And Now, a Story

Back in the day, when my dad was still working funerals regularly, occasionally they would get a family from Brecksville who wanted to have the funeral mass at St. Basil the Great.

Originally, this church was right next to Bosa’s Donuts, right down on 82, just east of Brecksville Rd. (It’s since moved to a newer, bigger location.) Occasionally, after setting everything up for the funeral, the gentlemen would duck out for a quick cup of coffee and a donut at Bosa’s.

One day, my dad and two employees headed over to refresh themselves. They all sat down at the counter, and the young, adorably cute waitress came up to take their orders.

“What will it be today, guys?” she asks.

“Hmm,” says the one employee. “I’ll take a cup of coffee, but I’m not really feeling like a donut today. What else do you have?”

“Well, we’ve got bagels, English muffins, and toast.”

“What kind of toast?”

“White, wheat, rye, raisin…”

“Oh, raisin toast. That sounds great. I haven’t had raisin toast since I don’t know when. I’ll take that.”

So this cute waitress turns to Employee Number Two. “How about you, honey?”

“You know,” he says, “raisin toast actually sounds really good. I’ll have that too.”

So this adorable waitress turns to my dad. “And what about you, sweetie? Is yours raisin too?”

And my dad, without skipping a beat, says, “No, but it’s quivering a little.”

Continue reading “And Now, a Story”

Taking Back the News

Let me ask you a question: When was the last time you saw something positive on the news? And I mean something genuinely positive — not “Muffy the Wonder Pony Turns 100” or some other treacly crap. When was the last time you saw a true story of courage, or nobility, or kindness…or at least one that wasn’t blatantly sensationalist and opportunistic?

Yeah, me either.

That wouldn’t bother me so much if I weren’t confronted by ordinary goodness every single day. I look at CNN or Yahoo News or the local paper and I think, “The real world isn’t like that. Things are not this bad. They just aren’t.”

Do bad things happen in the world? Yes, of course. Sure they do. They happen all the time. But they aren’t the only thing happening, and they aren’t even the most common thing. Humans are, by and large, good people. The problem is, our brain is wired in such a way that only the exceptions stand out. Which means that only the exceptions are “newsworthy.” Continue reading “Taking Back the News”

6 Things I Like That You Probably Don’t

Corn Nuts These delectable nuggets of crunchy goodness are delicious, and surprisingly good for you (I mean, as compared to other crunchy fried snacky foods). And while you tend to see them fairly regularly in gas stations and freeway travel plazas, you don’t often hear people talking about them.

Drakan: The Ancients Gates When this game game out on PS2 shortly after launch, it was met with thunderous apathy. To this day I don’t understand why it didn’t become a hit. A free-roaming hack-n-slash RPG with really awesome dragon-riding elements? That is pure gold. I liked the game so much I had Greg Sewart write up a retrospective for OPM. I sure hope you got paid, Greg.

New Model Army This vastly underrated British folk-rock band has been making challenging, provocative, catchy, sometimes heart-wrenching music since 1979, and almost no one in this country has ever heard of them. It’s very, very hard to find lyrics with as much power and artistry anywhere else.

Turning Off the TV This one may seem like cheating, but I really do relish hitting the off switch on the electronic overseer. Don’t get me wrong, I like me a good program every now and then. (And of course, gaming doesn’t count.) But I probably watch less than three hours of TV a week…I just enjoy gaming or reading or feeding my brain with internet junk food so much more. There are definitely times when I find myself sinking into that TV stupor, just watching it because it’s on and I’m not even that interested in what’s showing. At those times, summoning the energy to turn it off and go do something else is particularly rewarding.

Cemeteries Even though I’ve had to see them a lot more than I’d like over the past few years, I still do find something so relaxing and soothing about being in a cemetery — particularly an old cemetery, with its gorgeous headstones, monuments, and mausoleums. Oh, that reminds me:

Harold and Maude My favorite movie ever. It’s about love, and death, and wealth, and freedom, and most importantly: happiness. It’s not a movie for everyone, but if quirky black romantic comedies strike your fancy, I have never seen a better one. There are few movies like it, but if you liked Garden State, for example, I have a feeling you’ll like Harold and Maude.

Your turn. Let me know five (or six, or ten!) things you like that no one else does, in comments or your own blog. (Drop a link in comments if you do it on your own blog, k?)

And to All, a Good Night

I grew up in a very large family: I’m the youngest of ten kids. Yeah, you read that right. I have five older sisters and four older brothers — an even 5/5 split. To make things even more surreal, there was an eight-year gap between my youngest sister and my youngest brother, so most of my siblings are at least ten years older than me, with the difference in age between me and my oldest brother clocking in at ten days short of an even twenty years. So even in my earliest memories, my siblings had significant others, and very shortly thereafter, kids. (I now have a niece and two nephews who are married. But I’m not a great-uncle, yet.)

In addition to that, my dad’s biological mother died shortly after he was born, and his father got remarried, which made for five separate and distinct branches of the family tree just two generations back, counting the families of my maternal grandmother and grandfather, paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, and paternal step-grandmother. And many of them came from big families. (We’re talking about turn-of-the-century reproduction statistics here, mostly for recent immigrants to the country; this was not at all abnormal.)

Anyway, to sum up: we’re a big family. So the holidays were always a fairly substantial production. Continue reading “And to All, a Good Night”

Parting Words

Thursday is my last day in the office, and while you’re still going to be seeing me around this place (I’m still hammering out details of my Big Plans but I’ll be posting here no matter what), I thought I would leave you with some thoughts gleaned from my ten-and-almost-a-half years working for the same employer, and nine-and-a-third years working on the same magazine. Let’s begin!

On the Business World
When you start at a new job, you will be terrified. Ten years later, you will wonder what you were so worried about.

Learn how to do the things that aren’t strictly your job. You never know when it might come in handy.

Remember that it’s okay to say “no” sometimes. But if you spend more energy explaining why you can’t do something than you would have spent actually doing it, it’s time to look for a new job.

The business world is strange, and fickle, and strange. Weird things happen. Expect the weirdness and you’ll be fine.

My dad, the successful owner and manager of a small business, once told me, “Never ask an employee to do something that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.” Another way to put this is, “Never ask an employee to do something unless they know you’d be willing to do it yourself.” I have never been given better managerial advice.

Continue reading “Parting Words”