18. about me.

How you can tell it’s a NaBloPoMo month — we’re only two weeks in, and this is the second Facebook meme I’ve stolen from the blog.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this one, the *insertnumberhere* Things You Didn’t Know About Me meme. The rules and conventions for this one state that you like a friend’s post and they assign you a number; I liked Mel’s post last week … and she assigned me 15.

FIFTEEN. As in, the most she assigned to anyone who liked her post. I’m choosing to be flattered that Mel thought I could come up with that many reasonably interesting things about myself — even if myself thinks that’s probably a stretch.

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Before I begin, let me make it clear that I’ll follow the rules here — comment on this post here, like or comment on FB and I’ll give you a number. And if you don’t have a regular outlet for Internet Fun, feel free to leave your list in the comments here.

Mushrooms and olives. I really want to like them. But I really, really don’t.

My first craft beer. I was visiting Juan in Brooklyn, and we stopped at his corner grocery in Park Slope to get some, uh, supplies before we went out for the evening. There, in the cooler, were six packs of Brooklyn Lager. I later found Brooklyn Brown in The Union, my home bar in Athens. And my life hasn’t been the same since.

Certified weather freak boy. I’ve always been curious about what makes weather work, ever since our childhood babysitter let me stay up and watch a thunderstorm light up Leighton Road. That fascination has continued well into adulthood, when I’ve voluntarily attended National Weather Service storm spotter certification classes multiple times — the basic class twice and the advanced class once. Understanding the weather helps professionally, but c’mon — as nerdy stuff goes, it’s pretty cool, too.

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Shorts, man. I love this time of year. When the weather turns, I love digging out sweaters and coats and scarves and all the other accouterments. But let’s be clear — if it’s above 30 degrees, I’m wearing shorts.

I’ll die with a beard. The last time I shaved off my beard entirely was late in my collegiate career. I had an interview for an internship with an editor from a major metro paper in Ohio, and I wanted to make a good impression. But I’ve always suspected that I blew the interview because the editor had a glass eye that pointed up and to the left by about 45 degrees. I was so distracted that I don’t think I uttered a complete sentence the entire time we talked (and it’s always been my guess that the paper sent this guy to interview college kids FOR THAT VERY REASON). I didn’t get the internship and Mrs. Crappy liked the beard, so I grew it  back immediately. And seeing old pictures of beardless me are more than enough to help solidify the decision to keep it forever.

My cause: skin cancer. I’m not a preacher. I generally think it’s best to let people make their own decisions. But for the most part, preventing skin cancer is so simple — and it seems that so few people ever worry about it. I’ve written a bunch about this over the years, starting the time the second tumor was hacked out of my left arm. I’ve had three taken from my arm and one burned off of my forehead. And if I had just put on sunscreen when I was a kid, chances are decent that I wouldn’t have had the trouble I’ve had. It’s not a huge deal — none of my tumors have been serious — but given that skin cancer is largely preventable, it’s a thing for me. And yeah, I’ll probably try to make it a thing for you too. Sorry in advance.

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Chateau de Blanc. I have eaten White Castles for breakfast. When we drive from Thanksgiving dinner in Pittsburgh to my parents’ house in Columbus, I will bring home a bag of White Castles for a Thanksgiving night snack. I once picked up 60 White Castles for my father’s poker night (along with another dozen for me) . If there was was a White Castle closer than Canton, Ohio, I’d be there right now.

Best concerts by non-hippie bands. Wilco, especially the show at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland a few years ago. Little Feat, on a sweaty August night at the Newport. The Stones, on the Steel Wheels tour in Louisville, especially because that’s the first time I heard them play Sympathy for the Devil (otherwise known as the Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Song of All Time) live. Cowboy Junkies at Metropol, which had temporarily lost its liquor license, making for a quiet, respectful audience. Jorma Kaukonen and Michael Falzarano, in front of me and maybe eight other people at Another Fool’s Cafe in Athens.

Bourbon. The Manhattan is the family cocktail. I come by it honestly.

Irish kid, Italian cook. I have no Italian in me whatsoever, but I love me some Italian cooking — and, uh, eating. Some of this comes from the family spaghetti-and-meatballs recipe, which was born decades ago when the family owned a restaurant somewhere in Columbus; I suppose it also comes from it not being too difficult to do Italian pretty well. Lasagna? Yep. Carbonara? Yep. Improvising and tinkering with pasta dishes? Yep.

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Meeting famous people. It might have something to do with my job — I’ve interviewed senators, congresspeople, Timothy Leary, Graham Chapman, and many others — but I have no difficulty marching up to someone I recognize and saying hello (and it still kills me that I wasn’t with Mrs. Crappy the time she walked right by Ringo Starr in Aspen a few years ago). As a caution — that goes for Internet-famous people as well. If we haven’t met before but I think I’ve spotted you while we’re out, I will stop you and introduce myself.

Best job ever. I have been a paperboy. I have worked in restaurants. I have made it through multiple holiday seasons at a chain of Hallmark stores in Columbus. And I am now a journalist, the fulfillment of the closest thing I’ve had to a lifelong dream. But without question, the most fun I’ve ever had was working at the Bagel Buggy in Athens every Friday morning for one of my senior-year spring quarters.

Work is surreal. I am a trained professional journalist. And nearly everything I do professionally now didn’t exist when I was a student at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

The moment I first set eyes on Mrs. Crappy. I was never really sure love at first sight was possible until it happened to me. I was starting a late night at my college paper, and I walked through the business offices just as the general assignment staff — where most of us got our starts — was wrapping up a meeting. I looked over and there was a new girl — long, light brown hair. Round, almost Lennon glasses. Big smile and a big laugh. I was thunderstruck; I think I actually stopped and stared for a second before moving on to the production room. I tracked down the GA editor as soon as I could and was filled in, because she also happened to be Mrs. Crappy’s resident assistant. It took a while for us to connect — although not for a lack of effort on my part — but, yeah, it’s worked out pretty well.

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Hats. In the summer? I’m a ballcap guy. But when the weather turns cold — as you may have gathered from the photos — I’m a fan of hats with stuff on them.

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9. the best gift ever.

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Visitors make life unpleasant for Miles, who is completely relaxed with us but pretty high-strung around nearly anyone else.

He knows my parents, which helps. Some. But it took him much of the evening to decide it was OK to come up out of the basement, and even then he wouldn’t join me on the couch until my mom went to bed upstairs.

He joined us in bed for a moment but didn’t stay; house guests interrupt his daily explorations of his territory, and he had some catching up to do.

Which is why I was a little surprised when I heard him and a slightly muffled meow coming back upstairs and into our room.

And he had come with a gift.

Although he has the run of the house, there are very few things in this place that are truly his: the food and water dishes, the upstairs and downstairs cat accommodations and a few of his favorite toys. He seems pleased with his stuff, too. These are the things that are most important in his life.

So when he shares them with us — as he did just a few minutes ago when he brought his catnip banana from the kitchen upstairs to our bedroom — I am touched. I don’t know what the specific message was, because he didn’t seem interested in playing. Maybe it’s a way of reassuring himself that things are OK, even with visitors snoring away in our guest bedroom.

But for whatever reason, it was important enough to our cat at that moment that he hauled his favorite toy — the most important object in his life besides those that have to do with food or pooping — through two rooms, up a flight of stairs, across a hallway and into another room so he could share it with his people.

Cats can’t communicate? Wrong. Miles does, loud and clear.

that’s the news.

Given that it was never supposed to happen, I guess I can’t be too unhappy that it’s over.

I wasn’t ever supposed to be the host of Newsbreak, the daily webcast we’ve produced at my paper for nearly as long as I’ve worked there; I was just going to fill in on occasion. And I don’t think anyone — especially not me — anticipated that Newsbreak would morph from a fairly straightforward news cast into … uh … whatever it was that I changed it into.

Regardless — Newsbreak the show, along with my six-year run as its primary host, is over.

I did my first Newsbreak on June 4, 2007, filling in because its regular host was on vacation and the fill-in host was off sick. It was … OK (that’s the first one above). We used a studio and a green screen back then, a set up that I was never really comfortable with. It didn’t take me long, in fact, to ask the producer at the time if we could tape my clips at my desk, a format that I largely stuck with for the rest of my time as host. Jen, the show’s original host, had already started to move away from the straight-news approach of the show to something that was a little snarkier, a change that I embraced wholeheartedly.

Jen and Kristen, the other Newsbreak hosts, eventually moved on, but I saw no reason to not continue doing the show. Jacki, easily my favorite producer in that six years, was moved out of the newsroom, so I started working with our then-new video guy. And when he quit abruptly, I was left with a snap decision — give it up, or learn how to do it myself. Jacki had already given me some crash courses in video editing — something that has continued to serve me very well, professionally and personally — so I jumped in, writing, shooting, editing and posting, nearly every day.

It was hard. It burned up a lot of time every day. And it turned out to be one of the most fun things I have done — or ever will do — in my professional life.

I was fortunate that my colleagues in the newsroom have been mostly willing to participate when I’ve had ideas that really required their participation. For example:

Twinkie crisis.

And, the best one we’ve ever done — Steel vs. Cheese.

Why is Newsbreak done? If I’m being honest with myself, I’d have to admit that the show was for a relatively small group of people — my colleagues, my friends and family and, uh, me. In an era where my industry must do whatever it can to maximize its revenue, Newsbreak would be kind of a tough sell. We’ll do a daily newscast again at some point, but someone else will be doing that show.

How do I feel about this? I’m nursing a slightly bruised ego, but mostly I’m happy I had the chance to do this for as long as I did. I can’t really be angry at an employer that gave me the time, the resources and nearly total freedom to do these shows for six years. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity anywhere else.

That’s the last one. I probably shouldn’t have even done the episode, but we’ve done those Pirates picks for such a long time that I thought this fall I should definitely close the loop.

And that’s it. I should thank Jen and Kristen for letting me serve as a fill-in host while they were away in June 2007, Jacki for serving as the greatest producer ever and Evan, our current videographer, for giving me a hand when I got in over my head.

And you guys. Thank you for watching Newsbreak. I’m Mike Pound.

pittsburgh history.

Part one:

Even before I got my first post-college job in Butler and moved here from Ohio, I knew who Rick Sebak was. On a couple of visits to Mrs. Crappy and her mom — long before she was Mrs. Crappy — we caught a couple of Sebak’s shows on rainy afternoons at her mom’s house in Kittanning. I know the Kennywood show was the first one I saw; that was followed by the national diner show and one or two of the “Things that aren’t there anymore” documentaries.

I was taken immediately by the warm nature of Sebak’s narration and the breezy pace of the films. They are captivating, and I couldn’t get enough.

I’ve watched many more of Sebak’s Pittsburgh history and neighborhood shows over the years, and it’s not a stretch to say I learned much of what I know about my hometown from those documentaries.

And, even better, I learned from Rick last fall that I belong here. It’s not unusual that I recognize people from his shows, but they’re generally the people who are the subjects of his interviews. As I watched the premiere of 25 Things I Like About Pittsburgh in November, I noticed that I wasn’t seeing business owners who looked familiar; I was instead seeing friends. In the footage from the Steel City Big Pour, the footage from the Toonseum and even in shots from the porch party, there were familiar faces.

Rick Sebak helped me learn the past and present of my home. And, after I’d been here for 22 years, he helped me realize that Pittsburgh was my home.

Part two:

I was one of a couple people assigned by our editor to take Megan Miller to lunch and make sure we convinced her to take a job at the paper.

As we talked over sandwiches at Brady’s Run Grill, Jenny and I learned one thing about Megan — she called herself a history nerd. She lived up to that self-imposed title as well; in her not-quite-a-year at the paper, she came up with some really cool weekend features about the county’s past.

There is another manifestation of Megan’s fascination with history, one that she wears on her back. Megan has an awesome tattoo, copy of a highway sign that marks the Lincoln Highway, name for one of her favorite figures from the past.

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As I said before, we didn’t get to spend much time with Megan — she moved to New Zealand, where she still lives and works today. Just a few days before she left, she got to meet Rick in person — she had talked with him on the phone after he completed A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway — when he visited the new Bocktown in the Beaver Valley Mall.

And the resulting picture was priceless.

Part three:

My friend Derrick and a few others had tried for a couple weeks to convince Rick to visit Piper’s Pub on one of our, uh, traditional Thursday nights there. Rick said he would try a week ago, but wasn’t able to make it; this week, though, the outlook was better, and sometime just before 9 p.m., Rick Sebak walked through the door.

Jenny arrived a short time later, but walked past him while he talked to others in the front of the bar. I finished my dinner, and we concocted a plan: we’d find Megan’s picture from Bocktown and introduce ourselves as her former colleagues.

Rick remembered the picture instantly; in fact, he said he still has people ask him about the Route 30 tattoo woman photo now, more than a year after it was taken. He also seemed pleased to hear that he had been with me during every step of my Pittsburgh indoctrination. He is a genuine guy, a nice guy, and completely open to strangers new friends handing him glasses of beer from out of nowhere. He also took an honest interest in our jobs, even offering a tidbit of historical trivia about Beaver — I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you now — once he learned where Jenny and I work.

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Tonight’s convergence would have been made perfect only by the presence of Megan, who is still half a world away. But it was great to find that Rick was who I thought he would be; if you’ve seen any of his shows, I think you have a pretty good sense of who that is, because the guy on TV seems to be the same as the one who visited Piper’s tonight.

There is one additional thing to mention. Much of Sebak’s shows feature things — neighborhoods, buildings, food, roller coasters — but the at the bottom of everything he shoots are people. And while I love the stuff of Pittsburgh, the people are what make Pittsburgh what it is.

And my Pittsburgh friends — the ones I work with, the ones I noticed in Rick’s latest documentary, the ones I see at Piper’s every Thursday and all the others — are what make Pittsburgh home.

still sappy.

Whew.

That year, 2012, was rough in a lot of ways. As you may have gathered from my six-month sabbatical.

But when we were able to set aside the pain-in-the-ass stuff, 2012 was also a lot of fun — shows, football, family … and more friends than I could begin to count.

I’ve done some ridiculously detailed end-of-the-year posts in the past, and I’m not going to do that here. But I will say this: You guys continue to make me happy I chose to get involved with all of this social media stuff years ago.

I have professional reasons for being pleased about my online dabblings — I’m having a blast writing the column, and one day I might even make consistently decent videos — but the personal stuff is almost always a bigger payoff. In the past, I have rarely been disappointed when I’ve met an online friend in real life, and that continued in 2012.

I will start 2013 as I have the last four years — by meeting a bunch of people at the Mon Wharf and jumping in the freezing-cold river. I know everyone who’s committed to showing up in the morning, but, as always, the fun thing will be to see who else shows up. I’ve noticed a few people lurking on my links to the Plunge posts, and I hope we’ll see a new face or two in the morning.

Because outside of my wife and my family, you guys are the ones who make my life what it is. I am grateful to you for the past year, and I’m looking forward to more fun, starting here in just a few hours.

Happy new year, yinz guys. Hope I see you again soon.

saturday morning.

We’ve been without television for a few days — thanks for that, Comcast — and have resorted to going through our DVD collection for entertainment in the interim.

We’re well-equipped for this. For instance, on Saturday, Mrs. Crappy pulled out our boxed set of Looney Tunes classics and popped them on for a traditional Saturday-morning slobfest.

This prompted the resumption of a long-standing debate in our house: “Rabbit of Seville” or “What’s Opera, Doc”?

If you’re of a certain age, chances are pretty good you don’t need any further explanation. But if you do: “Rabbit” is the Bugs Bunny episode where he is chased into the Hollywood Bowl by Elmer Fudd and proceeds to take over the production of “Barber of Seville,” featuring a complete makeover of Fudd.

“Opera” featured Fudd as a viking, chasing, and eventually killing, Bugs to the tune of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” (you know, the “kill the wabbit, kill the WAAABIT” one…).

Both shorts are undeniably classics, but Mrs. Crappy and I have never agreed on which one is best; I’m a “Rabbit” guy and Mrs. Crappy will forever stand by “Opera.”

So, of course, I asked Twitter.

And Twitter mostly agreed with me. I saw 10 responses to my question (Twitter poll: Rabbit of Seville or What’s Opera, Doc?); seven people were with me and the other three sided with Mrs. Crappy.

But while we discussed the results, Mrs. Crappy and I came up with another one that, if I’m basing this on the short’s ability to make me giggle and nothing else, that for me might top the other two. Astoundingly, it wasn’t included in the DVD set we own, so we watched it online.

Yep. Giggling like I was an 8 year old again.

Here’s what I want you to do: Guess the short in the comments. Two hints: It’s a period piece and Bugs Bunny does not appear. I’ll have a $10 iTunes gift card ready for the first person to get it right (including the correct title!). And if you want, I’d also like to hear your favorite Warner Brothers cartoon as well.

Go!