10 quick tips

Locksmith’s freestyle. I consider myself something of an underground hip-hop connoisseur. Or an aficionado, at any rate. A while back, I discovered R.A. The Rugged Man’s verse on the Jedi Mind Tricks cut, “Uncommon Valor.” (Buckle up and check that one out.) Which brought me to a video last week of R.A. saying that Kendrick Lamar isn’t a “top-five lyricist.” It’s a great clip — and I could take or leave Kendrick, really — but at one point R.A. lists three rappers who he’d place money on in the lyrical construction realm. The first name off the top of his head? Locksmith. (He also mentioned Elzhi and King Los.) I immediately Youtube’d “Locksmith rapper,” and clicked on the freestyle video linked here. I was — and remain — in awe. It’s a delicately and aggressively assembled totem of anti-establishment poetry.

Pete Wells profile. If you’re unfamiliar with “the New York Times Guy Fieri restaurant review,” then please yes go read that now. There’s nothing like it. And its writer, Pete Wells, is a one-of-a-kind critic in a field that already demands unique voices. Today, my editor sent me this great profile of Wells (published by Thrillist, no less…?), and it’s really a fascinating trip. (For another great Wells piece, check out his review of Señor Frog’s in Times Square. My favorite line? “The Reuben is good, for some reason.” Dark and simple. And its placement in the review is just pristine.)

The Office. At any given time, I’ve likely got one iconic television comedy in the background of my life — something I’ll watch late at night or during idle evenings, something that I’ve seen often enough to feel like I’m “home” when I’m watching it. Futurama is a big one. Lost, which, yes, has its comedic charms. The Adventures of Pete and Pete, naturally. But The Office is one of my favorites, and it’s the one that caps my nights lately. It’s a beautiful show, full of endearing and twisted characters (much like the other three shows I mentioned).

4/9/16 Dave’s Song > Marty. I haven’t listened to the whole show yet, but Mike wrote that it was one of the best shows they’d played in some time. The segue from Dave’s Song into Marty is butter, and Mike’s phrasing during the transition is just fascinating. When the song finally comes on, Dave works the main melody and Mike sits on this one chord. (Dave’s begins at 4:03:20 in this video.) Back in 2014, I went to an Aqueous show in New Philadelphia, Ohio. I often catch up with Mike and Dave after these shows and tell them what really caught my ear. That time, it was actually a mind-bending jam during Complex Pt. II that featured solos from both of them — and then from Broccoli Samurai’s old guitarist, John McCarron. I noticed that Mike was working out some new chord approaches, and he mentioned the guitarist who played with D’Angelo and a live performance of “Chicken Grease” that the guys in Aqueous and Dopapod had been talking about lately. It’s funky as hell, and Mike has clearly taken that inspiration to heart. …If you haven’t caught the train yet, listen to these guys immediately. They’re the real deal, and I don’t say that lightly.

Louis C.K.’s “Chewed Up.” Incredibly funny. Some of his bluest stuff ever, but he’s a titan. Take two hits of the little brown bottle in my shaving kit and enjoy. (I notice now and then in this special that he’s got the same comedic delivery as former Scene writer Doug Brown. He’s in Portland now. Read his stuff!)

Walks. The weather in Northeast Ohio has been a yo-yo nightmare these first few months of 2016. (Really, really wonderful days interspersed with drizzly commutes and such, which is fine, but it’s the constant 180-degree flip-flopping that I don’t care for. So, not really a nightmare, I guess, and maybe I use that word too much these days to describe minor annoyances. It’s a great metaphor, though.) I bring that up because I’m not running the way I did ca. April 2015, despite last year’s spring bringing plenty of cold weather — soon, I’ll pick it back up on the reg — but I am walking concertedly more than ever. There are routes downtown that I’ll walk in the middle of a long work day and routes that I’ll walk in the old neighborhood. Usually a cigarette or two. No music. Just scattered thoughts about my life and the people and places that swirl through my stories. She’s wonderful, and I think about her quite often.

Jon Mooallem. One of my favorite American writers, this guy. He’s informed more of my writing style in the past year than any other writer I’ve encountered on my short jaunt into the early stages of my career. My good comrade-in-arms Sam Allard tells me that the crispest thing I’ve ever written was my dissection of the Lakewood Hospital deal. A lot of that — the phrasings, the sentence structures, the parenthetical asides — comes from Mooallem. I wrote him last week, and he responded. Among other things, he recommended that I read “A Whale Hunt” by Robert Sullivan. It’s on my list (I started reading an “ebook” version of Sullivan’s “Rats,” which is very, very good too), and I’ll be picking it up just as soon as I can clear my name at the CCPL and pay off a book that I lost sometime in the past year.

The presidential campaigns. I feel like I haven’t paid a lick of attention to anything since the Ohio primary. (I’ve replaced my prez campaign news digestion with RNC preparation reading. That‘s the show to watch now, I think.) I’ve said for months now that Trump’s a lock for for the Republican nomination — and I’ve even toyed with guaranteeing a Trump presidency in 2016. For the first time, I’m less sure about all that. I think we’ll see a brokered convention in Cleveland — *flash-forward to Quicken Loans Arena in smoldering ruins* — and I think, zooming out just a bit more, that we’ll see an even more alienated far-right in this country, a sort of generational residue that’ll take much longer to wash away than a four- or eight-year Trump stint.

Jim Ridley. The editor of Nashville Scene died last week. I met him once and should defer only to those who actually knew him. But in spite of the sadness that comes with newsroom eulogies, there’s always something triumphant and stirring about long reflections on a dedicated journalist. He spoke at a longform panel at the AAN conference in 2014 in Nashville. Doug and Sam and I sat in rapt attention. He described a writer of his who went to great lengths to cultivate a source for a police story — if I recall correctly — by hanging around a local towing company all night, every night, and buying coffee for the employees, slowly gaining rapport and picking up stories. He was there for a reason, though; one of the employees was a former cop who knew the inroads on this particular story. It wasn’t just gonna be a phone call. There was a deliberate and slowly winding path toward information that would blow the lid off the story, and this writer had found a very good route forward in his reporting. Ridley said that’s what the good ones do, and you could tell he really cared about that.

Mad Hatter Salad. This is what lunch should be everyday. Dig in. She rocks my world.

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