Monday, August 27, 2012

The Write Interview with Mark Moran

Blogging?  No, I’m boating!  Here’s an interview from my Up Close and Personal column in First Monday magazine, April 2012 edition.  Enjoy! 


Daytripping Write Along with Mark Moran


He was a hustler.  A skinny kid with a ponytail.  Peddling ads for placemats.  The ponytail is gone.  He’s still skinny.  He’s still a hustler.  Mark Moran.  How does a guy start out in a band, Damn Straight, move to advertising, and end up the entrepreneur of the largest travel tourism magazine in Southern Ontario?

It has been over five years since I last saw Mark and between the two of us, we place it at over twenty years since we met.  Even then, I knew he would succeed.  Maybe it was his shy smile and easy-going determination.  He was a self-starter who forged ahead and came out a winner in a competitive business.  If you want to know about the history of his success, check out the website at 

Personally, I wanted to know more about the man behind the publication.  I met up with Mark at his office where he introduced me to two of his hard-working staff, Carrie Ann and Angela.  We then settled in for a long catch up beginning with pictures of my granddaughters.  I can’t help it, they’re just too cute.  That out of the way, I shifted focus.  Basically, he hadn’t changed much.  I hate that about men.  I noticed some grey around the temples but since he didn’t mention mine....

Q: I don’t want this interview to be all about your successful Daytripper publication.  I want to find out about the man, Mark Moran.  Can we separate the two?

Mark:  Yes.  Daytripping is a big part of who I am, but I don’t think people should be defined by what they do.

Q:  Tell me a bit about yourself. 

Mark:  I was born in Port Lambton, the youngest of nine in an Irish Catholic family.  Coming from a large family is great.  We are still close and get together regularly.  My father was Reeve of Sombra Township and later Warden of Lambton County.  I left the ad business in ’89 and spent two years in the army.  At the time, I wondered if I was missing something in life.  It was such a great experience.  I believe every Canadian should have to do a three-month basic training course.  It showed me how hard I could push myself and what I was capable of doing.  (Mark’s enthusiasm left little doubt of the benefits.)

 Q:  Are you content?  Where do you go from here or have you already arrived?

Mark:  Content, yes.  Happy, yes.  Have I already arrived?  No.  I have so many different ideas that I’d love to do but will never get around to.  I look forward to every new chapter in my life.

Q:  Tell me something about yourself that no one, or very few, know about you.  The last time I asked a man this question, he shared his penchant for cooking in the nude.  Spare me those details.

Mark:  (burst of laughter and then after serious consideration) That I can be very shy and nervous in some settings.  I love selling ads one on one and I love being on stage in front of a crowd, but I’m not always comfortable at medium size settings.

Q:  I love reading your personal column in Daytripping.  Any aspirations to writing a book?

Mark:  A Wallaceburg High School teacher, Mr. Smith, insisted we keep a journal that we had to hand in.  (Mark and I laughed over the obvious fictitious trivia that would occupy such a journal.)  I kept it up until I started Daytripping 17 years ago and then stopped for some reason.  I have a book in me but don’t know if it will ever get out.  It would be about my experience in the Army.  Most people don’t realize what it is like and what’s expected.
Q:  If you could be anywhere, doing anything, what would it be?

Mark:   (without hesitation) A rock star!!  I’d love to live the life of a Springsteen or Bono.  Music will always be a part of my life.  I play in Painkiller Jane now and we put out a record last year.
Q:  Tell me about a high point in your life, something that made your heart race.

Mark:  I quit smoking five years ago.  It’s the single greatest thing I’ve ever done.  And I love entertaining family and friends with my music - watching everyone have a good time.  That’s an incredible feeling.
Q:  If you were getting a tattoo tomorrow, where would it be and what would it say?

Mark:  (no hesitation) Left shoulder.  The Team Canada hockey logo.  Instead of a hockey player, it would be the silhouette of Johnny Cash with an acoustic guitar slung over his back.
Q:   If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?

Mark:  I try my best.  (Much deliberation on this one)  How to put that in one word, that’s tough.  (I am trying to come up with an appropriate answer as well.  He’s an honest, hard-working, fun-loving, family oriented, businessman.  Hmmm....  Hey, who thinks up these questions?  On the drive home, I thought of a fitting word...diligent.  Hope Mark agrees!)
Q:  What is your idea of heaven?  (Oh, I can’t take credit for this question.  Mark just blurted it out.)

Mark:  I went to see Cirque du Soleil doing Love, with the Beatles theme.  There were over300 speakers and so much going on… it was an incredible spectacle.  I sat for fifteen minutes when it was over, absorbing everything.  If I die and that’s what Heaven is, send me there!

 Q:  Who was, or is, the most influential person in your life?

Mark:  My kids influence my life right now.  Once you have kids, you make friends through them.  Being from a large family, I didn’t have the opportunity to play hockey but now I help out as hockey coach.  I love it.  I’m involved in different activities and meet new people because of my kids.  My staff, customers, and readers influence my life, too.  My middle sister, Rose, is a single great influence.  She’s wise and has a great attitude.

(He adds with a smile)  And, if in doubt, always do what Jean Luc Picard would do.

“Those who are familiar with the character Captain Picard, already know him to be the leader that we all wish we worked for, whose leadership gives us confidence and comfort in meeting the challenges we face each and every day, and the type of leader that we should strive to become.”

Thanks for the glimpse into your life, Mark.  I wish you continued success and happiness.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Not the Write Number

She answered the phone with an abrupt, yes. 
I’m calling to check on my expiry date. 
What did you say?  Who is this, she asked, her irritation evident. 
After spending an hour on a call with a phone representative, my patience was running short as well.  I need to know when my turbo stick contract expires, I said.  I want to switch to the hub.
She seemed confused.  Who did you call? 
Someone transferred me to your department.  I’m calling about my internet service.
Her breath came out in a rush; possibly ending in a chuckle.  This is the wrong number.  You’ve reached Driscoll Cardiology (googled as a hospital in Texas). 
No wonder she thought it was a prank call.  My expiry date, indeed!  She brushed off my apology.  You made my day, she insisted.
How could the phone company make such a wrong connection?  Typical of my usual exasperating dealings with them. 
One telephone company employee I spoke to seemed not only knowledgeable but sympathetic.  I took notes during the lengthy call − two full pages.  Although the plan sounded good, I wanted to run it by my husband.  I’ll call back tomorrow, I said.
The next day I called to place the order.  No such deal, he said.  I argued.  I read directly from my notes.  I read the plus tax equals part and the less this percentage it would be part.  It made no difference.  But, if I would have said yes yesterday, I would have received this price.  No, he said, speaking slowly and succinctly, there is no package at that price.
Alright, I’ll have to go with the new price.  I sensed he was biting his tongue. 
Okay, that’s fine, Phyllis.  Phyllis? Like he knows me personally?  Go to one of our franchise stores and tell them what you want.  What??  After spending hours on the phone I just have to go to an outlet and make my purchase? 
There’s also the matter of our land line.  It works great – as long as it doesn’t rain.  A torrential downpour that dwindles to showers for several days is not good.  The phones shut down.  Sometimes for weeks.
The problem is that the phone company –you know who− won’t admit to the problem.  We’ll send someone to your address, they say.  You will be billed if the problem is in your house. 
It’s not in my house, I tell them.  No one for miles around has a phone. 
We are not aware of a problem with anyone’s line, they drone.
My husband and I were outside when a telephone repair truck pulled in the drive.  Do you have a problem, he called out.  We answered with a despairing laugh.  He seemed like a nice enough guy.  An older fella. 
The problem is not in your house, he said, as he stepped towards us.  There are thirty-two residences without a phone.  It’s the phone lines.  They need to be replaced.  We nodded in grim agreement.
I phoned to cancel the land line.  The representative understood.  We won’t charge you for the month you didn’t have a phone line.  How generous.  Don’t cancel your phone. As we speak they are installing new lines in your area.  Really?  Oh yes, you will even be able to get high-speed internet over the phone lines.  My heartbeat quickened.
New phone lines would be a blessing.  Sometimes, during a call I can hear another conversation fading in and out. Often we can all carry on a conversation.  Not a nice conversation.  Excuse me, but this is a private call.  Well, this is a business call – long distance.  Is this a party line? Though identities remain unknown, we confirmed that we lived in the same rural area.
One ringy dingy, two ringy dingy.............. Hello?  Hello?

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Write Promise

Last week’s blog touched on Alzheimer’s disease.  I forgot to post it!  I lost track of the days during a relaxing timeout−boating with my husband.

Here is last week’s post; not lost−only forgotten...

They are there one minute and gone the next.  The right words – the perfect superlatives –vanished somewhere between my brain and the keyboard.  It’s frustrating. 

All of us worry about losing our memory; at least most of the people I know.  Have you ever drawn a blank in mid-sentence?   It’s happened to me, too. Where was I, I’ll say.  Sorry, I lost my train of thought. Squinty-eyed, I strain to remember. 

Am I right that everyone reading this has rushed into a room to get something, and then stood there wondering what it is?

We apologize for forgetting names and details.  We swear we have no knowledge of something only to remember later that, indeed, we had been told.

It goes with the territory.  A middle-aged malady.  Even though it is annoying to forget names and places and details, it could be far worse.  A child made me realize how much worse.

A few days ago, my five year old granddaughter cuddled in my lap.  Her long legs dangled.  For a fleeting moment melancholy threatened.  One day she would be too big to curl up for an all-embracing snuggle. 

This day, like many others, we shared thoughts during our quiet time together.  Sophie talked about visiting her great-grandmother at the nursing home.  Sophie calls it Daycare since the two facilities are housed in the same building.

She confided that her Oma doesn’t remember her anymore.  My little granddaughter stared out the window as she spoke.  She doesn’t know who I am, she said in a sad voice.     

Sophie turned to face me.  Adapting a solemn expression, she lowered her chin and looked up into my eyes. “Someday, Nana, you are going to be in Daycare with Oma.  I will visit you.” She spoke in the authoritative voice of someone who knows. 

Her gaze returned to the birds preening on the branches outside the window. “Nana,” she continued in a quiet tone, “will you remember me?”  I nodded, unable to speak around the lump in my throat.   “Promise you’ll remember me.”  Her whispery voice pleaded for reassurance.

I pressed a kiss into her silky hair and hugged her slender body close.  “Promise, Nana?”