Why It Matters

Big Markets have the names; New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Big Towns, big celebrities, big traffic and big championship victories. Medium and small markets tend to have layovers for a couple hours and not always touristy unless it’s the holidays.  The occasional underdog victory and championship or so it’s always been the thought.

However, there are a lot more medium and small markets with more than a regional or local fan base. This point can easily be made from anywhere. However 50 years is 50 years. I’ll let you figure the geography.

When you’re from Cleveland or a fan of Cleveland sports it safe to assume Cleveland isn’t in the trendy big market group.

It is however away of life, no matter where the road of life takes you. And it’s pretty noticeable when in a crowded room that is filled with fans for the other team , one solidly loud  blasting cheer being heard over the disappointed group might just stand out a little and the shrouded possibility of not being invited back. It’s Love and loyalty. Also for those fans who live out of town a lot of ” whys” and ” Oh admit it you want to cheer a winner for a change.” Uh yes but we want our team to be that winner! The reason?

It’s simple.

We love a city, and the teams that represent that city. Cleveland has a deep history of greatness and rock bottom events. Clevelanders are likable, humorous and can change from the predictable norm to the exception to the rule faster then Clark Kent can become the Man of Steel.

Together we have waited over 50 years. Together we have watched the ups and downs. But the loyalty remains and outside of the area that loyalty amongst fans who have had to move for various reasons are just as true. We tend to be extremely thankful for the Internet, cable deals and calling back home more often after games then on holidays. ESPN can never carry enough highlight footage either!

For most of us it’s home. The lessons we garnered as kids, to understanding why Cleveland is a preverbal punchline and taught those jokesters we can tell a few ourselves. We get it. It’s funny. Cleveland is fun to say , and you almost can’t say it without smiling a little.  Trust me it’s not a cure for the blues. Still there’s always a bright side and a “wait for next year” quote lingering after we poke fun at ourselves.

This city is so much more, just look at the many brilliant and talented people who grew up here. They changed medical science, the entertainment industry, they became inventors, oil barons, sports heros and gave a name to rock ‘n’ roll. In return they inspired others and left behind a deep and rich history for all those still growing up in Northeast Ohio. Furthermore, a legacy in the preciously fragile beauty of a dream and the overwhelming excitement when it comes true.

The Cavaliers matter on all the various levels. LeBron came home after a very hard to swallow departure. He was criticized when he showed his Buckeye pride while injured watching a team with the biggest heart in college football defy all odds and made history happen.

What ? You don’t think that didn’t hit home with the King? Surely you jest! His heart was out there for all to see in the first game back at the Q. So after watching The Ohio State Buckeyes win the national championship title with the third quarterback of the season, a little Buckeye Pride didn’t rub off on the Cleveland Cavaliers? Didn’t they start a surging journey and began to gel their talents and passions together after that? Hey next man up and bring it.

Well the Cavs showed it today and after their victory made statements that sounded like LeBron’s Nike commercial ” For them! For Cleveland! Together!”

Home is where the heart is. Home matters whether it’s looking at an old picture or overcoming obstacles in the wallet  to get back in time for the holidays or special events.

Home for a Clevelander is all of that and knowing those glory days heard from people who have gone on to be parents, grandparents , great grandparents and have departed but are very much a part of our hearts where they are still young, and very much alive.  It’s a tribute to them. It is a reminder for those who have waited for so long , all dreams take time and work, but never quit, and never give up!

And it will become an ushering in of a new day, a new era, and new beginning for a city, an area, and region that has changed with the times but never seems to waiver in what the rest of the world has forgotten. The value of loyalty, the power of a simple dream and that when you follow your heart it can lead you to something great.

Which may just be home.  Whether it’s your city, your family, or getting out of work a few minutes early to watch the game with your Parents and your kids. That city lettered on those jerseys, from the less shiny towns across the country, speaks volumes for the medium and small markets in one word HOME!

And THAT’S why it matters.

It’s All About Cleveland, Darlings!

Today there isn’t a Runinmystocking. Nope but my Stilettoes are sure stomping! Or is that the 12 year old scotch kicking in?  Hmmmmmmm.


It’s all true.

Yes, yes I must confess– I am from Cleveland, Ohio, a furious sports fan and yes a die hard #Browns fan.

I also die a little every time they play.

Cleveland has been the home of the biggest successes, failures and debacles since I was born. Challenge me here….Oh go on, ya know you want to….

How can a nearly 50 year woman be so sure? As sure as I can still sport 6 inch stilettos without needing hip replacement surgery (yet) or busting my ass darlings!

While I may no longer reside in the frigid cold of the whipping winds off the Lake and the emotionally polarizing city, my heart stays warm with all the great memories. Coming home as much as my family would like it if I would arrive in Akron (except my cousin Michele).  I insist on flying into Hopkins International Airport all so I can fly over the city I love! And well guys, it still can, after 25 years choke me up to see her overcast skies and humble existence. The wave of a past life washes over me as hard as the waters of Lake Erie hitting a breaking wall.

Cleveland has defined me– as all of us from there define her. Nothing is EVER impossible and truth be told WE invented outside of the box thinking.  It’s a way of life why else would we adopt the moniker of “Believeland” !

From the Rockefellers, to Bob Hope, Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Paul Newman, Sex therapist William H. Master (of Master and Johnson fame, yes darlings sex happens in Cleveland too), The Cleveland Clinic and of course the newly crowned game show host capital of the world with Drew Carey and Steve Harvey. Push it further east to cover all of Northeast Ohio and you have Harvey Firestone to (I have say it) LeBron (sorry). Phooey! Even the 49er’s will practice at the DeBartolo’s facility in Youngstown. Oh wait where is the Pro Football Hall of Fame? What? I’m sorry I didn’t hear you…oh that’s right Canton a part of Northeast Ohio.  Darlings, trust me I can go on and on. But I’ll spare you.

On May 8th ESPN and the NFL experienced  and received the highest ratings ever in the history of the televised draft.  Was it a movie shot in Cleveland featuring my beloved Browns or is that if any team, city or people can make it exciting it’s Cleveland.  As Boomer said “the real Browns have jumped around more than Sonny Weaver did in Draft Day.” No team could confuse the experts more than the Browns.  Is it the art of the deal? Or are they better with the deal then the actual execution of talent?

But hey but they contributed to those high ratings!

I will be honest, I was on the tennis court during the draft but I recorded it.  I stopped during a cross over and looked at my captain watching our match and said “well?”  She said Manziel went 22.  I look at her and said “please don’t say Cleveland”.  She pointed back to the court and the match I needed to finish.

I walked off the court after a well fought losing effort.  My Captain looked at me “How on earth did you know it was Cleveland when you told me they had the 26th pick?”

I stared at my feet, hoping I had a better and colorful answer. I realized I couldn’t even make up and interesting story for a group of Saints and SEC fans then stomped my right foot, and fessed up “2 big reasons;  one, Brady Quinn and two, Brandon Weedon,– the 22nd pick for a QB in Cleveland is a perfect gumbo for disaster.”  My teammates laughed. I think it’s because they believe that the SEC is the greatest football conference in America, which right now the SEC is. However, it only last a short time darlings enjoy it, and I mean it.  I have lived through the rise and fall of the Big Ten.  The days when no one in America moved from their television sets to see the greatest rivalry in college football–The Ohio St. vs. the University of Michigan.  Boy, how I miss Woody and Bo!

But Johnny Football’s half pedigree is SEC which means here they know he will be amazing…me?  Let me say it loudly;  IT’S ALL ABOUT CLEVELAND, DARLINGS!

Home of The Shot, The Drive and The Single.  I was part of the Half Time Show when Red Right 88 stop Brian Sipe’s MVP winning season in the playoffs thus creating the Oakland Raiders Cinderella season and Super Bowl win.  I was there when John Elway’s Hall of Fame drive was merely a play Bernie Kosar used on the Jets to win in overtime the week before to earn a spot in the AFC Championship game only to watch Elway use the same play to beat the Browns. It was OUR PLAY and we didn’t recognize it?  I watched helplessly when his greatness Michael Jordon shot over a stunned Craig Ehlo to knock the Cavaliers out of the playoffs and I watched the Marlins take Game 7 of the World Series in extra innings with a single that drove in the winning run thus robbing the Indians of the World Series.

In 1995 I sat in the old Municipal Stadium watching the Browns lose to Green Bay because the rug was yanked out from under them after Art Modell announced the move, before the announcement the Browns had the best record in the NFL that year at 7-0.  Two QBs went 22nd and Two QBs were basically chased out of Cleveland.  Browns fans have had it!  I know, which gets me back to my pedigree! I was born December 7, 1964, 20 days before the last Championship to fly a flag over the City of Cleveland, Ohio.  On December 27, 1964, nestled in my Dad’s arms facing the TV, I became a life long Browns Fan, move me from the TV that day and I screamed bloody murder.  Commercial? Hell NO! more screaming!  That is my pedigree! And I am proud of it!

Today after the artful dodging of the Browns jumping and trading in the draft, everything looked so positive and the Browns were the darlings of the draft even after confusing Boomer and the gang with the trade up with Philly!

How fast is a minute in Cleveland…..check the sports pages…http://bleacherreport.com/josh-gordon

Cleveland Browns’ Josh Gordon the NFL’s League leading Wide Receiver may be removed from the league for his 3 violation of substance abuse testing positive for marijuana a couple months ago.



BUT…………………………………..Cleveland and her people are never denied……..BECAUSE in our hearts, prayers, thoughts and actions WE ARE BELIEVELAND!

Millions filled the streets to get the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, even when New York tried to do an annex with the hope of moving the Hall of Fame to a more glamorous city, Cleveland couldn’t be denied and the annex shut down.  No other city that lost a NFL franchise team was ever given a promise,  a 3 year time frame and ownership of a NFL Team Brand, and history but Cleveland.  We have survived a the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, then the mayor’s hair (Ralph Perk), the only city to default in the 70’s, Danny Green and the mob wars and yet this and the proud people on the shores of Lake Erie continue to reinvent themselves and find the humor along the way. The movies that have been made there recently from The Avengers, Alex Cross, Draft Day and famed Clevelanders the Russo Brothers’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  This all happened because we believe, we don’t live in a box and we never give up.  Nothing personal but isn’t this what God wants for all his Children?  It builds character and defines our hearts, minds and souls, and for those us who live else where rest assured Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio hasn’t left our inner core. You can take us out of Cleveland but you cannot take the Cleveland out of us!

When I think of the City of Cleveland, her people and my family there I reflect on the movie Field of Dreams when Terrence Mann played superbly by James Earl Jones tells Ray (Kevin Costner):

America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again.

This is Cleveland, this is Believeland, the place of my birth, the city where on any given day the winds will change from cold to warm and where the people never give in, never give up and will give you one hell of a ride while you’re there.  No matter how the Browns are doing.

But just in case being in Baton Rouge, Louisiana I’m not far from Voodoo land so I may just have to purchase a bunch of dolls and dress them as opposing teams when Manziel is ready to take the field. Justin Gilbert was a solid pick.  Since the Cleveland Clinic won’t clone Joe Haden.  You Mr. Football I am not entirely sold.  Big hands aside, you are still barely 6 ft. but you do have a grace where Brady Quinn didn’t and needed to be removed from the cameras before being picked at 22.  Also there is something that I did admire.  You knew.  Yes folks Johnny Football believed he was going to Cleveland all along and he may very well have the “BE” in Believeland.

My Stilettoes are stomping out the beat to Aloe Blacc and my heart is pounding out the same cry that those of us from Cleveland and the Northeast Ohio area have been praying for.  A Championship.  The kind of Championship that erases Mistake on the Lake, The Shot, The Drive, The Move and anything else I might have left out.  A Championship that reminds people how great Cleveland has and always been.  Where the team, the players, the city and her people show their character, strength and why we are unique and loyal people.  I witnessed it here with the Saints.

On December 27, 2014 it will be 50 years since Cleveland has had a Championship.  Cleveland is not forsaken nor forgotten.  Not since the Bernie Kosar Days has Cleveland been this ignited and united!  Hope, Faith and Believeland Proud have been energized by a kid from Texas with a rocket arm and a want and desire in his eyes to bring his talents to Cleveland and her faithful from all over the country.

Not to mention Johnny Football doesn’t have a bad birthday December 6th, yo Mr. Football mine is December 7 and you play the Colts, just saying…..

My Facebook page and text message got hit pretty good by friends who are not Browns fan but stopped to think of me the lone Stiletto Stomping Sports fan who has always been Believeland Proud asking me what I thought about the draft.

Well…..After May 8th and all the talk about Cleveland and the Browns I am suddenly flying over the city and looking out the window of the plane with a lump in my throat, a tug at my heart and the feel of the winds moving from cold to warm as the sun dances on the waters of the shores of Lake Erie.

I am breathing in the idea that maybe this time I will have that look that Dad has when he talks of the Browns of ’64 for my granddaughter when she is playing in a box of old shoes wobbling from the height as she clip clumps across the floor and asks “what is so great about the Browns?”

My answer will start “Back in ’14 they believed in the impossible and the impossible happened. It was all about Cleveland, darling.”



A Wish for a Hot Tub Time Machine, Paul Brown, Fake Field Goal, and a Disgruntled Squirrel

It’s the Holidays and for fun I had a few wishes for the Cleveland Browns. Oh stop groaning and enjoy!


A Cleveland,Tijuana Christmas


Back in 1968, I was four years old. My recollection of that year would prove to be the very first solid memories of my life. Because the years have worn by and so many moments of time have past I can firmly attest with reckless abandon I remember Christmas time in Cleveland.

My mother loved music. Her old 45s from the 50’s that she would pull out every Saturday to clean the house, somehow managed to get her so fired up she would jitterbug with the vacuum. Watching her as a child I thought she was nuts. After a long work week and listening to my grandmother’s report about what mischief I was able to get into I guess she needed her fast moving music with a solid beat that she could dance to.

During the holiday season many people around us enjoyed the masterful choir orchestration of Handel’s Messiah and the operatic beauty of Shubert’s Ava Maria, my mother enjoyed the Christmas songs of Bing Crosby, probably because Dad liked it. Frank Sinatra, because my Sicilian grandmother loved him. Dean Martin, because he was from Ohio and so forth. Whatever the reason these Christmas albums would soon be replaced by a new treasure with a pounding beat that had my mother dancing with even the dogs.

But for my Mom nothing said Christmas like Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. His Christmas album would be the first sounds I would hear that year the day after Thanksgiving. All to coincide with the unofficial law; Getting up before the break of dawn to go shopping, and then at Superman speed race home and beat the neighbors to start decorating. I have always suspected that in the early morning outing Mom snatched up this album that would wake me from my slumber. She would neither confirm nor deny my allegations over the years.

Rare Herb Alpert TV Christmas Appearance

As I wandered down the steps, I found my mother standing in the middle of the living room counting boxes and looking just as lovely as she did from the day before. Her hair still perfect, black paten leather flats donned her tiny feet. Plaid pedal pushers clung to the curve of her hips and legs to end just above her ankles. A simple yellow sweater on top, and a white fluffy toy poodle named Buffy by her side completed her look. Our older sweeter black poodle named Cha Cha was peaking out from behind one of the many boxes as if to say “help me!”

I watched as she pointed to each box. The only thing that could disrupt the vibrations of trumpets would be the abrupt cry of “Joooooooe!” No horn of Herb’s could compete with the shrilling vocals of my Mom when she discovered cherished decorations missing. Quite frankly who could tell? There were boxes every where.

She lit a cigarette and began to rev up for another shrill when my father miraculously appeared on cue with the missing items. He towered over her in his black slacks, a dark turtle neck and the ever present crew cut that I personally hated (thank goodness for the 70’s and his longer hair. To others it was still short but better than a crew cut). Relieved that the missing box was found she guided Dad reluctantly over to the sofa and politely handed him a big fat tangled ball of Christmas lights.

Peaking around the corner and the music blasting into the foyer where I stood I could see Mom give Dad one of  her famous looks. I had been the recipient of the odd smile and rapid blinking of her owl size dark brown eyes that she would used to amplify her point, and it was NEVER fun, trust me. There was some solace in knowing I wasn’t the only one who could cause Mom to look like she was about to have a seizure.

“You put the lights away last year, YOU untangle them!” Her body language said it all. Arms waving and pointing, and oddly enough it appeared as if she was conducting the music coming over the Magnavox stereo console.

Tangled-LightsDad was left with rolling his eyes in disgust and rubbing his face in defeat, and then after the exchange of looks he finally started the arduous task of pulling apart the ancient tree lights. Unfortunately, I was soon discovered peering around the corner and was put to work helping to untangle them. Ironically, I became so good at the de-tanglization of lights that as long as I lived at home it was my job every year there after. Stupid horns, I fussed. The dreaded new sound of the season had awaken me from my sleep, and I was now desperately wishing I had stayed in bed.

Over the long weekend our house was transformed into a show place which could rival that of Higbee’s grand elaborate windows.  Higbee’s was the local department store downtown (in fact it was a real department store referenced in the movie A Christmas Story which was shot in Cleveland). It was the place to go for all your Christmas needs. Unless you were in our house, because we had everything or so I thought.

The master plan started with the placement of the trees, strategically arranged for optimal viewing pleasure. First the artificial tree was placed in the large picture window in the living room with enough lights on it to blind someone from the street! This fraudulent delight would be the keeper of the presents we gave to others. And this would turn out to be the only occaison we would ever used that room.

Then a fresh cut tree for the family room would arrive, with the tantalizing aroma of pine filling the house and making Mom itch like crazy. I never wrapped my head around the idea of why Mom would go through all the trouble with this tree when she was so highly allergic. However, this tree was the pinnacle of the whole house, despite all the itching. Decorated in vibrant colored lights that twinkled on and off at a fast clip, would graciuosly bounce off of each glass ornament, to deliver a cascading warm friendly glow into the humble room when she turned off all the lights. She would then reach down into the stereo and place the needle on her new favorite vinyl purchase, which was located by the itchy master piece. The tree would magically begin to keep time with the beat and dance right along with her.

We called this tree Santa’s Tree because it would be under the bobbled branches where Santa delivered his presents. I remember wondering if before he could pull out a single gift if he had to dance with Mom first. After all, the vacuum, the dogs, and the tree had to why not jolly ole Saint Nick?

ChistmsStorySantaLaWith decorating completed, the next step was planning the trip downtown with two little girls for  Christmas pictures. Every house had a Higbee’s Santa picture. This was the second biggest event in a child’s life next to Christmas. And I knew of not one kid in the neighborhood who enjoyed it.

Special clothing purchased just for a picture, an extra bath for no reason and a lecture on how to act. All for the 30 second pleasure of sitting on Santa’s lap and the free smell of moth balls. Once you made your departure from the man in the red suit, it was onto a cranky elf who handed you a candy cane and a plastic ring. The saving grace at Higbee’s was Santa’s Workshop just happened to be right next to the coveted toy department. Knowing this I could handle sitting on a lap that smelled like moth balls and happened to remind me of the scent from my Aunt Lena’s house.

“Bethy, let me make this clear.” Mom would begin. “You are going to smile, do not try and get your candy cane before you see Santa and for Pete’s sake no playing around in the toy department, you will hold our hands the entire time.” The odd smile and fast blinking began, and I was pretty sure I didn’t even know who Pete was. It was apparent I had garnered a reputation for dodging hand holding and running off.

The trip to Higbee’s set, and after much ballyhooing from me about an extra bath, we were finally ready for the late morning journey. My sister and I would wear our beautiful velvet dresses, with petticoats and leggings, usually white that came with the warning to me, not to get dirty. My mother made me promise repeatedly I would behave. I would promise, but there was one tiny problem, I never fully understood what her idea of behaving was.

I can recall looking forward to the car trip to the train station, because I was thrilled to be able to see another part of the city beside my own back yard. And, I was secretly glad for the break from my mother’s favorite music, too bad someone forgot to tell the radio stations of our agony with one particular record. While in angst over the music piping into the car, I discovered a really cool squeaking noise that black paten leather shoes made when rubbed together. Much to my dismay there was an odd smile and rapidly blinking eyes coming from the reflection of the review mirror. Follow by a high pitched “Quit doing that.”

We parked the car outside of the city and boarded the Rapid Transit. This was my first trip on the transit and if I squeaked my shoes one more time it would be my last.

old-old-terminal-tower4Arriving at the Terminal Tower downtown on one of too many to count frigid days, we departed the transit, and cautiously stepped onto the platform; a large gust of wind would scurry across our path causing me to release my mother’s hand and try to hold my dress down, it proved to be a losing battle because of all the crinoline under the dress, my sister and I looked like umbrellas caught in a wind storm.

In the near empty station of the terminal (void of all rush hour traffic) I could see, there waiting for us was Dad who worked downtown, forgetting to hold my dress down (not that it mattered or made a difference) I ran at full speed to his waiting arms. Quick to hug both my sister and me, he would look at my mother, who appeared a bit exhausted from the journey and kissed her hello.

“How was the trip in?” He would ask her.

“Someone likes the sound of squeaky shoes.” As if by reflex both turned in my direction. Oops, was the only look I could muster on my face. Dad would soon be taking my hand and my sister would stay with Mom. I took this as a sign.

He would pause, just long enough in the middle of the station and kneeled down, straighten my hat that Mom chased me around the house for 20 minutes to get on my head and would give me one of the first of many little pep talks throughout my life. “Okay Bubbles let’s be good for Mom, she has worked really hard planning all this, okay?” Obediently I nodded. He continued. “Please don’t hide from Santa this year.” Do something one time, okay maybe more than once, and nobody let’s you forget it.

“But Dad he smells like…..” He would cut me off.

Laughing as he spoke “I know, I know like your Aunt Lena’s house.” Finally! There was a person over 4 ft tall and not a kid who understood my current dilemma with the odor.

HigbeeXmasShopping68A brisk walk through the station and opening the heavy brass metal doors which led us to the spectacular entrance to Higbee’s. We had finally arrived! The main floor and just about every floor were decorated in the many splendors of the season. Pine green garland with gold woven through its long streaming braids. Instead of a yellow brick road that marked your path it was deep plush scarlet carpet that would take you on your journey. Follow the red carpet and it would lead you to the Workshop!

Once on the fourth floor, I darted only one time to look at a huge rocking horse. Mom was quick to grab hold of my hand. She didn’t look angry she just simply admired the horse with me. I watched as she slowly looked around at all the other children crying and screaming. Others running at break neck speed grabbing toys off the shelves.

Harried department clerks were trying in vain to pick up the toys, placed in the wrong area by frantic parents trying to grab hold of their children, and get them to Santa. A warm smile and a little sass in Mom’s step ventured and weaved us through the chaos right on over to Santa’s Workshop to get in line. Mom was still smiling and Dad catching a glimpse of it, smiled back. As more hysertics ensued from other children and many parents looking like Mom did earlier when she tried to put that seriously ugly fur hat on my head, she appeared relaxed. Now she was laughing at the events around her and taking my hat off. Why did I have to wear it if she was going to take it off anyway?

Mom nudged me ever so gently towards an elf that looked like she was never going to have children in her life ever! Her job was to sit kids on Santa’s lap. I wondered how she was going to handle the boy behind me because he was almost as big as her. Thus the tired cranky elf placed me on Santa’s lap. He asked me what I wanted him to bring me, which I am sure was why Mom’s smile vanished and the seizure was about to start. Little girls back then didn’t ask Santa for a football.

old Christmas tree Pictures done with only one warning from the blinking eyes, we then went into the restaurant The Silver Grille as it was called, for lunch. As I drift back in my memories, this was my favorite part because it was time the four of us were downtown together and the majestic setting of the grand old department store and the regal dressing up of the restaurant made me feel like a princess. White trees, green trees, multi-colored shiny ornaments and garland strung throughout.

Better still was ordering from a waitress wearing a pristine white apron, heavily starched white shirt, black bowtie, a pencil cut skirt and super shiny shoes. She was so neat and clean, I had to ask if her mom made her promise not to get dirty too. She let out a roaring laugh and patted me on my head. The children’s lunch was served in a really neat heavy cardboard box shaped and painted to look like a kitchen stove. My sister and I would take the boxes home and use them to play house with our dolls.

My parents held hands as they watched us eat our ice cream. As I was enjoying dessert, a startling realization hit me. Playing above our heads was music. Not just any music. The Christmas sounds of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. There was no escape and only one of us was swaying at the table. And three of us, myself included could only groan. This must have been the millionth time all of us had heard it, and there was still three weeks till Christmas.

In all honesty I hadn’t thought about those days in years. The treasured moments of a simpler time summed up in a department store and a band that wasn’t even from Tijuana.

Forty-three years later, I was transported into one of the greatest gifts my mother could ever give. Herself! Not just any version the truest most beautiful version I could have every heard. Answering my phone at work I could hear the youthful excitement in her voice. How precious it was to hear vocals so filled with an eerily familiar glee as she spoke.

“Bethy listen to what I found!” Her excitement was intoxicating after locating a CD I had bought her several years before.

By the grace of God, and holding the phone tightly to my ear breathing in every chord, we were no longer twelve hundred miles apart. We were in Higbee’s hand in hand with Herb Alpert trumpeting just for us.

I can’t think of any greater gift, with that said; Mom, get your dancing shoes out, crank up the stereo and let’s make a joyful noise because I’ll be home for Christmas! And this time when you take my hand I promise I won’t let go.


****I would like to thank two very special people who made this piece possible to give my Mom for Christmas. Jim Ballew for the graphics and emotional hand holding all while never giving up on me during the last 2 days I drove him nuts, via text, twitter and the phone. And my Dad, Joseph Pepoy who believed in my abilities to write something special for the woman we both love!

To Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass for leaving my family with memories of a lifetime.

Lastly, to Higbee’s– thanks for the memories, anyone from Cleveland will never forget the grand spectacle of Christmas this store brought to all who walked through the grand entrance.

Main Stream Media, CliffsNotes and Moby Dick


 Back in the early 80’s I was knee deep in High School activities.  It was during this same time of year that I would have had a term paper due before Christmas break (Yes, it was called Christmas break then) and I would have been up all night finishing it because procrastination was my middle name.

 Junior year was a litany of excitement for me.  I had a vast array of events happening all at once and none of them had to do with writing a term paper.  

11th grade English consisted of our teacher assigning term papers by tier level.  A certain selection of books would qualify as an A, other books B and so on.  If she felt you had chosen a book that was beneath your skill set she reassigned a novel for you.  My original choice went unnoticed partly because I had picked my book based on the number of pages the literary work contained.  Apparently my skill set was far higher then a 162 page novella and I was reassigned Moby Dick.  

Thus I was doomed to read of Captain Ahab’s obsession.  Once finished, turned in and received back with a grade, I dumped the work of doom on the kitchen table and readied myself for district finals in volleyball.  

Dashing through the kitchen to grab an apple, car keys and my volleyball shoes, I was to meet with a pair of stern looking hazel eyes that were not jumping with glee, and I was desperately trying to avoid looking in his direction.  I glanced over long enough to notice in my father’s hand was the work of doom.  In large red ink that glowed as easily as a traffic light in the dark, was the grade on the paper I had received,  The B- was basically a failing grade given that I was to have written a term paper from the highest level of books with the hardest requirements to complete. 

“Elizabeth?”  Dad said very calmly.  “We’ll talk when you get home.” 

One thought ran through my head. GREEEAATTT! And looking at him, I flashed a smile then took off. 

After my return to the homestead I slipped upstairs, grabbed a shower and headed down to the laundry room.  My plan was to dart across the kitchen unnoticed and towards the stairs.  This would not be the case.  

Once again I heard my name and it wasn’t the angelic sounds of a choir.  More like the low rumble of a car that needed a muffler. 

“Care to explain your points on your paper?”  Dad said raising an eyebrow and pushing a chair out from the table for me to sit in. 

“A B- isn’t a bad grade, Dad.”  As soon as the words left my mouth and the rankled look peaked on Dad’s face, I knew I had struck a nerve.  Not to mention, a minor little fact, I was about to enter a one-sided debate with a man who happens to have a masters in education.  

I began to explain the teacher had noted my opening and conclusion on the paper was ‘A’ worthy. However, it was the body of work that appeared to be questionable and lacked original thought.  

Hence my father began: 

“Explain to me how Ishmael described Ahab’s obsession and how it began?”  I couldn’t. 

“Tell me about Ishmael?  Was he the protagonist?”  I couldn’t and had no clue. 

“Tell me how much the CliffsNotes cost that you used?”  Busted! 

I had made the decision early on that Moby Dick was never going to be a book of dire interest to me nor would it fit my jammed packed schedule.  CliffsNotes provided an easy out.  

CliffsNotes have a purpose, but have never been a replacement for actually doing the work.  The booklet was designed as a guide to encourage reading and understanding of the literary works in which it represented. In my world as with many other students it was a quick way to write a term paper or study for a test without putting in all the time an effort.  AKA- a short cut. 

Short cuts have been a downfall in society for a long time. The major reason is short cuts in the end never work and appear to be a band-aid on a severed limb. 

My reasoning behind this is to ask– How many people come home after work and flip on the news to catch up on the day’s events?  What exactly are they hearing?  How much information is possibly given in 30 minutes? 

Main Stream Media (MSM) is not designed to give the whole story.  Those of us who follow news regularly and research topics are completely aware that MSM outlets are the CliffsNotes of current events.  

While there are thousands of resources available through out the internet, the average American will not be going through the trouble of researching the topic and will solely depend on MSM to provide updates and new information.  Decisions will be based on what they hear in sound bites and see in video from on-site correspondents.  

These 30 minutes of cleverly designed rating snatches will not only give an incomplete view, it will determine the outcome of major events that rely on public opinion.  By paying closer attention most MSM’s mention, “For more on this story please go to our website.” 

Is this fact checking?  Not really.  Will people go on to the website and read the whole story. Doubtful.  Will anyone make time to pursue it further? Hmmmmm I know some that do and some that won’t.  Kim Kardashian’s wedding and divorce trends better.  

With Moby Dick I basically robbed myself of Melville’s master piece and the rise of obsession through Ishmael’s witness of Ahab.  It was my responsibility to engage in the adventure of a literary classic. 

My English teacher knew I possessed the ability to do the work for my paper.  I chose not to. 

I see America with much higher capabilities than using CliffsNotes to problem-solve.  To only use MSM or any other short cuts to decide who should or shouldn’t be running for public office is absurd.  

By using MSM and not looking deeper into the issues that impact Americans on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis will lessen the value of the dollar, create misconceptions, and prove to be destructive in the long run.  As goes the old adage.  “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” 

In the past I have written about the steps we take in making decisions. This is merely another example of taking the steps that protect individual rights as they pertain to the basic ideologies of the pursuit of unalienable rights.  

It is within these natural rights (unalienable) that we have a responsibility to ask the basic questions that we learned in 7th grade English.  Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How?  If these questions can not meet the litmus test in viewing MSM then the logical choice would be to pursue the questions that have not been answered.   

CliffsNotes didn’t solve my problem of writing a term paper I still had to do it and I had made a poor choice for myself by not doing the actual work that was required.  I will not CliffsNote my way through another election based on what I hear in 30 minutes.  I value the right to explore and search for the answers that will provide in the long run for my family, friends and the future generations, now knowing who my choices will affect. 

Main Stream Media has a purpose to provide news and information.  It shouldn’t be their version of what side of the fence I stand on.     

Moby Dick was the obsession that led to the demise of Ahab. Ishmael was the reporter.  I was the reader who grasped information from a 30 minute read via CliffsNotes and retold the story in a paper.  I went up against far more intelligent people who found my findings beneath my abilities.  And thus questioned my integrity.  

The challenge is to question the integrity of those who present information and gaining the knowledge by asking deeper questions to provide the whole story and not just the CliffsNotes.  Who is up to such a task?  If not I have a very old and  used copy of Moby Dick CliffsNotes available.