Category Archives: The Big 50

The Big Fifty: My Dinner Party

I struggle when I don’t write. I don’t mean my writing over at More Than A Fan, but creative writing. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments while I’m putting together something for MTAF that you’ll find me agonizing on the best way to finish a sentence, but that writing is more structured, more goal oriented. This writing is more about just clearing my head. Not everything is introspective or artsy, but all of it writing just to write. That’s what I need. I need to find an idea and hammer away at it for exercise, so I decided to resurrect the Big Fifty. I’ve completely scrapped the idea of going in order and I won’t be answering just the questions from the list, but damnit, I’m going to write something. (Quick shout to Demanding Joy for having this list in the first place. If you really want to try a blog project, this is a good one to try)

The question at the very bottom of your list asks who you would want at your dream dinner party. Living or dead, no rules, just pick a group and go.

Ummm… John Lennon, Jim Morrison, a handful of world leaders and Jesus?

Or wait.

John F. Kennedy, Ghandi, Brad Pitt and Jesus?

You got me, maybe I’m poking fun at stereotypical lists. That’s because I’ve never thought of a list like this, or if I have, I was a little kid without enough understanding of the world to comprehend the depth of the question. This isn’t about famous or talented or rich people, although that doesn’t mean your guests can’t be those things, this is about finding people that could affect change in your life in only one dinner’s time. After a long time thinking about this, I think I’ve got my dinner party narrowed down to a workable list.

The first two people at the table would be Stephen King and Robert B. Parker.

I know that at times it seems cliche to be a giant Stephen King fan, but I always have been. King novels are the first stories that I ever remember reading. Not the first stories I ever read, but the first stories that I can actually remember my reactions while I was taking them in. I remember being scared, nervous and anxious. I remember sitting up over the pages as the stories got intense, or physically relaxing at calm times for the characters. That’s power, and while I won’t be able to steal that ability by osmosis, I’d like to spend some time in real conversation with a man you wields that power so effectively.

Robert B. Parker pens the Spenser and Jesse Stone series of novels, among various other non-fiction projects, and writes in the style and flow that I think I have written in during the few times that I’ve tried my pen at long prose. Not that I write as well as he does, just that I aim for the same wit and pacing. I would ask him how he organizes his thoughts and builds his stories. Not only do I think his advice and intuition could benefit my personal goals, I also think that the personality he puts forth in his work would make him a pretty entertaining guy to have for some post dinner drinks.

The third person at my table is Bill Simmons. Simmons is an ESPN guy who writes, tweets, podcasts, hosts TV shows and recently launched He’s insanely popular currently, but does still rub some people the wrong way. The reason that I want him there is pretty simple; my current work at More Than A Fan, and all the other opportunities that I’ve been blessed with since I started writing for Lisa back on the sports website that shall not be named wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for reading his articles and being inspired. Grant it, Simmons isn’t inspiring in some “Oh my God, what a powerful, life changing artist he is” kind of way, but just that his columns always found a way onto my favorite list. He tells me things and he makes me laugh, usually at the same time. That’s what I want for the people who read what I write. I want them to have a good time and learn something. Good writers are like teachers, you know something when you’re done that you didn’t know before, and good teachers are never boring.

Also, I think I could turn a dinner with Bill Simmons into a friendship, and honestly, being buddies with him wouldn’t hurt my career goals.

My fourth guest would be Dennis Manoloff, a veteran Plain Dealer sportswriter. (Quick note: Yes, he’s on twitter, and yes he’s local to me. I’m not linking him or shouting him or begging him. But if you do, I’m won’t bomb your house or anything.) Anyway, I choose him because he knows what its like in the current Cleveland sports market. There are a thousand guys and girls in town who have the same goals that I have, many of them better qualified, and I think Dennis could help point me towards the things that I would need to do to achieve my goals. He wouldn’t be there in the same capacity as King, Parker or Simmons, but as an honest critic for my work. And if he says that I should stick to my day, he’s getting the check.

Everyone seeks peace, and I think its pretty clear that my peace is found by writing. Whether I’m sifting through building a case for Manny Ramirez to be in Cooperstown or making fun of the twitter trending topics, I always feel better trying to make my literary voice both a worthwhile experience and a viable way to make my living. The old saying is work to live not live to work, and if writing was my, I’d be set. The last invite to dinner is different.

Sitting at my dinner table would be my uncle. I’ve never met either man, but for two very different reasons. My uncle was taken from my family before I was born during a lawless, chaotic night on a Florida Seminole Indian Reservation. That’s close to the extent of what I know, but that’s really enough. Details aren’t important at this point, anyway. Everyone who knew him and knows me have all said that we were alike. Thoughts, mannerisms, looks, everything. I would like to talk to the man that he would have become, and be able to pass on a fitting goodbye to my mom, his two other sisters and my grandparents.

And, hey, maybe he’d have some kind of supernatural, beyond the grave fix on lottery numbers. Probably not, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.



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The Eleventh Big Fifty, Proof I Have A Heart & How Hearts Should Be Used

So, here we are, officially into the teens on this Big Fifty blogging project.  OK, it’s not technically the eleventh post, but pretend my blog has been raised on chicken and milk loaded with crazy hormones and chemicals and it’s developed more quickly than it ought to have.  Demanding Joy describes #11 as “Random acts of kindness you’ve committed”.

I’m calling it “I Don’t Suck”.

Old Man On The Steps:

Stopped at a red light on the way home from work one day I noticed a young and an old lady struggling to get an elderly man up the stairs from the driveway into their house.  I stopped at their house and along with my dad, who I was carpooling with at the time, helped the man up the stairs and into his favorite chair. He had just been discharged from the hospital, so we were very careful.  I was stupid enough to not really think about possibly hurting him, I just saw how upset everyone was when they couldn’t get him into his home.  I have no idea what happened with that old guy, but I know that he needed to be home.

The Walmart Parking Lot Guy:

When I lived in Strongsville I frequented the Walmart on Pearl Road.  Cheap groceries, close to home and some good, old-fashioned freak shows.  There was an older black guy who I’m pretty sure lived in a stand of trees off to the side of the parking lot.  He never caused any trouble, as far as I knew, and he was always in control of his mental capacities enough to not be creepy and make people feel uncomfortable.

I never really paid that much attention to him.

I can feel how much that sucks.

I pulled into a spot one day just at the start of a crazy cold rain.  As I was getting ready to get out of my truck and make my harrowing dash through the rain into the store, I saw Walmart Guy running through the cold rain, pushing his shopping cart, in nothing but a T-shirt.  As I walked in past him in the doorway, I could tell he was cold and shaken.  I went by, stopped, went back and asked if he was all right.  Dude actually smiled at me and said everything was fine.  I picked up the few things I needed and grabbed a zip up hoodie.  Not fancy, but new.  And warm.

By the time I got finished, Walmart Guy was gone.  His cart was near his stand of trees, but I didn’t see him anywhere.  I put the hoodie in a bag by itself and set it on his cart.  I have no idea if he got the hoodie, but the way those guys watch their stuff, I’m pretty sure he saw me put it in there.

The Epiphany Paragraph: is a smart, funny site. Also, I didn't ask his permission to use this cartoon, so GO BUY THINGS FROM HIM!

Writing this post has quickly made me realize that I kind of suck at doing good things.  That’s one of the reasons that I got involved so deeply with the National Kidney Foundation and the Cleveland Kidney Walk, because dumping change in the Salvation Army bucket might be enough for some people, but it shouldn’t be.  We should do things.  The things we do don’t have to be huge.  They don’t have to be expensive.  But they should be something that someone else will remember.  That’s how we should measure our impact on this Earth, not what we think about ourselves or what our bosses think about us, but what the person that we’ll never see again remembers us.

Let this inspire you to get involved in something.  If you need help getting started with charity, email me, I’ll get you involved with the Cleveland Kidney Walk.  The folks that put that together are some of the best people I’ve ever met.  They managed to convince the Cleveland Gladiators to partner with them, so they’ve got to be good.


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The Tenth Big Fifty, Music That Made Me

Ok, I think by now I’ve established my penchant for skipping around this particular blogging project.  It’s  been ages since I wrote the last Big Fifty post, so before I get started, I’m going to repimp.  The Big Fifty came from the Demanding Joy blog and I got hooked on it by reading A Little Wicked and Oh Shit…She’s Awake. All of my Big Fifty posts are in a cute little group here at The Big Fifty, and if you’re paying attention at all, you’ll notice that I’m not exactly going in order.  Today’s post is not an exception.

I last did the seventh topic on the list, which was Good Things That Happened This Week, and now I’m skipping to number 10, Songs For The Soundtrack of Your Life.  While researching for this post (looking through an old CD book, in awe that I used to own so many of these things), I found a burned CD with “Music That Made Me” written on the front.  It’s been so long since I used to burn CDs and manage music in any way more complicated than starting up a Pandora Channel that I’m honestly not sure what’s on this CD.  I’m going to hit “play”, list each song I hear and we’ll see where this ends up.

Here goes nothin’.

1.) Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

What a fun song.  That’s pretty much it for this one.  There’s no deep meanings, no crazy experiences, no nothing, really.  Just a fun song that I love singing along to.  Maybe this won’t be as meaningful as I thought.

2.) Piano Man – Billy Joel

Ahh, that’s more like it.  Let’s get our poetic melancholy on with a classic everybody knows.  What gets me about this song is the fickle romance between talent and fame and fortune.  The first person story about a man watching his dreams waste away in the corner of a neighborhood bar is something that I think many of us feel linked with.  The bartender, John, who’s quick with a joke and is sure that he could be a movie star if he could just get out of that place has always been me.  Since I was a little kid, I felt like that guy.

3.) No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley & The Wailers

I bet you didn’t know that I used to be an emo reggae kid.  To this day, I could dig out an old reggae album and be completely at peace sitting and listening.  Preferably on a sunny day with my beer of the moment, but just the music is enough.

4.) Drift Away – Dobie Gray

Love this song, that’s really the it for this one.  I’m singing along as I type.  Is that weird?  I’m also trying to figure out where I was in life when I made this CD.  I have no idea yet.

5.) American Pie – Don McLean

Oh jeez.  Really, Josh?  I do have a specific memory of associated with this song, though, and I have a feeling that there are a couple of folks out there who will remember it with me.  A long time ago, in other lives for all of us, there was a coffee shop in North Olmsted called the Magic Unicorn.  (Go ahead, laugh.  Get it all out.  It’s a long song, I have a couple extra minutes.)  A group of my friends started spending tons of time there.  We did everything you do at coffee shops when you’re young; we wrote, we sang, we played games, but, mostly, we were just together.  But like they always do, things change.  Eventually we grew up a little (a little) and the business took a bunch of weird turns.  One day in the middle of all of our youthful self-imposed drama, we found out the Magic Unicorn was going to close.  Now, I don’t remember the exact order of all the stuff that happened, I don’t remember it was the last night, or just the last good night, but I do know that at one point we all sat in around the coffee shop knowing that the jig was up.  We sang this song.

6.) Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye

I have no idea, but I started giggling before the first bar ended and I haven’t stopped yet.

7.) Under The Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Fantastic.  This is my favorite song, it’s on one of my favorite albums and it’s from one of my all time favorite bands.  The album Blood Sugar Sex Magic is a must buy for anyone even remotely into awesome music.  I’m much happier about this CD.

8.) Sympathy For The Devil – The Rolling Stones

Ever want to learn a world history lesson while listening to one of the greatest rock bands of all time?  This song inspired me to be smart with my creativity.  Pop culture is meaningless without tempering the current experiences with their future historical significance.  Right?  Or, did I just use to party to old school music?

9.) Hey Jude – The Beatles

I love The Beatles, I love this song, but I’m really starting to wonder what I was thinking when I made this CD.

10.) Hotel California – The Eagles

I’m not 60, I swear.

11.) Two Joints – Sublime

I told you I wasn’t 60.  Ahh… Henry’s house.  There’s still little bits of my sanity hiding in the corners of Henry’s house.

12.) It Hurts Me Too – Eric Clapton

If you love blues, you’ll love this standard.  It was first recorded in 1940 by Tampa Red, has been performed by Elmore James, Junior Wells, BB King, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, The Animals, Keb Mo and the Grateful Dead.  But my favorite version is Eric Clapton.  Love it.

13.) Changes – Tupac

Because, deep down, I’m a little gangsta.


That’s not really my soundtrack, but it’s a snippet of my life from whatever particular time it was when I made that CD.  I constantly have music running through my head, and I’m always finding new songs (even if they’re old) that inspire me.  I can tell you that the first CD I can remember listening to and thinking, “I want to make music someday” was Rancid’s “…And Out Come The Wolves”. I don’t know why,  and I never made any music, but I still throw that CD in my truck from time to time and listen to it way too loud.

Someday I’m going to realize that an adult doesn’t need to be blasting Rancid, DMX or Sublime CDs on trips to the grocery store, but that’s not going to be anytime soon.


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The Seventh Big Fifty, Mostly Staying On Topic

So, if you were to read the actual list at Demanding Joy that inspired the Big Fifty, the seventh topic is “Good things that happened this week”, but I think we all know how much regard I have for the rules by now.  I have such a terrible concept of time in day-to-day life that there’s no way I could possibly (be motivated enough to) know exactly when things happened, so I’m going to stick with good things that have happened to me recently. (I could probably rename this blog “Lazy Guy Rambles” and everyone would think it’s appropriate.)

First good thing that’s happened to me recently is that a friend of mine actually gave me the laptop that I’m typing on right now.  That’s right, like, “Here’s a laptop, enjoy.”  Holy crap.  Little known fact about me is that I’ve never had a laptop before.  I always had a desktop, and I went from that straight to pimp smart phones, and never had anything else in between.  I didn’t have any concrete plans to get a laptop, either, I just heard a friend was upgrading and asked what was going to happen to the old one.  (I’m only withholding a shout out by name because I’m not sure if my friend would be cool with it, but let me assure you that I appreciate her generosity enough to tell everyone.)  The only bump in the road came when I saw that it was a Mac.  I’m no PC snob, by any means, but I’ve never really used the Mac OS, so the last week or so has been a little bit of a learning process.  Also, I’ve tried to close the window I’m on by clicking in the upper right hand corner at least 79 times.

The other banner good thing that has happened to me recently is a new freelance writing job for the Cleveland Free Press.  The moment where everything intertwines is that I wrote my first article for the website on this Mac.  Holy awesomesauce.  (It’s my 2011 Cleveland Indians prediction post.) Do some clicking, the CFP website is pretty awesome, and I’m excited to be a part of its growth.  The CFP is a grassroots local journalism effort with an already impressive group of writers.  The site is owned and edited by K. Paul Mallasch and the CFP is a part of KPaul Media.  We should all stop by there and let him know that I’m a genius.  He’ll love it.

The other recent good things that have happened to me are doing a brake job/tire rotation, fixing my muffler and fixing my lawnmower.  There’s no way that I could have ever gotten all of that done so quickly or cheaply without my Dad or my brother Joel.  (We also needed Mom to supervise)  After three mid-project trips to the parts store, lunch from Five Guys, and lots of swearing at each other, we got everything finished in time for me to hightail it home and have dinner with Kelly at Cozumel.  (I suggest Cozumel to everyone.  In fact, stop reading, drive there, order, now start reading again.  Your food will be in front of you before you’re done with the post.)

A friend is gifting me a gas grill, my golf league is starting up its first practice round Thursday, the Indians won their first game, and I’m going to log off here and hang out with Kelly and the kitties.

I’d end with something optimistic and inspirational, but tomorrow is Monday.  Nothing good ever comes of Mondays.


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