Aaron Beck

About me: I grew up Indiana. I worked on farms. I graduated from Purdue.

I worked for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. On the side, I wrote about musicians and authors for a weekly paper.

I followed a girlfriend to Columbus and worked a slew of temp jobs, worked on the farm at Lane Avenue and Kenny Road, proofread Ohio Publishing copy, and worked part-time for The Columbus Dispatch sports department.

My girlfriend finished vet school and moved to New Orleans. I stayed and wrote about musicians for The Dispatch for 12 years and won some awards.

In 2009, newspapers—especially newspapers’ features and arts sections—evaporated. I jumped ship and landed in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams’ boat, which helped clear my mind and hit the reset button. I drove Jeni’s trucks and delivered ice cream to her five shops. I listened to music all day and approached the trucking gig as an endurance sport. (The way I’ve always seen it, the only way to approach modestly paying manual labor jobs is to consider them exercise that just happens to pay.)

I married Michelle Maguire, because she is beautiful and she is the funniest person alive.

I traded my truck for a desk and worked with Jeni Britton Bauer on Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, which, I’ll be damned, won a James Beard Award. I settled in at Jeni’s for five years of fun writing about ice cream in step with the force of nature that is Jeni Britton Bauer.

In 2015, another Columbus powerhouse, the marketing firm Ologie, called on me. I accepted. Working with graphic designers, strategists, project managers, administrators, alumni, students, and staff, I helped universities’ brands evolve by creating new messaging and tones of voice. I wrote long-form copy for multi-million-dollar fundraising campaigns. I presented my work. And, I learned how smarter brand strategy is built.

Along the way, my wife and I made Salami Dreamin’, a book inspired by our 85-year-old Great Aunt Doll, a salty Italian American who loves the Cleveland Browns, cured meats, chili dogs, and sunbathing. Six fine arts libraries in the U.S. now own copies in their permanent collections.

Now, here I am, happily embedded at the Limited's Bath & Body Works, where I write about candles, hand soap, and body care, and here are a few things I like about being alive:

Reading. Observing. Listening. Learning.

Describing things that exist and things that happened.

Retractable ink pens.

Everything Michelle Maguire creates.


Random occurrences and conversations.

Cinnamon rolls.

Charles Bronson movies and every line Charles Bronson ever delivered.

Westerns, especially: The Tall T; High Noon; The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; High Plains Drifter; The Searchers; and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Talking to strangers.

Woven Mexican and Navajo blankets.

Flea markets.

Estate sales.

Records and digital files (all kinds).

CDs (heavy metal).

Mellow cassettes (Eric Clapton, Dire Straits, and Fleetwood Mac).

Vintage T-shirts, sweatshirts, and men's shirts (hunting, buying, and selling).

Vintage postcards, especially shots of '70s and '80s sports arenas.

Amateur '80s rock concert photography (I love un-staged anything).

David Dye's World Cafe.

NPR's Only a Game.

Plain, well-used 4-door cars and station wagons with solid engines and bodies that looks like they've seen some things.

New York Times crossword puzzles.

Newspapers: everything from The New York Times to The Greensburg Daily News.

Magazines: everything from Harper's to Dirt Rag.

Cooking all afternoon in the wintertime.

Beer. Bourbon. Sparkling water.

Summer days that never end and winter days when the sun sets at 4:30.

Driving fast and listening to loud music at night.

Manual transmissions.

The sounds of lawn mowers and leaf blowers in the distance.

Sports, especially the NBA.

Utilitarian cycling. Walking. Stretching. Avoiding another back surgery.

Burritos (the perfect food).

Black Sabbath and everything that inspired Black Sabbath.

Blizzards (the weather kind, not the DQ kind).

Hardcore country music: Dwight Yoakam; Buck Owens; Merle Haggard; Johnny Paycheck; Keith Whitley; Hank Snow; Ray Price; Tom T. Hall; Gary Stewart; and Loretta Lynn.

The clarinet jazz of Lester Young and the jazz fusion of Herbie Hancock and other people who make music with teeth: Bob Dylan; Ice Cube; Geto Boys; Rolling Stones; Leonard Cohen; Lee Morgan; Jackie Mittoo; Kurt Vile; Mac DeMarco; Tom Petty; Sade; Al Green; Marvin Gaye; Irma Thomas; Neil Young; and Lucinda Williams.

Motown Records. Levi’s. Red Wing boots. The classic high-top basketball shoes of New Balance (what's up, James Worthy?), Nike, and Puma (especially the suede numbers).

Amy and David Sedaris. David Letterman. Cheri Oteri. The entire Phil Hartman-era of SNL.

CBS Sunday Morning.

Mark Rothko. Abstract paintings. The abstract, in general.

Doodling in meetings (helps me focus).

Watching pro football with Doll, my 85-year-old great aunt in law, who looks like contemporary Keith Richards. The elderly, in general.

Shipping via U.S. Mail. Receiving letters from my brother in Oregon.

The name Boz Scaggs. Dr. John's scuzzy psych era. Warren Zevon’s rendition of the Allen Toussaint song A Certain Girl.

What knee cartilage I still have (I'm missing 25%).

What natural teeth I still have (I knocked out 2.5 of them in fifth grade).

Famous Monsters magazine.

75% of Kiss' oeuvre.


Regional cookbooks.


The Thomas Lynch book The Undertaking.

Also, these books:

Cruel Shoes (Steve Martin)

A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)

The Cay (Theodore Taylor)

You Can’t Win (Jack Black—not that Jack Black)

Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)

Horseman, Pass By (which inspired the movie Hud) and The Last Picture Show (Larry McMurtry)

It’s So Easy (And Other Lies) (Duff McKagan)

Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir (Dave Mustaine)

Fargo Rock City (Chuck Klosterman)

Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal (Jon Wiederhorn and Kathleen Turman)

Beggars of Life: a Hobo Autobiography (Jim Tully)

Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo)

Cannery Row and Travels With Charley: In Search of America (John Steinbeck)

Great Plains (Ian Frazier)

Blue Highways: A Journey Into America (William Least Heat-Moon)

Barrel Fever (David Sedaris)

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments (David Foster Wallace)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Alex Haley and Malcolm X)

My Life (Anton Chekhov)

Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981–1991 (Michael Azerrad)

America's Favorite Radio Station: WKRP in Cincinnati (Michael B. Kassel)

Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (John G. Neighardt)

Old Jules (Mari Sandoz)

Stairway to Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe and The Accidental Evolution of Rock 'n' Roll: A Misguided Tour Through Popular Music (Chuck Eddy)

Dynamics of Faith (Paul Tillich)

Survival in Auschwitz (Primo Levi)

The Tenacity of the Cockroach: Conversations With Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders (Stephen Thompson)

The Rolling Stone Interviews

The David Letterman Story: An Unauthorized Biography (Caroline Latham)

The Bears of Blue River (Charles Major)

Van Halen: Exuberant California, Zen Rock 'n' Roll (John Scanlan)

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History (S.C Gwynne)

The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

The Bonfire of the Vanities (Tom Wolfe)

Black Like Me (John Howard Griffin)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Stephen King)

The poets James Tate and Rita Dove.

Every record by Larry McMurtry's son, James McMurtry.

Hearing the voices of my grandparents, especially my maternal grandad's "Well, JEE-zuhz Christ, Aaron, is that all you're gonna eat?”

The guy who recently stopped me on East Main Street to ask if I wanted to buy a steak from his tattered gray plastic Kroger bag: “Angus beef steak, man, $4. Was $10. Sold three already today."

These three movies, which I watch every year: Raising Arizona , The Jerk , and This Is Spinal Tap.

This breakfast: black coffee and chopped apple and banana with honey, and smooth, natural peanut butter.

Carl Linneaus. Julia Child. Duane Hanson. David Bowie. Prince. Errol Morris.

And, these trees: Salix babylonica (weeping willow), Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud), and Maclura pomifera (Osage orange).