Saturday, July 30, 2005

Eternal Sunshine of the SPJ Mind

(**Post-post McEditor's Note (8/1/05): "Minority Report" as seen on my journalistic jedi master's chalkboard, Woody Paige, on the Monday edition of ESPN's Around the Horn - after repeated pesterings by your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger-Man! I feel so dirty... Hey, at least NOW when people are stealing my material and passing it off as they're own, they're stealing from me on a NATIONAL level... So I got that going for me! Yeah ...right. It's ironic in SO many ways... Don't worry, folks, I won't be asking Woody Paige to join me for a beer down at The Rascal House... Thanks for the shout-out anyway, Master Obi-Woody! And, now, back to our show already in progress...**)

Minority Report

So I was out at the opening day of Cleveland Browns training camp on Friday. Not much of interest to report, just tripping over the 19 Action News crew who were giving major shout-outs to all their trailer park target demographics and the such. Nothing new there.

Outside of Action News stalking defensless pedestrians and unassuming Browns' fans with a microphone, hopping on them like a dingo in search of a stray baby, and screaming: "We're the official home of the Cleveland Browns! Say it! Acknowledge our sorry existence, mere mortals! WE ARE the official home of the Cleveland Browns ...SAY IT OR DIE!!!" ...um, there was not much else to report.

Sure, Trent Dilfer still could throw a pretty pass now and again, but I found myself waxing philisophical for a moment on the state of current affairs in Cleveland. Like some sporty Cuyahoga County version of Carrie Bradshaw, I stood in the bright summer sunlight and pondered: "Have we, as a society, slipped so far down the cultural ladder, and become so consumed with our own selfish lack of self-esteem, that we are obsessed with public notoriety at any cost...?"

And then I wondered as well: In my own semi-shallow pursuit of a "creative career" had I become nothing more than a modern-day version of Roger Brown slinging salacious cyber-tidbits at every possible turn? (Sidebar: Has anyone else noticed that Roger Brown always seems to seductively cheerlead for local minority reporters with every opportunity? Roger, I know that the 1950's mentality and "Thankful Thursdays" for The Meal on Wheels crowd prevails and plays well for now, down at the The Plain Dealer, but take a moment to actually look out the window and embrace the 21st century - fawn over a lipstick lesbian or somthing! I mean, I'm not prejudiced or anything. Hell, Jason Whitlock of The Kansas City Star, Michael Wilbon of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, and John Saunder's of ESPN's Sports Reporters are some of my favorite sports journalists - so that's not it. But Brown just goes overboard on the pursuit of praising every - and any - minority journalist in the local Cleveland market regardless of talent. I mean, come on: Does anybody remember Charlie Minn???)

Regardless, I was soon disrupted from my own thoughts by a mutual friend attending training camp. Jeremy, a food broker, who often frequents the store I work for during my day job, popped me on the shoulder and said "hi."

To make a long story longer, we got to chatting about a mutual interest of ours - comic books - and he let slip that he used to live next door (in South Euclid) to Brian Michael Bendis (Bendis, by the way, is the hottest thing going today in Marvel comic books). Sure, we were nerds - but we were nerds in nice wrapping. Bendis had given Jeremy several autographed pieces of artwork - before moving on to bigger and better things. Anyway, when I asked Jeremy if he still keeps in contact with Bendis, he stated: "Oh, I got his new phone number after he moved out of state, and I called it several times just to talk to him - but he's never returned my calls since he made it big."

So that got me thinking further - why is it fame always overrules so-called friendship in the end?

That threw me back further into a time warp to a period when my co-workers and I were sitting around and listening to morning radio. One fateful day, local media maven, Carol Chandler, was hosting a drive-time show in Cleveland and happened to interview Nicole Kidman for her latest lame-duck film. Kidman was "blah, blah, blahing" for the required amount of time as Carol Chandler kept playing "the circus seal on a mission" during the faux interview. And then, as the entire office grimaced with despair, it happened...

McMemo to Carol Chandler: Oh, girlfriend, don't go there!

To paraphrase the next ridiculous statement, Chandler went on to break these chains of love and invited THE Nicole Kidman - Academy Award winning and international film star, Nicole Kidman - to "join her for cocktails down at Shooter's ...where we could chat about girl stuff."

Nicole Kidman, who wouldn't know Shooter's from one of Tom Cruise's lovers, shuddered and blew off the invitation with irreverant style and grace. Nonetheless, Chandler (not the Friends character, mind you!) went on to pester Kidman to join her for apple martinis down in the now-defunct Flats. To no avail, Nicole Kidman managed to slither out of the invitation and the rest, as they say, is sad, tragic history (perhaps she had experience to guide her with this after The Moss Man invited her to prom??? I just don't know!).

"We grew up way too fast, and now, there's nothing to believe - and reruns all become our history. A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio and I won't tell no one your name. And I won't tell 'em your name..."

This got me thinking (again) to my own shallow shelf. Sure, I had a few scant brushes with greatness in my time. The most noteworthy was Steve Burton. Steve went by another last name at the time, a product of a broken home himself. But after high school, he moved out to California to live with his dad - and went on to star in General Hospital as Jason Quartermaine. Jason Quartermaine went on to become Jason Morgan, a hitman for the Port Charles mob, after a drunk-driving accident courtesy of his brother, A.J., left him brain damaged. But this is just the fodder of a college student who typed his term papers with noise in the background during his half-drunk, semi-informative college years...

Steve grew up with me in an apartment complex in Richmond Heights, Ohio (my own personal Twin Peaks!) that was home to divorced families. I didn't know Steve that well to start - he was a few years younger than me so, subsequently at the time, beneath me. But when my friend Sam and I were busy playing Dungeons & Dragons in my modest apartment, Steve used to sneak down the hall and stand at my doorway. It was there he would fold up M&M's candy in a piece of notebook paper stating: "Please be my friend" and slip it under my door in a rather unassuming fashion.

Many summers went by and we eventually obliged Steve with his ego-inducing request by inviting him to many pool parties and the such. After all, he wanted to be my friend, so this kid must have had something on the ball, right...? Steve later went on - to some acclaim - to mimic advertising and screach out in home room without warning: "It's the best country sausage ever, the best you ever tried ...so take hoooooooome a package, a package of Tennesse Pride!" Blind fools that we were, who knew this would lead to a leading role as Sonny's main mob henchman on General Hospital...?

I often spend my lackluster carefree days now envisioning my fateful reunion with Steve Burton. I picture us meeting at the LAX airport where I toss down my carry-on luggage and exclaim: "Steve ...Steve Burton! It's me - your old pal, Chris McVetta! Remember? Remember me - the M&M's under the door back in Richmond Heights? Remember...???"

And it's just then that Steve walks by me - without making eye contact - as his slew of bodyguards take me down in a severe submission of a chokehold.

"Steve! Steve! Damn you, Steve, acknowledge my existence, you fucking fuck! I read once that you said Tony ("Luke" of Luke and Laura fame) Geary was the Shakespearean equivalent of soap opera actors! Hah! You might think differently if you ever saw Anthony Geary in Penitentiary 5, you maggot! Penitentiary 5 - remember him in THAT??? The Razzie Awards sure did, fella! Where's your Messiah now, you bastard! Where's your Messiah NOW...???"

Well, uh, I suppose we all have our Cleveland crosses to bear. In the meantime, I will retreat to my hidden lair and wreak havoc as Dr. Victor Von McDoom - playing a nice game of Cuyahoga County chess with my Cleveland psuedo-celebrity action figures...

As an obscure rock journalist once told me (before he drank the Kool-Aid): "Chris," he told me. "Keep your feet on the ground - and keep reaching for the stars..."

To that I can only respond with this: "Bah!"

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