon Mots

Today I post, for your semantical pleasure, a piece not written by me, but something much better. A piece written by a guy who went from copywriter to screen writer in a most inimitable way.

Way back when. When more than a few writers worked from the premise that “words must be weighed, not counted”.

It doesn’t get much better than this for those who appreciate bon mots — good words.


Job Application

Posted by
Once upon a time (1910-89), there was a chap called Robert Pirosh. He was an American chap and in 1934 he decided that he wanted to become a screenwriter. So he went to Hollywood and sent the following application letter to all the studios. Needless to say, he got a job, and later won an Oscar.

Probably the most famous films he worked on were Night at the Opera and Day at the Races. 

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Robert Pirosh
385 Madison Avenue
Room 610
New York
Eldorado 5-6024

Bewitched. Bothered. Bewildered…

That old song title popped into my head this morning as I thought about the events of yesterday. Namely, the defeat of our dear (not everybody’s dear, but our dear) Fighting Irish at the hands of the now-officially-dynastic Alabama Crimson Tide.

(I’ve never learned where that name comes from, by the way. From my days in Florida, I know that a red tide is a nasty, unnatural algae bloom that kills nice organisms in the ocean and keeps nice people out of the water for fear of contacting the poison. If that’s where Bama’s nickname comes from, it fits.)

In any case, watching, enduring, and eventually musing on the game last night, I was…

BEWITCHED by the genius guru god of college football, Nick Saban. He seems to me to be a man not easy to like, from what can be ascertained about him from tv, articles and a distance. But there is no denying the man his due for making champions. And Bama is the champion, for the third time in four years. And he was the better coach, by far.

BOTHERED that Notre Dame’s offense was so unlike itself and couldn’t muster anything interesting, much less effective. All those weapons…so little damage. It was offensive, to be sure. And especially bothered by having to admit that all the pundits — virtually every last one of them — were right in picking Bama.

BEWILDERED that the vaunted Notre Dame defense, and the rightly praised Manti T’eo, were literally insignificant throughout the entire game. They were outmaneuvered, outplayed and outmanned by their adversaries across the line. Kind of like the Democrats just did to the Republicans.

BUT…there’s one more B-word to close out yesterday:

BLESSED. This ain’t no stretch to reach for some Pollyanna ending to the decisive debacle of Notre Dame. It’s real and meaningful. Hours before the game, yesterday started with an injection in my neck for a severe cervical issue that has been causing intense and near-constant pain for almost two months in my neck, shoulder, upper back and arm. To the point that I’ve been wondering what a nerve-damaged one-armed writer and guitarist can accomplish. No wonder athletes shoot this steroid stuff into their systems whenever they surreptitiously can, because, I woke up this morning, and that unnerving pain…was gone. For how long, only God knows. But for now, it’s a blessed feeling.

The pain of the devastating loss will go away, too. But once again, life teaches a lesson about what’s most important, and what comes in second.

And, like Notre Dame, not even a close second at that.


Now…where’s that TV schedule? I think the 3rd-ranked Notre Dame women’s basketball team and 16th-ranked Irish men’s team are in action.


OK, no blog posts in six months, and now two in one day.

What can I say — I’m inspired.

There is a word in Japanese that means:

An act someone does for you that you didn’t want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude.

I had that happen to me just the other day and was searching my semantical storehouse for a word to describe it and couldn’t come up with anything. Actually, it didn’t happen. I just had to say that…because that is one convoluted scenario and it’s pretty funny to me that the Japanese have one word for those 55:


OK, two words.

But now you know.

%d bloggers like this: