Jeff Pearlman

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Category Archives: QUAZ

J.D. Scholten

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If you’re a fan of quirky, unexpected journeys, J.D. Scholten is your guy.

Once upon a time, he was an obscure Division II pitcher at Morningside College. Then he was a significantly-less-obscure pitcher for the University Nebraska’s entrant into the College World Series. Then, two years ago, he nearly upended Steve King in an Iowa congressional race. It would have been an upset for the ages. Instead, it was a defeat that—in Scholten’s mind—shows how the Democrats need to approach 2020.

I don’t disagree.

At all.

One can follow J.D. on Twitter here, Instagram here and check out his old political website here.

J.D. Scholten, you are the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So J.D., you’re a lifelong Iowan and a Democrat. You live in a red state. I am beginning to feel v-e-r-y negative about our party’s chance to unseat Donald Trump in 2020. What about you? How do you feel?

 J.D. SCHOLTEN: I’m very worried about the 2020 Presidential election. That’s why as the candidates come to Western Iowa, I am working with them and their campaigns. If a campaign can do well in a place like Iowa’s 4th district, they can win.

J.P.: In 2018 you ran against Steve King—notorious racist and xenophobe—for his congressional seat. You lost narrowly in a heavily Republican region. What did you learn that the Democrats can utilize in 2020?

J.S.: I learned something from my political heroes (Berkley Bedell and Tom Harkin) that if you get out to the people, prove that you’re trustworthy, prove that you’re going to fight for the people of your district, you will earn votes.

Some of the best advice I was given was by a family friend, an activist and  member of the Winnebago Tribe. He said, “J.D. if you want change you have to get uncomfortable. Once you’re uncomfortable, you have to get others uncomfortable.”

J.P.: I’m always fascinated by this—what was it like, the call to King to concede? Is that awkward? Weird? In the course of an election, do you build up a dislike that sorta relaxes at the end? Is it hatred? If you saw him now, would you be friendly?

J.S.: It sucked. However, it was the first election night that he had to wait for the outcome. His campaign blocked media from his event. Meanwhile, we had a keg and welcomed everyone.

When I got him on the phone, he seemed a little anxious. I don’t know if anyone has ever called him personally when they conceded.

J.P.: I’m starting to wonder whether we’re decent? We, as people? Because we keep voting for racists and bigots, we keep falling for conmen; we applaud hatred? Not all of us, obviously, but so many. So, do you still have faith in humanity?

J.S.: I disagree. I feel the people of Iowa’s fourth district are good people. He gets re-elected because there are 70,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. King is totally different in the district. His controversies don’t always penetrate the district. The more people are aware of his ideology, the more people are turning their backs to him.

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J.P.: Fascinated by your sports career—you pitched for three seasons at Morningside College, a small school in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Then, as a senior, you’re at the University of Nebraska playing in the College World Series. How did you make that leap? Why? And how big was the talent jump?

J.S.: Morningside was Division II and a member of the North Central Conference when I went there. Out of high school, I had several Division I offers but my dad was the coach at Morningside. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play for him. After my junior year, I had a chance to get drafted but I turned it down. I did all I could at the Division II level and I wanted an opportunity to play not only Division I but on a top team. We were ranked in the top 8 all year and being in the CWS was a dream of mine.

J.P.: You went on to pitch a bunch of seasons of independent ball—including your last year, 2007, with the Sioux City Explorers. You appeared in 27 games and went 0-2 with an 8.25 ERA. Obviously not ideal. How did you decided to give up baseball? Was there a moment? A lightbulb?

J.S.: The irony was that the start of the year was the best I had in pro-ball. My first few outings were dominant but things went south. Baseball will always be the best and worst job I have ever had. I just had a moment where I knew I wasn’t helping the team and after doing everything I could to change the direction I ultimately decided it was best to walk away. I miss it everyday.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your baseball career? Lowest?

J.S.: Being on a team that made it to the College World Series will always have a place in my heart. I also had a chance to play 10 days of exhibition games in Cuba against some of their top teams. It was one of my favorite memories on and off the field.

There’s not one specific event that’s a low. Having to ride a 10 hour bus ride when you can barely lift your arm above your head knowing you’re on the bump that night takes its toll. Minor league baseball is very isolating. Not only are you competing against the other teams, you’re competing against your teammates in trying to advance.

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J.P.: How did you recover from losing the election? All that time, all that effort, all those speeches—then, pfft. Just seems insanely tough.

J.S.: Baseball taught me a life lesson of never getting too high or too low. Going into Election Night, we all gave it everything we had and I accepted whatever the outcome would be.

The night before the election, Sage Rosenfels and I played pick-up basketball at the Iowa State rec center. Mentally, that put me in a good place for the next day. We also went 5-0, by the way.

J.P.: According to your website, in October, 2002 you took a 20 hour one-way bus ride to protest the Iraq war. What’s the story behind that? Why? How?

J.S.: I was done with my eligibility but finishing up some classes. At the same time I was training to break into pro ball. I saw that Nebraskans for Peace were gathering folks to go to DC to protest the potential war with Iraq and I felt called to go. It was an amazing experience. I was taking a photography class that semester and I was able to take some cool photos that I still have to this day.

J.P.: So I’m a New Yorker, and one thing that kills me–just kills me—about Trump is his bullshit after 9.11. For example, he’s now said repeatedly he was at Ground Zero helping the search. He’s said he saw Muslims celebrating atop buildings in Jersey City. He took $150,000 from a fund for small business recovery. Yet none of it sticks. Ever. Why? And how do we make it stick?

J.S.: We need to ask the Republicans who are elected officials about these things. It’s the same with Steve King. The people who are going to put King in his place aren’t Democrats, it’s Senator Grassley, Senator Ernst or Governor Reynolds.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jenga, sriracha, Josh Beckett, raw cookie dough, Gordan Ramsey, La Croix sparkling water, Bill Frist, “Terminator 2,” Bill Cosby: La Croix sparkling water, Jenga, Josh Beckett, Gordan Ramsey, Terminator 2, raw cookie dough, Bill Frist, Bill Cosby.

• The world needs to know—what was it like having J.J. Burress as a teammate?: Do you know J.J.? That dude was scrappy!

• We give you a month to train then ask you to pitch one inning in a Double A baseball game. What’s your line?: In my mind: 1 inning, 2 hits, 0 earned runs. In reality: ⅔ of an inning, 6 hits, 5 runs.

• Three of your secret talents?: Sudoku master – there’s only one sudoku that I have started and wasn’t able to finish (because the paper was thrown away); I have a thing where I can remember driving directions after going to a place one time; I am a good card player (e.g. Rummy, Spade, Hearts…).

• The ideal 2020 Democratic ticket would be …: Yet to be determined.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Flashes of good memories of family and friends.

• Three reasons one should make Sioux City, Iowa his/her next vacation destination?: -Charlie Boys at Miles Inn, -Saturday in the Park, -To volunteer for a campaign

• Three grossest foods in the world?: The two that stand out to me are some of those really smelly French cheeses and some of the bizarre fish dishes from Japan.

• What’s your favorite Snoop Dogg lyric?: From Gin & Juice: “With so much drama in the L-B-C, it’s kinda hard being Snoop D-O-double G”

It’s iconic.

• My wife is addicted to reality TV. How can I stop this?: My girlfriend is too. No clue.

Britni de la Cretaz

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There are more established sports journalists than Britni de la Cretaz.

There are more famous sports journalists than Britni de la Cretaz.

But as I sit here, writing inside a Starbucks on a July afternoon in 2019, I’m not sure there’s a more fascinating sports journalist than Britni de la Cretaz. I first came to the realization a bunch of weeks ago, when I sent out a somewhat, um, ill-advised Tweet about the WNBA and coverage of the league. It was a lazily thought-out message, one that was (rightly) attacked by myriad scribes. But my exchange with Britni was just, well, inspired. She’s smart, empathetic, engaged, willing to see multiple sides to an issue.

Plus, I then began to read her work, which is pretty damn terrific. In particular, there was this Ringer piece on women in sports broadcasting. And this one on the NBA and women referees. And this one on Serena. Anyhow, you can see her catalogue here—a goldmine of thought-provoking work.

One can follow Britni on Twitter here, and visit her website here.

Britni de la Cretaz, you are The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Britni, you went from social worker to journalism. As a journalist married to a social worker, this fascinates me. Why the career shift?

BRITNI DE LA CRETAZ: I always wrote as a hobby, and had a blog for years. It was never something I thought I could make a career out of. I’d gone to school to be a mental health counselor, which is how I ended up doing social work. But I got pushed out of my job while on maternity leave with my oldest child about five years ago; I was trying to find ways to budget for our one-income household when a friend of mine who was an editor at a small women’s website messaged me to say she’d read my blog and thought I was good and did I want to be paid to write? I said hell yeah and started writing personal essays because I could do that without having any clips or experience. I used those clips to begin pitching reported essays and, eventually, settled into journalism. I consider it the career I always wanted but had no idea how to get, so I’m actually grateful for the shitty circumstances that pushed me here.

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J.P.: You wrote a lengthy piece for Dig Boston headlined, BOSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM about Boston sports and racism. And I’ve interviewed many people through the years who say, “Yeah, it used to be bad. But Boston’s very enlightened these days.” Is there any truth to that, or is the legacy of racism also the present situation of racism?

B.C.: I don’t think the racism has gone away, so much as it’s changed shape. It’s not as acceptable to be openly racist anymore, so the way white people express their racist beliefs has shifted. I also don’t think you can separate the current climate around Boston sports from its history; especially not when there are people still living who remember a time before the team was integrated. With the Red Sox in particular, we can applaud them for renaming Yawkey Way and for starting their Take the Lead anti-racism initiative, but they still chose to have their team visit the Trump White House, which created a racial divide in the clubhouse whether anyone wants to admit it or not. The racial slur hurled at Adam Jones at Fenway was only two years ago; the racial slur from a fan in the stands about the national anthem singer was the same week. Sports radio in the Hub is still a cesspool of offensive commentary. So it hasn’t changed as much as white people like to tell ourselves it has.

J.P.: So we were recently part of a lengthy Twitter exchange, involving many women reporters, about The Athletic and WNBA coverage. The site, to its credit, is covering the league, and all the beat writers are women. Which is dandy. But my point/concern is that too often sites, magazines, newspapers view women’s sports as a place to dump women writers and check off the OK, WE TOOK CARE OF THAT box. This was not received well. So … am I wrong? Is my concern stupid?

B.C.: I don’t think you are wrong about this generally, but I do think you are wrong in this instance. It’s definitely worth asking what beats and assignments women writers are being given (or denied). That’s real. But what’s also real is that a) it’s important to have women telling women’s stories and b) many women want to write about the WNBA or women’s sports. So it’s worth asking these women how they felt about the beat — and I think it’s problematic to essentially frame a job that these women worked incredibly hard for and are excited about as a consolation prize, of sorts. There’s a time and place for the conversation, but perhaps it’s not right after the first-ever team of WNBA beat writers is assembled, all of whom are women. Let’s celebrate before we critique in that case.

J.P.: You focus on the intersection of sports and gender, so here’s a question I’ve been thinking about often of late: What will have to happen for Becky Hammon to get a job as an NBA head coach? And what, do you think, will she confront?

B.C.: In order for Becky Hammon to get a head coaching job, a team is going to have to decide to give her one. It’s really that simple. If there’s a men’s league that was going to do it, the NBA seems the likeliest to me. What will she confront? Probably the same bullshit she’s been confronting her whole career and that any woman in a male-dominated field faces. But in Becky’s case, she’s been in the league long enough that she’s a known entity and most of the players and coaches respect her. I think she’d be likelier to face blowback from fans and potentially some media than she would be from players at this point in her career (though maybe that’s naive of me to say). I do think that what often happens when a woman breaks a barrier is that there’s a slew of news coverage of her as “the first,” the stories only want to focus on the barrier-breaking, and then the media loses interest in anyone else who comes after. So the first is a huge accomplishment, of course, but just as important is “the next.”

J.P.: How did this happen for you? The writing bug? When did you first realize you were good at it? That, just maybe, you could make a career of it?

B.C.: I always really liked writing papers in school and I always loved reading books. In college, I was compelled to write in that way that was popular on the internet at the time: overly confessional blog posts. I was an anonymous girl in my early 20s writing about my relationships and partying, but something that blogging did was teach me how to write for an audience, how to tell stories, how to write something compelling that people want to read. That blog had a pretty decent following at the time, which gave me the confidence to think that maybe people actually wanted to read what I had to say. I’ve grown up a lot since then, obviously, and my sobriety (almost 8 years now) has been a big part in finding a new writing voice that wasn’t snarky and a little mean, which my early writing was. But I honestly never considered that I could make a career out of it until someone else offered to connect me to an editor she knew who might like one of my essays. I thought you had to have formal training in order to do this for a living, and I’d never taken a real writing class in my life. I’m totally self-taught. But once I started publishing stuff and learning about how to find and pitch and sell stories, I realized that I was really good at it (the pitching more so than the writing, but I guess I’m ok at the latter). It still doesn’t quite feel real that I’ve managed to make a career out of it, though.

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J.P.: I know, in many ways, this question sucks, and it doesn’t matter, and all that. But, again with your expertise, I sorta wanna ask it: Does there come a day when a woman plays in the Majors or the NBA or NHL? Not as a stunt, a la Manon Rhéaume. But where someone comes along, and she’s so preposterously strong, quick, athletic that it happens?

B.C.: I think it could happen (look at Brianna Decker winning the NHL All-Star passing competition this year, or the women who have played independent league baseball). What I think would make it more likely is if sex segregation in sports was done away with altogether and there were co-ed teams. Last year I interviewed Nancy Leong, who has done research about this, and I should probably just recommend you read that interview because she’s smarter than I am.

J.P.: You were a social worker, which means you work cheap and have empathy. And it feels like, in 2019, we’ve never been a less empathetic nation. Do you feel like something has changed us? The president? Social media? Or are we who we’ve always been?

B.C.: I think we are who we have always been, but social media and globalization has amplified those traits and allowed us to connect with people beyond our own communities in ways that highlight some of our uglier traits.

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J.P.: Greatest moment from your life? Lowest?

B.C.: The greatest moment(s) of my life were when I met my two daughters for the first time: my oldest in 2014 and my youngest in 2016. My lowest was definitely the day I checked into rehab.

J.P.: You identify on your website as a Red Sox and Marlins fan. And I say this with 100% respect—why is that OK? Because it does seem like, in this era, it has become OK. We’re sports journalists. Aren’t we supposed to not have leanings?

B.C.: Here’s how I feel about it: I’m not a beat writer, and I’d feel differently about it if I was. I also think we can critique the things we love, and sometimes we critique things because we love them (my aforementioned story about the Red Sox and Boston’s history of racism is an example of this).

J.P.: What’s your money journalism story? The craziest, weirdest experience from your career?

B.C.: It’s not a great story, but it’s definitely the weirdest/worst experience, and it was when a source asked me to send him nude photos of myself.

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• Typing your name out is giving me all sorts of trouble. What are the most common butcherings of it?: Pretty sure my byline reads “Britni de la Cruz” and a couple places. Also Britini is a common misspelling of my first name.

• Five all-time favorite women’s basketball players?: Rebecca Lobo, Cappie Pondexter, Dawn Staley, Sue Bird, Courtney Williams

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Chuck D, potato salad, “Waterfalls” by TLC, the Whopper without pickles, Isabelle Kohn, Facebook, Justin Amash, Jennie Finch, Colorado State University, toe rings, Kaira Rouda: Jennie Finch, Isabelle Kohn, toe rings, Chuck D, Waterfalls, potato salad, Kaira Rouda, Colorado State University, Justin Amash, Whopper without pickles, Facebook.

• One question you would ask Steve Finley were he here right now?: Best NL West team to play for?

• Three things you usually keep with you: A keychain with my sobriety date on it (11/4/11), a notebook and pen (I’m a journalist, after all), my phone.

• What are the keys to making the perfect milkshake?: I scooped ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s for a summer and there’s really not much to it besides adding ice cream and milk. When I was growing up, my dad used to scoop extra sugar into it.

• Greatest athletic accomplishment of your life?: I was a competitive cheerleader and my five-person stunt group (I was the flyer) were national champions in the individual stunt competition.

• In three words, describe the pain associated with birthing a child: Get an epidural.

• The next president will be …: Anyone but Donald Trump, please.

• I don’t love wearing deodorant. Is that a problem?: Your body, your choice, friend.

Sammy Burke

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I love shit like this.

So, a few months ago a friend named Mike Moodian accompanied me to the Blind Melon show at a small nearby club, the Coach House. We arrived early, and heard those dreaded four words, “First, an opening act …”


Only, this opening act kicked ass. It was a three-man rock group, the John McCloy Band, and their set was electrifying, refreshing, edgy. The member who particularly caught my eye was Sammy Burke, the veteran bass player. Why did he catch my eye? Well, to be honest, I’ve always been fascinated by the bass. It’s the obscure instrument of most groups, but also a necessary factor toward any good unit. We may well all overlook the bass player. But can a gang like the John McCloy Band survive without him? No.

So I invited Sammy here to talk Bass, to talk Van Halen, to talk gigs in front of six people and John Oates’ presidential ambitions. One can visit his Facebook page here, and check out his band here.

Sammy Burke, you are The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Sammy, so about two hours ago I saw you and the John McCloy Band perform as the opening act for Blind Melon at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. And during the show Travis Warren, Melon’s lead singer, thanked “the band that opened for us—I can’t remember their name, but I have a bad memory.” And I was wondering—truly wondering—whether that bothered you guys, whether it was no big deal, whether it was funny. And if there’s an actual protocol how the headliner is supposed to address/acknowledge the opening act.

SAMMY BURKE: We have a working relationship with the venue’s local talent representative. His job is to find acts that are willing to handle pre-sale tickets in exchange for ‘exposure.’ Some places require a guaranteed number of tickets, while others just go on how well you do in selling what you’ve got. Th Coach House is the latter; they don’t require a minimum, however getting asked to come back does depend a bit on your marketing performance.

J.P.: You’re a bass player, and I’ve always wanted to ask a bass player this question: How do I, the casual music fan who attends a show, know the difference between good bass, great bass and otherworldly bass? Are there telltale signs? Do you always know?

S.B.: Great question! Great bass players are a lot like Olympic divers; the better their performance, the less splash you’ll see when they enter the water. Imagine for a minute what the song would sound like without the bass line—if it would sound empty, then the bass player is doing his job. The truly great players have such iconic hooks to very simple lines. Think of tunes like ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ or ‘Good Vibrations.’ With those simple lines, the songs simply wouldn’t exist.

J.P.: Along those lines, sort of a weird one. About, oh, seven years ago Van Halen replaced Michael Anthony, its bass player of about four decades, with Eddie Van Halen’s son. I thought it was a bullshit move, Anthony clearly thought it was a bullshit move. But I’m not sure fans care all that much. And I was wondering: A. What do you think about it? B. Are bass players too often undervalued?

S.B.: Yes, it was a bullshit move. Not just because of Anthony’s tone—I believe he is one of the most gritty, driving bassists around. But also his vocals were what made the ‘voice’ of VH so unique. All that high stuff on ‘Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love’ and ‘Jamie’s Cryin” are Michael, and he’s doing it while driving that low end. I saw them at a house party back in the mid 70s and I knew that I was watching something extraordinary.

J.P.: You’ve been with the band Echo Love Chamber since 1995. That’s 24 years. How is that possible? And what I mean is—don’t you get tired of one another? Aren’t bands meant to die on the relative quick?

S.B.: I’ve known Mark (Cardinal) since the late ’80s when we were both in different cover bands. The secret is this; we don’t get involved in each other’s lives outside of music. We will occasionally go out for a meal or a show, but that’s about it. Musically, we never have a set list—our running repertoire is about 500 songs, so we can pull out an old favorite every now and then just to challenge our brains. I really don’t know the magic behind ELC’s 24-year career … We’re just three guys having fun making music. However, I will tell you one way to know how a band is going to last. Watch them during load in and load out. If there’s a lot of communication going on about what or how to do things, then they’re doing it wrong. When ELC loads in or out, its 20 minutes of ultimate efficiency. We will oftentimes beat the patrons in getting out the door before the 2 a.m. closing bell.

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J.P.: I know you started playing music when you were 11. But what got you going? How did it all begin? When did you realize this was your love? That you could be especially good at it?

S.B.: I ‘borrowed’ my sister’s guitar and started hammering out some notes, and I sucked. Then I got together with a friend and we started playing together in his garage, and we sucked. Then I got together with some friends and played ‘Stairway to Heaven’ at a school performance, and it sucked. But by then music was in my blood. And that performance got me together with (now internationally known jazz pianist) Ron Kobayashi. He told me what I would have to do if I didn’t want to suck. So he gave me a cassette tape—Count Basie, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Louis Bellson, Buddy Rich, Charlie Parker… he told me to absorb every note, and when I did, he would give me another tape, and then another. I would just practice hours and hours with those tapes, learn my scales and keep up with the rhythms. In April, 1980, when we performed at the big Fullerton College Jazz Festival, Ron, our drummer Loren South and I were given the Outstanding Rhythm Section Award. That was when I knew I could play and not suck.

J.P.: Since 2013 you’ve worked heavily in the tribute band market, performing with such acts as REMitation, The Faux Fighters, The Pink Floyd Sound, KISSed Alive!, The Rising, Cheapest Trick and Petty or Not. And I’m interested how it feels, doing, say a series of Tom Petty songs as opposed to your own music? And, when you’re doing a tribute, are you trying to channel those other players? Or are you just being you?

S.B.: Being in a tribute is more playing a role—like an actor—than being a musician. Your mannerisms on stage, the look and sound, and even the playing style are studied and mimicked to give the audience a sensation that they’re watching a one-act play, rather than just listening to a bunch of tunes by an artist. So yeah, I try to channel Howie Epstein, Nate Mendel, Roger Waters, Tom Petersson, and Gene Simmons when I perform. Although I must confess a little of me naturally comes out—sometimes, I just can’t help that part.

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J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

S.B.: Greatest? So many … Playing with the Fooz Fighters to a packed House of Blues is a blast. I remember taking a limo from Atlantic City to Long Island with the boys thinking, ‘This is the shit!’  And then there a special personal moments —playing a song or two in front of my heroes … guys like Dug Pinnick (King’s X), Chris Wyse (Ace Frehley, Hollywood Vampires), Divinity Roxx (Beyonce), and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani), and then chatting with them afterwards. But I think the moment with John McCloy when we first walked onto a stage to perform our own music—that was magic. The irony of that is we still feel the same feeling before every show, including our last show at the Coach House.

Lowest? So many. Playing some godawful place with three other musicians who didn’t do their homework. You just want to go home and swear you’ll never do that again. And then you do it again. Some things we just never learn from. After all—musicians are the very definition of insanity.

J.P.: When you’re not performing, you’re a high school math teacher. Can you bring the same passion to teaching as you do music? Is it a means to an end? And do your students know of your musical career?

S.B.: For 30 years I kept the two completely separate. I didn’t bring my music to school, and I didn’t bring my school to my performing. It was this separation that helped keep me from going insane. I am passionate about teaching math—I love the subject, and I try to let my students know how enjoyable it can really be, if they just give it a try. Now, as I see more in my rear-iew mirror than my windshield, I’ve been more open about both. It gives me a chance to reflect, and to consider what lies ahead after I retire from my teaching job. I’m on a one-year contract (as Vin Scully would say), although my principal knows that if the Foo Fighters, Gin Blossoms, or some other national act calls (or maybe John McCloy gets signed?!?), I’m gone …

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J.P.: As I was listening to you guys play tonight I was thinking, “Jesus, this is a hard sell.” And what I mean is—y’all were great. Truly fantastic. But you’re playing songs few attendees have yet heard to people there for a different band. So what’s the approach? What’s the goal? How do you win audiences over?

S.B.: That is exactly the approach. Make music that people who’ve never heard us before, be able to sing along by the end of our set. If we win over one Blind Melon (or Fuel, Berlin, Spandau Ballet, or Marcy Playground) fan at each show we play, then we’ll have like … 20 new fans a year. At that rate we’ll be overnight sensations in about 15,000 years. Seriously though, hopefully one of those new fans will have some connection to something bigger, and we can cut our timeline down. At least in half …

J.P.: A lot has been made of late of groups like Kiss and Motley Crue singing over recorded audios. It’s a thing in rock that didn’t seem as common decades ago. And I wonder—are you OK with it? I mean, as guys like Paul Stanley and Vince Neil age, is it kosher for us to expect they get a little help? Or is it dishonest bullshit?

S.B.: Another great question. I feel it’s dishonest if you lie about it. Bands like U2 make no bones about using tracks, and people still buy up their tickets at record numbers. What I do have a beef about is when artists insist that they’re not using tracks when you can clearly hear background vocals, extra guitars, cowbells, and strings. ELC uses tracks for about 5-to-6 songs, and we make fun about our ‘keyboard player,’ but we don’t try to deceive our audience. Now if Paul and Vince want to say they use tracks, say it. Nothing wrong with it—just ‘fess up and let’s get on with the music.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Shaquille O’Neal, Blue Oyster Cult, nachos with jalapenos, $5 cover charges, Tammi Terrell, the old testament, Black-Scholes Equation, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Bo Jackson, your left foot: Blue Oyster Cult (c’mon … Godzilla!!!), Nachos with Jalapenos (liquid cheese at its best), The Old Testament (The Greatest Story, right???), Tammi Terrell (The sound of Motown with one of my favorite bassists ever (see below)), Black-Scholes Equation (maybe if I’d use it I wouldn’t have lost so much money on penny stocks like ICOM), John Kennedy, Jr. (iconic vision of him as a boy saluting his dad), Bo Jackson (Bo Knows … baseball more than football), Shaq (The Great Aristotle was no Kareem), $5 Cover Charges (If that money actually went to the bands, then I rank it higher), My left foot (Even though I am left-footed, it still ranks below everything else).

• Five all-time greatest bass players: James Jamerson, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, Carol Kaye, Leland Sklar, Carol Kaye, Dug Pinnick. Together, they make up about 90 percent of my music catalog.

• Five songs you never need to hear again: Sweet home Alabama, Mustang Sally, Stairway to Heaven, Jesse’s Girl, Don’t Stop Believin’

• One question you would ask Peter Criss were he here right now: Do you prefer the 9mm Beretta over a classic 45 Magnum for target shooting, and why?

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No, but I would probably try to make out with the flight attendant on the way down…

• What’s the smallest crowd you’ve ever played before?: Six. And it was worth every moment.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Nas? What’s the outcome?: I’d get my ass kicked. My reflexes are way too slow to fight. I think my record is 1-5 in fights.

• Celine Dion calls. She’ll pay you $10 million to move to Las Vegas for a year and sing background vocals on her new album, titled, “Sammy Burke is a Pimple on the Ass of an Ass.” You also have to live on the floor of her guest house, while only eating cat food, mint Oreos and beet juice. Oh, and your name will be changed to Ruppert Jones. You in?: If I can just eat the creme filling on the Oreos (I can’t eat chocolate), then I’m in. Draw up the contract.

• Who has the greatest singing voice you’ve ever heard live?: Damn. That’s a good one … I’ll have to say Chris Cornell. I’ve heard him sing three times; ’93 at Lollapalooza, ’13 at The Wiltern, and one of his last shows back in ’16 at the Forum. I was amazed to hear him sing every time. That range, and the soulfulness in his tone.

We actually met back in 1988; I was hanging out at a place called the Off Ramp in Seattle, having a beer and chatting with this guy at the bar. Some band like Mudhoney was playing in the room next door, while we were talking about the Sonics, or why there’s no NHL team in Seattle… anyway, about six months later my friend shares a CD with me and I look at the picture and I see the guy who I met at the Off Ramp. I said, “is his name Chris?” and my friend said, “yeah, that’s Chris Cornell”… Like I said, Damn.

• In exactly 17 words, make an argument for John Oates’ 2020 presidential run: So many came to see, what you think — get it for free! Vote John Oates in 2020!!!

Rich O’Malley

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Even though I’m a journalist who grew up desperately wanting to attend professional sporting events, and even though I’ve chronicles some amazing athletic achievements through the decades, and even though I know the smell of garlic fries in San Francisco, the bellowing of “Beer here!” in New York—well, I have no interest in seeing a game in every American stadium.

I just don’t. Because, to me, it’d all blend together into one overpriced mishmosh of hits and runs and tackles and slapshots and dunks. I dig games. Like, I truly, truly dig games. But is there anything particularly special in seeing, oh, Tigers-Rays at the Tropicana Dome? Or Raiders-Jets at MetLife? Meh. I’m not feeling it.

Rich O’Malley, on the other hand, feels it. The former New York Daily News editor is the new author of “One Lucky Fan,” a chronicling of his experiences catching a home game in every NHL, MLB, NFL and NBA stadium. Which is crackalicious crazy and bonkers and … riveting. It’s the sort of bucket list dream that nobody accomplishes. But Rich, well—Rich accomplished it. And here he is.

One can follow Rich on Twitter here, visit his website here and order “One Lucky Fan” here.

Rich O’Malley—welcome home. To the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Rich, so you’re the author of a new book, “One Lucky Fan,” that chronicles your efforts to see a home game in every Major League, NFL, NBA and NHL stadium. And, to be honest, that sounds sorta hellish. So … why? Why was this a goal?

RICH O’MALLEY: It started back in college, when some friends and I took a few road trips to see baseball stadiums. And that’s where most “stadium chasers” call it a day, because baseball parks are the most unique sports venues and each one (ok, not all of them) has its own little cool twist. But over 20-plus years, I started building a pretty impressive collection in the other sports, too. I had always wanted to write a book about my experiences, so once I knew I was going to do that, I decided my hook would be to get ‘em all. Every sport. No one else had ever written that book.

But I wanted a travelogue to be a big part of the book too. I wanted the reader to come along for the ride with me.

Now that kind of trip, nearly eight straight weeks, I would not recommend to anyone, because hellish isn’t even the word. It was mind-numbing, but as I say in the book, fun as heck at the same time. However, if you are really into seeing sports venues and exploring cities, running from airport to train to hotel to arena to hotel to sleep for a few hours to train to airport to the next place is not conducive to appreciating them. Take your time, as much as you’re able.

And my ultimate goal in OLF two-fold: I want readers to contemplate their own background as a fan, and then think about their own personal “what’s next?”

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J.P.: These days book deals are pretty friggin’ hard to come by. Your book was published by Post Hill Press. So what was the process? How did you go about landing it?

R.O.: This industry is indeed brutal, as I was warned by many going into this. I am fortunate to have one of those professors who didn’t stop fulfilling his role as a mentor when I walked out of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism with a master’s degree in my hand in 1998. Chicago journo and former Medill assistant dean Jon Ziomek has been a friend and ally for more than 20 years now, always encouraging me and advising me. He spent more than 30 freaking years shopping his gripping book about the 1977 Tenerife airline disaster, the deadliest in history, and finally signed a deal with Post Hill Press while I was working on OLF. I had received a number of rejections already and fully expected to self-publish from the get-go—and would have been fine with that. But he connected me to Debby Englander over there and she loved the idea and brought it to the president of the company, who also loved it. Suddenly, I had a publisher. The lucky in my title is no accident. That all said, self-publishing is a perfectly acceptable road for anyone thinking about writing a book and can be just as successful and fulfilling. The point is to get that damn book out of your head and into the world.

J.P.: Bluntly, what’s the worst stadium in America to catch a professional sporting event? And what makes it so bad?

R.O.: I call MetLife Stadium, home to my Jets (and the Giants), “a $1.6 billion gray pile of puke.” I ban it for life in the book, which is no small thing when your own team plays there! It is soulless and in the middle of nowhere. It has zero aesthetic appeal. Zero home-field advantage. It is a … Generic. Sports. Venue. Yet the jaw-dropping Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta was built for essentially the same price tag and is a modern marvel. What a boondoggle that dump in New Jersey is! The. Worst.

J.P.: Bluntly, what’s the best stadium in America to catch a professional sporting event? And what makes it so tremendous?

R.O.: You simply cannot get the gameday experience you will have in Green Bay anywhere else in North American sports, nor I’m guessing the entire world. First of all, the stadium itself is iconic; the Packers fans and traditions unmatched. And the experience spills out the gates of the stadium and into the tiny town where Lambeau Field seems like it was dropped from the heavens right in the middle of it. As I say in OLF, every sense is engaged. You see all the cars parked on lawns amid myriad BBQs taking place and all the garages open with giant TVs blaring the other games. You smell the brats cooking. You hear the “Go Pack Go” chant. And I’d encourage anyone wanting to go to Green Bay do so when it’s gonna be frigid out. Go for the ultimate Frozen Tundra experience. You will walk away knowing you’ve seen sports nirvana. And everyone is just so damn nice! Funny story: I needed to print a ticket and the box office couldn’t do it, so I walked up the block to a random door (I’m a New Yorker, I don’t normally do things like that, but desperate times and all) and knocked and a complete stranger let me in and set me up on her computer and went back to the kitchen to finish dinner while I printed out my ticket. Just unbelievable kindness.

J.P.: So I just read a 2016 Yahoo News piece about your departure from the Daily News. You took a buyout at a relatively young age. Why?

R.O.: So many reasons. All of them ridiculously sad. And maddening. Because journalism was (and still kinda is?) a shitshow. Because the 2016 election cycle, which lasted about as long as the Ming Dynasty, took an absolute beating on my soul and psyche. Because my boss, Jim Rich, who was kicking ass, was shown the door days before Election Day. And that was a sign to me that what we were doing, which was shining as bright a light as we could on the huckster who was about to become president, was no longer being appreciated by the front office and was probably going to take a severe hit. And I wasn’t interested in covering him and his soon-to-be administration like everyone else. I wanted the screaming front pages and truth-to-power coverage we were always known for, even if Archie and Edith in Queens cancelled their subscription. (A great business model? Probably not, but who the hell has figured out one that works anyway?) So I made the most difficult decision of my life and joined about 25 or so other colleagues who took the buyout and left my dream job. But again, I’m lucky—I had that chance. So many way-more-talented journos have since been sacked at the Daily News and outlets across the country. And the ones who still survive work daily with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. And these giant E-Corp (for all my fellow Mr. Robot fans) type ownerships reap in and dole out millions in dividends. And yet every year there are still more mass layoffs of on-the-ground journos. It’s monstrous.

By the way, it’s not my opinion that the newsroom under Jim’s leadership was kicking ass—less than six months after his departure, the NYDN newsroom was celebrating a Pulitzer Prize for a series that he led on NYPD abuses of power. That series and the changing of laws that resulted from it improved people’s lives. Years later, another cause The News championed ferociously under Jim, the Child Victims Act, passed into New York state law. Politicians literally (I mean it) hid from our reporters when we were demanding action in Albany seeking justice for people sexually abused as children. Everyone remembers the Trump front pages, but both of those series were going on concurrently with the 2016 campaign, and they are the most important things we can do as journalists. I was proud to be a small part of both. And while the betterment of society should be the end goal and reward, I certainly appreciated the validity that those ultimate victories provided in confirming in my mind that, yes, indeed, we were on the right track and doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing. Assholes.

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J.P.: Part II of that—on your way out you thanked a bunch of people on Twitter, then absolutely unloaded on Donald Trump. Um, I’m as big a loather of the man as you are. But why then? Why at that moment?

R.O.: When our leaders or systems fail us or threaten the general welfare, journalists need to play sentinel and expose it. That’s the job, and the crux of why I did it.

I just had to go back and look because I don’t even remember the specifics of what I said anymore! Pretty prescient, but not particularly perspicacious (how’s that for alliteration?!). It was the coming together of a perfect “Tweet” storm, I guess — of things that had weighed heavily on me for years, and I needed them out of my head and thought maybe they’d help people having similar internal struggles.

I had been mentioned in a couple of stories with a number of other folks about our departures. So I jumped on the fact that for about six seconds my name might mean anything to anyone and what I had to say might mean something to someone too. So I put down my thoughts and decided to post them (sometimes I write stuff just to write it). But here I definitely wanted to 1. Thank people, most importantly. 2. Give people a little insight into the decision making processes of The News with our Trump coverage 3. Confirm to people that journalists do know Trump is indeed a megalomaniacal lying piece of shit, even if other outlets were tying themselves in knots to write around that fact and normalize him, and 4. Warn people that things were gonna get real ugly and vigilance was needed.

My phone blew up with friends saying, “Umm … you might wanna check The Hollywood Reporter,” and other places who were writing about it. I didn’t expect that at all. Oops! I got a good laugh from right wing media tearing their hair out that “THIS is the guy behind so much of the BIASED coverage of Trump! WITHER JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY!” As if truth is biased … we gave Hillary and Bernie front page whacks when we believed they earned it. We had plenty of blistering Obama ones over eight years, too. We shit on the Democratic mayor of NYC daily! But “integrity” only mattered when we attacked their guy. Believe you me though, they’d be happy to plaster their sites or airwaves with our front pages the days we’d go the other way.

But anyway, it wasn’t hard to see any of what’s going on today barreling down the pike. And that was the essence of my Tweetstorm rally cry, because that was an all-hands-on-deck moment to me. And it’s been inspiring to see the level of activism in this country since that election. Go us!

But in the end, there are kids in cages and tanks on the Mall and airports in the 1700s. Our nation’s government is a Fellini film. Nothing matters.

Meanwhile, I wrote a fun sports book to try and take people’s minds off of End Times – ta-da!

No, really, that was part of my motivation. People need the fun and the funny to live through this disaster. So I almost avoid politics entirely in the book. Almost.

Ok, I’m getting grumpy and I’m on the verge of going full-on Farty McOldTimer and yelling at clouds. And this is why I’m not back in journalism. Why’d you pull my politics string?! To paraphrase Jefferson in Hamilton, “Can we get back to sports now?”

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J.P.: So in order to reach your stadium goal, the book wraps with a 25,000-mile, two-month whirlwind tour from stadium to stadium. Why? How? Was it amazing? Awful? And what were you eating?

R.O.: The answer is yes, all of it. Every one of those emotions plus curse words plus tears plus fist-pumps.

I started out writing OLF with about 80 teams under my belt. So I needed to take the mother of all trips to get the final third in less than two months after two decades amassing the first two-thirds. I spent a coffee-fueled day in front of the computer hashing it out, but it was easier than I expected once I hit the right route. So starting Nov. 9, 2017, I would live out of a carry-on bag for 36 days in a row, hopscotching time zones 15 times before I got home for a one-night break. Then it was eight days in the southeast, four days back for Christmas, by which point I was deathly ill and couldn’t even celebrate, but then back out for the five final games in Texas and Oklahoma, culminating in Houston on New Year’s Eve 2017. The turning of a new year and the completion of my 123-team journey—synergy. I counted down the ball drop en Espanol watching Univision and passed out for four hours before I had to get to the airport for my flight home and return to real life. And, you know, write the book. It took weeks to process it all before I could even get one word down. I thought I’d be writing every day on the road, but the reality of a trip like that just didn’t allow me the time or mental space to do so. I mean, I gave up a free day in Seattle to pop up to Juneau, Alaska, for lunch to chalk up my 50th state. It was that kinda trip (and thank goodness for airline miles!).

What was I eating? Whatever, man! I had to remember to eat at times, my pace was so kinetic. My most common destination, because they’re often near stadiums, was Yard House. Their Poke Nachos were my go-to—a little healthy protein mixed with grains, perfect sustenance. Didn’t hurt that it meant I’d get to wash it down with some local brews wherever I was. Sometimes I’d eat at the arena, but knowing where I was going often dictated that decision: Crummy old dungeon? Find me some grub before I go. Brand-spanking-new pleasure palace? Let’s see what they’ve cooked up for me. Options are much better than they used to be across the board. For pete’s sake, I had great Indian food at a Twins game!

But on the whole, yes, it was a blur while I was out there. It all came into focus, slowly, in my rear view mirror, once I sat down to write though. It was like I actually got to relive the trip. I knew what I was getting into, and honestly I embraced the crazy because that was the tale I wanted to tell. Frenetic and unpredictable make for a better story. There’s a reason cat-chases-laser-light videos go viral, but snails crossing a garden do not. I enjoyed being that cat for other people’s amusement.

J.P.: What is it about the live sports experience that does it for you? Like, what gets you going at a stadium?

R.O.: My mantra is, “At every game you attend, you will see something you have never seen before.” It is 100 percent true. Even the dullest game will contain a magic/weird/funny/amazing moment.

On the whole, I love the energy of the crowd. I love wondering why they are all there on that particular night. This is especially true of fans of a bad team. The Suns won like nine home games the season I was there. Why on earth would anyone go see that?! The answer is usually: 1. That’s just what fans do, and 2. The promise of tomorrow. That armchair psychology is cool to me. I love watching their customs and traditions. The electricity that emanates from a fan base is what I live off at games where I don’t care about the teams or result. Therefore the flip-side answer to your question is: “Sometimes nothing gets me going!” There were places I went where I just couldn’t summon the will to care less about the game I was watching. Hey, it happens. So when that energy is lacking, I’ll have nothing to give either. But when it’s there, it’s magic and you can suddenly find yourself a huge St. Louis Blues or Winnipeg Jets fan. You can’t get that mojo on your couch unless it’s your team, and the ultimate is an elimination playoff game involving your own team. If you have any way to chalk up that experience, you have to do it at least once in your life. That stays with you forever.

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J.P.: Along those lines, I’m wondering how you feel about the Disney-fication of stadiums. Used to be dogs, beer, game. Now it’s 10,000 different types of food, slides, games, etc. As an old guy, I sorta hate it. As a parent, I get it. You?

R.O.: You’re right, this is soooo much more a part of venues across the country now, and I think it’s mainly for the better. And you nailed the why: kids. I don’t have, but I know that kids at a long game can be a recipe for disaster. Diversions can only help. Let Junior go see how fast he can throw a ball or let your daughter shoot a few hoops for a little while. That said, I hope parents also don’t just default to that and forget that teaching kids about the game by watching it is important too—if the kid wants to be into it! If they don’t, why are you there at all?
Look, I spend a lot of games just wandering, too. That’s my diversion. I wanna take in all the nooks and crannies and find the best seats and food and beer options. Once I’ve explored a place, I just like sitting and keeping score (if baseball) or watching maybe one particular player if it’s hoops or hockey. I don’t need bells and whistles, but I don’t mind some, especially well considered ones like Bernie Brewer’s slide. I do mind overbearing announcers goading fans to act. If the game is exciting, fans will make noise. They know how this works. STAND UP/PLEASE CLAP is an abomination against the very code of fan conduct.  I wish venues would let fans dictate the atmosphere more. That would a good thing. Also please ban YMCA at Yankee Stadium. And “Seven Nation Army.”

J.P.: You worked with Mike Lupica. I can’t stand the man. But I’ve only observed and heard stories. Am I wrong? Right? What was he like to work with?

R.O.: Believe it or not, I never met him. Never saw him. I worked with him tangentially like three times in my whole time at NYDN. That said, Mike graciously agreed to blurb “One Lucky Fan” for me as soon as I asked him. Which shocked the hell out of me since he didn’t really know me. However, I never received another answer to three follow-up emails I sent him, including attaching the digital review copy to the last one. So. Yeah. That was disappointing. Luckily, my other ask was of Sarah Spain at ESPN and she is the awesomest person ever and penned the awesomest blurb ever and I was able to give that a good ride on the back cover. She nailed the spirit of OLF in a few grafs. Not easy.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Desmond and the Tutus, Pete Alonso, the Alf puppet, Air Pods, lamb, aluminum baseball bats, “Kramer vs. Kramer,” Mark Kriegel: I love Kriegel! And his Daily News commercials in the 90s were the best. Alonso and Alf right behind him. If you mean lamb the animal, great. The meat? No. The rest, meh.

• Five greatest writers you’ve ever worked with: Breslin tops my list. Then every member of the rewrite desk in my entire time at The News. What unsung talent they all have.

• Three things we need to know about your wife: 1. She’s wicked smart, but she married me. 2. She’s sweet, but sassy as heck. 3. I owe her everything I am, which is markedly improved by her love.

• Five foods to cure life’s ills: My grandma’s/mom’s/sister’s lasagna. Those Poke Nachos at Yard House. My wife’s cobblers and pies. The pesto anywhere in Cinque Terre. My own cocktail creations.

• Who should the Democrats run on the ticket in 2020?: I really wish I could say Amal Clooney – not kidding. Honestly, I’m gonna need to hear a lot more and see performance under pressure from all of the announced Democratic candidates before I know who I most closely align with and I think has the best chance to win. And win they must.

• Tell me a solid joke: That’d be a gas.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No, but I commonly dream I’m watching one happen. Just arcs right out of the sky in front of me. Terrifying.

• The four athletes one should see in person are …: Greek Freak. Usain Bolt. Lukaku. Your favorite.

• How did you feel when Johnny Lozada left Menudo?: I feel like this is a trick question. [Googles] It isn’t! Ok, I’ll play along: Not nearly as bad as when New Edition kicked out Bobby Brown.

• One question you would ask Michael Sam were he here right now: May I shake your hand, sir?

Barry Pollock

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There comes a point, when your college days are crawling to a close and you start to wonder what will become of people.

For example, my roommate Paul is an attorney. Our other roommate Dan is a banker. Scott wound up a teacher, Pete a chiropractor, Faz a journalist. You sorta take guesses, and then—as they wander this path we call life—you watch and think, “Hmm, that’s pretty much what I expected” or “Hmm, I didn’t see that coming.”

I didn’t see Barry Pollock coming.

Granted, while Barry and I both ran track and cross country at the University of Delaware, we were never teammates (I lasted on season; he was a star after I was done) or close pals. But we certainly knew each other, and—thanks to social media—as the years have passed we’ve maintained a nice friendship.

So, again, I didn’t see Barry Pollock coming.

When he’s not working as a data scientist in a healthcare engineering field, Barry spends a ton of time as a reenactment fighter, which means he dons 40 pounds of armor made out of leather and steel, then goes into battle. It’s a wild, crazy, fantastical world that (truth be told) I never knew existed. So I thought it’d be groovy to bring Barry here and Quaz him up on a legit fighting community that (dammit) has nothing to do with the shit you see in “Role Models.”

One can read Barry’s reenactment fighting blog here.

Barry Pollock, you are the Quaz …

So, while Barry and I weren’t close friends at the University of Delaware, we shared

JEFF PEARLMAN.: So Barry, you’re the first reenactment fighter to be Quazed. Which leads to a pretty easy first question—what is reenactment fighting?

BARRY POLLOCK.: Hi Jeff. Being the first comes with a load of responsibility, so I sure hope I represent the hobby well! The short answer is that reenactment fighting, as I call it, is any kind of fighting that aims to recreate armored combat before the advent of gunpowder. The longer answer is that there are many, many organizations that do this, each with their own sets of rules, goals, culture, etc. Some groups use foam weapons, some wood (rattan), while others use blunted steel. From what I understand, there’s even a group that will do battle inside of a ring of fire!

My experiences are centered mainly around rattan fighting while wearing about 40 pounds of armor made out of leather and steel, most of which I crafted myself. Some people prefer one on one combat in tournaments while I prefer the melee (group) format. These melees can range anywhere from weekly 5 on 5 pickup fights at the local college campus (not unlike pickup basketball) to battles with 1,000 participants on the field at the same time in festivals that can last up to one to two weeks long.

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J.P.: How did this happen for you? And what I mean is—I’m 47, I’m a history buff, I’ve lived in different places. Not once, however, have I thought to myself, “Reenactment fighting! Yes!” Literally never crossed my mind as an option.

B.P.: We have a lot of history buffs in the organizations, but I think what is probably most universal is a love for historical and fantasy movies like Excalibur, Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Game of Thrones, etc. From there you must either enjoy, or at least be able to tolerate, camping, traveling, spending money you don’t have, building and fixing things, being physically active, and last but not least, getting hit with a stick.

My introduction to the hobby isn’t much different than anyone else’s. I met some people who were already doing it. Specifically, I had a job washing dishes at Clayton Hall Conference Center near The Towers at the University of Delaware in 1993. My coworker got fired for doctoring his time cards and subsequently found a new job setting up tables and chairs in the same building, but under different management, and suggested that I come join him. On my first day of work I had found out that literally our entire crew plus one of the shift managers were into the hobby and had just returned from a two week long festival. I told them that I wanted in, and the rest is (pun mostly unintended) history!

Within a year I had scrapped together the ugliest college-poor armor kit you can manage, and found myself on a battle field standing across from 500 or so armored warriors. I had borrowed a helmet from a friend and hadn’t thought try it on before reaching the battle. Minutes before the cannon was to go off (that’s how the battles are begun) I put the helmet on, only to discover that my eyes did not line up with the eye holes in the helmet. So I took the helmet off, stuffed it full of grass, and entered the fight. As I ran across the field, the grass started falling out of the helmet, much of it over my eyes, so I couldn’t see much, anyway. I believe I made it up to the front lines and got clobbered by the first person I got within range of. I guess I enjoyed it enough that I kept coming back for more.

J.P.: I was reading your blog, and am I wrong in comparing this to WWF, where the fighting is all choreographed and predetermined, but a whole bunch of things can variate from the script?

B.P.: That would fall under the category “recreation fighting,” which is not something I’ve ever taken part in. What I do is much more like paintball, except with wooden swords. It’s a medieval themed sport with a set of rules that you must follow. If I hit you in the head or body with a sufficient amount of power, you are out of the fight. If I hit you in the leg, you have to fight from your knees. The goal is for my team to eliminate your team.

Battles are never scripted, but we often have themed scenarios.  One team might be guarding a castle gate, while the other team is trying to get inside the castle. Sometimes there will be objects on the field that might represent chests of gold, or livestock, and one team’s goal is to collect all of the objectives while the other team is trying to defend them. I recently fought a battle where everyone was allowed to keep returning to the fight until a ballista (it’s a like a crossbow the size of a cannon) can fire its bolt and hit a target 50 yards down field.

I should also add that the organization that I participate in the most, the Society for Creative Anachronism, is a historical society that goes way beyond just the fighting, but in terms of my personal interests I’m really there primarily for the fighting. Also of note, there’s a very good Amazon Prime video called Off the Cuf (with one “f”) that does a 45 minute documentary of the largest SCA festival in the world, Pennsic (of which I’ve attended 20 times).

Barry (left) during his days at Delaware.

Barry (left) during his days at Delaware.

J.P.: As we speak, you work as a data scientist in a healthcare engineering field. Also as we speak, we have a president and an administration that shows little interest in analyzing data, in science, in math, in reason. And I wonder, as a guy with your background, how you’re feeling about things these days?

B.P.: The anti-intellectualism of society, in general, is very frustrating. Very few people actually understand how to analyze data, and many of those same people will trust their gut instincts over a team of “egg headed” scientists. I had been involved in many Internet debates where people were claiming that the planet had stopped warming around 1998. Though I was not a climate scientist, I knew how to read data and was trying my darndest to show people that the patterns did not, in fact, show and end to the warming trends. They had the luxury of believing what they wanted because they were simply unable to grasp the math. The warming trends have since gone up again, as I predicted. Though some of these people may have since accepted that they were wrong, I have little faith that they won’t continue to doubt the science on future subjects.

J.P.: For the past 2 ½ decades you’ve been a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and you were elected “warlord” for a year. What in fuck’s name does that mean?

B.P.: Well to be clear, I was elected warlord of my house (called Anglesey). I was the executive officer for a group of about 70 people who participate in an organization with over 60,000 participants. The warlord in our house is pretty similar to, say, the president of a motorcycle club. You organize meetings, facilitate polls for decision making, appoint commanders for the battles, etc. We often joke that the most important job of the warlord is to wake everyone up in time to make it to the battles. I haven’t been warlord for a few years, but one often gets the job by being active, responsible, and most importantly, because its “your turn.” There are a lot of houses where people want to be in charge. In Anglesey, we typically pray that someone else will want to be in charge, and then do a good job while they are.

And now you might be wondering, “What’s a house?” Think of a house like a sports team. Our battles are often consisted of several houses on each side.  It would be like if you had to put together are 500 person football team out of a collection of NFL teams. And then each team would likely work on its own. “Okay, the Rams will take the left side of the field, the Eagles will be on your flank, and the Jets will be in the middle. I don’t care what the Cowboys do. They suck!”

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J.P.: In your early 30s you taught yourself to play the drums. You then started a thrash metal band that played 20 or so gigs per year for three years. Um … what? How does that even happen? And why’d you stop?

B.P.: I played the trombone in college and dabbled with other instruments. I literally decided one day that I was going to buy a drum set and teach myself how to play. I also started a band, but because I was so bad, I needed other people on my level, so I pulled together a couple of friends who were also new to their instruments. We sucked. Like really sucked! But we got better. Eventually we started playing gigs, and then we met other musicians at these gigs, and then bands would break up and new bands would form. All in all I played in three bands over about a decade. I still play on my own, but being in a band is a lot of work for not a lot of money. The constant stress trying to keep 4-5 people together and on top of things gets old. If one person can’t make it, the band doesn’t play. Its not a very forgiving hobby.

J.P.: What are the misconceptions people have of reenactment fighting? And how did the film “Role Models” impact that? If at all?

B.P.: First of all, I LOVE Role Models! But Role Models is LARPing, not reenacting! LARP stands for Live Action Role Play, and is essentially Dungeons in Dragons that you walk around and act out. So where reenactment fighting is an athletic competition, and recreation fighting is like a choreographed play, LARPing is like a character driven game. In terms of the perceptions, the only thing I can say is that I lot of people think I do that, and I have to say, “No, I don’t do that. Not at all. Okay, its sort of like that, but completely different. No, really. The differences are significant. Fine, whatever… its a LARP (but it’s not!).”

J.P.: Here’s a weird one—we’re both former University of Delaware track and cross country runners. The big difference being, you’re a former state champ and I was a mediocre hack who ran the best 800 in Putnam County (home of four high schools). But this is what gets me—my year running at UD has stuck with me, and I don’t exactly know why. I mean, I sucked, I was out of my depth, it only lasted one year. But … I dunno. It matters. Does it to you? And … why?

B.P.: I’d often thought that if I was ever in a room full of high school runners getting all conference honors, I’d tell them two things; 1) You’re not all that. There’s people out there way better than you in a sport that no one cares about. 2) Take pride in the fact that you are orders of magnitude faster than 99 percent of the population.

I once looked at a trophy I had that was probably the representation of my highest achievement as a runner (something I got my senior year in college) and I did the math. If I traded all of the hours I spent training and, instead, worked a minimum wage job, what would this be worth, and would I be willing to trade it? The answer was about $30K, and the second answer was, “No, I wouldn’t trade it.” Like the pride one might take in building a deck off the back of their house, I take a lot of pride in having been a collegiate runner.

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J.P.: You were an insanely fast runner, you did an Ironman, etc … etc. And now, mid-40s, you don’t run much. How does that impact you? Make you feel? To have been so fucking great at something, then sorta lose that to age? (Because I wasn’t nearly your equal, and it crushes me).

B.P.: Well, considering you wrote books on Brett Favre , Walter Payton, and the L.A. Lakers, lets just say I feel honored that you’d say that about a guy who just missed making all conference in an average DI school. It definitely bums me out a bit, but then its comforting to know that virtually everyone our age goes through the same process. There’s certain things we just can’t do anymore, so I try to focus on the things that I can do and take pride in that. I wouldn’t mind having my 20 something year old body back, but not if I have to give up my 40 something life experiences.

I’m also preparing to deal with this with my fighting hobby. We’re fortunate enough that skills and experience can make up for a lack of youthful fitness such that one can still fight at a pretty high level up to about 50, but like with anything, there comes a time when you can’t do it at a level that satisfies you anymore. At 46 I’m at about the top of my game, but I can feel myself slipping.

J.P.: Serious question—are we fucked? Trump, climate change, greed, etc? Are we just screwed and our kids more screwed? Or do you see any silver lining?

B.P.: I pray that science will save us all!

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 12.32.55 AMQUAZ EXPRESS WITH BARRY POLLOCK:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Alanis Morissette, Paul Hannsen, Elena Delle Donne, Ben Carson, graham crackers, Nate Dogg, yawning, egg tosses, Artis Gilmore: Paul Hannsen (naturally!), Alanis Morissette, Elena Delle Donne (who made me realize I was not a better basketball player then WNBA players), Artis Gilmore, yawning, egg tosses, Ben Carson, Nate Dogg.

• Greatest running moment of your life?: Winning counties as a junior underdog. Second would be winning the Sprint Medley Relay at the Dover Relays. I enjoyed feeling like part of the sprint crew for one race.

• Right now, who wins in a one-mile race between you and Cam Newton?: In all seriousness, as slow as I’ve gotten, I would destroy Cam Newton. The guy’s 245 pounds! And explosive power and endurance running mix like oil and water. The last race I ran was a 5K in 21:30. Not fast enough to even make a high school varsity roster, but I enjoyed the fact that I was the second fastest runner at over 190lbs in the race (the fastest being my 25 year old cousin, who was also a D1 runner).

• Five reasons one should make Newark, Del. His/her next vacation destination: 1) The sandwiches; 2) Beautiful UofD campus; 3) Go for a stroll in the White Clay Creek Preserve; 4) Days of Knights gaming store on Main Street; 5) The sandwiches. Malin’s Deli makes the best Italian sub I’ve ever tasted, and I am a hug sandwich snob!

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? What do you recall?: Nope. I put on my ear buds and listen to Dark Side of the Moon every time I fly. I always pass out during On The Run and wake up during Eclipse.

• Celine Dion calls. She wants you to be her private reenactment fighting. She’ll pay you $10 million for six months, but you have to move to Las Vegas, legally change your name to Owl The Fuck Stick III and—for that time period—have a mouse trap attached to your left nipple. You in?: Absolutely! By the way, my house actually has a joke. When you start fighting, you need to pick a reenactment name (like Angus, Johan, Mangnus, etc.). If you don’t, we’ll pick one for you. The name we threaten them with is always “Fuck Stick.”

Ironically, my reenactment name is Barry. I got grandfathered in years ago, though I do have several nicknames that are less than flattering.

• One question you would ask Purvis Short were he here right now?: Magic or Bird?

• What’s the movie you absolutely hate?: Independence Day. Worst payoff to hype ratio, ever. Plus the kid sitting next to me kept sucking on his fingernails during the movie. Always left a bad taste in my mouth.

• About a decade ago Delaware ended its men’s running programs. Are you still bitter?: Yep. Very!

• What do your shoes smell like after a long run?: Axe Body Spray, ‘cause I’m a stud!

Dave Tollefson

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I love guys like Dave Tollefson.

What I mean by “guys like Dave Tollefson” is guys who have experienced tremendous success in professional sports, then fade away and integrate into society. They were here, down with us, then they rose to the highest of heights. They drank the bubbly, they sacked Tom Brady, they won the jewelry. Then, when that ended, they returned to be with us. Happy, content and overflowing with amazing stories.

Dave’s story, in particular, is otherworldly. He was a kid from Northern California who jumped from junior college to Fresno State to working at a Home Depot to Division II ball to being plucked by the Green Bay Packers with the 253rd pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. That he wound up playing on two Super Bowl champions is a testament to doggedness, to hard work, to believing in oneself.

And while those rings are valuable, they’re no match for Dave Tollefson‘s latest honor: The 412th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Dave, I’m gonna throw a big one at you. Having covered sports for a long time, and having gotten to know many retired NFL players, I sometimes wonder whether it was truly worth it. And what I mean is this: You played six NFL seasons. Six years—which fly by. And then you’re done. I’m speaking generally here, but your body is often beaten. Your mind is often beaten. You’re done doing the thing you absolutely love by 30, maybe 31. And then you’re left with the rest of your life, forever knowing what it is to have 60,000 fans cheer, but never getting that buzz again. And it just seems like a REALLY hard adjustment to life after. Am I exaggerating? And is it worth it?

DAVE TOLLEFSON: First off, thanks a ton for thinking of me for the world-famous Quaz!

It definitely is an exhilarating feeling having a packed stadium cheer you on. The job is tough, maybe that’s an understatement. I think most people equate the toughness to the physical part of the NFL, but I think the mental part is by far much tougher. Imagine someone filming you doing your job, the whole day. Then after work you sit and watch this film with your boss and other employees. While watching this film, 90 percent of what they tell is what you did wrong. The next day you do the same thing, also the day after that and so on. They also are trying to actively replace you this entire time. The actual playing of football is a sanctuary, the physical part of it for me was a time to take out all these frustrations of the mental stress. Ronnie Lott once said, “You get paid to practice and the games you play for free.” I totally agree with the Hall of Famer. I always knew that I was playing a kid’s game for a king’s ransom.

Retiring is not easy by any means. I think, considering how I got to the NFL, it was easier for me than most of the others who go through it. I always knew that my career had an end point. I took what NFL stands for (Not For Long) seriously. Being married to the right person is a tremendous help. My wife Megan is an unbelievable person, she has been very patient with anything that I have dealt with when it comes to retirement. I think the most important thing for me was finding an outlet. I love waterfowl hunting! The comradery is amazing and the work you have to put in to get results is most of the fun.

Would I play football again? Hell yeah and twice on Sunday if I could. Have me for another Quaz in 15 years and we will see if that answer changes …

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J.P.: You played in two Super Bowls with the Giants. A solid 99.99999 percent of people reading this will have never played in any Super Bowls. This is a broad question, but what is it like? Literally, what is it like, participating in a Super Bowl?

D.T.: It was surreal, crazy, fun, anxiety filled, amazing, scary, and—most of all—unbelievable. All of those things, not in that specific order and maybe all at once. I was on the Oakland Raiders’ practice squad in 2007 when the Giants picked me up Week 5. This is when Lane Kiffin was the head coach, the best thing I can say is he was not ready to be a head coach. The Giants were 2-2 at the time, so it wasn’t like I knew I was going to a Super Bowl contender. So that being said, the first one was an out-of-body experience almost. I really couldn’t believe I was there, playing, in the frickin’ Super Bowl!

The second was much different. I brought all my family and friends. I don’t think I actually made any money because I paid for everyone’s hotel, tickets and everything else. I didn’t care, either. It was one of the best experiences of my life and to be able to share it with the people I care about most meant so much to me.

J.P.: Your coming-up saga is pretty astounding: Played outside linebacker at Los Medanos College in 1999 and 2000; then went to Fresno State, but missed three years with injuries, worked at Home Depot in 2002 before going to Northwest Missouri and starring. Maybe this is overly simplistic, but why didn’t you give up? Quit? Move on?

D.T.: That’s always an interesting question. Honestly its tough to answer because I never really wanted to give up. One of my favorite stories that pertains to that mindset was when I was sitting on Tosh Lupoi’s couch on Walnut Ave in Walnut Creek California. He’s now the defensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns, and at the time he was playing defensive end for the California Golden Bears and I was a earpenter. We were watching an NFL game on a Sunday afternoon. I spoke up and said, “I think I can play in the NFL.”

Tosh’s response: “What the fuck! You think it’s a sign-up sheet?”

Tosh and I are still great friends and any chance I get I tell him that he missed the sign-up sheet.

There were definitely tough times when I thought I could make it and life was telling me a different story. I never thought about quitting, though, and the less likely it seemed that I would make it, the harder I would work. Don’t get me wrong, there were a number of blessings along the way that put me in position to get to where I got but hard work was always there.

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J.P.: You were the 253rd pick of the 2006 NFL Draft. Where were you? Did you think you’d get selected? What was your reaction? Emotion?

D.T.: I was in a 1985 17.5 foot Astroglass bass boat on the California Delta. My buddy Tosh entered us in a bass tournament on the second day of the draft. It actually was a brilliant idea to keep my mind off of everything.

I seriously thought I would not be drafted and that was fine with me. I was told by a scout my senior year at Northwest Missouri State University that I would definitely be a free agent signee. For me that was more than enough. I summoned my Lloyd Christmas and said, “So you’re saying there’s a chance!”

I could not believe that I got drafted. I was a carpenter just 2 1/2 years prior. I was a marginal junior college player and I couldn’t keep my grades right for the life of me and that cost me my chance at Fresno State and now I was drafted to play in the NFL. It was a dream come true. I cried, my mom cried, my girlfriend (who’s now my wife) cried. Again, it wasn’t just about me, it was about all the people who believed in me and loved me along the way.

J.P.: I don’t think most of us know what it’s like to get hit. Like, REALLY hit. So … what’s the story of the worst hit you ever took? And what did it feel like?

D.T.: Not trying to sound like a total meathead, but I rarely was the proverbial nail (be the hammer not the nail). One time Everson Griffin hit me from the side on Punt team, it was pretty hard. He actually got a late hit penalty on the play. It just hurt, I think my ego was more battered than my body to be honest with you. I always tried to be the last guy to flinch, typically that makes you the hammer.

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J.P.: You played with the Berlin Thunder in NFL Europe. And I’ve just gotta think—you’re 26, living in Berlin, playing football and getting solid money. Amazing, no? What was that experience like?

D.T.: Solid money? I made 500 bucks a week in NFL Europe. They paid for room and board but they didn’t pay for Internet and it cost like $350 a month. I actually loved the experience over there. I tell anyone who will listen to get out and see the world. It’s amazing how different parts of the world are. One thing that left an indelible impression on me was the visit to Dachau Concentration Camp. Its very difficult to describe. It’s a life-altering experience.

A lot of guys went out. I didn’t. I would tell the guys there that they didn’t send us here because we were good. I took it very seriously and I think it paid off. Playing with some high-level players and being out of a Division II college, my confidence skyrocketed. It definitley was a springboard for my career. I can’t leave out either, went to a Xzibit concert. It was interesting to say the least.

J.P.: I’m a New Yorker. I come from a family of Giant fans. That said, like most people I gave the Giants a 0.00% chance of winning Super Bowl XLII. Am I wondering—what did you think, heading into the game? Were you sure you’d win? Were you sorta sure? Not sure?

D.T.: As you know we played the Patriots the last game of that regular season. After watching the film of that game, we felt that if we had the opportunity to play them again, we would beat them. Well, we got to play them again and our confidence was sky high. We not only thought that we were going to beat them, we knew we were. It was honestly a kind of a weird feeling. They were undefeated and one of the best teams to ever take a field in NFL history, but we had Eli Manning.

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Dave with the family at a Mets game.

J.P.: Is hate a thing in pro football? Like, if you’re a Giant do you hate the Redskins or Cowboys the way fans do? Are there opposing offensive linemen or quarterbacks you hate, in a visceral way? Or is it more, “I have a job to do, no beef with anyone”?

D.T.: I wouldn’t say that the players take the rivalries nearly as seriously as fans do. With that being said, I absolutely hate the Philadelphia Eagles. That has more to do with them beating us in the playoffs in 2008 and The Miracle at the Meadowlands II. As far as individual beefs, those can be very real. I never had one myself but there were definitely guys who did not like each other. Some guys didn’t like their own teammates.

J.P.: How much do you worry about the long-term impact football has on your brain? And are you 100 percent comfortable with football, as we sit here in 2019? Can your kids play? Is it safe?

D.T.: I’m not to concerned at this juncture of my life. Worrying doesn’t get you anywhere in life. Could my brain be a problem for me down the road? Maybe. I try to take really good care of my body in the meantime and I will cross that bridge when I get there.

I’m comfortable with the changes the NFL has made. I think you’re seeing it trickle down also into lower levels of the sport, too. We can still be better though. I love football and it changed my life forever. There a lot of valuable lessons you learn in this sport and quite honestly there really isn’t a ton on the line. You can lose a game. I will repeat this, you can lose a game. I tell people all the time—don’t forget that this is a game.

All my boys play flag football. My wife and I won’t let them play tackle until they are at least 12. Most importantly though, it is their decision if they even want to play. I’m not some psycho dad who is worried about his legacy. I would be just as happy if any of my kids were artists, welders, or maybe even a writer.

Ultimately if it is coached properly I think it is safe. The game has came a long way and when my boys are old enough and if they so choose, I have no problem with them suiting up.

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J.P.: On Memorial Day you Tweeted this gem: (What an amazing day!!! I think about my brother, who did make it back from Iraq, twice. He made it back because other guys didn’t. I get too barbecue and drink beers because of those men and woman that aren’t with us today. Thank you, my children will not forget you.). So I wanna ask—your brother. What is he like? Why did he enlist? What does that mean to you?

D.T.: My brother is my hero. He’s by far the toughest SOB I’ve ever known and he’s grown into and amazing Father and husband. The U.S. Marine Corp was lucky to have a man like him wear that uniform.

I believe he enlisted basically because his options were limited out of high school and he knew they would pay for school afterwards. If he was going to enlist it was going to be with the most fierce force of fighters that this planet has ever known! I’m glad to say that today he’s about to graduate with a double major in economy and finance and a minor in computer science from University of San Francisco. Semper Fidelis!

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Pam Oliver, “The Karate Kid,” Jordin Sparks, Mr. Potato Head, “Get Out,” Jackie Stiles, Jeremy Shockey, date bread, Cuonzo Martin: 1. “The Karate Kid,” 2. Potato Head, 3. Pam Oliver, 4. Jeremy Shockey, 5. Jordin Sparks, 6. Jackie Stiles, 7. Cuonzo Martin, 8. Date bread, 9. “Get Out” (I absolutely refuse to watch scary movies. Call me what you want)

• If you’re the Democrats, and you wanna beat Donald Trump in 2020, what should the ticket be?: President: Joe Biden VP: Barack Obama

• The world needs to know: What was it like playing with Omar Gaither?: It was great! We only played one year in Oakland together, but we played in the Hula Bowl in Hawaii also. It was a senior all-star game.

• Five greatest NFL players from your time in the league?: Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Michael Strahan, Walter Jones, Eli Manning.

• How did you meet your wife?: In our college training room. I spit some game, she dug it and the rest is history.

• Did you ever think you were about to die in a plane crash? If you, what do you recall?: I am not a huge fan of flying in general. The worst time was when I was going to Justin Tuck’s wedding. It felt like we were flying through a tornado. I was absolutely terrified.

• My son thinks, with proper opportunity, Ahmad Bradshaw could have been Walter Payton II. I think he’s on crack. What says you?: Ahmad was an incredible talent. Walter Payton might be a little bit of a reach and I’m sure Ahmad would say the same thing.

• You help coach football at your nearby junior college. What gives you the greatest joy?: Seeing the young men I coach be successful. I try to keep in contact with as many guys I can after they leave. Football is just a footnote in all our lives and I just want to build real relationships.

• Right now, we give you four months to train, then you have to play for the University of Delaware Blue Hens this season. Twelve games, what are your sack, tackle totals?: No. Never. It hurts to think about it. I could give them maybe 10 plays a game and I wouldn’t practice. So I would get about 120 snaps, so if I do the math right, I should get at least one sack …

• What’s the best advice you ever received?: “Everything has a cost and I’m not talking about money necessarily”

Paul Sedacca

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Back when I was a freshman at the University of Delaware, I lived down the hallway in Russell A from a kid named Paul Sedacca. We quickly struck up a friendship.

Paul was a quirky Long Island kid. Huge into KISS. Smooth talker. A fantastic high school runner who joined me for a season of indoor track and field with the Blue Hens. One never knew where life would take you with Paul. Or, put differently, we once wound up in a Milford, Del. trailer park, trying to figure out how to get home. Long story.

Anyhow, in the 2 1/2 decades that have passed since graduation, Paul and I have gone our separate ways. From afar, however, I’ve observed his life with nonstop fascination. When Paul isn’t teaching fourth grade at Joseph M. McVey Elementary School, he’s playing guitar at this club, that bar, this festival. And he’s really, really exceptional—a classical and Flamenco superstar.

So I wanted to invite Paul to this space, to talk about a life of music. One can visit his Facebook page here.

Paul Sedacca, you are The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Paul, you’re this fantastic guitarist with this crazy journey—from jam band to punk to Bluegrass to, now, Flamenco and classical. And when I knew you back in college, I’m pretty sure you played nothing. So … how did this happen?

PAUL SEDACCA: Actually, I started playing music in third grade (recorder) and fourth grade (violin). That’s also when I began reading music. I was motivated when I won the green certificate in recorder class and all the ‘smart’ kids earned the lower purple one.

Through high school I played guitar, mainly heavy metal, but very poorly. During college, every time I thought of playing guitar, in my mind it was, “You should be studying instead.” I did play during the summer though.

At some point around 1996 I joined my first band: Three 2nd Memory. We did some rock originals and Phish covers. I really loved the comradery of being in a band and the feeling of playing live music. When the band broke up, I knew that I wanted to continue. And they key decision was to become versatile. I decided that I would learn at least one song in every musical genre. Knowing how to read music better and learning music theory was the key component to this goal. Once I started learning how chords and scales were built, I was able to begin my quest. So when my friend John Corrigan and I wanted to start a jam/jazz band, I was ready. That band morphed into a few others. Additionally, learning music theory allowed me to begin writing original songs. As of now, I have probably written about 80 or so. Many of them are not very good. Some, I am really proud of, and some have had quite a life. I have a whole educational music CD that I wrote and recorded with my students singing as well.

I started playing Flamenco Guitar when my wife showed me her Spanish Guitar and played the first few notes of Malaguena. Once I saw her play, I knew that it was a direction I wanted to pursue. This also started me playing more classical Guitar and improve my reading of music.

The knowledge of music theory allowed me to learn banjo, bass, harmonica, and mandolin; all of which are on my new album, “Painted Guitars.” It is my eighth solo record.

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With Bego, Paul’s wife and collaborator.

J.P.: When we were at Delaware, you and I were pretty big KISS fans. And as I’ve aged, I’ve come to the conclusion that KISS’ music is, well … um, sorta trash. Is that too harsh? Do you still like/appreciate/enjoy them? Or was that just youth being youth?

P.S.: I’m really glad you asked this question. I read one of your blog posts a few months ago about Kiss and disagreed with most of it. Here’s why: Kiss has a huge catalog of original songs that they wrote and they perform. The song writing is excellent, especially Ace Frehley’s guitar riffs. The first six studio albums in particular are fantastic. To write and record quality original material is very difficult, especially when you know that you will be judged by millions of people. They have written songs that people love and they have been able to play those songs for millions of people live. It is not easy to play guitar, bass, and drums and sing in front of thousands of people, especially when speakers and monitors always sound differently at each venue. However, what is often overlooked about Kiss is the fact that Alive Cooper was doing the whole make-up thing and stage show BEFORE them. He deserves far more credit. He continues to perform live and record new albums of original material. Alice Cooper is the end all be all of hard rock music, the same level Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger are for rock n roll.

Kiss started in the early 70s in New York City. They needed to stand out. There were many other bands including early carnations of Twisted Sister to compete with. Kiss was brilliant at taking the Alice Cooper influence to the next level. People in the 70’s and 80’s never saw anything like that. So yes, I still appreciate and enjoy them. You may not like the type of person Gene Simmons has become, but you must respect his determination, creativity and success in the music business. The bottom line is Kiss wrote and performed amazing original songs themselves. No ghost writers and no Milli Vanilli.

J.P.: You’re the banjo player in Chapel Street Junction, a Delaware-based bluegrass band. And I’m fascinated—how does one become the banjo player in a Delaware-based bluegrass band? What was the path?

P.S.: In the late 90s I saw a performance of Doc Watson and Dave Grisman at the Wilmington Opera House. It was my first exposure to Bluegrass. I loved the speed and accuracy of the picking. It was like country music on steroids. I said to John Corrigan, “If you get a mandolin, I’ll get a banjo.” We both agreed, then got our friend Scott Perlot to bring his acoustic guitar and singing talents. The band Delaware Rag was born. We played a few open mics at the now defunct East End Café, and before we knew it we were getting real paying gigs. (Meanwhile I knew only one ‘banjo roll’ and was learning the instrument from a book and in front of audiences). Up to that point, I don’t think I ever made any money playing rock, jam, or jazz. We found a bass player (upright), and another guitarist. The band really took off, sometimes we were playing 10 or more shows a month. We recorded several albums and even did a short southern tour one summer. The Delaware Rag was so busy that it began affecting my day job of teaching. So, Scott and I formed Chapel Street Junction. We would only play a few shows a month and stay employed at our daytime jobs. That was 13 years ago and still going. Chapel Street Junction has also been very successful. We play one or two shows a month and have also been playing a lot of Irish Music. In March we are very busy and have been playing the Logan House, Stewart’s Brew Pub, and some other places every year. Once again being Versatile has helped us. We play Bluegrass, Country, Irish, and Classic Rock bluegrass style. Sorry, no Kiss covers yet, but we do some Twisted Sister. This summer we have several big shows including the Concert Series at White Clay Creek. Last time we played there, there were about 1,000 people watching.

J.P.: I’ve watched a ton of clips of you playing, and what I keep thinking, sincerely, is, “God, Paul just looks really … happy.” What are you feeling when you play? Does your mind wander? Are you hyper focused?

P.S.: The reason why I am happy in general is that I am proud of my accomplishments in life. Also, the fact that I don’t depend on playing music as my only source of income allows me to enjoy it much more. I still find every live performance different and unique. And, getting paid to play Classical Guitar and Banjo is actually amazing and funny to me. When I am playing, I do need to go into some sort of hyper focus. But, if I focus too much I will make a mistake. For example, if I am playing banjo or classical guitar, each finger of the right and left hand has to hit a specific string with the proper force in order to produce a smooth even tone. If I focus too much on each individual finger, I will crash, especially when playing high speed banjo. The focus has to become auto pilot. Same is true when playing Bach off of sheet music in front of an audience. The mechanics need to be worked out at practice. Much like a quarterback. The QB during a game is not thinking about each step he takes, the angle of his arm, the pressure of each finger when he throws etc. He practices all of that, so it is automatic during the game. Or, when you are typing one of your best- selling books, I’m sure that you are not thinking about which finger should be hitting each key.

My mind sometimes wanders, and that is usually followed by a mistake. It is difficult at times to focus on playing when you have job related stress such as standardized tests, or maybe your car is in the shop, and your kitchen sink is stopped up. Concentration is also tested by outside factors (see next answer).

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J.P.: So you recently played a solo gig at the Olive Tree Café in Newark, Del. And I’ve always wondered—what’s it like playing music at a restaurant? Everyone’s eating, talking. Silverware clangs, phones ring. Is it hard to focus? Do you at all mind when people don’t focus or pay respect to the artistry before them?

P.S.: Oh, Pearlman, you really hit one of my sensitive spots. As you know, it takes years to be able to play the Classical Guitar well enough to perform in front of people. Some songs I have practiced for countless hours until I was comfortable playing them live. Sometimes I close my eyes and improvise off of a piece and really take the music to some amazing places, only to open my eyes and to see that most people didn’t even notice. It took me a long time to accept the fact that many people don’t respect the time and effort that is needed to provide the background music while they are eating tapas and paella. However, what I have learned is that many people really do appreciate my playing. Sometimes it is evident in my tip cup at the end of the night. Sometimes, it is just a few people coming up and letting me know.

Regarding silverware clangs, loud talking, cellphones etc., the worst offender is the blender especially when I play with my wife at the Mexican Restaurants. The pouring of ice into the ice bin is another loud auditory distraction. To deal with this, I sometimes practice with the TV on and the volume turned up. Also, being a teacher, I keep a guitar in my classroom and will sometime practice Classical pieces during indoor recess. And, if you can concentrate when 30 fourth graders are playing in one classroom, you can focus through anything.

J.P.: So you and your wife Bego and the Hall and Oates of Delaware flamenco—she sings, you play guitar. What’s it like teaming up with a spouse, musically? What are the complications, if any? If, say, you just had an argument about taking out the trash, does it impact the show?

P.S.: First we need to write some hit songs and sell a few million albums to be compared with Hall and Oates. Collaborating musically has been a great part of our relationship. It started when I learned she played Spanish Guitar. We used to play the same Classical pieces together while on Skype. Later she started singing a song or two with me during my concerts. Previously Begona sung in a chorus in Spain and also performed in some Zarzuelas (Spanish light opera). Everyone loved when she sang. She added a great authentic Spanish sound. So, gradually we added more songs. Now, we have some shows where we co-headline. I usually start with some Flamenco pieces, then we do some songs together, and she also sings along with backing tracks. Some shows are more geared around her vocals. Most of our Mexican Restaurant gigs are like that. In addition to the Mexican and Spanish Restaurant circuit, together we have also played Wilmington Brew Works, Hotel DuPont, University Of Delaware events, and The Deerfield Country Club. It has been very successful. Some complications are the typical difficulties when learning a song together, that is figuring out a key, tempo and rhythm pattern that works for both of us. I have been thrown into the Spanish and Flamenco genre and really learned from her a whole new approach to the guitar. Sometimes we disagree about whether or not we need to use a monitor at a certain venue. There were a few times when we had a disagreement before a show. And, honestly it would be tough while setting up the speakers and running the mics and cables. But, after the first minute of the first song, everything seems to feel so much better, and by the end we tend to forget what the disagreement was even about. Music is a magical healer in that way.

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Paul, right, with Chapel Street Junction.

J.P.: Can anyone play guitar and be solid-to-good at it? Or are there certain things people are born with? Talents? Skills?

P.S.: Much like professional sports, the physical characteristics of the human are important. For example you need to be tall to play basketball. If playing guitar, having longer fingers does help. But Leslie West of Mountain proved that short stubby fingers can play guitar well too. Most people think that you are ‘born’ with musical ability. I don’t completely agree with that. I feel that the most important aspect is to practice and not give up when you don’t get better right away. It takes so many hours to improve just a little bit with an instrument. Too many kids these days give up on an instrument because they expect to get better without putting in too much time. Video games take practice but the learning curve is far steeper than an instrument. Because the children are used to the relatively short time it takes to improve in a video game, they can’t persevere through months and years of getting better at an instrument.  Also, in my opinion the music that your parents played when you were growing up is really important. I remember riding in my mother’s car and her playing 8-tracks of Billy Joel, Elton John, and The Beatles. This auditory input was key to me loving music as I grew up. Those songs made me feel good and the melodies were just so appealing to my ear.

J.P.: I just watched a video from you at Stewarts Brew, singing, clapping. People dancing. How did you develop the comfort and self-assurance to stand before people and sing? Were there things you needed to overcome?

P.S.: I became comfortable when I felt that I was capable at my instrument. If you are always expecting to be the best at an instrument you will be disappointed. Just be good enough to play something that sounds like music and get in front of a crowd at an open mic. When you are not depending on it for income, you can just throw it out there and enjoy the rush of playing music in front of an audience. It really is the best feeling. I also have so much confidence in my band  Chapel Street Junction and I know we are putting out a good product and helping people enjoy themselves and helping the bar owners make money. I try to get people clapping, singing, and dancing. Crowd interaction is part of a performance. I grew up watching David Lee Roth (Van Halen), Vince Neil (Motley Crue), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), and Paul Stanley (Kiss) work the crowd. Interacting with the audience is really important. I sometimes do some ‘Name that tune’ songs during my Classical/Flamenco shows. I will give some background information on composers etc. I also try to be funny and usually mention that real job is as a fourth grade teacher.

Singing has taken me many years to get better at and years to overcome the difficulty that it takes to hit the right notes and carry a tune. Learning the banjo is the most difficult thing that I have done in my life. It is sooooooo challenging and frustrating with the right hand finger picks, high speed, and hitting the right strings with the proper force.

Wedding day.

Wedding day.

J.P.: You seem like a happy guy. You truly do. I’m a happy guy—with major doses of dread. Climate change, Trump, greed, etc. Mainly climate change and Trump. How do you soldier through? How do you find and maintain happiness?

P.S.: Well I feel the key to happiness is to be proud of your accomplishments and the type of person you are. I finally found a beautiful and loving wife. We really enjoy performing and experiencing life together.  I have been a teacher for 23 years, won several awards and have had five articles written about my teaching. My students and I helped make the Grey Fox Delaware’s Official Wildlife Animal. (That’s a whole separate story too.) I also have been in all of the lower 48 states, and 13 European countries. I even have been to Iceland. Musically, I have made tens of thousands of dollars and played probably around 500 shows.  I try to be a good son and an excellent husband. I let other cars merge in front of my car on the road, I’m polite and respectful to employees at any business, and I do everything I can to help the Earth and environment.

I do get major doses of dread when it comes to Trump’s attitude toward climate change and the environment. That is my number one concern. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord, reducing the size of national parks, and loosening the regulations on clean air and water are unforgivable, unacceptable, short- sighted and stupid. I also hate when over- development cuts down trees and old growth forests. Finally, a president should not call opponents insulting names, and use profane language.

J.P.: Greatest moment as a musician? Lowest?

P.S.: Greatest moment as a musician …On banjo, playing with Chapel Street Junction at White Clay Creek for about 1000 people, or some of the many shows where the crowd is rowdy and dancing. On Classical/Flamenco Guitar my greatest moment was playing the Macarena with my wife singing for International Night at the elementary school. We had a whole bunch of kids and teachers dancing. It was really funny.  Also having about 100 kids in the school chorus singing the school song that I wrote 16 years ago is a great feeling.

Lowest: the first time I ever tried playing with a band. It was 1989, my guitar was out of tune, and I broke a string. I was not able to participate at all.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Vinnie Vincent, Mike Going, Moo Shoo Shrimp, John Lukawski, Stone Balloon, Dan Walsh’s 1989 quarterback play, chocolate-covered raisins, sandals, Bobcat Goldthwait, Sam Cassell: 1. John Lukawski, 2. Johnny Lawrence (Cobra Kai), 3. Stone Balloon (Ramones) 4. Vinnie Vincent. 5. Mike Going 6. Moo Shoo Shrimp 7. chocolate covered raisins, 8. Dan Walsh’s quarterback playing, 9. Bobcat Goldthwait, 10. Sam Cassell, 11. Sandals, but never Mandals.

• How did you meet your wife?: I spotted her when I was walking through Plaza Mayor in Madrid. I got out my map and asked for directions.

• Five reasons one should make Newark, Del. His/her next vacation destination: 1. Great restaurants and variety of places to eat. 2. Nearby walking and hiking trails. 3. Walking UD campus. 4. No sales tax 5. Awesome live music scene.

• Three most noteworthy people to come out of East Williston, N.Y.: 1. Jack Kirby 2. Christopher Masterson 3. Carol Leifer

• I’m not feeling Scotter Gennett as a longterm answer for the Reds. What says you?: I would say to get Mookie Wilson as a hitting coach and Jesse Orosco as pitching coach.

• Five all-time greatest KISS songs: This is the toughest question of the entire Quaz. I have been thinking of this everyday since you sent me the questions. The album that each song is on is in parenthesis.

• Hard Luck Woman (Rock n Roll Over) Forget Beth, this is Peter Criss’s best song.

• Deuce (Kiss) awesome guitar riff and a great song that I used to play live in a punk rock band.

• Parasite (Hotter than Hell) Such an great guitar lick by Ace, a nice dark sound that really rocks.

• I Stole your Love (Love Gun) Another unstoppable guitar riff by Ace.

• Rock n Roll All Night (Alive I) This song and video got me into Kiss and is a classic rock anthem that should be respected.

 • What are the three most important human emotions?: 1. Empathy 2. Ambition 3. Acceptance (not sure if these count as emotions, but it is a Quaz after all)

• Celine Dion calls. She wants to perform a duet with you, and it’ll be the lead single on her next album. She’ll also pay you $5 million. However, you have to spend the next six months living in his Las Vegas basement alongside a pile of festering dog shit while listening to Donald Trump’s inaugural address on an endless loop. You in?: No, I do not need money that much. Six months is too long to be away from my family, friends, job, and music performances.

• Greatest moment as a runner at the University of Delaware?: Running on Creek Road with my new good friend Jeff Pearlman and discussing life. Also, running a 9:19 in the 3000m at a UD track meet in 1991. (good enough for 10th place).

Kaira Rouda

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Kaira Rouda is a smiler.

It’s one of her lovely traits. Whenever one runs into the Southern California-based author, she seems to be smiling. At book signings. At events for her husband, Rep. Harley Rouda. At the grocery store. At the donut shop. Good times and bad, Kaira just oozes a certain optimism that makes a person think, “Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be OK.”

Which is funny, because her books are, ahem, seriously warped. Kaira’s latest release, “The Favorite Daughter,” is a psychological thriller that delves into … well, let this Kirkus review explain …

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Truly, it’s the type of stuff Kaira loves writing, and it’s the reason she’s a terrific Quaz. One can visit her website here and follow her on Instagram here and Twitter here.

Kaira Rouda, you are The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN.: So Kaira, I attended your book event yesterday—small shop, about 15 of us, cookies. And I wonder, as a fellow author: How do you feel about these types of events? They scare the shit out of me, but you seemed relaxed, happy. Am I doing this wrong?

KAIRA ROUDA: I started doing book events when my nonfiction book, “Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs” came out back in 2009. So, it’s been 10 years of this. Back then, I was stunned. I figured I’d written all I had to say in the book, so that would be enough. I learned quickly that books sell when the author is actively pushing them. There is no place to be passive: but the fact is, most of us writers are shy at heart. I hired a speech coach back then, and I’ve tried to take those lessons with me ever since. It’s easier now, but still takes something out of me for sure. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a fabulous indie bookstore with 15 book lovers or a big swanky event at a private home—when I get to talk about my book, about writing, about doing what I love to do, it’s a great evening. We should be scared as shit—and feel blessed. My take at least!

 J.P.: When you were discussing your new book, “The Favorite Daughter,” you spoke of the characters almost as if they’re real people. And I’m curious—do they sort of become real to you? Not in the cliché fiction way. Do you, at times, think of them as actual people? Does it become that deep?

K.R.: You know, they do become almost real, at least during the initial writing stage. They are very much alive, in my head. Does that sound strange? I’ll be at a party, or on a hike, and Jane would start speaking to me, anxious for me to get back to her story. OK, yes, that does sound odd. But it’s true. By the time you’re holding my finished book in your hands, in this case “The Favorite Daughter,”  I’m likely living with some new characters in a draft. That said the best part of talking about the characters in my current novel—Jane, David, Betsy and the rest—is that I always discover a new perspective on them. It’s like readers see my characters from another angle, and that’s great fun.

 J.P.: I’m in the middle of writing a book as we speak, and I’m fucking tortured. Beaten, battered, exhausted, filled with doubt. I’ve never written fiction, so I’m curious if that happens to you, too. And, if so, how do you work through?

K.R.: Congratulations! I think we all face that phase … especially in the middle of the book. You just keep going. Oh, and here’s another thing: If it’s not happening for you on that day, just stop. I’m not in the camp of forcing yourself to write when it’s not happening. I think our muses deserve loving kindness, not abuse. So be kind to yourself. There is so much that’s great about writing a novel, jumping into a world you’ve created. It will all be worth it when you type The End. Promise.

 J.P.: Your husband Harley is a U.S. Congressman in his first term. And all we hear about Washington right now is awful-awful-awful, no one gets-along, angry, angry, etc. You’re a newbie to this. What have you found?

K.R.: I’ve been blessed to meet a really great, bipartisan group of spouses, men and women, who support each other as we support our congressional members. The thing is, the news doesn’t cover the bills that pass with bipartisan support, the wonderful work that is done every day. It’s not newsworthy in this environment we’ve created. But it is so much better than you think. Promise. And I cannot believe how hard these people work. I’ve been a business owner, an entrepreneur, raised four kids. This pace, the DC pace, is grueling. On a positive note: my new friends in DC hosted a book launch party for “The Favorite Daughter,” and we sold out of books! The Washington Post covered it. Very surreal. But also, points to the positive culture you can find in DC!

J.P.: Along those lines—has being a political spouse changed you? The way people approach you? What I mean is, yesterday Harley was at your event for eight seconds before a woman asked his presidential preference. Are people asking you those questions now? And does it annoy you? Are you OK with it?

K.R.: I do get a lot of questions that begin with: “What does Harley think of _______?” I tell people to ask Harley. I don’t want to speak for him, much like he doesn’t want to answer questions about my spooky domestic suspense novels. Politics is his world, prose is mine. We do try to be there for each other, as much as possible. It’s been a busy few weeks with both my book tour and his crazy schedule. But we’re trying to make it work. As for the questions, do they annoy me? No, not at all. It comes with the territory. I take it as a sign that people care. We all need to care more right now.

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 J.P.: You described yourself as a reformed romance novelist who “couldn’t write sex scenes.” I’m fascinated by that. Was it hard to make them authentic? Was it just embarrassing? Did you picture your kids reading it? Why so hard?

K.R.: I started out my fiction writing career in women’s fiction, and that’s still where I am today. My first novels, “Here,” “Home,” “Hope,” “In The Mirror,” “All the Difference” and “The Goodbye Year” all deal with what’s happening beneath the surface of seemingly perfect lives. Suburban setting, some dark topics uncovered.

I did have a two-year stint writing romance because one of my women’s fiction author friends and fellow Southern Californian, Jane Porter, launched her own publishing house and asked me to write for her. I had a blast learning romance formulas (I’d never written to a formula before and didn’t even know tropes were a thing) but what I didn’t enjoy was the sex part. Romance has tons of different “heat” levels, too, so it’s not as if you must have sex. I loved getting to know everyone in that fiction arena, and loved working with Jane and her new publishing company, but as you may notice, I like writing a bit darker, a bit creepy. And that’s not romance. That’s domestic suspense. I’m feeling right at home in the crime writing community.

 J.P.: What’s your book-writing process? “The Favorite Daughter,” for example. Idea comes in your head—then what? How much research is involved? When are you writing? Where?

K.R.: I’m what’s called a pantser. An idea pops into my head, usually a character and a title, and I start writing. If there is research involved it comes as I need it. Like, for example, in “The Favorite Daughter,” Jane’s obsession with tragic death took some searching. My browser history can be a bit terrifying.

Parading alongside Harley on Balboa Island

Parading alongside Harley on Balboa Island

 J.P.: You said suburbia is your preferred setting. Why? A lot of people view suburbia as America’s central spot for boredom. What do you see others don’t?

K.R.: There’s so much happening in the suburbs, and it’s just beneath the surface. I am a product of the suburbs and I love setting my stories here.

 J.P.: Greatest book promotional moment of your writing career? Worst?

K.R.: Walking into the Javits Center in New York for BEA and seeing a three-story tall banner of my book, “Best Day Ever.” It was a dream come true. Worst: almost 20 years ago now when my agent had found the perfect home for my novel, “In the Mirror.” The acquiring editor, a very famous woman in the publishing space, died suddenly in the back seat of a cab, with my unsigned contract in her briefcase. It was a far worse day for her of course, but the manuscript became tainted and we never sold it.

J.P.: This is sorta wide-ranging, but lately I’ve been more gloomy and dispirited than ever. Trump. Climate change. Books not selling (as an industry) as much. On and on. And you seem genuinely … I dunno — chipper and optimistic. What am I doing wrong?

K.R.: You gotta look for the positive in life, my friend. They far outweigh the negative. We’re blessed to be here!

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• Rank in order—favorite to least (Leah Chase, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Los Lobos, Newport Beach, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, meditation, Anthony Joseph, Ma$e, Ed Ott): Meditation

• How did you meet your husband?: At an event I was covering as a cub reporter in Columbus, Ohio. His law firm was the sponsor.

• One question you would ask Cameron Diaz were she here right now?: Would you like to play Jane Harris in a TV series?

• Three words you overuse in writing?: I don’t know. I try really hard not to use really. But there it is. Twice. Really annoying.

• Five reasons one should make his/her next vacation destination Southern California: Sunshine, perfect temperature, natural beauty, the ocean, and Laguna Beach

• Tell us a joke: Nope. I’m terrible at them. Although, I do have a somewhat terrifying dark humor it turns out.

• What’s the worst smell in the world?: Fresh cut grass. I’m so allergic.

 • Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: I was in an armed robbery once. Time slowed to a crawl. It was crazy. As for a plane crash, a couple times, but I was with my kids so I focused on faking it.

 • I don’t love the Miami Marlins new uniforms. Your thoughts?: I have no clue. I’m not really a big sports person, although I do like college football.

• The spelling of your first and last names is pretty much begging people for manglings of pronunciation and spelling. What are the most common? Worst?: Cairo. Keeera KeeAIRah. I’ve heard just about everything. As for Rouda: Rowda, Rhoda, you name it. When I add in my maiden name, Sturdivant, game over. Kaira—like air in the middle. Rouda—like Gouda. That’s all I’ve got for you!

Kate Grahn

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Kate Grahn can friggin’ sing.

That’s the first thing you pick up on when hearing her perform. Her voice is amazing. Textured. Angelic. Just really fantastic.

Kate Grahn can also write.

That’s the second thing you pick up on when hearing her perform. Her lyrics are original. And inventive. Just really fantastic.

Kate Grahn is Quaz royalty.

That’s, um, something only I would probably know, until right now. Back one year ago her mother, the actress Nancy Lee Grahn, came here to talk soap operas and acting and politics. She ranks as one of my all-time favorites in the series, and as I followed her social media feed I became more and more impressed by Kate, her daughter and a recording artist/student at USC’s Thornton School of Music.

So, because I love using this space to introduce readers to people they need to know of, I welcome Kate to the Quaz. One can follow her on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Just remember, when she’s selling out Madison Square Garden, where you first heard her name …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So you’re the daughter of a soap opera star. I’ve never typed that sentence before. What’s it like being the daughter of a soap opera star? What I mean is— how has that, specifically, manifested itself?

KATE GRAHN: I have literally been on the set of General Hospital since I was in the womb, where they had to hide me behind a potted plant or a giant briefcase! I grew up there and it is documented on the growth chart on the wall in the make up room. General Hospital helped raise me, or at least pay for me, and it turns out I cost a lot, lol. I’ve got nothing but gratitude for my home away from home, and having Disney/ABC own General Hospital didn’t hurt either. Mickey and Minnie have been like second parents to me. So yeah, having a soap star mom definitely has its benefits & some amazing memories too. I remember ding dong ditching Maurice Benard’s dressing room and the time that Jason Thompson took me and my friends to see the Justin Bieber documentary because we were obviously Beliebers (Jason included). The only bad memories I have are the times when I accidentally caught a glimpse of a love scene my mom was shooting on set (cue vomit).

J.P: So back in February you released your debut single, “Someday Baby.”  And I’m wondering, in 2019, what that means. Back in the day, you’d drop an album, a single would come off the album, etc…etc. But what is it nowadays? And what do you hope comes from it?

K.G.: I released “Someday Baby” because I had spent about two and a half years of college only focusing on school work and my grades, and while that is still very important to me, I wanted to let people know why I was here. It felt great to release a song. The good news is I now have the ability to share my music and not have to wait for a label to decide its fate. The bad news is streaming has made it so musicians can’t make any money off their music. At least not much unless you’re already a known commodity. This is quite a dilemma now for indie artists. The hope is to get your music out there and gain a substantial following. It is all a numbers game…that seems to be the way to get noticed these day.

The reason that I dropped these two singles now is because they will be in the upcoming Pretty Little Liars spinoff (shameless self promo). I thought that it was a good idea to have them available to the public so that if people heard the song on the show and liked it, they could check it out.

J.P: So you attend the USC Thornton School of Music. And, as random as this is, I’m wondering how you felt/feel about the recent scandal involving USC, with certain students having their parents buy entrance. And what has been the reaction among peers?

K.G.: When I heard about the scandal, I was pissed for obvious reasons. They took spots away from kids who worked their asses off to be students at the university. It was a stupid thing for these parents to do. To unpack this even further, this notion that there are only a few prestigious schools worth attending is toxic. I’ve seen how parents and kids buy into the absurdity of this and lose all objectivity. I think these parents fell into that trap. I’m lucky that my mom never cared what college I attended. She just wanted me to be happy and told me all along that I would find the perfect school for me, and I did. The fact that it was USC, which is considered a prestigious school is irrelevant. The pop program was the best fit for me and that is all that matters.

J.P: Along this lines, why are you there? What I mean is, it seems like the path to musical success often travels through dive bars, shit clubs, etc—just playing all around the country, hoping people dig it. Am I old-fashioned in that regard? What can USC give you?

K.G.: That’s a really good question. It just depends on the person and the path that works for them. There are many famous artists out there who did not go to college and I think that is great for them! Hell, my mom didn’t go to a typical university. Instead she went to the Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC and look how great that worked out for her. I also know students and friends who went to USC for a couple of years and then realized that the curriculum wasn’t right for them and they decided to leave the program and pursue music on their own. For me, I believe I just needed time to hone my craft and learn from amazing professors. By going to college for music, I have added so much to my musical vocabulary and skills. Studying theory, arranging, and performance for instance, has given me the tools to become the musician I am today. I still have so much to learn and I am excited for the future. I wasn’t musically and mentally ready to try and be an artist in the real world when I was 18.

Kate (right) taking it to the streets in May.

Kate (right) taking it to the streets in May.

J.P: Considering you’re a 21-year-old singer/songwriter who aspires to have a career in the field, your social media game is, well, a bit thin. It seems like your mom has steered you onto Twitter. You’ve only posted 149 times on Instagram. So…why? And how important do you view social media in regards to building a career?

K.G.: Anytime I hear the word “branding” or “social-media presence,” it makes me cringe a bit, mostly because I love to play and write so many different kinds of songs that it’s hard to have a “brand.” I think my brand is just me. Kate. About the social media presence…I wish that the music scene didn’t rely so heavily on social media and how many followers you have, or if you are verified. I feel like you have to already be famous in order to be “discovered” which is obviously not always the case, but it certainly is a lot of the time. I definitely use Instagram (especially Instagram stories) more than I use Twitter (my mom uses it to quell her rage at Trump & chumps more than promote herself.) I try to integrate posts about my life while simultaneously posting about my music. I try to do this without overdoing it or being inauthentic. I realize that social media is part of the deal if I want to be an artist and I may just need some coaching! Oh and anyone who is reading this article please follow me @kate_grahn on twitter and instagram. See I’m learning.

J.P: What was the first song you remember falling in love with? And why? What did it for you?

K.G.: Well, my mom played musicals in the car ever since I was born. “I’m Flying” from Peter Pan was a car seat favorite. Apparently I was so moved when Mary Martin sang the part ‘Think lovely thoughts and up you go’ that I’d throw my arms up in air with so much exhilaration, I’d  practically throw myself out of the seat. But “Defying Gravity” (Like most young girls I was Wicked addicted) was the first one I belted out at a party when I was 5 to dozens of adults, and I was hooked.

Grace Potter became my biggest influence later on. I learned the most watching her perform. I sang her song “Paris” with my band “Traction.” We were quite the sensation at 13.

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J.P: Your mom is super political on social media. Do you want to follow that path? Does it make you nervous? Can a person in your shoes—on the rise, young—be outspoken and also not worry about alienating potential listeners?

K.G.: Great question. My mom truly appreciates ALL of her fans, but she also believes she has a soapbox for a reason, which is to give voice to those who don’t have her platform, help spread news that she feels needs spreading, or just air her views, which are not pleasurable to all General Hospital viewers. She’s lost 1000’s of followers (mostly in red states) that find her offensive and she understands that. When I first got into politics and was registering to vote for the first time, I had to take a minute to educate myself on important issues. I do share my mom’s political views and I am as pissed as she is about the condition of our country and the health of the planet. Although I do use social media to advocate and speak out about my political views, my outlet will be my music. My outrage will be in my songs. My message will be in my lyrics. But my silence is not an option.

J.P: Greatest moment of your musical career? Lowest?

K.G.: Off the top of my head, the greatest so far was singing my original song “Greyhound” (in production) with my brilliant Thornton School badass band backing me up, and feeling fully connected to the music and the moment. I honestly don’t have a worst memory. Singing just makes me happy.

J.P: I’m 47, and I’m pessimistic about the future of this country. Climate change, Trump, etc, etc. You’re young and coming up. How do you feel?

K.G.: I feel alarmed. This administration is a f’in dumpster fire and it is my generation that’s going to suffer the consequences of this mess if we don’t get our shit together and vote this country back into sanity. Not voting is not an option. I marched in every Women’s March and I see a lot of fight in the people who protest, in the students of the Young Democrats Club at USC, in students majoring in climate change, and specifically the Parkland Students fighting against the NRA. What they are doing matters and we must pay attention to them and follow their lead. It’s understandable and easy for us to be pessimistic, but that is not an option now either. We fight or die. Yep, I think it’s that critical, but I also have hope that my generation will be there this time around. It truly is on us. We literally have the ability to change the world.

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• I asked your mom this, so I’ll ask you, too—I feel like your last name is begging for an M to replace the N. How often have you faced that misspelling in your life?: It’s not necessarily the misspelling that happens a lot as it is the mispronunciation. “AHN” is like “lawn” not “Pan!!!”

• Three things we need to know about your first pet: She was afraid of her own shadow, she slept under my moms bed and we referred to it as her “condo”, and she was my best friend for 15 and a half years.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Los Angeles Times, doing grocery shopping, Chad Pennington, Affordable Care Act, “Good Will Hunting,” the Electric Slide, Bruno Mars, Wyoming: Affordable Care Act, Bruno Mars, Electric Slide, LA Times, Doing Grocery Shopping, (I’ve never seen “Good Will Hunting” I know, I am terrible), Chad Pennington (I don’t know who he is either, again many apologies), Wyoming

• Three memories from your first day on campus at USC.: Being terrified but also excited, feeling embarrassed for missing my mom already, loving my professors and the rest of the students

• Five songs you absolutely love: This is a mix of all time favorites and current favorites: “The Chain,” Fleetwood Mac. “Paris,” Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. “Overnight,” Maggie Rogers, “Love It If We Made It,” The 1975, and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” Sting (I prefer his version with the symphony over The Police version), and “Black Dog,” Led Zeppelin (because I couldn’t decide).

• Tell us a joke, please: What is Beethoven’s favorite fruit? “Ba-na-na-naaaaaa”

• Without Googling, name every Pearl Jam song you know: I know “Even Flow” because of Guitar Hero lol

• If you could rename Twitter, what would you call it?: Trump Narcissism Portal

• The next president of the United States will be …: Not Trump.