The brief history of Jeff Putz

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 16, 2003, 1:02 AM | comments: 0

[Note: This post was made in 2003... much has happened since then.]

As I sit here in my last few hours as a twenty-something, I try to reflect on where I've been, what I have, and where I'm going. What a crazy, bumpy road.

A part of me has been spending a lot of time thinking about how much it sucks to reach this milestone, though I've never been able to really put a finger on what it is that bothers me about it, apart from the actual number. Little things like a disappearing hairline and the fact that I can't really eat just anything anymore are a bummer, but not really a quality of life issue.

Let's turn back the clock...

Before school, I was a fairly happy kid that spent a lot of time being split between my parents. I was always doing things with my hands and I had an active imagination. I started to notice physics early on.

Also before school, my brother was born and my parents divorced. I’d spend about one weekend a month with my Dad. My brother and I would only be close until I got to junior high.

School was too easy and boring. I got straight A's without even trying. Growing up in Cleveland at the start of busing, I was not exposed to racism because six-year olds don't know or care why some kids have different skin color.

In second grade, my mom and my step-dad married. While he often meant well, we never really got along very well, and I was always wrong around him. Naturally this is why I always need to be right.

In fifth grade I started noticing boobs, and by the next year I learned how to, well, you know. I had a crush on the little Puerto Rican girl from down the street. I also had a crush on these little home computers like the TRS-80, which few kids had access to.

Junior High rolled around and I was a nerd. I wanted to fall in love (sex didn't really occur to me yet) and at least do some making out. I also wanted to program stuff on the IBM PCjr's in the lab. That got me a lot of ass kicking and therefore no action. I did ultimately get an Atari 600XL and an Apple II+ to mess around with.

High school started out well. For some reason everyone knew me. Then I got into a fight, got suspended, and decided I really didn't like being well known.

Middle of my freshman year, I moved to suburban white bread land, Brunswick, Ohio. Talk about culture shock. What's worse, the honors program kids were all dicks. I'd spend the next few years not really fitting in, spending time among the cheerleaders and what we now call goth kids, all the while working for the city's cable TV outfit. I lettered in girls volleyball as their manager.

By the end of my senior year I started to find myself, got some minor action, but never really got into the mainstream culture.

In college, Ashland University, everything changed. The constraints of high school and living at home gone, I started to find myself. The day I moved in I met Denise Yingling, who would in many ways change my life. I got to be on radio that first week, and made many friends in everything from the sorority scene to theater. The good times began.

Sophomore year I got to be a resident assistant. The girl upstairs, Denise, dropped out of school. Over the course of that year I’d learn that people would hate in the name of Christianity, that I had amazing potential and talent in broadcast media, that my personality was shaped much from my past (and without my consent), and that I still wanted to be in love. I also had my first really close friend, Bob Hammond, who thankfully was a psych major and would go on to become Dr. Bob.

That Thanksgiving break I spent with Denise and fell in love. The two of us not even having a driver’s license took its toll, and it was up and down. I spent a lot of time being miserable that I couldn’t be with her.

In the summer of ’93 I stayed at school, living with a Japanese roommate who didn’t talk much, but went a long way in helping me gain a better understanding of the world. I also spent a great deal of time with one of my instructors, who inspired me and made me realize so many things that I still refer back to today. He also introduced me to Canadian beer and culture. There’s still a Canadian flag on my desk.

My junior year, the Denise thing ended for good, but I eventually vowed to let it all go. That year I found a voice in writing as a columnist for my college newspaper. I wrote about the things people didn’t like to talk about, like sex, AIDS, crushes on girls and really anything that I was going through. I learned that a good friend was self-stalking herself and even blaming me for it. Good friends like the instructor and my other partner in crime (and future best man in my wedding), Frank, moved away to pursue other things. I also realized that one of my other instructors (Jay Papas, a washed up tool banished to academia) was making a career of trying to knock me down, so I told him to fuck off and quit college radio.

But that year ended with another big change. I got my first car (the engine threw a rod the second day I had it) and I landed my first commercial radio job.

That summer I played adult contemporary tunes for money. I lived at home and did the city cable TV job. I did community theater. The super me was coming out, and I was ready to return to school a super dating machine, ready to live it up.

My senior year began with me painting some of the rooms in the house I was renting with a fellow former RA and one of her friends. I got loaded on a box of wine and met some of the RA’s I would’ve worked with across the street in front of one of the dorms. One girl was there, who happened to move in early. She was cute, and kind of freaky and dorky, in a good way. Her name was Stephanie Gall.

She came back to the house for Canadian beer and I tried to kiss her. She wouldn’t let me, but she came back the next night after I got off my radio shift. The super me dating machine would never date anyone else after that.
That year I did a lot of drinking, a lot of late-night radio, bowling, classes from time to time, more newspaper columns, lots of concerts and lots of soul searching about my future. It was at the time, one of the best years I ever had.

I started to really distance myself from Steph at that point because I thought I’d have to move to Billings, Montana to get a radio job. After a couple of months working part time in radio and full-time at a CompUSA, I got my first full-time radio gig in my home town of Cleveland on the top 40 station.
A few months later, late January, 1996, the ratings sucked and required a guy to be moved off of middays to overnights, my spot, because they still had to pay him. I quit, and never landed another gig. That was the last time I stood behind a microphone.

Six months after that, I got a job with the City of Medina, Ohio, to build their city and school cable TV outfit from the ground up. It was that point that I finally got to move out, and moved in with Steph, though we never really talked about it. Things nearly fell apart, but we worked through it and eventually moved into a larger apartment.

I spent three years at Medina, and even coached freshman volleyball for two years. Eventually, the small-town nonsense drove me out. Before I left though, I started a Web site about Cedar Point, which in part led to my next job at Penton Media as a Webmaster there.

In early 2000 I sold the domain name “” to a British firm for $100,000. It eliminated credit card debt, paid for my wedding and honeymoon, paid-off my car and eventually served as the down payment for my house. At about the same time I started, a roller coaster enthusiast portal.

I got married October 27, 2000 to Stephanie Brooke Gall. We spent more than a week on the island of Kauai in what, to this day, was likely the most peaceful experience I’ve ever had. My greatest achievement in life at that point was getting married to someone who made me a better person, and looked out for me.

Shortly after getting married I returned to coaching, this time junior Olympic volleyball, which I found to be far more competitive and interesting. It was also a lot more rewarding because of the relationships you got to build with the kids.

I left Penton Media in April 2001 and we bought a new house. Later that year I’d get laid-off from my job after the terrorist attacks, and spend six months job-free.

Being unemployed killed my self-esteem and tested my marriage. During this time I doubled my programming knowledge and adopted Microsoft’s new development platform. Writing code started to be more fun than it ever was before.

In the spring of 2002 I started to work for Ahola, a payroll processing firm. While not the most exciting job in the world, it was a paycheck, and I was writing software for a living. The summer became about finding happiness again, and prioritizing life.

The last year or so I’ve spent a lot of time soul searching and trying to determine what it will take for me to be financially independent.

So that’s the big picture these days. So much history in three decades. A lot of it isn’t that interesting, but the sheer volume of it astounds me. Hopefully there’s a lot more to come.


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