Thursday, September 30, 2004

2000 to present -- The lean years

NOTE: Day Runner entries fall off precipitously in 2000 and beyond. First of all, I got a Palm pilot and moved lots of crucial information there, so it was easy to do without the Day Runner at work. Second, fat philosophy books forced the Day Runner out of my double-wide Lands End bag. This is the last post on News Desk history as contained in specific Jon Fobes Day Runners ... but there's always a chance Bill, Tim, Mary Jo or someone else will find a cache of info for this site.

February 3, 2000: Joe Hanak makes it clear: "I like Donald Duck as much as the next guy -- Well, I do!"

March 23, 2000: Lisa Higgs -- who has two sons of her own -- is heard to exclaim, "I hate people who have kids1" This referred to an annoying situation in line at a grocery store.

April 10, 2000: Tiffany Alexander tells us two of her grandfather’s favorite curses: "Oh, foot!" and referring to someone as "A John Brown sapsucker." What a mouth!

April 19, 2000: Dave Clary, who took over the Lake zone and Mary Jo’s chair next to me, gets a new nickname: "Sweet Dave." It goes to his head, as you'll see.

April 25, 2000: I didn’t record all the details, but rumor had it that Jeff Greene, in his position as night photo editor, scolded Brynne and made her cry. For this Allison dubbed him, “Rectal Crevice Greene.”

May 31, 2000: Allison Carey says, “I am highly underrated.”

May 19, 2000: Bill reveals a shocking personal secret: He never fished from a boat! This is surprising since his family operated a marina, and Bill became a base-12 expert counting worms.

June 1, 2000: Allison coins a new term, morphing F-Bomb into the colorful “Fligger Bomb,” making someone who says “fuck” into a Fligger Bomber.

June 12, 2000: Allison muses on the failure of her recent dieting efforts: “I’ve been bad since Halloween.” (Let’s see, that’s only 8 months of back-sliding.)

June 13, 2000: What an awful admission: Brynne says she hates “Baby Theo” on “NYPD Blue.” After this she was often referred to as “Cold Mother Brynne.”

June 21, 2000: Lisa and the rest of the News Desk take note of the first time Bill refers to his stepdaughters as “my kids.” This especially delights Lisa because for years Bill had been giving Lisa childless parenting advice. This may turn the tables.

August 10, 2000: Lisa shows her disdain for enthusiasm by proclaiming, “I am suspicious of anyone who shows interest in anything!”

September 7, 2000: Allison -- obviously a great coiner of words -- changes the “enlarge” to “big-em-up” in regards photo sizes.

September 21, 2000: Allison tells me, “You, sir, are a hairless Kiwi.” How’d she know?

January 8, 2001: Dave states his journalism credo: “I must bring the truth out to the people!” Oh, boy!

January 9, 2001: In response to some complaints about Mr. Harris, “Sweet Dave” replies: “We are lucky to be working on such fine equipment.” Oh, boy!

January 11, 2001: Bill tells someone -- perhaps it was Lisa -- “There’s no reason keeping you around if you know all my secrets.”

January 18, 2001: I was charged with the proud duty of giving “toe gleanage” on Allison. Can’t recall why.

January 18, 2001: In a shocking change of attitude, Lisa chuckles at one of Tim’s fake fart noises.

January 21, 2001: Move to the new building. Click here for a look at move-in pictures.

January 29, 2001: Lisa disavows the chuckle of the 18th. Trying to restore her curmudgeon image.

May 6, 2001: Truth comes out: Lisa admits that on this date she was teaching her sons how to make fake fart noises!

July 23, 2001: Lunch with Tom O’Hara and others involved in the first Senior Standout section. Unfortunately, Blue Point has the smallest sandwiches I have ever seen. My yellow fin tuna sandwich was about the size of a dinner roll. Other than that, we had a lovely afternoon.

August 14, 2000: Lisa once again disavows the fart chuckle but fails to address the fart-lesson issue. I think she’s a fart schizophrenic or perhaps that’s “fartzophrenic.”

September 14, 2001: Bill leaves for hip-replacement surgery. Scheduled to be gone about 6 months.

September 22, 2001: Joe is famous for going into a store and falling into a product-examining trance for hours. For example, most people go to Blockbuster so they can spend the evening watching a movie; Joe goes to Blockbuster to spend the evening READING about movies. But on this date he was in and out of Best Buy in 8 minutes! Holy shorts!

NOTE: It was around this time Margie and I put together The Plain Dealer Intern Web site. Here's a link to an early copy of that site, which features a lot of candid pictures of your coworkers. An updated copy of this site also resides on PD server, and Margie is now in charge of it.

November 26, 2001: Dave, working on A1, tells Jim Fabris, “Jim, you’re making my head hurt.”

April 29, 2002: Tim proclaims: “I would just like to say I am a big, fat, fucking idiot.”

June 4, 2002: Jon praises Lisa for her fine dental hygiene. “You must have tight sockets.”

June 5, 2002: Tim advises, “Don’t get your bowels in a snit.”

June 23, 2002: I get a record 2-hour-and-10-minute phone call from Joe. This was at home, not at work. Jeff Greene refers to Joe and me as “old ladies” because of our long phone conversations, but he doesn’t have an ex-wife to complain about, and Joe and I EACH have ex-wives to complain about!

July 17, 2002: Here’s a shock: Lisa said she was happy, and then opined, “Into every life some ozone must fall.” She must have been paginating the weather page that night.

September 15, 2002: John Coyne marvels at my Day Runner record-keeping. I tell him it used to be lots better.

Late 2003: Scott Stephens approaches me about making a Guild Web site, and on March 20, 2004 — 60 years after The Northeast Ohio Chapter of The Newspaper Guild was chartered -- the Guild site went on-line.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
While it might be possible to get "Too much Allison" on a Web site (though I tend to disagree), it's almost impossible to get "too much Allison" in a picture.

The Great Debate

Since tomorrow night is the first presidential debate of 2004, it seems like the right time to revisit a News Desk version of The Great Debate. If you read Jeff McVann’s report from Chicago, you’ll notice he cryptically referred to himself as “head minister of the church of Right and Wrong.”

That introduces an unexplored facet of News Desk history. Amazingly enough, there are no Day Runner entries about the marathon debates Jeff and I had, conversations that drove our coworkers crazy, but I think I can give a good account from memory.

Jeff believed he knew the absolute truth about a variety of topics, for example, that the Chief Wahoo logo is absolutely not racist. Jeff believed he knew this as a matter of fact because he had done his “critical thinking” on the subject. I saw it as a matter of opinion and suspected a lack of critical thinking. So round and round we went.

I think it is interesting that no matter what specific idea or observation served as the starting point, these marathon discussions always came back to an exploration of the difference between fact and opinion, not a bad topic for a couple of journalists. Jeff always asserted he was giving me the facts while I always believed he was oversold on his own opinions, that he was committing the offense of which he so often accused others: promoting wishful thinking in the guise of critical thought, emotional thinking in the guise of rational thought.

So, Jeff was always black and white, and I was always shades of gray. Jeff became “head minister of the church of Right and Wrong,” and I was dubbed, “the high priest of Uncertainty.”

Of course, the idea of what counts as “knowledge,” and how we know when we have “the truth” has haunted philosophy forever, so Jeff and I were simply re-enacting a proud tradition of debates that started long before the pre-Socratic philosophers walked the planet. And let's not forget the ancient Zen proverb: “Great doubt: great awakening. Little doubt: little awakening. No doubt: no awakening.”

There’s a wonderful book recently written on the topic called, “Doubt, a History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson” by Jennifer Michael Hecht. And here’s a book review on it that was too long to run in The Plain Dealer.

Of course, because some people have faith in faith (they seem born to believe) as much as others have faith in doubt (they seem born to wonder), such Great Debates will continue long after me, Jeff and The Plain Dealer building crumble to dust.

Wait, that building already crumbled to dust!

PS. Interested in what philosophy has to say about the difference between fact and opinion? See the Rumors of Order Forum. A Life in the Day is just getting started. And there's always Rumors of Order if you have lots of time to kill.


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
I don't want to start trouble between two old friends, but before the news meeting today, Jeff Greene told me he had only one reservation in regards the Nightsider blog:

"Too much Allison!"

Go get him, Willy Wilson!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Jeff McVann reports from Chicago

Reading the blog was a hoot. What a "piece of fuck" it was! And I STILL don't recall ever saying I was the "best paginator." I guess I'll just have to live with my reputation. I still have the birthday of the Medina zone in my Day-Runner. I think it was just a couple weeks ago. (I don't have the D-R with me at this moment.)

So here's some news: After 4 years here (one year spent in Second City's writing program, two more in the "Short Bus Scholars" sketch comedy group and the remaining year questioning my sanity for ever coming here in the first place), I've finally been cast and will be making my Chicago stage debut in November.

The Excaliber [sic] Shakespeare Company proudly presents "The Man Who Came To Dinner" by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. I've been cast as Banjo, who was based on Harpo Marx. Pretty cool, eh? I get to be Harpo!

Trivia aside: Kaufman wrote the first two Marx Brothers movies, and the play revolves around the character Sheridan Whiteside, who in real life was Alexander Woolcott, world-renowned columnist for the New York Sun [?] and who wrote one of the first reviews of the Marx Brothers Broadway shows. Both men thus very instrumental in the success of said Marx Brothers.

This promises to be great fun. My part is large and funny and very challenging. I'm looking forward to my Jeff Award nomination. (Yes, the Jeff's are a real thing here in Chicago, and as a Jeff, I really really want a Jeff.)

So take a moment and fill me in on some of the goings-on with the old gang. I truly do miss the camaraderie. I don't miss the job a bit! But the people....pardon me....I'm going to cry.....

OH! As head minister of the Church of Right and Wrong, I recommend you glance at the web page and read some of the commentaries (the only good stuff on the page). There's a new one every Friday and they often make me grin and scratch my head at the same time. People think funny things, you know.


Originally uploaded by blsbls.
1. Take one whole Hostess Snowball.

2. Add one Atomic Fireball.

3. Season with one Lemonhead.

4. Mix well.

Variation: If Little Debbie Pumpkinheads are in season, substitute for Snowball.

From "The Joe of Cooking," Revised Edition.

Clarification: Bo "Oil" W. Derek

Just heard back from Larry the Legend with a clarification: His exact nickname for that cute movie star was "Bo Oil W. Derek," with the "W" standing for "Well," of course. And I quote from The Legend himself, "Still makes me LOL."

For those of you who don't know, Larry is a photography professor at Ohio Univeristy. Keep your eyes on the site because Bill Lammers has many interesting photos (some of The Legend, of course), and I think he'll be posting some of them soon.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Odds for the Mystery Blogger

Copy of memo circulating in PD newsroom 9-27-04 giving odds about the identity of The Plain Dealer Mystery Blogger.

Jim Darr: 7-4
Jon Fobes: 4-1
Pete Zicari: 5-1
Felipe Nieves: 9-1
Copy desk (all others): 10-1
Andrea Simakis-John Mangels: 12-1
Second floor, downtown: 12-1
Mark Gillespie: 20-1
Sharon Yemich: 20-1
Chris Seper 20-1
Jesse Tinsley: 25-1
Chris Evans: 25-1
John Kroll: 25-1
Everyone else (reporters): 25-1
Jeff Darcy: 30-1
Frank Bentanyou: 30-1
Joan Mazzolini: 30-1
John Spetz: 30-1
Steve Talbott: 40-1
Ron Rutti: 40-1
Harlan Spector: 40-1
Janet Okoben: 40-1
Tom Quinn: 50-1
City Desk: 50-1
The Guild: 60-1
The Bureaus: 80-1
Sam Fulwood: 90-1
Hank Glamann: 100-1
Ed Kissell: 2,500-1 (moderately deceased)

H.L. Mencken: 10,000-1 (rather deceased)
Horace Greeley: 100,000-1 (very deceased)


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Who went to see "Saving Private Ryan" in Westlake? Major hints:

1. They had to drive east to get to the theater.

2. One of them consumed a huge bag of Skittles during the movie and got a little out of control.


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
It wasn't easy finding someone to fill Dave Clary's shoes.

Thank goodness for Kim Moy.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

1999 — The year of Allison

March 22, 1999: The ever-trendy Allison remarks: “I’ve never been to a Wal-Mart. Can’t bring myself to go inside.”

March 31, 1999: Jeff Greene named News Desk “Impostle.”

June 20, 1999: Jeff Greene invites me to his lakeside mansion for dinner to celebrate his recovery from his Skittles addiction.

July 23, 1999: Allison makes the now-famous observation, “I crack me up!”

August 2, 1999: Dave Clary croons, “My name is Lisa; I live on the ocean floor.”

September 14, 1999: Filling in for Jeff, Larry The Legend loses his cool and drops a series of F-bombs.

F-BOMBS: When someone said “fuck,” Allison would say, “Oh, he dropped an F-bomb.” And it caught on. Still quite popular around the News Desk.

GLOW: Another one of Allison’s terms was “Glow.” If you were feeling a bit down, for instance, and needed to brighten your mood, you might go shopping or order something on the Web. This has come to be known as “getting glow.”

November 2, 1999: Allison announces, “I’m a glow whore.”

November 23, 1999: Allison coins the term “wax helmet” to describe some news anchor’s hairdo.

December 9, 1999: Allison, who is about to leave, calls Don and tells him to keep little Charlie awake until she gets home. “Don’t fall him asleep,” she yells into the phone. I didn't know Allison was Amish.


Start from the bottom and work up, year-by-year; otherwise, everything is backwards!

Don't torture yourself. It's confusing enough anyway.

Look at the pictures in any order you desire. Then scroll down to 1991. No excuses. Do it right. You'll be glad you did. (Photos generally illustrate something mentioned in dated entries.)

NOTE: You can navigate by clicking the "Previous Posts" menu at right, but that doesn't give you the full line-up, so scrolling to the bottom is best.* You can always come back to the full Monty by clicking HOME. And, of course, you're welcome to leave comments. Except for this entry, copy-oriented posts have caps-and-lower-case headlines while photo posts have all-caps headlines.

*(If you click on the bottom item of the "Previous Posts" section, you'll get a new menu of earlier postings, so that's not a bad way to navigate your way to the bottom.)

WARNING: And don't forget the description of this blog: "A dreary decade of New Desk nonsense, boring to many but fun for a few." Chances are, unless you were around, a lot of this stuff is going to be just plain dull.

HELP: If anyone knows how to edit comments, let me know. I made a typo I'd like to fix.

E-mail to Doug, Tom, etc.

It occurs to me that it might be polite and professional to inform upper-level Plain Dealer management that there is currently a News Desk/Nightside blog active on the Web. It was created by me last Wednesday and is taking off pretty fast. “How I became a blogger” gives a few more details.

It’s nothing to worry about, quite different in tone and content from the annoying Mystery Blog that surfaced last week — and from an entirely different source. I have given a few other people the right to post directly to the site, so not all entries are mine. If the blog should get out of hand, I will simply take it off-line.

If anyone has any objections to this blog, I would be glad to discuss it. Thanks.

Jon Fobes


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Larry the Legend never got tired of laughing about the nickname he gave this movie star.

In fact, as far as nicknames go, he gave it a "10."

Read more about "The Legend" below.

Random News Desk notes from the 1990s

It occurs to me that some important events were left out of the Day Runner in the early 1990s. For example:


It’s amazing that Larry Lambert’s name doesn’t appear all over these listings. Larry was our night photo editor for years ... before the reign of King Jeffro von Greene.

I suppose Larry’s not listed because he was too busy doing a fantastic job to spout a lot of nonsense. Larry was both personable and professional; he never goofed up; almost never lost his cool; was always organized. And that's why he's “The Legend.”

There was one crack in Larry’s near-spotless armor, a joke he concocted himself by giving Bo Derek the middle name of “Oil.” So whenever she came on TV or her picture moved on the wires, Larry would yell, “Hey, it’s Bo 'Oil' Derek,” and go into total hysterics … or hys-Dereks, if you will.

Larry, you’ll always be “The Legend.” And Bo will always be "Oil" Derek to me. And just for the record, Larry gave me the nickname "Juano Guano."


At one point a troubled young man in Lorain County killed his father because he thought he was Jesus and his father was Satan; he stabbed his doctor dad to death as he was taking a nap on the family couch.

About the same time, a man in Lake County stabbed his mother in the head with a butcher knife because he thought he was Jesus and she was Satan. She was luckier than the Lorain County doctor: she lived. Both Jesuses eventually were institutionalized.

Since I did the Lorain County zone and Mary Jo did the Lake zone, we got the idea that every county should have its very own “County Jesus” to provide The Plain Dealer with interesting copy, which would result in circulation spikes across the board.

So we thought we’d start a campaign to get some individuals elected and came up with a theme, sung to the tune of "Do Not Forsake me, Oh, My Darling":

“I want to be your County Jesus;
won’t you please, please vote for me?
And if I become your County Jesus ...
all your Pepsis will be free.

They will be freeeeeeeeeeee.”

When it comes to team stupidity, Mary Jo and I are without parallel.


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
As Bill Lammers watches Katerina Witt writhe on the ice, he wonders how far some skaters will go to win points with the judges.

1998 — The year in full

February 3, 1998: Lisa announces to the News Desk, “I do not have a hairy back!” This is probably in reference to Jeff Greene who does — and is proud of it.

February 5, 1998: There’s some skating show on the News Desk TVs, and as Bill watches Katerina Witt writhe on the ice he exclaims, “Pretty soon these skaters will be doing lap dances!”

February 10, 1998: Lisa said, “I’m excited!” I think she was recalling Katerina's sexy skating routine.

February 17, 1998: Lisa reaffirms to the News Desk, “I do not have a hairy back!” Now I am starting to wonder.

March 3, 1998: In a discussion on television programs the hairy-backed Jeff Greene proclaims, “I loved the Dukes.”

March 13, 1998: In a discussion about hobbies, Allison Carey comes to a realization: “I know what my hobby is — anxiety!”

March 16, 1998: PD runs obit of Aldo Del Torto, man of mystery.

March 17, 1998: Lisa relates a sad piece of personal history. While some people were in 4-H, she only made it to 3-H.

March 18, 1998: There’s been a surprise and secret wedding on the News Desk, which we find out about when the paging system blares: “Mary Jo McVann call 4800 … Mary Jo McVann!”

March 20, 1998: It was the occasion of the first News Desk croon-off. It was pretty ba-ba-ba bad.

March 26, 1998: After polishing off a variety of snacks, treats and goodies, Allison muses, “OK, now what do we eat?”

April 6, 1998: In a shopping coup, Allison buys a $50 Monkey bag for only $19. Her good spirits are dampened, however, because while on a business trip husband Don leaves his ticket on the plane.

April 13, 1998: Allison announces she’s stressed out. Like we couldn’t tell. (After all, anxiety is her hobby!) Thank God she doesn's suffer — Like Dale — from tension-induced flatulence.

April 30, 1998: Mary Jo opines that an equine king could rightly be addressed as, “Your royal harness.”

May 6, 1998: When asked to explain her behavior, Allison says, “It’s just a little angst.”

May 7, 1998: Allison says, “It’s a bitch being me.”

May 8, 1998. Mary Jo’s last day at The Plain Dealer. Shit.

May 11, 1998: Depressed over Mary Jo’s departure, Dale tries a snack to brighten his mood and is blessed with a miracle cookie cure.

May 31, 1998: Dale leaves a portion of his Mardi Gras carryout uneaten, which of course prompts questions. “I wasn’t that hungry,” Dale tells an incredulous News Desk.

June 12, 1998: In reference to a comment from Mr. Hanak, Kathie is heard to say, “Marriage advice from Joe — think about it!”

June 18, 1998: Joe brings pizza to work and shares with all. What a grand fellow. Probably trying to make up for that feeble marriage advice from the week before.

July 1, 1998: Roy cooperated with Dave Sartin on getting a story in the paper.

July 14, 1998: The greatest bell-ringing blunder ever — and one can hardly imagine a worse incident — when a somewhat inattentive John Spetz leaps up and mistakenly rings the bell for a Yankee home run during a televised Tribe game. Dave Clary thought it was totally appropriate, of course, being the dirty Yankee-lover that he is.

July 15, 1998: Cindy, subbing on the photo desk for the angst-ridden Allison, performs the first-ever cartwheel in the newsroom.

July 26, 1998: Went to the Promenade in Westlake to see “Saving Private Ryan” with Jeff Greene. He was high on Skittles and kept putting his hand on my knee. Then he asked me to comb his back.

August 1, 1998: Joe has his famous summer blowout party entitled “JoeFest.” I attend and consume 1 beer. What a party animal.

August 11, 1998: Jeff Greene and I stop to see Allison and the newly born Charlie Carey.

October 16, 1998: Mary Jo comes back for a visit.

November 21, 1998: Chuck Melvin — husband of Joy Melvin — reveals some of the secrets of home recording.

December 10, 1998: Bill Lammers opines, “I’ve worked a lot of places where hard work goes unrewarded, but this is the first place I’ve worked that it’s been officially discouraged in writing.”

For extra credit

Name the word that Bob Dylan rhymes with "Ashtabula" in "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go."

A note about poetry night

Way back in the '90s, somebody somewhere declared that it was National Poetry Week. On the way to work, Jon, Scott and I all heard the American poet laureate on "Talk of the Nation" with Ray Suarez. The poet laureate said that Americans should make poetry a part of their daily lives. Scott, I believe, said that we should have a News Desk Poetry Night, and I suggested that we each pick a story from the headlist that night and write the story as if it were a poem.

I did this, I think, because I remembered that a songwriter that I really like -- I think it was Dave Alvin -- wrote songs based on newspaper clippings he would collect while on the road. I chose a 3-inch story on new bus lines being announced in Lorain County, and then a day later chose an obituary. Scott, as you can see, picked the lead story of the day, the Unabomber being caught, as well as the daily stocks story. I seem to recall poems by Jon and Jeff McVann, but somehow they have been purged from my archives.

I still think this is a valid exercise to keep our newspapering skills alive. After all, what is a poem but a rock song? The most poetic songs are the most simple ones, like Chuck Berry's 3-minute ditties. And what is a headline but a poem? Anyone who can write a 3-k2-60 headline can write a Chuck Berry song. In fact, while working on the wire desk one day early in my PD tenure, I seem to recall writing this headline for a story on the first rock concert in the Soviet Union after Gorbachev had loosened things up a bit: "Tell Tchaikovsky the news." Not only is poetry a part of our daily lives, but Chuck Berry is, too.


For those of you who don't read the fine print — or every Day Runner entry in the year-by-year News Desk history — the poems Bill is posting are from a series of News Desk Poetry Slams. We'd come up with poems from the news of the day (obits and all!) and read them to each other at the end of the shift.

It didn't matter if the poems were bad or good. In fact, sometimes, the worse the poem the better the fun.

Horace Young, 80, furniture maker

Horace Young had a touch
For refinishing the family hutch
He could strip, and he could sand
He was the best in all the land

But when he tried to use this skill
In a job he sought to fill
They said, "Leave now, and don't come back"
They said this because he was black

He'd had as much as he could take
Mr. Holzheimer gave him a break
This white woodworker had a plan
Horace would be his touch-up man

This lowly job would be the start
Of an empire right in the heart
Of a neighborhood now at risk
At St. Clair and East 106th

Horace's pride would not diminish
There was no chair he couldn't refinish
He lead all furniture makers
His plant reached 60,000 acres

Horace was a prince among men
But last week his reign had to end
His path was wide, his passion deep
At 80, Horace died in his sleep


Originally uploaded by blsbls.
If you see this man try to enter the building, you are instructed to deny him entry.

If he resists your attempts to subdue him, you are hereby authorized to use all deliberate force as described in the company's Rules of Engagement.


Otis T. Spelunker
Chief of Security
Extension 4444

Untitled haiku

Unabomber caught
And his brother is the fink
The sun gently sets

(By Scott Sheldon)


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Joel has been at The Plain Dealer even longer than I have. No wonder he's so jolly!

Got dem ol' bus-ridin' blues again, mama!

If you ever get a notion
To set yourself in rapid motion
For transportation you can trust
Take a Lorain County Transit bus

They're the finest buses you can take
From Henrietta to Avon Lake
There won't be time for standing still
On the bus to North Ridgeville

If your daughter has diphtheria
Take No. 3 straight to Elyria
If it's any other kind of pain
The No. 7 goes to Lorain

If you need to cut your hair
No. 6 to Oberlin's Tappan Square
But maybe take No. 14 first
For a manicure in Amherst

If you're English you'll get a greetin'
When the No. 4 takes you to North Eaton
But this bus will not take foreigners
Straight to Columbia Hills Corners

Just this week we have arranged
For a direct new route to LaGrange
And a brand new bus will see action
In Wellington and in Grafton

But if you are looking for big fun
In Rochester or in Huntington
You're out of luck; it is not fair
There are no buses that travel there

(By Bill Lammers)

Saturday, September 25, 2004


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Award-winning Plain Dealer photographer Gus Chan, often confused with Dale Omori, but he's not a big "Alf" fan, and I never saw him eat Mardi Gras carryout.

Of course, they both carry cameras.

Where Have You Gone, Alan Greenspan

There was panic in the air
When she saw the news
The dow fell 88.51
To close at 5,594.37 after having been down as much as 140 points during the day

As she turned the page
She would quickly learn
Bonds rose to 6.87 percent,
Up from Friday's close of 6.82 percent and well above the 6.67 percent rate on Thursday

(I believe this was written by Scott Sheldon)


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Anyone who puts a VOTE sticker on his forehead at work should certainly own a computer and have internet access, especially when he's down with back problems.

I am not sure how the two relate, but it just seems like the right thing to say.

So do the right thing Joe.

The molding of Joe

While JoeJoe Potato is mulling, for the sixth year, whether to get a computer he is also noticing a not-so-subtle trend at manipulation.
First, of course, was the effort to get him to see a doctor rather than the vet for his back problems. We have achieved success there, at the expense of his back. Now he fears every phone call will be to inquire about when the new computer will arrive.

"Actually, the first thing we tried to get Joe to do was get cable," reports Bill Lammers. Gratefully, he bypassed that and went straight to satellite.
You can teach an old Joe a new trick.

Once heard from the city desk

"I like the Koscho story of Lorain for B3, but I don't know what it's about"

"Water is our best story, but don't make it the lead."

"OK, we need one story for Medina. Let's use Pike out of Lorain, even though it isn't even close to the Turnpike."

"Summit doesn't have a lead story tonight, so just fake it."

"Oblander always writes 14 inches, even if there's nothing to say."

"Let's use Dems on B1 because there are Dems everywhere."

"Let's use health out of Lorain. It's supposed to be pretty good, although I haven't read it."

"Try to get this obit in Friday. If not, hold."

OK, all these were said by the same person, who shall remain nameless, but not blameless.


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Award-winning Plain Dealer photographer and the newspaper's biggest "Alf" fan, Mr. Dale Omori ... not to be confused with Gus Chan, though he often is. "And that's MR. CHAN to you!" Dale is also known to have consumed more carry-out food from the Mardi Gras than any other living employee.

Joe Hanak getting a computer?

I just got off the phone with Joe, and I can hardly believe I am saying this, but I think he's finally going to order a computer. He's only been doing research on computers for about 6 years. There are two reasons for his change of heart.

1. Getting on-line would be something to do as he deals with his back problems.

2. Now he has this cool blog to read.

Do it, Joe!


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Rosie stands by the deconstruction site of the old building where the annoying CSI computer system, upper left hand corner of photo, is about to crash for the last time.

No wonder she looks so happy.

1997 — The year in full

January 1, 1997: Hard-working Tim Graham declines to leave early on the holiday.

January 2, 1997: Plain Dealer paychecks not available. Produces convulsions in some employees that look like “a full body dry heave set to music.”

January 6, 1997: New Desk whistlers, The Twittering Twits, begin rehearsals of “Blahalleluiah Chorus.”

January 10, 1997: Lisa is in search of a talking Woody.

January 13, 1997: News desk suffers from dreaded “stew-bloat.” Dale is so stricken that he means to call “copy” but yells “cow” instead.

January 14, 1997: Crab Wagon! Mary Jo coins a phrase when she announces, “It’s going to be a long week because I’ve been on the crab wagon since Sunday night!”

January 16, 1997: Still on the crab wagon.

January 20, 1997: Allison works a full shift, though there is extreme stress and much gnashing of teeth. Also, Bill declares this night to be his most boring night ever at The Plain Dealer.

January 27, 1997: Mary Jo still on the crab wagon.

January 28, 1997: I am so bored I fall out of my chair.

January 30, 1997: Lisa goes back on the copy desk for a while. Or was it just one night?

January 31, 1997: Fire at The Plain Dealer. Massive evacuation. Eight trucks, four hoses and lots of cold workers. Can’t recall how the fire started, but it might have something to do with Lisa going back to the copy desk.

February 7, 1997: I got eight stories on my Lorain Metro cover. Rumors are that I will be heading back to the copy desk, too. (Just kidding. I am sure it was a museum-quality layout.)

February 13, 1997: Brynne and I meet at Borders and then go to see “Shine.”

February 21, 1997: It is 85 degrees in the newsroom. John Spetz wears shorts. Not sure which makes me more uncomfortable, the heat or the legs.

February 25, 1997: Jeff McVann has his first-ever PD pudding.

February 26, 1997: At 10:00 p.m. Jeff cries out, “Where the fuck is my ‘Barney’s’ review?”

March 5, 1997: Mary Lee Kopen — in a spontaneous moment —throws a paper wad.

March 19, 1997: Roy offered to help somebody with something. Don’t look for a repeat of this entry.

March 26, 1997: Jon and Bill go on a field trip to Checkers pen store. And, yes, we did buy pens! Can’t recall what Bill bought, but I got an Omas Ogiva rollerball, retail price $175, but I paid only $119.

March 27, 1997: I am voted News Desk cult leader. Whatever happened to that cult?

April 1, 1997: Lisa smiled at 9:16 p.m. Rumor has it she smiles a lot. Bob would not comment. Feels that any reply will get him into trouble.

April 2, 1997: Entry reads, “Allison leaves early. Says she wants to spare us from her whining.” What a kind soul.

April 3, 1997: Allison leaves early to get dog food. This is dubbed by the News Desk as her lamest-ever “I have to leave early” excuse. During this period she often had to leave early so she could cook pork chops for Don.

April 4, 1997: This marks the date of the worst bell-ring ever by Dave Clary, I believe. It was in honor of a Tribe home run, of course. Mary Jo usually rang the bell, but when she was off, others stepped in. I think Roy did such a bad job he was banned for life.

April 11, 1997: Jon and Tim make a $100 Luchita’s run.

April 16, 1997: Allison “Wilson” Carey gets a new name: Blurta Sizemore. That’s because she’d blurt out our photo sizes.

April 18, 1997: I remind myself to bring a check for Mark Spang’s swim for diabetes. As I recall, Mary Jo had conned him into shaving his head as a way to rally support. It worked.

April 19, 1997: Since no good deed goes unpunished, Mark’s car — parked on the street — is marked “condemned” by the Cleveland police. This may have been more a reaction to his haircut.

April 23, 1997: Roy gave gleanage out of order! Is this the caliber of person we want as a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio?

May 6, 1997: It is decided that should I ever go into show business I must adopt the stage name, “The Velvet Turd.”

May 12, 1997: Dale is neither tired nor hungry!

May 19, 1997: Ditto entry for May 12.

May 22, 1997: Entry reads, “The weird David Hall blowup.” I remember this!

May 18, 1997: Roy gives gleanage out of turn again!

July 4, 1997: Dave Clary’s first food run.

July 6, 1997: Bill recalls the good-old days when Freddie was king of the copy aides.

July 29, 1997: Tim and I get a big bonus for our work on The Plain Dealer Style Guide. $849.50 each. Jeff McVann is stunned. Rethinks his missed opportunity.

August 5, 1997: Jeff Greene announces he’s changing his name to “General Butt-naked.”

August 6, 1997: Rosie informs us she’s no longer concerned with deadlines. We inform Rosie we never were.

August 13, 1997: Stopped at Checker’s pen store but did not buy. Very sad.

August 18, 1997: Baseball game with Mary Jo.

August 26, 1997: Lisa calls me an SOB just because I told her she should put her kids up for adoption. Sorehead!

August 28, 1997: Bob Higgs gives his now-famous take on Stephen Hawking when he describes him as, “approaching rotten-tomato status.”

September 4, 1997: Photographer C.H. Pete Copeland admits to the News Desk, “I shoot totally blind.” As if we need to be informed.

September 5, 1997: Jeff McVann is heard to say: “Zena Warrior Princess — that’s a pretty good show.”

September 7, 1997: In one of the most incredible mix-ups in News Desk history, Dale confuses himself with Gus.

NOTE: Dale and Gus get mixed as much as Tim and I do. Once David Hall said to Dale, “That was a nice picture in the paper today, Gus.” And Dale replied, “Thanks. But that’s MR. CHAN to you!” (Not sure this really happened, but I want to believe it did.)

September 15, 1997: Allison “Wilson” Carey — aka Blurta Sizemore — dubbed by Dale as “The Princess of Wails.” Dale immediately becomes “The Prince of Dales.”

September 16, 1997: Jeff McVann wishes Helen still worked on the desk. God, I wish I knew why. Helen was so annoying I once called her in the composing room just so I could hang up on her.

September 22, 1997: “El Dia de los dos Bernies.” There are two separate Bernie Smiths in two lines-only pictures.

October 2, 1997: Jeff Greene gets yet another incredible buzz off metha-Skittlene, the psychoactive ingredient in Skittles. He had a bad Skittle habit for years.

October 6, 1997: Tribe wins series over Yankees. Dale is so wrought up he suffers tension-induced flatulence.

October 13, 1997: Bill Lammers suggests an updated News Desk motto: “All you can eat riblets!”

October 17, 1997: Bill gives me 5lbs of cherries to jazz up my nightly fruit cocktail snack. I suggest new motto: “All you can eat cherries.”

October 24, 1997: The New Desk is entertained by Mr. Bungholio and his Twirling Fartknockers.

October 27, 1997: Hank finally gets a bird on his feeder. (That sounds like a euphemism.)

November 1, 1997: Mary Jo gives Jesus a new name: Mr. Jehovah Jehovahson. I didn’t know Jesus was Scandinavian.

November 25, 1997: Some people on the News Desk try to bark like a tree.

November 27, 1997: Roy sings! Or maybe he was just trying to bark like a tree.

December 30, 1997: Jon, Scott, Mary Jo, Lisa and Jeff McVann go to Max and Erma’s for dinner.


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Lisa and Jon share a cubicle at Ohio's largest newspaper in Ohio's largest newsroom. Bill, Tim, Mark, Denise, Kim, Roy and Doug are neighbors.

News Desk history quiz 1

1. What musical group was featured in a question that stumped both Joe Hanak and Bill Lammers?

2. Who was Peg Bundy?

3. When was the last time Kathie Kroll admitted she was confused? (What century?)

4. What plastic critter banishes boredom when balanced on the head? (And still resides in my desk drawer.)

5. Rosie offered swearing lessons to which nightside photo desk person?

6. Who was known to bring in ice cream on his day off? Hint: It’s the same person with the fancy coffee pot.

7. Who was High Priest of the House of Goofy?

8. Who is Wilson?

9. Who gives sage vacation-request advice?

10. What’s a Broderick Crawford?

11. Who defended Ted Nugent against charges of being a cyber-geek?

12. Who has the longest News Desk nickname?

13. Who likes Alf?

14. Who was the master of Chanese. (Not Gus Chan, though a case could be made.)

15. Who asked Mary Jo to build his pages?

Answers posted in comment area.

1996 — The year in full

Jan. 10, 1996: It's a quiet night. Mary Jo asks me to make a noise.

Jan 15, 1996: It’s “middle names night” on the News Desk. Larry Alan Lambert. David Irvin Andersen. Robert Vivian Higgs. Vivian?

Jan. 16, 1996: Lisa gets her own ice. (Bob must have been off that night.)

Jan. 16, 1996: Jeff McVann has a wreck but still makes the Luchita’s run.

Jan 27, 1996: In regards some new News Desk policy, Bill explains, “We are striving for consistency — with some exceptions.”

March 1, 1996: Lisa Higgs gets her famous nickname: Downtown Mona Lisa Marie Presley Jackson Sterling Cougar Mellenkamp “Cult Jam” Higgs

March 26, 1996: Roy asks Mary Jo if she’ll build his pages. She gives the now legendary reply: “Does this look like the face of somebody who’s going to do that?” She looked like she was about to jump across the desk and strangle him on the spot, which is the way most people look at Roy.

April 1, 1996: News Desk poetry reading! Maybe Bill will post a few of our poems.

April 8, 1996: During a discussion of dumb TV shows, Dale Omori gets passionate and says, “Fuck you guys. I like 'Alf!'”

April 11, 1996: Lisa tells a gory tale about finding a vein in her food. Not food from PD cafe, of course. PD cafe has longstanding motto: "Gas pains but NO veins."

April 12, 1996: A new name for RTA: Rabid Transit.

April 18, 1996: Allison Carey embarks on her first nightside food run.

April 21, 1996: I am wounded when Roy tells me that I am a disgrace to philosophy. (He's probably right — and it’s probably still true.)

April 15, 1996: New item on PD café menu, “Chicken Seizure Salad.” They have also been known to serve “English Muffies” and “Sausage Patins.” All veinless, of course.

ART PINS: This was the year I gave away art pins! Then I started selling them. Then I got tired of it and did something else with my spare time, probably started thinking about a Web site.

June, 10, 1996: New Desk is stunned to learn that Lisa Higgs’ mother’s birthday coincides with Portugal Day. Who could have ever guessed?

June 21, 1996: Allison’s first yell for “copy!” You’d be surprised how reluctant new Nightsiders were about that first deafening bellow.

June 21 was also Tinker’s last day at the PD. Everyone brought her Brussels Sprouts. (We didn’t but should have.)

July 12, 1996: Jeff McVann visits his parents! There were no fatalities.

July 15, 1996: Mary Jo announces that remodeling is no longer fun at her and Cindy’s “new” house.

July 17, 1996: The News Desk gets new pencil sharpeners! Old ones sent to graphics department.

July 21, 1996: And back to that comment on remodeling … Mary Jo announces she’s too tired for baseball. This is serious.

July 22, 1996: Entry says, “Roy is the boss.” This must be a mistake. That doesn’t look like the face of someone who would do that.

July 31, 1996: Allison becomes “Wilson” after some confusion with a handwritten note, when someone asks the News Desk, “Who’s Wilson?”

July 31, 1996: Mary Jo becomes “Our Lady Protectress of the Faith.” The faith is in the restorative powers of Large Mocha Speedball from Mickey’s. Too much remodeling again.

August 2, 1996: Bill’s vacation glow lasted 2 days, 2 hours and three minutes. (It usually fades away on the ride to work first day back from vacation.)

August 5, 1996: Lisa adds more words to her name: Blind Lemon Higgs.

August 6, 1996: Mary Jo is in a word-coining mood. “Ubi sububi” is first, and then comes a colorful new affirmation, “ochre-dokey.” Then comes a food response: “Okra-dokey.”

August 13, 1996: Jeff Greene marks his first year on Ohio's Largest News Desk.

September 17, 1996: Stunning: Dale refuses free food!

September 17, 1996: Tribe clinches! Mary Jo and I run over to Daffy Dan’s about midnight. TV news is there to film us buy stuff we don't need. Actually, I didn't buy anything. I just watched. In case you haven't figured it out, I am a total sports retard.

September 26, 1996: Mary Jo gets severe buzzcut. Fights the urge to shave head.

September 27, 1996: Doug Kramer still has vacation glow after four days! Must be a record.

October 1, 1996: Jeff McVann decides to read his horoscope. Finds he’s not listed. Birthday falls outside the scope of astrology. Perhaps this means he doesn’t actually exist. Makes sense.

October, 4, 1996: Broderick Crawford’s birthday. A special day on the News Desk.

BACKSTORY: In the 1950s Crawford starred in a TV show called “Highway Patrol.” His character spent half his time clutching a radio-phone and yelling “ten-four” at some dispatcher. So whenever a story came across that was 10.4 inches long Van Richmond would shout, “That’s a Broderick Crawford!”

October 23, 1996: New Desk adopts new motto: “Let’s drive fast and eat cheese.”

October 24, 1996: Jeff McVann coins the phrase, “ … then somebody rolls the big dice.” It was a featured catch-phrase from a story he was telling and retelling and retelling and retelling. You knew he was almost done when he said, “ … then somebody rolls the big dice.” Whew!

October 24, 1996: I win a Pepsi from Jeff Greene by knowing the answer to a baseball question about Billy Martin. Boy, was Jeff surprised! Me too.

November 7, 1996: Catastrophe on the News Desk when a weather advisory interrupts Final Jeopardy question. We used to sit a lot closer to the televisions than we do now.

November 15, 1996: Defending one of his favorite macho rockers, Chuck Yarborough yells, “Ted Nugent is not a cyber-geek.” But Chuck might be.

November 22, 1996: Lisa is out of control. Still waiting for her to get back to normal.

November 24, 1996: It had long been know on the News Desk that as a member of the OSU marching band Bob Higgs twice dotted the “i” during the big half-time show. But on this date it came to light that Lisa Blind Lemon Higgs, who went to KSU, dotted the “i” in Kent. (Not sure this translates into print.)

December 1, 1996: Bill says that the Dolly Parton special he saw on TV was “really good.”

December 19, 1996: Scott Sheldon brings hallucinogenic cheesecake to work, and Margie presents the News Desk with small musical computers that play Christmas songs ... if you can get your fingers on the tiny keys. It's a bizarre combination.

December 26, 1996: We take a dinner hour. Jon, Mary Jo, Scott and Jeff McVann go to dinner at the Mardi. Must have been overcome with holiday spirit.


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
I think this was the day Mary Jo and Jon saw Albert hit his 50th homer of the year. Lots of cowbells ringing that day.

Photo by Bill Lammers

1995 — The year in full

January 2, 1995: Chuck Caton intones his sage vacation-request advice: “Ask for what you want; take what you get.”

February 24, 1995: First recorded big order from Luchita’s: $98.10. Coming back from the restaurant refried beans flew out and spilled all over the car.

February, 23, 1995: Bill remarks about artist Daryl Whitbeck: “Daryl has 600-some watches and still can’t get us a graphic on time!” I believe this is when Bill developed his theory that watches should not be given at retirement but upon hiring — especially in journalism! Daryl's watch collection was so elaborate he was featured in The Plain Dealer.

March 1995: Bill creates stickers that read, “I discussed Reservoir Dogs with Brynne and Jon.” I think we talked about that movie a little too much. I still have stickers stuck in my Day Runner.

March 7, 1995: Bill brings in ice cream on his day off. Our hero!

March 29, 1995: Mary Jo dubs Jeff Elder, “High priest of the House of Goofy.” No one argues.

April 10, 1995: The new-and-exciting catch phrase, applicable to almost everything on the News Desk is: “He’s just yakin’ on a bone, Clark.”

April 11, 1995: Lisa thinks her head is going to explode. It's still a concern.

April 24, 1995: Brynne throws a whammy on J.R.’s computer. Maybe she threw a whammy on me, too, because I can’t think who J.R. is! Help! (Wait, J.R. is the High Priest of Goofy, right?)

May 29, 1995: Baseball game with Mary Jo!

June 2, 1995: An $80 Luchita’s order.

June 8, 1995: A $100 Luchita’s order.

June 30, 1995: $98.35 Luchita’s run.

Obviously we were too busy eating to say anything funny that month! I am done listing Luchita’s runs; but believe me they went on for a very long time.

August, 30, 1995: After a few polite attempts to get attention, Brynne calls, “COPY!!!!!!!!” Newsroom applauds. This was back when the copy aides actually ran over and assisted us whenever we bellowed. What a feeling of power!

Sept. 21, 1995: The big CSI crash. The computers never came back up that night. Later on during demolition of the old building Rosie captioned a picture of the half-destroyed computer room, "CSI is going down."

Oh, all right — Sept. 29, 1995: A $110.10 Luchita’s run.

Sept. 30, 1995: Another baseball game with Mary Jo. We got to see Albert Bell hit his 50th of the year. See photo A DAY AT THE JAKE.

November 8, 1995: Jeff Greene yells, "Copy!" for the first time.

November 14, 1995: Bill gets a new coffee pot. BCP and ACP become a new way to reckon time on the News Desk, “Before Coffee Pot,” and "After Coffee Pot."

November 16, 1995: Bill once again displays new coffee pot.

November 17, 1995: Bill mentions new coffee pot.

November 18, 1995: Bill uses new coffee pot.

November 20, 1995: Lisa learns that Bill has a new coffee pot.

November 21, 1995: Bill discusses his new coffee pot.

November 23, 1995: Bill shows off his new coffee pot.

November 24, 1995: Bill polishes his new coffee pot.

November 27, 1995: Kathie inquires about Bill’s new coffee pot.

November 28, 1995: Jon purchases “Bill style” coffee pot from Kathie for a $10.

December 21, 1995: A truly amazing night on the News Desk: Mary Jo gets pop; Lisa returns from vacation and has a Pepsi; Chuck buys pizza; and I have a philosophical discussion with David I. Andersen.


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
I am afraid that some people were of the opinion that Brynne and I went overboard in our endless discussions of "Reservoir Dogs."

Stickers read: "I discussed 'Reservoir Dogs' with Brynne and Jon.


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
It took John Spetz only 32 seconds to dope out the shortest route from his new desk to the vending machines.

1994 — The year in full

March 24, 1994: Bill and Jeff recite: "I think that I shall never see, a hyphen in my po-etry." This was in honor of new PD poetry coding.

March 24, 1994: Mary Jo works on her, “God damn fucking Harris 2100,” for the first time. Seems to have gone pretty well.

April 26, 1994: Joe Hanak does the perfect, best-ever, “OOO LAWD!”

June 22, 1994: Jeff McVann utters what becomes an official News Desk curse: “You piece of fuck!” I think he was talking to his 2100, too.

July 1, 1994: Mary Jo and I decide to buy a ranch and name it “The Big Lulu.” We would sit on the porch every day and welcome people by saying, “Welcome to the Big Lulu.” That’s all we’d do. Seemed stupid at the time, but it's starting to make sense.

July 5, 1994: Mary Jo and I delight our colleagues by singing over and over, “I’ve to a gal from Zoozamakal. Zoo zoo zoo zoo zoo zoo zoo zoo zoo zoo zoo Zoozamakal kal kal kal kal ka-kal!” We were lucky to get of the building alive.

July 13, 1994: See what I said! Entry reads, “Tinker in hysterics over Brussels Sprouts story. She spilled sprouts; other girl slipped on them and did took amazing header.”

July 18, 1994: Very surprising. Mary Jo declines to arm wrestle Joe. Probably didn’t want to beat him in front of his friends.

July 27, 1994: New way of speaking sweeps the News Desk, “Chanese.” You know, like Carol Channing. Jeff McVann is the master of Chanese. Channing got on our radar when a story came out that she hadn't had sex for decades. This got our attention because many News Deskers were in the same boat. (Turns out diamonds aren't a girl's best friend.)

August 2, 1994: Two new words strike the News Desk's fancy. El Sphinctero Grande and Meggaroid.

August 17, 1994: Marked the occasion of Mitch’s big haircut.

Sept. 6, 1994: Brynne yells, “Fuck you, computer.” Rosie offers her swearing lessons.

Sept. 14: Brynne is heard to say, “Wheezer Rules,” and later Bill shouts, “Split infinitives — Oh my God!”

Sept. 17, 1994: Me, Joe and Brynne stay at work until 1:30 a.m. talking about movies.

October was the month of “The Big Order,” when just about everyone on the News Desk ordered CDs with Bill running the whole operation. Six people ordered 72 disks.

October 11, 1994: I come up with the insanely ingenious “Field of Dreams” layout theory. I wish I could remember what it was.

October 26, 1994: Scott Sheldon muses to the group, “Are there any scratches I’m not aware of?”

November 1, 1994: I humbly accept the title, “Blurb King of Lorain.”

November 6, 1994: A personal reminder for my day off: “Iron groceries.” I am so domestic!

November 10, 1994. The Big Order arrives.

November 18, 1994: I ponder getting business cards with the following description: “Occupation, analogist.”

December 14, 1994: I make a great work-related discovery: You cannot be bored balancing a plastic squirrel on your head. This still holds true as of this writing, 25 September 2004. Why are such important discoveries often mocked?

COMING UP: Don’t miss 1995’s listings, which includes the perennial favorite, Chuck Caton’s sage vacation-request advice: “Ask for what you want; take what you get.”

1993 — Part 2

October 2, 1993: Fran praises me to the skies: “Pal … Peach … Neat-o keen.” (Must have wanted to trade days off.)

October 3, 1993: I am back to my lowly self. Fran calls me, “Big old horse’s rear.” (Maybe I didn’t accept the trade.)

October 16, 1993: Yet another mighty meal of PD cheeseburger, Pepsi and chips. No wonder I’m so wimpy.

November 5, 1993: Judd says, “I love the page-server!” But Jeff McVann says, “Ethernet sucks!”

November 19, 1993: Bill suddenly cries out with great passion, “Thank God for the inverted pyramid!”


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Never let it be said that Joe and Bill don't know how to enjoy themselves. Or is it just the pain medication?


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Crowded conditions in the old newsroom could make a person act quite weird. Of course, here we are in Grand Central Station, and I am still at it.

Photo by Bill or Mary Jo


Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
Tim gives me a set of devil horns while we pose in front of the old building. Now you know why I don't walk with him anymore.

Photo by Rosemary Kovacs

Friday, September 24, 2004

Actual notes from the Day Runner

In answer to a question posed in the newsroom: Yes, all the year-by-year entries are real. They come from my Day Runner calendars, which go back to 1991 and are archived in a series of binders. Not that I'm anal or anything.

Tim's entries come from various sources of documentation he has saved over the years. If we were going to make this stuff up, we'd try to make it more interesting, though in some cases that would be difficult.

How I became a blogger

I was very prejudiced against blogs and bloggers.

I didn’t want to be confused with a blogger because I didn’t want people think that all the items on my Web site began, “Got up this morning. Made some coffee.” In other words, most of the blogs I’d seen were nothing more than on-line journals; each entry started off totally boring and went downhill from there. I wrote things that took hours or days, not minutes. (Unfortunately, this doesn't mean they're not boring, too.)

Then in the span of one week bloggers uncovered the CBS blunder in regards George Bush and his military service — or lack thereof. Then there was the buzz surrounding The Plain Dealer Mystery Blogger. What’s that?

After the 4:30 meeting Monday or Tuesday Jeff Greene and Margie Frazer were talking about … well, I couldn’t tell what they were talking about! “And this is in reference to what?” And that’s when they told me a PD employee (we assume) had published a blog, anonymously, rating some of the columnists, taking pot shots at bosses and speculating about who might get what job.

By the time Jeff sent me a link, the blog had already gone down; all that was left was a snapshot Google had taken earlier in the day — or perhaps even the day before. But it got me thinking about blogs, and I saw Kim Moy looking at the Blogspot Web site and realized how easy it was to make an on-line forum. And in 24 hours (with the help of Flickr, an on-line photo service), I set up the “Nightsiders” blog for the News Desk.

Then last night after work I set up The Rumors of Order forum, based on the same black template the PD blogger used. It can be found at:

So thanks to CBS for making a big mistake. And thanks to the Mystery Blogger for basing his forum on Blogspot. And thanks for curing me of my prejudice against blogging. One other thing: Using Blogspot and Flickr doesn’t cost a cent! And it’s easy.

The funny upshot of this whole thing is that some misguided PD people speculate that I am the Mystery Blogger, but those who have worked with me know better; they know I have never interested myself in behind-the-scenes stuff. I don’t know who’s getting what job where — I can’t even keep track of who’s doing what on the News Desk from day to day! I couldn't even remember the typeface for "The Price of Poverty" logo!

Anyway, this is how I became a blogger without really trying.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Why Medina was the best zone

* An ex-mayor is a crackhead.
* A mayor's secretary gave birth to two children by different city officials.
* The guy who stalked his soon-to-be ex-wife, but wanted her to iron his clothes before they went to court.
* The couple who got in a fight on I-71 and backed up traffic for three miles.
* The man who tried to steal a lobster from the K-Mart super center by putting it in his pants. (ow).
* The man who put steaks in his pants at the store so he could sell them at rest areas.
* The three Amish guys who were jailed for refusing to obey the hunting dress code, which requires orange.
* The guy who was accused of hiring a hitman (a cop disguised as a priest) to kill his girlfriend. This guy became wealthy enough to hire a hitman by winning a settlement involving faulty hair plugs. He reports he wasn't serious about the hit. She recently accepted a pickup truck as a gift from him.
* The guy who sued a baseball coach because his child's team lost all their games.
* The man who lost an eye when he was shot by his best friend.
* Pig man. The guy's farm is taken over by the health department because it is too filthy, even for pigs. He is now a resident in the wacko bin at the Brecksville veterans facility.
* People sue a party center because they weren't allowed to smoke.
* The wedding reception where the groom was shot by a cousin of the bride.
* Dog chases pet bunny. Bunny runs into metal pen so hard it leaves an imprint in the metal. Bunny owner sues dog owner.

Known to be heard on the Newsdesk.....

"I'd like to tell him what a cheap, lying, no good, rotten four-flushing, lowlife, snake licking, dirt eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, bloodsucking, dog kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, wormheaded, sack of monkey shit he is!" Chevy Chase in "Christmas Vacation"


I've been blogged!
Originally uploaded by jonfobes.
As perhaps the most veteran Nightsider on staff, Rosie jumps for joy at the prospect of being blogged. By the way, Rosie, thanks for hiring me! And thanks for being our fearless leader for so many years. Glad you're still a part of the team.

We had fun

Hey, Mary Jo: You know that had to be the first picture published in this blog! We had fun that day but probably not as much fun as we had last month when you brought your Coco Crisp and rally squirrel sign — and I put my foot in the moose tracks. I wish I could remember how many of those $5.50 beers I bought. Or maybe I don't.

Turning over the keys

I want to open this up a bit — but not let it get out of hand. So I have extended posting rights to the following people, all of whom were around to hear a decade of News Desk nonsense firsthand.

Mary Jo McVay, Bill Lammers, Rosemary Kovacs, Tim Graham, Joe Hanak, Lisa Higgs, Allison Carey and Mike Mentrek will be able to post directly to this blog once they jump through the hoops Blogspot requires. Perhaps we'll even get some of the masterpieces from Tim Graham's photo archive posted. If you have anything to offer, message me at, or ask someone with posting permission to place your comment.

I realize this is fun only for oldtime News Deskers — but that's OK.

NOTE 1: Let's not restrict ourselves to writing only about the past. Up-to-date news and trivia welcome. But let's take the high road and leave out secret speculations and personal issues. Leave that boring shit to the mystery blogger.

NOTE 2: A couple of typographical conventions: Let’s follow PD style and make our item headlines upper and lower case; let’s keep our photo overlines all caps; and let’s capitalize News Desk on all references; use first and last names on first reference — or to avoid confusion. And since this is not a family newspaper you're allowed to put "FUCK" in a headline.

Open for more suggestions in this regard.

PHOTOS: Send me photos or give me photos to scan; I will upload them to my flickr account and post to Nightsiders from there. It's amazingly easy. Why was I so prejudiced against blogging?

Update from Mary Jo in Arizona

Let's see what I can help with (on company time)....

Juano, the alcohol you get at the retirement home is going to mogan/david

"News Desk held hostage, Part II" might have been when we were moved back by Rosie's office during construction of the hockey rink. That is where I noticed that all Jon and Bill talked about with each other was music and gardening.

And did Jon keep his big mouth shut for all of August? I bet not.

I remember "Peg Bundy." She was some hot-snot consultant hired by the PD, maybe for the "think outside the box" session; when we were asked what we would have in the ideal work area. Mr. Fobes, of course, immediately said he wanted a cheeseburger holder.

And I remember friendship pay. I think you're a little overdue for this month, Jon.

This is sort of fun. I might have to dig out my Dayrunner calendars (yes, I saved them. No, I don't know right off the top of my head where they are) and add more inane and useless notes.

Hello to anyone within the sound of this blog. (I feel so high-tech)

1993 -- Part 1

March 4, 1993: Fran laughed more then Mary Jo. But at what?

March 30, 1993:Bill bought me a Marlins baseball cap. Being a total sports retard, I used to tell people that my favorite team was the Marlins. Then one day I saw on TV that there REALLY WAS going to be a team called the Marlins. At least people bought me lots of Marlins gear. There was even a marlin on my 40th birthday cake.

May 11, 1993: Mary Jo comes up with the title for Kelly Hart's first film: "The Trolls of Christ."

May 17, 1993: PD garage roof closed for repairs. (Maybe I should put this on a save key.)

May 25, 1993: Phew! Chemical warfare breaks out on the News Desk. Drakkar Noir, the world's first prescription aftershave.

May 26, 1993: Joe does not eat the hot pepper with his taco!

June 1, 1993: Order cake for Mary Jo.

June 14, 1993: PD garage roof supposed to re-open. Ha!

June 15, 1993: Jeff Mc announces: "Will paginate for food." This was probably before he declared himself to be "best paginator."

June 16, 1993: Plain Dealer hit with edifice complex.

June 17, 1993: Big surprise birthday party for me, especially so since my birthday is in May.

July 2, 1993: Artist Ed Beyer's last day at the PD. Ed was famous for having the world's highest cholesterol, in the 700 range. His doctor said, "Ed, your blood is sludge."

July 15, 1993: News Desk coins the term "Oxygeniarians," to describe those people who require oxygen to work. We on the News Desk had long since learned to do without.

July 22, 1993: Curt Chandler refuses coffee, saying he is over-caffeinated. Finally, it registers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

1992 -- Part 2

March 20, 1992: Fran brings fruit to work!

April 28, 1992: Two entries. 1. Mike Mentrek is by his own description, "hyper and wound-up." 2. David Hall becomes editor of The Plain Dealer. I see a connection.

May 1, 1992: Note to self: "Order Porsche for Mary Jo's birthday-- NOT!"

June 16, 1992: "News Desk held hostage, Part II." This might refer to excessive high temperatures in the newsroom due to an antiquated air-conditioning system. The temperature would often soar into the 90s at this time of year. One night Mary Jo called Bill at home and told him we were suffering and to bring us ice cream -- and he did! Two months later he found a stray container that had rolled under his seat.

June 22, 1992: Bill Lammers exclaimed, "Dweezil burned my Strat!" Not sure why.

June 25, 1992: Mary Jo has made a promise to smuggle alcohol to me when I'm in the retirement home. (Glad I found this entry; I plan to hold her to it.)

June 30, 1992: Kathie Kroll (or was it still "Coil" back then) got confused — AND ADMITTED IT! (Don't look for another entry like this.)

July 30, 1992: The Great Mondo!

August 1, 1992: Note to self: "Keep your big mouth shut this month."

August 3, 1992: Garage roof closed for repairs. (Some things don't change.)

Sept: 3, 1992: There was no News Desk show-and-tell meeting. At this time, those meetings always took place in Rosie's cramped office. The only compensation was a steady supply of peanuts ... and throwing shells on the floor.

Sept. 17, 1992: "Yup! Yup! Yup!" becomes the News Desk craze.

Sept. 22, 1992: Concocted "Forceful Elephants" poster, which played off against a News Desk mantra from Jim Fabris, which proclaimed that each display page should have a "forceful elegance." This joke poster -- thanks to the self-promoting efforts of a former News Desk person -- ended up on David Hall's wall.

ALSO: This was the era of wild SECS on the News Desk. Mr. Fabris can elaborate.

Nov. 4, 1992: Mary Jo actually asked me a Harris question, and I knew the answer. I can't recall the question, but the answer was, "Alt-Delete."

Nov. 15, 1992: It's Sunday, my favcorite day off of the week, but I am working and at the start of 6 days in a row. The frustration is so high I adopt Joy Melvin's tirade: "Yucko -- Blah!"

Dec. 2, 1992: Peter got story in early; Mary Jo almost speechless. (Not sure who this refers to. Not Pete Zicari, I am pretty sure of that.)

Dec. 4, 1992: I made a baseball joke, stunning my colleagues. This is even more remarkable since it wasn't even baseball season! (Some years later I will stun Jeff Greene by answering a question about Billy Martin. I believe I won a Pepsi on that deal.)

Dec. 9, 1992: Someone has taking the nickname of "Our Lady of Saliva," and then someone else dubs herself "Sister X4." Any clues?

Dec. 19, 1992: Fran eats an orange!

1992 -- Part 1

Jan. 1, 1992: Jeff McVann's fan mysteriously starts turning after months of total inactivity. Possible evidence of benevolent forces at work in the Universe? Nah!

Jan. 2, 1992: First PD cheeseburger of the new year.

Jan 3, 1992: Second PD cheeseburger of the new year. (Cheeseburger record keeping gets a bit sketchy after this.)

Jan. 10, 1992: "Mike's hair draws rave reviews." But is it Mentrek or Levy? Anyone remember who it was or why it got so much attention?

Jan 10, 1992: Jeff talks football. Is this, perhaps, the first sign of insanity? Nah!

Jan 15, 1992: News Desk comrade Fran Stewart gets "fuck" in the newspaper via some writing on a wall visible in the background of a photo she ran. Fran uses the very word she published upon realizing her feat.

Jan. 21, 1992: Cryptic note reads, "Peg Bundy returns." But I have no idea who it refers to. Any help out there?

Jan 24, 1992: Pen-lover Jim Hatch, often seen with a Mont Blanc tucked in his pocket, is discovered carrying and using a regulation Plain Dealer ballpoint pen. Disgusting!


Sept. 11, 1991: Joe Hanak, rock history genius (second only to Bill Lammers), is stumped on a question about the Yardbird's song "I'm Not Talking."

Sept. 16, 1991: Bill Lammers also stumped on Yardbirds question, leaving the entire News Desk shocked and stunned.

Dec. 19, 1991: Wire copy editor Joy Melvin, in a rare burst of anger, yells: "Yucko -- Blah!" Heads turn.

Dec. 31, 1991: Note reads, "Give MJ check for bazillion dollars -- payoff for being friend." Oddly enough, this entry is not in my handwriting. This incident institutes the time-honored News Desk practice of offering "friendship pay."