Old friends, fresh perspectives

Not long ago, our publisher, Dan McDonald, and I were having a conversation in the wake of some particularly horrible piece of news. I forget what the item was, but it left the both of us pondering why it is that some human beings simply don’t feel the pull to being a light in the lives of the people around us. That is, what is better than bringing a little joy, a little humor, a little good will into the lives of everyone one encounters in the course of a day? What, we asked, could be better, more fulfilling than being a fountain of upbeat encouragement in a world that seems to cry out for it?

The theme prompted Dan to tell me the story about an old friend of his named Johnny “JR” Remick. As explained to me, Dan and Johnny went to school together back in Michigan (although Johnny was a Maine native) and were part of a tight group of friends. Both then-teens were bright and witty, equally at home among the artsy-theater crowd and the athletes. In 1988, Johnny attended Specs Howard Broadcasting School and began establishing himself as a “voiceover talent.” In 1990 he became a professional standup comedian/impressionist out of Detroit, until moving to Los Angeles, in 2006 to pursue an acting career. He officially retired as comedian in July of 2007 and eventually made his way home to Maine in 2017 to focus on his writing.

Johnny’s work generally reflected his good nature, sense of humor and a set of values established early in his life when his parents taught he and his two brothers to embrace diversity and express individuality, while always being kind, considerate, compassionate and understanding to others and one’s self. Their parents instilled in them the significance of living a life of service.

Dan and Johnny stayed in casual touch as they pursued their respective careers. As Johnny has said in one of his better known inspirational assertions, “Time is never a barrier between true friends but a bridge of memories that connects the soul, as the river of familiarity runs oh-so very deep.”

Johnny’s worldview never stopped evolving through all the changes he would face. In 2013, he created a Facebook page entitled “Make a Right Turn for Peace” (www.facebook.com/makearightturnforpeace/) , a non-partisan universal grassroots movement with the positive message of love, peace, understanding and forgiveness using lightheartedness and humor.

Furthermore, focusing on his writing, Johnny learned the secrets of the writer: how choosing one word over an apparent synonym could set loose a maelstrom of emotional energy; how communicating in a brevity of words could be the single most impressive expression of art; how words, themselves, aren’t just sounds and references, but rather also symbols of great power.

“LISTEN. SILENT,” Johnny has written. “Two words, dependent on the same letters and on each other… to exist.”

Dan McDonald then shared with me a copy of Johnny’s latest venture, a book titled Here, There, and All Over the Place (Balboa Press, 2018), a collection of “quips, quotes and quosters (described as ‘quote + poster’.”

Johnny’s new book reads like the culmination of years as a benevolent thinker, an observer and commentator on life – life, perhaps as it could be, as it should be.

A few of the words of wisdom and inspiration from Johnny’s book:

So articulate is our intuition when new just choose to listen.

Victorious in faith, not a victim of fate.

Forgiving is not about forgetting, it is about remembering to heal.

Plant a smile and reap a happy harvest.

The most down to earth people are usually the most uplifting.

Here, There, and All Over the Place offers warm thoughtfulness in observation, analysis and humor. It is an upbeat, empowering call to embrace life and love and peace. Johnny Remick has lived it, shares it, even though there is this: Our worst days are probably better than Johnny’s best days. In October 2016, Johnny was diagnosed with stage two cancer, which by Sept. 2017 had developed to stage four. These days, he spends hours a day in “the chair” receiving chemo treatments. In August of 2017, he says he was not anticipating making it to Christmas.

“Around Mid-January I decided; ‘If I am going to write a book. . . Now is the time . . . It got me though the winter and I hope it may help others ‘get through their winter’ whatever that may be,” Johnny wrote.

Whatever his own challenge, Johnny Remick has remained committed to the idea of bringing inspiration and advocating for positivity in the lives and mindset of others. Here, There, and All Over the Place brings this clearly into focus and I recommend it, particularly for those who want to be reminded of the fundamental principles of a life well-lived.

If Johnny Remick can view life as an opportunity to uplift others, to share the best aspects of humanity and human goodness with those he encounters, what exactly is our excuse for not doing the same? That seems like a true sickness.

Sometimes the talk around the newsroom is about the deplorable details of stories on which we report. Often it’s about tragedy or dark irony or otherwise expresses the cynicism that comes from the work we do.

Other times, discussion can be a little higher-minded, things that charge our emotional batteries rather than drain them. The ongoing story of Johnny Remick is a manifestation of the latter.

I recommend the book and the opportunity to get to “know” the author. Check out cafepress.com/coolstuffmartfp. You’ll be glad you did.

To purchase Johnny’s book, go to www.johnnyremick.com.