Things My Father Taught Me: Michael Kiser

I’d just apologized for something. Again. I have a bad habit of using the word “sorry” when what I really mean to say is, “I let you down” or “that wasn’t my best” or “give me another shot. I can do it better.”

As Kiser’s pointing this out, I’m thinking about this guy, this man, this friend of mine, with a life, with passions similar to my own. We both enjoy elements of the game of baseball. We are both incredibly well-versed in our opinions of good design. Within each of us lives a poet and orator, begging to be let out every once in a while. And we are both students of history.

Then, I recall some off-handed remark he made about his mom, and another tale he once told me of his father, and I’m piecing it together. This is a guy who’s heard the words “I’m sorry” a time or two in his life. In his history there’s gotta be a well-worn path around those words. I wish I could snatch them back and hold them. But there they are. And he knows what I mean, probably better than I know what I mean.

If you’ve ever spoken with him, you know Michael Kiser is brilliant. He offers perspective on a myriad of subjects, and when he does, it feels polished, spot on, even factual. Where I’m uncouth, he’s Mr. Smooth. There’s that orator for you. An idea man if ever there was one, with his blog Good Beer Hunting and moreover with the design and innovation work he’s done for companies that make everything from beer to cell phones, Michael Kiser is unmatched in this world.

Imagine that. Now, imagine this. As friend, and as what I know him to be as a husband, he is even better.

Things My Father Taught Me: Matt Springer

Kindness. Mr. Matt Springer has it in spades. A deep baritone. Soft-spoken. Well-spoken. Even-keeled.

Matt Springer is a good friend. Matt is one-fourth Made Right Here. He’s the one moving the meter on the little TV Pilot we put together with Joe Gannon and Rick Page. He’s father to two beautiful children and husband to an even more beautiful wife, Greta. They’re entirely responsible for turning Nashville into my home-away-from-home. As Joe would say, Matt’s my “homeboy.” He’s fast to make everybody feel comfortable and at home, which is great when things are good, even better when they aren’t, like when tensions arise in meetings.

It was so hot in the cramped corner of Architectural Antiques in Minneapolis, Minnesota that Bruce had removed his shoes. This was where Matt’s dad, Bruce Springer, hovered over an electric griddle flipping pancakes for unsuspecting passersby.

“Hot in here, isn’t Bruce?” I would ask him in roughly thirty minute intervals.

“Woo!” He’d reply every time.

He’d smile and laugh and flip a pancake.

A couple years ago, Joe and I teamed up with Matt’s parents, Bruce and Judy, for the debut of Buckshot Sonny’s at the menswear market known as Northern Grade. In their hometown of Cashton, Wisconsin, they run a pancake company called, appropriately The Great American Pancake Company. Someone, probably Joe, suggested they join us at the market, and I’m so glad they did. They killed it and made the debut of our little shop incredibly special. And it’s thanks to them that today we sell an exclusively made buckwheat pancake mix on the site.

Of this year’s crop of submissions, Bruce may be the only of my friends’ fathers I have met. I enjoy the opportunities I get on the phone with Mr. Springer. He’s an impassioned speaker, his son’s biggest supporter, and he has a businessman’s brain: quick with facts and figures on his beloved pancake products.

I’m so thankful for people like the Springers. And I’m happy Matt took time to share the story of his father, Bruce.

Things My Father Taught Me: Andrew Romano

I first became aware of his writing in 2008, when he was blogging from the campaign trail on something called Stumper for Newsweek. Then, I learned he runs this incredibly involved and well-honed design and music tumblr, Covenger + Kester. Though we’ve only run into one another a handful of times, and each encounter has been incredibly brief, Andrew Romano has always taken time to “catch up.” Though he’s made his living as a professional journalist, and I’m just a hack blogger, he treats me as his equal. Perhaps, it’s behavior he picked from his father.

Things My Father Taught Me: Sean Callahan

Sean and I work together. I sit in a division of the office lovingly referred to as “Callahan’s Corner.” I can’t tell you just how happy it makes me to come into work every morning knowing I’m a member of Callahan’s Corner. Sean does that to people. I no sooner started, and Sean made me feel like family.

We are both from Saint Louis. Sean went to my rival high school, the same high school as my younger brother. If you’re unfamiliar with Saint Louis, know one thing: the cliché is true. Where you went to high school is truly, unbelievably important. Almost instantly, it was as though I was sharing a room with my brother again: I could feel Sean rolling his eyes behind me, and occasionally, I could hear a grumble of heckling from behind Sean’s glass door. I loved it. Reminded me of home. It felt like I was back in the Steak ‘n Shake parking lot after a game, listening to The Urge’s “It’s Gettin’ Hectic.”

As the redbirds made a playoff run last fall, Sean and I first bonded over Cardinals baseball. On the couches in front of the flat screen in the office’s main entrance, while shoveling burritos and sucking back an ice cold Budweiser, I came to know this guy, this funny, loud, passionate guy.

And boy, is he passionate. Whether it’s the jam fest of Phish, The Black Crowes, and AC/DC which will start to emanate from his office like clockwork one hour before quittin’ time, or a lengthy discussion on the color of a beer bottle, he’ll let his passions be known, and you can’t help it if you appreciate it.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that I received a more well-rounded understanding of the guy. For a couple months, as much as he tried to leave the personal strife at home, Callahan’s Corner became a more somber place, as Sean’s dad was losing his battle with cancer. Unbeknownst to Sean, my uncle wasn’t doing well either. He was the first of my parents’ ten siblings to die. He passed at just about the same time as Sean’s dad. I didn’t say anything, at least not at first, but following Sean’s lead, I was made more comfortable in dealing with my loss — however differently as it was my uncle and not my father. When we finally commiserated, Sean shared the eulogy for his father with me, and he gave me permission to share a portion of it with you here.

It’s a time I won’t soon forget, and Sean’s a guy I’ll never forget. A great guy, a passionate guy, and zip code be damned, make no mistake that nasally accent and that bright red ball cap are two solid indications, he’s a Saint Louisan, through and through.

Things My Father Taught Me: Tyler Thoreson

Tyler Thoreson. Today, he’s the VP of Men’s Editorial, Creative & Customer Experience for GiltMan. At the time I learned of him, he was co-hosting a web series called “In the Closet” for MenDotStyle. And around that time, I recalled a photo of him showing up on The Sartorialist. There he was, this guy at a runway presentation wearing garish, yellow socks, staring dead-eyed into the camera. Since then, I’ve come to know Tyler through his writing and the segments he does on television. I appreciate his ability to explain the world of men’s dress with a few simple sentences. I have to assume it comes from the lessons in mechanics handed down from his father.

Things My Father Taught Me: Jerry O’Leary

Design Director at IDEO and co-founder of central standard timing, a watch company which was successfully launched on Kickstarter earlier this year, Jerry O’Leary is keen to wear many hats, figuratively speaking. Earlier this year, my girlfriend attended a talk referred to as “IDEO Stories: An Evening of Storytelling at the Intersection of Design, Creativity and Everyday Life (Minus the Boring Bits).” It was an opportunity for employees of the design firm to share their origin stories or to provide a bit of background on how they became designers.

Afterwards, she raced home to tell me about this unbelievable, moving, and sometimes hilarious talk our friend Jerry gave. “You would love it. It would fit right in with the Things My Father Taught Me.” As so many times before, my girlfriend was right. Please set aside fifteen minutes to watch and listen to “Fake It ’til You Make It,” the story of a boy and his father, growing up in London, learning how to get by and becoming a world-class designer in the process.

Things My Father Taught Me: Sean Hotchkiss

Sean Hotchkiss is a handsome devil. He is fearless. I admire the way he is always putting himself out there in new and different ways. I first learned of him while he was crafting posts for the Khaki Crusader, and later the GQ Eye and J. Crew, and it’s been great to follow along as he’s advanced in his career as a writer and a photographer.

Things My Father Taught Me: Claire Bidwell Smith

“What about you? How are you? What’s new with you? Tell me more about your projects. And how are things with Jess? No, really, how are things with Jess?” Claire. She is a best-selling author. She is about to have her book turned into a movie. She is the wife of a truly kind and generous man. She is the mother of two strikingly beautiful and prodigiously intelligent girls. She is a close and caring friend to the woman I love most. She is so many things to so many people, and yet I’ve never seen her spend an extra second on Claire. I follow along with her life via her prolific blog and her sun-splashed photos on Instagram, and I constantly marvel at her ability to make as much of it fit as she can. Glad to know her. Honored to have her words grace this blog.

Things My Father Taught Me: Jamie Yuenger

I met Jamie Yuenger at work. We both worked on the floor of a shop in New York. From the moment I met her, I adored her. She’s so full of life, seemingly recording all of life’s little moments, celebrating each in her own special way. She brings so much of her intelligence to every conversation, and she willingly gives everyone a chance to do the same. I was so excited for her when she started StoryKeep, a multimedia storytelling platform. There’s no one better suited to tell the types of stories found at StoryKeep — deep, caring, meaningful ones — than Jamie.

I’m thrilled she was willing to put her talents to work for this ongoing series.