I grew up in Mentor, Ohio. It is a typical suburb of a rust-belt city. In this case Cleveland, Ohio. I and many others would argue there is nothing typical about Cleveland though. As t-shirt magnate Daffy Dan says — “You gotta be tough.”
I have always looked up to writers of one type or another. When I was a child I devoured fiction any chance I was given. I also was encouraged to read the newspaper and other periodicals — at my grandparents house there was always a stack of magazines much newer than those in any waiting room. Titles such as National Geographic, Time, Popular Science, and the Smithsonian Magazine would be piled on the end tables calling to me with their tales of far off places and news of what was happening in a world I was just realizing was much more vast than any globe could convey.
I mention my grandparents home because it was where I discovered the power of the written word and of story. At my own family’s home things were of a much more standard suburban fare — cable television, Atari and later Nintendo, Sony Walkmen, and comic books — but at my grandparents there were shelves and boxes of dusty books. Books that seemed mysterious and forbidden, even if I was encouraged to read anything I like.
On a Sunday morning my siblings and I would awaken to wonderful smells wafting from the kitchen, where my grandmother would be making fresh biscuits and the radio would be tuned to NPR. My grandfather would be at the table with his coffee and stack of newspapers — the Lake County News-Herald, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and a stack of Chicago papers from the previous week. He grew up there and his father — my great-grandfather Jim — still mailed the week’s news from Chicagoland. As years wore on the full papers became clippings, always with Grandpa Jim’s thoughts and notes in the margins.
As the years went by my love of reading morphed into a love of writing, though I never thought of it more of anything than a hobby and a release in many ways.
I spent most of my twenties on one long-extended road trip — a fact I still chalk up to reading Kerouac way too many times in high school. I lived all over the lower 48 — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Florida — ending back up in Ohio briefly before settling in Duluth, Minnesota in 2005.
In that time I wore a few hats. I worked as a waiter, a cook in some very fine kitchens, in retail, and in sales. I even worked as a ground crewman on a blimp for a year. It traveled all over North America. But most of the time I just swung a hammer. I was a carpenter. I liked it. I was involved in an auto-accident where my back was injured and forced an early end to that as a career option. So I went back to school. I studied philosophy and journalism. I even got to be a 41-year-old intern at the largest paper in the state outside of the Twin Cities. It was fun.
It still is. It is a path I am glad to have taken.
More recently, my amazingly supportive family (my wife Nichole and our daughters Sonia and Lucie) and I have moved up the north shore of Lake Superior. Our backyard looks over the Big Lake. We enjoy life here.
My family and I have experienced immeasurable loss, and at times we have received more than we needed. We expect that both will happen again, as they have happened more than once in the past. We’re okay with it…
“Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.” — Robert Hunter