[Life] Not living in, but learning from the past

You know how we always say we do not really realize we lived through history until after it was over?


The drama of certain events are so overwhelming that we just roll with it and only put it in perspective through the fullness time.


I have written before about the summer of 1969 and the universal, national and personal impact of that special summer.


It started with man’s first steps on the moon. My dad woke me up, my maternal grandfather happened to be visiting and so three generations sat there and watched this live show (TV was not often live then) on our little black-and-white living room television.


A couple of months later, my dad and I were at a Cubs game in their special season and saw Kenny Holtzman throw a no-hitter live. My dad was a lifelong baseball fan and mentioned at the time how rare a no-hitter was. I still have the scorecard, mostly in his handwriting.


A few more months later, my dad died at age 43, forever altering who I am and what I have become.


It took me almost two decades more to realize how all these events happened within months of each other. I had segmented my memory until then, placing the awesome perspectives in separate life chapters, rather than all in a rush of weeks.


And this kind of memory is what I am bringing to the death of newspapers, my first adult career, to which I devoted three decades.

You all know my analogy: That we in the  newspaper business kept perfecting the artform long after it was pass relevancy. It is like making the perfect buggy whip at last, the best darned buggy whip in the history of buggy whip evolutions.


Problem is, who needs a buggy whip nowadays outside of the Amish.


As newspaper fold into themselves, reduce actual size, therefore content and chances at new readers; as staffs dwindle, reducing and educated workforce; as the ’Net continues to flourish, all I see remaining are a lot of high salaries with scared hunkered-down mostly white male executives trying desperately to get to retirement.


I think of this as I think of the fine folks who have allowed me to use their names as references on my resume.


I am at an age where seven of the best I ever had listed in that endgame have passed away. All were great references for me and my career.


Now I list former coworkers, more as character references, but all younger than me which increases the chances I can keep the current list unrefreshed.


They knew what they were about. They knew and basically helped shaped the business as I know it. And, maybe, they will represent what newspapers meant when they were relevant.


Colleen “Koky” Dishon was a dynamic, impish woman who shared the survival of cancer with me and also came into my newspaper life late, sort retired then but still vital. She had helped define The Chicago Trib, my all-time favorite newspaper. She had broken many “this is the way we always do it”   rules along the way.


I think she would laugh now as some of the decades-old revamps she put in place at the smallish newspaper I was working then still use the changes. The point is to always change. Eventually changes become what they beheld,  a “this is the way we always do it” rule its ownself.


Doug Kneeland did it all, on all sizes of newspapers, proving talent is talent. He launched hundreds of careers and through them thousands. He also worked the Chi Trib at the end of his career life. On a whim, he got me an offer to move up into the chain at one of the outposts.


It was a life’s crossroads and I was not ready. He knew I was. I did not heed. I have never once complained about the choices I did make but this is one that would have been most interesting. A single guy would have jumped. I was not and did not.


Had I jumped, I maybe never would have met Cokie, but then I believe in fate and so probably would have.


In my real hometown, of Gary, I once witness the local newspaper actually getting better for an arc of a few years, four years in the ’80s. It has since dramatically declined and is back on a death watch as part of the Sun-Times debacle.


Beverly Kees was the editor who made the difference once called me when I was editing a small chain of weeklies in the area and just wanted to talk to whoever had attracted her attention with what she liked in newspapers.


It was me. I was having too much fun working with young folks and writing, writing, writing to want to make a move. She did. She took her impactful national life tour to Fresno and other places and was subsequently killed in a traffic accident.


Among my first great references was Jack Backer. He was in charge of establishing the Indiana Daily Student as the dominant college newspaper it remains.


He was a hands-on publisher, everybody’s pal, the first to meet and greet a newbie in the newsroom. We hit it off after I convinced Bib Greene to let us buy his column when Bob Greene was a big deal columnist that did not cut rates for anyone and certainly not for a school newspaper.


 Jack Back offered me a dream internship in Hawaii for simply achieving decent grades while writing, writing, writing and editing the paper.


I had just gotten married and could not see telling my bride I was off for a summer in Hawaii and she was to enjoy her summer in Bloomington.


Jack had redesigned more newspapers as a consultant than any man alive. Newspaper folks will know what modular layout means. If he didn’t invent it (and I suspect he did) he certainly elevated it and took it national.


He died of cancer while I was still an undergraduate. I volunteered to write his life story for the alumni association and got a lot of amazing responses for simply telling the truth, Maybe it was because I walked up to the unapproachable school president at a basketball game and asked for a comment. The guy was so shocked that a student would dare approach him, but he gave me a lead quote and I knew Jack would have just smiled at the attempt and success.


Lately, I had a lovely lady in Wyoming who defined that state’s newspapers. Carolyn B. Tyler had survived polio as a child and was forever wheelchair-active and CBT was a pistol. When I inherited her office long after her time there, there was this mail slot sorta thing connecting the office with the main newsroom, more like the drive-up at a bank than anything else.



I had to ask. It was her way of staying sane. You had something to say to her, you pushed it into her office that way. In other words, the door did not open unless it was really important. I sometimes sat in that office as a tribute to her, trying to absorb the magic she left behind. She asked if she could be a reference as she liked me. She passed this year.


Her body had finally given up. Her mind is still with us, though, because she visits me in the silent moments of the nights and gives me advice still.


These folks all lived the newspaper life and died while it still meant something. They enriched me. There is an old American Indian thought that believes a person never dies as long as someone remembers them.


I will not forget.


[LIFE] The Write Stuff: Neal Litherland Has An E-Book Online

The Write Stuff: Neal Litherland Has An E-Book Online
by Mike Siroky
The Write Stuff: Neal Litherland Has An E-Book Online
by Mike Siroky
Neal Litherland is one of those writers who considers every event in his life an opportunity for a story.
So it is not surprising his latest book is both online-only and came about in a roundabout way as he was on his way somewhere else.
He works for the publisher, Jupiter Gardens, as an editor. Even how he came to be there is interesting.
“I was hanging out in Chicago with some friends and was looking for work to pay the bills and one of them mentioned Jupiter Gardens. I asked if they had any openings and they did and I applied,” he said.
“When they sent me the contract, I asked if I would still be eligible to submit stories. I was. So I took the job.”
Spin ahead a little and he notices a writers’ call for a six-story anthology with young people as the target audience.
He submitted “Summer People” and was rejected. But the publisher liked it well enough that they want to issue it as a stand-alone “Paranormal Romance” novella. And so it is online, offered through Amazon.com, among others.
It has a virtual cyberspace cover like any traditional work of fiction.
The main character, Bethany, starts out to get a job and get away from home for the last summer before college. Her aunt’s café seems like the perfect place.
Of course that was before she met Sean, with his angel’s voice and devil’s eyes. And it was before Danny, who keeps paying mysterious calls, came into her life. It might be her last summer as a girl, but does she want to become a woman with a man that has secrets?
That is the synopsis.
“I did some self-publishing a while ago, so this is not my first published work,” Litherland said.
“Though this one is only available electronically. You just pay for download to wherever you’re at to whatever device you use.”
He marvels at the two-sided considerations of traditional publishing vs. e-books.
“The Porter County (library) system has e-books,” Litherland said. “So it will be in the library.
“The thing I’ve learned about a physical, traditional book is that is sort of the top of the mountain of publishing. You’re lucky to get there.”
He said he noticed three separate calls for writers for anthologies.
“There was ‘Boys of Summer’ and I didn’t make that collection,” he said.
“This one was submitted for ‘Summer Fling Romance.’
“I really do not consider myself a romance writer yet here I am as a romance writer.”
He also said he does not classify himself as a writer for “Young Adult,” yet here he is in that classification as well. Finally, writing from the voice of a young girl as another new perspective, which Litherland calls “amusing” when he thinks about all of it.
“Even though the main character is a young girl, there is nothing objectionable,” he said.  “:I would say it is an Interesting experience to try and see things from a teenager girl’s point of view, as a male writer.”
He did interject a hidden treat for local readers, using one setting that is an easily-recognized Valparaiso coffee shop.
Once he began in earnest, he did not pay particular attention to word or page counts, saying there is great leeway in such things in books.
“It is evidently a short long piece or a very long short story, but it was a ball as a writer,” Litherland said.
As an author, it is most difficult, he said, identifying if you have a base of readers and then building on one.
 “In a non-fiction background, real people don’t actually know you,” he observes.
He started his post-high school career at Valparaiso University and eventually transferred to and graduate form Indiana University Northwest.
His degree is in Criminal Justice, which means “I can work in law enforcement or corrections,” he said. But he long before knew he wanted to write when he attempted a first novel at age 13.
“I just now found my voice,” Litherland said. “One of the most important things a writer can do is find his unique voice.
“Once you got it you can just run with.”
He is already at work on his next anthology submission, with an “End of Days” theme, due out in December.
He calls that a “post-apocalyptic romance.”
“I had to write it 15 times before it would work,” he said. “Of all the short stories I have written, this one is definitely not for younger readers.”
And, next year, he will submit to a call for “Bad Romance.”

[Life] Good to Go by Lucrezia pours out support/ Pink pour spouts benefit Komen Foundation

 by Mike Siroky

You can open your delicatessen and have success or you can open your heart and have success beyond business.

Good to Go by Lucrezia has done both.

Good to Go by Lucrezia is a Chesterton deli, specialty market, a tasting emporium specializing in Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Balsamic Vinegars, a wine and craft beer shop and has a selection of eats from neighboring Lucrezia Café to go.

To assist the Susan G. Komen Foundation in its fight against breast cancer, Good to Go by Lucrezia is selling pink pour spouts for the olive oil and vinegar. They cost $5 each.

“One hundred percent of the profits go to Komen,” said store manager Joyce Stauffer.

They had an initial order of 100 spouts, but expect to reorder and send more than $500 to Komen.

It’s just another example of good corporate citizenship for Good to Go by Lucrezia.

“This is the first year it was available and we intended to do it every year,” Stauffer said.

“We welcome the opportunity. We’ve always had pour spouts in gold and silver. They said we could donate a portion of the profits and we went with the 100 percent donation.

“It has had a good response, with a number of people coming in just to buy them after hearing about it.”

As with many good deeds, the unexpected benefits have been rewarding.

“On the first day we got them in, as I was putting them out, one of our neighbors, a good customer came in. I noticed she had the signs of chemo – losing her hair – and, until that moment, I did not even know she was fighting breast cancer.

“I looked at Nada (Karras, with whom she operates the deli) with a questioning look in my eye and she nodded yes.”

She has since noted all the people who fight the good fight against the insidious disease.

“On the CBS Morning Show, I saw a guy telling how he had fought to become a chef,” Stauffer said. “I know it is hard in this business to outwork anyone else, but that is what he did. He started in the kitchen as a dishwasher and worked up to being a chef.

“He now had a four-star restaurant in Chicago. He had struggled to become a chef. Then he found out he had tongue cancer. He fought that as well. He said if anyone hears he’s gonna die, you just fight it. He applied the same set of principles to fighting cancer that he had to becoming a chef and he beat it. It is a sense of wonder to see all those people who fight this. If we can be a small part of it . . .”

Chicago chef Grant Achatz runs his restaurant, Alinea. The orginal diagnosis endangered his sense of taste and his ability to speak and swallow. Most experts said the only solution was to remove 75 percent of his tongue and his taste buds.

But University of Chicago Medicine oncologist Everett Vokes prescribed a new combination approach of chemotherapy and radiation to treat the cancer. If the first-line therapy worked, Achatz would not require surgery — saving his tongue and taste buds.

That’s the kind of research Stauffer hopes to support.

 The deli is the brainchild of Mike and Nada Karras, who own and operate the successful Lucretia Restaurant on the shared site in Chesterton.

“This is an Italian deli,” Stauffer said. “We have a wine shop. We have an oil and vinegar shop, with 50 varieties. They are made by a small producer and are the real thing. The wines are really great wines we can get through the restaurant, wine you cannot buy in a liquor store.”

The deli meats and cheeses are also a real exception. They stock on the Boar’s Head brand, 

“It is very well-known,” Stauffer said. “No fillers, no artificial flavors, no trans fats, no byproducts.

“It’s the healthiest you can eat. It has been a leader in quality since the early 1900s. When we were interviewing vendors, they kept saying, ‘Well, we’re like Boar’s Head.’ So we decided why not just get Boar’s Head when we opened in July 2010.”

They also offer a fresh-made Sandwich of the Day and some carryout menu items, always changing, from the restaurant.

“I make the sandwich myself, so I know it’s delicious,” Stauffer said. “I’m a cheese monger myself, so to have cheeses from around the world is great.”