Friday, March 6, 2009

I Couldn't Let This Go By

It's Only Rock and Roll, But I Like It

My friend recently emailed and said, “I noticed you havent made a new post on your blog in a 

while.” Well Nick, I thought it was only a weekend off, but hey, I’ve been wrong before, ask the women in my life. 


still working on my all time Indians pitching staff, that one’s harder than the position players, because I’ve been fortunate to grow up in an age of dominant Ind

ians pitchers from Bartolo Colon, Sabathia, Lee, and of course Phil Niekro. 

So this post is dedicated to another love of my life besides 

sports and history, music.  The movie post is going to come very soon.  For all you lovers of Killer Nerd all I’ll say is the movie post will, “accentuate the 


 For today, I’m been very poetic, I finished Langston Hughes’ autobiography The Big Sea and 

my heart is confused so I’ve been listening to my favorite music.  Music has always let me reflect, listen to some of the greatest poets of the latter half of the 

twentieth century and has been a release of the anger, confusion, and mysticism that is life.  So here is my random playlist of music that I’m listening to 

tonight.  I’ve been in a seventies phase, maybe because as much as society trashes the decade, it’s mine I was born then, and two it’s where Rock 

and Roll gained it’s sea legs, just watch Almost Famous.

Also, Life on Mars is one of the coolest new shows of this season, it replaced Pushing 

Daisies, ABC is back to it’s Northern Exposure/ Twin Peaks past, even if the show was an original BBC sitcom.  Without further delay, the rock list that I could 

be a seventies DJ: 

Cream Strange Brew               

I love Cream, the raw energy, Clapton’s guitar, Ginger Baker’s beats, and Jack Bruce’s rhythm.  The lyrics let us know who was the big dogs of rock come 1968.  Pure unadulterated power. 

Electric Light Orchestra Evil Woman 

ELO, my mom had the album, nothing beats hearing the harmony’s of Jeff Lyne with the scratch of the needle touching vinyl.  This was the Beatles and Beach Boys combined with the power of sound of Phil Spektor wishes he could achieve. 

The Raspberries I Don’t Know What I Want

Cleveland, the 70s pre Michael Stanley selling out Blossom, and before we created the Boss, this is why we have the Rock Hall, suck it Philly and Old Man Dick Clark.  That’s how we roll in Cleveland.  Again, Rock getting it’s sea legs, with Wally Bryson and Eric Carmen screaming his angst, only Go All the Way beats this song live from the Agora.

Jimi Hendrix Little Wing and Little Miss Lover

Jimi always brings me to the combination of Zen, mixed with the mind boggling generations of Southern Blues, going back to Muddy, Leadbelly, and Robert Johnson.  The Stones tried, Zep tried, but only Jimi and maybe Eric Clapton could capture the angst of the Jim Crow south.

Thin Lizzy Romeo and the Lonely Girl and The Boys Are Back In Town

Speaking of Jim Crow and Europes answer of an Irish man of mixed birth and acceptance disregarding what too many Americans couldn’t look past, a black dude that rocks harder and stronger than any white dude in the States.  Phil Lynott like Roberta Clemente is the god of his craft that too many kids today don’t know existed, period.

Hall and Oates Women Comes and Goes and Rich Girl

Blue Eyed Soul, they took what Frankie Valli and the boys did back in the 50s and 60s and gave it a little Californian twist, people will rip on these guys, but they proved their chops with quality songs from the latter half of the 70s.

John Cougar Mellencamp I Need a Lover Who Won’t Drive Me Crazy

The title of the song says it all.

Fleetwood Mac Bleed to Love Her

One of my favorite all time bands, again, on vinyl nothing compares to Stevie’s signing backed but Lyndsay’s guitar work without using a pick, all with the fingees.  The Mac is a band that I’ll always love, and no matter how many girls say they love the Mac, they’ll always be mine, and I won’t let women ruin this band for me.

The Black Key Psychotic Girl, I Got Mine, and Stack Shot Billie

The best concert I’ve been to the last few years.  This is the concert I’ve been waiting for; I wore the arm band for almost a month after the concert.  This ranks up there with seeing Dylan, Bruce, and JB for all time concerts on my list.

The Police Can’t Get Next to You and Message In a Bottle

This choice would make Grabowski proud, but I remember playing Frisbee Gold in Toledo jamming to the Police and crashing the high school graduation party with Zach, oh the Boardman, Ohio kids…

Bruce Springsteen Growin Up  and Rosalita

This is what made Super Bowl XLIII awesome, besides the money I won on poker and the fact that the Steelers won, I loved the Bruce Concert.  I still haven't come down since seeing Bruce in 07 and Rosie's one of the greatest all time closing number in Rock and Roll history.

David Bowie Life On Mars

Bowie, great television drama, Gretchen Mol who played Bettie Page, Michael Imperioli for the Sopranos, and Mr. Keitel as Mr. White, what more do we need, a Christopher Walken cameo would be nice, but the soundtrack is what makes me stick around.  That 70s Show on good 70s vodka…

Mott the Hoople All the Young Dudes

Bowie song, Scott Longert recommendation on music from the 70s, what more could we ask for?




Monday, February 16, 2009

All Time Favorite Indians Lineup

To kick off the pitchers and catchers reporting, I’ll move back to the realm of sports.  I haven’t written a sports blog in a while so this is appropriate for President’s day, I’ll write about sports.

Leadoff and starting in center field,

Kenny Lofton

Sorry Grady, you’ll have to ride the pine for 
this series.  Kenny Lofton was one of the best leadoff hitters I’ve seen play live.  HOFer Ricky Henderson is the best I was able to
 watch on TV, put Kenny is the best I’ve seen with my eyes.  Since acquiring Lofton from the Astros, he provided the pop in the lineup that we needed for those powerhouse hitters in the 2-9 spots on the ’94 and ’95 Tribe.

Batting Second and playing Second Base

Julio Franco 

I couldn’t find a better picture, I’m impatient and this was on the first google search page.  Who didn’t love hearing Mr. Johnson yell at the top of his lungs in the old Upper Reserve at Municipal, JJUULLIIOOO!!!!!!  Besides the fun time with Ricky, Dad, and Coach, we got to see Julio in his prime in Cleveland at the young age of 72 in 1988.  Now Julio stars in “Back on Topps” another Eisener webgem.

Hitting Third  and playing Leftfield

Joe Carter

The game where I was keeping score and almost got beaned by a JC homer and then cousin Scott almost got stuck underneath the seat diving for the ball, priceless.


Cleanup and playing Right

Albert Jojuan Belle

The reason why I hate Gene Lamont and the rest of the White Sox.  When Belle showed his guns proving he didn’t need cork, nuff said.  The guy should be a cop, he caught criminals with his laser like throws into the stands, and chases down juvenile delinquents in a single bound in his Escalade.  If he wasn’t a superhero posing as a ball player then call me Batman.  I still wear my Belle jersey T-shirt with pride.

Batting Fifth and playing First Base

Jim Thome

The “Pride of Peroria” still another hammer in the lineup and another good memory.  Detroit, Comerica Park, dad dropping his bag of peanuts and shells onto the guy in front of us.  Awesome.  Also, I can’t let it be not said, when your wife is your rock and she is a newscaster I had a crush on as a teenager, then props my man, props.

Batting Sixth and hitting DH

Manny “The Baby Bull” “Manny being Manny” Ramirez

Again, I have to apologize to Kim for being a Red Sox hater, Manny’s ours, he grew up here, we uttered the phrase Manny being Manny before you did, and an entire first grade class at a west side elemen
tary school is probably begat by Manny.  

Batting Seventh and Catching

Sandy Alomar, Jr.

I couldn’t find the picture I wanted, the one where Sandy karate kicks a White Sox for beanning him.  I had it on my wall in my bedroom and didn’t save the picture, why lord, why?  It was one of the sweatest air kicks, ala Daniel Larusso style, Mr. Miyagi would be proud.


Batting Eight and playing Third

Brook Jacoby

All hustle, one of the players you could have pride in as a child of the 80s.  Also, he’s my friend Jessica’s favorite Indian.

Batting Ninth and playing Shortstop

Omar Vizquel

When my grandmother used to talk about how cute he was, that was awesome.  Grandma was a die hard Indians fan, and probably the biggest reason besides hanging out with my dad and brothers why I love baseball so much.  


Oddibe McDowel

Another of my grandma’s faves when he played for the Rangers she liked saying his name and then when we had him for 69 games it all came together.

Keith Hernandez

Again we had him for a short time, but I had a Keith Hernandez autograph Firstbasemen’s glove.  Dude dated Elaine Benes and partied with Gooden and Strawberry in the 80s in NYC, enough said.

Grady Sizemore

Despite how much I hate him that he can date any woman in Cleveland, he’s turning into an okay ballplayer and seems like a nice kid.

Joel Skinner

Backup catcher and all around good guy, I met him at the museum and he read a children’s story.  I got his autograph and I might have been more nervous meeting him than when I met Ozzie Newsome.

Felix Fermin

Del Gatto, I was there for his first MLB homerun, and hey we could always trade him for another Vizquel. That was in 1990 his fourth year in the league, he’d go on to hit 3 more.  That’s Malkamaki power.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sisu: or as Patty asked, "What's a Malkamaki"

The Malkamaki Family cicra 1941

This is going to be one of the most personal blogs, because for one there’s my last name in the title of the post.  Also, as many people know my Finnish heritage is one of the strongest influences, interest, and research topics in my life.  Being a Finn, I’m part of a select community; the homeland only has a population of around five million.  New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles all almost have populations larger than the population of the country.  So in America, there are not many of us, and I’ve discovered over the years the Finnish-American community recognizes this bond almost immediately.  We have the same pride as Sicilians, remember they’re not Italians, the islanders and the folks from the mainland both believe this from my experiences.  Finns have that same pride, we talk about why our family came to America, the jobs they found, the locations they lived, and the social makeup that all Finns share, stubbornness, strong-mindedness, political loyalties, and for the worst part, grudges.  But there is another bond we have and that is Sisu.

I'll tell you what Sisu is in a moment, but first why is the subtitle, “Or as Patty asked, ‘What’s a Malkamaki?’”  That’s an interesting story.  I started my current job in November 2001 and for me and my family members we suffer from a similar fate, our last name.  Most when you meet them for the first time, cannot pronounce the name.  This goes to teachers in elementary school, telemarketers, being interviewed for a job, trying to place a reservation, or dealing with people over the phone.  Another problem is most people assume we’re Hawaiian.  There is nothing wrong with being Hawaiian, I’d be proud if I was, but most white people that have Anglo sounding names, don’t have to deal with this.  Because so few know where Finland is, or have ever met a Finn, when you meet people for the first time, I’ve found my siblings, cousins, and other Finns have to start introductions with a history of the country and what a Finn is.  Normally people then try to rationalize why they think your Hawaiian, almost as if you’re wrong and they are right.  (As a side note, my mom always told me that she thought we were black and that we always felt we had more in common with blacks.  I found out today that dark haired, and Finns with a darker complexion were called blacks in Finland, so in a sense yes, I’m Black and proud of it and I’ve always been, I’m not an African-American, I’m Black, thank you to the genealogist for that one.)  So long paragraph short, my first day of work, someone asked, “What’s a Malkamaki,” not realizing that’s my last name and it’s been an inside joke for over ten years.

On to Sisu.  The definition that I was taught by family is an inner strength that only Finns have.  When you look the word up in travel dictionaries, you see the term described as guts.  Wikipedia, which you may or may not agree with using, but hey it’s the fastest place for basic information defines sisu as, “Sisu is a Finnish term that could be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. The equivalent in English is "to have guts", and indeed, the word derives from sisus, which means something inner or interior. However, sisu has a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain the same.”[1]  I agree with this entry, it is not simply to have guts, there is a metaphysical, spiritual meaning to the word.  The final stories I would like to share are two of the most spiritual moments I’ve had in the last few years, both took place at my grandfather’s and both dealt with what I viewed as the meaning of Sisu.

Story the First Grandpa Jaakko Vittori Malkamaki

This was back in the Winter of 2003-2004, I love the snow.  When it snows, I don’t get disappointed, I love the beauty of the white stuff, I feel my blood boil, a yearning for playing in the snow, being one with the snow, living in an area surrounded by snow and utilizing it as a way to guide life comes out when I see inches upon inches of the beautiful, sparkling, diamond-esque white stuff covering the earth.  With that I love to go sledding.

The speed of the wind, the ability to hit ramps, sail through the air as a bird, and land on the white, protective blanket of snow and avoid injury, is a rush like no other.  I totally dig how the Finns dominate the Ski Jump in the Winter Olympics, still one of my favorite events.  The term “Flying Finn,” originated with Hannes Kolehmainen, later Pavo Nurmi and the other great runners, but ski jumping and watching Matti Nykanen, the then newly christened “Flying Finn” during the 1988 Alberta Olympics took my heart.

Sledding is the best way I can imagine being able to perform this feat.  My nephew loves sledding and I decided that I’d visit with my brother and sister-in-law at their home (our Great-Grandfather’s) and go sledding with my nephew on the hill across the street from my Grandfather’s where most of the Malkamaki’s learned to sled.  Eventually not just my nephew, but my nieces found there way from my sisters a half mile away and we had the time of our lives, at least I did.  The sled and my orkalike body wouldn’t allow two people so we devised the plan that I’d lay on my stomach and the they’d sit on my back as we’d glide down the hill to enjoy the experience together, which we did.

Towards the end of the sledding adventure, as our faces were pink, our clothes were wet, we decided to conquer the jump.  Every year teenagers from the neighborhood build a ramp at the bottom of the hill and the goal for the younger children is to build enough courage, or stock pile your Sisu, for the children of Finns, to finally be able to hit the jump.

My nephew and I missed the hill to the left, right, sometimes we’d spin out if you were going to hit it dead center.  Our exhaustion and anger were slowly starting to build when I finally took a breather and told Tyler, “We’ll give it one more shot but I think we need to ask Great-Grandpa or your Great-Great Grandpa for help.”

Now, I’ll let you know that winter, I was having a difficult time.  I had just broken up with the woman I was going to marry, my bestfriend and I were not speaking, and I was in the middle of my parents divorce.  I needed help, just as I knew that jumping that speed bump would mean so much to my nephew. 

As we prepared ourselves, I told him to gather his SISU and as we start to descend the hill I told him we had to shout out in our best Finn accents, “HELP US GRANDPA JAAKKO VITTORI!”

With our plan in place, we strapped on our gear and made our final push, and as we screamed at the top of our lungs, and gave our Rebel Yell, I could tell we were going to hit the ramp with more, speed, more accuracy than I thought we’d be able to achieve. 

To this day my nephew and I both agree we went at least six feet into the air and were carried softly to the ground.  As we sat yards away from the ramp, sled, Uncle Chad, and nephew in different locals, we looked at each other and were simply amazed, and thankful, because we knew Grandpa Jacob helped us to our goal.

Story the Second Grandpa Lauri Jacob Malkamaki

My grandfather passed away this summer.  He had lived an amazing eighty nine years.  He was the first Malkamaki born in America, served in the United States Marine Corp during World War II, and worked between the Diamond and Lake West Hospital through the 1980s.  He was an amateur historian in family history, genealogy, linguistics, and onomastics. 

While in college as my grandfathers speech was starting to deteriorate, there was nothing I loved more than being able to spend time sitting with him and hearing the history of the family, his life, and the things he loved.  Once, he handed me a journal that he had written in, my cousin Beth gave my grandfather the journal.  I have transcribed the journal and now have lost where I saved those files.  I gave the book back to Grandpa, but I think the files are either on my PC or my brothers, or on a floppy disk located somewhere between the two.

One of the last stories my grandfather told in this book was about the local dump, near the sled hill there is a dip that runs along a creek, that is a sublet of the Grand River in Painesville Township.  Our cousins Armi and John had recently, at the time the story took place, moved to America, and had thrown out a coach.  My grandfather was disappointed because he felt as immigrants, they viewed America as the place where the streets are paved with gold and they had already as recent arrivals adopted American practices of consumption and disposal.  This upset my grandfather, but he told of how proud he was of my dad and how he tried to save these items, family items, from being discarded.  Our dining room table since I was a child was this beautiful round oak table.  It wasn’t until I was older that I learned it was almost a hundered years old and had belonged to my Great-Grandfather and Grandmother.  My dad had restored the table and the place where me and my sibilings had ate while young was at the same table where my dad and uncle probably had their first cup of coffee from Grandpa and Grandma Malkamaki.

My Grandfather was so proud of my father how he didn’t let something be thrown away.  Now fast forward to the fall of 2008.   My grandfather had passed, we were cleaning out his home.  I saved as many paper and books that I could get my hands on so that history would not be lost.  The furniture however I didn’t save, I was merely the grunt working for my dad, Uncle Ken, and Uncle Duke.  Uncle Ken brought this end table out that my gut told me I should ask for but I didn’t know how I’d get the item to my apartment since I didn’t have a car and my dad didn’t have a truck.  Uncle Ken and my father had asked me to sledge apart the items to fit them into the dumpster because we were running out of room.

I knew Grandpa would be disappointed if he would have seen what we were doing.  When I sledged apart the organ that we used to play on as children I almost cried.  When this end table came out, no one from the older generation wanted it, and it became my job to smash it apart.  As I raised the hammer about my head ala Thor, the first hit didn’t damage this wooden item.  The gods were sending a signal I was not listening.

I gathered my energy and felt that I couldn’t let my father or Uncle down that I couldn’t complete the task before me and I decided that I would break this table even though I wanted the table and thought it would have looked great in my apartment, but alas, I was given a job and I would have to complete this task.

With the second strike, the world came together, why didn’t I have my baseball cap on to protect me from dirt and grim, that hat that I was taught to wear as a child when doing work, why did the swing I administered feel that a swing of a bat, a Rocky Cavalito shot to center, why wasn’t I listening to what my grandfather taught me about preservation, what I do for a living, what I’m trained for?

When metal touched wood, a piece of the table flew into the air, not a big piece, not a piece large enough to kill me, but a piece large enough to smack me in the forehead, and forever leave the sweetest Harry Potter scar on my forehead.  This was my second presence of Sisu, the Force, I felt like Luke Skywalker at the end of Jedi looking over at that moment and seeing my Grandfather, Uncle Arn, and Great-Grandpa sitting along the fence, Kulia in hand, smiling, saying yep you should have listened.

Sisu, and Kittos for spending time reading.

[1] Wikipedia February 8, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Who to Root For Super Bowl Edition

Once again, it’s the Super Bowl, and one of my two NFL franchises is not in the game.  Now, I’ve had bad luck in reason years, as far as championships are concerned.  Let’s look at the history of the final game of the year in the various sports that I watch. 

For this I like to go to the year 2007… 

Britney was being Britney, Many was being Many, and it was one of the worst years of my life in regards to sports.  

I don’t use that last phrase lightly, it was the greatest jackrammer (for anyone that watched the Loop they’d get that reference, I also could have said the obscenus word used by the doctor I’m in love with Elliot Reid’s frick, also how do I add footnotes to a blog?  That was for Marissa, see I love footnotes I can’t stop it…) sports year of my life.  Let’s review. 

High School Football 

The Mentor Cardinals lost the Ohio State Athletic Association Div. 1 title, now I didn’t go to Mentor, but I lived in Mentor at the time and in fact our first house when I was a Babe was in Mentor so I was part of One Team Same Dream, and I was rooting for Coach Anderson.  I’ve been going to all the playoff games with my brother, Uncle Mike, Dad, Andrew, Mary Beth, and James.  Mentor football bonding is where Uncle Mike got mad at Andrew for talking like Ditka, and Andrew also wanted the fillet, but those are stories for other times. 

NCAA Championship

THE Ohio State University lost to that team from the state that gave us BUSH.  Enough said.  Also we broke Ted Ginn’s ankle but again a post for another time.

Super Bowl

DA Bears.  Again Devon Hester why’d you pull a Ted Ginn?  I was starting to not like sports at this point. 

NCAA Basketball Championship

Oh Greg Oden, Oh Michael Connely, Oh the Egg Rolls that I fell on and now have a scar on my right upper bicep that I need to tattoo over…enough said again

NBA Championship

Ha, Ha, Ha, I hate the Detroit Pistons, and Detroit baseball fans, oh wait, why don’t I hate the Spurs except that Tony Parker’s the luckiest guy in the world, oh that’s right they gave us Danny Ferry and Mike Brown (Your Eastern Conference All Star Coach boy!)

World Series

Finally I got a break, by this point, Marissa came up with the Marissa Rule or Ben might have came up with the rule, but alas, you know what happened against the angry beaners from Boston (sorry Kim).

Since then whatever team I’m rooting for in the finals loses, Germany in the Euro Cup, the Pats against the Giants (everyone in the bar was rooting for the Giants so I had to root for the under dog at the HOB.

Anyway so what does this have to do with tonight?  Nothing.  But, it’s easy who I’m rooting for if you know me.  Pittsburg, come on, I’m Cleveland to the bone and despite what Rooney did for Obama, I can not root for that city to win another Super Bowl, hey Pukesburg where were you in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 80s when we were good?  Anyway the Cards, where are they from?  Not Arizona, nor Phoenix, nor St. Louis, but what wait a minute, Chicago.  So transitively, if I love Chicago, and the Bears and Browns are not in the Super Bowl, then I have to back the other Chicago team founded in 1920 DA CARDS, Go Kurt, Go Larry, but since I’m backing you there is a far greater chance that you’re going to lose as well,


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

PETA Rejected Superbowl Ad

As part of the civil discourse on this blog, I've tried to take the higher road that Waiting For Next Year has provided.  I don't want a blog filled with naked women, partily clothed women, or cheerleader blogs.  My first post had the JA GQ cover, but that's as far as I want to go.  

Now for this post.  NBC, or GE as we should call them thanks to Tina Fey and the NBC tour I went on, (Did you know that the three notes of the NBC theme are GEC for General Electric Co.  If you knew that answer award yourself three dork points) has rejected the PETA commercial for the Super Bowl. 

I know that all over this gluttonous country people will be stuffing their faces with chicken wings, ribs, burgers, and other such fatty foods (I'll probably be going down the Sirachi wings route myself ending my self imposed vegitarianism for the sake of football) so I understand sex being too riske for America.  

We'll probably see numerous commercials for movies where 5,000 people will be killed, or an add for a company that supplies weapons of destruction for the US Army (going back to the 60s I'm not against the soldiers I'm against the war) will showcase a spot.  

Thank god for NBC and the FCC for saving my eyes from beautiful woman playing with vegitables.  Think of the calories in that commerical compared to that Doritos commercial and then look over at your overweight kid.  The banned commercial's link is below.

Peace Out.

My Writing

So far, I’ve had two people supply comments on my short story.  That’s great, both have been positive.  The one comment that came through a third party got me to think.  The person said that the story had a good narrative but some ideas in the story were out there.  

This is good because I’ve again, never had a formal writing class for fiction writing except for the comments on my Epic Poem and my Lyric Poetry for my classical civilizations course.

So for this post, one because I’m bored, being a shut in with the feet of snow piling up around me.  More and more Cleveland is matching the picture I have in my head of what nineteenth century Finland must have looked like.  Also, the winter snow is finally reminding me of the snow storms of my youth growing up in the “Snow Belt.” 

Now to the blog. 

Who are the writers that inspire me, and what are the books that I’ve used for guidance to this point.  I’ve been writing or at least working on my novel for seven years.  It was my Senior year of college that I realized I wanted to become a writer and when I first seriously started to write a cognizant story.  My first short story, that I’ve still yet to finish, or have shown anyone was about the MTV invasion at Bowling Green.  We had someone who was a BG townie, remember she was not a student of the college, that appeared on MTV’s the Real World, Road Rules, and other “reality” shows.  She was also a Playboy centerfold, and while at BGSU, we were starting to regain our stupid top party school in America Playboy ranking.  That’s right sometime in the 80s BG, it must have been around the time of the BGSU NCAA hockey championship, was the toast of party colleges in America.  My time spent at BG 1997-2001 I could see the student body trying their hardest to regain this title.  This was one of the reasons why I left the school, I got sick of the scene.  Now in 2009 I miss Bowling Green and the fact that I never will be an alumnus (fingers crossed they’ll someday be able to award me an honorary doctorate.)  But never one to venture too far on a tangent, the story attacked the MTV culture and reality television.  This was written, in part, the spring of 1999, before the rest of the world started using the term reality television, oh why didn’t I finish, I probably could have entered that into the Playboy writing contest!!! 

So anyway who are my favorite writers, again I’ll go to blogospheres favorite game, a list.

These are not in any order FYI.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

I never had to read the man from Minnesota’s work for school, I avoided honors English by not caring about the written word in school or at least the mechanics of the written language.  Instead I didn’t really appreciate English class until Junior and Senior year when they really became reading classes.  Straight A’s four semesters straight boy.  Now for Francis Scott, when my friend Adam who used to be in honors English was assigned a different story (I think it’s when we read Catcher, he got to read the Great Gatsby.)  So on my own I read Gatsby, my mother raised me on the Robert Redford film, again I owe my movie knowledge to mom.  I loved the book from the start and at the age of sixteen I read as much of Fitzgerald’s that I could get my hands on and that love for the master from Minnesota, and family connections and Bob Dylan connections to Minnesota have grown through  the years.  In fact I was really excited for Benjamin Button and dragged my family to see the movie on Christmas day, one word, AWESOME!

Robertson Davies

Mr. Davies, hails from Canada, another family connection spot.  My family was Quebecers but I’ve always loved the country as a whole, so his Depford Trilogy is awesome and I strive to by like Ramsey, never marry, devout myself to my job and then go from their.

Thomas Pynchon

One of the greatest writers to come from America in the latter half of the 20th Century.  When someone says my writing is out their you can thank this man.

Jack Kerouac

Another that you can thank for my writing being out there.  I wish I could be half the writer that Kerouac was.  If you read this earlier I missed this fact, I also love Kerouac for his creation of his baseball league and the fact that he wrote "news" articles about fake players, their lives, and the games they played in this fake baseball league.  Before I ever thought about the Beat movement or any of the writers, ie. when I was 10, I also created my own league, kept stats, and wrote articles about these fake players.  My parents and teachers even caught me doing this, if only they knew about Mr. Kerouac they would have supported me on my path to being a writer even earlier. CDM)

Carson McCullers

Another great writer from America this time, the mid-century point.  She’s the one that made me want to strive on writing in a Suburban Gothic style. 

William Faulkner

The master, forget Hemmingway, Faulkner is where it’s at.  I think I finally get what he writes about.  At first I thought an extreme racist, but instead he was dropping Southern racism on it’s head.  What he did to the South along with Carson, is what I want to do to white middle class culture in the north, also the racism thing in the North needs to be understood fuller.

And Finally...

John Irving

The man lived the life as a teenager that I lived in Cleveland, except I was never as good as John at anything I did.  He wrestled, he writes about life in New England, I want to write about life in New New England. 

If you get that last reference then yeah you might get some of the things I write about.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Your Transitive 2008 NCAA Champions…

Your Transitive 2008 NCAA Champions…

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Maybe I should start this post by explaining the theory for the blog, the reason behind the name, and the pictures that make up the Hey Der, Ho Der, Hi Der banner. 

First the title.

I came back from Chicago the month of May 2008.  One of the things I brought back was a new found respect for my cousin’s ex-wife.  We were able to talk and I was able to share with her some of the things that were going on my life.  I had only met her once before, but had been around their son many times and we all know that someone’s child carries a little bit of their parents with them, so I feel like I somewhat knew Kristen from tails and such.  We became friends on myspace and I spilled my life further.  Some reason I open up to women of a certain age (the age around my sister) for some reason.  I love my sister to death and wish I could be around her more, but I end up having all these pseudo-sisters in my life, and I could see Kristen being the Chicago version of Sue.  Anyway long story not too short, the title comes from something Kristen wrote, and hanging out with my brother and sister-in-law in June I taught the phrase to my nephew, so ever time he sees Uncle Chad he can say either Uncle Chad’s a Cool Cat, tell me how to pick up chicks, or he says Hey Der, Ho Der, Hi Der.

The Banner.

The background image is one of my favorite photos from the Cleveland Museum of Art collection.  It is a Margaret Burke-White, a photo journalist that spent time in Cleveland.  We have some items in our collection from Ms. White, I bought a catalog of her work, scanned said picture, tinted it so it’s mine and it hangs on the wall in my living room.  The picture is one of the most beautiful shots of the Terminal Tower; it shows the mills, the smoke, the bridges, the beauty of the city of Cleveland.  This was the image that I had in my dreams when I would become homesick in college wanting to be near my family.  When I went to college I never came home after my sophomore year, and even thought about spending the rest of my life in Toledo.  The pull of the eternal umbilical cord, my sister moved back to town, I got to see my nieces, and my brothers started to have kids, I no longer could leave this city and was yanked by the metaphysical pull of history home, to the city I love Cleveland.

The pictures within the banner.

The overall theme for this blog is my life, my love of Cleveland, and my love of sports, either Cleveland teams, or Chicago.  Many have called me a fair weather fan, but my love of Chicago sports goes again, back to family.  From the time I was young I loved going to Chicago to see family, then in second grade, my best friends moved to Willoughby.  The McGregors’ were one of the coolest families I had met up to second grade.  Mr. McGregor, grew up in Chicago, went to John Carroll, and stayed in South Euclid.  In second grade they moved to Willoughby.  The picture of me in an Albert Belle jersey with a Chicago Bears hat, is me with Billy McGregor, and Bobby, wearing the Dan Marino jersey.  The McGregor boys’ birthday (they’re twins) was the end of July, my birthday was mid July, so we always had that bond.  The picture was taken September 1995, which would have been our junior year and I think that might have been Mr. McGregor’s birthday?  If anyone reads this and knows what is special about September 1995 let me know.  Anyway I want the pictures to be me in sports clothing so that’s why this picture is important to the blog, it has my best friends in the picture, and me wearing one of my typical prole (thanks Megan) costumes combining different sports teams clothes, usually either Cleveland or Chicago teams, sometimes Michigan and OSU (to anger dad and connect with my older brother, I didn’t realize it at the time but that’s what I did as a teenager, now I detest Michigan and understand what my old man was trying to teach me about the evils of that state up north.)

The Blackhawks jersey picture: again OSU hat, Chicago team jersey, (FYI Clark Griswold wears a similar jersey in Christmas Vacation) Dad and I at the Applebutter Fest in Burton, Ohio, circa 1996.

Indians Jersey: Me with the love of my life Kellie Rae in Toledo.  The surrogate big-sister that I did pine over, but knew that it would never be (at the time I had a crush on her best friend and then her little sister.)

Baby in OSU outfit: Seth the boy who named the blog.

Baby and Toddler sitting: Seth and Cole

Baby in OSU t-shirt: Me in 1980 saying OSU #1 before Dad and his buddies went to an OSU-Illinois game.

Me in Beatles t-shirt holding Seth holding my Indians hat that he slobbered on: enough said.

Indians windbreaker and hat, with dad in Indians hat: The Final Game at Municipal Stadium 1996.  This was the day were fans were able to go through the old stadium, locker rooms, and come up through the dugout onto the field.  I took a chunk of grass and outfield track from the right Dawg Pound end zone.  This was also the area that Cory Snyder roamed through my youth.  Somewhere I have a picture of Daffy Dan eating an ice-cream cone from the same event.

Coach Tressel with Dad: The greatest football coach since Woody Hayes with the old man.

Me in Indians t-shirt with baby Cole: Taken this last weekend.  Look at the studs, another chick magnet for his Uncle when he gets older.  My brother taught me well.

Dad in Grabowksi gear:  This is June 1992 at the “new” Comiskey Park.  We flew to Chicago for my 13th birthday, which wouldn’t happen until July, unless you count the fact that I went a whole ten months prenatal.  We flew in early for the Tribe-Sox series, Bo Jackson played for the Sox, the only time I liked the Sox more than the Cubbies, now like Michigan and the fact that the Sox are not in the AL West like at the time of the picture, but now share the AL Central with the Tribe, I wore Sox stuff, now I detest the Sox starting with Gene Lamont checking Albert’s bat, and all the crazy Ozzie sayings.  I still wear Black Sox 1919 clothes though, Kris Kross style. 

In this picture Dad looks like the biggest Ditka, glasses, stache and White Sox hat, all he needs is sausage, pork chops, and an Old Style and you’d never guess we were from Cleveland.

So there you have it, I think through the explanations, I love history, I love my family, and I love my two favorite cities, Cleveland and Chicago, and that is the theme of this blog.

The Town that Started the Civil War




The days of bondage—

And remembering—

Do not stand still.

Go to the highest hill

And look down upon the town

Where you are yet a slave.

Look down upon any town in Carolina

Or any town i

n Maine, for that matter,

Or Africa, your homeland—

And you will see what I mean for you to see—

The white hand:

The thieving hand.

The white face:

The lying face.

The white power:

The unscrupulous power

That makes of you

The hungry wretched thing you are today.

Who is the greatest poet to ever call Cleveland home for a period of time?  There are some who would say Hart Crane, there are others that could probably name another poet, some might say Michael Stanley (few), Eric Carmen (those would be fewer), or Chrissie Hynde (fewer because she’s from Akron).  I would answer and I think the majority of people, in fact the people in my department were able to answer my question a second after I posed the question.  Their answer and mine is Langston Hughes. 

The reason why I’m bringing Langston Hughes up, is the interesting research I discovered this last week of work.  As a note, besides the basic writing courses in college I never took an English class outside of secondary school that dealt with poetry or literature.  I’ve had history courses that utilized American fiction were it fell inline with the subject matter, one of my favorite professors utilized that technique for our modern American history course.  I studied poetry in my Classical Civilizations courses, Great Greek Minds and Great Roman Minds, but that was the poetry over two thousand years ago.  I don’t know much about Langston, I’ve read some of his poetry, read some of his stories, but I’ve never learned about him in a formal setting.  I do have a picture of him on my wall, mainly because the poetry I’ve read was that inspiring, the other reason, because he’s the poet laurite of Cleveland.

Now for the title of this post and what I was researching this week.  I’m working on an education program that asks the question, Was Honest Abe an Abolitionist?  Of course he wasn’t.  But through an investigation of primary documents I want students to analyze the Ante Bellum period of American history, the actions and life of Lincoln and in the end come up with their own answer to the above question. 

I’ve been reading a book titled The Town that Started the Civil War by Nat Brandt.  This book tells the adventures of the Oberlin-Wellington rescuers.  For those that might not know this event, the Rescue was a direct challenge to the Fugitive Slave Act, by citizens of these two small northern Ohio towns.  The Rescuers, the name they became known by, citizens who stood up for what they believed, that slavery was a moral wrong, that people that had escaped from the peculiar institution, were free under the laws of Ohio, and no federal mandate could stand above the laws of the Ohio Constitution.  This last argument of state’s rights ironically was the same argument that the Confederate States tried to use two and half years later when the tried to dissolve the union.

Two of the Rescuers, were men named Charles Langston and his brother James Mercer Langston.  These two men were directly involved with the freeing of John Price, the runaway slave.  Many of the African Americans in the Oberlin community fought for the freedom of this individual, and many could argue that the blacks had more to lose since the Federal Government under the Dred Scott case said that African Americans were not citizens of the United States and were not protected under the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.  They would not be tried by a jury of their peers, be accorded the same due process, nor the rights to a fast and fair trial.  Free Blacks at this time could also be sent back to slavery under the Fugitive Slave Law, if someone from the South merely claimed that the individual was their “property.”

Towards the end of his book, Mr. Brandt tells of the lives of the individuals involved and what happened to them during the Civil War and later in life.  It was in this section that Brandt tells his readers about Charles Langston moving to Kansas, having a daughter, and then his daughter had a son who was named after his brother, the child’s Great Uncle, the child was James Mercer Langton Hughes.  

James Mercer Langston, recruited for the 54th Massachusetts, the regiment the movie Glory is based on (no matter what I post this is one of my favorite movies of all time, I love reading the history of the 54th and this is the movie that solidified Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington as three of my favorite actors).  Charles Langston, who talked to John Brown while in jail, was later tried to be connected to the Harper’s Ferry raid, he was never tried, because he wasn’t involved.

When I read these words I was floored.  Before this, all I had ever read about Langston Hughes came from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, introductions to his books, or various internet sites.  I, immediately after reading the paragraph mentioned above, went online and discovered to my dismay, that the ECH didn’t list this information.  On a side note, ECH does include the paternal grandfather of Garrett Morgan, the famous Cleveland inventor of the safety hood (predecessor of the gas mask) and the three-way traffic signal (predecessor of modern traffic signals), the Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, who lead the Morgan’s Raids during the Civil War, part of the skirmishes in Ohio during the war.

I pulled down the books that ECH listed as being the source of their information.  Brandt had cited Langton Hughes’ autobiography, The Big Sea.  I found out the books that ECH cited also used Hughes’ The Big Sea. 

The conclusion, this Clevelander didn’t know much about a native son.  I remember the year after I moved back from college in 2002, all over Cleveland there was a special anniversary day for Langston to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth and to get a special UPS stamp commissioned.  This is where I learned the name Langston Hughes, despite all of my Civil Rights research growing up.  This was the point where I started to read Hughes’ works and became a fan, almost every word I read by the man pierces the soul.  The connection for Hughes to the Western Reserve besides his graduation from Central High, and his work with Karamu House goes much deeper than what you read on most websites, or even Cleveland history books.  It goes back generations, and I know the pride I have for my Grandfather and his accomplishments and the accomplishments of my Grandfather’s siblings, I try to place myself back to being a young Langston Hughes coming to Cleveland, seeing the smoke stacks of the steel mills, hearing the bells of the trolley car, looking at the buildings that were bigger than anything he had seen in Kansas or Missouri, feeling the pride,  knowing, that only forty miles away his family had played their part in history.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fierce Urgency of Now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, National Day of Service


On this 19th day of January, the eve of President-Elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, I’m watching CNN which is broadcasting Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” 

Many of you might know, or if you’re new if you might not, that I signed up for then Sen. Obama’s campaign two weeks after her announced that he was going to run for President.  At the time, many thought that the Senator would never have a chance to win, that Sen. Hillary Clinton almost was guaranteed the seat.  Later in the campaign, Saturday Night Live, which has always been one of my favorite shows, had a Halloween episode where the

Clinton’s hosted a party, and all of then Sen. Clinton’s rivals for the White House were courting her.  Then someone came in a Barack Obama mask, which in the end turned out to be the Senator himself.

For those that worked on the campaign from the beginning, we were driven by a sense of wanting to be a part of history.  Leading up to this historic moment I was able to study that history for work.  I was selected as a research assistant for an exhibit titled, “From Projects to Politics, Louis and Carl Stokes, 


Carl and Louis Stokes have always been hero’s of mine.  Studying history in high school and later in college I always tried to pick writing assignments that would relate to the things in my life.  John D. Rockefeller, Martin Luther, Joe Dimagio, the Beatles, John Belushi, the Finnish-Soviet Union Winter War, Civil War correspondence between soldiers and the women in their lives, various papers on the Civil Rights movement, and a paper on  the Cleveland Desegregation Busing Policy were some of the topics I’ve wrote about in school.  In this work, I was able to learn about the 50th mayor of the City of Cleveland, Carl Stokes. 

Reading Promises of Power, Carl’s autobiography, opened my eyes to periods of Cleveland history that I only knew from articles in the Plain Dealer, Cleveland Magazine, or Mark Winegardner Crooked River Burning.  If you want to know the history of African Americans fighting for political equality, the Stokes brothers’ story is one to read.  What President-Elect Obama faced in the 2007-2008 campaign, Carl and Louis lived through forty years earlier.

Along with the research about their lives, I tried to understand the times that shaped the brothers political philosophy.  I’ve always studied the Civil Rights movement, it has always been one of my favorite periods of history, I always wished that I could have been alive in the 1960s to help.  I knew from an early age that I would fight for equality for all peoples of the world, mainly shaped by the actions of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King, the abolitionist movement of the Civil War, and the works of the SDS, SNCC, SCLC.  In order to best understand this period I read biographies on President Johnson and an interesting book, Judgment Days, by Nick Kotz.  These books helped further my understanding of what it means to be civic minded, to put others before you, and to fight for a better world.

 One of the phrases that I heard repeated in these stories was the, “Fierce Urgency of Now,” grasping history, taking action, not being a bystander; to not lot history pass you by.  On the campaign trail, this was a message I heard repeated once the March Ohio primary season started.  From Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose family has given so much to the country they loved, to Cuyahoga County Commission Tim Hagen, whom I’ve listened to on the radio many times, said not to let history pass us by.  Dino Martino, Ohio coordinator during the Ohio primary repeated this message, do not let history pass you by and say to yourself what could you have done more.  Congressman Coyers from Detroit again passed the same message along, don’t get upset come November 5th, if a Republican would still be in office and you did nothing but attend speeches. 

I phone banked in Clevealnd, talking to Democrats from southern Ohio, telling them my story.  I talked to people in bars around Cleveland, who saw my Obama button on my coat and asked why I was voting for Obama.  Going home to Lake Country and participating in intelligent dialogue with family members who are life long Republicans.  I used the lessons I learned from these individuals, non-violent, respectful, trying to also listen to Paul Begala and James Carville, a way to take it back. 

I was fired up, and ready to go, after Ohio went for Sen. Clinton, I asked what had I done?  I donated money, raised money in a small fund raiser with family and friends, but I felt I let history pass me by. 

A couple of days after the Ohio primary I received a call from the Erie, PA campaign office asking for help.  I knew that I hadn’t understood the fierce urgency of now, and rolled up my sleeves and hit the streets.  I was teamed up with seven of the coolest, most intelligent people that I’ve met in my life.  These individuals understood the message and the call for acting now.  Either it being for the future of their children, either bettering the child’s education, or trying to make sure that when their sons and daughters came of age, we wouldn’t have a mandatory draft fixing the mistakes in the Iraq War.  The stories I heard, the people I met inspired me, and are memories I will have for the rest of my life.

Thank you for reading this and letting me share with you my part, in this historic movement, of people coming together across lines of race, gender, sexuality, and political philosophy.  The celebration party at the Euclid Tavern the night of the election, was only a taste.  Tomorrow when the words "I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."  I’ll know what I did to make sure this historic moment could occur, and know that I didn’t let history pass me by.