Monday, June 21, 2010

A Super Fun Issue Ahead & Some Father's Day Overage

Hi... by now, regular Pipeline readers know my quirky little drill: I often post stuff here on this SoW blog that is far too lengthy for the tidbit-centric pipeline, where I usually put in the first few paragraphs with a link to "read more," enabling the e-newsletter to not scroll on for way longer than any newsletter in its right mind rightly should.

Tomorrow's issue- if I ever finish writing it!!!!- will contain lots of fun pics of WPB Dads and their adorable little ones, an up close interview with the founder of the Miss Wicker Park Pageant as well as a lovely local contestant who gets my vote and hopefully the votes of many others too, two new columnists covering the merchant and dining scene --their joint submission cracked me up and introduced me to some new local spots!--- And finally an almost-but-not-quite visit to A.N. Pritzker School by Ron Huberman... for those that need a bit o' hard news to balance all the soft fluffy stuff which I prefer to write...

Today's issue is dedicated to my father, Gerald Myron Hauser, who died in 1990 while returning home from a sales trip in Indiana when I was 15 and in the fall of my sophomore year of high school, just a few months after my older brother had gone away to school in Kansas as a freshman and my mom had returned to the work force after being a stay-at-home mom for many years. Thus, along with my father's death, these events had turned us from a dinner table of four into a table of one on many nights. Before the tiny violins play, it must be duly noted I took full advantage of the dinner table scene inside a few close friend's homes where I could perhaps best be described as the annoying ever present neighbor "Kimmy" character from Full House, with a dash of eccentric Kramer from Seinfeld.

My dad was a manufacturer's rep for Stacy Adams, and Florsheim shoes. Though he did not work in a retail shoe store, he seemed to greatly enjoy and identify with the character of Al Bundy from Married With Children, a sitcom which was one of the few shows I'd leave the cozy confines of my room, Sweet Valley High books, and word processor for, so we could watch the Bundy family together as a family.

Over my father's career he had even worked with supplying some of the longtime local shops here in Wicker Park who carry those said 'uber urban' footwear brands, known for alligator skin ankle boots and snazzy wing tips! He also traveled by minivan to the south side of Chicago, Detroit, and Saint Louis, in addition to Indianapolis where he was returning from when his wood paneled mini van collided with a semi truck. He had likely suffered a heart attack behind the wheel of the car or perhaps drifted off to sleep, we'll never really know what occurred outside of the fact he'd veered out of his lane and into the path of a truck according to the accident's only witness.

My older brother was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1971, and I was born in Flint, Michigan in 1975- back when Flint was a great place to live, which I learned from watching the flashback footage in Roger & Me. We moved from Flint shortly after I was born, to my maternal grandparent's two flat in Oak Park, as my dad had briefly lost a sales job and we were saving money as a family of four before he started a new job, whereupon we moved to a townhouse in Hanover Park. The job would be the one he'd have until his death 14 years later. Our suburban garage in Buffalo Grove- when we finally had a coveted garage after moving to a single family home when I was 11- always smelled like shoe leather from all the samples stacked everywhere. At the time when he died, 49 still seemed "old" to me though in retrospect my dad was actually very young and the first of his close-knit crew of friends from Roosevelt High School to pass on.

One of my strongest memories is of my dad standing at the doorway to my bedroom, on a night when he wasn't on the road, warning "I'm closing the lights!" with his hand on the light switch because I'd be up late reading or writing on a school night. Though its been a long time since I've heard those words-- and really, had my dad never heard of flashlights?!-- some bad habits like not sleeping or 'speaking before thinking or emailing' haven't changed for me over the years. Most days I wish email did not exist, or that the send button is not such a convenient lil' trigger. Though he often read Stephen King books on the road and talked about how he'd wanted to be a writer, my dad was far more of an oral storyteller- and a great one at that!- than a writer, unless there are notebooks somewhere I don't know about, which I highly doubt. His first and foremost priority had always seemed to be working his tired tail off and striving to provide for his family, which he did by becoming one of the company's top salesmen and proudly wearing his "Million Dollar Club" ring, wherein a small diamond was added to the ring for every year when he billed over a million dollars worth of shoes.

Perhaps inspired by the short-lived 'family newsletter' I'd created on my trusty Smith Cornona word processor after interviewing aunts, uncles and cousins by telephone about their weekend adventures ("Rumor has it that Cousin so-and-so had enjoyed a romantic dinner at Red Lobster with girlfriend X- could an engagement be on the horizon?!" I'd speculated) and snail mailing the newsletter out to possibly eight readers, my dad urged me to pursue journalism and for some reason was obsessed with the idea of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern-- in fact I'm wearing a Medill sweatshirt he gave me in this photo, the last photo I have of us together which was snapped just a few hours after getting my braces off, quite the festive day and the reason for my big no-longer-metallic smile.

A few years after my dad's death and wanting to escape Illinois as well as the idea of mammoth student loans if I'd gotten accepted to the privately run Northwestern, I happily majored in poetry and creative writing at a state school in the much more laid back world of Southeast Ohio, nestled in the Appalachian foothills near West Virgina. During that time of failed stabs at fiction where I berated myself for not being a "real writer," or when I was 'always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride' having missed a prestigious poetry fellowship at a Pennsylvania university by being number three or four, or 'an alternate' for two open slots ("But if I got it, how could I still write for The Athens News from Pennsylvania?!" I recall moaning to a friend over a beer, equally hoping to get the fellowship and not hoping to at the same time) I became one of the most regular freelance contributors to a small local newspaper, a gig I got after writing a few impassioned letters to the editor of the school newspaper about various topics.

The editor of the town's paper tracked me down at my freshman year dormitory's main phone number after reading a few of my letters and asking if I'd like to write for him, which I began to do, arriving at the news office around 5 or 5:30 AM twice each week or more, due to not having a computer, and writing before 8AM classes, with my "deadline" for those initial $10 stories being I had to get to class and the reporter who occupied that desk full-time understandably needed her computer! Not long after I was writing cover stories and I recall making $60 or even $80 on some longer features in my senior year, all while maintaining a full-time class load, a part-time campus job, donating my plasma to make extra cash to avoid taking out a loan for extra expenses or having to ask anyone for help, jogging randomly into mountain towns 15 miles away where'd I beg for 35 cents in change before calling a boyfriend to come pick me up, and managing to miraculously have a few female friends, usually just roommates who were friends by proximity as I was so busy, or friends from my writing classes who shared my somewhat 'emo outlook' and cooked for me when I forgot to eat. I have no idea how, but I am still close today to a few of them, something I am very thankful for amid a life that at times feels too much like it's mired to a core theme of driftless-ness than "rooted" in a traditional sense.

After college I ended up working mainly in various sales-related fields because I tended to get obsessive with the writing-- shocker!-- when I worked in traditional newspaper jobs, aka too much rewriting and second guessing and wondering if I pissed off the subjects of my story, or being fearful of a nasty letter to the editor if I'd gotten too snarky in tone for a small town near Joliet, or any number of psychic attacks I'd waged upon myself with no clear basis for proof- in fact the letters from readers were all sweet with no trace of a bite despite the dark mental corner I'd lodged myself into after submitting a story for editing. I still feel a little like that when I read feedback emails from The Pipeline, though when people express that they feel slighted for my not having included them much or popped by their shops, I've slowly learned to take that as a compliment and not an insult.

Oddly enough, transitioning from writing to sales and following my father's tradition was a refreshing breather and "break" because I love people and also being able to 'turn it off' or shut down at 5 or 6 PM. I firmly believe working in any field of sales is a good primer for dealing with key aspects of life, like rejection, as well as navigating the nuances of human nature. People are often at their truest and most judgmental when being encountered by "a salesperson." They are also often at their best and most friendly when being approached by a writer and photographer, likely the reason there are far more "please, no soliciting!" signs on windows than "please, no reporters! No free and positively toned press!" which I have yet to find hanging on any window anywhere.

The Pipeline is a hybrid which evolved out of my skill sets and passions of writing and sales and photography. I frankly did not expect it to still be going strong 14 months and 63 weekly issues later, after now former chamber executive director, Paula Barrington, whom I'd met while selling her ad space for the Wicker Park fest in 2007, gave me a small freelance assignment in 2009 to write her weekly newsletter, Around the Water Cooler, which I renamed to Street Scene since most of her member readers worked in retail and not in corporate 'water cooler 'settings. When I told Paula shortly before she left last month, while sitting at Filter -- which she'd tipped me off to its long anticipated reopening by giving me Filter owner Jeff's digits-- that there would be no Pipeline if it weren't for her, she insisted that she was "just your cheerleader."

Thanks, as always, for reading, provided anyone is actually reading this longer than usual note. I guess you now know "my story" too. At least once a day someone asks me how I got the idea to start the pipeline, or if I ever worked as a "real reporter" and such, thus all those answers and much more you probably didn't want to know are found somewhere in the Brain Dump I just poured out-- and that Pat will thankfully not have to edit down to readable size since I am only posting the first paragraph in the actual Pipeline.

Below is a quote that my high school journalism teacher had posted as her Facebook update yesterday. Gerald M. Hauser definitely falls into the category of the kind of person I'd be unwise to not attempt to follow on some levels. And I am, in my heart, as I follow a dream that's never veered too far from my mind, yet I've lacked the courage to pursue it in full force, with undivided attention, until now. R.I.P. Dad. I never said it much or if at all to you when you were here, but I did love you and always will.

"Being a male species does not make a man a father, for a dad is a special blend of hero; a disciplinarian; a friend; someone to look up to; someone to model; someone who is big enough to say, "The fault was mine"; someone who lives the kind of life that makes you want to say, "I, too, shall follow him." (Dr. Alton Kaul)


  1. This was really sweet. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Thanks for reading, Nandika. As a result of my impromptu brain dump, it has put me a couple hours behind in getting today's issue to Pat, but that's okay, I think thinking about my dad was worth the delay:) Too often I get caught up in the task or project at hand and forget to focus on what really matters, like family and close friends whom I'm thankful to have as a support system!

  3. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this and it made me emotional many times. I can't say I know exactly how you feel on father's day, but I grew up without my father and I totally know the Kimmy Gibbler feeling. Keep being awesome :)

  4. I feel okay on Father's Day these days. It's been 20 years now since he died, and my brother is now a father too, so it doesn't affect me like it used to do. It's also been five years since my divorce, though feels like yesterday. Unfortunately, maybe it's because I'm a Cancer sign, but I can get overly sentimental or reflective and live in past too much or on paper unless I force myself to shut that out. Having a pipeline deadline definitely brings me back to present reality fast!

    GIBBER!!! That was Kimmy's last name. It escaped me! Thanks, Dika! Keep being awesome as well :), and sorry to hear that you grew up without a father. I can't know how you would feel on Father's Day either.