Monthly Archives: July 2010

Hamburger Heaven: The Kewpee – Lima, Ohio

I count it a blessing to be born and raised in Lima, Ohio (pronounced Lye-mah, O-hi-A not Lee-mah, O-hi-O), because it is the home of the Kewpee Hamburger. Every town has its favorite hamburger joint, but few are as good as the Kewpee.

Being old school, I prefer the downtown location in the one-hundred block of North Elizabeth Street. It holds lot memories where me and my buddies in the late 50’s and early 60’s slid into a booth and chomped down on some serious burgers.

What Makes A Good Hamburger?

The Kewpee is not fancy or gourmet. It is fresh beef, fresh bun, with basic dressings like cheese, lettuce, and tomato. The condiments are catsup, mustard, onion, pickle, and relish. It is grilled not flame broiled. It is from this simple tradition on which I have been raised that I judge all hamburgers. A good steak should stand on its own before spreading any type of sauce on it. By that measure, the Kewpee stands on its own at the top.

Over the years, people have challenged my assertion. I have read about better hamburgers, but when tried, it is the extras that make them tasty. In other words, the burger does not stand on its own. Flame broiling over hickory, mesquite, charcoal, or apple wood often time covers the taste of an inferior burger. I’m talkin’ grilled meat on a bun not lightly seared boeuf de jour with a sprig of Tibetan parsley, a dash of Ethiopian sage, hollandaise sauce, Tunisian goat cheese, on a brick oven baked toasted French chive loaf all for 62 Euros. The Kewpee is an all-American, dirty nails, sweaty shirt, torn jeans, back aching, calloused hands, scraped knuckles, chipped tooth, two-day beard, blue collar burger made for everybody.

Old Friends, Old Stories, Good Memories At The Kewpee

Old friends will meet there by accident and end up talking for hours. Old people gather as they did when youngsters, the only variation in what they ate the first time is the price. Old men with their wives sit at the same booth they sat at their first date fifty years earlier when he had to dig deep into his jeans for enough change to buy a frosty. Sons and Daughters take Moms and Dads out for a burger. It was not so long ago the same Mom and Dad brought the same squiggling and unruly Son and Daughter there for a special treat.

The Kewpee is that common thread and experience that all from Lima have. No matter how far from Lima one may travel, the Kewpee is the anchor to home and each memory is a link in the chain.

While in the Army in ’68, by pure accident I ran into an old school mate at Ft Devens, Massachusetts. After a ‘what are you doing here?’ the next thing said was, ‘When’s the last time you had a Kewpee?’

An Army buddy from New Jersey overheard the conversation and asked, “What is a Kewpee?” I told him it is the best hamburger you will ever eat. “Look pal,” he said. “I’m from northern Jersey if the best ain’t there it’s in New York City.” A few years later, he visited his sister who attended college at Ohio Northern University about fifteen miles away. After having a burger at the Kewpee, he called me and declared himself a convert.

Anyone who moves away from Lima when they return, after giving Mom a hello, and hug head to the Kewpee.

Kewpee, Five Guys, & Wendy’s

On the other hand, I have some friends in Michigan. When they head south and pass by Lima, I tell them to stop in to the Kewpee on the east side of Lima just off Interstate 75. A few have and they are not that impressed with them, but they are from Michigan, what can you expect. They still think Detroit is the auto capital of the world and Bo Shembechler is still alive.

Just to prove I am not in the tank for all that hometown nostalgia crappola, a Five Guys Burgers and Fries opened about a mile or so from where I live. Pretty darn good. They have managed to put the emphasis on the meat and the bun, not the extras and the method.

Wendy’s is probably the best tasting and best made hamburger of the big chain burger joints. Legend has it that Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas, wanted to buy the Kewpee in the 60’s, but it was not for sale. A friend of mine, who knew Dave Thomas, told me that one time during the 60’s he saw him sitting in a booth at the Kewpee downtown. Thomas was taking notes. He told my friend he was going to open a place just like the Kewpee. Wendy’s is nothing more than a Kewpee knock-off.

Kewpee – The Movie

If I were to write a screenplay, it would have a Field of Dreams feel to it. I would call it ‘Grill of Dreams.’ My lead character would be sitting alone in a booth at the Kewpee eating a double with mustard, pickle and onion. A stranger walks in and asks, “Is this heaven?” The reply would be, “No it’s the Kewpee.”

I live two thousand miles from Lima now. I take my granddaughters to Five Guys, but it is not the same. As we sit there, I tell them stories about the Kewpee.

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Honest Talk About Websites, Blogs, and Twitter

Subheadings:
 The Internet Is A Lonely Place
 Getting Visitors To Your Website
 How To Write Good Tweets
 Choosing A Web Host Or Blog Host
 Making Money On The Internet
 What About Tweetomatic Profiteer?

Personal Perspective Of Jittery Goat

Subheadings:
 What Is The Jittery Goat All About?
 The Need For Redemption Is Instinctive
 Jittery Goat Short Stories
 Jittery Goat Novels
 Jittery Goat Essays

The Internet Is A Lonely Place

If indeed Al Gore invented the Internet, he invented a very lonely place. It is, in many respects, a place for lonely people. Because people gather on the internet, the library, or theaters does not make them crowded or communal. It is where people take their thoughts and feelings; to have them tested, enlightened, shared, altered, or even perverted.

A little more than two years ago I set up a website in that lonely place. I’d like to take some time to share what I’ve learned about setting up a site. Don’t expect the formula for running a successful website. It is probably the story of 99% of the websites. There are no graphs or exhaustive research data. It is just my experience. I did not want to poison the well with statistics and studies. Statistical probability tells you only how everybody else is doing – maybe. 

Getting Visitors To Your Website

Where was I? Oh right, it’s a lonely place and you want company.

If you want people to visit your lonely place – website, it must be unique and a place where people want to visit, because it has something they want.

My site is very unique. It has my writings and my writings only. It is the only place anyone will see my writings.

From the onset I knew that my community of visitors would be small. Frankly, who wants to read stuff from a guy who is uneducated, unknown, unaccomplished, and worked thirty years in a factory? Nevertheless I have taken some bold initiatives.

I sent emails to friends. I captured emails from emails received. Any place I saw an email address I sent an invitation to visit my site. This is akin to being an insurance salesman. You first sell insurance to friends and family – then what?

Of the 800 email addresses I sent invitations and updates, I know only about 20. Less than 10% of the 800 respond.  That was a lot of work for about 50 or 60 responses. I don’t send them anymore.

When you ask friends to read what you have written it sometimes leads to disappointment; first theirs and then yours. When you write something they don’t like, the reaction is as if they are saying, ‘if I knew you felt that way I’d never been a friend to begin with.’ Logic suggests that of course there are things we don’t like about everybody. I read Dave Berry, listened to Garrison Keilor, and Baxter Black and found things they wrote, said, and didn’t like and those guys are at the top.

Writing can sure make you lonely.

Then I tried Twitter.

How To Write Good Tweets

I opened Twitter accounts to invite Twitter-types to my site. The fact is that perhaps 98% of those on Twitter don’t know a noun from a verb and their reading levels are no more than menu pictures at McDonalds’s. (I exaggerate.) Nevertheless this has proved to be an effective tool in directing visitors to my site. (I hope I’m attracting the remaining 2 %.)

Writing a good ‘tweet’ is a skill in itself. Some people will go on about how brilliant they are in writing ‘Tweets,” but here is just a little advice from a nobody. It is like writing a headline or a haiku. It takes effort. It is an exercise in brevity. It is said it has to be done in 140 characters or less, but not really – it’s a 140 spaces. That’s fewer letters. Even a space counts against your 140 count. 

In those 140 spaces I try to pose problems, conflict, or raise questions that will grab attention and cause people to want to read further – then allow room for the link to my site. Often what I think is best written ‘tweet’ does not work and what I think won’t work does. The point is write concise and well. There are 5 steps to writing a good ‘tweet’: 1. Say it. Write it. Read it. Rewrite it. 2. Read it. Say it. Rewrite it. 3. Read it. Say it. Rewrite it again. 4. Put it away for a while. 5. Read it. Say it. Rewrite it. Say a prayer and hit “Tweet.” 

Incidently, along the way I broke some of Twitter’s spamming rules and they did something to make the account inactive. I opened new accounts. If you have multiple Twitter accounts TweetDeck is a good application to help manage them and its free.

Choosing A Web Host Or Blog Host

Before deciding who to use as a host for my site I did a little research. I found a few sites that rank the hosts. They are helpful because they give an overview of each host. I tried two before I settled on Homestead. It was by far the easiest for a novice, not internet savvy. It is nearly self explanatory. Sure I floundered around a bit, but learned a few things while floundering.

At first I used a template they provided, but eventually created my own format. It ain’t the best, but it meets my criteria – simple and easy to navigate.

The first of March I decided to duplicate my website into a blog. I opened up a free account with the top two – Blogger and WordPress. For my particular need WordPress works best.

Since the first of March, www.jitterygoat.wordpress.com has had over 6,000 visits. Nearly 5,000 of those visits were in May and June. The increases in those two months were because of aggressive use of Twitter and a deliberate effort to write about subjects that generate the most interest.

When first creating a website it was at lehmancafe.com, but after less than a year I began thinking about a name change. The name ‘Lehman’ had taken on a negative connotation and even if my name was “Gates or “Obama” I just felt funny about promoting my name.

One morning after my forth cup of coffee while sitting at my computer writing for the site I started to get the jitters. (You can already see where this is going.) Recalling what I heard about the discovery of coffee (a goat herder noticing that his goats began to jump around after nibbling on a strange bean) I came up with about ten variations of ‘dancing,’ ‘jumping,’ twitching,’ or ‘jittery’ goat. I submitted the names to my son. He thought ‘jittery’ was best. I agreed. So Jittery Goat it became.

During ‘lehmancafe’ phase about 4,500 visits came to the site. To date about the same number has come to www.jitterygoat.com. The first of March I created www.jitterygoat.wordpress.com. They were promoted equally on Twitter. After two weeks I noticed more people were visiting the WordPress site by far. I have no idea why. I can only speculate when people see ‘WordPress’ they may feel they are not going to see a lot of advertisements and the like.

You can create a website for the cost a domain name, around $10 (sometimes free) and $4 a month. There are even those that will host a site for free. Blogger and WordPress are free. Try each one out and see what is best for you

Making Money On The Internet

The website was never intended to make me rich or even put spending money in my pocket. There was an expectation that it would pay for itself.

I opened a Zazzle store and promoted it on my site. Zazzle is a company that allows you to design gifts to your taste and in your own internet store. Few visit the store from my site. Most visits come directly from people who find my store through Zazzle.com.

I have created t-shirts, coffee mugs, cards, and bumper stickers. I’ve sold a little of each, but not enough to defray my expenses. It’s a losing proposition on one hand, but on the other hand it is something I enjoy.

My web host, Homestead, offers a program called ‘Linkshare.’ You place ads on your site from participating businesses. If a visitor buys a product by clicking through your site you receive a commission.

At first I had five advertising businesses, but decided to simplify and display just one, Boca Java coffee. Get it jittery goat – coffee. I thought it was a natural fit. I haven’t sold one bag of coffee.

Recently I opened an account with Clickbank and display their ads on my site. Frankly I don’t have much hope for it.

What About Tweetomatic Profiteer?

I’m always on the look for something that will generate traffic to my site. Recently I came across a program called ‘Tweetomatic Profiteer.” I watched the video from their website and thought, ‘I need something like that.’

I did my research. I found not one negative thing said about the program. It is nearly Manchurian Candidate-ish. In the movie and book, The Manchurian Candidate, no one could say anything bad about Shaw. They were programmed to say nothing but nice things about him. Human experience and logic tell us when that occurs, something is afoul.

Randomly I visited about a half dozen ‘third party’ ‘unbiased’ review websites that tested the software. All the reviews were similar, as if written by the same person or same group of people, in the same room, or on the same network. After reading the ‘unbiased’ review you are linked to the Manchurian Tweeter.

All of these review sites were from the same mold. They had but one purpose: to sell the product they reviewed. Which leads me to wonder is this all a cleaver collaboration? Is the purpose of websites who review software only to sell it? Is that not a conflict?  Is the only money made on the internet by companies who sell software to small internet enterprises wanting more traffic and business?

If it works that’s great, but don’t (as I suspect) saturate the internet with bogus review sites. What is needed is a fourth party review to review the third party who may really be a cousin or nephew to the first and second party.

These guys are probably savvy enough to make certain that their websites are on the first page or ranked first on Google Search.

There is not magic potent or pill. Like every endeavor hard work and perseverance are needed. 

Personal Perspective

What Is The Jittery Goat All About?

I’ve been writing for over 75 weeks for my website and blog (an essay every week, a short story every two weeks, and a chapter to a previously written novel each week). I’ve never had writer’s block – come close. I seldom, though, have a chance to write what I want or how I really feel. Those thoughts are buried deep within my short stories and poetry. I’m always searching for a topic that’s on people’s minds and that can be written humorously. That’s a challenge.

I’m from the generation that stared at test patterns on the TV, first plastered the a transistor radio to their ear, served in an unwanted and unpopular war, saw a President assassinated, one resign, one that should have, saw men step on the moon, and people blow-up in the sky trying to go to space. I have lived though IMAX, Iphones, Ipads, and now living through I forgot, I don’t know, and I don’t care. I find myself most comfortable with people who are skeptical and cynical, but not to the degree of being downright negative or depressing. In other words they see or want to see the silver lining, but they are constantly aware of the dark cloud and are certain of its potential.

The Need For Redemption Is Instinctive

What is read early on influences you throughout life.  The first book that I read that deeply impressed me was To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch was a man born of principle. He did the right thing because to him it was the only thing to do. The book Billy Budd followed.  It left me thinking for weeks. The outcry of Billy Budd prior to his hanging impressed upon me the need to always be forgiving. “God bless you Captain Vere!” was Billy Budd’s cry to the captain responsible for his execution just before hung. Of course, Melville likely barrowed it from Jesus’ execution, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

In my early twenties I became more interested in the Bible, not as literature or a collection of lessons taught by narratives, but as God’s inspired message to man.  It has been the Bible that gives redemption and forgiveness context, reason, and form for the Billy Budd-like excited declaration. We do it because God forgives. It is good and healthy for us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Life is an unending chain of events of wrongs to us and as we have likewise done to others. Forgiveness is the only thing that makes sense. It gives depth and background for the Finch-like character I read about. Animals don’t retaliate for harm done to them, because they forget. Humans remember. Forgiveness is what prevents retaliation. It seems it is a quality that is unique in creation to humans.

Redemption seems, in some ways, an underlying thread in my writing. If not outright expressed it is often the reflex that pushes the key that forms the word that make the story.

The desire to make things right when we offend is universal as is the need to extend forgiveness. It comes natural. We can’t live without it or the hope it produces.

Jittery Goat Short Stories

The short stories on the Jittery Goat are around 1,000 words. That is to allow for about five minutes of deliberate reading. As of recent the stories have been much longer, but broken into episodes that can stand on its own as a story.

I don’t write characters that are larger than life with power, fame, and wealth.  I don’t even like books like that. The Great Gatsby bored me. That is not to say that I may never try my hand at it as an exercise. It is the amazing life of ordinary people I lean toward.

Short stories get to the point. It tells you all you need to know about a person or scene in as few words as possible. It trusts the reader to do some work. It begs the reader to add to the paragraph.

Few people enjoy short stories. Oprah said she didn’t enjoy them. I thought about taking her to court. Even if I loose maybe the publicity will bring attention to the short story writers.

Jittery Goat Novels

I’ve written four novels and started a half dozen others. The one that is currently on my site is Ice Too Thin. It was written over twelve years ago and has been safely stored on a disk all that time.

Another novel was entitled Summer of ’62. It is largely autobiographical. I had to condense events and characters that happened in a three year span into one summer. I will post it again this fall. It will be rewritten. A friend from my old stomping grounds read it and was able to pick out many of the characters because the names were very close.

Jittery Goat Essays

When the website was created in the winter of ’07 I started writing spoof articles about current events. Whenever I see anything in the news some bizarre twist always takes place in my mind automatically. I’ve always thought that way. Suddenly I was doing things on a website that I did in high school forty-five years ago and sharing it with anyone in the world who cares to read it. 

There are drawbacks to writing spoof articles. Some take them quite serious and even though you wish not to offend another person’s feelings or beliefs – you do. Some thought that I was pushing a conservative agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m politically neutral.

In September of last year I chose to write essays about things seen and experienced. Again, the potential misunderstanding my intent was ever present. I poke fun at a lot of things. When writing about the Gulf oil leak, one person wrote angrily, ‘what is your solution?’ I have none. What I write about sometimes has no human solutions. I cannot be so arrogant as to say my idea is so profound that it should be considered as dogma. Writers tend to be arrogant in that way.

The internet is a lonely place. Writing is a lonely place.

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