Colin's Coffee Nominated for Upper Arlington Business of the Year

Colin’s Coffee Nominated for UA Business of the Year

Not trying to jinx it or get a big head, but I thought folks might be interested to learn that Colin’s Coffee has been nominated for the 2018 business of the year by the city of Upper Arlington. The winner will be announced at the State of the City address on Monday January 28th. I’m unsure how this works or who else is nominated, but a quick google search reveals Ohio Health took home the trophy last year, so it looks like we might be in for some stiff competition.

In all seriousness, no matter how it turns out,  we are flattered just to be nominated and appreciate the city of UA acknowledging a business as small as ours. It’s a team effort down here at the Golden Bear Center, with our amazing customers and staff leading the way. They really deserve the credit for what gives the coffee shop its special vibe.

Anyway, I will report back on the Colin’s Coffee Facebook page to share the results after the meeting on January 28th. Stay warm. - Colin

FYI - This amazing Colin’s Coffee painting was done by UA Freshman student Ava Taylor. Follow @ Instagram avatays_art


Ohio County Trippin' Hancock County - by Nick Taggart

HANCOCK COUNTY “Past Times Pastime” 8-9 December 2018

We were heading north on US Route 68 when the green county sign, standing lonely at a rural crossroads, marked our entrance into Hancock County.  We turned left at that intersection and followed County Road 2 along the southern border for about two miles. Sitting neglected between the road and a frozen field was a stubby cement cylinder.  It would have been easy to miss had I not been looking for it. It was placed on this spot just over a century ago to mark Hull’s Trail, a path from Urbana to Detroit, blazed by General William Hull and his troops during the War of 1812.  The historical marker also makes note of a small supply stockade and blockhouse constructed for that war effort. Fort Necessity, “affectionately” dubbed Fort Mud by the poor sods who had to build and guard it, was located 400 feet north and 150 feet east of the marker.  Any remnants of the fort are long gone. A wall of trees running along the road blocked our view of what wasn’t there anyway.

We drove a large loop along country roads before returning to US Route 68 and continuing our progress north.  We passed through the village of Arlington, which clocks in with the third largest population in the county at just about 1,500 residents.  It’s also one of the oldest pioneer settled spots in the county, beginning as a farming community in 1844, and then gaining steam as a railroad crossroads when tracks were laid across southern Hancock County.  The main street was decorated for the holidays with vintage red lanterns and green garland hanging from the street lamps.

Pilgrim Restaurant - Findlay, OH

Pilgrim Restaurant - Findlay, OH

Another ten miles further north, we found ourselves in the middle of the county seat of Findlay.  Turning left at the courthouse onto West Main Cross Street, we drove another few miles, passing over busy Interstate 75, and to our destination for breakfast, Pilgrim Restaurant.  If the large black “FOOD” emblazoned on its pitched yellow roof wasn’t signpost enough, the nearly full parking lot served as a testament that this was the place to dine. I ordered the Pilgrim Omelet while Michele opted for the standard scrambled eggs and hash browns, supplemented with bacon and a cinnamon roll.  We planned to get coffee anyway, but the signs decorating the interior left no doubt that java drinking was encouraged.

Drink Coffee.  Do stupid things faster, with more energy.

Coffee!  If you’re not shaking, you need another cup.

After a delicious breakfast, we returned to US Route 68 and proceeded north out of town.  As we entered Allen Township, we passed by the land of giant things.  A sprawling factory on the right belonged to one of the county’s largest employers, Whirlpool Corporation.  Nearby is the Ball Corporation’s beverage packaging plant. Towering above them both is a field of seven mammoth white wind turbines constructed in the last few years by One Energy to aid in supplying clean energy for Whirlpool and Ball, as well as for Valfilms, a maker of films for food packaging, automotive, construction and telecommunication industries. Valfilms has its world headquarters in Brazil, but its North American headquarters in Findlay.  To add a large dash of color to all the behemoths, a tall water tower - diminutive when compared to the turbines - was painted in a red, white, and blue star-spangled motif with the message, “Findlay Salutes Veterans.”

Near the northern boundary of the county, we pulled over in the town square of Van Buren to read a historic marker detailing the small village’s history.  It’s another early community, having been laid out in 1833 and named for Martin Van Buren, a prominent national figure of the time whose election to president wouldn’t occur for another few years.  

Positioned against the eastern edge of the village is Van Buren State Park, 300 acres of recreational land surrounding a long, skinny lake.  On a cold December Saturday morning, it had the feeling of having been put to bed for the winter. Our car sat alone in a parking lot while we hiked for a spell along the water’s perimeter.  Black locust pods littered the hard, frozen ground and big, beefy fox squirrels lumbered between leafless trees. We went as far as an open shelter house before turning around. It wasn’t the most exciting stroll, although we were rewarded by finding a quarter in the parking lot and spotting a bald eagle circling our side of the lake.

We got back in the car with Michele behind the wheel so I could navigate while unencumbered by such trivialities as watching the road.  We drove west on State Route 613 and got stopped by a train just before reaching the town of McComb. It was a reminder of what a busy railroad corridor northwest Ohio is.  Once the train passed and the crossing gates raised, we entered the village and looped through its quiet streets.

Go Panthers!  

I assumed that’s what one should say in McComb when I saw a large mural of the big black cat on the side of a building.  I later confirmed it is indeed the local school’s mascot.

We drove south out of town and then meandered our way east to County Road 99.  Just shy of Interstate 75, we turned off the road so we could visit Jeffrey’s Antique Gallery.  The seemingly endless collection of stalls located in a long, sprawling building isn’t resorting to hyperbole when it claims to be the largest antique mall in Northwest Ohio.  After spending a bit of time perusing the collections of hand-me-down cultural mementos, I came to the conclusion that a better name for such establishments would be Reminiscing Emporiums.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, you’re bound to come across something from your childhood being offered for sale at a price far above what you ever paid for it, or for that matter, ever might have sold it for in a yard sale.  It’s all there, from NASCAR “collectible” figurines, to a vintage cardboard Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket from the 1980s, to dishes you’d swear you used to eat off of at your grandmother’s house.

We are going to need a bigger flask.

We are going to need a bigger flask.

And should you ever be forced to spend time at an antique mall against your will, here’s a surefire plan for passing the time quickly and enjoyably.  First, sneak in a flask filled with your favorite adult beverage. Then, take a drink whenever you overhear someone say, “We used to have one of those.”  Be sure to be accompanied by a designated driver though, because you’re sure to be snockered in no time!

After about an hour and a half, we found we’d barely made it through half of the mall.  The rest would have to wait. We returned to the county seat and parked on the campus of the University of Findlay, an institute of higher education established in 1888.  On foot, we found Croy Gymnasium, paid $8 each for tickets, and found a place to sit on the hard bleachers. We were in time to catch the final four minutes of the women’s basketball game between the University of Findlay Oilers and the Malone University [Canton, Ohio] Pioneers.  Despite a string of last-minute 3-pointers drained by the visitors, it was the home team that dominated in a 69-50 win.

After a short intermission, the men’s teams took to the court.  The pace was faster than the women’s game and the physical contact was a bit more aggressive, but the shooting wasn’t any more accurate.  We left at half time with the Oilers leading by 11 points. I later learned they maintained their lead and won the game 81-75. In both games, it was fun to watch for the pure enjoyment of the sport without feeling the need to root for either team.

With the afternoon waning, we returned to the heart of downtown Findlay, south of the Blanchard River.  We pulled up in front of the new Hancock Hotel. Located on South Main Street as part of the Marathon Petroleum Corporation’s campus, this beautiful addition to the city opened its doors to guests for the first time only ten months earlier in February.  The staff were very friendly and helpful, especially after the desk clerk mistakenly sent us to the wrong room. He’d written “405” on our room key folder. After a few futile attempts to gain access to the room, I returned to the front desk and learned the clerk should have written “504.”  Our keycard worked much better for that room!

After a short settling in period, we left the hotel on foot and paused for a photo next door at the Marathon Petroleum Corporation building.  I’m usually not one to shill for an oil company, but Marathon is an Ohio company with its headquarters in Findlay, so why not show a little love.  Its history is a tangled and complicated tale of mergers and acquisitions, trust bustings and spin-offs, but I’ll attempt a CliffsNotes version for interested parties.

In 1887, several small Ohio oil companies came together to form The Ohio Oil Company.  Two years later, John D. Rockefeller stepped in with his big fat wallet and purchased the company to add to his Standard Oil holdings.  A couple decades later, the Standard Oil Trust was broken and the Ohio Oil Company once again became independent. After purchasing the Transcontinental Oil Company in 1930, the Marathon brand name was created, which eventually led to the company changing its name to the Marathon Oil Company in 1962.  Twenty years later, it became a subsidiary of U.S. Steel, but almost 30 years after that, the refining and marketing assets were spun off into a separate company called the Marathon Petroleum Corporation. And that’s where we stand today. [Whew!] According to Wikipedia: “Following its acquisition of Andeavor on October 1, 2018, Marathon Petroleum became the largest petroleum refinery operator in the United States, with 16 refineries and over 3 million barrels per day of refining capacity.”  It’s something to keep in mind the next time you think globally and fill up locally.

Around the corner and a couple blocks away on East Crawford Street, we found the Findlay Brewing Company, where we enjoyed a couple of late afternoon beers.  Michele tried the Ohio Weather, a pint of cinnamon vanilla porter with a cinnamon-sugared rim. I opted for a snifter of Chicote’s 2018, a chocolate habanero milk stout that slid down the throat with just enough heat left behind to make it an interesting brew.

We returned to our hotel room and had just enough time to change clothes before heading back out into the cold night for a brisk walk south to our dinner destination.  A couple months earlier, we’d made reservations for the 25th Annual Victorian Christmas Dinner, a fundraiser for the Hancock Historical Museum.  The event is held in a different local home each year. For 2018, Dave and Julie Wright volunteered their 1903 Colonial Revival house at 916 South Main Street.  Our tickets were mailed to us ahead of time along with the dress code: “You may dress in period costume or formal attire, if you wish. Otherwise, business casual dress is appropriate.”  Once in Findlay, I discovered I’d packed my frock coat and top hat in my other steamer trunk, so I made do with a sweater and ye olde khakis for my attire.

The furniture had been moved out of all the first floor rooms and was replaced by enough tables to accommodate about 50 diners.  We sat with three other couples at a round table in the front room. “Servants” in period costume brought us our various courses: carrot crème soup, a garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and stuffed breast of chicken with dressing and gravy accompanied by mashed redskin potatoes and French-style green beans with almonds.  With each new wave of food, the “help” would surround our table and then in unison, place the plates before each guest. I felt as though we’d entered an episode of “Downton Abbey.”

[Please note:  Yes, I realize the Victorian Age officially came to an end with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and that the imaginary world of “Downton Abbey” took place in the post-Edwardian years before and after the First World War, but just so you know, this incessant need for nitpicky correctness is why people don’t like you!]

We drank wine with our dinner and coffee with our dessert of pumpkin bread trifle.  We were serenaded with music by the College First Church of God Carolers and then entertained with a recitation of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by a man in a nightshirt calling himself Clement Moore.  By the time we retrieved our coats and stepped into the 21-degree night, I was heady with holiday spirit.

The following morning when we checked out of the Hancock Hotel, we found the lobby teeming with children.  Parents had brought their young ones for “Breakfast With Santa,” an opportunity for kids to visit with the jolly ol’ elf while dining on pancakes.  There was also a craft table where they could create “Magic Reindeer Feed” (Which is now legal thanks to recent legislation, but only for medicinal purposes.  Apparently, a lot of reindeer suffer from glaucoma.).

We drove up Main Street and paused to get a better look at the Hancock County Courthouse.  Dedicated in 1888, there’s no mistaking it for anything other than a grand example of 19th Century architecture with decoratively carved stone all over its three symmetrical stories.  A domed clock tower rises in the center and atop it is a 16-foot bronze statue of the county’s namesake, John Hancock.

A few blocks east of the courthouse on East Main Cross Street, we pulled into a small parking lot next to the Blanchard River.  On the opposite bank is Riverside Park and connecting both sides of the river is a small cascading spillway that a more imaginative community booster will tell you is a waterfall.  Regardless of your viewpoint, it was a quiet, pretty spot on a sunny Sunday morning. As if on cue, a bald eagle flew overhead, following the course of the Blanchard.

Timing is everything on a county trip and we were apparently a few years too late for our next destination.  We drove about seven miles east out of Findlay on US Route 224 to see the county’s Bicentennial Barn, one of 88 barns painted for the state’s 200th birthday in 2003.  If you want to see the bicentennial logo on Hancock’s barn, quickly take a look at it on Google’s Street View, dated August 2015, because it no longer exists in real time.  I’m not sure if the old barn was completely replaced or just received a new paint job, but in either case, the logo was gone.

We returned to Findlay and searched for a couple of historic markers to fill in some local history detail.  The first was easy to find on the southwest corner of Main Street and the Blanchard River. There, a sign marks the location of the original Fort Findlay, another supply depot ordered built by General Hull during the War of 1812.  It was named for Colonel (later General, and later still, member of Congress) James Findlay, the officer who oversaw the fort’s construction. The pioneers who laid out a town on the same spot a decade later retained his name.

The second marker was a little more difficult to find.  On the west side of town, after crossing railroad tracks and shimmying down an alley, we found a marker next to the Blanchard River near the rounded corner where River and Liberty Streets meet.  The neglected area resembled a spot where young boys might later tell authorities they found a dead body. Fortunately, I didn’t make any such discoveries. I did, however, find the marker that had been placed there in 1937 to commemorate the location of the Great Karg Well.  Its discovery in 1886 launched Ohio’s first major natural gas boom. Companies flocked to Findlay for the area’s huge natural gas and petroleum deposits. The resources were so plentiful that the city was able to illuminate its streets with gas lamps, earning it the nickname, “City of Light.”  

Not quite rising to the level of historic importance as the Great Karg Well, yet still very popular among locals, is Wilson’s Sandwich Shop on South Main Street.  Ever since Hoyt “Stub” Wilson opened his small restaurant in 1936, folks have been flocking to it for its menu of chili dogs, onion rings, and other similar simple offerings.  It moved to its current location in the 1960s. We arrived soon after its noon opening and were surprised to find it so busy for a Sunday afternoon. Both the inside counter and the outside drive-thru were humming with activity.  We stuck to the basics, each ordering a Wilson Chili Dog, and claimed something in common with former Vice-Presidents Dan Quayle and Joe Biden, who both had been Wilson’s customers.

After lunch comes dessert and the best place for something sweet in Findlay is Dietsch Brothers, a candy and ice cream shop whose origin dates to the late 1920s.  We sat down at a booth and enjoyed a couple of cones. Mine was filled with the Buckeye blend of chocolate and peanut butter while Michele opted for cherry vanilla.  We also did some shopping, selecting sweet treats from Dietsch’s vast selection of chocolate and candy. With the holidays fast approaching, we knew we couldn’t go wrong adding chocolate to a family member’s gift.   

Our next stop, just a couple blocks away on West Sandusky Street, was the Hancock Historical Museum.  Executive Director Sarah Sisser, who we’d seen the night before welcoming folks to the Victorian Christmas Dinner, was staffing the front desk.  The museum is located in the Hull-Flater House and furnished in the late Victorian style. The first floor also houses a general museum containing exhibits representing the county’s history.  Its most unique artifact – while not having any direct historical connection to Hancock County - has got to be the bathtub from the USS Maine.

For those who need a refresher course on their American history, the USS Maine was a United States battleship that blew up under mysterious circumstances in the harbor at Havana, Cuba in 1898.  Two hundred and sixty American sailors died. The United States used the sinking as an excuse to declare war on Spain. The Spanish American War had three key outcomes: removing Spain once and for all from the Caribbean; making war heroes out of Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders; and lodging the phrase, “Remember the Maine” into America’s psyche, even if we no longer remember why we’re remembering it.


A bathtub from the USS Maine might seem like a somewhat bizarre relic, but its path from Havana’s harbor to the Hancock Historical Museum is a fascinating one.  After the ship was raised from Havana’s harbor in 1911, everyone with a political connection wanted to obtain a piece of it. Ohio’s Congressman Frank B. Willis managed to obtain the captain’s enameled-steel bathtub which he planned to donate to his hometown of Urbana.  The only problem was Urbana didn’t want it. The town of Findlay spoke up and said it would be happy to take it, but was rather disappointed when a rusted old tub arrived. Apparently, no one considered the toll taken on the metal after spending more than a decade under water.  No one wanted to display it, so they stored it in a municipal building and used it for a time as a coal bin. Public outrage ensued and it was eventually put in a display case in a little-used hallway of the county courthouse. It’s said that a courthouse janitor got tired of explaining to visitors what it was so he taped a "USS Maine Bathtub" sign to the case.  When the courthouse was renovated in 1960, the tub was sent to the Findlay College Museum. They used the case for other purposes and stored the bathtub in an old cigar factory. In the mid-70s, it was given to the Hancock Historical Museum where they left it in a basement for many years before finally dusting it off and giving it some prime real estate among the other exhibits.  

After learning its circuitous history, one couldn’t help but feel fortunate to be standing in front of the rusty old tub.  I just had to take a picture of it!

There are other buildings located on the grounds of the museum and we did a quick tour of the Crawford Log House, built in 1840, before driving on to our next destination.

We returned to the campus of the University of Findlay to visit the Mazza Musuem, an art museum devoted to illustrations from children's picture books.  Examples of original art hung on walls above the children’s books in which they appeared. I had Michele pose for a picture in front of one of her favorites, Bread and Jam for Frances, illustrated by Lillian Hoban and written by her then-husband, Russell Hoban.  It’s one in a series of Frances books about a loveable badger who, in this instance, is a fussy eater.  Our tour was a fun walk down Memory Lane, being reminded of some of the books that helped start our lives as readers.  

Our final stop of the day was a return to Jeffrey’s Antique Gallery.  We had a bit of time to kill and hadn’t finished perusing all the booths the day before, so we continued our search for the ever elusive treasure that we didn’t even know we needed.  Unfortunately though, despite a credit card and a valiant effort, another ninety minutes of shopping didn’t result in any purchases. I left, however, with a greater appreciation for Findlay as a cosmopolitan community.  As I strolled around the antique mall, I found myself at one point near a young Japanese couple speaking their native language. That reminded me of the table of Spanish-speaking students I encountered the day before in Croy Gym, and the couples we found ourselves walking behind on the way to the Findlay Brewing Company who were speaking Russian.  Who knew?.

It was dark by the time we returned to the road.  Another short drive south on Main Street and then a longer jaunt east on US Route 224 took us out of Findlay and out of the county.

Time spent in the county: 32 hours, 59 minutes

Miles driven in the county: 97 miles


Previous County Trippin' from Nick Taggart: Meigs County - Medina County - Champaign County - Seneca County - Cuyahoga County - Fayette County - Sandusky County -

You Say You Want a Resolution.....(2013) - by Colin Gawel

This story was originally published at while the Earth was still cooling. Not long after, Pencilstorm was created so my smart friends could post their stories, too and make it more of a team effort. To be honest, I couldn’t remember if I had actually written a story about New Year’s resolutions or just thought I had. After 10 minutes of googling.. I found it. From January 3, 2013 …- Colin G. (2019)


Thanks to everybody who read "Hitless Wonder" or listened to "Brick and Mortar" in 2012. For reviews, the NPR story and basically a review of all the cool things that happened in the past year click here . It's cold out and "Superior" is edging towards 10,000 views. Watch it here   

You Say You Want a Resolution, Well You Know, We All Want to Change the World.

People often ask me, "Colin, how do you manage to juggle so many things and do them all so well? What is the secret to your success?"

Actually, that isn't exactly true. It's phrased more like, "Colin...Jesus, you look exhausted, are you OK?" 

Still, with a new year ringing in my ears along with the tinnitus, I would like to share my thoughts on successful habits and the value of New Year's Resolutions. 

"From Small Things, Big Things One Day Will Come", isn't just an under rated Bruce Springsteen B-side, it is also a phrase that is coincidentally the backbone of my personal survival strategy. I'm not one for resolutions in the traditional sense. I don't enter a new year and proclaim, "This is the year I finally finish my screenplay, slash my online porn consumption and run the Boston marathon!". No sir, not me. While big goals are dandy and may work for some, I've come to understand that for myself, If I achieve small goals on a semi- daily basis, eventually some form of productivity emerges from the rubble of the Holiday season. In the New Year I re-dedicate and tweek my system to focus on goals to help me create things I enjoy. Off the top of my head and in no particular order this year I would like: To write good songs, Compile all my solo recordings and release as a full length, start a band called "Why Isn't Cheap Trick in The Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame" that plays Cheap Trick covers and calls attention to this gross injustice, record new Watershed music and play a show in Minneapolis, make a Willie Phoenix Wiki discography page and write a really long, stupid essay about KISS. If I hope to accomplish just one of these worthy goals, I need two things: Energy and Time Management.


 Goal#1: Energy is everything. And I'm not talking about some sort of vague hippy energy or positive vibes or anything groovy like that. Or green energy or coal energy or energy drinks. No sir, I'm referring to actual "I'm not tired, I have some physical energy" energy.

See, "The Man" demands most my time working to break even at the coffee shop. As "President" of Colin's Coffee, my number one responsibility (outside of keeping the women's restroom clean) is to work as many hours for free as possible so everybody else gets paid. Once the bank, landlord, suppliers, utilities and employees are satisfied, I can continue working for free for another month. After the shop, my most important duty begins when I pick up Owen from school and give him some quality time doing whatever fun stuff he enjoys. You only get to be a parent once and I try to bring my 'A' game when the little guy and myself are together. Certainly, I'm not bringing the 'A' game to his college fund so some weekly trips to the zoo, one on one basketball, COSI and Dirty Frank's are the least I can do.

Creative time comes last. It may just be 45 minutes to work on a new song or essay about resolutions, but this is when I need some energy to do something worthwhile. If i want to write songs or stories or anything, it is my responsibility to make it happen. Sure, I had more time in my youth, but I do better work now ( I think) because I don't take free time for granted. For me, it is the 45 free minutes each day where the battle for an interesting life is fought. 

ENERGY = Sleep + healthy food + Working out.

SLEEP:  Be in bed reading a book by 9pm four nights a week so when I wake to go to the coffee shop at 5:30 am, i am semi rested for the upcoming day.

Healthy Food: when at the shop, no salt, sugar, bread or fat before noon. water, coffee, oatmeal, beans, veggies, etc. 

Working Out: I have to pick up Owen at 2:50pm so from 1pm until then I hit the gym even just to break a sweat. something is better than nothing. It's not like I'm going to be an Olympic poll vaulter or anything.

Or put another way: Starting at 9pm and stretching over a 24 hour period to the following night when I go back to bed at 9pm. I figure I have slept, eaten right and exercised for 20 of the 24 hours. That is a pretty good percentage in the big scheme of things. By 5 pm my will power is shot and I usually take one small sip of red wine and a tiny hit of crack. Actually, I drink a beer or five, cook dinner and write things like this.

Life is Long.  Time Is Short.

 Like most, I'm a flawed person who enjoys giving into temptation as much as the next. The idea that I am going to do a month long body cleanse or give up something "forever" is laughable. At this point, I know myself pretty well and safe to say forcing any such scheme would surely antagonize the devil in me to likely produce the exact opposite result I was striving for. Besides, did you know that some egghead genius types claim, "willpower is a limited resource you have to conserve?". Well they do. Read it here

I try to break each day into 24 hours and then win 20 of those hours.  

Goal #2-USE TIME SEMI WISELY: Maybe it was my Mom dying when I was relatively young or my life long infatuation with disasters, but I really don't take living for granted. I could die tomorrow and so could you. Tornado season is right around the corner. Shit happens. Would I like to spend my final hour listening to local sports talk radio? maybe. But I could probably do better. I've been trying to incorporate audio books to my workouts and drive time in the car. When there is free time at the coffee shop I try to hop on the computer and work on an essay or read a good book. Go hiking or take a walk when possible. I make an effort to stay offline and off the grid whenever possible. No matter how much fun, this is the #1 killer when it comes to spending time wisely. Airplane mode baby. To provide content, I can't spend all day scrolling through it. Exposure to art is good. Exposure to twitter ??

Resolution # 9......#9.......#9........#9..........#9.........#9.........#9..........#9........#9........#9.........#9.........#9

That doesn't mean anything but just going with the Beatles theme....

Reading back over this essay I am struck by two things: One: this is pretty boring and two: I think I make it sound like i actually execute this plan regularly. I don't. This is the goal, not the reality. Just last night I stayed up until 10:15 watching episode four of Homeland. Sunday I was drinking beer at band practice at 1pm.  Still, having a plan is better than no plan at all.  

To Recap  -   1) Bed by 9pm- 2) no sugar, salt, bread or fat before noon- 3) break a sweat -4) stay offline 5) play audio books when driving. 

Alas, that is the glory of the New Year Resolution. It provides all us weak-willed sinners a second chance to become our ideal selves. Isn't that what life is all about anyway? No matter what you have done in the past, it is always possible to have an outstanding day. And if you can have one, you can have two and from there you don't feel as guilty about the inevitable bender just over the horizon. Wishing us all good luck in 2013! - Colin


Colin Gawel is probably the last person on Earth who should be talking about resolutions. He has failed so spectacularly that a best-selling book "Hitless Wonders" was written about him and his band Watershed due to their historic lack of success. Yet, they happily press on. He is a father, husband, songwriter and coffee shop owner. He is currently trying to book his side band "Why Isn't Cheap Trick In The Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame?" at the Beachland Ballroom Thursday, April 18th, though the band, as of now, only exists in his head. Check out his music and more at 

The Magic of Christmas - by Wal Ozello

It’s Christmas Eve here at the Pencilstorm offices and as the rest of the staff cleans up after our annual holiday party, I’m sitting down for one last assignment. As a side note, this year’s gift exchange went well for some and not so well for others. While Ricki C. got Springsteen on Broadway (on Vinyl), Scott got an authentic Ace Frehley Guitar Pick and Colin got The Complete Epic Albums Collection by Cheap Trick, my secret Santa was Jeff Hassler, who for some reason thinks I share his adoration for Styx, so he got me one ticket to their show on June 29 at Rose Music Center in Huber Heights. Why one ticket? He’s got the other one. I’ll probably come down with the flu that week and try to trick Ricki that the opening band is Mott The Hoople.

Any who, it’s my job to write the holiday blogs around here and I have to admit that it’s getting harder and harder to write about the magic of Christmas. I mean, have you looked out your window and seen the world we live in? Seriously, how many death and destruction government shutdown RGB is going to die doomsday scenario posts did you see on your Facebook feed before scrolling down to this one? My guess is there was at least 14 different stories. Is Armageddon around the corner? Vegas odds are 4/1 that we’ll see the end of the world in our lifetime. I’d take that bet but how would I cash in?

Here’s the great thing: with Christmas there is hope. In our darkest day of the year, someone lights a candle to shine for the world to see and scream at the top of their lungs, “Just like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption we can crawl through this sewer of shit and find freedom on the other side.” (Note: I am contractually obligated with Castle Rock Entertainment to mention Shawshank Redemption at least once a year.)

Hope. There is hope, folks, that this world can be a better place. But we can’t just sit in our houses scrolling through Facebook to find it. We have to create it. Let me share a story about my friend, Steve.

Steve’s no Superman but last Friday he was in line at the AMC Lennox to catch the 5:30pm showing of the movie Aquaman when he heard a car horn outside at the intersection in the parking lot. He could see from a distance that a Buick LeSabre was stopped in the middle of the intersection. Steve’s a mechanic and knows that these cars are frequently owned by older people. As he watched the car he saw it creeping forward to the movie theatre sidewalk. This AMC is one of those movie theatre entrances with big glass windows and doors that start at the end of the intersection - directly where the car was slowly heading.

Thinking the car may have an elderly driver that needed some help, Steve headed out to offer assistance. He approached the car, looked in the window and discovered a woman in her 30’s inhaling smoke from what looked like heroin on foil. She seemed higher than a kite. Your reaction here may be what mine probably would be: yell at the druggie woman for putting all these people’s lives in potential danger. Thankfully, that wasn’t Steve’s. He didn’t wanted to freak out the woman and have her accidentally hit the gas and drive through the AMC entrance.

Instead he had the foresight to gently tap on the window and get her to roll it down. Then he calmly reached in the car, put it in park and then took her keys. He called 911 and stayed on the line with the police and EMS to help monitor until the police and paramedics could arrive.

I don’t know if Steve ever got into see Aquaman but he was definitely a hero that night. Probably saved a woman from OD’ing, or worse yet, driving her car into a movie complex to hurt a dozen or so other people. All because he simply went out to see if he could help.

That’s what Christmas is all about: helping others because in the end, we’re all in this together.

The magic of Christmas isn’t in a box wrapped under your tree. It’s in you and me. Be a goddamn Albus Dumbledore Gandalf Merlin 25th Level Wizard this coming year and spread that magic everywhere. That’s what Steve did. Maybe one day we’ll wake up and end up on the beach of Zihuatanejo and forget all this shit ever happened. Until then, be magical.

From all of us here at Pencilstorm, to you and your families: Have a Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Wal Ozello is a science fiction techno-thriller novelist and the author of Assignment 1989 ,  Revolution 1990, and Sacrifice 2086. He's the lead singer of the former Columbus rock band Armada. His film work includes directing Dad Can’t Help You Now by Colin Gawel.

Why I Hate Thanksgiving 2018 - by Wal Ozello

Anyone that knows me knows that I loathe Thanksgiving. Hate it. Absolutely hate it.

It’s mainly because I’m forced to eat that damn turkey. Who the heck willingly eats turkey any another day of the year? It’s a nasty bird, folks. There are so many other succulent options.

The other part I hate is the forced get-togethers. Just because it’s the fourth Thursday of November, I must, have to, and am required to go see people. Understand that I don’t hate people, nor do I hate my family. I hate the idea I’m FORCED to see them due to a certain day in the calendar. Add in all the stress with coordinating schedules, time, food, seats, groceries, political opinions… and that damn turkey: well, I’m exhausted before the week even starts.

This year is a little different for me. About a week ago, I got the sad news that my cousin passed away and last Saturday I made the trek up to Cleveland to see my family and pay my respects. She was a wonderful woman, kind person, and great mom. And despite the unfortunate circumstances, it was a blessing to see my extended family together to celebrate her life. As I parted ways with my cousins, many of us talked about planning a day to see each other during the summer. Life is too short and we need to cherish the moments with our loved ones as much as we can. I had lost one my dear friends at the coffee shop earlier in the year and realized you never know when you may not see someone again.

Which got me thinking about this Thanksgiving and what the holiday is really about… and I had my Grinch of Thanksgiving moment where my heart grows three sizes.

Thanksgiving isn’t about turkey.

It’s not about cleaning the house, getting out the fine china, the number of chairs at the table, the food being served, the car ride, the Macy’s Day parade, who’s coming, who’s not, having the perfect meal, which football game to watch or tolerating someone’s political views.

It’s about being grateful for each other.

I think that’s what I hate most about Thanksgiving. The celebration of thanking each other for being in our lives is bundled up and reserved for one day only.

I think we should do that every day.

So, please, forget about the stress of the day and planning for perfection. Just enjoy the moments you have… and keep on enjoying them as long as you can.

From all of us at the Pencilstorm offices, to everyone out there in rock n roll land. We wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving. We’re grateful to have you as readers.

Wal Ozello is a science fiction techno-thriller novelist and the author of Assignment 1989 ,  Revolution 1990, and Sacrifice 2086. He's the lead singer of the former Columbus rock band Armada. On Thanksgiving morning, you’ll find him at Colin’s Coffee at the counter. During the day he’ll be cooking Beef Tenderloin, Garlicy Artichoke Hearts, Butter Sauteed Mushrooms and Marshmallow Crusted Mashed Sweet Potatoes. No Turkey.

Colin Gawel's 2018 Election Day Manifesto (How I am Voting and Why)

2018 Midterm Election Manifesto - Colin G.

As loyal readers know, Pencilstorm doesn’t waste much of your precious time with politics. We prefer to concern ourselves with serious topics such as rock n roll.  However, as editor, I have published how I will be voting prior to every election day and will do so again in 2018. For entertainment purposes only. Let me be clear, I’m not telling you how to vote, nor do I care how you are going to vote. I’m just sharing my thoughts on the matter. It’s called “democracy.” If hearing an opinion possibly different than your own is going to ruin your day, please just stop reading….now.    Seriously, I’m not asking you to read this.

3 -2 -1 ...

Ok, let’s begin with the easiest vote…

Ohio Governor’s Race

Why would anybody not directly related to Mike DeWine vote for him? On second thought, maybe that was the plan. The guy has such a massive family tree that the bean counters figured only a couple extra votes from non related folks could take him over the top to become Ohio’s next governor.

Seriously, the guy has been in elected office for 42 freakin’ years. This is the very definition of a career politician. I have not met ONE SINGLE PERSON at Colin’s Coffee who is excited to vote for Mike DeWine. Sure, my Republican friends will still pull the lever but it’s a weak, weak, choice. Why the Ohio GOP didn’t put up and comer John Husted on the top of the ticket is beyond me, but under no circumstances would I ever consider punching the ticket for a worn out, flip - floppy candidate such as Mikey.

On the other hand, Richard Cordray is way less than a million years old, doesn’t turn to dust in daylight and fought for the little guy while heading the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau from 2012-2017. Unless you work for Chase or Time Warner, being against the Consumer Protection agency is like saying we should get rid of the fire department because you have never called it. In just five years, Richard helped recover 12 billion dollars for 29 million customers like you and me who look at a statement and say, “What is that charge for $8.23 anyway?”. I’ll tell you what it is, it’s fraud, and there is nothing you can do about by yourself. But the CFPB can and will tell major companies to cut out the BS and return the stolen cash. Anytime you see a politician fighting against the Consumer Protection Bureau, you know exactly who he is fighting for and it isn’t you and me.

My vote goes to Richard Cordray. No brainer.

That Metroparks thing

I will be voting Yes. I love our Metro Parks. And there is a new one planned just across from the coffee shop on the other side of Griggs reservoir. Take my money please.

Stivers v Neal

I do not approve of most of President Trump’s policies and I really dislike his shameful character traits in general. So I probably cannot vote for Steve Stivers because of his voting record supporting said President. I will, however, give his staff credit for honesty. I called in 2017 to register my disappointment with Trump trying to repeal Obamacare and send our country back into the dark ages for no reason except spite. (And tax cuts for Trump’s super rich friends of course.) I explained my position as a small business owner to the person on the phone and asked “What in this health care repeal l bill should I feel good about?” The staffer at Stiver’s office paused and said, “I have to be honest Colin, there isn’t much in this health care bill a regular person should feel good about.”

Thank God John McCain gave it the thumbs down.

I’m going to vote Neal as a Trump protest vote but Steve Stivers is an OK guy and he is a lock to win anyway. At least he isn’t a total psycho like Jim Jordan. That jackass would vote to replace all Metro Parks with Walmarts and gigantic Bible statues if he could.

Full disclosure, Allison Russo is a regular at Colin’s Coffee and her volunteers often have organizational meetings at the shop. Still, she is exactly the type of experienced, pragmatic candidate I would want representing me in the Ohio House. I feel really great about voting for Allison Russo.

Issue One is tough. I completely agree with the premise. Treatment and not incarceration is the best way to deal with non-violent criminal offenders. Duh. Putting addicts in jail is the modern version of “debtors prison.” Facepalm. My smart liberal friends tell me the language and process of this bill is cloudy and this presents a problem. But... it is so rare that the backward state of Ohio takes even a small step in a sensible direction that I have a hard time voting no. Beggars can’t be choosers, so I’m voting yes on the idea alone, but I may be wrong.

Are there any other races or bills? Probably yes, but geez folks, it’s just a midterm. I can’t study everything. Not with three fantasy teams to run and a gig coming up at Ace of Cups on Wednesday Nov 21st. (Details here!)

Thanks for reading Pencilstorm. Now, get out there and vote! (If you haven’t been purged from the rolls yet, anyway.)  

Colin Gawel owns the possibly soon to be bulldozed Colin’s Coffee and plays music both solo and in the band Watershed. He lives in Upper Arlington, OH with his fabulous wife and fifteen year old son. He likes the Browns and Cheap Trick WAY too much.

Hidden Bonus Track!

Oh shoot, totally spaced on the Senate race. Sherrod Brown, yes, obviously. I’m going to vote for him over that other guy who hates the working class, ol’ what’s his name that replaced career politician wanna be Josh Mandel on the ticket. Why even bother running these losers? Do they get donations? Sherrod Brown all the way.

Let’s end with my real Manifesto..