The Marilou Suszko Interview
by Rick Brown
Marilou Suszko is the author of Farms & Foods of Ohio:
From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate. She has contributed to
publications such as The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Our Ohio and
Catholic Chronicle. It is my pleasure to present my conversation
with her below. R.B.
Sunfish - Are you a native of Ohio? If so, what area? Did you
grow up on a farm? Tell us a little about your upbringing.
- I was born and raised in Lakewood, Ohio, a west side suburb
of Cleveland. While I didn't grow up on a farm, I did grow up
in a working class neighborhood where families lived frugally.
Everyone had a one car garage and a vegetable garden, and maybe
a pigeon coop. What you didn't use for your family, you shared
with the neighbor who in turned shared a bonus bounty with you.
My uncle Frank had a grain farm in Pittsfield. That's where
our family reunions were held and possibly might have been the
spark that began a long time curiosity and love affair with
farming. I love everything about the process of farming, except
the work. Which is why I am an intense gardener, but not a farmer.
I serve the occupation of farming better by writing about the
farmers, the methods, the flavors—somebody has to tell
their story, so I picked me.
Sunfish - When did you find yourself wanting to become a writer?
- When I realized that I could actually do this and get paid!
- And how long ago did you realize you could make money at writing?
What did you write early on?
- Wait a minute!? You can make money at writing? Where did you
get that idea? (lol) Writing comes naturally to me...that’s
not to say I don’t sweat it and that the words just flow
like water over Niagara falls. I wrote for the university newspaper
and enjoyed a little stint with the local NPR station. When
I graduated, I worked for an advertising agency for a few years
which led to working in advertising for a large school supplier.
From there I was an editor for food related business to business
publications. I’ve also written for the salon, plastics,
concrete, and toy industry. I’ve been around the writing
block, as they say. But where I really came into my own was
when I started writing for the restaurant industry which lead
to consumer newspapers, magazine and finally to the book.
S. - So this is something you studied for? Where did you attend
- University of Toledo...BA in journalism & communications
Baldwin Wallace, Berea, additional work toward a masters in
business...never finished, never intend to.
- I know you do food reviews for newspapers and magazines. So
how did you get started with Farms & Foods of Ohio:
From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate. What was the process?
The logistics alone must have taken intense planning.
- Actually, I don’t do food reviews...I am just a feature
writer, a lowly feature writer. I’ve always written about
food and have always had a hankering to garden and farm, albeit
I do this on a small scale (raised garden beds that total all
of 1/12 of an acre if not less). The publisher was looking for
someone in OH to take on this project. It is part of a national
series of state books. Ohio is the 3rd in the series. I got
the part and took off traveling a few years ago beginning in
March at a maple syrup farm and ending in October at a nut farm.
Over 6500 miles in all. Planning? Well there was some of that
but quite often I just went with where the wind blew and ended
up meeting some great farmer and spending time on some interesting
farms. I found the farmers in my book by asking for referrals
from OEFFA, IFO, sales reps from seed companies, government
agencies, and of farmers themselves. They are always willing
to point you in the direction of someone doing something as
good as they are.
- How long did it take for you to compile the book?
- I spent a growing season's worth of travel (beginning in march
with the maple syrup harvest and ending in October at a nut
harvest), a year writing, and about another 6 months of editing,
design, fine tuning, etc.
N.S. - Many of the excerpts about Ohio's farmers are very insightful
I especially like the simplicity of the Amish approach and those
who learned as they went. How has your new knowledge changed
your approach to your own personal gardening?
Marilou - Good question. I wouldn't say my approach, which has
always centered around an organic and natural approach to gardening
(note I say "gardening," not farming) has changed
any. I experiment a lot with different varieties of vegetables
and herbs every year, and always look for a great story or history
behind the variety. But the book and all the travels associated
with it make me slow down, appreciate and savor every moment
I spend scratching at the dirt or filling my basket with the
first ripe tomatoes of the season. It now seems that every moment
I spend in my garden evokes plenty of memories about the places
I've been and the people I meet. What a bonus!
N.S. - Any plans for a second book? A sequel perhaps?
Marilou - It's a possibility. There is certainly no shortage
of material throughout the fair state of Ohio.
N.S. Well, we'd certainly look forward to that. Thanks for taking
the time to chat with us.
Marilou - Thank you, Rick...I always love a good chat about
food and farmers.
& Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate can
be found at the following places:
as well as your local Borders and Barnes and Nobles.
by Eric Langolff & Jessy Kendall
- Bruce Springsteen –
Review by Karl Gruber
ago I wrote many, many album and concert reviews for some local
Central Ohio music rags, but it’s been a while. I know
that one of the things that music reviewers get vilified for
is not having exact, well researched information on the artist
or band they are reviewing, and I can certainly understand that.
However, this time around as I talk about Bruce Springsteen’s
latest CD, Magic, I’m just going to go with the
flow of my feelings and auditory observations of this latest
musical production from the man simply known as The Boss.
I’ve seen this guy and his E Street Band four times in
concert, once per decade starting in the 1970’s. Anyone
who has been to a Bruce Springsteen concert knows that you pretty
much come out of the venue soaked in just as much sweat as Bruce
produced up on stage. I mean the guy knows how to work it, and
this extends to his newest CD. First of all, I have to state
that because I considered Bruce’s 2002 CD release, The
Rising, to be one of my all-time favorite rock albums ever,
I am simply going to have to make some comparisons. The
Rising can almost be described as a Gospel/Rock CD, where
Bruce seems to be on a spiritual seeking mission, with the light
of a positive new dawn in the offing. Truthfully, I have flowed
through every track of this CD day after day, mile after freeway
mile of my daily driving to and fro, and then humming and quietly
singing each tune to myself throughout the workday. Like a good
Bordeaux, The Rising will get better with age.
This new CD, Magic, flows from a different area of
Springsteen’s brain, and most certainly from his heart.
I’ll be truthful, I have always had a hard time making
out the lyrics of his tunes as I listen to any of his CD’s,
so I was very grateful to have the lyrics on a printed booklet
as part of the current music package. This new release most
definitely combines a calculated, fairly slick pop-possible
radio air play production with his usual deeply personal, introspective
look at the world. The first cut on the CD, Radio Nowhere
is a curt commentary on the current state of America’s
Over-the-air radio stations (Being a 20 year veteran of the
broadcasting industry as a DJ, I can say authoritatively why
some of us call ClearChannel the “Anti Christ of Broadcasting!”)
The real irony here is that Radio Nowhere is such a
good, upbeat song, it stands a great chance of getting some
radio airplay! But as one goes through lyric after lyric of
the CD’s songs it becomes obvious that Springsteen retains
his magic of making each song an intertwining of his personal
life, but also social commentary.
Magic makes it very obvious to the listener that America’s
current path of once again heading down the never ending path
of war, violence, power, and greed continue to irk him, in a
deep, personal way. Yet with this in mind, he throws in a cut
like Girls In Their Summer Clothes with it’s
light-hearted sound about a lost love, and wistful observations
of girls passing by. On top of all this, even after all the
years of recording and concerts gone by, the classic sound of
the E Street Band continues to provide it’s steady, rock
solid sound throughout every tune.
The Big Man, Clarence Clemons, still blasts his familiar tenor
sax at all the right points (has any musician ever made so much
of three notes!?) The bottom line for me is The Rising
did and always will strike a chord in my soul and will always
find a place in my CD player and iPod, but Magic, even
with it’s deep social commentary of our continually At
War world, is more whimsical sounding with a calculated pop
orientation. It too will find a place in my CD/iPod player mostly
when I am in the mood for something a bit more light-hearted,
kind of like the breeze and freshness of a pretty girl when
she walks by me in her summer clothes.
Complied by Dan Eley
Tom & Jerry's Bum Dog Shack
1 - January 2002
by Marilou Suszko
Libraries Read Aloud Program
8, 2007 - Rick Brown
You Want Banana?
C. Mehrl Bennett
Easton Town Center
* * * *
by Rick Brown
I had a college history professor whose mantra was “Learning
is repetition”. And as far as his class was concerned…nothing
could be more truthful. I always remember this around the
holiday season because…well…there is a very
fine line between what many consider “tradition”
and what I might call “redundancy”. Joyously,
after 16 years of Holiday Hooplas, 16 years of
the Santa Babies, Shadowbox proves it can reinvent itself
through tradition without becoming redundant.
As always, superb house band BillWho? delivers a cornucopia
of delightful Holiday songs. Hitting the ground running
is Mary Randle’s beautifully belligerent take on the
Kink’s “Father Christmas”. Equally as
irreverent is No Doubt’s “Oi to the World”.
Christina Connor leads a backdrop of dancers with her swaggering
voice and movement utilizing enough nuances to make the
tune both visually and aurally satisfying.
Amy Lay lays out a playful rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s
arrangement of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
while Julie Klein’s “Children Go Where I Send
Thee”, and Stephanie Shull’s “Hounds of
Winter” are chestnuts of traditional Christmas spirit.
And Tom Cardinal again this season turns Jethro Tull’s
“Skating Away” into a holiday favorite. But
on this opening night it was Christina Connor’s slinky,
sexy, smoldering interpretation of Etta James’ “Merry
Christmas Baby” that was the stand out. Wearing a
long, clinging gown and slithering like Catwoman, Ms. Connor’s
breathy vocal control melted the tune’s lyrics like
butter. And for the duration of this sophisticated, sensual
“Naughty is sometimes better than nice”
performance, the sultry singer may just have been the most
desirable woman on the planet.
Comically, while most sketches are pretty strong, Holiday
Hoopla is a mixed bag. Yet I attribute that to some
new material and this being opening night. “Rehab
Rhonda” (a skit about a bimbo doll who can’t
stay off drugs and alcohol) has its’ moments but is
a little predictable. And “Gone Huntin", a newcomer
about two guys hunting reindeer on their roof Christmas
Eve, will improve as it gets a little polished up. The premise,
while a one-joke buddy sketch, is outrageous enough to become
edgy/funny. I’m sure Trekkies will love “Star
Trek Holiday Special” but never being a big fan of
the show, the subtleties and inside humor is a subject I’m
probably not qualified to comment on. (The geeks amongst
us laughed heartily however!)
“Winter Talent Show” is a delight. The Shadowbox
troupe is excellent with ensemble pieces, particularly when
they are playing children. And this is no exception. “Cindy
and Laverne – Holiday Traditions” combines the
salt of the earth girls’ wit and wisdom with the weariness
of Christmas shopping with all their babies in tow. Julie
Klein and Mary Randle again shine as their crowd-pleasing
characters, at times willing the material funnier than it
really is. Cindy and Laverne are so likable as characters;
this skit is always a hit.
Best new sketch by far is “Britney Spear’s Christmas
Special”. While David Whitehouse aptly works the backstage
as dumb, dumb, dumb, Britney’s ex K-Fed, Amy Lay (Britney)
and Christina Connor (Paris Hilton) romp through a deliriously
campy stew of stupidity. I’ve seen Ms. Lay’s
Britney in other sketches and her ability to walk a tight
wire between character and caricature can steal the scene.
But this time Ms. Connor plays second banana so well the
interplay between the two actresses is exhilarating. And
when Ms. Connor’s Paris “sings” it becomes
a dead heat of delectable dumbness.
But if there is one giant tradition in the annual Holiday
Hoopla…and there is…it’s the grand
finale of the “Santa Babies”. This skit is Santa
Claus at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
This is why people come to the show. And this year is no
disappointment. The babies are led by Dixie (Julie Klein),
backed by Darlin’ (Katy Psenicka) and Dorothy (Stephanie
Shull). Providing keyboard for this schlocky lounge act
is Tom Cardinal as Oswald. Innuendo can be a beautiful thing
in the hands of an expert and Ms. Klein is a master. Ms.
Psenicka’s boob shaking, panty exposing preening coupled
with Ms. Shull’s austere befuddlement and general
clueless-ness serve to make their outrageous singing antics
all the more uproarious. And the final tune, an adapted
holiday version of Guns and Roses “Welcome to the
Jungle”, complete with loin clothed “Chippen’Elves”is
a heretical hoot worth the price of admission.
Holiday Hoopla XVI runs Tuesdays through Saturdays
now until January 5, 2008. For more information go to www.shadowboxcabaret.com.
Non – Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane proudly
A small gourmet market’s seafood department. An
upright freezer stands stage left. Center stage is a long,
glass fronted seafood cooler displaying a myriad of fish,
shellfish, et al. Behind the counter is Chuck the fishmonger
doing his chores. He is wearing the market’s shirt
and matching ball cap. Rick approaches from stage right
pushing an empty, red grocery cart. Rick stands in front
of the fish counter waiting for Chuck’s attention.
Chuck, wiping his hands, notices Rick.
– HEY!!! How are ya? What can I do for you today?
– Chuck, I need some crustacean advice.
– Sure thing.
– I’m looking to buy some frozen Alaskan King
Crab legs and had a couple questions.
leads Rick over to the upright freezer stage left, opens
the door and pulls out two very large, long crab legs
wrapped in clear plastic.
– Here is a little over two pounds. Great, great
– Would that be enough for two people?
– Oh yeah…sure.
– And how do I prepare it?
– Just steam them until they’re done…5,
6 minutes…maybe a little more. When the shell turns
orange you know they’re done. Serve them with some
melted butter. Great!
(Taking the package from Chuck) Soooo…you’re
sure this is enough for two.
– More than enough to wow someone. Are you trying
to WOW someone?
– It’s my wife’s birthday.
takes a look around and when he sees there is no on else
nearby, puts his arm around Rick’s shoulder, smiles,
and leans in close.
(Quietly yet earnestly) – Maybe you’ll get
– That’s what I was banking on!
Rick – Himself
King Crab Legs – King Crab Legs
Naked Sunfish Holiday Tradition
Cheer from Aunt Edith
late Uncle Wes lived with my Aunt Edith for most of his adult
life...although I’m sure it seemed like an eternity to him.
He worked for the Bethlehem Steel Company in Baltimore for thirty
years until he retired. He worked the night shift getting off
around 7 a.m. when he would come home for dinner. In the summer
when it was warm...and Baltimore can get very, very humid...he
would go to a movie matinee in an air conditioned theater and
sleep. If you knew my Aunt Edith you would assume what I did...even
as a child...and that was that Uncle Wes worked nights and went
to matinees to get away from his wife. He never said much. He
was a slight, wiry man of few words. And the few words he almost
always uttered were, “For Chrissakes Edith! SHUDD UPP!!”
man was almost incidental by nature. One time...after he retired
and he and Aunt Edith moved back to the Cleveland area...my brothers
and I were helping him put a refrigerator in a backyard shed because
there was no room for it in the trailer they were moving into.
After much jostling my brothers and I closed the shed door and
thought we were finished. From her perch (as supervisor of course)
Aunt Edith looked at the three of us with bewilderment and asked,
“Where the HELL is Wes?” And after exchanging confused
glances we heard muffled sounds coming from behind the fridge
in the shed. “MMMPPPHH!!! Hey!! HHMMPPHHFFF!!!” We
quickly opened the shed door, moved aside the refrigerator and
liberated Uncle Wes. My brothers and I were all embarrassed and
each, in turn, apologized profusely for our insensitive behavior.
Aunt Edith broke into the humility with a shriek of, “What
the HELL were you doing in there?” Which prompted Uncle
Wes to...once again...chant his mantra. “For Chrissakes
Edith!! SHUDD UPP!!” They were quite the loving couple.
Their last name was Crabtree. I am not making this up.
soon was diagnosed with lung cancer. Thirty years in the steel
mills and 2 packs a day of Chesterfield non-filters caught up
with him. The last time I saw him he was lying on the couch in
their trailer smoking the aforementioned brand of cigarettes,
quite literally coughing his lungs out...or what was left of them.
“I TOLD him to quit those goddamned things years ago. “
Aunt Edith offered for my contemplation. To which Uncle Wes replied
sarcastically (yep, you guessed it) “Cough cough...For Chrissakes
HACK! HACK! Edith!!! SHUDD UPPP!!!” These were the final
words I heard my uncle ever say and we all joked at the funeral
that these very words were more than likely chiseled into his
few years after Wes passed, my brother and his new wife were having
their very first Christmas and invited everyone over...including
Aunt Edith. My parents were there along with my siblings and their
families. This included my brother Jim’s 9 year old adopted
son Matt. Matt the Brat was what my father called him. I thought
this surprisingly subtle for my Dad. If I knew where Matt is today...and
thank God I do not...I would have to guess some one killed him
or he’s in jail convicted of several murders. I honestly
don’t care so long as he’s nowhere near me. So Matt
the Brat is playing with one of the toys some one so graciously
gave him and he broke it. This kid could break anything he got
his hands on. But in a moment of diplomacy my father (affectionately
known as Snook) said, “They don’t make anything any
good any more!!” To which...in the spirit of the season
Aunt Edith quipped, “You’re right Snook!! Everything
IS SHIT!!!” Well...happy holidays to you too Aunt Edith.
Inside my head I distinctly heard a voice from my past reply,
“For Chrissakes Edith!! SHUDD UPPP!”
know...there are lots of reasons to go through life believing
that “everything is shit.” There are days when it
certainly seems true to me. I have my days when Sartre’s
“Hell is other people” could easily be the thought
of the day. But...unlike Aunt Edith...I don’t want to spend
a big chunk of my life living alone in a trailer. And when I think
of this particular Christmas it strikes me how most of them blur
into each other...with the exception of a few. And this is one
of them I distinctly remember. As much as family...and sometimes
even friends...can annoy a person...especially at this time of
year...I have come to realize that even some one like Aunt Edith
helped make me who I have become. I mean that in a positive way.
Imagine...Aunt Edith’s negativity was so over the top it
MADE me consider the positive. I have no idea how she became so
bitter. My father did shortly before he died also. Yet they both,
particularly Snook, had a positive influence. They were there.
Unlike today when some people are not.
holiday season...regardless of which one you celebrate...take
the time to savor those around you...even if they drive you nuts.
They may not...for whatever reason...be there next year. And in
some strange way, which will surprise you, their absence will
make you miss them. I guarantee it. (a possible exception to this
uplifting message might be Matt the Brat) And you might consider
that next year YOU might not be here. So I suppose my holiday
message may seem bittersweet to most...but that’s how I
see it. And if anyone feels the need to take issue with my views
then I encourage you to speak up LOUDLY...’cause I’ve
got one thing and one thing only to say to you.
note: Aunt Edith died a few years ago. She was 90 years old. Her
neighbor called my Uncle Bruce and told him she had passed out
in her trailer. He went and got her up…asked if she was
alright and she said she was. He suggested she go to the hospital
to make sure everything was okay. She told him to go to hell and
get out of her house. He did just that…returning an hour
later and she was gone. Sad…surely. But she lived her last
day the way she lived every previous one. And despite her surliness
I will miss my Aunt Edith this Christmas. And I will remember
the one long ago when she informed us “Everything is shit!”
Rest in peace Aunt Edith. I can picture Jesus turning to her and
proclaiming, “Truly, truly I say unto you…For Wes’s
sake Edith…SHUDD UPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
The Autumn Outdoor
Non – Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
– The Return of Smokey Brown
– early fall in the fenced in backyard of Smokey Brown.
It is dusk and the sun is nearly set in the west. The fence is
5 feet tall on three sides facing the audience. Stage right has
a vegetable garden. There is a gate in the fence stage left. Center
stage is a Weber
setting at the far end of a small patio situated immediately in
front of the audience.
enters from the center of the audience as if coming out of his
house from behind. He proceeds to crumple newspaper and put a
ball of each underneath two charcoal chimney starters. He then
places both into the bottom of the grill kettle. He fills each
with gourmet wood charcoal. It is the bottom of the bag and as
he empties it soot tops off the last chimney
blows the excess soot from the tabletop, takes two or three long
fireplaces matches and lights the newspapers beneath each chimney.
He then strolls back into “the house” immediately
behind the audience. Flames and smoke. (mostly smoke) pour out
of the chimneys, increasing in intensity for about 5 minutes.
Smoke wafts slowly over the fence stage left, hanging heavily
in the early autumn darkness like a blanket of fog.
wanders back to center stage and examines the scene. By this time
flames 18 inches high are licking out of the chimneys casting
a campfire effect on the yard and patio.
hears a voice call out from behind the fence stage left.
first looks puzzled, then glances at his next door neighbor’s
deck and smiles.
this time louder and much more forcefully,
cautiously edges his way towards the fence (stage left) when a
firefighter’s head pops over the top of the fence. He/she
shines a flashlight onto the patio.
Fighter - “FIRE DEPARTMENT!!! One of your neighbors called
and said you had a huge fire in…your…back…uh…yard…and…uh…I
see you are…uh…getting ready to grill some…er…food.”
Brown – “Yes sir. I am.”
Fighter – “Well…uh…then…er…never
Brown – himself
City Fire fighter – him or herself
One of Smokey’s Neighbors - ????????