#thankfulthursday: Shout-outs to the people who inspire us (and you!)

How the search for a bit of social-media stress relief became an exercise in gratitude.

click to enlarge #thankfulthursday: Shout-outs to the people who inspire us (and you!)
Julio Ramos

About a month ago, I started thanking people on Facebook. I guess I was just tired of a feed full of “libtard snowflake” and “conservative greedwhore” and all Trump, all the time, so every Thursday I would name-check five people who inspired me, but maybe didn’t know it — local artists, activists, creative enablers or just plain nice folks I hadn’t seen in a while, or whom I barely knew beyond their deeds and social media presence. It made me feel good. It made them feel good. It broke up the glut of negativity that seemed to have covered my online life and dried to resin.

When CL Editor-in-Chief David Warner saw my posts, he suggested we all get a little thankful for the Thanksgiving season, and ask readers and CL staffers if there was someone they felt deserved a public shout-out, too. And why not? Everybody could always use a little lift, and an opportunity to let someone else know how deeply they’ve touched a life. Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to our posts. I hope it made you feel as good as it’s done for me. And remember — every day can be #thankfulthursday. 


I barely know Roxanne Gallo at all but her efforts to build a more varied and vibrant scene are deeply, deeply appreciated.

John Cullen busts his ass to make a better life for himself and those around him while I sit here and drink tequila and make fun of things.

Joanna Lee Miller’s talent as an artist simultaneously makes me happy, enthralls me and causes me to be sick with envy.

It’s impossible to be bummed when WMNF DJ Scott Elliott is around, and he’s got a hell of a singing voice, too.

And I ran into Andy Stern for the first time in a while at Pre-Fest, he’s like a human hug, a great and eternally curious musician whose commitment to the philosophies that help him live a more satisfying life is, well, just fucking inspiring.


I’m thankful for my Uncle Dave, whom I know I will always be able to count on, no matter where I am or what I need. 

I’m thankful for my brand-new sister-in-law, Donna, whom I honestly wasn’t sure I’d even like but now feels like the sister I never had.

I’m thankful for Tom Santee at Eckerd College’s OLLI, who has been my champion at the program and truly loves the people he serves.

I’m thankful for visual artists like Frank Strunk III, who is not only talented but forthright about the realities of earning a living as an artist.

I’m thankful for Bill DeYoung, a (relatively) new freelancer, a supremely easy edit who makes my life easier.

I’m thankful for Jon Tallon, one of my best friends from grad school who has remained classy in the face of a nearly decade-long personal nightmare involving a horrible crazy woman. He has happiness now with Alexis and I’m grateful for her, too.

I’m thankful for Rick Kriseman, whom I’ve known since well before he became mayor. I’ve never seen a politician who cared more aboutthe plight of the South Side — and who would do something about it.

I’m thankful for Ken Reichart, who co-owns The Gabber Newspaper, for taking a chance 15 years ago on an unknown quantity. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.


I’m thankful for Stove Johnson because the songs on their recent EAT. EP are a gentle reminder that this community can still feel like home even if I'm frustrated with the way certain things or events unfold.

I’m thankful for Charles Fox at The Hub who, after years of tirelessly catering to the heaviest of Tampa drinkers, continues to be a tall, silver-haired totem of kindness and patience.

I’m thankful for Stephanie Sanders at Café Hey. While I don’t patronize the spot near enough or even hang in her general circle of friends, her kindness and Instagram feed featuring her affection for pals and life in general is a reminder that the people who surround you are the things to embrace the hardest.

 I’m thankful for Brian Schanck, whom I didn’t know when he played in St. Pete band The Same. I met him about six years ago and he immediately became a positive light in my life and a source of motivation when I feel like I want to quit whatever is taking a toll on my psyche at any given time.

 I’m thankful for my wife, Danielle, who has gracefully embraced the life changes that have come with my ditching a life of freelancing everywhere to take a full-time job at a paper I’ve adored since my teenage years. Being married to me is not easy, but being married to a non-present, laptop and phone-obsessed version of me has to be even more miserable. 


I’m never not digging the way Illene Sofranko revives old-country traditions to produce preserved goodies for everyday use — or her dedication to community (not competition).

Ryan Pinés is one of those people who you just feel good about being around — and, although this probably goes without saying, I haven’t come across a cocktail from him that I didn’t like.

Not only does Justin Grant’s passion for beer shine through in his writing, his conversation-starting support of animal rights and a less-meaty diet is something worth admiring.

This whole project transpired from a series of Facebook posts, and Misty Sommers’s are always on point — hilarious and relatable — whether she’s sharing dreamy photos of the organic meals that Clementine Chef just delivered or asking for our thoughts on monocles.

I’m in awe of the culinary genius — and surprises — that Lauren Macellaro pulls off in the kitchen, but she also can’t resist some warm, fresh homemade bread, and that’s all us fellow loaf lovers (me included) can ask for, really.


Over the years, my aunt, Nanette Mershon (Aunti Nan) has encouraged me to be independent and, at an early age, cultivate an interest in politics and current events.

Without Mitch Perry, my predecessor here at CL, believing in me and setting an incredible example, I am not sure how I could have gotten where I am.

As a longtime vegan, I have to thank Johan Everstijn and the rest of the Cider Press family for helping spread the message about veganism and that delicious food does not require cruelty to animals.

As a social anxiety-prone person, there are times when I can feel isolated. Coworker/friend Ray Roa, our hysterical and ever-boisterous music editor, reminds me that the feeling that I don’t belong is total bullshit. 


This past Saturday, I spent eight hours in a classroom at New Port Richey's River Ridge High School, adjudicating scenes performed by 11-14 -year-olds from Central Florida schools competing in the District 11 Jr. Thespians Festival. Some of the actors spoke too fast or too softly, some showed great potential, and a few are already superstars. But every single kid in the festival was so full of enthusiasm that I want to thank them all for sharing their talent, and I want to especially thank their drama teachers — people like the warm-hearted, super-organized Peter Nason, who teaches at River Ridge and has administrated this festival for years, who instill this joy in their students and affirm that the arts are  anything but peripheral to a good education; they’re vital to building students’ imagination, verbal and physical agility, and their self-esteem. 

But I have a few more people to thank. Scott’s original notion for #thankfulthursday was that we’d each choose just five people we might not see all that often, but value nonetheless. My automatic top five are the people whose thank-you’s you’ve just read — Scott, Cathy, Ray, Meaghan, and Kate. Even though I see them a lot, I don’t thank them nearly enough. They make me proud to say I’m the editor of  Creative Loafing — not just because they are excellent journalists and talented writers, but because they are people of integrity, warmth and (occasionally raunchy) wit, and genuinely fun to hang around with. I’m a lucky editor.

Thing is, when it comes to thanking people I don’t thank enough at CL, I can't stop at five. Our long-time contributors —people like Jon Palmer Claridge, Mark E. Leib, Peter Meinke, Gabe Echazabal, and Linda Saul-Sena — are as gifted a bunch of writers as you'll find on anyone's masthead, and we're blessed by a raft of more recent additions, like Caitlin AlbrittonRay Lehmann, Colin O'Hara, Ben Wiley, Chris Fasick, James Chapin, Angelina Bruno, Resie Waechter, Michael Murillo, Alex Pickett and the aforementioned Bill DeYoung. Our crack team of photographers, led by Chip Weiner, Nick (aka Santa) Cardello, Tracy May, Anthony Martino, Jennifer Ring and Nicole Abbett, provide images as memorable as the prose.

Then then there’s our in-house staff. Creative Director Julio Ramos makes CL beautiful without betraying the least (well, OK, maybe a little) frustration at our occasional disinclination to obey deadlines. Operations Manager Kelly Knaggs keeps the ship afloat with efficiency and a delightfully nasty sense of humor (also, great tats). Equally well-tatted and also blessed with a rambunctious sense of humor (not to mention the world's best collection of Hawaiian shirts) is the great Joey Neill, ad designer and IT guy extraordinaire; his and Julio’s partner in design, production assistant Jack Spatafora, is likely the smartest man in any room. The beauteous Alexis Chamberlain makes all of CL's events run smoothly, managing crowds in the thousands (BeerFest!) and the tens (T-giving Office Potluck!) with equal aplomb. Her second in command and the manager of CL Space, Kristin Bowman, deals on a daily basis with brides, grooms, bachelorettes, Sweet Sixteens and Fabulous 40-year-olds with a light touch and a welcoming warmth; their assistant, Grace Blair, is a living embodiment of her first name. Kassey Baron maintains an infectiously sunny attitude while handling the tricky task of coordinating between clients and account execs. And those execs — Anthony Carbone, Chris Madalena, James Ostrand, Claire Sayetta, Scott Zepeda, memorable characters all, each one of them tireless, tough, loyal, funny — do the work that allows us to publish this paper. And we're all lucky to be led by publisher James Howard, who may be the best boss any of us will ever have.

And most of all, I thank you, our readers. Thank you to the woman who tapped me on the shoulder at the Dalì the other day and said, "You're the Creative Loafing guy, aren't you?" and commended our coverage of the St. Pete mayoral election. Thank you to the people who, when I tell them where I work, say, "Oh, I love that paper!” And thank you to those folks who hate us with a passion and feel compelled to tell us so: At least you’re reading.


I’m thankful for my brother Anthony, without him I’d never be where I am today. -—@jennifermcaputo via Instagram

I’m thankful for Eddie Wright! He has taken a number of Tampa Bay’s elite musicians under his wing, time and time again and has birthed a region of local musicians the likes of which few cities can understand. This man is a selfless, egoless individual who is a badass musician and has brought our local musicianship up a thousand notches with his insight and boundless love. He never gets a writeup in any media. He’s funny and personable and deserves everything great this universe can offer. —@mattwalks via Instagram

Chipper Saunders for making laugh everyday through the fight against breast cancer. —Gay Melanie Gramkow via Facebook

Charley Belcher who makes me laugh and smile daily. —Diane Joyce via Facebook

Cheri Reichart who takes everything that comes her way with a big smile, hearty laugh, & full heart. She is optimistic without fail, & generous beyond belief. —Desiree Fantal via Facebook

I would love to thank Flee (Lee Courtney) for being just such a conscientious music fan, especially local music fan. And local art, he keeps on coming up with ways to get people together to hear music, and get that music to new ears. He has done this every week for decades — BAAMO, WMNF, the Tales of... CD series. xoxoxo —JoEllen Schilke via message

Jenifer Wilson McKee for her unfailing belief in me and more importantly her commitment and dedication to early childhood education in Pinellas County for the last forty years. 

Beth Morean, for all she has done to help make St. Pete the art destination it has become and her limitless generosity, philanthropy and true friendship.

These two women not only made my life better through their love and friendship but have both made Pinellas County a much better place to live, work and play!

I am thankful daily for their presence in my life. They inspired me to be a better person both personally and professionally.

Thank you for this opportunity to let them know just how grateful I am to have them in my life!! —Patti Sears via Facebook