This column appeared January 5, 2018 in The Manhattan Mercury.
How did you come to write a column for The Mercury?
It started innocently enough though a Facebook private message. Ned Seaton: “Hey Mike, are you interested in writing a column for us? I just really like your blog.” Me: “Ned, you’re very kind, thanks. Let’s grab coffee or a meal and drill into it a bit. Tuesday or Friday work for me.”
Do you have a day job?
I like to say I manage expectations. The title is Director of Industry Affairs & Development for Kansas Farm Bureau. Men, women and families with bedrock values struggling with change. I work in that big corporate-looking Taj Mahal on the northwest corner of town.
What did you learn from your father?
Two things spring to mind, both indicative of the man. First, question everything. Second, the best way to shine shoes. Set the shoe polish ablaze before applying it.
Book that changed your life?
Ball Four by Jim Bouton. Iconoclastic big-league pitcher who has lost his fastball, holding on to his career, literally with his fingertips, writes a diary of the 1969 season. “You spend your life gripping a baseball,” Bouton wrote, “and it turns out that it was the other way around all along.”
What do you miss most about the ‘70s?
Certainly not the platform shoes or polyester.
What do you admire most about your mother?
Her ability to make friends. She has this gift of putting people at ease right away. It’s a skill I have had to force myself to learn and get better at.
What’s your best talent currently hidden from the masses?
I do a spot-on JFK. Ask my wife about the time I gave the ‘we choose to go to the moon… not because it is easy, because it is hahd’ speech.
Most embarrassing moment?
In the second grade, my shoelace broke right as the school bus pulled up. Hopping on one foot, holding my high school aged-Aunt’s hand, I dodged mud puddles from the Rooks County farm house to the bus. All the kids on the bus yukking it up at my expense. Once on the bus, Aunt Linda repaired my shoelace, and my reputation.
How do you feel about social media?
Clearly the most powerful communications vehicle in my lifetime. Lately though, I’ve begun to wonder whether it’s the bane of our existence (another column).
What are your politics?
I used to describe myself as a “Kassebaum Republican.” I have been proudly unaffiliated since the turn of the century.
Any pet peeves?
Just one. Drivers who fail to understand freeway on-ramps are designed specifically for acceleration to freeway speed.
Who’s your favorite actor?
Well, up until very recently, it was Kevin Spacey. These days, I’m a bit uncertain how I’m supposed to feel about him (yet another column, perhaps).
Do you have a role model/mentor?
Good question. Really don’t have one specific individual. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on professional colleagues from whom I have gleaned knowledge and insight, e.g., Dan Yunk of Manhattan, a manager of managers. From Bill Graves, I learned perspective. He’d often say, ‘people don’t get up in the morning thinking about their governor.’
What advice would you give your 20-year old self?
Think more about others and don’t drink so much, dude. Oh, and lose the cheesy mustache.
Ever been rendered speechless?
Dream vacation spot?
The beaches of Fiji, dropping various components of technology in the Pacific en route. My Out-Of-Office Automatic Reply: “Should you need to reach me while I’m on my dream vacation, tough noogies.”
Favorite bumper sticker?
High school memories?
A couple. I went to high school with Darnell Valentine, who matriculated to hardwood glory at KU and the NBA. At Wichita Heights, Darnell was a better basketball player than me. But I was a better yearbook photographer than him.
Also remember the entire student body turning out to watch a classmate “streak” across school grounds. As an intrepid yearbook photographer, I captured the moment on film. Read recently that the governor appointed that same kid to the District Court bench. Youthful indiscretion, your honor?
What do you wish you could do better?
I am not the world’s most patient human being. My wife often reminds me it's a virtue. I wish she didn't have to.
The Apartment (1960). Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray. “That’s the way it crumbles. Cookie-wise.”
First “real” job?
Overnight deejay for an adult contemporary radio station in Wichita in 1979. To this day, I retain a soft spot in my heart for England Dan and John Ford Coley.
Do you have a celebrity doppelganger?
In my teens and 20s with long hair, friends told me I looked like Barry Manilow. Later, as middle age got closer and the hairline farther away, I was told I was a dead ringer for Joe Montana. Check out the mug in this column and draw your own conclusions. I cannot croon like Manilow or check off at the line like Montana. That’s OK. I sleep well at night knowing they can’t blog their way out of a wet paper bag.