Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, Paul Wood chats with Don Elmore. Getting Personal appears first in print. In the April 15 newspaper, we'll have a chat with Eva Jehle, office manager for the Champaign County Democrats who has been a state caseworker and guardian.
Explain in one sentence what it is you do.
I am the director of business development for The HDF Group, a "big data" software company located in the University of Illinois Research Park; I am also co-owner of the Jane Addams Book Shop in downtown Champaign.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
6 a.m. — let Frankie (dog) out before his huffing causes hyperventilation, do some light yoga, take a shower, have a cup of coffee and read.
What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?
The best part of lunch is not what I eat but what I learn. Lunch is almost always homemade fare, usually eaten at work with reliably interesting colleagues. Today, I had a grilled salmon wrap and sauteed spinach with red onion, sliced almonds and chopped figs.
Best high school memory.
Three summers of the Mississippi River Festival at SIU-Edwardsville edge out a fascinating trip to the former Soviet Union.
Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.
It isn't a pair of shoes but a brand — Cush — of which I have three pairs. When I talk about these shoes, one might think there's something wrong with me, so putting more words to paper on this subject could only increase that possibility.
What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?
On Sunday afternoons, Susan and I often cook up a week's worth of food. The dog lurks in anticipation of carelessly dropped morsels. There's a game on the kitchen TV, but the sound is off because the music is loud. If the weather is nice, we'll reward ourselves with a long walk to Custard Cup or go outside for a porch beer.
Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?
I first read "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy when I was about 12. They were wonderful fantasies with friendships, dangers and impossible missions. I read them again in college and discovered the deeper, darker layers. In between, I really learned to dig into literature, with the help of great books and some gifted teachers.
Where on earth are you dying to go? Why?
Susan and I enjoy traveling, and the best trips always include discovering local flavors and making friends. On our most memorable vacation, we rented a canal boat in England and spent our days cruising along at 4 miles per hour, looking out for interesting pubs or other attractions and stopping whenever we pleased. As with most sports fans, I would greatly enjoy a trip to The Masters, a Super Bowl, a Final Four or the Olympics. With adequate sponsorship, I could complete a Fan Grand Slam.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
I have already introduced Frankie, our 11-year-old yellow Lab. Susan got him about a week after our older son moved out of the house. He must be the world's laziest Lab, which according to others with Labs is actually a good thing. When we travel, we take him to a friend's farm, which we refer to as "Doggie Boot Camp." Our friend reports that he has great fun with the six or so farm-conditioned dogs, but when he returns home, he hobbles around for days.
Have you discovered that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?
I was adopted, so there are no inherited characteristics, but even beyond that, I think I was always very different from my parents. Some family members will probably insist that I have a lot in common with my dad. He loved to sit back with a drink, a cigar and friends.
What would you order for your last meal?
I would try to negotiate a last day of meals, in the French Quarter. Breakfast at Cafe Du Monde, lunch at Mother's, dinner at Tujaque's. If the negotiation failed, I would settle for a bone-in ribeye, french fries, a crisp salad and a giant bowl of ice cream.
What can you not live without?
Easiest and shortest answer: Susan. Everything else in my life is better because of her love, support and friendship. I married up — ask anybody.
Who do you have on your iPod?
The listing begins with AC/DC, Alan Parsons, Alice in Chains, The Answer and Arctic Monkeys. Working from the end backward, there's Frank Zappa, Yes, Wolfmother, Wilco and Widespread Panic. The middle song, No. 1,488, is Jay Bennett's "Mirror Ball" from "Kicking at the Perfumed Air." This question reminded me that I have to give this release some more attention.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
I have two sons, who as men I consider close friends, a wonderful daughter-in-law and Susan. They create and will continue to create happy memories on a regular basis. As for a specific memory, theDonstock party for my 50th birthday is hard to top.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?
It would be fun to cover golf, music and politics: Fred Couples, President Obama and the first available of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Elvis Costello. If anyone bails, I would replace him with a great chef — doesn't matter who.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
My maternal grandfather was a wealth of advice, but it was never unsolicited. He gave me some private advice about my impending marriage, and it turned out to be profound.
What's your best piece of advice?
I give opinions but rarely give advice. I'm glad I always told my sons to be themselves.
What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?
My first job was a completely unrealistic introduction to what it means to work for a living. At 16, I was a part-time sales rep for Shasta Beverages, covering only Scott Air Force Base near O'Fallon and the Army base in Granite City. The compensation was straight commission — 12 cents a case to start — but those commissaries sold a lot of Shasta. My job entailed nothing more than visiting each location once a week and entering a restocking order. My first check covered two weeks and totaled almost $300. I calculated my effective hourly rate at about $25. I wasted a lot of money in high school.
What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?
My career has been affected by a couple of company acquisitions, and in one case, we thought seriously about moving to New York. That was almost 20 years ago, and since that decision, my family and I have benefited from this community in ways too numerous and profound to describe.
Do you have a bad habit? What is it?
I can be wordy.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
I react effectively in a crisis; otherwise, I don't believe in stress. I play golf instead.