The Last Revolution For "Real" Men

I always held a certain reverence for the old-time journalists.  You see them portrayed in old black and white movies.  They wear fedoras with “Press” passes stuck in their hat ribbons.  They smoke, they grumble, they have their sleeves rolled up.  They eat corned beef sandwiches from brown paper bags.  Some have a flask and all of them drink and smoke.    They are Lou Grant, J. Jonah Jameson and Dick Tracy all rolled into one.  They get the big story, they interview the boxer in the locker room while he sweats and bleeds and if they get a little of that on them--it’s okay.  The story is all that matters.

In Cleveland, we had The Plain Dealer and The Cleveland Press. They were the morning and evening papers and it wasn’t uncommon to see the reporters in the above-mentioned "uniform" at all the local joints around town.  They were in the diners, pool halls, at the ball game, etc.  They would be gnawing on a hot dog and just soaking up the atmosphere.  As years passed and the clout of newspapers diminished, these guys tried to transcend into television personalities.  You would see them on camera with their neckties choking them and their fleshy necks spilling over the top button struggling to stay closed.  Half the guys covered things like high school football on Friday nights and when their tape got on camera, you could tell they had been sipping at that flask most of the night--the smile under their cold, red noses betraying the appearance of misery.

But these guys were the real press.  They typed on typewriters and if they wrote “there” instead of “their” some typesetter would catch it before it went to print.  So they got the story, took some notes and sat down to hammer away at an ancient typewriter that usually needed a new ribbon and the paper they turned in smelled like smoke and probably had a little ketchup on it, but hell who cares--they just saw a great game!

This grit, this intense realism appealed to readers in a way that can’t even be described.  You could hear the voice of the reporter yelling the story to you above the din of the crowd as you read the morning paper.

When I began working summer jobs at 14 (1974), there were still plenty of guys around like this.  They may not have been journalists, but they were “salt of the earth” guys; even engineers and architects that loved building things. Loved being out on the job and touching it making it real, making it happen.  They came in early, drank a gallon of coffee, smashed a doughnut in their mouth within two bites and choked on the cigarettes that they were always dangling from their distracted lips.  They belched and barked out orders to their staff and guys ran to it man, ‘cuz the “old man” was really in a mood today.  But you knew the leader was a good man and cared about the work--there was passion, there was heart.

Once during an internship I was serving, the head engineer came back from his three-martini lunch, leaned in my office doorway and said, “Ciancutti--you bowl?”

I said, “No.”

He said, “Well you do tonight, I need a partner.”

I nodded. I didn’t even want to imagine what would have happened if I said I couldn’t go.

Two hours later, I was in his enormous car that looked like it had two couches stuffed into it instead of car seats complete with stains, cigarette burns and empty cans and Styrofoam coffee cups rolling around the floor.  The smoke in the cab of the car was thicker than London Fog and mercifully, the bowling alley was only a few minutes from the office.

He slammed the car into park.  As he got out of the car, it rose about 6 inches and he smashed the car door back into place with a creak and groan from this poor machine that he tortured every time he got in.

He pulled the bowling bag from his trunk and I followed him inside.  As our eyes adjusted to the cool, darkness inside I followed him to the bar in the back.  “Two beers, two burgers,” he bellows.  Suddenly remembering I’m there he says, “Oh yeah--you want anything?”  I defer.  He chugged the first beer and downed the first burger in two bites.  He let a belch fly forward that could have killed any nearby house plants before treating the next burger and beer the same.  “Let’s go,” he said.

Oddly, I was emboldened by his brazen attitude and I rolled two games over 180 and one around 150.  Good enough to keep him in the lead in the partner’s bracket.  As he dropped me back at my car, he slapped me on the back and thanked me enthusiastically. The next morning, he dropped a Styrofoam cooler by my desk.  “There’s five steaks in there Ronnie.  Cook ‘em up with your folks tonight--my way of saying thanks.”  I did just that.  My parents were thrilled with the gift of dinner I brought home and now when I think back of that great old boss, I know I will never encounter another man like that in my life.  We’re too worried about red meat and diets to tear into a hefty T-bone steak with reckless abandon anymore.  The old man’s manner and attitude would also be frowned upon, but he will be remembered by me as the kind of “man’s man” that was all around me then.  Hard-working, well-intended, sincere, integrity driven and REAL!

Well as the clouds start to clear and two presidential candidates seem to be rising to the top for election time, it seems we might just get a guy like that in the White House--sleeves up, open scotch bottle on the desk, smoke-filled room, pacing around the Oval Office yelling into the speaker phone “Vlad (Putin)!  Come on brother you’re killing me, man!  Back those missiles out or you’re gonna have a real bad day!”

Many are laughing out loud at that possibility.  Others are endlessly tense.  Amidst all this open-mindedness, political correctness and properly mannered dignitary example, we may just be in for a blunt, sometimes crude but seemingly well-intended president elect.

Let’s stay positive as a country.  Men that want to take a stand and maintain an old-fashioned world are probably on their last revolution on this merry-go-round.  They gave us a pretty sweet world before it all got “corrected.”

Time will tell.  Until then ... let it ride!