Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Candlelight Vigil a chance to show support for those who've lost someone to violent crime

The year-end holiday season brings out the best in most people. They are to have the blessings of the season bestowed upon them.
But the time of year brings out the worst in others, causing heartbreak, pain and suffering. Among those who suffer most are families and friends of victims of violent crimes.
Each year at this time, the safety forces of Lake and Geauga counties host a Candlelight Vigil to offer help and comfort to families and friends of those who have lost their lives as a result of homicides, drunken driving crashes or other crimes of violence.
This year, the vigil will be held Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at St. Cyprian Church, 4223 Middle Ridge Road in Perry Township.
The person I can always count on to bring this annual ritual to my attention is my longtime friend, Arnold Stanko, former chief of police in Waite Hill Village who is now chief in Middlefield in Geauga County.
This is a cause that is close to the heart of Arnie, and nothing gives him greater satisfaction than to have the word spread far and wide so that as many people as possible will be aware of the event and possibly make plans to attend.
I can never turn down a request from a good friend, so this is my humble effort to aid in the cause and help make the event a success.
“It’s that time of year,” Arnie wrote, “and I believe this is the 20th year for our Candlelight Vigil. I am hoping you will help spread the word as you have done in the past. I certainly appreciate your continued support for this annual vigil.”
Consider it done, Arnie.
“The Lake and Geauga county safety forces recognize that as the holiday season approaches, it may be a particularly difficult time for families and friends who have lost loved ones to violent crimes,” he added.
“We believe they may find it comforting to join with others who have experienced similar personal tragedies and to honor their loves ones at this time of year.”
The Candlelight Vigil includes an honor guard with a bagpiper, musical selections, memorial tributes by family members and friends plus members of safety forces with the sharing of photographs of loved ones.
Safety forces will assist at a candle-lighting ceremony. The program will conclude with a procession to the “Tree of Hope,” where participants may honor their loved ones by placing ornaments of remembrance.
The Painesville Township Fire Department women’s auxiliary will provide refreshment of cookies and hot beverages following the ceremony in the downstairs Alexander Hall.
Anyone wishing more information may call Stanko at 440-632-5224.
The larger the crowd, the greater the amount of appreciation the safety forces of the two counties will feel as their reward for staging the vigil.
To put it another way, your presence at the vigil on Thursday will not only make the project more worthwhile, but will also give greater feelings of comfort to the survivors of the victims.
So you can be an important part of the atmosphere of remembrance.
Last week, I mentioned four colleges that had produced both a Super Bowl starting quarterback and a U.S. president.
Following the Stanford and Miami text, it read, “from Michigan are Tom Brady and Gerald Ford and from the Naval Academy are Roger Staubach and Gerald Ford.
There’s obviously something wrong here. To conclude the answer, I had typed in “Jimmy Carter.” Everyone knows he is a graduate of the Naval Academy. But the computer repeated the name of Gerald Ford.
I can’t figure out what went wrong. But computers do funny things if you’re not careful. Remember, Brady and Ford are the Michigan link, and Staubach and Carter are the Navy connection.
And it isn’t even my computer! I just use it when Robin Palmer isn’t here.
If she trained it not to type “Jimmy Carter,” I’ll have to speak to her about that. He is, after all, the only president who ever invited me to the White House for lunch.
Relax. It wasn’t a big deal. There were 30 editors from Ohio and we had to go through the chow line and make our own sandwiches.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What I don't say is important, too

After lunch with “the boys” last Tuesday, as I drove from the Manhattan Deli in Willoughby to The News-Herald, I had number of things on my mind.

For example, what would I write about for today’s paper? Columnizing is a task I ordinarily undertake on Monday afternoon – except in the summer when there is a golf outing that requires my attention. A lot of charities hold their golf outings on Mondays, forcing me to do my musing on Tuesday.

Last Monday was not a golf day, although it could have been. But no, it was a leaf day. Or leaves, if you will.

My leaf gathering had been about half completed, and my brother volunteered to come over and help me finish the project. Finish it we did. It was well after dark, no thanks to the expiration of Daylight Saving Time.

Now the annual chore is complete, not to be resumed until the falling of leaves begins to take place in 2013.

One thing I thought about saying: I had left a word out of last week’s essay. Should I call attention to it? Possibly nobody noticed. I did, because I always read the column again on Sunday morning, and I found a paragraph that irked me.

After mentioning several outstanding NFL quarterbacks of days past, I wondered whether Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden would ever live up to their standards.

“Of course,” it said in the paper. What a dopey thing for me to say. What I meant to write was, “Of course not!” But the word “not” got left out. It created a slightly different meaning.

But, I reasoned, you readers are smart enough to figure out what I meant.

So remember, it’s not always what I say, it’s what I meant to say. But I digress.

Since I had nothing of greater import in mind, I thought I’d sort through the week’s emails. They are often a source of inspiration.

Sure enough, the first one that popped up was from Tom Leininger, who said, “I enjoyed your piece in today’s NH regarding your banter with Jack Turben regarding the Cleveland Browns quarterback (of the) future.

“I need to remind you that there is no such college as ‘Miami of Ohio.’ Miami University is in Oxford, Ohio. When I was there we were the ‘Redskins,’ which made most of the Miami Indian tribe proud. Sadly, they now refer to themselves as ‘Redhawks.’”

That, Tom, is one of those manifestations of political correctness in which institutions such as Miami U. find themselves hopelessly intimidated, as did Stanford.

But privately owned entities, such as the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, pay no heed to the protesters and go about doing their business.

They probably figure that people who don’t like it don’t have to buy tickets to their games. The owners make the decisions and that’s how it is.

Miami doesn’t have the luxury of making decisions without several dozen constituencies, including elected officials, having their say and exerting pressure.

The pressure on institutions such as Miami – and Stanford – is far different than that exerted on professional sports teams. See if you can figure that out. I know that I have.

Just so you’ll know, I lead a very happy life that is not influenced to any great extent by political correctness.

Tom’s reference to Miami was in response to a trivia question posed by Jack Turben to name four colleges that produced both a Super Bowl quarterback and a president of the U.S.

Mike Wagner, in an email, identified two quarterbacks from Stanford who had played in Super Bowls – Jim Plunkett and John Elway.

That is correct, but it is only part of the answer. The president who went to Stanford was Herbert Hoover.

The Miami pair is Ben Roethlisberger and Benjamin Harrison. From Michigan are Tom Brady and Gerald Ford. And from the Naval Academy are Roger Staubach and Gerald Ford.

Former Waite Hill Mayor Art Baldwin emailed that Weeden is entitled to more time to prove himself, because when Terry Bradshaw started for the Steelers right out of LSU, he was terrible for two years.

“Bradshaw is dumb as a stone,” Art wrote, “and maybe that’s why it took 2 1/2 years for him to become effective, so give our guy at least one year!”

OK, Art. One more year. And that’s it. And should the Browns go 2-14 this season, maybe they can draft a really good quarterback, one who, hopefully, is smarter than a stone.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How long will we be waiting on Weeden?

Jack Turben knows more about baseball and football than I do, so perhaps in this instance I should defer to his superior instincts.

Still, I think I may have a shot at being correct in the long run, so let’s wait a while and see how it works out.

This is the matter in dispute: He thinks Brandon Weeden has a chance of being the Browns quarterback of the future. I take the opposing view.

The mayor of Kirtland Hills and I were sitting in the living room of his spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright home in Madison, right on the shore of Lake Erie, talking about sports in general. A dozen or more ladies were nearby, still basking in the afterglow of an equally spectacular meal prepared by a mess crew (an old Army term) consisting of me and the lady of the house along with Mickey and Jan Kapostasy and Denis and Sheila Nowacki.

The six of us combine our efforts on culinary extravaganzas only on special occasions. This was one of them. Jack and Susie Turben had invited several ladies from their church — First Presbyterian in Willoughby — to lunch.

But lunch was over. It was time for Jack and me to talk sports. (Anyone who thinks that should read “Jack and I” should be spanked and sent back to grammar school. But I digress.)

I offered my opinion of Weeden. Jack gave his. On this we agreed: He is a big guy. He has a strong arm. He was a good quarterback in college. He has a strong arm. (Oops, I already said that.)

The Browns didn’t play last Sunday. They return to the football skirmishes today. Let’s see what happens.

This I do know: Weeden’s last game, two weeks ago, was a disaster. But I am not basing my opinion of his abilities solely on that single game. I have watched every game he has played this year, and save for a couple glimmers of competence, I find nothing in his overall performance to give reason for excitement, enthusiasm, optimism or even hope.

I have watched every quarterback who has played in the National Football League since 1950 — and before that, actually. I saw Bob Waterfield and Sammy Baugh play in the championship game between the Cleveland Rams and the Washington Redskins in 1945, I saw Sid Luckman play for the Bears, and I saw Frankie Sinkwich with a sheepskin brace on his fractured jaw play for the Lions.

Will Weeden ever perform up to their skill levels? Of course. But it would be nice if he could play as well as, say, Bernie Kosar or Brian Sipe.

Rich Gannon saw Weeden two weeks ago against the Ravens.

Rich is a former NFL Most Valuable Player quarterback and a four-time Pro Bowler.

He was one of the announcers for the Browns-Ravens game — for the last two Browns games, actually —and has seen most of the Browns games this season.

He knows whereof he speaks. And he was relentless in his criticism of Weeden throughout the game. I understand Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner, the team’s new owner and CEO, also saw the game. I wonder if they found any areas of agreement with Gannon. It is they who will decide who the Browns quarterback of the future will be. If it turns out to be Weeden, I fear they will be in for some major disappointments.

If he is the second coming of Otto Graham, I will be the first to tell Jack Turben, “You told me so.”

Weeden’s failings two weeks ago, as pointed out for three hours by Gannon, included overthrowing wide-open receivers, failing to see open receivers and throwing to a player who was not open, being slow on his “reads,” being locked on his primary receiver and thus failing to see the entire field, and on and on.

“There were plays to be had in that game,” Gannon said. “I don’t  know where his eyes were.”

But remember, this is a young player. He’s only 29 years old. Perhaps he will learn someday where his eyes should be. Today at Dallas, maybe he’ll pass for 400 yards.
Or 500-plus, as Norm Van Brocklin once did. But then again, maybe not.

To demonstrate that I’m a true fan, I really do hope he passes for 400 yards today.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t depart without yet another trivia question from Jack: Name four colleges that have produced both a Super Bowl quarterback and a president of the United States.

I did pretty well on that one – with only a tiny bit of hinting. But I did a little research afterwards, Jack. It wasn’t William Henry Harrison, it was his grandson who went to Miami of Ohio.

So as not to keep you in suspense, the other colleges are Michigan, the U.S. Naval Academy and Stanford. With that much help, the rest is easy.

Footnote: You get full credit if you name either of the two quarterbacks from Stanford.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A few good movies will help to pass the time - every time

I’m sure Betty and Ray Jurkowski would agree there is no more pleasant way of spending a couple of idle hours than watching a good movie.

Ray is the honcho of Laketran, and Betty has a more encyclopedic knowledge of movies than anyone I have ever met, with the possible exception of Phil Skerry, a retired professor at Lakeland Community College who taught film courses there.

The lady of the house and I have talked for hours with Betty and Ray about favorite films, and, if pressed, they might even agree that some movies are worth watching multiple times. I am a true believer that a good flick is worth watching over and over.

I would guess the film I have watched the most times is “Twelve O’Clock High.” I am a sucker for a good World War II movie. I once told Bette Davis over dinner (regular readers know of that adventure) that her erstwhile husband, Gary Merrill, was outstanding in that movie as Keith Davenport, playing second fiddle to Gregory Peck’s Frank Savage. There were so many fine actors in that film!

I have watched “Love With a Perfect Stranger” and “A Letter to Three Wives” so many times that I wore out the tapes and had to replace them.

I still eagerly watch the surprise ending of “Three Wives” and the unforgettable dialog between Paul Douglas and Linda Darnell.

A couple of other WWII films I hold as among the best of that genre are “From Here to Eternity” and “The Caine Mutiny.”

If I don’t have time for the whole film, there are two riveting scenes from “Caine” I isolate and watch again and again.

One is the courtroom drama in which Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) is testifying while clicking his steel ball bearings, and the party scene at the end in which a drunken Jose Ferrer shows up and tosses a glass of champagne into the face of Fred MacMurray.

Others I never tire of watching are “Being There,” “Pretty Woman” and “Bad Day at Black Rock.”

The scene in which Earnest Borgnine dumps catsup into the chili bowl of a one-armed man, Spencer Tracy, then goads him into a fight is priceless. Tracy dispatches him with a chop to the throat that sends him sprawling, ending the confrontation.

I never tire of watching “Absolute Power” because I am a big fan of most everything Clint Eastwood does. I can recite his well-known dialog from a Dirty Harry movie (“I know what you’re thinking, did he fire six shots or only five...”) almost as well as he does.

When I need a lift from a good musical, I watch “My Fair Lady,” “Guys and Dolls” (what a pairing Sinatra and Brando were!), “The Music Man” or an all-time favorite, “Bells Are Ringing.”

Speaking of which, Hollywood almost ruined it for me. I saw it twice on Broadway, starring Judy Holliday and Sydney Chaplain (son of Charlie), and he was great. But he wasn’t considered “box office” enough, so he was replaced in the cast by Dean Martin.

Dino was one of the great entertainers of all-time, but that part wasn’t right for him.

How can I forget “Casablanca” or “The Maltese Falcon?” They are always on hand, as is “Good Night and Good Luck,” the semi-documentary about Edward R. Murrow.

Speaking of remembering film dialog, I know a lot of it from the W.C. Fields classic “The Bank Dick,” but I’m convinced my former publisher, Joe Cocozzo, know all of it. His memory for movie dialog knows no bounds.

There’s only one scene from “DuBarry Was a Lady” I watch over and over. It’s the one in which the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, in French period attire, plays “Well, Git It!” with furious solos by drummer Buddy Rich, trumpeters Ziggy Elman and Chuck Peterson, and others by Henie Beau, Milt Raskin and Don Lodice. Priceless!

The rest of the film is a boring Red Skelton escapade with a paper-thin plot.

I can always watch “Movie Movie,” “Disclosure” (‘Did it ever occur to you Meredith, that I may have been leading you on?’), “Executive Suite” and “Amazon Women on the Moon.” That classic tape is also getting worn out.

Will I ever stop watching? Not with “Born Yesterday,” “Five Graves to Cairo” or any other treasured favorite at my fingertips.

The best part is, the lady of the house watches many of them with me. Just the other night we saw “The Seven Year Itch.”

Moreover, she doesn’t disturb me when I watch movies alone — as long as I keep the volume turned down so that I don’t disturb her with her own high priorities.

All I need is a bowl of popcorn, a Diet Pepsi and I’m in seventh heaven — for two hours. And then, who knows? I might even modulate into eighth heaven.

Burgers-n-Beer acts as perfect breakfast replacement spot

This column appeared in the Nov. 4 edition of The News-Herald. 

This is my one-sentence summary of the World Series:

We waited all year for this?

Now, on to more important things. Like Sunday breakfast.

At last, the jury is in.

From now on, Sunday breakfast will be at Burgers-n-Beer in Downtown Willoughby.

After the recent closing of Helen’s Sunrise Cafe across from the YMCA, where my brother and I — occasionally joined by other loved ones — enjoyed Sunday breakfast for some 10 years, we drifted from place to place, hither and yon, looking for a new venue that would be well-located, reasonably priced, pleasing in gastronomical offerings and hospitable in atmosphere.

I will not mention some of the spots we tried out simply because they did not come up to our expectations, and I would not want to besmirch their reputations. As far as I know, they may be reputable places. But they were not for us. They just were not what we sought in the way of Sunday sustenance.

Now, if you really enjoy burnt toast or “over easy” eggs cooked to within an inch of their very lives, I might whisper their names to you — in strictest confidence, of course. Otherwise, let me say that it took but a few moments after our first visitation to Doug’s place to cement the relationship and conclude that our search had ended.

The owner of Burgers-n-Beer is a nice fellow by the name of Doug Ciancibello, who is pleasant in nature and who sometimes employs a colorful vocabulary while playing golf if things aren’t going well.

At a Leadership Lake County golf outing a couple years ago held at the erstwhile Madison Country Club, I happened to be playing in a foursome behind Doug and his group.

As we neared the 18th green, which had been designated the “long putt” hole, there was a signpost on the green bearing Doug’s name. It was 30 feet from the hole, and if it “stood up,” as they say, he would have captured the prize for longest putt.

Our group came along and our ball was lying some 52 feet from the pin. Didn’t I casually roll the ball into the hole, pick up the marker, write my name below Doug’s, and go home with the prize!
(Kenny Gamiere and Gary Vaccariello can attest to this.)

I don’t know if Doug ever realized it was I who had lifted the prize from his clutches. And the prize was a beauty — a two-piece putter in a walnut carrying case that was very executive looking.

But I found a better home for it. I donated it to the Desert Fox golf challenge so my good friend, Tim Wright Sr., could award it as a prize at the outing held for 10 years in honor of his late son, Tim Jr.
But I digress.

Burgers-n-Beer doubled in size when Doug annexed the space next door once occupied by Julian’s Restaurant. (We used to go there pre-Helen’s on Sundays, so returning was something of a homecoming.)

We used to find a parking space on Erie Street and amuse ourselves reading the signs backward on the way to the restaurant. Thus Rebrab Pohs Nepo, and like that.

All this tomfoolery (an ages-old recording by Tommy Dorsey) would not amount to a hill of beans were the offerings at Doug’s not superior.

But (good news inserted here) they are! The eggs are cooked to our liking, the bacon, which we order extra crisp, is prepared to a fault, and the coffee is what one would expect in a fine establishment.

And I even enjoy the home fries — which I probably shouldn’t order, considering my self-imposed dietary restrictions. But I figure, what the heck, it’s only once a week.

We have spotted several familiar faces at B-n-B, so a lot of others who miss Helen’s seem to have settled in at the new venue without missing a beat.

One thing I tried on our first visit was to order both eggs and french toast. I will not do it again. I love them both, and can still, in my dreams, think back to my mother’s french toast, and her constant admonition, “Have one more slice, Jimmy.”

But at both places, at B-n-B and my mother’s table, it was way too much food. Especially figuring in the home fries at B-n-B.

Most of all, I am glad we have concluded our search. B-n-B is extra good and it is convenient — right across the street from the post office, where I can buy stamps on a Sunday with the swipe of a credit card.