Meaningful conversations from the heart of your creative spark...
Join us as we explore the thought provoking themes surrounding CreativeMornings Cleveland's monthly breakfast lecture series. Excerpts of the lecture are book ended by meaningful conversations with attendees and speakers alike.
Our theme this episode is, “LOST.” JJ Lendl, Kahrin Spear, and our featured guest, Douglas Trattner, join David Allen Moss in conversations to explore what this theme means to each of them. Topics include YouTube, creative writing, restaurant menus, bike rides, relationships, and more.
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David Moss: Have you ever been lost? Like, really lost? How does it feel? And how does it feel when you find your way again? Maybe there's been a time you've been without clear direction or purpose. How do you find answers? What did it teach you? Was it a journey that felt worth it in the end? Lost, this is our theme today and these are some of the questions that we're going to explore as we talk to attendees and presenters at another CreativeMornings event. Oh, and there's one more thing I'd like to ask people, what is something about yourself that you hope to never lose? I'm your host, David Alan Moss, and I'm glad you've joined us for another episode of Wake Up Call.
Thomas Fox: Hi, I'm Thomas Fox with CreativeMornings, Cleveland. We're thrilled to have Evergreen Podcasts on board as our official podcast partner. Evergreen Podcasts is committed to producing the best original content and engaging shows. Right now you're listening to Wake Up Call, recorded on location at the monthly CreativeMornings Lecture Series. Enjoy.
David Moss: Is there something you lost recently?
JJ Lendl: This might be stretching the theme a little bit, but I got sick two weeks ago and so I lost four days of work, which is frustrating, especially when you have your own business and you're an independent contractor. I mean those hours add up.
David Moss: This is JJ Lendl. He's a graphic artist and has done some work for some big name clients like Disney, CBS, and others, and rightly so, because his work is awesome. Check out the link in the show notes and have a look for yourself. I guess it should have occurred to me that time would be brought up while talking about this theme, Lost, but it didn't. What's that saying? Time is the one thing we can't get back. JJ seems to have taken this to heart as he continues.
JJ Lendl: When you work in a creative field, oftentimes you deal with blocks, whether it's writer's block, or in my case, because I do graphic design, you're staring at that blank page and you're like, "Okay, I've got to put something on here, I got to get started." But when your body is literally like, you're not well enough to do the thing that you want to do, it's super frustrating and you feel like you're losing time. Because I was sick in bed and I wasn't at the office, I ended up picking something else up. And so over those four days, I wrote this 17,000 word novella that had been kicking around in my brain. It's a situation where, okay, you get frustrated, but maybe there is a possibility to find something else.
David Moss: What? That's crazy, right? Who writes a novella while too sick to go to work? I love the spontaneity that JJ demonstrated as his planned days for work were blown up, so I asked for his thoughts about that.
JJ Lendl: We spend so much of our time trying to plan our time, that I think we often do ourselves a disservice. I was listening to another podcast that was talking about the idea of augmented reality recently, and the idea of trying to have technology that builds in markers for where you're walking around to give you information, and I mean that's a cool idea, but it also sort of takes away the magic a little bit, of discovering things on your own, when someone else is sort of creating a track for you.
David Moss: This is going to sound convoluted, but have we lost our ability to lose ourselves? Do we have too many things taken ... doing it for us?
JJ Lendl: For as much as things seem to be laid out for us, I think we all have a choice on how plugged in we want to be.
David Moss: Right.
JJ Lendl: When I'm sitting at my workstation at the drawing board, and a lot of my work is digital these days, I have access to the complete sum of human knowledge through my Chrome browser.
David Moss: Right.
JJ Lendl: And I make a choice to work on my project rather than to putz around on YouTube or Wikipedia. And I think that sometimes people go around and around. I think we can get lost in that, but eventually I feel like a big part of the human condition is every once in a while we'll put our head up, and we'll say, "Oh, I think that there's probably a better way to go." And I think sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that time and time again, because there's so many distractions.
David Moss: It is really hard to stay on task, to stay focused, to close out the noise of the world that's always wanting us to listen. At the end of the day, I want to have been productive, and I imagine most people feel that way. So let's take a little inspiration and encouragement from JJ to be spontaneous, industrious, stay off YouTube in the middle of the day.
David Moss: Next up we talk with Douglas Trattner. He was a speaker at this creative mornings event and though we weren't able to talk with him in person, we caught up just a few days later on the phone. Douglas is a writer and has done a lot of restaurant reviews. I mean a lot. He took a different approach to our theme, Lost, by primarily talking about not losing something. Memories.
Doug Trattner: It's funny, I've always collected menus and it started out of necessity, right? So I started writing about food, think it was, well I know it was, 2001 and this is before we had smart phones, and websites, and Instagram and Yelp, and so I really needed these menus to help me write about them accurately. And because, I often write days, weeks, and even sometimes months after the meal. And so you can't just go to your phone and look at pictures or go to the website and look at menus. I needed this information to do a good job writing about the place. So I would steal the menus, and just, I guess, out of necessity, not necessarily just the food I ate, but the food I didn't eat, you know descriptions often, the drinks, the prices, these are things ... this is information I require to do a good job, and I just kept doing it, and doing it and stealing them over the years.
Doug Trattner: And so, when I mentioned the fact to my editor, Vince, a couple of years ago, that I had all these menus, he's like, "I didn't know you even collected, how many do you have?" And I was like, "Oh jeez, about a thousand," and he just couldn't believe it. You should see this thing. It's just an accordion file falling apart. And believe me every year I want to throw it all away, because you don't really need them anymore, but he said, "Have you ever kind of written about it?" And I hadn't even thought about it. You just do it right, you're onto the next review, and the next review, the next review and like a lot of collections, you just kind of amass it but you don't really think about it.
Doug Trattner: And so, when you have to write a 3,500 words on a topic, you think about it, and you think about it a lot, and you spend a lot of time with it. And so, that's what I did. I really kind of pored over this collection, and what I found was, it really told a story about Cleveland, not just dining, broader trends as well. It was a great cover story. In fact, it ended up winning a top food writing prize for all weeklies across North America. And only because I spent so much time kind of poring over it, and thinking about the broader themes. That's where we are today.
David Moss: When you were talking about some of these great restaurant visits in your talk at CreativeMornings, you kind of touched on the difficulty of connecting with all these restauranteurs and entrepreneurs in that space. And how some of the ones that made an impression on you are gone. There's some loss there. Can you talk about that at all?
Doug Trattner: I guess kind of like a sportswriter or something, you're not supposed to pick winners and losers. You just kind of cover the beat, and there are restaurants that should be open that are not, there are restaurants that are open that perhaps shouldn't be, if you're talking in terms of, I don't know, quality, creativity, service, all that stuff. But it's not for me to decide where people go and spend their money and support restaurants. And obviously I've always been a champion of independent ... I don't really cover, non- independent restaurants, chain restaurants. I feel like, somebody else could do that. But there are so many restaurants and restauranteurs. I mean, chef owners, Sergio comes to mind, who are no longer with us, restaurants of course that I've been to and love, Baricelli, and that are no longer with us.
David Moss: Sure, sure.
Doug Trattner: And it is nice to have those menus to kind of remember, not just the restaurant and the food, but the actual meals that I've had there, and the people that I've had them with there. Because to me, that's what dining's all about. It's not just this plate of food, it's the experience, right? It's who you went with, how you were feeling that night, were you celebrating something? And then there's also, there's first dates, and there's second dates, and there's engagements, and these things are all taken place and celebrated in restaurants and our honeymoon, I didn't stop stealing menus on our honeymoon and I have most of those menus as well. And it's just a collection of memories that I don't think a photo album can ever approach in terms of just immediacy, and really bringing back memories.
David Moss: Restaurant menus are also something I did not anticipate talking about during this episode, but here we are. It's amazing how memories can be so fixed to physical items, almost like they're contained within them. It's interesting to hear Douglas talk about wanting to throw them out, but he just can't bring himself to do it. So, he'll hold on to them for the foreseeable future, and just occasionally rifle through them like so many of us do with odds and ends we hang on to, for the same reason. So we've chatted about these restaurant menus, these external objects that Douglas can't do away with, but what about something internal? What is something about yourself, Doug, that you don't want to lose? That's what I asked next.
Doug Trattner: Curiosity, for sure. Any job, even a restaurant critic, which is everybody's favorite dream job, right? Every job can become a grind. You're eating out all the time. Your schedule is not your own, weather doesn't participate. Restaurants are wonderful. Restaurants can be not wonderful. Service can be awful. Service can be wonderful. Throughout it all, you can't take that, any of your personal kind of, I don't know, moods or griefs out on anybody, right? You have to approach every meal and every experience as if it's the first, and we do go into every meal hoping and expecting that it will be wonderful. That's where I start. You have to change my mind. It's not ... you don't have to cheer me up. You just have to not let me down. And because I do, I go in there expecting a great experience and, if it's not, I'll just go, will be reflected in my reviews and my stories about it, but it's not because of how I feel. At least I do everything I can to go in there in a celebratory mood and enjoy the experience.
David Moss: Kahrin Spear is our final guest, and her story is actually a little bit more of what I expected to hear from people. It's a story that isn't finished being written yet. Is there something you've lost recently, and it's just driving you crazy, or maybe something you lose all the time?
Kahrin Spear: I have lost the woman that I love, that I think I'm supposed to marry. I was really lost in my life when I graduated from college in May, and I had a lot of answers that I needed to seek as far as what I wanted to do professionally, what I was comfortable with personally, with my own sexuality, and so I needed to pause and answer those questions. And in doing so I lost her. So I've been spending the last five months trying to help her find me again, I guess. So, that's been driving me nuts.
David Moss: Do you feel like you've found some things though? Finding some things out about yourself maybe you didn't know, as a part of that?
Kahrin Spear: Oh yeah. I mean, it took me six weeks from separating, to figure out that nobody can tell me who I am, that I am good enough just as I am, and I don't have to be scared of being exactly that. It took me six weeks to get there, but I figured that out. And then I've spent the last four months fighting for that and believing that I'm worthy and that what we had was something rare.
David Moss: These are the types of stories about loss that can be the hardest on us. How to go on, how to recover, what is there to learn about yourself, and I don't want to overstate it, but the lessons and discoveries here can really affect our lives as we move ahead. What was an unexpected discovery maybe?
Kahrin Spear: I decided to agree to go on a cycling trip down the East Coast for a few weeks.
David Moss: Oh, wow.
Kahrin Spear: I had never done that before but I figured I'm really lost and maybe this will be a good opportunity to figure out the questions that I need. Just getting on a bike with my own thoughts for two weeks with people I don't know seemed like a good experience. I knew the one girl, but other two I had met like five days before I left.
David Moss: Physicality can be so therapeutic. I love how this is manifested in different people. Some people clean the house like mad, or work in the yard, or spend lots of time at the gym. For Kahrin, it was biking a huge chunk of the East Coast.
Kahrin Spear: I feel like it was a metaphoric, but physical way of peddling back to me. I couldn't find the answers that I needed in my mind, and I think I found them on my bike.
David Moss: So now that you found them on the bike on a path maybe you hadn't been on this trip, you have never taken that route before?
Kahrin Spear: No. I bought the bike that week. I have never cycled before. Yeah.
David Moss: Wow. How many miles was that?
Kahrin Spear: Just under 700.
David Moss: Oh my goodness.
Kahrin Spear: Yeah. My first mile on that bike was the first mile of the trip.
David Moss: That is discovery.
Kahrin Spear: Yeah, it was a very weird experience, but it was really transformative, so ...
David Moss: Did you guys ever get turned around? Did you ever actually get lost on this trip, or did you have a lot-
Kahrin Spear: We never got lost-
David Moss: Okay.
Kahrin Spear: ... but we found ourselves in a few pickles for sure. We relied on hitchhiking in some ... there were some pretty big storms, so we had to hitch hike, because riding on the highway with people going 70 miles an hour in a rainstorm is just a horrible decision.
David Moss: I think this is part of the therapy. It's the physical work, yes, but it can also be about overcoming. Sometimes we just need a win to remind us that we do not need to be subject to our losses. They don't have to define us, and through this therapy we can redefine our story, and rediscover things about ourselves. I finished talking to Kahrin by asking about this very thing. Is there a part of you that you've rediscovered that you hope you never lose?
Kahrin Spear: Yeah, I think I found my freedom and who I am, and I don't ever want to lose that, the appreciation and the love of me. I don't ever want a second guess who I am again.
David Moss: Wake Up Call is a production of Evergreen Podcasts, a proud member of the Front Porch Media Network. Special thanks to executive producers, Joan Andrews and Michael DeAloia, producer and audio director, Dave Douglas, account manager, Connor Standish. Thanks to Toubab Krewe for the use of their song Rooster, available on iTunes. And if you would, please like and review this program, it really helps. Learn more about this and other podcasts from Evergreen at evergreenpodcasts.com. Wake Up Call, ideas that crow.