Cut Off At The Salad Bar: Dave Copeland’s Blog

I’ve been blogging since May 2002 — not one of the first, but well before all the cool kids tried it, made it a craze, then gave up on it. The best way to describe this portion of my writing life is part personal notebook where I test ideas and pieces of drafts I’m working on, part self-promotion, and part random ranting.


Frequently addressed topics include journalism, teaching and higher educations, writing, cooking, drinking (or, more specifically, not drinking, running, reading and life in general. Comments are appreciated but monitored before they appear on this site. All views expressed on “Cut Off At The Salad Bar” are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of any of his past, present or future employers.

It’s a Great Day In Pittsburgh: Here’s Why

Posted January 7th, 2014 in Pittsburgh

A decade ago Bill Peduto was a fresh-faced aide to a city councilman, a guy who would take the time to offer off-the-record explanations of different policies and, when the mood struck, talk hockey. As a reporter covering the rough-and-tumble world of Pittsburgh politics, I liked the guy: I liked the fact that when most people in Pittsburgh that offered off-the-record commentary to score political points, Peduto did it to make sure that the reporter and, ultimately, the people who read the reporter, understood the nuts and bolts of the issue. In politics, it’s very rare to find someone who will use an off-the-record discussion to deal in facts, but when you find one, they tend to be political gold.

Five, almost six years ago, Peduto came to Boston as a Pittsburgh City Councilman to attend a multi-day workshop at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. I took him to Bukowski’s  in Inman Square and then to the now shuttered Tavern on the Water in Charlestown. Peduto talked excitedly about new dive bars and a new Russian restaurant I’d have to check out the next time I was in town. It was the last time I saw him but the night swerved to help me articulate what I had always instinctively known: Peduto was — and remains — a guy who loves cities, and most of all, he loves Pittsburgh. Continue Reading »

Somewhere on Memorial Drive on Dec. 21

Posted January 3rd, 2014 in Work

It is 18 hours on a plane to India and 29 days until he sees the girl heading to South America tomorrow morning. They have just finished their first semester of college and are making small talk while saying a 2.5-mile good bye.

Him: “She hooked up with that Irish guy.”

Her, in that hesitant voice that hopes for agreement and avoids conflict: “Disgusting.”

Him, in a tone that says he agrees, and there was no need for her to be hesitant: “Disgusting. No shame.”

Her “No shame.”

After she gets out of the car at a bar where she is going to work one last shift as a server before winter break and heading to the airport, he tells me they are in love. “It’s that college love,” he says. “The only thing is, don’t know if we’ll be this much in love when we get back.”

He pauses for a sad beat.

“I hope so. I hope it stays like this.”

Since December I have been working as a driver for the ride-sharing service Lyft. Occasionally I overhear interesting snippets of conversation and observe interesting vignettes of life that are worth sharing.

The One Cult Fits All Approach To Treating Alcoholism

Posted January 2nd, 2014 in drinking

I will not bash Alcoholics Anonymous, as it has worked for so many people who needed to quit drinking. But the medical professions blind acceptance of A.A.’s claim that it is the only viable method for problem drinkers is discouraging.

I was one of those people that A.A. would not have worked for (I tried). And while I’m not sure that Moderation Management would have been a viable option for me, it would have been nice to know that I at least had options. If you want to see some of the A.A. propaganda that can make it seem almost cult-liike, check out the comments in response to Gabrielle Glaser’s op-ed in today’s New York Times. A better use of your time, however, would be to read her column:

The cold-turkey approach is deeply rooted in the United States, embraced by doctors, the multibillion-dollar treatment industry and popular culture. For nearly 80 years, our approach to drinking problems has been inspired by the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Developed in the 1930s by men who were “chronic inebriates,” the A.A. program offers a single path to recovery: abstinence, surrendering one’s ego and accepting one’s “powerlessness” over alcohol.

But it’s not the only way to change your drinking habits….We don’t treat cancer, depression or asthma with the same tools we used in 1935. We need to get away from the one-size-fits-all approach to drinking problems.

Best of 2013: My Blog Posts

Posted January 1st, 2014 in Social media

I’m rounding out this best of series with some of my favorite blog posts from 2013. Yes I was a crappy blogger this year and no, I’m not making promises to be better in 2014. But I did do some stuff that made me think it’s worth keeping this corner of the Interweb open for another year.

The Ray Romano Problem For American Men

Modern situation comedies make any man who embodies the traditional stereotypes and ideas of masculinity into a comic sideshow. Think Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson on “Parks And Recreation” or Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock.” Ron Swanson doesn’t want to have it all because he doesn’t want to end up having to move the things he loves – his tools, his Bobby Knight poster and his photo album full of memorable meals at steakhouses – into  the sad corner of the modern, shared household called “The Man Cave.” We love Ron Swanson because he embraces a lifestyle that, for most men, is unrealistic.

Continue Reading »

Best of 2013: My Photos

Posted December 31st, 2013 in Photos

I’ve been a rather shitty blogger this year, but it’s not because I’ve neglected my hefty diet of reading. Over the next few days I’m going to be posting links to articles that made me think, made me laugh or made me cook under a few categories that tend to get covered here on my personal blog.

New York City, May 2013.

One thing I did do a lot of this year was take photos. I’m learning, and have a long way to go, but this post is meant to share some of my favorites. Continue Reading »

Best of 2013: Recipes

Posted December 30th, 2013 in Cooking

I’ve been a rather shitty blogger this year, but it’s not because I’ve neglected my hefty diet of reading. Over the next few days I’m going to be posting links to articles that made me think, made me laugh or made me cook under a few categories that tend to get covered here on my personal blog.


I’ve also been a less-than-inspired cook. And when I did cook, I relied more on recipes than just fucking around in the kitchen. Here are recipes I cooked this year that are worth sharing:

Best of 2013: Sunday Papers

Posted December 29th, 2013 in Journalism

I’ve been a rather shitty blogger this year, but it’s not because I’ve neglected my hefty diet of reading. Over the next few days I’m going to be posting links to articles that made me think, made me laugh or made me cook under a few categories that tend to get covered here on my personal blog. Next up:

Sunday Papers

Sunday papers are a big ritual in my world. Here are some of the more memorable things that added an extra jolt to my weekly jumpstart for my brain.

A Childless Bystander’s Baffled Hymn

Children are “not adults, so why this whole school of thought that they should be treated as if they are, long before they can perform such basic tasks of civilization as driving, say, or decanting?”

I’m Losing Money. So Why Do I Feel So Good?

Professor Schüll, a cultural anthropologist, spent considerable time in Las Vegas casinos as part of her research. She met players who told her how they sought to enter a mindless state, a “zone,” in which all else is obliterated, and to stay there as long as possible.

“You aren’t really there — you’re with the machine and that’s all you’re with,” one subject said, describing the zone “where nothing else matters.”

This isn’t the only place where gamblers can reach such a state of mind. It’s also known to occur at table games and at the racetrack. But casino machines arguably supply the most immersive, distraction-free gambling experience.

The Emotional Power of Verbs

The characters in my students’ stories were not quite jumping off the page. The characters were clear and beautifully described, but sometimes I felt a bit impatient reading them. The problem was not with the descriptions — my students skillfully created characters with nouns and adjectives,  constructing the characters and their world so that I knew them. The issue was that everything seemed to be still and perfect as a photograph.

“Stop thinking about nouns and adjectives when you’re creating characters,” I told my students one day. “Think verbs.”

You Can’t Have It All, But You Can Have Cake

MY favorite thing is a bakery, and my favorite thing about where I live is how many bakeries are a dog’s walk away. Dogs aren’t allowed in bakeries, but many Manhattan bakeries have little benches in front so you can tie your dog’s leash to a bench leg and keep watch out the window to make sure your dog isn’t dognapped while you are buying a croissant.

My Tragic Encounter With James Taylor’s Pig

Several years later, an interviewer asked Taylor if he had ever composed “any screwball songs [he] wouldn’t dare commit to vinyl.”

“Oh, sure,” he said. “I wrote ‘Mona,’ a tune about a pig of mine. I was thinking about killing the pig because she was old. . . . In fact, I once saw it kill another little pig. They can get ornery in old age.” Taylor was also concerned Mona might hurt his young children. He sang a few bars of “Mona,” which he eventually did record. One verse ends with: “Oh, Mona, Mona, you can close your eyes/I’ve got a 12-gauge surprise/Waiting for you.”

“That’s a sweet little song, huh?” Taylor told the interviewer. “I occasionally play it at picnics.”

Cooking Is Freedom

Girls took home economics. Boys took shop. Girls learned to cook lasagna and bake chocolate cake. I would be learning to use a lathe. I preferred lasagna. So I did the sensible thing: I signed up for home economics.

The Decline and Fall of the English Major

Undergraduates will tell you that they’re under pressure — from their parents, from the burden of debt they incur, from society at large — to choose majors they believe will lead as directly as possible to good jobs. Too often, that means skipping the humanities.


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