Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Club - Self-Inflicted Wounds

Jonathan Harris reads. Taken from the Awesome People Reading tumblr. 
Welcome to the book club of one.

If you aren't familiar with the Pierogi Book Club, the rules are simple. I pick a book that I like; it has to be entertaining, thoughtful or interesting. If not, I drop it like it's hot.  Ok, I don't really drop anything, but I do delete the offensive books off my tablet and on to the next one. These books won't end up on your chardonnay swilling friendly neighborhood reading list, but I enjoyed them.

Self-Inflicted Wounds
self-inflicted wound (n): a spectacularly humiliating, and often hilarious, incident entirely of one's own making. 

see also: you did it to yourself.

Aisha Tyler's book, self-inflicted wounds: heartwarming tales of epic humiliation is everything I want in a book. By sharing her memories of events most try to forget, such as trying to use the force not to wet herself are hilarious. I related to the smart nerdy girl that may have been a little too smart and brave for her own good. 

Tyler describes herself as an "African-American comedian/actress/television host/podcaster/gamer/intense lover of pancakes with such a lush and heady surfeit of fine curse words," which, if we are honest with one another, how can you argue with pancakes?

Here is an excerpt that describes a self-inflicted wound much better than I can:
  Sometimes the self-inflicted wound is entirely of your own making, and sometimes others empower or hasten it along, as if adding accelerant to your fast growing pyre of self-immolation. Everyone enjoys a spectacular meltdown, which is why we are so addicted to shows about people who extreme coupon, dress their children up like hookers, or live in a hoarder's paradise of vintage magazines and Ziploc bags of cat poop. It is supremely fun to point and laugh at the foibles of others, and if we can stick out a foot to trip someone into a murky puddle of their own damp mistakes, all the better.  
But in the aftermath of the self-inflicted wound, when you sift through the embers for the arsonist's tool, the propane canister or half-burned lighter, much like the nameless narrator in Fight Club, you discover that Tyler Duren is just a figment of your fractured imagination, that you blew up your own apartment and burned your life to the ground and you've been punching yourself in the face like a idiot the entire time. 
  Don't fight it. Accept it for what it is. You screwed the pooch. All you can do now is try to turn it into a learning experience. 
  Or, at the very least, into a killer story you can tell your friends. 

Tyler takes us through various stages of her life, with chapters titled, The Time I Almost Set Myself On Fire, The Time I Snuck Out of My Home in the Night Like a CBS After-School Special, The Bunny Fiasco, The Time I Fell Asleep on the Patio Furniture at a Birthday Party and The Hot Wasabi and the Infinite Sadness. 

"Self-Inflicted Wounds" is also a segment for her popular (and darn entertaining) podcast, Girl on Guy. She convinces famous people to share a personal story of their own epic humiliation - which shows us that famous people are real people that make the same boneheaded mistakes we all do. 

If you are even slightly nerdy or if the Calvin and Hobbes Raccoon story means anything to you, this is the book for you. As a special treat, pay attention to the footnotes. Those things are the colored sprinkles on a Donut Land donut of deliciousness. This is the first book in a long time that I have read sections over and over just because they were funny. So very, very funny. 

I've found that I learn way more from my mistakes and failures than my successes. Those mistakes are what make a person stronger, albeit while potentially whacking away at the personal medical deductible. Mistakes make great stories. No one wants to hear the valiant  tale of you working all weekend and spending a hour finding that paper jam under knob d. Nope, your friends want to hear the quiver in your voice as you recount the time you had a business trip in Vegas and woke up on a bus with only one shoe and a pocketful of glitter.

In the spirit of sharing personal accounts of crippling embarrassment, here is mine, of which if you look very closely, you can see the physical manifestation of my prideful fall from elementary grace.

Recess at Kidder Elementary in the 70s was a free for all of child mutilating contraptions; from the monkey bars cemented into the black top play ground to the child-tossing merry go round to the flesh-melting metal slide. My choice for that afternoon's play time was the swings, where were positioned over jagged, kid ankle twisting rocks. 

No matter the Generation, be it X, Y or old-timer, kids are always looking for the next great one up. That one thing you can double dog dare another kid to do that will either result in momentary playground fame or a tearful call home to mom, sobs punctuating the real or imagined injury. 

On this playground, there were two sets of swings. The easy ones, with the plastic that wrapped around your butt, hugging you in place, and the more dangerous, hardened plastic swings.  The latter, faded and cracked, were perfect for the jump off. This was a move that kids adore and parents scream when performed. We all did it. You swing as high as you can, trying to go for even with the top bar of the swing set and then you leap off into the air, flying squirrel like with arms stretched out, to the ground below.  

I loved it, and on this particular day, I was a champion. I flew higher and farther into the rocks than any other kid. 

In the playground version of the Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake dance off, I was challenged by a loud mouth little boy that, years later would eat an entire classroom's lunch serving of prunes (that is another story), to see who could fly the highest. I nodded at him, and took his dare, certain I could get one more match in before the bell rang. 

Both of us started to swing, side by side, little legs pumping, while the rest of the class cheered on their champion.  We swung higher and higher, the chains creaking with each pass. My opponent jumped into the air, thinking I was going to as well, he was too proud. He landed with a thud into the rocks below while I kept swinging and laughing. Pumped full of adrenaline and pixie stix, I swung higher, garnering more cheers and applause until I felt I won, and then I let go, gracefully landing in the middle of the other kids. A few rocks tumbling out of the way of my hush puppies.

There were so many kids rooting for me, that I didn't want anyone to be left out, so I turned around to bow to the fans behind me.

And then, the swing came back.


The swing seat cracked into my head, knocking me flat on my back. Kids screamed and scattered as my blood gushed from my eye. All I could see through the fog of my tears was my teacher coming toward me, and not another soul around. I could barely hear her questions of how and why through my wails and sobs. 

My dad picked me up from school and in his dad "rub some dirt on it" fashion took me for ice cream instead of stitches, so I know have a scar on my eyebrow, where the hair never grows quite right.  

What about you? What is your tale of epic humiliation?

Calvin and Hobbes...the Raccoon *sniff*

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Key To The Cure Giveaway

I'm proud to be partnering again with Cleveland Clinic and Saks Fifth Avenue to give away a pair of tickets to their 15th annual shopping event, Key To The Cure. This Cocktail Soiree and Fundraiser at the Saks in Beachwood on October 16, kicks off this weekend shopping event, during which 2% of  store sales will be donated to help fight women's cancers. 

The party, hosted by Jason Nicholas from News Channel 5, features live music, complimentary spa, salon and cosmetic services, exclusive peek at fall fashions, and food and beverage from "Taste of Cleveland" such as Trentina, Ken Stewart's, XO Prime Steak and more!  Of course, there will be outstanding raffle items including a Saks shopping spree with a personal shopper (feel free to win this one for me), airline tickets,  a designer handbag valued at $3,000, gift cards and more!

One of the event's partners, Browns Kicker, Billy Cundiff will also be there. Billy and his wife Nicole, are strong supporters in the fight against women's cancers and have a great foundation, Colleen's Dream, that raises funds to kick Ovarian Cancer. 

Tickets for Key To The Cure are $50 ($25 tax-deductible), and you receive a $25 Saks gift card, and complimentary spa treatments, Taste of Cleveland Cuisine and Cocktails.  You can purchase tickets here. Don't wait for your tickets because the price goes up to $75 on October 9th. 

Last year, almost $30,000 was raised over the course of one weekend to fight women's cancers. Let's beat that this year! 

Want to win a pair of tickets? As usual, it is super easy, so make sure you follow directions. I let the computer pick a winner, so make sure you come back and comment on this post after you complete each task, in a *different* comment. 

1. Follow @CLEkttc and @clevelandchick on Twitter.
2. Leave a comment of encouragement or support for a woman tackling cancer.
3. Tweet the following: "I want to raise $ & awareness for women's cancers w/ @clevelandclinic & @saks w/ tix to #CLEkttc from @clevelandchick"

Winner will be selected Wednesday, October 8, at 6 pm.

Remember, you can tweet once a day, so get to tweeting. But don't do it more than once a day. That will make people angry at both of us. 

Disclaimer:  Cleveland Clinic and Saks Fifth Avenue provided me with a pair of tickets to attend and a pair of tickets to give away. All words are my own and are fueled by my new obsession with coconut water. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pierogies with Earnest

Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner. Photo: Cleveland Browns.

Ahem...sorry, I'll get to that in a second. 

Twitter is a wonderful thing. It can help you stay connected, promote your business and if you are lucky - meet football legends. 

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a Twitter conversation with Browns great, Earnest Byner. Byner is one of the all time Browns greats and with teammate Kevin Mack, they were only the third set of team mates in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards. 

The conversation was about pierogies. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was with a couple of friends, meeting Earnest Byner and his wife for pierogies at Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City. 

Earnest Byner's SuperBowl ring from his time with the Redskins.
If you are of a certain age, you remember Byner, Mack, Dixon, Kosar and company and the electricity shooting through the fans that can only be brought about by winning.  This may account for why Browns fans can be a bit fanatical about Byner. 

When I knew Pierogies with Earnest was actually going to happen, I offered to ask Byner questions on behalf of the fans.  Here is a great example of how Clevelanders think of Byner: 

A Facebook question for Earnest. 
I can tell you that Byner and his wife were everything you would hope for them to be. They were friendly, patient, and all around awesome people. 

A few awesome points from our chat:
  • Byner has never been offered a Milkbone, and therefore never consumed one
  • He believes Le'Veon Bell is one of the best Running Backs playing the game today
  • Yoga is not something he practices, but understands the importance of breathing 
  • Byner is still connected to his Browns teammates, and while they may not talk everyday, when they get back together, it is like they never left
  • The connection that the fans, the players and the city had was real and it was awesome
  • Everyone at the table got a good laugh about the Browns fans being the most possessive of players
  • Ronnie Lott was one of the toughest players that Byner played against
  • One of Byner's greatest moments was when he met his idol, Marcus Allen
Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner. 
Then, as if things couldn't be more awesome, Kevin Mack dropped by. 

As the night wrapped up, as a testament to how much Browns fans think of Byner, at the end of our meal, our server at Market Garden told Byner what he means to Browns fans and there was a guy that waited I don't know how long outside the restaurant for him. 

I can't thank Earnest Byner enough for being so cool...all I can say is next time, the pierogies are on me. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Taste of the Browns Giveaway

After the win against da Bears, this giveaway is even more exciting. 

Monday, September 15th is the annual Taste of the Browns, a fundraiser for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, co-chaired by Super Joe Haden and Judge Dick "Bam Bam" Ambrose at First Energy Stadium.

Taste of the Browns is the major fundraising event for the Food Bank, last year raising more than $175,000 - which helped the Food Bank distribute over 700,000 meals to agencies in 6 counties.


This year’s event features more than 25 of the region’s finest restaurants and chefs, such as Rocco Whalen (Fahrenheit, Rosie and Rocco’s); Zack Bruell (Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard, L'Albatros Brasserie, Parallax, Table 45); Eric Williams (Momocho and El Carnicero); Jeff Jarrett (AMP 150); Sam McNulty (The Market Garden Brewery, Bar Cento, Speakeasy, Nano Brew and Bier Market); Nick Kostis (Pickwick & Frolick) and more.

Not only will there be awesome food, there will be my favorite part of any fundraiser, a silent auction featuring:
  • Joe Haden “favorite things” gift basket 
  • Autographed Brian Hoyer framed photograph
  • Autographed Johnny Manziel authentic football  
  • Autographed Barkevious Mingo authentic jersey 
  • Signed copy of the Draft Day movie script  
  • Southwest Airlines vouchers 
  • Two tickets to the Broadway performance of Wicked in New York City
General admission tickets are available for $175 ($75.00 of which is tax-deductible) or VIP tickets are available for $250 ($150 of which is tax-deductible).

All proceeds benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Access to the VIP Lounge will include exclusive tastings, access to Cleveland Browns celebrities and a personalized listing in the scrolling Thank You video played during the event. You can purchase tickets here.

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank and the Browns promote the event as a way to tackle hunger in Greater Cleveland. If you follow me, you know I have a thing for kickers, so let's say we want to kick hunger out of Greater Cleveland. No one should go hungry.

No one.

Want to win a pair of tickets? It is super easy. Since it is super easy, make sure you follow directions. I let the computer pick the winner, so make sure you comment on this post after you complete each task, in a *different* comment. 

1.  Follow @CleveFoodbank and @clevelandchick on Twitter.
2.  Like The Greater Cleveland Food Bank on Facebook.
3.  Leave a comment below after checking out the Taste of the Browns event page - what are you most looking forward to - delicious food or awesome auction items?
4.  Follow the Cleveland Food Bank on Instagram.
5.  Tweet the following: "I want to kick hunger out of CLE @CleveFoodbank's #TasteofTheBrowns from @clevelandchick"

Winner will be selected Monday, September 8, at 6 pm.

Remember, you can tweet once a day, so get to tweeting. But don't do it more than once a day. That will make people angry at both of us.

Disclaimer:  I was offered a pair of General Admission tickets to use and a pair to give away to one of you lucky fans. Words are my own and are currently fueled by the adrenaline zooming through my body after my brakes went out on the interstate. Whew.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Autism Speaks Chef Gala Giveaway WINNER

And the winner of the Autism Speaks Chef Gala tickets is mangovino!

She has been notified. 

Thank you all for participating!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Autism Speaks 2014 Chef Gala Giveaway

Cleveland is an amazing city. 

We have fantastic people, beautiful museums, stunning lake views and of course, deliciously amazing food. 

The Cleveland Chef Gala, hosted by Cleveland's own, Iron Chef Michael Symon, is presented by Autism Speaks, the leading autism science and advocacy organization. The event features Cleveland's finest chefs, all sharing their signature dishes to raise fund and awareness for individuals and families affected by autism.  Chef Symon will bring his Food Network and Chew friend, Mario Batali, for an interactive dinner preparation. 

The Chef Gala is Saturday, August 9th at the fantastic Cleveland Museum of Art. Great food, beautiful art, what more can you ask for? 

One of my favorite parts of the event (after the food of course) is the silent auction and live auction. This year, you can bid on the chance to sit on stage with the Iron Chefs! Very cool.

There are all sorts of sponsorship opportunities available and you can find out everything you want to know about the event as well as purchase tickets here.  I strongly encourage you to support Autism Speaks and this event. 

Participating Chefs:

Michael Symon and Mario Batali 
Tim Bando - Grove Hill 
Jonathan Bennett - Moxie, Red 
Derek Clayton – Michael Symon Resturants 
Britt-Marie Horrocks Culey - Coquette Patisserie 
Brian Doyle - Sow Food &; Beachland Ballroom 
Brandt Evans - Pura Vida, Blue Canyon 
Anna Harouvis - Anna in the Raw 
Chris Hodgson - Hodge's, Cibreo, Driftwood Catering, Bin 216 
Jeff Jarrett – AMP 150 
Douglas Katz - fire, The Katz Club Diner, Provenance 
Tim Monsman – Market District 
Matt Mytro – flour 
Fabio Salerno – Lago & Gusto 
Jonathon Sawyer - Greenhouse Tavern, NoodleCat, & Trentina 
John Selick – University Hospitals – Ahuja Medical Center 
Karen Small – Flying Fig 
Dion Tsevdos – Cheese Shop, Urban Herbs & Classic Seafood 
Jill Vedaa - Rockefeller's 
Rocco Whalen - Fahrenheit, Rosie & Rocco’s Tacos 
Eric Williams – Momocho, El Carnicero

Now my friends, is the part that you have been waiting for.    The awesome people at Autism Speaks have given me a pair of tasting tickets, a $200 value each, to give away! There are a couple of ways to enter to win, so make sure you leave a separate comment for each method of entry. I let a computer pick the winner, so if you don't comment, you lose an entry. 

1. Leave a comment telling me who your favorite Cleveland chef is. 

2. Tweet the following: "I want to go to the @AutismNEO 2014 Chef Gala on 8/9!   #ASCleChefGala @clevelandchick"
3. Follow@AutismNEO on the Twitter. 
4. Follow @clevelandchick on the Twitter.

You have until Tuesday, August 5 at 7 pm to enter.  Start tweeting!

Disclosure: The awesome peeps at Autism Speaks asked me if I would like to giveaway a pair of tickets to you awesome peeps. Of course I do. They also offered a pair of tickets for my personal use, that sadly, I will not be able to use. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tyler, TX is Browns Territory - Interview

Billboard outside of Tyler, Texas. Posted by @mcdaniel_sm on twitter. Please credit appropriately.  
Every season since the Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999 has floated in a murky lake of bitter, angry tears and from a fan base desperate to win.

Always, always waiting for next year. 

Waiting and waiting and waiting. 

Every year we tell ourselves that next year will be different. 

Finally, our promise to ourselves is on the verge of coming true. 

There has not been a 22nd pick in the NFL draft that has been the center of more buzz and hype than Johnny Manziel. The Heisman Trophy winner is full of swagger and confidence in his money play making ability. Exactly what you want in an NFL player. 

Look around Cleveland and you will see and hear football fans of all ages in Manziel gear and talking about Johnny Football. When it was announced Manziel and Justin Gilbert were hopping a plane and coming to Cleveland after the draft, a contingent of fans showed up in Berea, hoping to catch a glimpse of the rookies. One of those fans was my dad. My dad was peeking through the fence with the other fans, trying to see the new potential face of the franchise. 

As Cleveland fans, we love our Browns. We aren't a team that has a bandwagon rolling through town.  There hasn't been a reason for fans outside of Cleveland to even take notice of the team for anything positive. The last time anyone outside of Cleveland cared about a Browns player was Brady Quinn. When I lived in Indianapolis, a few Quinn jerseys were for sale in the mall because of his Notre Dame days. That was it.

Things have changed now.

Journalists and sports talk hosts and bloggers all over the country are now wanting to talk Browns football. They are talking about Cleveland by name. 

Today, in Manziel's home town of Tyler, Texas, a billboard went up, declaring Tyler as Browns Territory, deep in the heart of Texas (clap, clap).

How did that happen?

For the past few years, the Rose Capital Little League association has held a baseball tournament that also raises money to help a sick child. Previous years, it helped a child with cancer. This year, the proceeds from a silent auction at the event went to the Make a Wish Foundation. Awesome idea. One of the silent auction items was for a billboard. That day, 8 friends went in together to win the billboard, with the idea of using it to recognize Johnny Manziel.

Tyler is a town that has followed Manziel's record-breaking athletic career through high school and Texas A&M. Remember how Northeast Ohio followed a certain person's basketball games through his career at St.V/St.M? Imagine that certain person then went to the University of Akron (and Akron was twice the size) and continued breaking records. Now multiply that level of fandom by 2 or 3. Now, friends, you are seeing Texas football and the connection Texas has to Johnny Manziel.

I spoke with Jaime McDaniel, one of 8 people that won the billboard in the silent auction because I had to find out what pieces fell into place to result in that billboard beauty on the side of the highway.

Mr. McDaniel grew up with Johnny's parents and knows Johnny personally. We talked about how the entire town (I'm going to guess most of Texas, as well) couldn't believe that the Cowboys passed up on Johnny Football (I couldn't believe it either). Jerry Jones' loss is now our gain, because Cowboys fans are ditching the center field star for a spot in the Dawg Pound.

For example, Academy Sports, a sporting goods store that is comparable to Dick's Sporting Goods, now carries Browns merchandise, specifically #2 jerseys, and not just in Tyler. Word has it, stores over 3 hours away in Houston, even have Manziel merchandise. Mr. McDaniel's son already has his Browns hat and is ready to cheer for the Browns on Sundays.


Chatting on the phone with someone that knows Johnny, I couldn't hang up and pass up my chance to ask if JFF's Gronk partying and inflatable swan champagne swilling will be a problem. Mr. McDaniel pointed out that on game day, Johnny has always shown up and given it his all. Johnny is going to be prepared and has worked out probably harder than any other rookie.

Manziel has a connection to a young cancer survivor that will make you question his public "party boy" image.

I know that Browns fans are concerned about Johnny's off the field antics.  I say wait and see. We haven't played a game yet. He just signed his contract. Understand me clearly, if he fails to perform on the field because of shenanigans off the field, we will have a problem. But it you think he is the only professional athlete that is cutting loose during his downtime, you are a naive little bunny.

If it weren't for social media and camera phones, would anyone have even know that Johnny was in Vegas? Or would we have known about the swan? If it wasn't for Johnny Football, would we have even known Gronk was in Vegas? Would we have cared?

Joe Namath is a walking blue print for the cocky player that wants to be larger than life and full of swagger. If the world was constantly tweeted and instagramed when he played the way it is now, do you think he would have ever gotten off team probation?

*This* buttercup is going to buckle up and enjoy the ride of Johnny Cleveland mania. It is a different feeling to be this excited about the season and I like it.

While wrapping up our phone call, I asked Mr. McDaniel if he would be coming to Cleveland for a game. He told me they haven't bought tickets yet, but they "would love to come to a game."

Sir, we would love to have you and your family in town. I'm sure you won't have any problem making friends.

Note: I would like to thank the McDaniel family for chatting with me on twitter and over the phone. I appreciated being able to bug them and talk football on a Friday night. They were incredibly sweet and gracious.  I have included a portion of our conversation here, edited for clarity and space.