Thursday, December 31, 2009

Check out the lovely and talented Mrs. Algeo explaining the American festa Thanksgiving to the good people of Parma (home of the famed cheese). Click here to see the video. Allyson begins appearing at the 2:38 mark.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thanks to the Williamsport (Pa.) Sun-Gazette for a very nice review of HTEA. The best bit: "Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure is a lovingly researched, beautifully written and thoroughly absorbing account of the Trumans' trek."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Boxing Day!

I hope everybody's enjoying the holidays. It's been warm and rainy in Rome, not very Christmas-like weather, but we had a great day yesterday. First of all, Santa got me a nifty new Flip video recorder. Very cool! Then we had a wonderful Christmas dinner with friends at our friends Neil and Laura's apartment. I took the recorder along, of course!

Today also happens to be the 37th anniversary of the death of Harry Truman. So raise a glass for Harry tonight (bourbon, preferably). Here's his obituary from the New York Times. I think it's pretty good.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thank you Wake County (North Carolina) Public Library for making Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure your "Book-A-Day" pick for today!

Monday, December 14, 2009

They’ve changed the way household trash is picked up here in Rome. Changed it from the most simple system imaginable to one of the most complicated. Used to be, you just put your trash out on the curb at night. No special days, no special bags – no sorting. (There were vague rumors that, if you put your bottles and cans in a separate bag, somehow they would be recycled. But we were skeptical.)

It wasn’t the most environmentally friendly system, but it sure was convenient.

Recently, however, the city instituted a new system in our neighborhood. Now trash must be separated four ways (organic waste, paper, bottles, non-recyclable waste). Each is collected on a different day at two different places. It’s all very confusing, and so far we seem to be the only people in our apartment building actually trying to follow the new system. Apparently old habits die very, very hard here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Washington Post has included Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure on its list of the Best Books of '09. Thank you, Post!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Good to hear that the first ski area in Mongolia has opened!
I guess all that gelato finally caught up with me. I'm having a root canal done. Part One was this morning, and it went pretty well, though it was definitely not painless. My dentist is a very nice German woman. She speaks English very well, but with her assistants she speaks German. As the talked, I tried to translate in my head, using my college German. I wasn't very successful, but it provided a nice distraction from the pins being shoved down the roots of my teeth...

On a much happier note, Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure is one of the book club selections at By the way, have I mentioned that the book would make a great Christmas gift?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Check this out: Last Friday a minor league hockey team that plays in Independence, Missouri, wore Harry Truman jerseys! Harry, of course, lived in Independence. After the game the jerseys were auctioned off as a fundraiser for the Truman Library. Man, I would love to get my hands on one of those jerseys!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Had a great turnout for my presentation at Pennridge High School last night, though that may have been due to the fact that students who attended qualified for extra credit! As a result, the crowd skewed about, oh, fifty years younger than my usual audience, and a lot of my jokes ("I sweat like Nixon") went over their heads, but it was a lot of fun. Many thanks to the Pennridge history department for organizing the event...

Check this out: Somebody is retracing Harry and Bess's trip using my book as a guide. They're making videos and posting them on YouTube. Pretty cool! Click here to watch them.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hello! (Is this thing on?!) Sorry I haven't been posting more regularly. Been busy with guests and traveling. That's the life of a not-best-selling author. Anyway, a full update is forthcoming, but for now I wanted to let faithful readers know that I will be prattling on about my books tonight (Nov. 5) at 7 PM at Pennridge High School (my alma mater, doncha know) in Perkasie, Pa. Please come out. After all, there's no Phillies game on tonight.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Monday, September 28, 2009

It was great to see the Eagles induct Al Wistert into their Ring of Honor at halftime of yesterday's game against the Chiefs. I interviewed Al at his Oregon home for Last Team Standing, my book about the 1943 Phil-Pitt Steagles. He couldn't have been nicer. Al is 89 now, but still in good enough shape to make the long trip to the East Coast and back. He was one of the great tackles in NFL history, and deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

It's finally beginning to cool off a bit here in Rome. It's *almost* been cool the past few mornings. Hopefully autumn will soon be here. ... Allyson and I attended the wedding of her Italian teacher on Sunday. It was a full-fledged Italian wedding, very much fun, though we didn't get home until after midnight (which is very late for us). ... This coming weekend we're going to Orbetello, a small town in Tuscany, where Allyson has to do some work. ... In the meantime, tonight we're taking the cats to the v-e-t for checkups. Please don't tell them!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

So long, Fotomat. We hardly knew ye still even existed anymore.
Rest in pees, Edward Rondthaler.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Buffalo was a young city when Grover Cleveland arrived in 1855: The children of its first non-indigenous settlers still walked the streets, and they remembered well (and bitterly) how the British had burned the city to the ground during the War of 1812. After the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, Buffalo became a boomtown, for it was where the waterway met the Great Lakes. From crops headed east to heavy equipment going the other way, everything passed through Buffalo. Between 1830 and 1860, the city’s population grew tenfold, from 8,000 to 80,000.

And, like most boomtowns, it was a pretty wild place, teeming with brothels, saloons, and gambling halls. An old canalhand named E. E. Cronk later estimated that “60% of the buildings on both sides of Canal Street from Erie Street to Commercial were houses of prostitution, 30% were saloons, and 10% grocery stores, etc.” “The lowest houses of prostitution both in level and quality were those lining the tow path in back of the Canal Street buildings,” Cronk remembered. “The prostitutes operating on Canal Street considered themselves ‘ladies of the evening’ and the towpath women ‘dirty whores.’”

Not surprisingly, it was a dangerous place, too. Police patrolled Canal Street in threes, one in front, two in back. When the canal was dredged every spring, it wasn’t unusual for eight or more human bodies to be discovered.

The canal itself was a frothing, stinking bouillabaisse of garbage, human and animal waste, agricultural and industrial runoff, and offal (not to mention the bloated corpses). The effluent would occasionally produce giant methane bubbles that would rise to the surface and explode, unleashing a stench so foul it sickened some people for days. It practically goes without saying that disease was rampant. Periodic outbreaks of typhus, typhoid, and smallpox killed hundreds annually.

Yet, for all its faults – and there were many – Buffalo was also an exciting, vibrant, bustling place, filled with practically limitless opportunities for an ambitious young man. There were fortunes to be made, and you could have some fun there, too. One imagines 17-year-old Grover Cleveland strolling down Canal Street’s wooden sidewalks for the first time, smelling the fetid canal, hearing the beckoning calls of the ladies of the evening and the rollicking piano music emanating from the saloons. It must have enthralled the minister’s son from rural Fayetteville.

He resolved to stay.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Well, Allyson and I didn't win Italy's record-setting lottery jackpot last night. Disappointing, yes. But I really can't complain. You see, yesterday I received an e-mail from the U.K. National Lottery Loard [sic], informing me that I have won 1,000,000 British pounds ($1,647,316.36). It was a bit of a surprise, since I've never actually played the U.K. National Lottery. But why ask questions - I mean, it is a million pounds! So I've gone ahead and e-mailed them a bunch of really sensitive personal information. Now we're just sitting back and waiting for that certified check to arrive! (Actually, we're not even waiting: We've already spent a good chunk of that million, believe me!) So I may not be posting much for the next few weeks, you know, while I'm sorting out the various tax implications, etc. of this unexpected windfall.

Finally, I can quit my job!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Washington Post reports that D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty continues to drive himself around the city, even after being involved in a minor accident. This calls to mind something I discussed in my book: When he was president, Harry Truman would occasionally take the wheel of his own limousine! By the way, my book gets a very nice mention on Write Kudzu, a blog by Mississippi writer Keetha DePriest Reed. Thanks, Keetha!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yesterday, Allyson and I went to Viterbo with our friends Lillian and William. Viterbo is a lovely town in the mountains about 90 minutes from Rome. Its most famous for being the home of several popes in the thirteenth century, including four who are buried there (although nobody is exactly sure where one of them is buried). The town has a pretty amazing medieval section, but the best part was that it was practically deserted. Where do the Italians go in August? Underground tunnels? Caves in the mountains?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Not much to report from the home office. I still have to wear the neck brace for another week. It's still hot in Rome. I (finally) started working on the next book. (Thank you to John Cabot University for allowing me to use its library.) Allyson has started bidding on her next job. And the cats are driving me crazy.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Congratulations to my friend Phil Johnston, who has been named one of "10 Screenwriters to Watch" by Variety!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I'll be talking about the book on the Milt Rosenberg show on WGN-AM (720) in Chicago tonight after the Cubs game (around 10 o'clock Central Time). Tune in if you can - and let's hope the game doesn't go into extra innings!

UPDATE: Well, the game ran too long, so the interview will have to be rescheduled. Bummer.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Went to watch the world swimming championships this morning with my friend Neil. Check out his blog for some cool pictures.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Life in the Foreign Service... We haven’t even been in Rome for a year yet, but Allyson has already started looking for her next post. Her “bid list” came out this week, and, while it’s far too early to tell where we might end up, it will undoubtedly be somewhere far from Rome (in every respect). This week we’ve begun researching things like Internet connectivity in Rangoon, the feasibility of shipping two cats to Ulaanbaatar, and cell phone rates in Hanoi. Fortunately, we still have another full year to enjoy Rome – but now we can hear the clock ticking!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I've always been fascinated by the case of Phineas Gage. One day in 1848, he was working on a railroad in Vermont. There was an accidental explosion. An iron bar shot through the air - and passed directly through Gage's head, entering the skull beneath his left eye. His left frontal lobe was pierced, but the wound healed and Gage would resume a more or less normal life. He would live another 12 years - though his friends claimed he was never the same as before the accident. No wonder. Gage's skull is on display at Harvard's medical school, but not much else is known about him. But as this article explains, a post-accident photograph (a daguerreotype, actually) that appears to show Gage (and the iron rod!) has recently surfaced. And, you know, I don't think he looks too bad.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Here's a nice review of the book in the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Well, I found out why I was looking so miserable on the Fourth of July. Turns out I had (and still have) a herniated disc in my neck. Which means I have to wear a neck brace for the next two weeks. But at least I get to take steroids, which should do wonders for my batting average.
Rest in peace Henry Allingham.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I went to see Jon Anderson in concert here in Rome last night. As I’m sure many of you know, he was the lead singer of Yes, the 1970s progressive rock juggernaut that is near and dear to my heart. Jon is on a small solo tour of Europe right now. (Meanwhile, Yes, with a replacement lead singer, is currently touring America. It’s a long story.)

The concert was held outdoors in Villa Adda, a park on the north side of the city. The attendance couldn’t have been more than 300 or so, so it was a pretty intimate affair. We all pulled our plastic chairs right up the edge of the stage. I went with my friend Neil, and we sat less than 20 yards from Jon.

It was a nice, mellow concert. Jon played at least bits of lots of Yes songs: And You and I, Roundabout, I’ve Seen All Good People, Owner of a Lonely Heart, Long Distance Runaround, Starship Trooper, Yours Is No Disgrace, etc. His forays into his solo catalog were mercifully brief.

What surprised me was how frail he appeared. He'll turn 65 this fall and he's had some health issues for the past few years, including a broken back and chronic asthma. But he’d always seemed ageless to me. Not anymore. He had to use his inhaler several times during the show (though all the smokers crowded at the front of the stage didn’t help). He moved slowly and even seemed to have trouble putting his guitar back on its stand when he was done with it.

Alas, none of us is getting any younger, least of all yours truly. More on that later...

Friday, July 10, 2009

A "friend" recently directed me to this website. I think it's kind of "fun."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Faithful readers may remember how I had a piece of glass stuck in my heel for nearly a month last fall. Well, this kid from my hometown of Perkasie, Pa., has got me beat by a mile: He had a piece of tape stuck in his right lung for two years! Incidentally, if you're as fascinated with foreign objects in human bodies as I am, you most definitely need to visit the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, which boasts an impressive collection of objects swallowed and removed - and the instruments used to remove them. Good stuff.

Monday, July 06, 2009

My friend Neil took this picture of me at the embassy's Fourth of July party. He thinks I look angry. I think pensive is more like it. He also took this infinitely more appealing picture of Allyson (far right) and some friends:

Sunday, July 05, 2009

I haven't posted any good (mis)uses of "literally" lately, but I caught this one in today's New York Times: Speaking about Sarah Palin, her spokesperson said, "The world is literally her oyster." Incidentally (and for what it's worth), I predict Sarah Palin will un-resign before her resignation takes effect.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Found this when I was rummaging through stuff at my mom and dad's old house last month. It's my dad's plane ticket from their honeymoon. They flew to Bermuda, which was a pretty swanky honeymoon for a union plumber and a registered nurse in 1951. The cost of each round-trip ticket was $97.75, which (according to this website anyway), equals about $820 in today's dollars. As you can see, they flew Colonial Airlines, a Canadian outfit that was bought by Eastern Air Lines in 1956. (Eastern went belly up in 1991.) I also found a brochure from the resort they stayed at: Elbow Beach Surf Club, which is now part of the Mandarin Oriental hotel group. I guess they had a good time. They were in Bermuda from October 21 to October 25. My eldest sibling was born the following July 24.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Had a great time in New Orleans (despite the heat and humidity). Allyson had a lot of fun catching up with old friends and I enjoyed making some new ones. Now that we're back in Rome, Allyson is hard at work getting ready for next week's G8 Summit, which the boss is attending. (This boss, not this one.) Meanwhile, the book is excerpted in the latest issue of The Pennsylvania Gazette, the alumni magazine of the University of Pennsylvania (where I earned my degree in folklore). Click here to read it, if you are so inclined. And my interview with Bob Edwards was rebroadcast on the weekend version of his show last weekend. (Click here for information on how to listen to it.) Looking forward to a big Fourth of July party tomorrow night!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Headed to New Orleans for Allyson's 20th high school reunion this weekend...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Here I am discussing the book on "Between the Lines," a program produced by the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library. This was recorded at the library on May 19, 2009.

Friday, June 19, 2009

From the Inbox:
From: Mr. Lo Chin Jack
Legal Representative/Owner,
Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co.,Ltd,
Address: Haitian Industrial Park ,
Jiangnan Development Zone,
Quanzhou , Fujian , China .


Request for Legal Assistance

This is an official request for legal representation on behalf of Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co.Ltd. We are a textile company with principal business in garment manufacturing and trading.

We are presently incapacitated due to international legal boundaries to exert pressure on our delinquent customers and we request for your services accordingly. We got your contact information from the Online Lawyers Directory as a result of our search for a reliable firm or individual to provide legal services as requested.

After a careful review of your profile as well as your qualification and experience, we are of the opinion that you are capable and qualified to provide the legal services as requested.

On behalf of Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co.Ltd, Please accept my sincerest appreciation in advance for your willingness to render your services as we look forward to your prompt response to our request.

Thank you.

Mr. Lo Chin Jack
Legal Representative/Owner,
Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co.Ltd.

My response:

Dear Mr. Jack (or is it Mr. Lo?),

You were wise to carefully review my qualifications and experience. You can never be too careful these days! Crazy Internet!

I am honored and pleased to accept your offer to represent Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co. Ltd. in all legal matters. In fact, I have already filed the paperwork necessary to transfer control of the company to me. Accordingly, I regret to inform you, Mr. Jack/Lo, that you are no longer the Legal Representative/Owner of Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co. Ltd.

I shall immediately begin to exert pressure on your – sorry, my – delinquent customers. I am sure this will result in Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co. Ltd. being swiftly capacitated.

Thank you for your loyal service to the company. You must vacate the premises immediately. You may, however, keep your e-mail account.

Yours, etc.

Mr. Algeo
Fifty-six years ago today, on June 19, 1953 (also a Friday, incidentally), Harry and Bess Truman set off on their excellent adventure.

Oh, and my brother Jim was born. Happy birthday, Jim!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Spam of the Day:
How are you? i hope all is well with you, i hope you may not know me, and i don't know who you are, My Name is Miss Morin khalifa i am just broswing now i just saw your email it seams like some thing touches me all over my body, i started having some feelings in me which i have never experience in me before, so i became interested in you, l will also like to know you the more,and l want you to send an email to my email address so l can give you my picture for you to know whom l am. I believe we can move from here!I am waiting for your mail to my email address above. (Remeber the distance or colour does not matter but love matters alot in life)
miss Morin,

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Well, the good review in last Sunday’s Washington Post has given HTEA a nice boost. On Monday it ranked as high as No. 108 on Today it’s still hovering right around 250.

Yesterday the Post held an on-line discussion about summer books, during which HTEA was mentioned favorably:

Brookland, D.C.: Seems like there's a lot of depressing news out there revolving around newspapers and publishing. Book sales are down; book coverage is getting slashed; newspapers are disappearing altogether; etc. In such trying times (to maybe overstate the situation?) which current writers consistently put a smile on your face?

[Book World editor] Rachel Hartigan Shea: Good writers, actually. And I don't think they're going away. People always want stories in whatever form they take.

But the book that most delighted me recently is "Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure," which we reviewed last Sunday. I love the idea that 1) Truman thought he could go on a road trip like a normal person, and 2) that Matthew Algeo became so obsessed with the trip that he tracked down just about every detail of it...

The book has also received several nice mentions on various blogs in recent days. Thank you, bloggers!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The book was positively reviewed in The Washington Post - by Christopher Buckley, no less! Click here to read it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Made it back to Rome yesterday after a relatively uneventful flight (though one of my fellow passengers apparently gave me a nasty cold). I'd been gone for 57 days - too long to be away from home. Fortunately the cats seem to remember me. (The wife does, too.)

An interview that I recorded for The Bob Edwards Show is running today (Thursday, June 11) on XM Channel 133 and Sirius Channel 196 (click here for times).

The Washington Post will review the book this weekend. Please keep all fingers and toes crossed for me. Also, my C-SPAN presentation will air again this weekend. Click here for times.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Only one more event left on this leg of the book tour. At 2 PM tomorrow (Saturday, June 6) I will be signing books at Kuhns Corner Books in my hometown of Perkasie (that’s PERK-uh-see, not per-KAY-see), Pennsylvania. The bookstore is located at 500 West Walnut Street (the corner of Fifth and Walnut). If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Some numbers from my book tour, May 3—29, 2009:

Number of events held.

Number of states in which events were held.

Miles traveled.

Dollars spent on gas.

Average miles per gallon (highway).

Number of meals eaten at McDonalds (in my defense, they have very reliable WiFi).

Highest attendance at an event (Kansas City Public Library, May 6).

Lowest attendance at an event (undisclosed location).

Number of times “American Pie” was heard on the radio (in whole or in part).

Approximate number of dead deer seen on the roadside (in whole or in part).

Number of dead foxes seen on the roadside.

Rank of Steve Miller Band’s “Take the Money and Run” on The River 106.3 FM’s Top 500 Memorial Day countdown in Wheeling, West Virginia. An outrage. Shouldn’t even be in the top 100.

$5.00 (50% of total bill)
Size of tip given sassy waitress Hannah at IHOP #3056 in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Number of professional baseball games attended (Kansas City Royals, Columbus Clippers).

Number of breakdowns (mechanical).

Number of times I was introduced as “Matthew Allego.”

Approximate number of books signed.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Did a little sightseeing in Columbus today. I went to the zoo, where most of the animals seemed to be rather lethargic. Maybe it was the warm, humid weather.

In any event, it was a much more pleasant experience than the last time I went to a zoo.

After the zoo, I went downtown and visited the Thurber House, where James Thurber lived while he attended Ohio State from 1913 to 1917. It’s a wonderful museum. Among the interesting artifacts is the typewriter Thurber used while he was at the New Yorker.

Apparently, when Thurber died he had just begun a story called “Please Do Not Touch.” I wonder where he was going with that one...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Many, many thanks to Sean Duffy and everybody else at the Ohio County Public Library for making yesterday's event in Wheeling such a great success. More than 80 people attended my presentation!

Only two more events left on this leg of the book tour, tonight at 7 at the Barnes & Noble at 1739 Olentangy River Road in Columbus, and tomorrow night at 7 at the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm speaking at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, West Virginia, today at noon. Then I'm off to Columbus, Ohio. Tomorrow morning at 8:15 I will be appearing on WTTE-TV Fox 28 News in Columbus. Tune in (if you can)!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I may have mentioned that C-SPAN taped my reading at the Kansas City Public Library earlier this month. Well, it will run tomorrow (Monday, May 25) at 2:30 PM on C-SPAN2. After that, it will run three more times. Click here for a complete schedule.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Had a great couple of days in western Maryland. Before my reading at Main Street Books in Frostburg last night, I had dinner at the Princess Restaurant with Fred Powell, the bookstore's owner. We sat in the famous Truman booth, of course. The restaurant's owner, George W. Pappas, picked up the tab, which was very nice of him - though I have been responsible for getting the Princess a fair amount of publicity lately!

Last night's reading was a great success, as was today's at the Frederick County Public Library. Now I'm in Wheeling, West Virginia, for a few days. When I checked into the motel I picked up a copy of "Roundabout," the monthly guide to events in the Wheeling area. Much to my surprise, my reading is listed!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Drove from Indianapolis to western Maryland yesterday (eight hours). Had a wonderful time in Indy, mainly due to the hospitality of my hosts, Claire and Jim Clark. Claire, who plays a minor role in the book, has become my biggest fan in Indiana. On Wednesday night she and Jim even hosted a party for me. It was a blast, and I am still recovering! ...

Click here
to read a very nice review of the book in the Jackson (Mississippi) Free Press. ...

Tonight (Friday night) at 7:30 I will be doing a reading at Main Street Books in Frostburg, Maryland. (Beforehand I will be having dinner across the street at the Princess Restaurant, where Harry and Bess stopped for lunch on their way east). Tomorrow (Saturday) I will be appearing at the Frederick County Public Library in Frederick, Maryland, at 1:00 PM.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

These two sculptures flank the entrance of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library. Collectively known as "thinmanlittlebird," they were installed earlier this year. Perhaps not surprisingly, they have generated some controversy in Indianapolis!

Atrium of the Indianapolis-Marion County Library
Said goodbye to Allyson yesterday (insert not-smiley face here). She's back in Rome safe and sound. Drove from Chicago to Indianapolis today, was running late when I arrived because I forgot about the time change! At 7 tonight I'm doing a reading at the new Central Library, which is where I am now. It's an absolutely gorgeous library.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tomorrow (Monday) I will be taping an interview for the Bob Edwards Show on Sirius XM Radio and appearing live on the Roe Conn Show on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago from 4:00 to 4:30 pm CDT.

The Virtual Book Signing at the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago yesterday went great. (It will be archived and available on-line in a week or two.) Many thanks to Mary Kravenas and Dan Weinberg for making it possible. The Abraham Lincoln Book Shop is a really wonderful place, with all kinds of presidential memorabilia on display and for sale. If you ever get a chance, stop by. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Had a great event at Pudd'nhead Books last night (thank you, Nikki). Drove to Chicago today, and am now in the hotel room eagerly awaiting Allyson!

Tomorrow at noon (CDT), I will be appearing at the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, but if you can't make it, you can still watch the event live on the Internet!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's been a great few days in St. Louis. On Tuesday I had two very successful events at the Barnes & Noble in Fenton (thank you, Deborah!) and last night I had a wonderful time at the St. Louis Woman's Club, where I gave a speech and was treated royally (thank you, Toni!).

Tonight at 7 I'm giving a reading at Pudd'nhead Books (37 S. Old Orchard Ave., Webster Groves, MO). Afterward I'm meeting up with some old St. Louis friends across the street at the Highway 61 Roadhouse. If you're in the area, please come to both events!

Tomorrow I'm driving to Chicago (to meet Allyson - yay!!!). On Saturday at noon I'll be giving a reading at the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop (357 W. Chicago Ave.). That will be a great event - and it will be carried live on the Web at, so you can join me even if you're not in Chicago!

Monday, May 11, 2009

This morning I appeared on the Scott & Scott show on WZUS-FM, the country station in Decatur. That's me in the middle. Scott is on the right. The "other Scott" is on the left.

Tonight I spoke at the Decatur Public Library. We had another good turnout (more than 50 people).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Had a nice event at Morrisson-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana, yesterday. More than 20 people attended my presentation, and afterward I was presented with a gift basket by the local Convention and Visitors Bureau (pictured above). Drove to Decatur, Illinois, today. Tomorrow night at 7 I am doing a reading/signing at the Decatur Public Library. (BTW, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a nice article about the book today.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The book tour is off to a good start! More than 150 people attended my presentation at the Kansas City Public Library last night. Many thanks to Henry Fortunato and the library staff for setting up such a wonderful event (which was taped by C-SPAN, incidentally). This morning at 10, I will be a guest on the Walter Bodine show on KCUR-FM (89.3) in Kansas City. (Harry's grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, will be on the show with me.) Tonight at 6, I will be signing books at the Banes & Noble in Independence, Missouri. If you are in the area, please stop by!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Albert Hamilton Gordon, one of the last living links to the great stock market crash of 1929, passed away on Friday. He was 107.

In 2004, I produced a story about Mr. Gordon for Marketplace. Back then he was "only" 103 and still came into his office several days a week!

Incidentally, in its obituary, the New York Times appears to use two quotes from my story, but mistakenly attributes them to "NPR." Marketplace, of course, is produced by American Public Media.

Friday, May 01, 2009

I'm hanging out at my in-laws' place in Johnson City, Tennessee, attending to last minute details before heading out to Kansas City on Monday to begin the book tour. I'll be driving my father-in-law's truck (thanks, Frank). First event is Tuesday night at 6:30 at the Kansas City Public Library's Plaza Branch. This Sunday, the Kansas City Star is running an excerpt from the book, which is already on line. Click here to read it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I was interviewed about the book last night on Marketplace. Click here to red or listen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Oh, almost forgot: A Brooklyn bookstore is considering hosting an event for me but would like me to invite 75 people! If anybody knows anybody in NYC who might be interested in attending, please send me their names and e-mail addresses!
Sorry I haven't posted anything in a week, but there's not much to report, and my Internet access is spotty. (Right now I'm using the WiFi in a McDonald's, for example.) I'm still in Portland. On Wednesday I will drive down to Philly, fly to Tennessee, and pick up my in-laws' car for the book tour. The first event is at the Kansas City Public Library (Plaza Branch) on May 6 at 6:30 PM. (Click here for the full book tour schedule.) The exciting thing is that C-SPAN will be taping my presentation for their Book TV programming! (I am very nervous!) Another cool thing: This Sunday (May 3), the Kansas City Star will run an excerpt of the book in their Sunday magazine. If you live in or near Kansas City, please save me a copy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

My book received a (mostly) positive review in the Wall Street Journal last weekend. ... A friend and I went to see the Dead (i.e., the Grateful Dead) in Worcester, Mass., on Saturday night. The show was only so-so, but the ambiance was stellar. ... Right now I’m in Portland (Maine, of course), working on the condo a bit and getting ready for the book tour.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My friend Mitch happened to visit the public library in Granville, Ohio, recently, when he noticed my book was among the library's "Staff Picks." So thanks to Amy in Circulation for the recommendation. But, really, isn't a book best appreciated when it is bought, not borrowed?

Friday, April 10, 2009

My book is mentioned in the new (May) issue of Real Simple. It’s included in the magazine’s monthly “Simple List.” Very cool! ... On their trip, Harry and Bess ate lunch at the Princess Restaurant in Frostburg, Maryland. As I mention in the book, of all the small mom-and-pop businesses that the Trumans patronized on their trip, the Princess is the only one that has survived, more or less intact, in the same family. This week, the Cumberland (Maryland) Times-News ran a very nice article about the restaurant on the occasion of its 70th anniversary. ... My book also includes a little sidebar on UFOs. Well, this week the Los Angeles Times ran a fascinating article about Area 51, the secret military base where crashed UFOs are supposedly stored. ... Thanks to my friend Colin Woodard for giving the book a very nice plug on his blog. (See you in a couple weeks, Colin!) ... Thanks also to Anna for mentioning the book on her blog, “Muse at Highway Speeds.” ... It’s going to be a busy weekend: Allyson has to work, while I have to get ready for the trip home. (The cats have nothing special planned.) Have a great weekend everybody!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Sorry I haven’t posted much the past couple weeks. We’ve been busy with guests, work, planning my trip, etc. I leave for the States next Tuesday to begin my book tour. We’re still trying to line up events, but as of the moment I have 17 scheduled in May alone.

I’ve been watching a lot of coverage of the Abruzzo earthquake on Italian TV. It’s pretty incredible. Some smaller villages have been completely destroyed. Irreplaceable medieval buildings have been reduced to rubble. Not to mention the many lives lost.

Here in Rome we were sleeping when the quake struck early Monday morning. We slept right through it. Since then there have been a few aftershocks during the day that we’ve felt.

I’m still in a daze over my New York Times op-ed last Sunday. A few people have asked me how it came about, and the answer is, I was lucky. An op-ed page editor at the paper read the Publishers Weekly review and sent me an e-mail asking me if I wanted to write the piece. Since then, the book has been mentioned in a couple other blogs, so hopefully the buzz is building!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Big news: I have an op-ed piece in today's New York Times. Click here to read it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Some friends are visiting us this week, which is always a good excuse for us to get out and see some of Rome's many sights. On Monday we went to the Vatican Museums. Have to admit that I wasn't blown away by the Sistine Chapel. (Maybe it was the ungodly crowds.) But the Raphael Rooms were most impressive. Above is a small detail from one of the frescoes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I saw my book for the first time today! My friend Neil (clearly a man of impeccable taste) had pre-ordered a copy and received it yesterday. This morning he brought it along when we met for coffee at the Pantheon. It’s a pretty cool feeling, seeing your book for the first time. I’m letting myself enjoy that feeling for a few days before I start worrying about what I’m going to do next!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Rome Marathon was yesterday. Allyson and I took part in the event’s four-kilometer “fun run,” which was neither much fun, nor much of a run. There were so many participants that you could barely walk, much less run, for the first kilometer or so. And the course was mostly uphill, which was definitely not fun!

Afterward, we watched the real runners. The marathon course went very close to our apartment building. I shot this video of the leaders passing by us, right at the 36-kilometer (22-mile) mark. (The leader in this video, Benjamin Kiptoo Kolum, went on to win the race in record time.) What impressed me is how fast these guys are running! I mean, I know they are world-class runners, but they went by so fast you could barely read their bib numbers - and they still had four more miles to go!

After the marathon, we worked on our terrace for a good two or three hours, pulling weeds, sweeping up a winter’s worth of dirt, etc. That was much harder than the fun run - but probably not as hard as running the marathon would have been.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Well, it's official: Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure has been published! The final bound copies arrived at the publisher’s warehouse last week and will soon be shipped out to bookstores nationwide.

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure is already being hailed by critics, and it is widely expected to be this year's fastest-selling book about a road trip that Harry and Bess Truman took in 1953.

Don't miss out! Pre-order your copy today at your local bookstore (click here to find your local independent bookstore) or from on-line booksellers, including Barnes & Noble,, and Powell's Books.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day everybody!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We've moved quite a few times over the past five or six years, so we've been lucky enough to file taxes in several states. This year we have to file in Virginia since we "resided" there while Allyson was in training at the State Department. The Virginia tax forms are, by a considerable margin, the worst I’ve ever encountered.

Here are the instructions for Line 6 on Form 760PY (the form for part-year residents), which is actually the first line after the basic name, address, and filing status stuff:

"Part I on the back of Form 760PY must [emphasis theirs] be completed before you make an entry on Line 6. Complete Lines 28 through 32, then enter..."

So filers must complete Lines 28 through 32 before [emphasis mine] Line 6? If that's the case, why not move Lines 28 through 32 ahead of Line 6? Let's call them Lines 6 through 10, and renumber the following lines accordingly. And this, for all intents and purposes, is the very first line of the form. It's not an auspicious start. And it only gets worse. To wit: Line 32(a). On the form all it says is, "Net fixed date conformity modifications." Flummoxed? Well, here's what the instructions say:

"Virginia's date of conformity with the Internal Revenue Code was advanced from December 31, 2006, to December 31, 2007. The special 30% and 50% bonus depreciation allowance for certain assets under the IRC and the 5-year net operating loss (NOL) carry back..."

It goes on like that for another nine lines of gibberish, unintelligible to all but tax-preparation professionals (and I suspect even a few of them would be confused). It almost seems like a trap for the filer. Not only that, but the design of the form is abysmal. The type is so small it's hard to read. I don't have my pica ruler handy, but I'm guessing it's 10-point at the most. And the leading - the space between the lines - is so narrow that it's difficult to write in the numbers.

The federal form is, by comparison, a work of clarity and beauty. But nothing compares to the Maine income tax forms.

My, I remember them fondly: bold and colorful, with plenty of room to write in the numbers. If fact, there are designated spaces for each digit on a line. The instructions were clear, too. In the spirit of the Rome Bus Project, here are my grades for income tax forms:

Virginia: D-

Federal: C

Maine: B+

Monday, March 09, 2009

Publishers Weekly gave my book a very nice review today:

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip Matthew Algeo. Chicago Review (IPG, dist.), $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-55652-777-7

Public radio reporter Algeo (Last Team Standing) brings the 1950s into focus with a fascinating reconstruction of Harry and Bess Truman's postpresidential 2,500-mile road trip. “I like to take trips—any kind of trip,” Truman wrote. “They are about the only recreation I have besides reading.” Between 2006 and 2008, Algeo retraced their journey with stopovers at some of the same diners and hotels the couple visited. When Truman left the White House in 1953, he returned to Independence, Mo., rejecting lucrative offers he felt would “commercialize” the presidency. His only income was a small army pension. Acquiring a 1953 Chrysler, the Trumans set out with no fanfare and a curious notion of “traveling incognito.” However, reporters and newsreel cameras soon turned their vehicular vacation into an ongoing media event. The book benefits from extensive research through oral history interviews and papers at the Harry S. Truman Library, and Algeo's own interviews with eyewitnesses. With deliberate detours, this book is a portal into the past with layers of details providing unusual authenticity and a portrait of the president as an ordinary man. 20 b&w photos, 1 map. (May)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Obesity is a growing problem in Italy (no pun intended). One in three Italians is overweight. One in ten is obese. To better track the problem, the Italian Higher Health Institute has announced plans to create a national database of overweight and obese people. How will they do it? By sending doctors and nurses to supermarkets across the country to collect personal data from “heavier shoppers,” who will also be offered helpful “lifestyle advice.”

Hmm. I wonder how that would go over in the States...

Monday, March 02, 2009

My new book received a very nice review in Library Journal today:

Algeo, Matthew. Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip. Chicago Review. May 2009. c.272p. photogs. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-1-55652-777-7. $24.95. HIST

In the summer of 1953, back in Missouri after leaving the White House six months before, Harry and Bess Truman loaded up their new Chrysler and headed out, like thousands of their fellow citizens, on a summer vacation. Public radio reporter Algeo chronicles this unlikely excursion in great and wonderful detail. The Trumans drove to Washington, DC, to visit old friends and then on to New York to visit their daughter, Margaret. Along the way they caused a sensation at almost every diner and filling station at which they stopped. In addition to a detailed itinerary, Algeo, who retraced the Trumans' route, also provides many interesting side trips, including both press and government reactions and interviews with folks who'd met the Trumans on the trip. It was still a time when former Presidents received no pension or Secret Service protection, when there were no interstate highways or big chain motels, and travel was a much more intimate and haphazard affair. This enchanting glimpse into a much simpler age that is all but gone should appeal to anyone interested in the Fifties, Harry Truman, or unusual travel tales. Recommended for public libraries and undergraduate collections. —Dan Forrest, Access Svcs., Western Kentucky Univ., Bowling Green

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I recently had a dentist’s appointment here in Rome. Since it was my first visit to this particular office, I was handed a clipboard with a small pile of forms for me to complete. Or so I assumed. The first page was my medical history. I filled it out and flipped the page. The second page was another patient’s medical history. The third was another’s, the fourth another’s...

Apparently, as each new patient came in, the receptionist simply placed a new blank form on the top of the pile. So, there’s a lot less paperwork involved in health care in Italy. But a lot less privacy, too!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dumb criminal news from the pages of my hometown paper.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

AP's Ted Anthony has written a very nice article about ex-presidents in general, and Harry Truman in particular. Click here to read it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

If, like me, you are interested in unusual and interesting events in American history, then you should definitely check out a new podcast called the memory palace. It’s produced by my friend and former Marketplace colleague Nate DiMeo, and each two-to-three minute episode is devoted to telling the story of a wonderfully forgotten or obscure person, place, or thing of the past. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A few people have asked me if I’m still working on the Rome Bus Project. The answer is, yes, I am, though not as diligently as I should. With the book coming out in May, I’ve been busy preparing for the book tour and building a website (it hasn’t officially launched yet, but here's a sneak peak). But I’m hoping to get at least one full day of bus rides in this week, so stay tuned. ... I was watching a DVD of WKRP in Cincinnati the other night when I noticed something funny. In the episode “Fish Story” (the one where Herb dresses up as the ’KRP carp), Venus Flytrap is wearing a Cincinnati Reds jacket with a very obvious typo! ... Best wishes to Chris Squire, the bass player in Yes, my all-time favorite progressive rock group. He’s been hospitalized due to “an unspecified medical emergency [that] required surgery on his leg.” (Rumor has it that it was a blood clot.) In any event, I hope Chris is back on his feet soon: I was hoping to see Yes in Rome this summer!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

After five months in Rome, we finally visited the Colosseum today!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Here's an interesting article about the last active-duty draftee in the U.S. Army.
One afternoon last week, the sun finally inched above the building across our courtyard and, for the first time since disappearing below that building last November, it began shining directly into our apartment.

This has made our cat very happy.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Happy Birthday to Frank Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia, who turns 108 today! According to this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Frank may be America's last living World War I veteran. Not only that: He was in the Philippines when the Japanese invaded in 1941 and ended up spending more than three years in a prison camp!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Check this out: It's a news report from 1981 about some crazy technology that lets people read a daily newspaper - on a computer! (Thanks to my friend Rob for bringing this to my attention.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sure we have a new president, but I think an even bigger change occurred this month: Mountain Dew became Mtn Dew.

Apparently this “re-branding” is part of PepsiCo’s effort to connect with younger consumers, who, with all their text messaging and whatnot, seem to have developed an aversion toward vowels. At least they could have put a period after "Mtn." (Of course, this is the same company that bottles Dr Pepper.)

While they were at it, PepsiCo also changed the logo of their flagship beverage to this:

I guess it’s supposed to look more like a smile than the old logo, but to me it just looks like somebody talking out of one side of their mouth. Or splitting their pants.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I was overwhelmed by the response to my last post: I received two e-mails suggesting other bizarre and/or nonsensical lyrics. To wit:

I got a lion in my pocket
And baby he’s ready 2 roar

--Prince, “1999”

Okay, the lion is obviously a metaphor for a penis. But, if that’s the case, why does he have a penis in his pocket in the first place? Does he have a hole in his pocket? Or is it somebody else’s penis? (Thanks to Phil.)

The only one for me is you, and you for me

--The Turtles, “Happy Together”

This is a neat bit of lyrical legerdemain. You think The Turtles are saying he’s the only one for her and she’s the only one for him. But they’re really just saying she’s the only one for him – twice. In both cases, she is “for” him. Whether this feeling is reciprocated is unrecorded. (Thanks to The Guv.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

For reasons known only to God, the song that has been resolutely stuck in my head for the past few days is "Guilty," the treacly Barbra Streisand-Barry Gibb duet that was a humungous hit in the early '80s. This song contains lyrics that strike me as unusual, if not cruel:

It oughta be illegal
Make it a crime to be lonely or sad

I understand the sentiment - that, by outlawing loneliness and sadness we might somehow eradicate those two (admittedly regrettable) human emotions. But, even if Congress enacts tough new anti-lonely-or-sad legislation (and with the Democrats in charge, who knows?), what about those few poor souls who, no matter how hard they try, are unable to stifle their loneliness and/or sadness? I mean, is incarcerating the lonely or sad really the answer? Surely it would only make them sadder - though, given prison overcrowding, it might, I must concede, cure their loneliness.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Watched the inauguration with about a dozen other Americans at a friend's apartment. I thought the inaugural speech was good, but I was surprised by a glaring error in the third sentence. "Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath," the new president said. Actually, only 43 Americans have taken the oath (though there have been 44 presidents since you-know-who gets counted twice).

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm very sorry that the Eagles lost yesterday. But my disappointment was mitigated by the fact that Allyson and I spent the weekend in Venice.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I am quoted and (more importantly) my book is mentioned in an article about the Steagles in today's New York Times. Click here to read it!

Monday, January 12, 2009

I have ten nieces and nephews. Today the youngest of them, Jonathan, turns 18. Happy birthday, Jonathan. And thanks for making me feel so old! ...

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles are just one win away from playing each other in the Super Bowl. How cool would that be – a Steagles Super Bowl!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama had lunch at the White House with President Bush and former Presidents Carter, Bush, and Clinton. It was an historic meeting, and it made for a very good photo op.

The event reminded me of an anecdote in my forthcoming book, Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure.

At Dwight Eisenhower’s first inaugural in 1953, a young freelance photographer named Bob Goldberg snapped a picture of Truman, Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon standing together on the dais. Eight years later, Goldberg asked Harry to sign a copy of the photograph, which the other three men had already autographed. Harry refused. “I wouldn’t sign a picture with that son-of-a-bitch Nixon in it,” he said by way of explanation. “He called me a traitor.” Then he cocked his fist as if to throw a punch. “This is what I’d like to do to him.”

(To read Bob Goldberg’s account of the story and to see the picture, click here.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Turns out my octillion-something tracking number isn’t so big after all.

A friend who works in accounting tells me he recently processed a payment with the following “reference number”:


Wow! For those keeping score at home, that’s two hundred thirteen duodecillion, twenty-two undecillion, seven hundred ninety decillion...

Can anybody top that?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I recently ordered a pair of eyeglasses on-line (from - highly recommended; no-line bifocals for fifty bucks). Yesterday I got an e-mail telling me the glasses had been shipped via first class mail. The tracking number, I was helpfully informed, is 420201899101805213907334976534. That’s right: four hundred twenty octillion, two hundred one septillion, eight hundred ninety-nine sextillion…

I would guess that this tracking number is greater than the total number of packages all human beings have sent and ever will send - multiplied by, oh, a quadrillion. It seems to me that account numbers, tracking numbers, etc. are, too often, needlessly large and complicated. Why, for example, does our electric company account number exceed the total number of human beings who have ever lived?

In this regard, at least, the U.S. government deserves some credit. At one billion, the maximum possible number of Social Security numbers seems perfectly reasonable.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year - except for Maria de Jesus of Portugal, whose brief reign as the World's Oldest Person has ended. Maria died today at 115. Gertrude Baines (born April 6, 1894) is the new W.O.P.

Way to go, Gertrude!