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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In the news . . . me!

It’s been a boffo three day-run for blog promotion -- and not just because circumstances have allowed me to use the word “boffo” for maybe the first time in my entire life.


First the local paper, The Latrobe Bulletin, chose to highlight me and www.EightDaysToAmish.com in the lavish front page story re-printed below. The Bulletin’s so old school it doesn’t have a website so you lose out if you want to see the big picture of me sitting at my desk.


It’s probably the nicest thing ever written about me. It’s amazing for anyone to be the subject of a 1,200-word story and not have it include at least one thing that’s either wrong or embarrassing.


And I couldn’t be more pleased it ran in The Bulletin than if it had run in The New York Times.


The Bulletin to me will always be Vince Quatrini. He was what the great newspaper editor Dutton Peabody was to Ransom Stoddard, the Jimmy Stewart character in the great John Wayne movie, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.”


He knew everyone and everything that happened in town. He was irascible, thorough and could be wildly vindictive whenever he perceived anyone crossed him, his family, or the town he loved.


And I was thrilled to be one of his two henchmen. My buddy Paul and I were de facto competitors, but the three of us shared the same agendas: keep the jerks out of office, the meetings short and the freebies flowing for the working press.


Vince was as good a friend as I’ve ever had and I’m glad he died about 10 years before such a flattering story about me ran in his paper. He never would have let reporter Barbara M. Neill write such a rosy piece about me for fear it would go straight to my head.


He’d have been right again.


During the Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful Barbara took such care in crafting the story. It’s a reminder to me to be as careful and gracious with the people who become my story subjects.


Then last night I was thrilled to be invited to speak on-air to South America’s equivalent to Johnny Carson. He’s Jaime Sanchez Cristo, host of the Bogota, Columbia, radio show The Originals, the most popular radio program on the continent.


Sanchez Cristo has been exclusive host of both Columbia’s Oscars and Grammies for the past 20 years. Recent guests include Robert Duvall, George Lucas, Clint Eastwood, David Bowie, James Cameron, Robert De Niro . . . and now me.


They saw this recent msnbc.com story I did about a $2,000 100-finger massage being offered by the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui.


The show is conducted almost entirely in Spanish. I can order a meal at a Mexican restaurant and Spanish is one of the 12 languages in which I’ve schooled myself to say, “Two big beers!” in case of foreign emergency.


So it was a fairly mystifying 15 minutes for me.


Sanchez Cristo asked his questions in broken English. I answered in flawless English. Awkward silence ensued. My answer was then translated into what I can only assume was flawless Spanish.


Four seconds later it was like all South America erupted in the universal language of laughter.


I don’t know whether I’m more funny in Spanish or if the translator used my linguistic ignorance to make me sound stupid.


Either way, it was interesting fun and now I’m inspired to pay more attention next time I have an opportunity to learn a little Spanish.


Lastly, I was privileged to help shape the very future of journalism, which means it’s going to be a whole lot less troubled by things like ethics.


Yes, it was my annual visit to Mrs. Stallings journalism class at Greater Latrobe High School.


I spent the hour telling old war stories and relating how journalism can be a lot of fulfilling fun, but the pay generally stinks.


Kind of like my last three days.


Then at the end of class, Mrs. Stallings presented me with a pen and key chain gift set.


Things are turning around!


Here’s The Bulletin story. I was very pleased Barbara featured The Pond restaurant so prominently. Helps keep the landlord happy!







Tell Us What You Really Think, Chris Rodell!

Latrobe Freelance Writer

By Barbara M. Neill

For the Bulletin


Chris Rodell on Billy Joel:

“I wish I could get him to come visit me in Latrobe. I’d take him to The Pond and order him a big bowl of jambalaya.”


Anyone familiar with The Pond in Latrobe would not be surprised on any given day to find a pleasant waitress toting trays of comfort food, a longtime customer choosing tasty pizza toppings, or even a weary watering hole patron lifting an elbow. However, one of the very last persons you might expect to encounter at 2120 Lincoln Avenue would be a world-class journalist checking his email beside a dumpster.


I first learned of Chris Rodell thanks to a July article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The essay, which bemoaned the gargantuan corporate lettering that punctuates the Burgh’s skyline, was witty, to the point, and entirely in agreement with my own thoughts on that wordy view. Latrobe was given as the freelancer’s hometown at the conclusion of the commentary, and also mentioned was his blog. I typed in EightDaysToAmish.com faster than you can say “shoofly pie.”


What I discovered at the site was an amazingly diverse collection of musings. (Sorry, no tutorial on how to raise a barn in 48 hours or less. If it’s any consolation, Pittsburgh Magazine did select EightDaysToAmish.com as one of the city’s top 5 blogs.) Not subject-specific like some blogs, Rodell’s forum gives the writer free rein to showcase his not inconsiderable literary talent and command of the English language while discussing any issue that strikes his fancy.


Suffice it to say, the wordsmith is an equal opportunity blogger. Rodell alternately cheers and jeers timely topics and persons of the hour. But, he also enjoys reminiscing about bygone days or ruminating about inventive ways to solve pressing global problems.


And Mr. Rodell doesn’t mince words when expressing his far-ranging opinions. He relishes family train rides, has a passion for baseball and golf, and esteems Ben Franklin, Rocky Balboa, and a woman he christened the “Wonder Nun.” He disdains conformist close-mindedness, gets impatient with bugs and heat waves, and would like to bat Pittsburgh’s leadership “over their collective heads with a hearty loaf of Mancini’s Italian bread” for not promoting, and getting, a downtown statue of Gene Kelly.


Blogging isn’t Rodell’s only outlet for his outspoken pronouncements. He humbly states that he’s “been published by many of the greatest publications in America and been rejected by the rest,” and has had “simultaneous articles published in Men's Health, Cooking Light, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Golf, Playboy, National Enquirer and the South China Morning Post, a combined readership in excess of 97 million earthlings.”


At present Rodell is entertaining online viewers with his sparkling offbeat humor and informative narratives at MSNBC.com penning travel features that shine a beacon on diverse destinations from sea to shining sea and points beyond.


Rodell uses Twitter more to get his hilarious mini-bulletins out there than to tell his followers the humdrum trivia of his everyday existence. Several of his timely gridiron tweets: “Actual score from Week 1 of western Pennsylvania high school football: Mars 26, Moon 8. Team transport costs must be truly astronomical.” And “A Sunday win-win: NFL’s back, Brett Favre isn’t.”


Since you can only find out so much about a journalist by reading his written works and resume, I recently crossed The Pond parking lot and went fishing for some answers of my own from the man who trawls and scrawls in an upstairs office.


Bulletin: You claim to be incredibly lazy, but your literary output seems to say otherwise.


Rodell: I don’t consider this to be real work, because it’s what I would be doing with friends anyway: conversing. I love to write; the trick is getting paid to write. I’ve been lucky enough to write for some really top magazines, and have had a very interesting career.


Bulletin: When writing for the National Enquirer you once gained 20 pounds eating like Elvis, and also wore a “Will Work for Beer!” sign while impersonating a homeless man. Is there anything you wouldn’t do to get a good story?


Rodell: In those days I’d do anything; that was just part of the job. It was swashbuckling fun that paid well. These days I don’t think I’d do anything like that.


Bulletin: Your blog’s name – Eight Days to Amish – originated how?


Rodell: At the time I was going to start blogging, I was so broke that I ended up getting rid of wireless here at the office. I thought, “What’s next – will I give up electricity, start churning my own butter, trade my children for cattle? If it keeps up like this, I’m only eight days from being Amish.” I felt it was a catchy, enigmatic title for a blog, and it really seems to resonate with people.


Bulletin: Blogging really seems to suit you.


Rodell: I enjoy it. I get up at 6:00 a.m. and try to have a story idea from the night before or come up with one early on. I drive down here to the office, write up a story of about 700 words, and go home and put the kids on the bus. Then I already have something of value done and spend the rest of the day on other writing challenges.


Bulletin: How does The Pond rate as a journalistic headquarters?


Rodell: It’s so nice to have a place like this, since writing is such a solitary vocation. Dave Carfang, the owner, has been just terrific, and I’ve got so many friends downstairs I can go and talk with. Sometimes at 4:30 they bang on the ceiling to let me know they’re there. Having that kind of camaraderie is great.


Bulletin: One of your MSNBC.com travel articles has been nominated for the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award.


Rodell: The feature is about the phenomenon of ice fishing in Mille Lacs, Minnesota. Every winter thousands of fishermen live on the lake inside heated fish houses with satellite dishes, hot tubs, pizza delivery, and all these other amenities. MSNBC liked the story so much they sent a video crew out there and did a package that is contained in my story.


Bulletin: Has any progress been made on the publication of your novel, The Last Baby Boomer: The Story of the Ultimate Ghoul Pool?


Rodell: The book gets great attention from top people in the industry, but right now the market’s so unsettled that no on has pulled the trigger yet. A non-fiction book that's being considered by publishers is Zeitgust! How Words Become Words & a Mad Dash at Dictionary Recognition. It's a fun project about coining new words and my efforts to land one of them in a dictionary. Since I have acquired an audience, I might self-publish a second non-fiction book called Use All the Crayons: The Poor Man’s Guide to Colorful Living.


Bulletin: You provide the content for Arnold Palmer’s website, contribute to the golfer’s lifestyle magazine, Kingdom, and have interviewed the hometown legend numerous times since 1998.


It’s been a joy working with Arnie. One of the first things I ever interviewed him about was holes-in-one. I asked if he remembered his first hole-in-one better than his first kiss. He said he remembers the first hole-in-one better because it meant more to him.


Bulletin: What is one of your favorite occupational perks?


Rodell: The fact that I get to spend so much time with my family. Our daughter Josie is eleven and Lucinda’s five. It’s real special to me that I’ve had these years to dote on them. You just can’t replace that.


Read Chris Rodell’s blog at www.eightdaystoamish.com and check out his travel features at MSNBC.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter; contact him at www.storyteller@chrisrodell.com.



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