1985

Before gentrification, two rival gangs divided South Newburg. They were the Shirts and the Skins. The Shirts shopped at Banana Republic. The Skins did not. The Shirts consumed large quantities of Orange Julius. The Skins did not. And the Shirts used rocket-propelled grenades while the Skins threw rocks. The Skins were losing until Rambo showed…

Peas

Whenever I eat School Days early variety peas, my mind wanders back to when I played football at Bard Military Academy. Pushups in the rain.  Coach above me grinding his boot into my back.  My face plunging headfirst into a puddle. I cannot feel my toes. Fans trickling in with umbrellas. Mother and Stepfather (Stepfather…

My Summer of ’77

Writing and rewriting a paragraph, then reading it back until you feel like you are seeing the plush green grass at Municipal Stadium for the first time is the feeling I want to experience every day for the rest of my life. Of course nothing feels like seeing green grass on a baseball field for…

How To Win Friends And Influence People With Donuts and $2 Bills

Although his ended tragically, Ernest Hemingway led an interesting life. Writer, outdoorsman, celebrity. He was also a salesman because he knew how to be persuasive in 6 words or less — “For sale: baby shoes never worn.” He was unconventional (he typed standing up), but he was quite good at satisfying customers with his brevity…

The Pitch

EFG Window Washing, LLC. Cleveland, Ohio. A clear summer day overlooking Lake Erie. Do you like books? One of the things I like about books is their ability to tell stories that make people want to read them over and over again. I studied history in college because history majors are required to read a…

Philomena The Fortune Teller

I remember a fortune teller on Pulaski Street named Philomena who pulled in some pretty good business. Her clients were from the neighborhood: teachers, construction workers, stay-at-home moms, never-at-home dads — even Mayor Farley went there during the riots. Philomena was an interesting fortune teller and genuinely nicer than the ones you see on TV.…

Shoe Story

“So you see officer, the customer told me he was looking for a fast running shoe. I said, ‘that’s strange, a fast running shoe just came in this morning. I laced it up and put it over there with the rest of the shoes on the wall. Then I left the other one in the…

Nick The Street Vendor

The street vendor on Literary Road sold three things: hot dogs, Lay’s potato chips and Pepsi-Cola. Four if you counted lively conversation, five if you had the privilege of listening to his radio when Indians games were on. The last two were free as long as you bought one of the first three. In May…

Zeke Klompus, TED Speaker

HELLO PORTLAND! (A pin drops) You have no idea who I am, do you? (Nervous laughter) That’s okay. Neither did I before I came up with what I’m about to tell you. To best understand who I am, I need to tell you about who I was. In order to do that, I need to…

Christmas Eve, 1965

The fireplace kept us warm while we sat on the couch and drank bottles of Little Tom. We would open presents soon. One of the perks of being Polish is that we always open presents on Christmas Eve instead of waiting until morning. In ’65 I would’ve been 6. When you’re 6 years old, anticipation…