Congressman Jackass

He loves puppies and has eclectic taste in music. His sisters were his role models and his kids have become his best friends in many ways. His first heartbreak? At six, when Timothy the turtle died.

What is this — some middle aged guy’s lame online dating profile? No, it’s from the 20 Things You Don’t Know about John Sweeney.

It doesn’t mention the former congressman’s three divorces, the drunk driving arrests, the domestic strife, the ex-stripper, those frat party pics, that assault involving his kid, the ski trip thing — but hey, that’s stuff we already know.

I always read these 20 Things features that Kristi Gustafson Barlette writes, and I wasn’t surprised when the Sweeney item left a few readers bent out of shape. One guy wrote, “I’m looking forward to next week’s segment, ’20 Things you don’t know about me: Chris Porco’.” Kristi says her subjects are folks who are “interesting and people know them — or know of them.” By that standard, a Chris Porco 20 Things is not off the table. And you know we’d all read it.

So here comes John Sweeney again, reimagined as the cool, sensitive guy in recovery who “used to party with the band U2.”

Yeah, right.

Mr. Sweeney, do us all a favor and go away. Go away and quietly pick up the mess you’ve left in your wake. And I’ll tell you what: we’ll say a prayer for your recovery, and another prayer that you don’t fuck up again and damage the lives of more people around you. Best of luck, sir.

None of us are perfect. I may not have accomplished huge things in my life, but at least I’ve been a good husband and father. I’d like to think that’s enough.

Dogvision

Our dog Callie just turned a year old.

This is the fourth dog we’ve had — and they’ve all been very different — but this one has a peculiar habit: she’s very attentive what’s on the TV. She’s especially interested in any sort of animal, but it’s dogs and horses that really get her wound up.  Sometimes she’ll go and look outside, as if the TV is a window and all these animals are out on the lawn.

Callie is an irrepressible goofball, always clowning around or running off with your socks, insisting on being the center of attention. Our older dog gets mildly annoyed, but she’s better for it; having a puppy in the house has been good for everyone.

I’d forgotten how much work it is to raise a dog, but now we’re beginning to see the work pay off. She’s gradually settling into adulthood, and as her more challenging behaviors recede, we see her personality emerging.

Every day I do the math. How old will I be when she’s five? How about ten years from now? This is the dog that will usher me to retirement, and god willing, I won’t end up the one who’s barking at the television.

Big Bird

Maybe I’m just getting old, but this year’s turkey was a gigantic pain in the ass.

Clocking in at more than 25 pounds, it was a huge and unwieldy bird that was challenging every step of the way. Next time, I think I’d be better off cooking two smaller turkeys. It would be more work in some regards, but after wrestling with the mega-brid, it’s worth considering.

Did I mention the stuffing incident?

When I was taking the turkey out of the stove, the roasting pan slipped and dropped onto the oven rack. It didn’t fall more than a couple of inches, but the impact was enough to launch a load of stuffing straight into the air. Some of it ended up in my hair, some on the floor, and some was on the cabinet doors.

My son walked into the kitchen. “What’s that up there?”

Holy crap — several clumps of stuffing were clinging to the ceiling.

Overall, it was not the easiest day, but the trouble was worth it. The turkey was spectacular — probably the best I’ve ever cooked — but more importantly, it was a great crowd of friends and family and everyone had a wonderful time. Spirits were soaring on our all-American holiday, soaring almost as high as the stuffing.

Hallmark Moment

The new Coen brothers movie, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs certainly takes some grim turns. It’s a collection of old west stories, and five of the six chapters in the anthology end in doom or tragedy. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much.

And that’s a problem in my house.

I enjoy movies with unhappy endings, terrible twists, and plans gone bad. When you serve me humor, the darker the better. Things going wrong is more entertaining than things going right.

My wife’s tastes in film and TV are the polar opposite, and because Christmas is coming, that means the Hallmark Channel. By this time of year, they’ve gone 24/7 with their stock in trade holiday romance movies.

These Hallmark films are all very much the same: an outsider comes to town and there is a push and pull over the future of the local ranch/resort/nature preserve/inn or a conflict over some other cultural or business concern. By the end, the opposing parties fall in love and it all ends well.

You’d think that this makes for a complicated time when deciding what to watch, but it doesn’t. Because I’m a great husband, I sit and keep her company and dutifully keep my mouth shut.

It’s not always easy.

Now some advice if you’re thinking of getting married. If you’re the sort of person who will argue over what’s on the goddamn TV, do us all a favor and don’t get hitched. Spare yourself, your family, and your friends all the trouble you will cause by tying the knot. In fact, if you’re going to be unyielding and hardheaded about anything, maybe the marriage thing ain’t for you. It’s OK. But just think about it now before you waste your time — and ours.

Anthrax Shed

Back in my TV days, it always worried me that the station could be targeted by a nut. We kept the place locked down pretty well, but now and then somebody would show up in the lobby with a messy folder stuffed with paper and demand to see a reporter. The receptionist had a panic button to push in case of trouble, but honestly I wouldn’t have wanted to be the one sitting out there.

I don’t remember anything like this:

Bomb threats are usually bullshit, right? But today, our president is telling his nutjob followers that the media is the enemy of the people — and some of these nutjobs are listening closely.

In 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, there was a spate of incidents where media outlets and politicians started receiving letters containing anthrax. This was no prank; people died and businesses were disrupted as their contaminated buildings were cleaned up. The best defense against an anthrax letter was to keep it isolated and away from the facility.

That’s when we got the anthrax shed.

It sat at the edge of the parking lot and looked like the shed behind your house, but this was where the mail would be sorted and opened before coming inside. Was it some highly trained specialist checking the incoming letters? Nah, they just gave the maintenance guy some dust masks and a letter opener and wished him good luck. Nice.

In a strange way, it was a more innocent time. The pain and trauma of 9/11 was still fresh, and the fear was very real. And we all felt something that today is all but forgotten. We stood together.

Who’s This?

I’m 56-years-old and I don’t know my phone number.

Yes, I know — but let me explain.

We moved two years ago, and after some deliberation, we decided to keep a landline. I don’t exactly remember why, but I know this: in two years, I haven’t given out that landline phone number even once. The phone rarely rings, and if it does, it’s never anyone I’m interested in talking to.

Of course I have the number — just not in my head.

Anyway, I may be too feeble to remember my phone number, but I do remember when the phone hanging on the wall was kind of a big deal. It would ring and we’d all run to answer it if we were expecting a call, sometimes fighting off a sibling who was also waiting to hear from someone.

Occasionally, it would be one of my aunts on the phone. You’d know this because when you picked up, they’d say “Who’s this?”

Not “Hello,” not, “Hi, this is your Aunt So-and-So,” but “Who’s this?” What? You called here — who the fu*k is this?

So, here’s an idea: Maybe the next time the damn house phone rings, I’ll just answer it that way. “Who’s this?” Who’s this and why are you calling and who gave you this number. Now have a nice day.

The Name Game

OK, folks, game over.

My new granddaughter is obviously the winner in the most beautiful baby ever contest, and until you can show me a prettier little thing, she’s the champ. I’m not going to post a picture here, so you’ll have to take my word for it — but God help you if I see you on the street. If you see me pulling out my phone, it’s all over.

Leading up to the birth of the world’s best baby, there was quite a bit of discussion over what we should be called as grandparents. According to the internet, these are some common choices:

Grandmothers: Nana, Grammy, Granny, Mimi, Gram, Nanny, Mamaw, Gran, Meme

Grandfathers: Grandpa, Papa, Grandad, Gramps, Pop-Pop, Poppy, Papaw, Pop, Pappy, Pepaw

Another website had extensive lists of names, including categories they describe as “trendy” and “playful.” These are worth a look, but I can’t imagine my wife being called Uddermudder.

They also list a bunch of ethnic names, and I quite like the Irish Daideo, which should be pronounced DADJ-yoh, but would probably end up as daddy-o.

So I’m just settling on Robert.

I know that seems a bit weird, but I think it would be funny. It would certainly turn some heads and raise questions. Imagine her saying, “I’m going to visit Grammy — and Robert.” People would be like, who the fuck is Robert?

Someday we’ll be at the playground, and she’ll say, “Robert, take me to Stewart’s for an ice cream cone.”

“Yes, your grace. Right away.”

It would give her a regal bearing when she addresses me, and that’s fine. After all, it’s inevitable that she will be my little princess, and I will do her bidding.

Button Pushers

I was riding upstairs with the elevator repairman, so I asked a question that needed to be asked.

“So, these door close buttons — do they actually do anything?”

He laughed.

“No, they don’t work unless you have the key and you’re running the elevator manually, like in an emergency. The doors are timed . Push the button all you want, it won’t speed things up.”

It was the Americans With Disabilities Act that disabled the door close button, in an effort to make sure those with crutches or wheelchairs could load safely.

But people like to push that button — and since the door closes soon anyway, it creates the illusion that they made it happen.

In a world where we have so little control over so many things, believing that you can make the elevator door close qualifies as a minor victory.

There, now you know the secret. What will you do with this information?

It’s best to just look on quietly when you see people push the door close button. It’s a harmless thing — and an elevator is not the best place to come off as a know-it-all.

The Job Nobody Wants

Nobody joins a volunteer fire department to be the bookkeeper.

To fight fires? Of course. Drive the fire trucks? Absolutely. Help people in trouble? You bet. Keep track of the finances? No, no thanks.

So, when you have somebody who’s good with numbers and willing to be in charge of the money, that’s a big win. The problem is that some people see this as an opportunity to steal.

Several times a year, you read about treasurers at volunteer fire departments being arrested or convicted on charges of looting cash from their organizations. Just last week, the treasurer of a downstate volunteer fire department pleaded guilty to pilfering more than $300,000 from his organization.

That sounds like a lot of money, but a few years ago the treasurer of a fire department on little Charlton, NY went to prison for stealing half a million dollars. Charlton Fire District’s pretty small, yet nobody noticed that hundreds of thousands of dollars went missing.

But like I said, you don’t join up to balance the checkbook, you join up to do the cool stuff. Let somebody else worry about paying the bills.

My old fire department had strict internal controls and an independent audit conducted every year by an outside firm. We couldn’t get reimbursed for a can of kidney beans without a receipt. Some of these fire departments are not so stringent — and when only one person is handling the books, anything can happen.

Fortunately, a lot of people who do this get caught, but you have to wonder how many get away with it.