Jeff Pearlman

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Category Archives: QUAZ

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Matt Webb

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Two years ago, when we first relocated to Southern California, our son befriended a lovely classmate who was polite, courteous, fun—and the son of a man who sells guns.

I did not feel particularly great about this.

I mean, what did I know about guns? I was never aware of any of my New York pals and/or neighbors owning one. I certainly didn’t feel the need to keep a firearm in our house. So, again, being a guy who believes strongly in greater tracking and less access to firearms, I was not euphoric upon learning this little piece of information.

Then I met Matt Webb.

First, he was simply a nice guy. Second, he was a ridiculously involved father. Third, he was open minded and a fantastic listener. And, fourth, we talked about guns. And talked more about guns. He was chill and up front. He taught me some things I never knew, and was far from enamored by the NRA and the idea of unlimited, unchecked weaponry. When our son went to the Webbs for a play date, and the wife asked about a firearm in the home, they could not have been more decent. In short, Matt Webb is good people.

Hence, I asked him to come and be the 275th Quaz, and talk about guns and protection and hunting and safety and the NRA. Matt’s company, Badrock Tactical, can be found here.

Matt Webb, you’re the magical 275th Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Matt, I’m gonna throw one at you, because it’s always fascinated me and you’re a good person to ask. So I often hear people with guns in the home saying they have a weapon present for safety. “I want to protect my family,” etc … etc. And I get it. I truly do. But statistics seems pretty clear that a gun in the home is far more likely to kill/injure a loved one than stop an invader. So why, in your opinion, is it good to have a weapon in the abode?

MATT WEBB: Let me start by saying that “having a gun in the home” isn’t a universally good idea at all. So, in my opinion, one should only have a gun in the home as a mechanism for protection if they are equipped to have said weapon. To provide detail on what I mean: Are you trained in handling a weapon? Do you have adequate weapon storage security? Do you have a FEAR of handling the weapon? If there is ambiguity or uncertainty when you answer any of these questions, then you 100 percent SHOULD NOT have a weapon in the house. If you are a safe, have adequate storage and training, then having a weapon in the house can provide peace of mind in knowing that you could neutralize or eliminate a threat should one arise. The reality is that the police and 911 are not tasked with protecting you. They will actually tell you that if you ask them, so if one feels threatened, it is a way to provide security if proper measures have been taken to ensure safety.

J.P.: Your business, Badrock Tactical, specializes in the selling of—among other things—high-end AR platform tactical rifles. I am not a gun expert by any means, but the wording “assault rifle” immediately causes me to shudder. I ask with total seriousness, and zero snideness: Are you selling dangerous weapons that should not be out there? Why is it OK to sell assault rifles? And how can dealers like yourself make certain they don’t wind up in the wrong hands?

M.W.: The first thing we should do with respect to this question is clarify a detail that may seem frivolous to you, but it really grates on knowledgeable firearms owners … we DO NOT sell assault weapons. An AR-15 is not an assault weapon. What may seem like semantics to you is in reality a very big detail that gets glossed over by mainstream media. An assault weapon is a “select fire” (meaning it has the ability to shoot in full automatic mode). Now I realize that legislatively we as a society have started to lump many firearms in as “assault weapons” simply by visible characteristics (pistol grip, detachable magazine, flash suppressor, folding stock) … which, by the way, none of these attributes makes a firearm more or less dangerous. Now, with that out of the way, we do sell AR platform weapons, which are no more or less dangerous than a lever-action, bolt action or other semi-automatic type rifle or pistol. They simply “look scary” and the platform is used by our military, so it is assumed it is more dangerous.

The reality is that an AR type weapon is popular because it is highly modular, highly accurate and simple to operate. As far as sales of firearms, it doesn’t matter if it is an AR15 or a wooden-stock 22 long rifle … a purchaser in California (the only place we, as an FFL, can sell firearms) is required to complete a firearm safety course, submit to a background check, provide a thumb print and go through a 10-day wait/background evaluation before a firearm can be purchased. So is it possible to 100 percent guarantee that a firearm won’t end up in the hands of someone with ill intent? Of course not. No more so than I can guarantee a person won’t go into a hardware store and buy an axe or a Wal-Mart and buy a knife or get behind the wheel of a car drunk.

J.P.: We’ve spoken at length about the NRA, and you’re a gun owner who seems somewhat turned off by the organization. Why?

M.W.: My thoughts on the NRA are that it is far too stodgy and inflexible. As a responsible firearm owner, I feel like both sides (pro and anti-gun) need to look at options to make our country safer. I think the NRA falsely represents a “redneck” stance that does not embody all firearm owners. I, for one, am in support of waiting periods and background checks in every state. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require a test and a license to own a firearm. We do it with a car, so I have no problem with that concept and feel that it should be a part of firearm ownership.

J.P.: What do people like me not understand about guns, gun ownership? What do you feel like we’re missing?

M.W.: I don’t know that people like you are “missing” anything, per se. I think that more knowledge about firearms in general would help curb some of the preconceived notions about different types of firearms. The media gets it wrong so often and really tends to generalize, which is very frustrating for someone like me. But I think it’s just a cultural thing. People either appreciate and/or enjoy firearms activities (target shooting, competition shooting, hunting, etc) or they don’t. Obviously, given the large percentage of firearm ownership (in both absolute numbers and percentage of Americans who own firearms), firearms are popular to own in America. For those who don’t “get it” … my guess is that they have only focused on the negative and they have never had the opportunity or interest in exploring any of the positive or enjoyable parts of shooting sports. If you grow up in New York City, for instance, owning a car may be “odd” and taking a train is absolutely the norm. To someone growing up in North Dakota, this would seem extremely odd and they may not “get it” … but it’s just an exposure thing, I think.

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J.P.: How did this happen for you? Like, what’s your background? How did you first become familiar with firearms? With shooting? What was the draw for you?

M.W.: I’ll start by pointing out that I grew up in Montana. Specifically, Badrock Canyon, in Northwest Montana near Glacier National Park. The actual community was Columbia Falls, MT located in the heart of the Flathead Valley. As a Montana boy, I spent much of my free time hunting, fishing, camping, target-shooting and just being an outdoorsman. I was raised in a house that had guns, obviously, and I learned to shoot at a very young age (probably about 5-years old) from my grandfather. Both my step-father and my grandfather were avid hunters and shooters and both had been in the military (Vietnam and Korea). For me, guns were not a big deal in the sense that I had a very healthy respect for them, but I didn’t view them as evil or an instrument of violence. They were used for hunting and for sport shooting. Now that I live in California, I certainly don’t hunt anymore, but I do enjoy target shooting still when I have the opportunity.

J.P.: Whenever a school shooting happens, we wind up in this huge, ugly, unproductive political debate. The left screams about cutting back on guns and increasing background checks. The right insists a gun is merely an instrument, that we need to focus on mental health. Matt, what says you? What can we do that would have a legitimate impact on safety?

M.W.: Nobody likes when there is a mass tragedy of any kind. Whether it’s a shooting, or a train derailing, or building blowing up or a multi-car freeway accident … on and on. As you pointed out, though, when such a tragedy occurs with firearms, it provides a political platform and the bickering starts. My feeling on it is that I think we could always do more to help in the areas of mental health, but I don’t think it will stop mass tragedies. We could completely ban firearms, and it’s not going to stop mass tragedies. The reality is (in my opinion) that bad people find ways to do bad things. It is naïve to think that a “gun ban” would take the guns out of the hands of the people who are causing harm anyway.

And even if it did, just for the sake of argument, bad people would still do their thing. It’s incredibly simple, fast and cheap to make a homemade bomb. You don’t need a driver’s license, you simply need YouTube and Home Depot and about five minutes of free time and you could make a device far more devastating than a firearm. I’m not sure what we can do to have a legitimate impact on safety. I guess if I were allocating dollars for programs it would be on teaching tolerance and promoting civic activities that brought people together rather than politicizing everything and tearing us apart.

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J.P.: It seems like some guns are demonized more than others—and that gun owners often say, “Dude, you guys have NO idea what you’re talking about here.” So what’s an example of a gun people fail to grasp? And why?

M.W.: Some guns are definitely demonized more than others—like the AR15!! I kind of covered this a little bit before, but it’s worth repeating. The AR is demonized because it is popular to pick on and it has the “look” that it should be more dangerous. There are far more crimes committed with handguns. A high-powered rifle (.300 Win Mag, .338 Lapua, .50 cal, etc) are far more lethal, yet an AR is an easy target because our troops carry it, so the thought goes that the general population should not. I obviously do not agree with that stance.

To me, in my eyes, the AR is simply a firearm no more or less deserving of our care and respect as firearms owners than any other weapon. It is not an assault weapon, capable of full-automatic firing. Those types of weapons are for our military or for those that are willing and can afford the nearly two-year long and extremely expensive process of getting approved for one.

J.P.: In 1994 Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assaults Weapons Ban into law—and many Democrats and Republicans cheered. It expired in 2004 under intense pressure from the NRA, and now no longer exists. What did you think of the ban? Was it useful? Useless? Important? Unimportant?

M.W.: The 1994 Federal Assault had no impact on gun crime. The FBI Crime Reports support that fact unequivocally. Primarily because, even prior to the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban, less than 2 percent of gun crime was committed with said weapon. The reality is that violent crime with a firearm has continually declined in total for the past 25 years—and the crimes that do take place are primarily committed with a handgun. So, no, an assault weapon ban will have zero impact in my opinion. Because like with most gun control laws, it only will impact law abiding citizens. I hate to point out the obvious, but people who commit crimes, with or without guns, are by definition criminals and couldn’t care less about whether there is a “ban” or not.

With wife Robyn

With wife Robyn

J.P.: You have three kids. What is the best way to approach gun safety with children?

M.W.: With my three youngest boys, we have taken the position that they should be comfortable with the idea of firearms. What I mean by that is that we have taken the time to teach them basic firearm safety. I’ve taught them how they work and what they are used for. We have also instilled a healthy respect for their power and capability of devastation. Since they have been exposed to them in a safe, non-threatening manner and had the opportunity to ask questions and go target shooting … they have become a “non-issue” in that they don’t even think about them being at our home because they are completely unaware that they are in the home due to the type of safe we choose to keep in our home.

I should point out that I’m a firm—absolutely firm—believer that firearms in the home have to be in a gun safe. There is never a scenario that a firearm that is in the home shouldn’t be locked away and inaccessible to anyone other than the owner. I was raised that way and we never had anything that came close to an accident or problem and I feel the same way as a parent.

As a matter of fact, in today’s world it is a good idea to inquire about homes where your kids may go to play or hang out. It was something I took for granted until your lovely wife Catherine made the inquiry to us … and it really hit me that we should be asking that question too. Not everyone is as responsible or as careful as us, and we should know what kind of environment our kids are hanging out in. I know my kids won’t pick up a gun that isn’t theirs or play with a gun, but I have no idea what other kids may do …

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MATT WEBB:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Matt Kemp, Chubby Checker, David Beckham, E.T., Flo Rida, Spotify, Montana State, Jude Law, Judy Dench, Kiki Dee, boogers: 1. Flo Rida, 2. Spotify, 3. ET, 4. Chubby Checker, 5. Matt Kemp, 6. David Beckham, 7. Judy Dench, 8. Kiki Dee, 9. Boogers, 10. Montana State.

• Five all-time favorite ice cream flavors: 1. Salted Carmel, 2. Cherry Cheesecake, 3. Cookies and Cream, 4. French Vanilla, 5. Chocolate

• What scares you more: Ebola or climate change? Why?: Hmmmm … Ebola because I don’t know how I would get it and it would freak me out. With climate change, I feel like I’m already “dealing” with that and it’s going as well as can be expected.

• Tell me your best joke: Teacher: Whoever answers my next question, can go home.  One boy throws his bag out the window. Teacher: Who just threw that?  Boy: Me and I’m going home now.

• One question you would ask Garry Templeton were he here right now?: If Garry Templeton were here right now … I’d ask him how he ever blew a gig like managing a baseball team in Maui.

• Would you rather eat a 12-inch log of Jeff Beck’s poop or stick a needle in and out of your eyeball?: I’m going for the needle in the eyeball over Jeff Beck’s 12 inch poop log … in a landslide. Great guitar player, but the poop? No thanks

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Jerry Brown? What’s the outcome?: I crush Moonbeam in a scheduled 12 round bout. It’s over in the first round. His corner throws in the towel.

• Greatest movie line of all time?: Val Kilmer in Tombstone. There are actually two. The first one is when he and the gang are going room to room in the brothel and they tell everyone, “Don’t move!” Then he sees a couple getting busy and he says, ”No, no, by all means … move.” The second one is, of course, his very famous line: ”I’m your huckleberry.”

• In exactly 17 words, explain why Beverly Hills Cop II is a superior film to Gone With the Wind: My wife said this is a ridiculous question because Gone With the Wind is so much better

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Maurice Patton

 

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In many ways, Maurice Patton is a common media story.

He’s the guy who devoted much of his life to covering sports for a local newspaper. He cultivated sources, pursued leads, took pride in producing riveting, detailed copy. Then, one day, the newspaper decided his services were no longer needed. And he was shown the door.

In many ways, Maurice Patton is an uncommon media story.

He’s the guy who considers his departure from print a genuine relief. He no longer waits for the other shoe to drop; no longer enters the newspaper headquarters-turned-crypt and fears the inevitable hug from the ink-stained grim reaper.

He has been set free.

He has been born again.

He has been renewed.

Today, Maurice Patton, my friend and former Tennessean colleague, runs his own site, Mo Patton Sports, that covers Middle Tennessee athletics. He also hosts his own podcast, and Tweets prolifically. Here, he talks in detail about watching print die; about covering sports in the deep south as an African-American man and why he prefers the Dooble Brothers to chicken fried chicken.

Mo Patton, you are the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Mo, I’m gonna start with what, for this section, is an unusually self-indulgent question. Back in 1995, when I was a young asshole reporter, you were covering Tennessee football for The Tennessean and I was a baby high school reporter with enough arrogance and dickishness to fill 100 rooms. Anyhow, our sports editor flew me to New Orleans to write a lengthy Peyton Manning profile—and I remember thinking that you must have been really pissed. A. Because it was your beat; B. Because I was insufferable. I never asked out of embarrassment—but here we are. So do you remember this? Did it, rightly, piss you off? And how awful was I (I can take it)?

MAURICE PATTON: Honestly, I don’t remember it. There was a lot going on at that time, though. I took on the Tennessee beat after covering high schools for five years. This was before the Titans and the Predators had arrived in Nashville, so UT was ‘the’ beat in our sports department, even though it was a pain in the ass because Knoxville is three hours away. And I’m sure there were a handful of people who weren’t comfortable with the decision for me to be assigned to the beat, for a number of reasons—and we’ll leave that at that. So, I don’t remember it, but I’m not surprised by it. And while I don’t remember being pissed off at that, there was another situation where a takeout piece on a prominent Nashville Sounds (another beat I covered extensively) pitcher was assigned to another (former) Tennessean writer and I was pissed off about that one. Over 24½ years, though, there’s a lot to be pissed off over.

As for you, you were obnoxious, everybody knew it, and it was just a given.

J.P.: Two years ago you were let go by The Tennessean after more than two decades at the newspaper. I’m wondering how this hit you, how it impacted you. And how did they tell you the news?

M.P.: Seriously, my initial emotion was relief. We had been through so many “layoffs’”over the five years or so prior to mine that if you were being real with yourself, you knew it was just a matter of time. Everybody dies. The timing was amazingly stupid, even for them: You’re getting rid of both your high school sports guys three weeks into the high school football season, and you’re clueless as to how you’re going to replace them. At the same time, I had written three front-page pieces in a three-day period right before I was informed that “we won’t be going forward with you”—their words. So while I wasn’t fool enough to think I was “safe,” it wasn’t a move that would have, or did, make a lot of sense. As I said, once the process of everyone reapplying for their jobs (knowing that some jobs had been eliminated) was completed and they let everyone know that they’d be huddling with an HR person and a newsroom lead person either around 10 am or around 2 pm, the prevailing thought was those with the later meetings were safe and those with the earlier meetings were gone.

Even as sadistic as those people were, it defied logic that folks would have to wait around all day to find out they’d be jobless. So I walk in, sit down, and … the person delivering the news had her script written out on a notepad. It was upside down from where I was seated, but I’ve been reading upside down for as long as I’ve been covering high school basketball. So I knew before she said it. And I breathed easier when I left that meeting than I had for probably three months prior. At least it was over. Irritation, resentment? Yeah. But relief.

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J.P.: What went wrong with newspapers? Besides the obvious rise of digital mediums, can you look back and see obvious mess-ups that damned the medium?

M.P.: I can’t speak for all of them, but where I was, the Internet and the downturn of the economy kinda collided, I think. And the resistance to go behind a paywall from the start was, in retrospect, probably a mistake. Because once you give the information away, you can’t go back and try to charge for it later. That’s a paradigm shift your readership isn’t going to easily swallow. It’s a lot harder turning a “yes into a “no” than the other way around.

J.P.: You’re an African-American man who covered sports in the deep South. What comes with that? What I mean is, have there been moments where you’ve had to bite your tongue? “Boy”-esque references? Did you ever feel coaches or parents or players looking down at you? Or looking at you with some genre of contempt?

M.P.: *LOL* I probably bit my tongue more in the office than covering my beats. I never felt uncomfortable doing my job. I felt uncomfortable at times with who I was doing my job for. I know there was at least one sports editor who had a problem with my needing to interact with certain people in this town for a particularly sensitive issue that arose after I came back to the high school beat in 2009, who took over this specific story and later tried to paint it as if I wasn’t covering it aggressively enough, when everybody in the department knew the deal. But coaches, parents, kids connected to my beat—rarely did I have an issue. Maybe three in 20-plus years.

Once, I called an out-of-area coach to do a football playoff preview and he made the offhand comment that “we’ll be fine if we can keep our niggers in line” I made it a point to interview him after the game. Never have I seen a white guy so pale. Funny story: traveling with a coworker to a UT-Alabama game in Birmingham, we stopped at a convenience store south of Huntsville for a drink and some chips. I rang up, asked for a receipt (for expense report purposes), got it and walked out. Guy behind me steps up to ring up, guy working the register disdainfully asks “What’s he gonna need a receipt for?” My coworker says, “Same thing I do.” Thing is, I’ve been an African-American all my life, to steal from Doug Williams, and I’ve been in the South all my life. If you wear that stuff, you start reacting to things that aren’t necessarily there. There has to be an ability to pick your spots, if you will—figure out what’s important and act accordingly.

J.P.: Along those lines—back when I was at Sports Illustrated we were embarrassingly under-represented when it came to minority reporters. Do you feel like media has improved in this area through the years? Or is it still a large issue?

M.P.: Hard to say. From where I am, I don’t know that things are any better now than they were at any point previously in my career. It may be a regional thing; maybe things are better in other places, in other cities. And as an aside, I think it’s an issue that the media is somewhat hypocritical about from the standpoint that, while the media points at a lack of diversity in so many other fields, it pays little or no attention to the lack of diversity in its own field.

J.P.: I know you attended Middle Tennessee State, I know you live outside of Nashville. But how did journalism happen for you? What was the path?

M.P.: Actually, I pretty well fell into journalism. I wrote for my high school newspaper, but I was an accounting major and was a student worker in the sports information department at MTSU. The summer before I was supposed to graduate (more on that in a second), I started working part-time at the local newspaper. Meanwhile, a couple of senior-level accounting courses were kicking my tail for the second time. Didn’t get my accounting degree, didn’t feel like changing majors and spending another three semesters in school, so I found a job at a tri-weekly paper in my hometown and embarked on my journalism career. I did manage, seven years later, to go back and get my degree in university studies—primarily because a couple of jobs that I had applied for required a degree as a prerequisite.

J.P.: What’s the key to covering a team? What I mean is, you spend all season tracking these same players, same coaches. It seems like it could get really dull and repetitive. So how to bring forth lively coverage? Find new storylines?

M.P.: You have to immerse yourself in it. Engage, interact with and talk to whoever you can, because you never know where a story is or who has it. And the worse the team/program, the more important that becomes, because you can only say “this team sucks” so many different ways. And to me, you can’t always be a reporter. People have to know they can talk to you off the record, that every conversation isn’t an interview. People have to be comfortable with you.

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J.P.: From afar, it’s hard to grasp how despised Lane Kiffin was after he left Tennessee following a year. You’re in the state and you cover sports. How bad was it? And did he deserve the contempt?

It was pretty bad. But I think the timing was what made it the worst. It was January, about a month before National Signing Day, when he took the Southern Cal job. He’d only been there a year. I think those were the two factors that created the firestorm. Was it deserved? Depends on your perspective, obviously. To me, if he didn’t want to be there, he needed to be gone. And he considered USC his dream job. At the time, it was pretty much a no-brainer: UT was coming off the tail end of the Philip Fulmer era and trying to get things righted, while USC was USC. And is there ever really a good time to change jobs?

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

M.P.: Greatest? Covering the first two of Tennessee’s back-to-back-to-back women’s basketball national championships in 1996-98. Lowest? Any time I’ve ever gotten beat on a story.

J.P.: What’s the absolute craziest thing to happen to you as a reporter? Your money story …

M.P.: Didja hear about the college basketball coach that threatened one of his assistants with a gun? My beat. Tennessee State men. Nolan Richardson III. Christmas 2002. Top that.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH MAURICE PATTON:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): The Doobie Brothers, Mike Organ, Carlos Rogers, Twitter, Swett’s, art museums, McDonald’s urinals, the number 109, iced coffee, Reggie Smith, chicken fried chicken, nasal hair: Twitter, Mike Organ, Swett’s, The Doobie Brothers … Chicken fried chicken, Reggie Smith, Carlos Rogers109, art museums, iced coffee, nasal hair, McDonald’s urinals.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No. But I usually try to sleep when I fly, so I can avoid those thoughts.

• Biggest blunder you ever made as a journalist?: Thought I was recording an interview, didn’t take notes, realized later my recorder malfunctioned. Technology is a beautiful thing – when it works.

• How did you meet your wife?: At a club. Where else?

• Without looking, how many Elton John songs can you name?: Crocodile Rock. Goodbye Norma Jean. Levon. Rocket Man. Saturday Night. Your Song.

• One question you would ask Shia LaBeouf were he here right now?: Could “Lawless” have been any more violent or bloody?

• What pattern is on your bedspread?: It’s a quilted comforter with Biblical verses.

• Would you rather have a third leg or 17 dogs?: A third leg. 17 dogs would drive me nuts.

• The world needs to know: What was it like meeting Craig Moon?: He’s no John Seigenthaler.

• Please write a poem that includes water, Chuck Muncie, Ritz crackers and Frank Sutherland: Poetry is my weak spot.

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Jay Fiedler

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If you’re a Jew, and you love sports, you can’t get enough of Jewish athletes.

I’m not entirely sure why this is, though it probably has much to do with that fact that, as a people, we sorta suck at things involving throwing and catching. Want your taxes done? We’re killer. Need an agent? We rock. Write a song, solve a puzzle, explain the meaning of life? We Jews have pretty much got it covered.

But sports? Eh … not quite.

That’s why today’s Quaz thrills me. Jay Fiedler—Dartmouth grad and my fellow Jew—spent nearly a decade in the NFL, bouncing around for a few years before landing the starting gig in Miami in 2000 (His task? Oh, nothing big … just replace Dan Marino). Jay wrapped his career with the Jets and Buccaneers, and his 69 career touchdown passes are 69 more career touchdown passes than you and I combined to throw.

Today, Jay is co-director of Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps, a New York-based summer camp program run by the Fiedler family. You can follow Jay on Twitter here.

Jay Fiedler, mazel tov. You’re the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Jay, while researching your career I was shocked—beyond shocked—to see that you’ve now been out of the NFL for more than a decade. This is actually something that happens to me quite often. I’ll look up a retired athlete, assume he’s been retired, oh, four or five years—then wind up surprised that it’s been so long. Or, put different, I feel like I was watching you a handful of seasons ago. What I wonder is, does it feel this way to you, too? Like, do you feel like a guy who hasn’t played in 10 years? Has it gone fast? Slow? Does it feel like another lifetime?

JAY FIEDLER: It’s funny you say that, because I feel the same way at times. Where did the years go? It still feels like it was yesterday when I was playing. The memories of the games and the locker room camaraderie are still so vivid so it doesn’t seem like that long ago, but when I get together with former teammates, I do realize that we are a lot older than we used to be.

J.P.: Kinda random, but since we’re both Jewish and I love Jewish jocks—how observant were/are you? Were you raised religiously? Bar Mitzvah? Did you parents drag you to synagogue? Do you feel like a cultural Jew? Religious Jew? Neither? Both? And how has been Jewish impacted your life?

J.F.: I was raised with a strong Jewish identity, but I won’t say we were very religious. Which is to say I did go to Hebrew school and I had my Bar Mitzvah in a reform temple, but did not go to synagogue after that. I do consider myself more of a cultural Jew with much pride in my identity. The sense of community and family that Judaism stresses has had a great impact on me.

J.P.: You had, by far, an above-average NFL career. You lasted more than a decade, you were a starting quarterback. But I wonder, what was the difference between you and superstar quarterbacks? I mean zero offense. But could you have been Marino/Elway/Steve Young/Brett Favre? Or are there physical or mental (or both) limitations? And what makes the greats great?

J.F.: As a competitor, I’d like to think that given the right opportunity and circumstances, I could be discussed in the company of the greats. The greats are great for a multitude of reasons. Each of the four you mentioned had different physical skill sets, but the commonality is incredible work ethic, instinct, dedication, grit, competitiveness and durability.

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J.P.: I’m guessing you saw “Concussion.” I’m also guessing you follow the CTE story. So I have to ask: A. How are you? B. Are you scared? C. How do you feel about football these days? D. Is the sport in any trouble? E. Are you OK with kids playing? I mean, I know you train players. So how can you/we make certain everything works out OK?

J.F.: I don’t need Hollywood drama to tell me what I already know. I have not seen the movie, but I am quite familiar with the story and the issues. (A): I have had a few concussions in my career, but I don’t currently have any after effects or post-concussion symptoms. (B): I wouldn’t say I’m scared, but I am aware of the potential issues I may face in the future. (C): I have always loved the sport of football and still do. Sports are all physical in a way, but football has become the face of the concussion issue because of its nature and its popularity. It’s the same popularity which makes the NFL, NCAA and High school associations great vehicles for educating the public about how to deal with concussions better than ever before. (D): There is a lot of talk about football being in trouble because of the lower participation numbers at the youth level. I don’t think the sport is losing many of the top level athletes though, so I don’t see the pipeline falling off too much. (E): Tackle football is not, and shouldn’t be a sport for everyone. Let flag football be the participation sport for youth, but tackle football should be only for those who are physically able to protect themselves on the field.

J.P.: What’s been your post-retirement path? I mean, you stop playing in 2006—and are you lost? Sad? Thrilled? I know you owned the East Kentucky Miners of the CBA—which is definitely quirky and interesting. And why did you ultimately join the family business and start running the Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps? And what does that entail?

J.F.: When I injured my shoulder in 2005 with the Jets, I thought that I would be able to return to the NFL after surgery. It ended up taking two surgeries and two years to finally realize that a return to play wasn’t going to happen. During that time rehabbing, I had the opportunity to get involved in a small way with a minor league basketball team in Florida. I grew up in a basketball family and always loved the sport, so when the opportunity to stay competitive in athletics after I officially retired from football presented itself by owning a CBA team, I jumped on it. It was certainly an interesting experience seeing professional sports from the other side of the paycheck.

I got involved with some other businesses as a consultant and business developer, but when my father’s health began to fade, it opened up the opportunity to join my brother in running our family’s summer camp business. We transitioned our traditional sleep-away camp into a combination of the best sports camps and traditional camps in one. With our connections in the sports world, we are able to attract world-class instructors at The Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps that no other traditional camp can match.  We give our campers amazing instruction in the activities they love, while also giving them a family atmosphere that allows them to have great summertime fun.

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J.P.: You’re famous for being the guy who replaced Dan Marino. At the time you played it very cool–but what sort of pressures did that come with? How did you handle it?

J.F.: I have always had a very even-keel personality with a practical outlook. I knew there was nothing I could do in Miami to match what Dan did with the Dolphins from a statistical standpoint, but I also knew that I could win games playing to my strengths. My focus was on earning the respect of my teammates by working hard and doing whatever it takes to win.

J.P.: Ryan Fitzpatrick is called “smart” 1,000 times per NFL broadcast because he attended Harvard, just as you were called “smart” 1,000 times per NFL broadcast because you attended Dartmouth. But does it matter? Like, is a quarterback from Harvard or Dartmouth at any sort of on-field intellectual advantage than a guy from Delaware or LSU or Washington State? And what did Dartmouth do for you, football-wise?

J.F.: I hated when they labeled me that way, not because I didn’t think I was smart, but because the way people said it implied that I wasn’t that athletic. To answer your question though, book smart and football smart are two very different things. It still takes a good deal of intelligence to be football smart, but you must be able to transfer intelligence from playbook and opponent study into instinct. The best thing Dartmouth did for me, football-wise, was put me in an environment where you knew that you needed to be exceptional at something to stand out and excel.

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J.P.: What’s the absolute worst pain you ever felt as a football player? And what’s the story behind it?

J.F.: The worst pain physically was when I tore my left shoulder in 2000, my first season in Miami. I got sacked against Tampa Bay and when the defender threw me down, I landed with my elbow in the ground. The force pushed my humerus bone right up through my rotator cuff. I had to play with a harness on my shoulder and couldn’t hand off with my left arm, but I played through it for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

J.P.: Is it weird being remembered for something you can no longer do? Do you know what I mean? Like, I ran track in college—and nobody gives a shit. My wife was in a sorority at Bucknell—distant past. But if I say “Jay Fiedler” to people, they immediately think of you first and foremost as a quarterback. Is that OK? Does it get old? Do you mind telling stories from your career? Do you just wanna move on?

J.F.: That’s OK with me. It’s nice to be remembered for something, isn’t it? If it gives me the opportunity to meet new and interesting people, then I can always shift the conversation in the direction I want. I don’t mind telling stories from my career, just don’t bring up the Monday Night game against the Jets. That’s when I want to move on.

J.P.: Were I a professional athlete, I probably wouldn’t want to deal with me. What I mean is, I’d find the media annoying/irritating/intrusive. I’d probably wanna scream, “What the hell do you know?” So … what’d you think? How did you deal? What about after an awful loss, when you played like crap, and the questions come? How bad is that?

J.F.: I never minded answering the tough questions after a loss. I just didn’t like when journalists already wrote their stories before asking the questions. I also didn’t like the lack of originality at times. I must have answered the same questions a thousand times my first year in Miami after replacing Marino.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JAY FIEDLER:

• The world needs to know—what was it like playing with Dedric Ward?: Dedric caught two of my biggest completions in Miami during two-minute drills. One was a long gain to set up the game winning field goal against Denver and the other was a fourth down completion against Oakland on the game winning drive.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Gefilte fish, Olindo Mare, espresso, Dabney Coleman, Chris Childs, cranberry muffins, plastic silverware, Chick Fil A, public toilets, the Jaguars’ hemets: Olindo Mare, espresso, Chris Childs, cranberry muffins, Jaguars helmets, Gefilte fish (gotta have lots of horseradish with it, though), Dabney Coleman, Chick Fil A, plastic silverware, public toilets.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Never. I’m a good flyer.

• The five most physically talented teammates you ever played with: Randy Moss, Herschel Walker, Junior Seau, Ricky Williams, Jason Taylor.

• Five reasons one should attend Dartmouth over Yale, Harvard or Stanford: Amazing down-to-earth people, Sophomore Summer, the most Ivy League football titles, “Animal House”, the EBA’s chicken sandwich.

• Three memories from your Bar Mitzvah: Bad singing on the bimah, tons of food, first cigar.

• Do Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens belong in the Hall of Fame?: Yes

• What’s your secret quirky talent?: Wouldn’t be a secret if I tell you now, would it?

• I’d rather eat my Aunt Mary’s mucus than live for a prolonged time in Jacksonville. What am I missing?: The great golf in the area.

• Three interesting things you can tell me about your mother: She is a breast cancer survivor, she became a Browns fan as a kid when my grandfather took her to a football game against the Giants, she collects frog figures and artwork.

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Jerry Barca

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As a guy who writes biographies, I probably look at books a little bit differently than most.

For example, the first pages I turn to are not located in the front, but the rear. I love indexes, bibliographies, acknowledgments. If a writer clearly didn’t do his/her research, I’m snobbily dismissive. If only, oh, 20 people were interviewed, I cringe and question the depth and dedication. Am I being fair? Maybe not. But I’m a creature of the business.

Hence, when Jerry Barca’s “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” came to my house a month or so ago, I skimmed through the usual pages … and was blown away. Quite simply, the man busted his ass. He didn’t merely trek down tons upon tons of interviews; he looked through tapes, combed through old articles, sought out anyone with even the slightest connection to the 1986 Giants. The resulting product is a wonderful book about a wonderful collection of characters; one I can’t possibly recommend enough.

One can order “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” here, and follow Jerry on Twitter here.

Jerry Barca, you are the 272nd Quaz.

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Jerry, I was reading over promotional material for your book, and the first bullet point concerns Bobby Johnson, a pretty solid receiver who, according to your reporting, was a crack addict during the Super Bowl run. I’m a bigger fan of reporting than football, and I’m fascinated by this stuff. Soup to nuts, how did you report the Johnson material?

JERRY BARCA: Well, I hope you get to the pages of the book. They’re pretty good, even better than the promotional stuff.

Bobby Johnson has a pretty important spot in Giants history. Before David Tyree made that catch in Super Bowl XLII, there was fourth and 17 in ‘86. In a pivotal game that season, the Giants were down 20-19 in the closing moments at Minnesota. If they lose, they wouldn’t have had home field advantage for the playoffs, and who knows how the rest of their games against Denver and at San Francisco and at Washington would have turned out. On this fourth and forever play, Bobby Johnson makes the catch. A 22-yard gain. Raul Allegre kicks the game-winning field goal and the Giants get rolling after this.

As the writer, of course, I want to tell as much as I can about this play, this game and the key figures involved and Bobby Johnson is a huge part of it.

I had heard about Bobby’s drug use through other interviews and research I had done for the book. When we got on the phone to start the interview, I asked him if he had any questions for me. I start every interview that way because I’m going to spend the next hour or more asking intrusive—sometimes ridiculously intrusive—questions about someone and their life, so I’m up for anything they want to ask me as well.

In that opening part of the conversation, I told him I wanted to speak in detail about his drug use and asked him if he was up for that. He said he was. We took it from there, talking about that catch at Minnesota, his life in East St. Louis, Illinois, his catching on with the Giants, details of first time he used crack and through his years of addiction.

J.P.: Lawrence Taylor is the undisputed biggest name and biggest star from the 1986 New York Giants—and he didn’t speak to you. I’m curious: What efforts did you make? Was there a point when you finally realized, “Crap, this is impossible”? And how do you feel his lack of participation impacted the finished product?

J.B.: His character comes through in the book. Lawrence has said a ton already, and now you have his teammates, coaches and the Giants front office offering their perspectives on him during this stretch of time. You get the Giants reaction to finding out he was in New Orleans days before the ’81 draft, to him signing a personal services contract with Donald Trump, him rolling dice the night before the Super Bowl, and sharing a bottle of champagne with Phil Simms’ brother at the hotel after the Super Bowl. There’s a whole lot of him in there. And, at the same time, I would’ve been more than happy to interview him for the book.

I tried. There were weekly communications to someone in Taylor’s camp for more than six months. His agency even took questions. They said he doesn’t really do this stuff, but the fact that they took the questions gave me hope. I’d send emails. “Checking in.” “Hey, just want to stay on your radar.” “Hi there, just wondering if …”

Other people called and sent emails on my behalf. At one point, there was a former teammate who was scheduled to play golf with LT in Florida. There was this window where I was to call and LT would talk to me while playing the round of golf. The window came. I called. It went straight to voicemail. No call back. That was quitting time for me. You know this. You can’t force people to do an interview.

Jerry as a rookie reporter on the beat.

Jerry as a young reporter with the Herald News.

J.P.: You worked as a media relations intern for the Detroit Lions during the 1999 season, when Bobby Ross, Gus Frerotte and Greg Hill led the mighty team to an 8-8 record. Man, that was a shockingly good year for a shockingly talent-deprived squad. What do you recall from the experience?

J.B.: A lot. You have no idea. I’m an intern. I arrive in Detroit after working at the 1999 World University Games in Mallorca, Spain. That was a great experience. Kerri Walsh Jennings was on that women’s volleyball team. This was also Kenyon Martin’s coming out party as a hoops force. Anyway, I get to Detroit. This was going to be the year Barry Sanders became the all-time leading rusher in NFL history. I remember talking to my roommate, the other media relations intern, and we’re looking at the schedule saying things like, “Think he’ll break it on Thanksgiving against the Bears?” Obviously, a reference to Walter Payton, who held the record at the time. “What about on Christmas, against Terrell Davis and the Broncos?” Then, about two weeks in, we’re watching SportsCenter in this dumpy basement apartment and the news hits as our phone rings. It’s one of our bosses. Barry is going to retire. Be at work early. It was crazy.

The Lions started out the season 6-2. They had a great win coming back to beat the Rams—the Greatest Show on Turf—in the Silverdome.

I also had my first car that year. A leased Honda Civic. While running an errand for the team, I was t-boned leaving the Silverdome. The car was smashed. I was fine. One player drove around me, looking at what had just happened. Another player, Stephen Boyd, stopped his car. By now I’m on the side of the road. He drove me back to the offices and wrote me a check the next day for the damage that had been done. Pretty incredible act of generosity that has stayed with me.

Another lasting memory was the salary and life lesson that came with it. As interns, you make about $100 a week and you’re grateful for the job because there are about 400 other people who sent their resumes to get the same position. There was actually an overfilled drawer in a filing cabinet with the resumes of people who wanted this spot.

One day when I was complaining about something, longtime Lions assistant coach Don Clemons told me: “Remember this: You’ll always have enough money for a roof over your head and to have a beer.” And he’s been right. No matter how life has looked at some points, I’ve always had a roof over my head and enough money for a beer if I wanted one.

J.P.: I know precious little of your journalistic career: Two books, Syracuse, contribute to Forbes, SI.com. So how did this writing thing happen for you? When did you know it was what you wanted to do? What’s the path?

J.B.: I definitely took a different path. I always enjoyed writing. When I was in fourth grade I wrote a fictionalized account of my football team—the West Orange P.A.L. Mustangs. It was 17 pages, front and back, on loose leaf. I forced my mother, sister and brother-in-law to listen to me read the whole thing out loud one night in our kitchen. You can imagine, the look of boredom and exhaustion on their faces as this fourth-grade level story unfolded in my fourth-grade level reading voice.

When I was an intern with the Lions, watching the beat reporters in Detroit—Mike O’Hara, Curt Sylvester, Tom Kowalski and Paula Pasche—it looked like they had so much fun. I applied to Syracuse for a master’s degree because I didn’t have the training to do what they did and I figured Syracuse was the place for it. They also had a graduate assistantship in the athletic department and that was the only way I was going to be able to afford a master’s degree.

When I started, I ended up on the news side. I became a municipal reporter in New Jersey. First as an intern with the Star-Ledger, then I covered Paterson, N.J. for the Herald News. Within a couple months of being there, the Herald News sent me to Turkey to cover these three teenage girls trying to live their dream and make it in the music industry via Turkey. One of the girls thought when they came back to Paterson Angie Martinez would be playing their music on Hot 97 in New York. It didn’t happen.

After a stint in New Jersey politics, I settled into what I do now. A bit winding, I know.

I enjoy it, and I’ve been lucky enough to get involved in some documentary films, too, Plimpton!, which came out in 2012. I produced an upcoming 30 for 30 ESPN Film, and I’m working on two other films at the moment.

Carried away with former Giants linebackers Carl Banks and Gary Reasons.

Carried away with former Giants linebackers Carl Banks and Gary Reasons.

J.P.: Don’t take this the wrong way, but I constantly thinking about book subjects, and the 1986 Giants never jumped out at me as a must-write subject. I mean, they had a superstar in Lawrence Taylor, and a big-name coach, and they won in New York. But it just never jumped off the page as an all-time, all-time fascinating team. Tell me what I was missing.

J.B.: Ha! I had some apprehensions at first, too, but they are definitely an all-time fascinating team. Once I got into the material, it was pretty astounding. There’s the pop-culture connection with the origin of the Gatorade shower, which is now ubiquitous in sports. Phil Simms is the first player to say, “I’m going to Disney World.” There’s the odd connection to the Genovese crime family. You’ve got New York City nightlife in the ‘80s. Bill Parcells in his formative years as a head coach. It’s pre-elite Parcells. It’s a guy fighting for his professional life. That’s fun stuff to detail.

This is also a period when Wellington Mara goes from being hung in effigy outside the stadium to being embraced as a paternalistic figure in the NFL.

Don’t forget about Bill Belichick and his start with this team and the reason he didn’t become the Giants head coach.

These guys are also remembered. Mark Bavaro, Carl Banks, Harry Carson, George Martin, Phil McConkey, Leonard Marshall, and Jim Burt. They are all quite interesting and continue to draw interest from football fans.

As I’m reporting all this, I came to find this is a team that gets passed on to generations. It’s definitely unique. Whether it is Belichick showing film of this team to the Patriots or the plethora of Simms, LT, and Bavaro jerseys you still see at Giants game there is a special staying power. There will never be another first Super Bowl champion for the Giants and these guys are the foundation for who the Giants have been since.

J.P.: What’s your reporting process? Like, you decide to do this book. How do you attack it? I love the nitty gritty.

J.B.: Immerse myself. Immerse myself. Immerse myself. Get as deep into the material as possible. Get the game tapes. Watch the games. Take notes on what happens on the field and the interactions on the sidelines that the cameras pick up, but the announcers don’t talk about. I’ll take video of certain things and text it to interview subjects or show them video during the interview and it usually jogs the memory and elicits some great responses.

Read. Read. Read. Read everything. Pull the thread. I have to put things in the context of their time. This is 1986. I’m reading about the Challenger explosion, the Tylenol scare, Iran-Contra—none of it made the book, but it made me more knowledgeable about the era. And there are nuggets sometimes that did make the book—the deaths of Len Bias and Don Rogers.

Interview prep is also critical. I’m still looking for how to do the best interview, or at least better ones. And I know my better ones come from the best prep. Whenever I’m transcribing, I inevitably start criticizing myself as I listen to the interview. “Shut up, Jerry. Geez.”

On the writing front, I have four kids. So I have headphones that act as earplugs. I throw on some lyric-less SiriusXM Chill and I’m in a different world than the one around me. I write and re-write and re-write and re-write.

J.P.: Let’s say, in the course of reporting this, you found out Phil Simms was having an affair with a flight attendant on the team charter. Do you report and write it? Do you debate it? Do you broach the information with him?

J.B.: I hate hypotheticals. Probably started when a high school girlfriend said, “What if I went to a party and one of your friends …” I’ll be your huckleberry though on this one though.

I don’t think anyone you write about should be surprised about what they read about themselves in print. I’d go to the subject and have the conversation about it and take it from there.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your journalistic career? Lowest?

J.B.: I’ll start with the lowest. I’m an intern with the Star-Ledger. My journalistic brains have fallen out of my head. I’m a source of heartburn for my editor, and he’s a great editor. It’s one day after work. I’m in the spare bedroom in the garden apartment in Bloomfield, N.J. looking at myself in the mirror, intimidated by the talent I was working with, and asking myself, out loud, “Do you have what it takes to make it in this business?” And, at that point, I didn’t have the answer.

The high point was writing a series of stories, today they’d call it longform, on Elias Steves, an 11-year-old battling cancer. Changed my life. Made me less selfish. I was working for the Home New Tribune in Central New Jersey. In the pre-viral days of the Internet, we’d get letters, handwritten, from San Diego, Seattle, Michigan and other places too far away to know about this story. He was a precocious, faith-filled child. It was an inspiring story about him dealing with his own mortality. There are so many parts of this story that I’ll always remember.

I became close to him. Rubbing his back as he coughed up a mixture of blood and mucus as cancer filled his lungs.

I was at his bedside when he died. I was there when his mother said good-bye to him. Still remember his only semi-conscious words that night were him saying, “Sorry,” to his mom.

It was hard to do newspaper reporting after that. A short time later, I left the newspaper for a stint in New Jersey politics.

Jerry with former Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon.

Jerry with former Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon.

J.P.: I fucking hate Mike Ditka. You got him on the phone from a golf course. What was the interview like?

J.B.: Yikes. You’re a little harsh on Ditka. The interview was short. He was done with me after a few questions. The golf shot he hit in between questions was solid. I could hear that sweet thwack and my seven years of caddying experience told me it was a good one.

J.P.: I noticed the media material accompanying your book was on letterhead from a PR company named, “Athlete & Event.” I’m always fascinated by book promoting–because it’s awful. Did you have to hire your own publicity squad? Did St. Martin’s outsource? And what do you consider the five-star keys to book pimpin’?

J.B.: First, write the best possible book you can. Second, figure out how you’re going to get that book into as many hands as possible. Put together your dream team of people who can help you. Like you mentioned, or alluded to earlier, I’ve done some stuff journalistically, but I’m not Jeff Passan cranking out great copy on a near daily basis on baseball. I don’t have that built-in platform of readership. So I’ve got to work it. It’s like the old publishing saying goes, “If no one reads the great book next to the tree falling in the forest, does that book actually exist?”

As far as Athlete & Event, it’s run by Chip Namias, a longtime NFL PR director who is as connected in the business as anybody.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JERRY BARCA:

• Why does the legendary Solomon Miller only receive three mentions in your book?: Hmmm … I think I smell a sequel.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Butch Woolfolk, Iheanyi Uwaezuoke, school picture day, Peter Criss, aspartame, mac and cheese, legalized marijuana, Harry Potter: Iheanyi Uwaezuoke, Butch Woolfolk, school picture day, mac and cheese, Peter Criss, legalized marijuana, aspartame.

• Five greatest sports writers working today: First, I wish there were weekly rankings. I’m sort of a fan boy of journalists. It would be total insider media stuff, but imagine a radio show: “Well, what did you think of his lede though? Really amazing stuff. Metaphor use wasn’t forced either. That’d hard to do, Kip.”

All right, here’s my answer: Greg Bishop, John Branch, Peter King, Greg Tufaro, Mike Vaccaro.

• One question you would ask Geena Davis were she here right now?: What’s the square root of 14,629?

• You spent three years, nine months as the communications director for Edison Township. What was the wildest thing you ever did as the communications director for Edison Township: What happens in Edison, stays in Edison.

• You went to the Newhouse School of Communications. I failed to get in. What did I miss?: Soaking in the constant, daily, formative conversations and actions of future media stars. Really was incredible. Pete Thamel had recently graduated, but he was around. I took a sports reporting class with Jeff Passan and Greg Bishop. The younger guys, at that time, were Eli Saslow, Chico Harlan and Darryl Slater. I was a grad assistant in the athletic department while getting my degree, so I missed out on a lot, too. But it was great to be around that level of talent.

• In exactly 29 words, how was tiny Joe Morris such a great runner?: Super smart, hit the hole and made cuts up field without losing speed, had an underappreciated offensive line that was bolstered by Maurice Carthon, Zeke Mowatt, and Mark Bavaro.

• Could the Giants have been a regular playoff team with Scott Brunner at quarterback?: No.

• What are the world’s three grossest smells?: Ammonia, the lingering smell of burnt scrambled eggs, and vomit.

 • Three facts about the first person you had a crush on: 1. She was a second-grade student teacher; 2. It was second grade so I don’t remember what she looked like; 3. I picked flowers off people’s lawn on my walk to school and would leave them for her in her classroom.

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Jesse Martinez

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Every so often, a Quaz arrives back at jeffpearlman.com headquarters and is greeted with a yawn. You know how it goes: I’m super-psyched to read it, then I open the file and … pfft. Boring, uninspired, flat. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen all that often. But, truth be told, it does happen.

Well, not today.

Before this Quaz, I knew precious little about skateboarding, and even less about Jesse Martinez, a hard-nosed 51-year-old boarder and a man whose successful fight to bring a skate park to Venice Beach resulted in the riveting new documentary, “Made In Venice.” To be blunt, Jesse isn’t a guy to fuck with. He’s edgy, hard, determined, steely. He fears neither death nor violence and (as you’ll learn in this interview) he responded to a horrific beating with … well, trust me. His answer will blow you away. Jesse emerged in the 1980s as one of the best street skaters in Los Angeles, and was a founding member of Steve Rocco’s original SMA World Industries team. In other words, he’s legend.

One can learn about “Made In Venice” here, and pick up some more Jesse details here.

Jesse Martinez, you are Quaz No. 271 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Jesse, I’m gonna start with a weird one, just because you seem like you’d have a good answer: Back in the 1980s, when I was a kid, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e who had a skateboard seemed to worship Gator. I mean, he was the man. Beyond the man. Then all sorts of shit happened, he wound up in jail, etc. And I wonder—does he have any legacy to speak of? Do kids know he existed? Should they?

JESSE MARTINEZ: That’s a touchy one with me because I was such good friends with the guy. Gator should not be forgotten. What he did for skateboarding was totally separate from the one big horrible mistake, but it’s hard for me to stand up for him. From knowing the guy personally and doing demos with him, he’s an extremely good guy with a great heart. What happened that night with him and that girl, I’ll never know.

Long story short, he should not be forgotten, and also what he did should not be forgotten. What he did is unforgivable. If that was my daughter, it would be a totally different scenario right now. I would be like, “The guy better be on death row.” There would be no ifs, ands or buts about that. I know the guy so well and I was actually with him, that girl and his girlfriend in Arizona a few weeks before that happened. It was weird when I found out what happened when I got back into town. I was shocked. Knowing Gator, I knew it had to be a horribly drunk, drug-related mistake. Deep down inside, Gator is not that guy, but we all make mistakes. You can ask other skateboarders who have made horrible mistakes and are still in the limelight. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be, but it’s like in any sport, your heroes fall sometimes. That’s why I tell people. “If you’re going to idolize somebody for what they do in a sport, don’t be disappointed when you find out that, in real life, they are not who you thought they were.”

For good and bad, Gator should not be forgotten for what he did for skateboarding and for what he did that ruined his life and ruined a whole family’s life. That’s all I have to say about that one.

J.P.: What is the absolute worst injury you’ve ever suffered via skateboarding? What happened? How did it feel? What was the aftermath? And did it have any impact on you?

J.M.: Okay, we were shooting the Thrashin’ movie, in the mid 1980s and I was bombing the hill. There were a bunch of us. One of the guys, his name was K.O., he’s from the Jaks. He’s a really good friend of mine and he’s still skateboarding to this day. He came shooting by me and I knew things didn’t look good, and I caught up to him, and he got the wobbles really bad and flew off his board and we ended up colliding into each other. I ripped all the muscles in my thigh of my leg right below the hip and I was bleeding internally. I had to go to the hospital for a couple of weeks … blah, blah, blah … I wound up not skating for a good six months that I was injured, but there were really no repercussions from that injury.

As a skateboarder going on 44 years of skating, I’ve been incredibly lucky. I don’t know what it is, but I have taken some of the worst slams—like all big-time skaters. If you want to be one of the best, you have to throw caution into the wind. That’s just the way it’s been for most of my life. Maybe it was built in me to where I don’t know the words, “Take it easy.” I just do what I can do the best that I can do. That injury really didn’t affect me at all.

What has affected me now is time. Like Jay Adams said, “Skateboarding didn’t get old. I did.” As I’m inching toward 50 years of skating non-stop, which is my goal, all of the small injuries that I’ve had—knee injuries, ripped ligaments, and just being beaten, nothing ever broke—are now catching up to me. There isn’t a step that I take that doesn’t have pain. I’m literally crawling out of the car when I go to skate a hill. With all of the pain in my knees, ankles, elbows and my back, I’m amazed that I can skate like I do. It’s weird, though, because I’m in more pain when I’m not skating. When I’m skating, I feel nothing and I don’t recognize any of the injuries that I know I have. It’s like I’ve told people, “The less I skate, the quicker I die. The more I skate, the more I live.” It just seems like I gotta keep skating. That’s the bottom line.

Jesse with some of Venice's skate kids (photo by Dan Levy)

Jesse with some of Venice’s skate kids (photo by Dan Levy)

J.P.: You’re the focus of a new documentary, “Made in Venice” that details the decades-long fight to have a skate park built on your home turf. Looking back, how much of the struggle was based upon a certain perception of skateboarders as slackers, druggies, vagrants? In other words, do you think a good number of people accustomed to suits and ties just didn’t want you guys around?

J.M.: That sort of goes both ways. It was 50 percent the city’s fault that it took so long to get the park and it was 50 percent our fault. To get the park, you have to remember, this was Venice in the 1980s. It was coming off the era of the ’70s, which was just out of control. We were all influenced by what came before us. In the ‘80s, you had 30 of the top professional skaters in the world living in one of the roughest beach communities in the United States. I’m not exaggerating. In the ‘80s, Venice was no place to be acting like a fool. If you did, most likely you got your ass handed to you very swiftly, so the perception of the skaters from the city back then wasn’t the best. The Venice skateboarders were inter-tangled with the local gangs. They were our friends and family members or we went to school with them since birth. The city looked at us in the same way as any other group that they didn’t approve of in Venice, because it was a rough time. There were a lot of fights and a lot of shit went down, but a lot of skating went on.

Some of the best pros in the world came out of Venice in the ‘80s, but the city looked at us as kids who were out of control with no direction. Honestly, if I was a city guy, I might have thought the same thing because we were a little out of control. When we first started approaching the city for the skate park, I got that feeling that they looked down on us and I still get that feeling today. They look down on us and on me, especially. I know this for a fact. The City of Los Angeles is just wishing that I would disappear because I have been a thorn in their ass for over three decades now. I saw how they looked at us when it came down to getting the skate park. They thought, “Oh, okay, you guys are organized now.” One thing the city didn’t realize is that just because we’re skateboarders and we look a little bit edgy doesn’t mean we don’t have smart friends all over the world. In the ’70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, there were a lot of crazed skateboarders, and now those skateboarders aren’t kids anymore. Those kids are adults now and you’d be surprised to find out what a lot of those skateboarders have become. They have become police officers or city people, and some of the most respected people in society. The city found out real quick that we weren’t just the scraggly hoodlum skateboarders on the beach any longer. Like I said, skateboarders have a large network of friends and skateboarders have a special bond. No matter if decades have passed, skaters still look out for each other. That’s what happened with the Venice Skate park. Throughout time, people reached out to us and said, “Hey, I used to skate with you guys in the ‘80s and I want to help.” Through the network of skateboarders, we were able to get this skate park approved.

We always reached out to people when things got tough. When I say tough, I mean when the city handed us paperwork that we didn’t understand. When they handed us paperwork, it was 100 pages thick with requirements that we had to fill out. That’s where Scott Brown, Stephanie, Melanie, Juice Magazine and all these people stepped up who are really knowledgeable about this and, if they didn’t know it, they could find it out. Between the skateboarders who grew up in Venice and all the people back in the ‘80s and ‘90s who came in, they really became our support system. What we didn’t know how to do, they did. Juice Magazine wrote all the paperwork for us. Scott Brown and his girl did so much legal stuff for us, too. I saw some of what Scott Brown’s girl had to do one time and I was like, “Oh my god, I’m glad I skate.” I couldn’t understand how that much paperwork had to be filled out just to propose a skate park. I think just the sheer amount of support, from everywhere, made the city go, “You know what? We have to approve this.” With support from the skate community and the people in Venice, it just became overwhelming for the city. It seems like they really never wanted a skate park there, so we had to tell the city guys, “None of you really live in Venice. None of you were born and raised in Venice, so how do you know what Venice needs and wants? You don’t live here. You come to the beach every six months to shoot a photo under a tree.”

That’s what I brought up to the city in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, when they asked me how can I keep going for seven years of cleaning the park every day for free. I said, “I was born and raised in Venice and I love where I live.” That’s one of the problems. You have a lot of the city employees that are not from Venice and they didn’t grow up in Venice and there’s no attachment to Venice. To clean the park so thoroughly and love it so much, it would be smart to hire people who live in Venice. There are a lot of local people who would love to have city jobs. I really do think the city truly underestimated the skaters of Venice and how we could actually get together and resource people who could do things we couldn’t do. It took almost three decades, but we got it. Now I look at that park and go, “Wow. We did it. Everybody pulled together and everybody who loves Venice got this skate park.” I think it’s pretty amazing what we did out there. The city just has to realize that they have to play ball with the skateboarders in Venice because we are not going anywhere.

Photo by Dan Levy.

Photo by Dan Levy.

J.P.: Weird question—but I’m 44, I’ve never boarded in my life and I’m increasingly aware of my own mortality, as well as my bones’ propensity to break. Would it be impossible for me to learn to skateboard? Like, is this something that must begin at youth?

J.M.: It’s advisable to start when you’re young. At 44-years old, I suggest you wear full pads and just enjoy skateboarding as much as you can without really injuring yourself. There’s one thing about skateboarders, 40 and up, who have been skating since 8- or 9-years old, their bodies have built up a tolerance for pain. You’ve gone through years of small fractures or decades of hitting the ground and it’s strengthened your body. I wouldn’t doubt that a lot of skateboarders out there have hairline fractures but don’t realize it. You just build your bones and strength. By the time you get to my age of 51, your bones are as hard as a rock and you can take a beating and, let me tell you, I take beatings almost monthly that would normally kill a 51-year-old man. That’s the thing. I see other guys my age who don’t skate who are 51 and they look 60. I think to myself, “Am I really 51? Why do I feel like I am 22?” That’s the other thing about skateboarding. It keeps you mentally young. To start at 44, with no background of skateboarding experience, my advice is to wear full gear and take it really slow and find a professional skateboarder like Eric Britton or Bennett Harada, to give you lessons. That’s the best advice I can say. Take it slow, wear full gear and wear a helmet, and good luck.

J.P.: How did this happen for you? You’re a kid in the world; Southern California. How did you find skateboarding? When did you first realize you were good at it? Great at it?

J.M.: Well, the first time I ever came in contact with a skateboard was in 1971. One of my cousins found a car and took it to my grandma’s house and, in the back seat, there was a skateboard and they gave it to me. That’s how it all started.

When did I realize that I was good on a personal level? I’ve never considered myself top-notch. I’ve always considered myself an all-around great skateboarder. I can skate everything. I’ve never sat back and asked myself, “When did I become good?” There was really never a time. I knew one time I was on a run, whooping ass and winning amateur contests left and right, but there was never a moment when I was like, “Now I’m ripping and I’m the baddest guy in the land.” I was always too busy skating to ever really stop and think about it until just now when you asked me. There was never a day where I thought, “Now I’m really good.” I’m still learning. I took up downhill skateboarding a little over three years ago, at age 48, and I’m learning all over again. Even though I was a professional street skater and so-called master vert skater, I got into this new realm of skateboarding called downhilling and it’s almost like I’ve started over skating again. I admit that I have an advantage with decades of background in skating.

To answer your question, there was never a time when I looked back and thought, “Now I’m ripping.” I never really thought about that. I’m a humble dude and I know that some dudes are better than me. There’s no way around it. I’ve skated with the best, most gifted skateboarders that have walked the earth. I was standing next to Mark Gonzales at contests, or Christian Hosoi, and these other gigantic names like Eric Dressen. I know for a fact that these dudes, all around, are better than me, but if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to have to work to beat me and prove they are the best. There is no way I’m going to let them walk over me without making them work for it. That’s how I’ve always felt. I’ve always accepted that there are guys who are just naturally better than me. There’s always somebody better. You can accept it gracefully and be who you are and wait for your moment where four guys fall and suddenly you are first or second, which has happened, but I’ve never had this big head where I thought that I was the best in the world. I’ve always accepted my role in skateboarding. I knew that the odds were 99-percent sure I wouldn’t win an event, but I’ll be damned if I was going to make it easy for anyone else to win.

J.P.: Shortly before the first anniversary of the skate park’s opening, you were jumped and severely beaten while working at the park. You wound up with swelling of the brain. What do you remember from that night? And does it at all cause you to lose some faith in humanity?

J.M.: Well, no, it doesn’t make me lose faith in humanity at all. That happened about a year after the park opened. This is LA. It’s a rough town. If you’re going to walk up to 15 or 20 guys by yourself, you best know what you’re doing. I kind of overstepped my bounds that night. I should have used my years of experience to know that I might have been getting myself into some serious shit.

When everything went down in the park and I wound up getting jumped, and had to go to the hospital, I had no hard feelings. After a couple of days, I was fine. I was beat up, but I’m a skater. It takes more than that to put me down. I got up after a couple of days and I was a little beat up, but no big deal. I had no animosity toward the guys who jumped on me. I knew they were all young—18, 19, 20. I know how it is at that age. You’re not making the best decisions. They did arrest some of the guys that did that, but I told the judge and the prosecutors, “These are just kids who made one mistake. You’re telling me that your’e going to charge them with multiple felonies?” They shot me with tasers and sprayed me with Mace and jumped on me, but everybody gets one in their lifetime and that was my one and I accepted that. I told the prosecutors that I refused to press charges and I refused to identify any of them. They were shocked.

The family came up to me about a week later at the Venice Skate Park. One of the fathers walked up to me and wanted to thank me because they were offering his kid a five-year prison deal for that. I’ve seen what five years in prison can do to a person. Five years is enough time to change a man. At that point, that kid wasn’t a man, but he would come out of prison a man, and after five years inside, he would not be the man that society would help, unfortunately. I told the prosecutors that I was not going to cooperate. That’s when the father came up and thanked me. I said, “Hey, no problem, man. Your son made a mistake. Big deal. I’m alive. I can take an ass whooping. I ain’t no pussy.” I basically let them all off the hook. I saw one or two of them and shook their hands and they said sorry to me and I said it was no big deal. If everybody else would handle stuff like that, the world would be a better place. Just because you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean that I need to ruin your life.

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J.P.: Greatest moment of your life? Lowest?

J.M.: The lowest moments were both my parents dying, and my brother. Those were some of the lowest moments in my life, like anybody. That’s standard issue. Everybody’s parents die and sometimes your brothers die before you. Those were the lowest points in my life.

Greatest points in my life? That’s hard to say because every day is the greatest day. I always try to remind myself of how lucky I am. Even though I’m not rich and I don’t own a fancy car, I’m rich in friends. I came up from a rough upbringing, so maybe I look at life a little different than other people. A little for me, is good. I don’t need a whole lot to think that I’m rich. As long as I’m alive and I can skate, every day is a great day.

J.P.: You’ve listed “Bones Brigade ‘86” as the greatest road trip of your life. I love road trip stories. Why was this the greatest? What happened?

J.M.: Well, first of all, it was the Bones Brigade tour. Second of all, I’m with the most legendary skaters on the face of the earth. Suddenly, I’m in the tour van with them. My career went from driving in a pickup truck and barely having enough gas to make it to a contest to have a great time with Natas, to being in a tour van with the most legendary skateboarders in the world. That’s what made it so incredible. There were a lot of great moments, all the people we met and all the great demos and all the wild stories on the road. It was just the fact that I was riding for Powell and I was in a tour van on the Bones Brigade tour with every skateboarder who every skater in the world would kill just to sit and talk with. All of a sudden, I’m a teammate and I’m in the van with them.

When I get out of the van, they would always announce, “Here is the Powell team.” In the ‘80s, there was no other team. Powell Peralta was it. There was nothing better than Powell in the ‘80s. They had it all: freestyle, street skating, vert skating. Everybody was a winner on Powell. They were all champions; the world’s best. Suddenly, for me to be on that team, in that van, with those guys, that’s what made it the greatest tour ever.

J.P.: How has age impacted your skill-set? Are there things you could do at 25 that you can’t do at 50? Do you think you’ll still be skateboarding at 60? At 70? Is longevity a motivator? A source of pride?

J.M.: Okay, there’s a big difference between 25 and 50. A 25-year-old and a 50-year-old are not going to be doing a handrail session together. As you get older, your injuries catch up with you and that limits what you can do with skating, and that varies from skater to skater. There are skaters who have great insurance and financial backing and they can get the best operations possible. On the other hand, you have guys like me. I get hurt, I heal, and then I keep on skating. As you get older, it really depends on how your lifestyle was. Were you a big drug user or a big drinker or a healthy eater? I’m an exception to all that. I’m extremely lucky. I love Hostess cupcakes. I don’t like health food. I do nothing to advance my health, but somehow I keep going.

Then you have other guys that eat all the right foods and do all the right training and have great insurance and get all the best medical, but they’re just as jacked up as me. There are a lot of variables. On the other hand, I’m out here beating 20-year-old kids down legitimate mountain runs. It’s kind of hard to say if you’re better at age 25 or 50. It all depends on the skater, your physical health, your mental health and straight drive. Number one is your drive to keep skating, that fierce determination to continue on ripping. The guys who go on for decades and never quit are the ones who truly love it. They love skating day in and day out. They can’t live without it. I have such a drive for skateboarding. It’s all I know. It’s all I do. I know many guys just like me, like Steve Caballero, Steve Alba, Micke Alba, Ben Schroeder and Lance Mountain … I could go on and on. There are guys who are fighting their injuries and just keep skating. Ben Schroeder and Allen Losi and dudes like who have gone beyond suffering for skateboarding and they continue to skate.

I know Allen Losi can’t skate right now, but I know the moment he can, he’s going to jump on a skateboard. Those are the guys who continue to rip their whole life. It’s a tough question, but I would say that it depends on the person and the drive in you and how much you can throw fear into the wind. Fear is always a part of you with skateboarding. It will never leave you, no matter how big you get. The fear of slamming gnarly will always keep you on point. It all depends on the 25-year-old and the 50-year-old. It’s all about that person and what kind of person they are. That’s the difference. Are you a maniac with no caution or someone who just takes it easy? If you see a guy who just always wants to take it easy, that’s the guy who’s probably not going to last through four decades of skating. They won’t want to keep doing it. You have to have that drive to keep going no matter how old you are.

J.P.: You received a letter from Jay Adams when he was in jail—and you never opened it. Why?

J.M.: You know what? It’s because I’ve never opened a letter from jail. I’ve always had this rule of, “I’ll see you when you get out.” That’s sort of the way I was with Jay. I never opened his letter. I just thought, “When you get out, I’ll see you and we’ll carry on our adventure here.” I know it’s kind of weird and maybe even a little rude not to open that letter, but I don’t know. I really can’t give you an honest answer why I never opened it. I have opened some of them, but I opened them after he got out of jail, and then I read them. Maybe it’s because I know what can happen in prison, that I’ve always had this fear of opening any letter from prison. Maybe that’s it.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH JESSE MARTINEZ:

• Five greatest skateboarders of your lifetime?: Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero, Shogo Kubo.

• Rank in order (favorite to least):  Neil Blender, London, “Silence of the Lambs,” The Osmonds, My Uncle Marty, Lance Armstrong, Brett Favre, Belinda Carlisle, Tampa, Oreo cookies: Neil Blender, Lance Armstrong, Oreo cookies, London, Uncle Marty, Tampa, The Osmonds, Belinda Carlisle, “Silence of the Lambs,” Brett Favre.

• Three memories from first-ever date: 1. Her brother said, “Who the f— is that?”; 2. Her dad came out and said, “Who the f— is that?”; 3. They both tried to jump on me and I beat them both up.

• Why did your parents name you Jesse?: I have no idea. None.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Flying into San Francisco with Tommy Guerrero, we got hit by a gust of wind. I was sitting in the window seat and the wing literally missed the ground by just a couple of feet. That was close. Guerrero didn’t see it, just me.

• What do your shoes smell like?: My shoes smell great because I only wear my socks for a week or two and then I throw them away and buy new ones.

• The next president will be …: You want to know who the next president will be? It’s not going to be because of a vote. It’s going to be because this is the way it’s just going to be. It’s going to be Hillary Clinton. I don’t trust her for nothing, and I believe that Trump would do more than any other president in the last 40 years because he does not care, but it’s like rolling the dice with Trump. It would either be incredibly good or it would be shit. He’s either a go-getter or he’s going to totally fuck everything up. With political power or who knows who, Hillary is going to win because of that. She is in the game and she knows everybody and she’s got the backing. I don’t care how much money Trump has or how many votes he gets, he is not going to win. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s just the way it is.

• I have a wrist wart that refuses to go away. Any advice?: Go to the doctor and get it frozen off.

• Best advice you’ve ever received?: It was from my father. “It’s better to have more friends than enemies.” He was right because I’m rich in friends, which is better than having enemies.

• Who’s the world’s greatest insanely tall skateboarder?: Everybody knows that. It’s Ben Schroeder. There’s no one bigger. He’s taller than Neil Blender. If you want to talk about the gnarliest big guy, it would be Neil Blender. Neil Blender could kick some ass if he ever wanted to. Neil Blender is one of the greatest forgotten skaters in the history of skateboarding. If you ask the younger generation of skaters about Neil Blender, they will say, “Who?” Neil Blender is one of the most unique professional skateboarders ever to be born. That guy is a cut above the rest, even more unique than Hosoi or Gonzales. I’ve seen that dude skate. Even with a hand plant, to this day, I’ve never seen another human being attempt it the way he does. He’s doing one foot inverts, noseblunt in, and he would stop it on the coping and rip it like a soldier. I would just sit there amazed at how such a big man could be so graceful. That’s how it was.

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Glenn Stern

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A couple of weeks ago I received a lovely e-mail from a man in Texas, who wanted to share some thoughts about sports and … blah, blah, blah, blah.

Truth be told, I don’t remember the words or sentiment. But I do remember this: Glenn Stern was a dentist. And, through nearly 300 Quazes, I’ve really, really, really wanted to interview a dentist.

I asked Glenn.

He said yes.

Here we are.

I don’t actually know if Glenn Stern is the finest dentist in Canton, Texas. I don’t know if he makes gums bleed; if he has a sadistic cackle with every terrified child; if he loves sharp tools and soft tongues. What I do know is that he’s the coolest dentist I’ve ever spoken with, and that this Q&A is one of my all-time favorites.

You can follow Glenn on Twitter here, and if you find yourself in Canton with a cracked molar, you can find him here.

Glenn Stern, you are the 270th Quaz. Drill away!

JEFF PEARLMAN: You’re a dentist. I’ve always wanted to have a dentist here so I can ask this delightful question: What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever seen in your career? Details, please …

GLENN STERN: I was on a mission trip in Jamaica and we were working on men in a low-security prison. A guy came in with an abscess in his front upper lip area. It was from a tooth. It was the size of a golf ball, at least. All full of pus. Only thing to do there is to try to numb it and then drain it. Your imagination can do the rest …

J.P: When I was growing up, a trip to the dentist was terror. I feared the inevitable pain, the sound of the drill, etc. Lots of shaking, tears, etc. Yet it strikes me that, for kids growing up today, the dentist doesn’t mean pain. Technology seems to have changed the game. But has it? What I mean is, do kids even know the fear the dentist in 2016? Are they afraid of you?

G.S.: In our office at least we try to get them in early on for a really simple, low-stress appointment. Show them that we are friendly, take a look at their teeth, give them a cool brush and go from there. As far as how many kids are afraid, a big factor in that equation is the parents. If a kid has parents who tell him that coming to see the dentist is going to be no big deal, you’re going to do great, etc, then usually the kid comes in and does great. If a kid has parents who tell him horror stories, siblings who tell them horror stories, and the parents are anxious when they bring the child in, guess what? The child is going to be anxious. That’s not 100 percent of the time, but that’s the biggest factor in how kids do and if they are afraid.

You could probably say that about a lot of things with kids, right? Which kids do better in school, read better, do better in sports? Generally the ones whose parents read, play sports, etc.

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With wife Julie

J.P.: I know you’re from Kerrville, Texas; know your practice is in Canton; know you attended Texas A&M. But what’s the path? How does one decide he wants to be a dentist? Why? I mean, from afar I can’t imagine a kid thinking, “Yes! Dentistry!” So why? How? When?

G.S.: I don’t think any kid stays up late dreaming of dentistry, either. It’s not pro basketball and it’s not glamorized on TV like medicine or law. For me, it was a long, circuitous (did I use that word correctly?) route. I always wanted to be something in science, something in the healthcare field. Our family had a lot of friends who were dentists and it always seemed like a nice career. I was also always the kid who made model airplanes, so I liked making stuff and working with small, intricate things. I went to college thinking I either wanted to be a pediatrician or a dentist. Then around my sophomore year, I got the idea to be a physical therapist. It was the “hot” job field back then, (early 1990s) and it was associated with sports, and so I decided to pursue that. I knew that it was the most competitive field as far as getting into graduate programs, but I plowed ahead. Long story short, I didn’t get into a single physical therapy program. (Memo to the kids out there: if a type of graduate school takes an average 3.7 GPA to get in, and you have a 3.3, you may want to have a backup plan). After four great, fun years in college, my parents were gracious enough to let me move back in and figure out what I was going to do with my life.

For you Seinfeld fans out there, I was George Costanza—”Hello, my name is George. I’m unemployed and live with my parents.” Luckily my parents were great and were not the Costanzas. My dad had a friend who was a dentist, and one day I guess he was telling him about his 22-year-old son who was back home. His friend, Dr. Jim Stokes, told him to tell me to come by the office and see him. I went by and we ended up talking for a couple of hours. What came out of that was a part-time job doing whatever he could find for me to do, and he helped me get my application together for dental school. I realized after talking with him that dentistry could still be an option for me, so we went for it. I took the DAT test (entrance exam for dentistry) and did really well on it. I sent my applications in for the three Texas schools two days before the deadline. This was in the fall of 1995. All three Texas schools had already started filling their classes, so it was a longshot. Dr. Stokes wrote my recommendation letter and we waited. I interviewed in Houston and San Antonio in December but it was just too late in the process and they were pretty much full. Then on a Friday in January the phone rings and it’s a lady at Baylor telling me they are doing one more round of interviews on Monday and somebody got sick and would I like to come? Before she was done asking I had the car loaded and was headed to Dallas. The interview went great and a couple weeks later I got an acceptance letter. So about six months after moving back home with no idea what I was going to do, I had an acceptance letter in hand to one of the best dental schools in the country.

Kind of like John Daly in the 1991 PGA. Somebody gets hurt, he gets an alternate spot, and the next thing you know he’s won the thing. Or Kurt Warner barely making the Rams, Trent Green goes down, and before you know it he’s won the Super Bowl. Any other rags-to-riches sports metaphors out there?

After graduation I joined a group practice in Canton, about an hour east of Dallas. Our office is called Legacy Dental Group and I think we’re as good as any place in the country. It’s a dream situation with two other exceptional dentists, we have specialists on site, and I’ve been here ever since. It’s strange to think I’ve had the same job at the same place for 16 years, and I probably will for as long as I work, but it’s just a great situation.

My wife was somebody I knew in college and she was in law school in Dallas when I moved there. She’s gorgeous, smart, likes sports too and we fit together perfectly. We “re-met” if that is a word, in the fall of  1996 in Dallas, and got married less than a year later. Nineteen years later we are still married and have two great kids, and I still have to pinch myself sometimes. She was a huge Cowboy fan in the 1990s—Aikman especially—and I’ve been trying to get her to read “Boys Will Be Boys.” I know she would like it.

So pretty much all that I am doing right now is from Dr. Stokes giving me a chance to work for him back in 1995. I still remember him telling me, “Let’s send your applications in and see what happens.” I don’t think he really needed a 22-year-old guy coming to his office every day and trying to look busy, but he felt sorry for me and gave me a chance. I think anybody who has had any kind of success in any field can look back and point to that one person who gave him a chance when there really wasn’t any reason to.

I’m really thankful for dentistry. It’s a job, and it’s a tough job. You wear a lot of hats, particularly if you own your own practice, like my partners and I do. But you have the chance to do a lot of great things for people, and compared to other professions, like medicine or law, you have a lot more control over your hours.

J.P.: What’s the deal with bad breath? I feel like I’ve known people who eternally have bad breath. Are there times there’s nothing one can do about it? Is it an eternal damnation?

G.S.: Lots of causes. Most typical is smoking, poor oral hygiene, which together lead to gum disease, which makes even more bad breath. Another cause, although less likely, are other health conditions, and/or medications. But usually it’s typical oral hygiene. Brush your tongue, by the way. Sounds weird but that helps. Not that it’s you, or anything, or it’s the “I’m asking for a friend” thing  …

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With, from left, Julie, Clayton and Caroline.

J.P.: When people are talking to you are you fixated on their teeth? Like, are you eternally zeroed in on the mouth?

G.S.: I really try not to. I try to leave work at work, mentally. In a social situation where I meet new people, especially out of town, etc, I don’t tell people I am a dentist unless they ask. I’m not ashamed of it or anything, and I’m glad to help, but it usually leads to uncomfortable conversations that usually include the following:

“Oh, I hate dentists”

“Oh, I had this dentist once who pulled a tooth and had to put his knee in my chest”

Like I said, for some reason dentistry hasn’t gotten the pub on TV that law and medicine have. No LA Law, ER, Boston Legal … yet. George Clooney or Brad Pitt playing a dentist on TV who’s an awesome guy would change this whole public perception thing pretty quick, right?

J.P.: What’s the tell-tale oral sign of a cigarette smoker? How truly bad is smoking for someone’s mouth? And do you see a noticeable drop in the number of smokers you see now, as opposed to a decade ago?

G.S.: Just the odor, the dark teeth, the gums. It’s really bad for the gums. It contributes a lot to gum disease which in severe cases is what makes people lose their teeth. It really ramps up your odds for getting oral cancer. FYI, more people lose their teeth from gum disease than from decay. As far as the number of smokers, we still see quite a few. I thought for a while that was due to being in a rural area, but when we visited New York City I saw a lot of people smoking there, too. I think people are just going to do what they are going to do, no matter how obvious it is that it is bad for them.

J.P.: As a native New Yorker who lives in California, I’ve sorta developed a negative take on Texas. I mean no offense, but I sorta picture a whole bunch of Rick Perry types: Fake struts, climate change denying, God in history books, etc. Tell me what I’m missing.

G.S.: If you’ve never been to Texas and depended on what you see in TV, media, movies, etc. for your picture of Texas, then I don’t blame you for your impression. The media doesn’t do Texas any favors—J.R. Ewing included. I’ll tell you that Texas is a lot more complex than that, just like not everybody who lives in New York City is a certain way, or everybody who lives in California is a pot-smoking communist. Texas is more politically conservative than New York or Cali, that’s for sure. But its major cities are just as diverse (in every way) as big cities anywhere else. Fake struts on pickup trucks? Probably guilty, in more rural areas. Lots of pickups and a fair amount of ones that have been “modified.” although in my demographic (the 40-something dad) we generally don’t try to do anything stupid to our pickup trucks. Climate change denying? I think that goes along with the political landscape here, but again, in the big cities, especially Austin, you’re going to find people with a broad spectrum of views. God in history books? My wife is on the local school board and to my knowledge we don’t have anything controversial in our textbooks. I think you would like Texas, and if you are ever in Dallas-Fort Worth I’ll come over and buy you dinner. I used to have a pickup truck but don’t any more, or I’d drive you around and give you the full experience. I had a couple but then realized I didn’t really ever use the bed for anything, so I got a Tahoe. It’s still an SUV but not quite the emotionally charged, classical Texan vehicle that is the pickup truck.

Texas is pretty unique in that it was its own country back in the day, and I think most people who live here have more state pride than people in other states. I don’t see a lot of people in Delaware being really vocal about how much they love Delaware, and what a kickass state Delaware is, but maybe they do. Joe Biden’s from there, right?

I will tell you that it is very different from either the northeast or Cali. It is BIG, and has several big cities with a lot of wide-open spaces and small towns. My son and I went to Big Bend National Park last spring break. It was a 10-hour drive … and we never left Texas. Personally, we have the best of both worlds: a small town that is an hour from Dallas and 90 minutes from DFW Airport. You can fly nearly anywhere in the world nonstop from DFW.

Just a footnote—Our family has been to New York City several times, and one thing I love about that area and hate about here is public transportation. If you want to live in Texas, you have to drive, and drive a lot, every day. There’s just no way around it. I love how in New York City (and I would assume it’s like this in other big northeastern cities) you don’t even have to have a car. You can walk and use public transportation. You can ride the train into New York City from an hour or two outside the city. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could get on a train, sit for an hour reading the paper, and get off in downtown Dallas, or in Arlington where the Rangers play, etc. I don’t know why it happened up there and why it didn’t happen here. Dallas does have some light rail now in place but It’s nothing like up north. Is that a reflection on the political differences—conservative individualism versus a more collective approach? I don’t know, but it seems like an apt metaphor. Regardless, I wish we had more of it here.

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J.P.: My friend once dated a man who drank six two-liter bottles of Diet Coke PER DAY. How bad is this for teeth? Why?

G.S.: Really bad. Even being Diet Coke with no real sugar, there’s a lot of acid. The same kind of acid we use to clean/condition teeth before we bond a filling to it, is in soft drinks.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

G.S.: Greatest moment: The times when you take care of somebody and you can tell that it changed his/her life. I had a guy who we did a bunch of work on tell me a few weeks ago, “This work changed my life, how I see myself, how I feel about myself.” You can’t beat that. Now, most average days you don’t get that. It’s a job just like anything else. I mean, how many times does somebody tell you that “The Bad Guys Won” changed their life? But occasionally you do.

Worst? There are a couple that I probably shouldn’t share in a public setting, but in the “bordering on cheesy” category, I will say the “worst day” was the best day … the day back in college when I got multiple rejection letters to physical therapy schools on the same day. They were stacked on top of each other in the mailbox. But what turned out to be a terrible thing led to where I am today, so that turned out to be good. Like that scene in City Slickers where they are asking each other their worst and best day, and Bruno Kirby does the whole “same day” thing.

J.P.: When you accidentally cut someone’s mouth, are you required by some sort of medical conviction to immediately fess up? Because I feel like I’ve been cut 100 times, and no one ever says a damn thing.

G.S.: I always fess up. The mouth heals really quick and in a day, maybe, any little nick or cut is healed. I can’t stand having a guilty conscience!

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH GLENN STERN:

• My wife is watching the Real Housewives of Orange County. It seems like they have photos of Tom cheating on his fiancé. Thoughts?: Hate to tell you but I’ve never watched that show. I’ve never watched a lot of reality TV … until recently. We are hooked on “Lone Star Law,” a show on animal planet that follows Texas game wardens around. You want to see rural Texas and think we are a bunch of fools? Watch that show. The people these game wardens deal with are truly amazing. Set your DVR and enjoy. For the record, we aren’t all like the poachers and illegal hunters on the show. The game wardens are great and a couple are from our area and we know them personally. Shout out to wardens Herchmann and Stapleton.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jonathan Franzen, Martha Stewart, merry go rounds, Chicago, “Stealing Home,” Edwin McCain, popsicles, Andrew Jackson, Lionel Richie: Lionel Richie, merry go rounds, popsicles, Andrew Jackson, Chicago, Stealing Home, Jonathan Franzen, Martha Stewart, Edwin McCain. That song … ugh.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: We went to Cozumel a few years ago with our entire office staff. Cozumel was right on the edge of a hurricane but they decided to take us anyway. Never thought we would crash but we flew in clouds the whole time, dropped out of the sky, and landed really quick in the rain. The runway is right by the water and when you are coming in it’s water, water, water, and then runway. I have a weird peace when flying, though. You don’t have any control and there’s nothing you can do, so I just don’t get nervous.

• Five coolest dental instruments: Soft tissue laser, my magnification glasses, digital camera that shows the tooth up close, Digital X-rays, fiber optic light that helps me see real good.

• One question you would ask Al Roker were he here right now?: Is Bryant Gumbel as arrogant as he seems on TV, or is a pretty nice guy? He seems like a sanctimonious know-it-all on Real Sports. Maybe that’s just an act.

• The next president of the United States will be?: The way Trump is going, Hillary. Hillary is the equivalent of the New England Patriots representing the AFC in Super Bowl XX. A bad candidate from a bad group of candidates who is ripe for the picking. The Republicans choosing Trump is the political equivalent of the NFC getting together and sending the 2-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers to New Orleans in 1986 instead of the Bears, or the Giants, or the Niners, or … you get my point. I don’t think the Republicans had a Chicago Bears to choose, but they could have done better. I think with a solid candidate she gets beaten.

• I saw two cockroaches today while walking through LA. Should I have stepped on them or let them live their lives?: Classic Texas answer—crush ‘em. Classic Cali answer—live and let live. Personally, I’d let them live on the street but crush them if they were in my house.

• In exactly 19 words, make the case for the Jolly Green Giant: Fun logo for a random product that would never make it today due to somehow being offensive to vegetables.

• You’re pretty deep into the JFK assassination. Was Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone? Why or why not?: Man, I go back and forth here. I’ve seen the recent specials that show the magic bullet could have happened. I get that. I still have a hard time believing that one guy who did not seem all that bright just decided one day to do this, and he just happened to work at the exact spot that would let him shoot the president as he rode by in an open vehicle. I mean, it just seems too easy. And that last shot on the Zapruder film, it sure LOOKS like it’s from the front. Was it the mafia, military industrial complex, or the CIA? Don’t know. Loved the movie JFK but I know a lot of that is just fiction. But how about that Donald Sutherland “General X” scene at the Lincoln Memorial where he just goes on and on in one take? Probably my favorite movie scene of all time.

• Without looking anything up, list every David Bowie song you know: Let’s Dance was big in junior high, and then I know the other one that Vanilla Ice stole to make Ice Ice Baby. Under Pressure?

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Denny Pettway

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Twitter is a magical thing.

Yes, it’s great for Donald Trump nonsense. And Olympic updates. And meeting large-breasted aspiring models named Gigi.

Wait, I digress.

Twitter is a magical thing because it’s the land of 1,000,000,000 different stories, one more riveting than the next. You simply never know who you’ll find, and when/where you’ll find them. I’ve probably landed, oh, 40 percent of the Quaz subjects on Twitter, and that number only grows with time. Simply put, it’s a place where the world congregates, and access is eternal.

Wait. I digress again.

Today’s magical 269th Quaz Q&A features Denny Pettway, a former marine who served in Operation Desert Storm and now works as a behavior specialist for a school district. I’ve always wanted to pick the brain of a soldier; to learn what it’s like to be in harm’s way; to understand whether one feels as if he’s fighting for his country, or being used for political purposes. Denny was more than happy to engage, and the end result is one of the finest interviews in this jarringly long series.

Denny Pettway, massive respect for your contributions. You are No. 269 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Denny, I’m gonna start with something that’ll make me sound like quite the asshole. So as you know I’m heavy into politics, and especially the Hillary-Trump race. And recently I saw some people post how Trump is polling far ahead of Hillary among military personnel. And the argument was made, “See, he’s better for the troops.” And I was thinking—maybe they just don’t know. Maybe they’re a bunch of young, largely uneducated men and women who aren’t informed enough to understand how politics impact their status. And you say?

DENNY PETTWAY: While it’s true that only around 5 percent of enlisted military members have undergraduate degrees, the military enlisted today are more educated, curious and willing to question decisions than ever. This is definitely the result of having a small information machine in your hand at all times. At the end of the day though, it’s been my experience that military members are largely conservative. The perception is, the GOP is the party of defense and having a strong military. Having said that, I think both parties could do better. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray concocted a budget in 2012 that aimed to cut military retirement benefits and also reduced retiree benefits for military members who retired due to wounds received while fighting overseas. Military members I’ve served with would likely pin this all on Murray and support Ryan.

J.P.: You’re clearly a smart guy—master’s in special ed, pursuing another masters in social work. You’ve also been out of the marines for nearly a decade. I wonder how you feel about the way our political leaders use the military. What I mean is, now looking from afar, do you feel like most appreciate the troops? Truly want what’s best for the troops? Or is the military mainly a pawn for political bullshit?

D.P.: Our political leaders use military members the way a 22-year old would use a Mustang GT rental car. They do not appreciate the troops and they certainly do not have their best interests at heart. I’d have to say “mainly used as a pawn for political bullshit” doesn’t really capture the essence of how shitty these people are. As with everything else they do, they have special interest groups and their own financial gain in mind when they make any decisions, especially when it comes to the military. They know a vast majority of kids join in order to pull themselves into the bottom of the middle class. I was no different. I didn’t join for patriotic reasons. I joined for the G.I. Bill. I stayed for the camaraderie and the culture. The song Civil War by Guns N Roses spells the whole thing out pretty clearly. “Power hungry selling soldiers in a human grocery store” … “It feeds the rich while it buries the poor.” And my personal favorite: “For all I’ve seen, I’ve changed my mind but the wars go on as the years go by with no love of God or human rights …” which is the shit they sell you right before they send you off to slaughter for the oil companies.

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J.P.: What do most Americans misunderstand about our armed forces?

D.P.: One of the things I think young people believe is that we wear our uniforms everywhere we go and we can’t leave the base except on special occasions. I always have to explain that we change out of our uniforms at the end of the day just like any other job, and we are free to leave the base as long as we aren’t working.

The other thing that is most misunderstood among the public is that troops are poor and many of them are on public assistance. I seriously doubt there is a job out there for 18-year-old high school graduates that will give them 30 days paid vacation, free gym membership, 100 percent medical and dental coverage, cover their meals and provide them with housing/utilities on top of their $2,000-per-month salary. If married, military members get non-taxable housing and food allowances. On top of those benefits, we have the opportunity to pay $100 per month for 12 months into the G.I. Bill where, after completing a successful enlistment, we can then get money for school. The Marine Corps has paid for my undergraduate, one graduate and half the program I’m currently enrolled in to the tune of around $80,000.

J.P.: You were deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm. I’ve never asked anyone this, but what does it feel like to find out you’re being deployed to such a place, for such a cause? How did you find out the news? How did you react? And what was Desert Storm like for you?

D.P.: I was 22-years old when I deployed to Saudi Arabia. I was at a friend’s house recovering from a night of partying with my former drill instructor (Which was weird as hell), when we turned on the TV and watched the Iraqis invading Kuwait. I remember thinking, “Looks like those guys are going to take over that country.” I really didn’t have much of a world view at that age, so I didn’t understand the significance of Iraq controlling Kuwait’s oil. Within five minutes of watching this invasion, the phone rang and we were ordered back to base immediately. That was the point where it got very real and I was nervous and excited all at the same time. All this training and now we get to put it into action. My squadron, VMA-542 (Harriers), had just returned from a deployment to Iwakuni, Japan and inherited a squadron full of jets that were in very bad shape. We worked 36-straight hours getting them ready to go. I’d never been so exhausted. When we left, no one told us where we were going, so the ride over was pretty tense.

Overall, I look back on that experience with pride. We grew close over those nine months and worked our asses off. While I enjoyed my plane captain (launching/recovering and performing inspections on our jets) and avionics job, my favorite job over there was my 60 days spent providing area security. Marines are the smallest branch of all the services and have a “every Marine a rifleman” mentality. This meant that every unit on our forward deployed base had to supply Marines to supplement the Military Police unit in order to provide security for the bases. Manning machine gun holes, climbing towers to watch for amphibious assaults, participating in patrols was something I really enjoyed.

The worst thing was probably not knowing when we were leaving.

Mainly, Desert Storm provided me with lots of perspective. To this day, the reason I appreciate the things we have in this country is due to my experiences over there. I can always say I’ve eaten worse, I’ve slept in worse places and after having gone 45 days with no shower, I’ve been dirtier.

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J.P.: Is it possible for people to serve in a war, then return back to normal sans any hiccups?

D.P.: No. Absolutely not. There is a reentry phase that everyone goes through on regular deployments, much less one where you and your loved ones don’t know if you’re coming back. I saw so many families ripped apart during that deployment. One guy’s wife was pregnant with his brother’s baby. Wives of some Marines were moved in with other guys, or simply left with no warning. Of the Marines that had their family intact, several struggled due to the adjustment that comes with the husband reentering the family. Wives were forced to take care of everything from getting the car repaired, yard taken care of, getting the kids where they needed to be and handling the finances. If Dad walks in after being gone for nine months and tries to pick up where he left off, it never ends well. I haven’t even mentioned dealing with PTSD and all that comes with that.

J.P.: You now work with students with significant emotional/behavioral disorders, as well as a counselor for at-risk kids and their families. A. How did you enter the field? B. Why did you enter the field? C. Are there ever kids it’s impossible to help?

D.P.: After serving my last tour as an instructor for my military occupational skill (MOS) school in Athens, GA, I decided to continue in the education field. I enjoyed teaching and mentoring young people, and thought I could help kids have a positive school experience. The other reason I decided to go into teaching was the schedule. I wanted so spend weekends, holidays, spring break and Christmas break with my kids. I chose special education because I had a very shitty school experience, failing two grades and graduating 400th of 420 students, so I wanted to be involved with kids who were struggling and do my best to help them have a positive experience.

Not having a teaching certificate, the only place that was willing to hire me was a school where certified teachers avoided. It was a school for kids with the most significant of emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). I was woefully unprepared for the job, but while teaching I was also going through a special education master’s program. I had a great professor, Dr. Jeff Waller, who was instrumental in helping me understand how to help those kids. They are the most at-risk kids and get the least-qualified people to provide them with services. The kids are very hard, so most teachers don’t last three years. The school system doesn’t embrace the methods needed to shape behaviors in a manner where kids enjoy school, learn coping skills needed to successfully manage their behaviors so they can move back into the general education classroom.

Despite transitioning kids at rates research doesn’t support, I always got pushback from some administrator who didn’t know anything about helping kids with EBD. I wanted to begin a parenting program during the evening, to be held once a week for six weeks. It wasn’t going to cost the school much at all. Parents would be provided childcare, dinner and transportation if needed, but the district sat on it and never gave me the authorization to do it. This is when I decided to go into counseling. I joined an agency as a Community Support Individual (CSI), teaching parenting classes, social skills to at risk kids, and anger management. This work led me to enroll in the master of social work program at the University of Georgia. It’s been a great experience, and has really opened my eyes to the effects of childhood trauma and how it impacts brain development. I’ve also begun to understand the inequalities that exist in this country. It’s definitely made me more liberal minded. I like to call myself a compassionate Libertarian.

Are there any kids who are impossible to help? Maybe. Definitely some who are unable to be helped in a school setting. I do think every kid can be helped if given enough time and a different environment. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic.

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With wife Jean.

J.P.: What does it feel like to fire a weapon at another human being? Can you remove yourself from any emotion at the moment? Does it stick with a person forever?

D.P.: I am thankful for not having that experience. As a young Marine, I couldn’t wait to engage the enemy and send some rounds his way. After seeing the droves of “enemy” surrendering to anyone that would take them, I developed a different perspective. Those guys have families. They have kids wondering where they are and if they’ll ever see their dad again. Of course, if they were shooting at me, I’d feel differently. I’d have no problem defending myself and my fellow Marines without hesitation.

J.P.: How did you feel about the decision to allow gays to serve openly? When you were serving, did you ever know you had gay co-workers? If so, did it distract, bother, etc?

D.P.: I was fine with that decision. I also know plenty of Marines that really didn’t care one way or the other. I’ve served with several Marines, male and female, who I knew were gay. They never came out and said it, but everyone knew and no one really cared. I chuckled at the doom and gloomers who were quick to proclaim the end of good order and discipline because citizens who happened to be gay were going to serve. Ridiculous.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your life?

D.P.: Of course, every single time one of my boys was brought into this world. Having a kid who every adult in his life had given up on, tell me I was the reason he loved school was a show stopper for me.

J.P.: Lowest?

D.P.: In October of 1986, I was arrested for drinking and driving in Monroe Louisiana. I was 19-years old, and had already flunked out of my first semester of junior college. I spent the night in jail and was planning on spending whatever sentence I was going to receive in lieu of paying a fine because I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t want to tell my parents. They found a card from the bail bondsman the night before my court date. I’m from Vicksburg, so court was 85 miles away, and my mom insisted on going with me. Having my mother watch me stand before a judge due to my stupidity was a horrible experience. I’ll never forget the look on her face. While I was prepared to do the time, the judge called my mother up to the bench and said “Ma’am, you don’t want your boy to spend 10 minutes in this jail, much less 30 days.” I agreed to let her pay the fine for me because I could see the worry on her face. To add insult to an already bruised ego, they locked me up again until my mother got back from the bank to pay the fine. I spent the next five years paying outrageous amounts for insurance, and getting a sobriety test any time a police officer pulled me over for speeding.

J.P.: What made you want to join the marines? And what was the training like? Hardest part? Ever think you might quit? Does the experience of serving match what one thinks it’ll be like?

D.P.: I was finishing concrete for a living in Jackson, MS. The guy I worked for was a great man. He really mentored me and pretty much talked me into joining so I could better myself. He had served in the Army and really regretted getting out. One day, we were putting in a walkway for one of his friends and he really had a nice house, nice car, four-wheelers, a nice boat, and he was my boss’s age but looked 10 years younger. He was retired from the Army. That really made an impression on me, but more than that, I did not want to spend another summer finishing concrete in Jackson, Mississippi! My plan was to serve for four years, get my G.I. Bill and go back to school. I ended up loving it and made a career out of it.

Having been through two-a-days for a hard-nosed football coach, followed by spending two years as a concrete finisher, the physical aspects of Marine Corps boot camp didn’t bother me. The training was fun. Learning close order drill, going through the obstacle course, confidence course, throwing grenades, etc. … was an absolute blast. The last phase of boot camp, we are in the field for a couple of weeks and that was the most physically demanding time. Parris Island is a very hot place to be from May–thru-August!

The hardest part of boot camp is just getting yelled at all the time. The constant screaming at you takes a toll. I never took it personally, but lots of recruits do. It just gets very annoying, but the thought of quitting never crossed my mind.

With anything people are scared to do, it’s never as bad as you think it is. If you want to get through boot camp, you’ll get through it. They want you to get through it. If the attrition rate gets too high, it’s goes from “The recruit couldn’t hack it,” to “Why can’t you train these recruits?” After getting you all pumped up about being a Marine, getting out to the fleet is a bit of a letdown. Staying motivated on a level one gets to in boot camp is simply unsustainable.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH DENNY PETTWAY:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): John McCain, Bobby Grich, Heavy D, Oakland, pretzel sticks, Memphis Grizzlies, minty toothpaste, Might Mighty Bosstones, neon luggage, Walton Payton, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup: Walter Payton, Heavy D, Bobby Grich, Oakland, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, pretzel sticks, minty toothpaste, Might Mighty Bosstones, neon luggage, Memphis Grizzlies, John McCain.

• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, please elaborate: Yes! My first time flying. I was 18-years old and headed from Jackson, MS to Los Angles. On the first leg to Dallas, the turbulence was horrible. The flight attendant knew it was my first time to fly and she could see that I was scared to death, so she came and sat next to me. I told her that if I land in Dallas, I was going to take a bus back to Jackson! She told me she’d been flying for 30 years and this is the worst turbulence she’d ever been through. At one point, we dropped so far, a man came out of his seat and hit the overhead baggage compartment and landed on the floor. She talked me into heading on to LA, and to this day, it’s the worst flying experience I’ve ever had.

• Five reasons to make Vicksburg, Mississippi your vacation destination: 1. The Vicksburg National Military Park. It’s the second largest Civil War battle field park next to Gettysburg. It’s a great place to learn about the battle of Vicksburg. Vicksburg is the only city in our nation to ever be under siege; 2. The mighty Mississippi. A river boat tour is a must; 3. The Old Courthouse Museum. Really neat place where lots of civil war and other history are on display; 4. Biedenharn Candy Company museum where Coca Cola was first bottled; 5. The mansions. Cedar Grove, Anchuca, McNutt and Martha Vick houses, and others. Great walks through history.

• I have no faith in God. Tell me why I’m wrong: Wow, that’s a tough one. As someone who struggles with my own faith from time to time, I don’t know if I’m qualified to do that. One thing I do know—Historical Jesus was a great guy. What a great model to live by. What a great example of how to treat others. I doubt he would be able to recognize Christianity today though. If he were back here in physical form, and took it all in, I don’t think he’d be a Christian.

• Favorite band or singer that begins with the letter R: REO Speedwagon … what a great show!

• Greatest advice you’ve ever received: “You’ve already done 10 years, if you get out you’ll regret it. Things will get better, stick it out for the next 10.” — Master Gunnery Sergeant Bill Bolesworth

• Seven favorite movies of all time: 1. The Bourne Identity; 2. The Bourne Supremacy; 3. The Bourne Ultimatum; 4. The Bourne Legacy; 5. Jason Bourne (On my list without seeing it yet … I’m sure it’ll be great!); 6. Full Metal Jacket; 7. Siege of Firebase Gloria

• Strangest place you’ve ever gone to the bathroom?: While in Saudi, we had shitters manufactured by Navy Seabees out of plywood. They built small shacks that had a bench with three holes next to each other. The bottom third of a 55 gallon drum was placed underneath each hole and they were pulled and burned with kerosene while some poor schmuck stirred it. The stench was so bad, you had to wear a gas mask to go in there.

• You have five boys. What’s the key to raising them well?: Model the behavior you want them to learn. Allow them to feel the pain of their poor choices without running over to fix it. This is the hardest thing to do but the most important. Provide love and empathy, but let the natural consequence teach the lesson, resist the urge to lecture, it doesn’t work. Encourage independence in all they do. Teach them to respect women by respecting their mother, even if you are divorced and especially if she’s not reciprocating. Every now and then, buy a homeless person a meal when you are with your kids. Teach your boys that sex is different for her than it is for them. While it’s like a Six Flags thrill ride for you, it’s likely going to be something deep and meaningful for her. Don’t take that from her just so you can go on a thrill ride.

Accept that you are going to screw up—a lot. Apologize to them—a lot. With five, this one is tough and I need to do a better job at it—spend individual time with each of them when you can.

• Best joke you know: George Carlin talking about the Olympics … Swimming isn’t a sport, it’s a way to keep from drowning!

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Peter Hudnut

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I love speaking with former Olympians, because being a former Olympian is a beast.

Think about it: You had this thing. And it was shiny and lovely and glowing. Everyone wanted it, but it was yours. You were an Olympian. A star. A man in his athletic prime, representing his country on the world’s largest stage.

And then (poof!) it’s over. And you’re one of us.

Peter Hudnut is a three-time member of the U.S. Olympic men’s water polo team who truly grasps the highs and lows of sports. In 2008 he was a key member of a squad that shocked Serbia en route to the silver medal. Four years later, hobbled by injuries, he was a bit player on the unit that found itself fighting for (glub) seventh. He looks back at his water polo career with bliss, but also a sense of “What if?” In short, he is an Olympian.

These days, Peter is a project manager and acquisitions analyst at the Ratkovich Company in Los Angeles. He digs Lake Tahoe, has no use for Third Eye Blind and goes down as one of the greats of American water polo history.

Peter Hudnut—to hell with another medal. You’ve got the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So since we’re in the midst of the Rio Games, I have to start with your experience. You were a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that earned a silver after very few experts had you in the medal round. And yet, you’ve expressed dismay, sadness over not winning gold. I don’t totally get that. Please explain. And where’s the medal?

PETER HUDNUT: Honestly, I still have sadness from Beijing. I am clearly extremely proud of our team, our effort, and it was an event that truly changed and enhanced my life.

It is sad, because we worked so hard, overcame so many obstacles, had so many people doubt us, that seeing it through to the end would have been one of, if not the, greatest team journey in recent history. When you think about that semifinal game against the Serbians, I would say—with full belief—that this was a greater upset than the 1980 U.S. hockey team beating Russia. We had played them more than 25 times and won twice—both times in the United States during team fundraisers while the Serbians brought a young team and were on vacation. And in the Olympics we crushed them.

At a team event before that Olympic Games one of our athletes, well into his 30s at the time, said, “Let’s prove everyone wrong and win our bracket.” Our bracket was Serbia, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Croatia—a tough, tough bracket. And we did it. We simply hoped to win gold for each other, for all of those who sacrificed for us, for those who believed in us and for the country we love. Falling short hurts.

J.P.: You were in third grade when you wrote this poem:

I wish I was an Olympian.

I would run, jump and do the softball throw.

If I won, I would proudly carry my flag.

I wish I was an Olympian.

Sweet, cute—but why? What was it about being an Olympian, as opposed to, say, a Major Leaguer or an astronaut? And does being an Olympian live up to the hype? Was it what you’d dreamed of?

P.H.: That was right around the 1988 Olympic Games and I think it was then that I learned—most likely from my parents—that the Olympics is about constantly pursuing excellence and becoming the very best you can be.

I had been held back in school for learning disability and felt very dumb. My family members are crazy accomplished and smart, and I think I needed something to focus my passion and my insecurity. The Olympic motto—Citius, Altius, Fortius (swifter, higher, stronger)—taught me to simply push forward and become better. Shortly after 1988 I met Rich Corso, who handed me a baby blue bag. In it was a Speedo, a water polo hat and water polo ball. Coach Corso said to me that by becoming a student of the game, by working harder than everyone else and by never giving up, water polo could get me to the Olympics. That was it. Locked in and focused. At 13 I started playing and since age group wasn’t quite big yet, I was thrown in with older kids and then an ‘old man’ group and they only increased my passion for the sport. I was very very lucky to have great mentors and teachers in the sport. Jim Toring—one of the greats. Ricardo and Tony Azevedo, and Coach Corso. They all taught me the passion for the sport in my early teens and with it the four Ds (Desire, Determination, Dedication, Discipline).

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J.P.: You’re an all-time great American water polo player. You’re from California. You play a sport that depends on large amounts of water in pools. We’re in the midst of a crippling drought that is rendering the state dry. Am I wrong in finding it sorta, eh, messed up that we’re filling up all these pools when parts of the state have, literally, gone dry?

P.H.: Ha! It could be seen that way I suppose! If being serious, I would argue that having the pools recycle water, or even filtering water through gray water recycling systems so schools can recycle all water used to water their sports fields, or water fountains, or sprinklers, etc. I think these concepts need to become more efficient going forward.

 J.P.: I never knew much about water polo until moving to California two years ago. Then my daughter started playing—and I friggin’ LOVE it. Like, love love. It’s exciting, fast-paced, engrossing. So I ask, Peter, why isn’t it more popular here? It feels like a fringe American sport, even though it has many components the prototypical American sports fan loves.

P.H.: This is a great question and most everybody who watches a few games falls in love with our sport. My own mother ended up playing for a few years after she watched me play for a long time and met Tony Azevedo’s mom, Libby, who started a women’s team. The short answer is probably TV. In the United States, we are behind Hungary, Italy and many other European nations that have learned how to best shoot/film water polo over years of trial and error. Light reflecting off of the water long plagued good TV perspective. Also, much like hockey, the environment is half of the contagion. Feeling the tempo, the force, the power of the shooters is truly impressive in person and might not translate. Sadly I think there is a slight stigma still regarding men in Speedos, which is ridiculous and ancient or immature thinking ….

J.P.: So I’ve covered many athletes from many genres, and one thing that always strikes me is the difficulty of adjusting in the aftermath of a season. Yet, with the Olympics, it seems 1,000 times more harsh. All this buildup, hype, buildup, excitement, nationalism, the Village, flags—then, pfft, it’s done. Over. What’s that like? How did you handle it?

P.H.: Adjusting post-Olympics is tough, no question about it. Being so solely focused for so long makes you unsure of what’s next. For many athletes, finding your passion and drive and next goal is quite hard. I wanted to join the Navy after 2004, then my coach got a job for me playing in Italy and since I was only an alternate on that team, I jumped at the opportunity. After 2008, age, injuries and a desire to become a ‘grown-up’ turned my focus to real estate and business school. Given the state of the economy in November of 2008, I hoped for b-school, and was truly lucky to land at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

Then in 2012 I was fortunate to be reconnected with the boys, as I had a few injuries right before London. Five days after London, I was in New York City training for my job at Goldman Sachs. I definitely was a little depressed after all three ventures. It’s hard to explain because you feel so lucky and blessed to have had such a beautiful and unique opportunity … I mean, representing your family, your friends, your country … that’s truly an amazing experience. Yet you still are haunted by results and the tyranny of what-ifs. With team sports especially, you lose the gold. Pure and simple. It could be your best game ever but you still, as a unit, were beaten!

One more thing. In the Olympic village you feel like you are floating in the clouds for a few weeks. Imagine, 10,000 athletes all at their very best—the energy is electric, palpable, invigorating. It is truly amazing thing. Leaving is hard, and many athletes go through a little depression after such a high. I did. Water polo players tend to be a little older as well, which I think makes it even harder. At the end of the day you miss the mission, the bonding and the fun.

J.P.: My son refuses to even consider water polo because he says the Speedos look ridiculous. I’m gonna be honest—sorta agree. Do you? And is there any possible way for water polo to go Michigan Fab Five ’91 and break out a baggy shorts-esque fashion statement? Or is it athletically unrealistic?

P.H.: Let’s face facts—Speedos are weird! I don’t like them, especially now with my more robust physique! Water polo is about speed, wrestling, positioning. Truly, baggier, less-tight clothing allows for your opponent to potentially grab and gain advantage more easily. So, sadly, baggy is athletically unrealistic. If board shorts were aerodynamic, less heavy, and hard to grab, we would switch in a heartbeat.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

P.H.: There are so many great moments. My first time representing the U.S. overseas; the first time I learned to shoot a Hezi; the first time we won NCAA with such a special group of guys in 2001. But the best moment was that semi-final game in 2008. It was individually probably the game I am most proud of. I had to get out and duct tape my face to cover up a wound on my eyebrow; there was another cut on my lip in the last seconds; our team was the most selfless I’d ever experienced in that game. No one wanted to count his goals, or cared about anything but winning. It was amazing.

The lowest game was the end of the last Olympics in London. I had lost my front teeth two months before the Olympics, I tore my ulnar-collateral ligament three weeks before the Olympics (Tommy John surgery is the fix); and our Olympics didn’t go as we planned. I am blessed to have been there to compete with my brothers, but I wasn’t quite able to help my team as I hoped, which broke my heart. The last game—fighting for seventh place—is a terrible place to be in.

On top of that I was sad that it would be my last time representing the USA as a player. I didn’t get much run in that game ,which just made the fight in me stew. I cried at the end and tried to take in the moment for the last time. That was a hard few days and that is the sadness that is hardest to move beyond.

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J.P.: You had a very close relationship with Jim Toring, a former UCLA water polo player who died in 1998 at age 23. I was wondering how his passing impacted you? Short term? Long term? What did you learn from him? How did he influence you? How often do you think of him?

P.H.: Jimmy and his dad used to drive me down to national team practice to watch and study when I was 14 and 15. That was such a lucky time for me and one I thought would never end. His passing was such an incredibly hard time for me. The last time I spoke with Jimmy he said that he hoped we could play on the national team together one day. My jaw dropped and I stood there just looking at him like he was crazy.

The morning he died I can vividly remember my father entering my room at about 5:45 in the morning. He rested his big mitt on my back and whispered, “Pete, Jimmy’s gone. He died this morning.” I don’t remember the rest. That day at school some of the teachers who knew him, as well as Coach Corso and I, had a wonderful moment of remembrance. But it was difficult time for all who knew and loved Jimmy.

J.P.: OK, I’m going off the farm with this one. Your last name is “Hudnut.” That strikes me as a toughie as a kid. No? Yes? Details, please …

P.H.: Hudnut as a kid SUCKS! Even as an adult. Our Olympic team had a plethora of nicknames for me, especially because they knew it would sometimes fire me up. The lucky thing is that I was always big and never minded standing up for myself. So it could have been worse. Some of my nicknames I didn’t mind. Like Nut, Bignut, Nutter. Those are fine.

But Butt-Nut, Nutter-Butter, Thudnut, No-Nut, Numbnuts. No thank you.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH PETER HUDNUT:

• One question you would ask Mario Chalmers were he here right now?: I don’t know who that is so—”Who are you?”

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Roger Clemens, Sebastian Janikowski, Lake Tahoe, cigarette smoke, Herman’s Hermits, Third Eye Blind, golf, Malcolm X, “Catch Me If You Can”: Lake Tahoe, golf, “Catch Me if You Can,” Malcolm X, Roger Clemens, Sebastian Janikowski, Herman’s Hermits (I know they are a band but I don’t know their music), Third Eye Blind, cigarette smoke.

• Three memories from your first date: I don’t remember my first-ever date. But here are three from my first with my wife: 1. I was late; 2. I cooked a terrible meal and only had vanilla vodka and cranberry juice. Gross; 3. Though it was a blind date, I was almost immediately head over heals.

• Five greatest water polo players of your lifetime: Revaz Tchomakhidze (Russian 2m man. He was simply phenomenal); Petar Trobojovic (One of the best players, friends and teachers I had in the sport); Dusko Pjetlovic (He was a dominant center in 2008 and a great player); Manuel Estearte (Great player. Tiny guy, who proved that will, technique, and understanding the game can overcome any size delta); Tony Azevedo (I think what he has accomplished is incredible and having seen his growth as a player for over 20 years has been a pleasure).

• Let’s say we take Bo Jackson in his athletic prime, or someone like Aaron Rodgers or Serena Williams. Can we presume they’d be able to be excellent water polo players based purely on ungodly athleticism?: Interesting question. At the highest level, water polo is a selfless, hyper-physical team sport. Many people can’t manage the level of training required for water polo. You make no money, get no meaningful glory and have to train 8-10 hours per day if you want to be competitive (that includes the studying and video time before a season or Olympics). These people could do the hours, but the type of physical and mental demands, along with many peoples discomfort with the water, are what drive people away. It is a hard sport. I would love to see such natural athletes like Bo in our sport. That would be awesome.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: We dropped hundreds of feet—but never quite enough to make me think we’d die. I remember when we dropped, I cursed. Then laughed. And then I thought that I haven’t accomplished enough, nor done enough, for the greater good yet …

• Sometimes I have to sneeze, and I use my forearm to catch it. If I don’t have a tissue nearby, what should I do with the lingering snot?: Own it. Everyone sneezes; its gross; but what are you gonna do? If I’m at a pool, I’d probably grab a towel whether its mine or not—shouldn’t admit that, but it’s true. Otherwise, own it and apologize to those who notice.

• Seriously, the drought. What to do?: Make gray water mandatory for all future development; all showers must be timed and tracked; utilize ocean water; penalties for over consumption. And if all else fails, we need to find another place to steal it from. After all, LA only exists because of that.

• Why do you think sooooo many athletes have tattoos? I’m sorta inclined to believe it’s linked to ego and self-worship, but I’m probably wrong: So I have the Olympic rings next to my heart on my side-rib cage. For me it is a link to the principles that helped form who I am today as a man. Also, after the accomplishment it seemed like a nice goodbye.

I think for many it is ego, for many it is simply a product of this day and age. Tattoos for many are expressive and speak to the core of who they are. For others it’s a look-at-me thing. But who am I to judge? I believe in why I got mine and am happy with it. If you do it, make it meaningful and part of who you are, not what you are.

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Cathy Venus

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This marks the 267th edition of the Quaz Q&A, and I have a few observations to share:

• 1. Journalists garner the most reads.

• 2. Actors garner the fewest reads.

• 3. Folks who work in various sex industries draw the most chatter.

I suppose none of this is particularly surprising. Writers like reading about other writers. There are about 50 million websites featuring profiles of actors and actresses. As for the sex industry, well … um … it’s fascinating. It’s unique. It’s both familiar and uncomfortable; titillating and distracting. Today’s Q&A marks my fourth interview with someone from the world of erotica, and it’s always (without fail) riveting.

Cathy Venus is not the real name of today’s Quazette. Away from her role as an erotic hypnotist, she’s a wife, a step-mother, a woman with a career in the music business. But here, off the beaten path, she works to master—in her words—”the mental arts with a sensual touch.”

One can follow Cathy on Twitter here, and visit her website here. She loves Bernie Sanders and Garfield, hates flying and chicken hearts and seems to have no opinion on the stylings of Karl-Anthony Towns.

Cathy Venus, you’re Quaz No. 267 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: You are an erotic hypnotist. Which means, specifically, what?

CATHY VENUS: The term erotic hypnotist means I am a practitioner of the mental arts with a sensual touch. I am additionally a Professional Dominant Goddess who specializes in the guidance of submissive subjects who wish to explore real change from within themselves.

J.P.: It seems like men are more sexually pathetic than women. We visit strip clubs, we read Playboy, we jerk off over 1,000,000 different websites. I hate how we’re wired—but it seems like the wiring is what it is. Agree with my take? Disagree? Why?

C.V.: I don’t think you should hate yourself. Men are the same as women. Men are actually just more vocal about their sexual frustrations perhaps. One thing I can tell you is, I have lots of online experience with men who long to be, or even pretend to be, women. And some of them are very feminine and quite convincing! There really is little difference.

J.P.: I would think for one to be hypnotized he/she would have to be in your presence, some trinket dangling, soft music, visual stimulation, etc. How can hypnosis work via phone?

C.V.: Trinket-dangling is mostly from the movies. Many everyday folks visit psychologists who perform hypnotherapy in 2016. This is hardly something strange or taboo anymore. In person is of course excellent, but phone or Skype sessions, as I do them, for the purposes they are done, can work effectively, yes. A subject can be affected by visual, auditory, as well as kinesthetic (physical) stimuli.

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J.P.: How did this happen for you? What’s your life path? When did you first realize you could do hypnosis? Do you have a day job? Spouse? Kids?

C.V.: I always had the self-taught or natural ability for Hypnosis and NLP, however it took me a while to realize my potential and hone my talents. I learned by experimenting on those minds around me, using linguistics, pacing, and a few other techniques. My career path is private but I will volunteer that it’s within the arts, meaning music business as well as stage performance. I and married with two step kids.

J.P.: Your Twitter line is all about hypnosis—unless it’s about Bernie Sanders. Two questions: Along the lines of the ol’ “Republicans buy sneakers, too” Michael Jordan line, didn’t you worry about involving politics into your business profile? B. Now that Sanders is not in the running, can you support Clinton? Why, why not?

C.V.: Well, actually, I rarely post anything other than about my work but occasionally I may post about certain people I look up to. Politically yes, you are right, I did endorse Bernie Sanders, and no, I won’t be voting for Hillary, but will be supporting Jill Stein. I won’t support Hillary for many reasons, but the main explanation would be a lack of trust in her character, as well as her track record on certain issues important to me.

J.P.: What does a session with a client usually entail? How long does it last? What’s it supposed to accomplish?

C.V.: A Skype session with a client usually will be one hour long. It consist basically of some casual talk, followed by some mind-bending deep trance. I will take the subject on any journey I feel is needed to enhance their studies. Most subjects purchase my “studies” and allow themselves to go under while listening to my mp3 files. These files are necessary programming and allow me to take them deeper and further, as well as have the live sessions to be more effective.

J.P.: I once heard a hypnotist say something along the lines of, “I’m a guide, but I can’t change anything in you, or make you different.” Is that true? Or, in other words, what can a hypnotist do for a person? And how much of that is actually self-generated by the client?

C.V.: That of course depends on what techniques are being employed. Simple hypnosis can of course effect change if a subject allows it to happen. The subject must be a willing participant. That being said, I do have several clients who like to struggle and fight against what I do, but that is a certain fetish they have. They realize that the techniques of NLP and entrainment I use will take effect regardless of the conscious mind, or ego, and they like it. So the answer is, when it comes to what I do, yes, I can effect total change without the permission of the subject’s conscious mind.

J.P.: Best career story, worst career story?

C.V.: Worst is when I have stalkers who try all kinds of tricks to avoid paying me for my work. They always fail. Also I have had an instance where another Hypnodomme was jealous and curious about my work and why I was gaining such popularity and she actually made one of her clients book a session with me and record it to try to steal some of my stuff. Pathetic if you ask me. Of course I found out about it. I always do. No-one can hide anything from me. Best case is when a person who has psychological issues as well as a bad taste as well as a feeling of shame from previous hypnosis, and who now loves it and believes it to be a beneficial thing.

J.P.: What do your relatives think of this career choice? Do you talk about clients over, say, dinner? Is it hush-hush? Do your parents know? Care?

C.V.: My vocation as a Pro Domme and Erotic Hypnotist are private. I do confide in my husband about my work but that’s it.

J.P.: It seems like, in the online world of sexual stimulation, it’d be impossible to find footing. I mean, there are endless options for endless tastes, treatments, etc. So how does one separate herself? How do you stand out from the crowd?

C.V.: I decided in the beginning to stand apart, and stick to my guns with real and actual hypnosis. Every other hypnodomme is either a glorified phone-sexer, or has men writing for them. I knew that if I threw my name in with the rest I would end up being seen in the wrong light. What they do is fine, but it’s simply not what I do, nor is it even close. There are one or two Hypnodommes who are decent but even they still do audio-porn and sexual favors for clients. I don’t do that. To me there is a world of difference between D/s and eroticism, and flat out prostitution.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH CATHY VENUS:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Garfield, Karl-Anthony Towns, granola cereal, The Bee-Gees, Gene Simmons, wood paneling, Penn State, wedding registries, Banana Republic, Aerosmith, strawberry milk: 1. Garfield. All is Garfield and Garfield is all.

• Best advice you ever received: Be yourself. I also love the litany against fear from Dune: “I must not fear, fear is the mind killer …”

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Every time I get on a plane. You are in a small vessel in the middle of the vast sky and the only thing that keeps you from being swallowed up by it, is the wall of the plane. Flying always makes me ponder my own mortality and how fragile life really is. In May of this year, I was on a flight that had some bad turbulence. Due to storms, we had to be re-routed and land in a different airport. The lights went out and the plane shook so badly it made me bump into the guy sitting next to me. We hadn’t spoken the entire trip, strangers on a plane seldom do. He smiled with a look on his face that said “we’re probably going to do die so, hi”. We started talking after that. There’s no better icebreaker than the possibility of dying next to a stranger.

• Would you rather grow a second nose or spend 12-straight days licking the handlebars in New York City’s endless supply of subway cars?: 12 days licking the handlebars. I’m a big-picture thinker. Noses are forever.

• Three memories from your senior year of high school: 1. Getting suspended; 2. Being in a musical; 3. Rollerblading and listening to Weezer.

• Why the name “Cathy Mitsuko Venus”? I am Goddess Cathy, descended from the line of Ishtar aka Venus. The nickname I sometimes borrow, Mitsuko, is a Japanese name. It’s the name of a central female character of many of Sion Sono’s films. He’s my favorite filmmaker. I had the fortunate experience to meet him at the Toronto International Film Festival a couple of years ago.

• What’s the No. 1 thing people not understand about erotic hypnosis?: That it should not just be audio porn. A subject must be willing to truly be taken deep, rather than just “get off”. That’s not hypnosis. Many subjects prefer the fantasy of it, rather than actually be tranced. I prefer true subjects who want to explore their desires rather than just to get off in the moment. One bit of advice: don’t trust your mind to amateurs and charlatans, you are only harming yourself.

• What happens after we die?: I would never presume to know. I will have to get back to you on this one after I die. I will try my best to haunt you 😉 I just presumed to know that I would be able to haunt you by saying that. All humans are hypocrites.

• What’s the strangest food you’ve ever tried? And why did you try it?: A chicken heart. Because a bossy relative made me. It was disgusting!

This is my all-time favorite song. Thoughts?: I’m familiar with this song. It’s sad and beautiful.