No Wonder You Were Afraid to Ask #39 – Bryan Mahoney – He’s Been a Sailor, Writer, Ghost Observer, and a Connoisseur of Ranch Dressing.

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Bryan Mahoney is a writer, communications consultant, and perpetual volunteer who lives in Los Angeles. He was born in Buffalo, NY. He arrived in Los Angeles by way of Rochester, Boston, Burbank, and finally Los Angeles. Currently, he is in the third National Novel Writing Month Los Angeles short story anthology. It’s called “Meet the Systems: Stories of Regimes, Formulas & Schemes” and is available on Amazon. Click here for the website. He is passionate about Buffalo wings. Having grown up in Buffalo Bryan said, “It’s nearly impossible to get them anywhere that does them right. And in California, forget it – you don’t serve ranch with wings. It’s bleu cheese or leave them alone”

Bryan is really proud of his continuing writer’s group in LA, he added, “My wife and I started it three years ago and the group is collaborating on a short story collection.” He’s been a sailor, a writer, a ghost observer and a connoisseur of ranch dressing. Also, he enjoys writing stories for people on his 1941 typewriter. He said, “I charge $20 a story and I give the money to a cat rescue in LA called GeeKitties.”

If you are in Los Angeles check him out this weekend! he will be calling a Star Wars themed Bingo on Nov. 20 – Geeky Teas, Sunday, November 20, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., 2120 W Magnolia Blvd, Burbank, CA 91506, $10 door fee for the event.

He shared the following story which he said describes his life, “I find myself in weird situations, often made possible by the fact that I lived the life of a roaming journalist for most of my adulthood. I also worked in the merchant marines once as a yeoman on a training ship. While we were in Lisbon, Portugal a bar named a drink after me: The Amaretto Bryan. While working at a newspaper in Massachusetts I once asked Noam Chomsky to write a guest essay about his favorite places to grab a coffee. He declined, but only because he had too many writing projects at the time. Isaac Hayes once called me his homey, and I almost accidentally ran over Cher with my car.

Catch Bryan in all is Glory all over the Web here:

Website: http://818newguy.tumblr.com/
Instagram: @818newguy

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Enjoy his awesome answers to the Bonus Questions!

What is one meal or food you could eat every day and not get tired of?

I have spent many years trying to recreate the best sandwich I’ve ever had. In the intervening years since college, I’ve tried to get close. I enjoy watching the face of the wait staff as I ask for the whole bowl of ranch dressing that goes with it; the emotions range from bemusement to shock to revulsion. I went to a small Catholic college in Rochester, N.Y. Nearby was a 24-hour Perkins diner. You can find them in the Midwest and Northeast. They have a sandwich that is everything right in the world: A chicken tender melt (http://www.perkinsrestaurants.com/menu/lunch-and-dinner/handhelds/) which is fried chicken, bacon, pepper jack cheese and grilled sourdough. What makes it amazing though is the process of eating it, and you won’t find this process on the menu:

1) Order a bowl (large enough to dunk a sandwich in) of ranch dressing.
2) Ask your server for another bowl of Mexi-ranch, which is just half ranch dressing and half salsa mixed together.
3) Alternate dipping your sandwich in the ranch (take a bite) and Mexi-ranch (take a bite). Fries should just have ketchup – you don’t want to waste the ranch.

This combination will inspire you. It will simultaneously confuse and charge your taste buds and some of them will run to the back of your brain and start using your parietal lobe as a punching bag. You may experience a state of extreme euphoria and briefly lose track of time, only to find yourself back at home in bed wondering if the Chicken Tender Melt was all a dream. Or I may have been drunk; it was college after all.

What is your favorite City?

On our first trip to Ireland my wife and I took a driving tour of the southern counties. We’d been there for days yet still, we hadn’t just sat down in a pub to listen to music. Finally, we visited Galway on the west coast. It’s a college town and has some great history. As we wandered at night looking for a pub we found one with an amazing musician. He played many songs from his years wandering Australia in addition to the Irish standards. When his set was finished we chatted with him (my wife swears it was like watching me talk to an Irish version of myself – same mannerisms, same laugh). We left there and found another pub with old wood beams everywhere and dimly lit snugs … you walk into a place like that and the air is thick with a thousand conversations. You feel that something important could happen any minute and you set to talking. Though no one is listening you still feel a responsibility to pick the right topic. The pitch-black porter makes it easier. You leave a place like that half-stumbling to your hotel and you wonder, what gives a city life? Each place answers that question differently so it’s hard to pick a favorite. But I’ll be returning to Galway, that much I know.

Is there a non-profit you would like everyone to know about?

A few years ago a guy in Los Angeles opened his apartment door and a strange cat wandered in. The man knew he wasn’t in a place to adopt a pet yet here was this orange tabby, barely a kitten, announcing that he lived with this man now. The man took him to a friend who had helped rescue animals. That friend eventually started a nonprofit called GeeKitties which helps find cats a home (they can be found through http://geekyteas.com/). The little orange cat soon found a permanent place to stay – he’s napping next to my leg and his name is Fergus Hammertime.

Have you ever been told you look like a celebrity and did you ever use that to your advantage?

I was at dinner with my wife and some friends a couple years ago and the waitress told me I looked familiar. Without blinking, I said, “I’m Ewan MacGregor and I’m practicing my American accent for an upcoming movie. How am I doing?” The waitress’ eyes went wide. She complimented me and walked away. When she returned with our drinks we all laughed and told her the truth, but by that point, she didn’t believe us. When she left again we noticed her and the other wait staff whispering to each other and looking in our direction.

Give money to the beggar on the street or tell them to “Get a job!” Which one are you?

Both. I once interviewed the director of a resource program that helped homeless people develop routines like brushing their teeth, washing and changing clothes, and other daily tasks. The program helped re-introduce these habits to prepare them to live on their own and work up to getting a job. The director told me their biggest hurdle was outreach – letting people know that their program existed. If everyone could take up a little of that outreach for programs like that it would help.

What is the most adventurous thing you ever did?

Packed a truck with everything I owned and moved me, my girlfriend and her cat to Boston. None of us had a job; I was just convinced that the world’s last newspaper will be in New England (still feel that way) so I was sure I’d land something eventually. The cat did what a cat does. My girlfriend got a job in two weeks and we were OK for a few months until I found work; a credit card helped me pay for the engagement ring I gave her in the meantime.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

I once lived in a very old apartment building, art deco fixtures everywhere. The kitchen light would go off at strange moments, and one time we asked no one, in particular, to knock it off. The light came back on. But that’s not the spooky bit.

One night I was reading in my bed, head propped up on my hand. The main light in the room was an exposed bulb and it made things bright as morning. I was looking down at the book for about 10 minutes. In my periphery, just below the drawn shade of the window, a white ball appeared. I flicked my eyes up and it was gone. My heart raced. I knew this wasn’t a trick of a headlight on the street below or a flicker of the bulb above me. Something was in my room. I thought maybe it was tied to the fact that I was reading the Bible – I’d tried to read it cover to cover because in my 12 years of Catholic schooling there were giant sections they never taught in school (Song of Solomon was a rather steamy discovery). I abandoned the exercise somewhere in Leviticus during one of the long family tree sections where Jehoshaphat begat William who begat Connie who begat Doctor Sternberg who begat Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV who begat Jimmy the Fish who begat …

Anyway, a few nights later my roommate and I invited some friends over for board games and booze. The light bulb went out again, but we were in the living room so we let it be. We gathered around the coffee table, hunched over the game. I saw it again – the white spot flashed on the ceiling this time. A friend sat up and said, “What was that?!”, more nervous than one should be if seeing a flash from outside. She knew as I did: something strange was in that apartment.

What is one thing that you don’t know how to do, that you wish you did?

Play the bagpipes. I have too many hobbies as it is; don’t know if/when I’ll pursue a career in music. But never say never because …

Do you think you think it’s possible to have your dream job?

People shouldn’t be locked into thinking they have to do just one thing their whole life. If you found your calling and you’re happy, great. But I’ve met too many people lamenting they’re only doing this or that because it’s paying the bills while they pursue their dream job.

I got my dream job at 21. Two weeks out of college I was hired for a city beat at a small newspaper. I was well on my way to my career goal of the New York Times by 30; Pulitzer by 32; book by 35.

Except that was the year 2000, and the Internet happened. More specifically, Craigslist crushed it. You may attribute the newspaper industry’s sluggish response to free online content as its coffin nail but I remember watching as Classified Ads, the unsung heroes of the newspaper’s revenue stream, be solidly beaten by the disruptive model of Craigslist. This new service not only removed the content restrictions you got with a physical newspaper page but the entire thing was free! Hard to compete with something that had a broader reach, was more helpful to both the seller and buyer, and didn’t cost a dime.

I had many great mentors and teachers in newspapers. They taught me real skills. It helps that the writing, editing, and critical thinking of journalism are all very translatable to other jobs and industries. But I also had to be taught how to adapt those skills to other jobs as newspapers folded throughout my short career. I still wrote for newspapers part-time until 2015 but now I’m approaching 40 and still no Pulitzer.

I do, however, go to work every day and apply my creativity to challenges. I feel appreciated for what I do, and I have an opportunity to develop skills in others that they didn’t know they had.

I think people don’t always recognize that their dreams can change, and when that happens the definition of a dream job goes with it. A lot of us would just dream not to have to work.

But if you go to work each day and you find the art in it – if you work in a hotel and try to come up with new animals to make out of folded towels, or you’re a department store clerk trying to make every customer laugh at a silly joke, or you’re an executive trying to teach something new to an employee … you just might be living the dream.

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