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.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I'm still a hard-core jazz guy, but I've discovered country's Moe Bandy

As Don Miller of Eastlake (a music lover if ever there were one) is forced to remind me every now and again, there is some redeeming quality in almost every form of music.

Some of it is difficult to find, but if you look hard enough, you will discover something of interest.

He began a recent communication by pointing out an example of music that is not worth listening to. The artist (?) is Daft Punk, and I must confess I have never heard of this person – or organization, whichever it is.

“A few days ago,” Don wrote a couple of weeks ago, “Daft Punk’s electronic funk grooves won big at the Grammys. Daft Punk, which sports helmets in public, won four awards.

“I doubt,” he continued, “that I will ever listen to Daft Punk.”

Since Don and I see eye-to-eye, or ear-to-ear, as it were, on most musical issues, I will second his opinion.
This will save me the trouble of ever having to make my own assessment of this group (?), since I won’t be tuning in on it/them.

But he turned back the clock a few years to remind me of a comment Buddy Rich, the greatest drummer who ever lived, once made about being allergic to country music.

“You said,” Don wrote, “‘Country music isn’t so bad after all. Some of it is very good.’ And I agree.”

I changed my opinion of country music because of the views (and remarkable talents) of my sister, brother-in-law, their two sons, and several visitations I made to Grand Ole Opry while in their company during trips to Nashville.

All of this, of course, is leading up to something. That “something” is a CD Don sent to me.

“Here is an example of country music that I think is very good,” he said. “If an alien came down from Mars and wanted to listen to some ‘good ole country music,’ this is what I would play for him.”

This comment takes several things for granted. For one, that the visitor from Mars would be a “he.” For all I know, it could be a “she.”

And for another, for all we know, the Mars in question could be an electric company in Mentor.
(I know, it’s not too funny. But I like to liven things up a little bit with humor once in a while.)

“When you get some extra listening time,” Dan Don said, “spend 25 minutes and 48 seconds listening to Moe Bandy. And remember, ‘She’s not really cheatin,’ she’s just gettin’ even.’”

Whenever Don sends me a CD, whether it’s Oscar Peterson, Anita O’Day or any other giant in the field of jazz, he always knows exactly how long it will take to play.

He must have a stop watch. But I digress.

I must confess I have never heard of Moe Bandy. That may be a failing on my part, because I suppose a really cool person who knew all about country music could recite chapter and verse of everything Moe had ever done – or recorded.

I started to call my sister in Nashville to ask her about him, but she changed the subject and we never back to talking about Moe.

But within a day or so, the lady of the house and I were motoring someplace (motoring is the same as driving) and I plugged in the CD Don sent me.

The first song, of course, was, “She’s Not Really Cheatin,’ She’s Just Gettin’ Even.”

I am here to tell you that it was sensational!

Now, I am not about to tell you I made some kind of a great discovery in the field of music. For all I know, perhaps everyone with even a nodding acquaintance with country music knows all there is to know about Moe Bandy.

I suppose I could have googled him, but that would have destroyed the mystique surrounding him. Not only had I never heard of him, but apparently Don Miller hadn’t heard of him either.

So what? I say. Who cares if everyone in Nashville already knows of our discovery? That’s one of the things that makes magical moments in music so exciting and so much fun.

It’s like reading “Hamlet” and saying, “I have just discovered a writer named William Shakespeare.” If it works for you, the rest of the world doesn’t matter.

My lady and I both loved the entire CD, including “Hank and Lefty Raised My Country Soul” (that would be, I presume, Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell), “Your Memory Is Showing All Over Me,” “Jesus in a Nashville Jail” and “Our Love Could Burn Atlanta Down Again.”

As I said on a previous occasion years ago, I now have a great affinity for country music, even though I remain a hard-core straight ahead jazz guy and an unrepentant be-bopper.

If Moe Bandy ever comes to Cleveland I will probably go to see him. That is, he isn’t my age, which might preclude him from moving too quickly for fear of stumbling and falling off the stage.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chief Wahoo commentary sparks feedback

From all I’ve seen and heard over the past week, last Sunday’s essay was pure gold.
Everywhere I went, from a pancake breakfast at the beautiful Community Center in Willoughby Hills (thanks, Mort and Flo O’Ryan, for getting it built) to a plethora of luncheon meetings throughout the week, I got a solid “thumbs up” for coming to the defense of the Indians’ Chief Wahoo and for exposing political correctness for the sham that it is.
Translation: People (at least the people who read this column) have a love affair with Wahoo, and they share my disdain for the disease that infests much of far-left America and masquerades as political correctness.
So I suppose if I were a really clever fellow I could just re-run that same column every Sunday and be regarded as a genius.
Problem is, most of my readers are also geniuses, so after a few months they would see through that ruse for what it is – a limp excuse for filling the space every Sunday with the same thing over and over until the message lost its freshness, not to mention its urgency.
So let us just say that Chief Wahoo will live on in our minds and hearts, and let’s move on.
But first let me say that the briefest reply I received in response to the message about the Chief was a single word.
It came from Ken Krsolovic. It said, merely, “Amen.”
Interestingly, one of the lengthiest responses didn’t deal with Wahoo at all, but rather with my introduction to the topic when I pointed out that as an eighth-grader I delivered The News-Herald to a number of families in North Willoughby who lived on streets with Indian names.
I noted that, at that time, the newspaper was published only on Tuesday and Friday. That prompted Bill Behnke to send a lengthy email about serving in the U.S. Navy at the time and getting mail only once every six months.
Since he received a half-year’s supply of News-Heralds at a time, he was somewhat pleased that the paper had not yet begun to publish daily.
He was caring enough of his shipmates’ hunger for news that he shared the papers with them. One of the first he opened bore the headline, “No Garbage Collection Thursday.”
Bill said he took some good-natured ribbing from the crew, but regretted not saving that issue.
Trivia question: Name two people whose 90th birthday parties the lady of the house and I attended over the past few weeks.
Why, they were those of Bill Behnke and Bob Meil. But I digress.
The other thing I must tell you about today is in regard to Ted Diadiun. I hired Ted as a sportswriter at The News-Herald a generation or so ago. We share several things in common. Here are a few:
We have played poker in my dining room into the wee hours. We both love baseball. We were both inducted into the Press Club of Cleveland’s Hall of Fame on the same evening a couple of years ago. And we both write Sunday columns – his in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and mine, of course, which you are now reading.
His last two columns were so good that I was going to call and tell him so. But I often don’t get around to doing what I plan to do.
Two weeks ago he wrote that journalism contests are a joke and should be shunned by serious newspaper people. I thoroughly agree.
Last week he spoke of the right of readers to speak out on topics that interest them, but he alluded to people who don’t sign their messages as morons.
He may not have used the word “morons,” but I’m using it here.
Which brings us to the present tense. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Dick Swain, a good friend who had been the judge of Mentor Municipal Court for many years and who died rather suddenly.
I received a lot of very nice compliments about the column – from mutual friends, fellow Gyro Club members and countless community leaders, not to mention words of appreciation from his widow, Susan.
Well, didn’t I get a nasty letter (through the U.S. Mail) from someone who wrote, “Shame on you for your editorial about Dick Swain.”
(Journalism Lesson No. 1: It wasn’t an editorial. It was a column. There is a large difference.)
The writer chastised me for not mentioning his first wife, Sandy, and his children. Well, I was not attempting to write a biography of an old friend. I was merely trying to recall a few highlights in a life well-lived. If I wanted to write everything I knew about Dick it would have taken pages and pages.
So to anyone who thought I wasn’t all-inclusive enough, I apologize.
But guess what? The letter wasn’t signed. It wasn’t written by someone who was proud to attach his name to his thoughts. It was written by a gutless wonder.
And do you know what I think of gutless wonders? The same thing Ted thinks of them.
I may have a strong opinion about such lugs, but I never get mad at them. I have more important things to get mad about.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

I'll never think ill of beloved Chief Wahoo

When I was in the eighth grade at McKinley School, I delivered The News-Herald in North Willoughby.
The year was 1942, and the paper came out on Tuesday and Friday. As I recall, I collected six cents a week from my customers.
My route covered all the streets in the Arrowhead allotment, including Cherokee, Seneca, Tioga, Mohegan and the others.
They were named for Indian tribes. There were no protests. Nobody set up picket lines to challenge the notion of Indian names for a quiet residential neighborhood. (Nobody had heard the term Native American at the time. That came much later in deference to the out-of-control concept of political correctness.)
There were a lot of nice people who lived on those streets. Some turned out to be leading citizens of what was then Willoughby Township.
Many of those people were baseball fans. There was a saloon on Lake Shore Boulevard across from my street (Orchard) that was owned by a former first baseman of the Cleveland Indians, Jimmy Wasdell.
It was called The Dugout. I understand the people who congregated there spent a lot of time talking about baseball and about the Indians.
I say “I understand” because I was too young to go in there. But I knew a lot of the people who were regulars, and they idolized the same players I did – Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Ken Keltner, Jeff Heath, Roy Cullenbine and a lot of others who were not really Indians, if you know what I mean.
But while they were playing in town, they were Indians and we loved them. We loved Earl Averill until he was traded to the Tigers. Then we didn’t love him as much any more.
And we also loved Chief Wahoo. He was the symbol of the Indians, who had some great sluggers but didn’t finish very high in the standings because there were always teams with better records.
No one even thought of complaining about Chief Wahoo, because he represented everything we loved about baseball.
Life was good, summers were long and hot, and we dreamed of playing someday in the World Series – with Chief Wahoo to rally us.
Somewhere, somehow, things got crazy. Americans began protesting nearly everything. Some issues were legitimate and serious, and some were just silly.
Some protests were conjured up because a certain segment of citizens needed something to complain about.
There was a lot of that going on. There was a new protest every week.
A lot of non-Indians joined in the cacophony. They got Stanford and Miami to change their sports teams from Indian names to vanilla pudding designations that make a lot less sense than their highly respected Indian names did.
I am shocked – shocked! – that there is still a college team in Michigan called the Chippewas. They need a good protest to get that changed.
Actually, they don’t need any such thing. The Chippewas are as respected as the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians.
If I am a failure in the arena of political correctness, forgive me. Better yet, sue me. That’s the way to settle things. Go to court! Let a jury decide! Even better, let a federal judge decide. Some of those birds are so low on the IQ totem pole that they make pronouncements making little sense.
I was at breakfast last Sunday at Burgers-n-Beer and saw another of the regulars, Rocco Vitalone, with his nephew, Karl.
Just so you won’t get confused, Rocco is the hair stylist in Mentor and his brother, Mario, is the car-towing guy. When I cut my grass I wear a bright chartreuse T-shirt Mario gave me for that specific purpose because he says it is good for business.
I’m not sure anyone ever got his car towed because I was wearing a Vitalone T-shirt, but in these turbulent times you never know what might happen.
But I digress.
Rocco and Karl both asked me, “What do you think of Chief Wahoo?” I said I love him.
They agreed – with great enthusiasm.
“What are we going to do about the people who don’t like Wahoo?” they asked.
“Well,” I responded, after giving the matter a moment of thought, “they might want to think about moving.”
Both Rocco and Karl loved my response. They came over to the table where my brother and I were sitting, we continued our conversation about Wahoo, then Karl took out his phone/camera to show us pictures of him with the new Browns coach, Mike Pettine. He told how they tried to instruct him on the proper pronunciation of his last name.
I told them I couldn’t help, because I know only two words in Italian and neither of them has anything to do with football.
But we are nearing the bottom line, to coin an expression, and I can add only that political correctness is totally lost  on me.
I have never referred to manhole covers as personhole covers, and have never shouted, “Person the lifeboats, the ship is sinking!”
And I will never think ill of our beloved Chief Wahoo. So don’t waste your time trying to change my mind. It is totally closed on the subject.
You will also take note that I never once mentioned the obvious political affiliation of those who are lost in the mire of political correctness.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Remembering Judge Dick Swain with fondness

When we lose a special friend, we all have our own ways of remembering that person.

They may be small things we have done together, situations we have experienced or small crises we endured.

For me, such remembrances tend to lean toward off-the-beaten-track experiences that others may not understand — or, if they do, don’t remember in the same way I do.

Around Mentor, most people remember Dick Swain as a very competent but often impatient Municipal Court judge who was irritated by fools, as a very loyal member of the Rotary Club (and I will add, the Painesville GYRO club), and as a man who dedicated much of his life to helping others. These were usually impoverished folks whose circumstances were deplorable and to whom Dick was a knight in shining armor who arrived with a saw and a toolbox and whose good deeds changed their lives for the better.

But I don’t remember him for those things because, for the most part, I wasn’t there.

I was never in his courtroom, and I never accompanied him on one of his humanitarian trips.

Oh, I have been at a number of GYRO meetings with him, but I especially remember the twice-a-month picnics in the summertime, because Susan would be with him then, and if Dick could light up a room by entering it, she could really turn the lights on.

But my most enduring memories of him go back to our days of Monday Night Football (he would analyze every play), when the guys would take turns hosting the event and furnishing the food.

Over the years, there must have been at least three dozen guys who were involved in MNF. Dick had sumptuous repasts in his rec room on Maple Street, but he didn’t do the cooking. The spreads of food were similar to those at the home of the late John Macso and his wife Lori, because she could make you forget that you came to watch football and not merely to eat.

I particularly remember a Monday night at a previous home of Dick’s (I think it was on Canterbury), because it was the night before a November election, and Dennis Eckart was running for re-election to Congress.

“Watch,” Dennis said. “About midnight, Margaret (I forget her last name) will come on, wearing her red dress, and tell you what a terrible job I am doing, and tell you why she should take my place in Congress.”

Dennis was only off by a couple of minutes. He explained that TV rates were cheaper after midnight.

Another fond memory I have regarding Dick was the time he was picketed in front of his courtroom because of something he said that was in the paper.

The story said, about an abused wife, that she shared “some culpability.” Well, Dick always maintained that his comments were taken out of context. “I’m trying to keep people from coming back in here. I was not criticizing her,” he said at the time.

But the headline brought a picket line in front of City Hall, where the court is located.

A bunch of women were circling the area, waving signs.

I recognized one of the pickets as another congressional candidate, a woman who often ran against Steve
LaTourette when he was in Congress.

I had been at a meeting at City Hall with another Great American, the late attorney Barry Byron, and we approached the pickets to see what they were up to.

“Elizabeth,” I said to the perennial candidate, “what are you doing here.”

“Jim,” she replied, “I never pass up a good protest.”

If the judge had any idea what was going on outside his courtroom, he never let on.

Dick Swain earned high marks for everything he did in life, from sitting on the bench of justice to his fine deeds in the community as well as to helping the unfortunates among us.

His desired final resting place at his summer home in Big Moose Lake, N.Y., will mark a fitting end to a life well-lived and testify to a fine reputation richly deserved.

The stunning array of black-robed fellow jurists at his services at the Methodist Church in Mentor attests to that reputation.