Sunday, December 27, 2009

What's on my Nightstand

Due to space limitations, this short book review was even shorter in today's Plain Dealer. Here's the complete version.
This is a really good read, I recommend it.

“Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.” by Rob Sheffield

We all know how music, the proverbial “soundtrack of our lives,” can stir our emotions. But in his 2007 memoir, Rolling Stone contributing editor, Rob Sheffield, offers the reader more than a mix of memories on a cassette tape. It’s a pop culture love story void of a happy ending, but satisfying nonetheless. Sheffield takes us on a musical journey comprised of songs that enriched his life, while introducing us to the people that music gifts him with, including his wife, Renee. “When the bartender at the Eastern Standard put on Big Star’s Radio City, she was the only person in the room who perked up.” In 1997, six years into their marriage, Renee collapses one afternoon, dying from a pulmonary embolism, leaving the author a widow at thirty-one. At first he finds comfort in their shared love of music, “My mix tapes were the life rafts that I held on to.” Still, there are times when music can’t make it all better. One night as he’s driving along a highway, he switches on the car stereo. “The radio was playing ‘American Pie,’ but I only made it a few seconds before I had to change the station. I got Jerry Lee Lewis on the oldies station. He’s still alive, I thought. Reagan is, too. The Pope. I turned off the radio and left it off.”

While many of us haven’t experienced his kind of pain, we can relate to it.

Love is a mix tape, indeed.

And as Sheffield ultimately learns, while not always a happy note, it's still a worthy listen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Books (and Music) Still Make Great Gifts!

I don’t care what “they” say about the popularity of reading newspapers, magazines and books online, I know there are many of you who, like me, wouldn’t give up the feel, and scent, of printed paper to save your soul! (Well okay, maybe to save your soul). True book lovers (I call them “Bookies”) want the real thing—and we’re not talking Kindles (though I do appreciate their appeal). And I’m obviously not alone in this passion. In Sunday’s Plain Dealer, the book section (my favorite, if you haven’t guessed) reports that this year the total book titles PRINTED worldwide will exceed one million, up from the past few years. A very good sign. After all, even if you own a Kindle (and I do know some bookies that love them), it still can’t replace real books (and the covers are often so interesting and appealing. I have been known to, yes, judge a book by its cover).
The Plain Dealer also noted their 20 favorite books of 2009, and while I haven’t read all of them (yet) I can attest to the greatness of “Lit” by Mary Karr (this is her third memoir and she is simply brilliant. I admit to gushing like a rock groupie upon meeting her in New York a few years ago), and “Await Your Reply” by local author, Dan Chaon, who has received much international praise for his work.
And he is just one of many great, talented writers in the Greater Cleveland area. Some of them you are familiar with because they are nationally known, such as Michael Ruhlman, Mary Doria Russell, Joe Eszterhas, Thrity Umrigar, Richard Montanari, Sarah Willis, John Stark Bellamy II, Gail Bellamy, Ted Schwarz, Cinda Chima, Kristin Ohlson, Paula McLain, and Les Roberts.(Can you believe there are so many?!) I could also mention all of their works but that would definitely exceed my word count for this blog. Besides, they are easy to find.
But there are some local authors that if someone didn’t tell you about them, you’d miss out because they don’t get the amount of press others do. So let me do the honors.
If you’d like to enhance your literary world, treat yourself - or the Bookie in your life, to these local authors (Google them for their web sites or to order their books):

Casey Daniels – her mystery series include her latest: “Night of the Loving Dead.”
Erin O’Brien – her “Voice” and humor is her best asset and shows itself in her book, “Harvey & Eck.”
Carole Calladine – “Second Story Woman: A Memoir of Second Chances.” Good read for all, but especially those with Diabetes.
Anne Southworth - "Next Friend: The Journal of a Foster Parent." Documents many of the complexities of being a foster parent.
Peter Chakerian – “Browns Fans’ Tailgating Guide.” His new book is coming soon.
Scott Lax - "The Year That Trembled." Takes readers back to 1970s love and war.
Bill Warnock – “The Dead of Winter” Great for those interested in World War II.
Doris O'Donnell - "Front-Page Girl." Good memoir about the newspaper world of yesterday.
Joyce Dyer - "Gum-Dipped: A Daughter Remembers Rubber Town." Good history on Akron Ohio, but also about family.
Then there are these two, who prove it’s never too late – or too early – to become an author:
Aileen Gilmour, who published her first novel, “The Valley of Nevaeh” at age 80.
R. Jarrett Dowd, who published his first novel “Phases of Reason 1: The Eight Ball" at age 27. You'll be hearing more of him. . . .

And don’t neglect local favorites John Gorman, Michael Heaton, Michael Olszewski (who has a new book coming soon!), Terry Pluto (who has a new book out about LeBron), and Neil Zurcher.
And of course there are others as well. Our city is rich in creativity!

Just one more thing before I go . . . remember all the (well-merited) uproar about downloading music that cheat millions of deserving songwriters out of well-earned royalties? Well it’s now happening with books. There are currently lawsuits protesting the Internet’s infringes on author’s copyrights and it's sure to be an ongoing problem. Now you could argue that without the Internet many authors would hardly be recognized at all, but that's a moot point. Authors deserve every penny due them because being a writer is damn hard work and it takes years to write a book. And just think of all the joy we get from books and music. Plus, the fact that a CD and most books cost around $20 for this wide range of entertainment. So even if you’re on a tight budget, you can put a few dollars away each week (like I used to as a teenager so I can buy an album by my favorite rock group) and have it in your excitable little hands within a month!
Like many actors and visual artists, musicians and writers work hard at their craft and most will never get paid for all the time and blood, sweat and tears they put into it. Yes, they do it because they love it, but it's a tough way to make a living.
Because I understand this, I still go out and purchase a CD or book that I want to enjoy—and I enjoy it so much better knowing I’ve done my small part to support these talented people. Especially those who live and work in our hometown, it’s a way of saying thank you for enriching our lives. Because of each of the authors I’ve mentioned above and so many others (and all the musicians who have rocked my world!), I not only have great memories I can relive over and over at the turn of the page or press of a button, I have learned many things about life, love and how to have a really good time - through their words and music.
So enjoy this season of peace and love and I recommend you give a gift that will keep on giving! Merry Christmas!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hate-Mongers . . .

So guess what, or rather who, this blog is about?

Up until last week, believe it or not, I had never seen Glenn Beck in action. I watch little TV and when I do it’s rarely FOX News. And when I listen to the radio, it’s rarely talk radio (well except for “Car Talk with Click and Clack” on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. on NPR - These guys, and their callers, are hilarious! Even if you’re not into cars, this show is SO much fun to listen to!). But I’m not so out-of-touch that I hadn’t heard about Beck. I just didn’t know what he looked like until the day I was waiting for a Roman Burger (like McDonald’s Big Macs, I eat them faithfully - once, maybe twice, a year).

Anyway, so I’m in the waiting room and the TV is blaring with this seemingly crazed man ranting, raving—and in a horribly irritating tone—spewing about Obama this, Obama that. And while I’m all for free speech and such, this guy was annoying (to use my teen daughter’s favorite word) as hell.
In fact, he was acting just like I'd picture a devil would. This guy was so bent on trying to convince people that we are all in grave danger if we didn’t believe in what he was saying (he even showed a video which he continually pointed to in a seemingly desperate effort to prove his point but which only made him look like some bully kid who insists that he is right in his convictions, and that his bad behavior is directly caused by someone else. “He made me do it!” And “See, Seeeeee?." "Now do you believe me, huh? Just look at this!!”

For the first time I realized we Americans really are in grave danger. The hate spewing from this guy (the man next to me shaking his head at the TV told me this talking head was THE Glenn Beck) is indeed a huge danger to all our well beings as Americans.

This is not about whether you are Right, Left or Sideways (I tend toward the latter), it’s about trying to get people on your side in a vengeful, hateful, vile manner that can only bring about more vengeful, hateful, and vile (and bile) behavior. Even if you believe everything that comes out of this guy’s bitter mouth, it’s his mean-spirited delivery that should offend you. It sure does me. After all, the truly smart people who are passionate about their cause are also compassionate about others and can wisely make a point without coming across like a school yard bully.
I don’t like this guy and I don’t like what he’s doing to Americans.

Like Obama or not, whatever happened to the days when we at least respected the office of the Presidency of our United (remember THAT word?) States? Isn’t that part of being a true American?
And while none of us are always going to agree on the same issue – there is something in which I think we all can concur:
Glenn Beck will never get awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

But I believe there’s still hope for Click and Clack. . . .


Friday, October 2, 2009

Life, and Death, Lessons

There are many life lessons one can glean from the Wizard of Oz movie but my all-time favorite is this:
As the Tin Man receives his “heart” from the Wizard, he is told, “Remember my sentimental friend, a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” Which of course means you need to be a good person—lovable enough to earn the affection and admiration of others.
I think it’s the best legacy we can leave, and is certainly a good path toward world peace. Obviously, if you are not a peaceful person who is kind and thoughtful of others, it does nothing but create bad energy in the world. And we sure don’t need any more of that.

My brother Dennis, who died suddenly last month from a brain aneurysm, was obviously loved by many—based on the turnout and testimonies at his Celebration of Life that took place last Sunday.(More than 100 people attended.)And while that alone did my heart good, I acquired yet another real life lesson while preparing for that occasion.
While collecting photographs and materials for Sunday, Dennis’s fiancé told me about many things he was involved in that I either didn’t know about or had long forgotten. I knew he had 6 Black Belts in Karate, and that he was an avid sailor, and talented musician, but I have learned much more in these past few weeks and I regret not telling him how proud I was of his accomplishments. I am saddened that I failed to pay enough attention to all that he was involved in through his 58 years in this life.
Of course I was his sister, and I could use that as an excuse. After all, it’s natural to take for granted those closest to us, especially a sibling. But the excuse doesn’t make the truth any easier to swallow. . . .

I believe that with every life experience, there is a lesson to be learned, although sometimes it takes us a long time to learn it. So let me share this lesson in hopes that you won’t have to learn it when it’s too late to change things.
It is simply this:
My mother, who was actually quite the conversationalist, often told me, you learn more by listening than talking.
And once again, mother was right. You’ll be surprised what you can learn about others and from others that can really enrich your life, even your career. Rather than focus on what you want to say about yourself, let someone else do the talking, and pay attention.

Next time you’re at a party or any event, remember to ask the person in front of you about their interests, their lives. Then really listen to what they are saying.
Especially at that next family reunion or get-together. You might be surprised by what you learn about who your brother, sister,cousin,is really all about, and how they really feel about things. (Oftentimes lack of communication breeds much misinformation). As you listen, you may even find yourself smiling with pride that you are related to that person.
And that, my friends, feels a whole lot better than assuming what you know about them. You might even feel the desire to tell them how proud you are of them.
Talk about a good day! For both of you! Sure wish I'd done that.
Life lessons can truly be eye-opening--and life enriching.

So live, love, laugh – and listen!
Now go tell a friend.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Few Belated Noteworthy Mentions

Note to Reader: I must admit that these important mentions are indeed belated. I would’ve liked to have you think I wrote it in a more timely manner, except there is no escaping the tell-tale date at the top of this blog. . . .

One of the most common sayings (usually by those 50 and older ) is, “My, How Time Flies.” And no one probably knows this better than Cleveland’s First Lady of Rock Journalism, Jane Scott. Last week, Jane celebrated her 90th birthday at where else? The Agora Back Stage Café. The venue was a fitting place for this awesome occasion as Jane has seen literally thousands of back stages in her long lifetime. For those outside the rock music world, let me tell you a bit about Jane Scott. Her long career with the Plain Dealer began in 1952 as assistant society reporter. By the early ’60s, she began covering several sections, such as the society, along with the teen section. She referred to this as her “Pimples to Pensions” beat. (You gotta love her). For the next four decades, Jane (who didn’t retire from the PD until she was 80 years old) became THE rock reporter and was visible at pretty much every rock concert that took place in the Greater Cleveland area. One thing about Jane, she never was a “critic.” She merely reported the who, what, where, when, how, and sometimes why, of the music makers. She’s interviewed all the greats and the not-so-greats. Well, except for one: Elvis Presley. Though she has often said, she hasn’t given up on yet .
Jane’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, People magazine and of course, Rolling Stone. She was even in a pornographic magazine (Now I could leave that hanging and tell you you’ll have to read all about it in my book, but I wouldn’t do that to my readers!). But while I have no room for the fun details where Jane tries to explain this happenstance to one of her church members, I’ll simply say that her article from the Rolling Stone was reprinted in that magazine . . .
No, there is no one else like Jane, and never will be (I still marvel at all those years of late-night concert hours she kept throughout her 60s and 70s, when I, a mere whippersnapper at 50-something, has to be in bed by 10 – 11 on weekends). So Happy, Happy Birthday to our very own Rockin’ Jane. And God Bless You.

Speaking of great journalists, and here’s where I’ve been remiss again (Though I have had a reminder note on my desk for at least a month!), I wanted to say how honored I am to know such noteworthy award-winning writers right here in Cleveland. A few years ago, Connie Schultz received the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, which was a great moment for all of us who struggle daily with the written—and just the right—word, and of course was absolutely deserved. Now in just a few months, some of my other favorite writers have been honored as well. The News-Herald’s Janet Podolak was recently honored by the Society of American Travel Writers. She is the paper’s travel and food editor and was my mentor back in the ’80s when I was just getting started in this field. Plain Dealer columnist, Regina Brett, was this year’s finalist for The Pulitzer in the Commentary category for the second consecutive year. And the accolades keep coming for Plain Dealer’s Joanna Connors for her captivating and well-crafted series about the rape and attack she endured while on the job in 1984.
Congratulations to these great writers who I continually learn from. (I've always said, learn from the best).

And here’s to a SUNNY day in Cleveland, Ohio.
See you next time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What a Coronation - The Moondog Rocked Again

The original Moondog Coronation Ball took place at the old Cleveland Arena back on March 21,1952. It was a short-lived affair due to overcrowding and general pandemonium. The entire story of this event—which is now considered to be the first official rock ‘n’ roll concert—and how it became rock history is actually longer than that first concert itself, and too long to go into here (you can read more about that in my book, “Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Cleveland Connection”).

I want to talk about the night of March 28, 2009 at Quicken Loans Arena. The lineup for this concert was sure to take us boomers back to the day when rock was simple and just plain fun. The evening started out pretty slow with Jerry Butler, and I was beginning to wonder about the audience, most of which were sitting ever-so-politely, but things did pick up a bit in his last few songs, though the crowd was still in zombie mode. I was beginning to wonder if the whole concert was going to be like that. This had actually happened the last two Moondog shows I went to. While I’d be movin’ and swayin’ and clappin to the music (everything short of standing up and dancing, which I miss about the old days when everyone did that), the rest of the people were sitting like statues just watching the performers like they were watching a circus act.

But then came Little Richard. The original. The true architect of rock ‘n’ roll. And you know what? At the age of 76, he proved it once again. He had me worried, though, at first, when they carted him out on stage in a wheelchair. I looked at my husband Jeff and we both thought, maybe he should be hanging up his Tutti Frutti, and go quietly into the night.

Then several men helped him out of the wheelchair, set him at his piano, and upon seeing a real close up of his face on that there Jumbotron, Little Richard immediately showed his feistiness. “Get that camera off me, turn it off.” And as if God himself had thundered his disapproval, the arena went dark. And Little Richard—decked out in rhinestone studs from his suit to his sparkly boots—went to work. Well, Good Golly, Miss Molly, that man can still rock and roll like he invented it (and if you asked him, he’d say he did). His falsetto pipes were clear and sharp as a songbird. His piano playing, striking and manic. His attitude, as it should be. (Although he did lighten up after the first song and gave permission to turn the Jumbotron back on – though the cameramen knew by now to keep a respectful distance from his heavily made-up face.
Yes indeed, Little Richard is still the emancipator. Still the man who can shake, rattle and roll with the best of them. And by his last song, he had even managed to get even the die-hard deadheads up off their seats and rock like it was 1959.

Then came Three Dog Night, who didn’t disappoint with strong vocals and upbeat songs that made you feel like you were 16 again. The crowd was really rockin’ now . . .

And if that all wasn’t soul-satisfying enough, Peter Noone of the Herman Hermits eclipsed any expectations I may have had. Not only does he still look 25 (really, I want two of whatever he’s having), but he is an amazing entertainer! Something I never realized. Of course I was always a fan – who couldn’t be with songs like “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat,” “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” (which inspired me to write my first play at 10 years old – totally copying the entire storyline on how she doesn’t love him now, and wants to return those things he bought her (I did have to get creative there, and determined he had bought her a bottle of Yardley of London perfume—being British and all—and a pack of Beatle Bubble Gum cards, which, if she kept them, probably could get a pretty penny for now), and of course, “Henry the VIII, I Am.”

The ever-cute Peter had people laughing, reminiscing, and yes, on their feet dancing. And seeing our own talented Cleveland boys, Rich Spina and Billy Sullivan up there on stage performing with this pop icon made the evening complete. Oh, AND the fact that Jeff and I ended up sitting next to Rich Spina’s mom who not only was delightful, but who, because she was one of the few to first begin actually moving early on in the concert, produced an immediate bond with me that lasted through the night. I now realize why my friend, Rich, is such a great guy. It always starts with Mom.

Okay, I know you all have lives to lead so I’ll bid goodbye for now. But remember this weekend is the Rock Hall inductions. A good reason to be proud of our town’s roots (this year’s induction of Bobby Womack makes the third musician from the Cleveland area to be honored).
You know what comes now . . . Cleveland really does rock! Enjoy!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Yahoo Me – Soon As I Remember My Password

Well, as you’ll notice, I haven’t been here for awhile. And yes, life does get in the way, and many, many other things take priority over blogs. However, that’s not the case here.

You see, I have this memory thing. Or lack thereof. I now have a large web presence thanks to Facebook and Plaxo and Linked-In and Red Room and Author Nation and and Blog Radio and this Blogspot . . . Oh and of course, MySpace, though I can’t recall when I’ve been there last. And of course my “official” web site ( – see, I’m getting good at this promotion thing).
But it all presents a bit of a problem when you do not write down your password.

It's easy, you say - just use the same one for all of them and you won’t have to worry! But I don’t want to be like that guy in the funny hat singing on his guitar about lamenting about how someone stole his identity. And although I do have Spyware and Firewall and Addware . . . a writer’s worst nightmare is having your computer crash from some nasty virus because of some hacker who clearly doesn’t have a life of his own, while you are entrenched in writing a book or some other important project with which you were so busy with that you completely forgot to save it all on flashdrive . . . (And yes, I do have a habit of run-on sentences, despite my high school English teacher’s outrage).

So of course, I use a different password for each site. And because I’m still a bit low-tech, I was quite proud of myself that when I first went into this Blogspot and it said, “Create Your Own Blog – It’s Easy” I found that they weren’t lying and I did it all by myself (You see, I have a Web Master do my web site and thankfully, he always remembers the all-important password).
So after I created a Blogspot on my own, my tail feathers were a bit fluffed once I saw my words magically appear in this nicely formatted site, and I went on with my day, week, month, totally forgetting what password I used and so the next time I wanted to write in this blog, I couldn’t get in!
And then another month went by . . .
You get the picture.

But it’s all good now. And I’m sure some of you have done the same thing (please tell me you have :-).

And here my time is up already. (As regular blog readers may recall, I made a New Year’s resolution to make my blog here a lot shorter than the one I previously wrote on my web site,

So until next time, take time to help out someone in need. Read a good book. And don’t forget to write down all your passwords. . . .
Oh, and check out my web site at :-)

Next Blog: The Importance of Marketing and Promotion!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let Your Smile Be Your Umbrella . . .

I am absolutely convinced that there is just no pleasing some people.
No matter what your political leanings, no matter what your personal feelings for our new—or old—president, January 20, 2009 was a momentous and genuine Feel-Good day.
That is, if you were open enough to embrace it.
But some people just refuse to put on their happy faces. And even if you didn’t vote for the guy, you’d have to be pretty apathetic not to have had a smile in your heart that day.
And of course, I’m going to tell you why—if you’re not in the frame of mind to figure it out yourself.
*This part of my blog is dedicated to those Oscar the Grouch folks who wrote into the newspapers across the country complaining how naïve and silly millions of us were for having ourselves such a good old time of it all last Tuesday. . . .
So let me give you—all you high-and-mighties (and poor sports to boot)—another way of looking at it.
September 11, 2001: Remember how you felt that fall day? The fear, the anxiety, the hopelessness? Remember the visual images you saw over and over on our TV screen, in your newspapers? Remember the horrible, heartbreaking sadness of it all?
January 20, 2009: Did you happen to notice that massive crowd throughout the National Mall this day? All those people shivering—but not leaving their spot—this frigid winter day? Did you see those faces? Happy faces. Hopeful faces. Tears-full-of-joy streaming down those faces . . . Did you not hear that those faces accumulated to 1.8 million people? All generations. All sizes. All colors. All standing together—United—they stood. Smiling embracing, cheering.
Isn’t that what we Americans have been pining for, always hoped for?
And we got it! Even if just for a day. We got it.
And you poor sniveling, dooms-day, glass-always-half-empty folks lost the opportunity to bask in it. Too bad. It felt really, really good. . . .
Oh, and by the way, did you also hear there was not one arrest in that mall that day? Not. One. Arrest.
Wow, not even Woodstock can boast that.
But no, some people just couldn’t let it be. Some people just refuse to let go of their depressing cynicism.
Here’s one example:
A guy wrote to the Plain Dealer, calling this historic day of peace and harmony simply a “media-produced charade” . . . a “scam foisted on us by a bunch of bought-and-sold media clowns who long ago gave up their badge of integrity so they could fit comfortably in the pockets of liberals.” Sheesh.
Someone, please take away that man’s Thesaurus and buy him a chill pill.
I’d like to take that guy’s fancy rhetoric and stick it in that dark cave he calls his life.
I still consider myself an independent, but I’m sooo tired of hearing the liberal mantra. So while I’m thinking of it, before someone takes away said thesaurus, this guy should look up the word, liberal, where he would read: “One who favors progress.” “Free-thinking.” (Which right there would blow that man’s assumption that liberal “media clowns” can be so easily persuaded). Oh, and let us not forget that liberal is part of LIBERATION, which translates to FREEDOM. INDEPENDENCE. As in the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE! (SOUND FAMILIAR?)
Ok, deep breath . . . ahh, better now. Sorry for the outburst.
I could go on, but I’ll spare you. So let me just direct those woeful last-administration lovers to the picture of little Sasha Obama giving her dad a big thumbs up after his Inaugural address. Now if that doesn’t put a smile in your heart, you don’t have one.
So lighten up, people! You, the doom-and-gloom folks, you had your eight years of what I suppose was your idea of a real good time.
Now let us have ours, and quit your sniveling.
And remember:
Millions and millions of Americans think your attitude and opinions are not conducive to our mental health. These millions of us who felt such joy, and wonder, and awe last Tuesday believe in Peace on Earth and Good Will toward men.
And isn’t that what being an American is all about?