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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A little too off the cuff during talk to Kirtland Kiwanis

In the 1970s, the advice to Woodward and Bernstein was very simple.

Three little words.

“Follow the money.”

Washington Post writer Bob Woodward’s secret source, known as “Deep Throat,” and later confirmed to be former high-ranking G-man Mark Felt, consistently advised the young reporter to keep his eyes focused on campaign donations to President Richard Nixon during the investigation into the Watergate Hotel break-in.

The words were prophetic then and remain so today. In most cases, following “the money” will get you where you need to be to find out the details of what you’re looking for.

The “money” isn’t always cash. Sometimes it’s information.

When it comes to ideas for this column, I often follow the invitations.

In other words, if you invite me somewhere, you should expect me to write about it.

In most cases, I’ll let you know about it before it appears in the paper. Sometimes I forget, though.


Thursday night, the Kirtland Kiwanis Club learned that the hard way.

I let it slip during my speech to the group at its weekly meeting. It went something like this:

“Pretty much every time I get invited anywhere, I’ll write about it. So, you should expect to see something about this meeting in Saturday’s edition of The News-Herald. I usually don’t know what I’m going to write until afterward, but right now, it’ll probably have something to do with the fact that I just cussed.”

Yes, I slipped up and let a bad word fly. It wasn’t one of George Carlin’s seven magical words, the ones you can’t say on television.

It was one of the smaller ones — not the one that’s slang for a body part, or the one that describes the place you don’t want to go when you die.

To be honest, I don’t remember why I even said it. It was a modifier for something.

If you haven’t figured out which word it was yet, I’ll try to help you by discussing my preparation for this appearance:

When I learned they intended for me to speak for 10 to 15 minutes, I posted a paragraph about my concern on Facebook. It went something like this: “I am giving a speech next week, and the video I was counting on to coast me through at least half of the allotted time is only four minutes. Poor Kirtland Kiwanis. Their decision looks worse every day.”

I got lots of advice, including a suggestion to run the video twice. (I actually considered that one.)
When I said I would be spending my recent drive to Washington writing my speech, someone who shall remain nameless told me to go in noteless — “just riff dude!!”

I thought about it for a while and decided he might be right. Why come across as that speaker we’ve all been forced to listen to, who keeps their head down the entire time while reading from a prepared speech.

No, sir. Not me.

When it came time to start with a joke, as you’re always told to do, it went like this:

“One of my Facebook friends told me not to use notes tonight. If this goes well, I’m taking all the credit. If it goes poorly, I’m giving you all his name and phone number so you can call him and let him know what a big mistake he made.”

Lots of laughter. I relaxed.

But, then came the D-bomb.

As soon as I said it, I realized Mr. No-Notes was wrong. Or I was, for thinking I could go off the cuff in front of a crowd.

In hindsight, though, it helped me relax. Turns out, a little profanity was good for the heart rate.

Kirtland Kiwanis must not have been too upset about it, either, because they asked me to help judge the Miss Kirtland contest during next month’s Strawberry Festival.

Of course I said yes.

The Kirtland Kiwanis Club puts on quite an event with its all-volunteer staff. During Thursday’s meeting, I got a peek at how it all comes together, and was impressed by the teamwork the ladies and gentlemen have forged over the years.

Club members of this service organization that benefits Kirtland School District are constantly on the move working to improve the grounds at the district’s school complex. Plans this summer call for building dugouts for the softball team’s field using volunteer labor from the club’s ranks.

Previously, they worked to replace the visitors’ stands at Kirtland High’s Rogers Field, where the football team plays its home games.

Steps away from that field is where the Strawberry Festival kicks off on June 13 with its amazingly colorful, yet gluttonous Strawberry Shortcake Eating Contest. It’s a mess to watch, but pure entertainment for those who enjoy competitive eating.

There’s plenty of entertainment all weekend (information is available at, and proceeds go to support the school district.

It’s good to see such support during a time when many districts are struggling for funds to maintain their grounds and educate their children.

It’s (expletive) good to see.

Oops, I did it again.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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