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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mike reaching out personally to each of the 225 people he interviewed on the road

In an ambitious endeavor and great desire to reconnect with old acquaintances, Mike is reaching out by email and phone to each of the 225 people he met and interviewed during the course of his "Chasing Charley" travels back in Fall 2003. With the passage of 6 1/2 years between the time when he took his trip and now, Mike is letting people know that the project is not dead and, in fact, is far from it, as blog sites, social networking pages, websites, articles of renewed interest, phone calls and recent interviews attest. He hopes to hear back from all of his contacts and expects their replies to be quite surprised and, at the same time, eager for the appearance of a finally printed hard copy of Mike's book. With luck, Mike hopes that his path will again meet up with these people, who so kindly accommodated him during his journey, and that they will enjoy the travelogue that he so thoughtfully penned with respect to Steinbeck.

Mike tapped by Fairfield County Weekly for article

Fairfield County Weekly Editor Nick Keppler recently contracted Mike to develop an 800-word article regarding the long-standing battle between physicians and the courts over assisted suicide. The courts say that providing "aid in dying" is essentially second-degree manslaughter and that physicians that provide such assistance can be prosecuted. Physicians believe there should be no penalty for providing this assistance, if the terminally ill person is of sound mind and judgement and has requested help to this regard.

Mike has created an initial draft of the article and plans to speak later this week with the two physicians that recently filed a lawsuit challenging the legislation. The working title of Mike's article is "Physicians and Courts Go Toe-to-Toe in the Assisted Suicide Debate."

Mike pens 500-word article on commuting for Fairfield Magazine

Mike recently contracted with Fairfield magazine (5x/yr), a lifestyle magazine for and about the town of Fairfield, CT, to pen an article with vignettes about local commuting experiences. For the article, Mike e-blasted all of his known local commuter friends to dig deep for their best stories. The resulting article featured the three best submissions, which Mike finessed for both fit and content, as well as supplied creative subheadings. The article will appear in the May/June 2010 issue. See below for an advance peek:

No Ordinary Commute

By Mike Lauterborn

© 2010. All rights reserved.



May/June 2010 issue

For many of us who ride the train to and from Fairfield, the trip is uneventful – even mundane. Then, there are those other times…

Musical Muppets

It was mid-morning on Halloween and Fran, her husband and their two elementary school-aged girls were bound for a football game at Fordham University. They were running late and a little on edge knowing that they’d need to get home quickly afterwards for trick-or-treating. Initially unable to find four seats together, they started to move to the next car. Coming the other direction, a band of young adults dressed as Sesame Street muppets -- Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch -- quite suddenly burst into the show’s theme song, "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?" Everyone in the car was immediately elevated to a different place and a cheery Sesame Street vibe resulted.

Tunnel Vision

It was August 2003. Maryann had been in the city all morning and was returning home. Five minutes in, while still underground, the train lost power and came to a halt. She thought little about it as this was common and expected the ride to resume shortly.

“Ladies and gentlemen. There’s been a major power outage along the East coast,” the conductor announced.

The immediate thought was terrorism, though passengers just busied themselves chatting, awaiting further word. Ultimately everyone filed from the idle train to an emergency exit and the street.

They were in the East 80’s. With cell lines jammed, Maryann phoned her husband from a pay phone. He arranged an overnight at a friend’s apartment on the West side. In high heels, she made the 20-block trek to the 9th floor flat. Other stranded friends joined them and soon they were enjoying melting ice cream on a terrace and surveying the dark city, only the indomitable Trump “T” visible in the distance.

Snakes On A Train

It was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The 4:54 out of Stamford was packed. Shortly after Amy boarded, two men and a young woman with a 'dog' in tow stepped on.

The woman was very pregnant. Amy offered her seat. They were headed from Maine to Colorado to tell relatives the joyous news.

Amy noticed the ‘dog’ looked stressed and offered some water. “He’s fine,” the woman said, “just edgy from the train and an elevator ride at the station.” She continued, “We’re saving him from being put down… as he’s half-wolf. And if you think the dog’s hot and bothered, that’s nothing compared to what the python in my bag is feeling.”

The ENTIRE car fell silent. “Did you say you had a snake in your bag?” Amy asked. “Yes, it’s a Ball Python. But don't worry, my bag is zipped… it can't get out.”

Amy recalled another commute wherein she saw a young man throwing up into a baseball cap while holding a bouquet of roses… but that’s a story for another day.

Mike to be VIP Guest at 3/17 Fairfield Book Signing & Cheese Tasting

After pouring himself a black & tan and toasting his dear departed grandmother Julia Marie O'Brien, Mike will enjoy part of St. Patrick's Day as a VIP Guest at a Book Signing & Cheese Tasting with Allison Hooper of Vermont Butter & Cheese Company. The event will be held from 5-7p.m. at Fairfield Cheese Company, 2090 Post Road (Harry's Corner), Fairfield, CT 06824. For info: 203-292-8194.

Mike initially reached out to Laura Downey, the event organizer, to propose that he cover the event and describe the experience in an article he would pen and submit for publication to local newspapers. Laura embraced the idea and granted Mike special access for the evening. Harry's spirits shop, adjacent to the cheese shop, will supply fine wines to accompany the assorted cheeses, which are of an "artisan" variety. Ms. Hooper pioneered this type of small batch, handcrafted cheese in the early 1980s and is essentially known as a master -- or you might say "Head Cheese" -- in this area.

A cheese lover spawned from a long line of cheese lovers, Mike plans to attend with an eager pallette and do his share of sampling -- all in the interest of investigative journalism, of course!

Mike Hires Personal Assistant Cynthia Licenziato

On Monday, March 15th, Mike hired a Personal Assistant, Cynthia Licenziato, to help manage his presence and create "Chasing Charley" sites on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and MySpace.

Mike's website, (launch planned later this week), which will provide a profile of both Mike's writing talents and marketing abilities, describes Cynthia as follows:

"A marketing Mona Lisa and reformed wild child, “C.C.” as she is known to friends, is a bright, talented creative bohemian with her finger on the pulse of Internet viral marketing. She’s also an observer of the world around her, lifelong scrapbooker, a sharp photographer and an aspiring songsmith. If you can create it, she can bring it to life. Incidentally, her nickname mirrors the initials for Mike Lauterborn’s “Chasing Charley” book – a confirmation that the duo was destined to work together. With no boundaries to their creative explorations, Mike and C.C. pool their extraordinary talents to broadcast their collective project work."

The pair are very excited about their collaboration, as their personalities and interests are very similar and they play off each other creatively. For Mike, C.C. will be invaluable in keeping him organized and managing his online-based extensions.

Mike revisits the library where he purchased the Steinbeck book that inspired his 2003 trip

On Saturday, March 13th, Mike attended the Westport Library's Book Sale, precisely seven years after attending the same type of event there and stumbling across the tattered copy of John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley" adventure.

Mike's visit was an emotional one for him, as well as for the library staff and patrons who discussed the project with him. Mike was also photographed and interviewed there, the resulting story to be published in local newspapers.

Purchased for a quarter, this humble volume inspired Mike to buy his own camper, obtain a dozen sponsors to offset costs and follow Steinbeck's path around the country that fall. The journey would take him along 16,000 miles of American road and through 35 states and four provinces of Canada. Along the way, he interviewed 225 people, recorded his observations in 23 notebooks, took 665 photos and collected flora and fauna from each significant site he visited. Mike also conducted interviews all around the country with a couple dozen newspapers, two national magazines and a North Carolina-based CBS affiliate television station. The resulting manuscript, "Chasing Charley" is completely written and is being pitched to major publishing houses by Mike's agent, Weston, CT-based Bob Diforio. Stay tuned to Mike's blog site for progress updates about the book. The hope is that it gets picked up this year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Steinbeck's 1960 journey. Mike will also be blogging about interviews, some of the local events at which he will be a featured VIP, and articles he has recently penned and submitted to magazines and newspapers.