As the columnist for The Daily Break – feature – section of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper, Mike Gruss has been followed around by a ringmaster. He has compared a Jeopardy champ to one of America’s famed wearers of the John Henry name. And he has written with wit and heart about the things that make the Hampton Roads, Va., region a great place to live, even when our local governments appear to be in a stupid contest.
And he does this three times a week, even. Not too shabby.
Gruss was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions via email. As always, there were no backsies.
Q: Just who do you think you are? Please use three examples in your response.
- Alex Trebek. Wait. That’s probably what everybody says.
- Do you remember that one scene in Field of Dreams? No, not the one with Kevin Costner. No, not the one with James Earl Jones. Right, Burt Lancaster as Moonlight Graham. Now remember the guy who sold the unnecessary hats to Moonlight Graham’s wife. That’s who I like to think of myself as.
- Also, former William & Mary quarterback Lang Campbell.
Q: Tell us about this newspaper technology all the kids are talking about.
Q: Until a recent misunderstanding, I savored dressing like a ringmaster and repeating people’s orders in the cafeteria of the bus station at Granby Street and W. Brambleton Avenue. Naturally, I enjoyed your recent excursion with Ringling Bros. ringmaster Brian Crawford Scott, who, for a living, trades in what someone with a tendency to misapply musical terminology might call in relievo: “Your literary genius will be eternalized.” Can you explain the experience? And how did you look in that jacket? Be sure to speak up.
Brian was a great hype-man. The energy and language he brought to the most boring tasks we presented him far exceeded my expectations. Having him trail me for a couple of hours meant a lot of awkward stares, but it was worth it. Plus, that jacket was the awe-some, especially if you’re really into steampunk. It was also heavy. And made with real Svarokvski crystals. I didn’t get to wear it. In fact, I believe it was the first time it was worn outdoors because it’s worth a boatload of money. I was nervous he would trip on the sidewalk and rip a hole in his pants.
Q: You recently wrote about the hot Southern brand. As a transplant, do you feel the South’s marketing push slowly sinking into you like brine into the supple hide of a cuke? (Extra “unpaved street cred” credit: To paraphrase Insane Clown Posse: Freaking grits – how do they work?)
I disagree with the premise of the question. While, yes, technically, I am a transplant because I was not born here, and while yes, I still cheer for Cleveland-based sports teams, at point does one get to claim a stake in the South as their own?
I’ve lived here eight years. I’ve paid more taxes in Virginia than in any other state. I’ve made more charitable donations in Virginia than any other state. I’ve been called for jury duty twice in Virginia. (None in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, or Illinois, where I’ve also lived.) I’ve voted more times in Virginia than any other state. My wife and I own a house. When do I get to start identifying myself as a local?
Haha! You said cuke. I don’t know what that means. Maybe I am a transplant?
Regarding grits, would it be too stuffy, too inside baseball to respond: ‘Nobody does, man! Grit force, man. What else is similar to that on this Earth? Nothing! Grit force is fascinating to us. It’s right there, in your face. You can feel them pulling. You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. You can’t touch it. But there’s a force there. That’s cool!’
Q: When do you think the Norfolk Police Department will let me and my tasteful example of haute couture go back to the bus station cafeteria?
Have you tried Megabus?
Q: When Mal Vincent says “we” in his movie reviews, whom else is he talking about? Can only he see them?
Wait, what? You seriously didn’t know? Ha! I thought this was common knowledge. The other half of the ‘we’ is Pippa Middleton, of course.
Q: In my imaginary exit interview at The Pilot, I suggested they turn my cube into a gift shop. What would you like them to do with your desk when you retire?
Build a Viking ship. Wait. That’s probably what everybody says. Build two Viking ships. I have a big desk.
Q: We’ve covered so much ground here. What else would you like to say?
I’m honored The New York Times Magazine thought me worthy enough to include in the Q&A section. This is a great honor and the culmination of a lifelong dream.
In closing, here is the greatest music video ever. This is not safe for work. Also, it will make you stupid. I don’t mean over time, either, but immediate stupidity. Frankly, you should not watch it. You are making your own bed if you click on this video. I know you’ll make the right decision:
How magnets work: