Monday, September 24, 2018

Growin' Up

I wrote this on my blog in May 2006...

Jeezix, how fast time is going. After returning from Cedar Falls to see my oldest daughter graduate last night, and after play practice, my youngest had a party to go to. These were good kids having the party, but when she says "bye, dad", with the words she just tosses over her shoulders, you wonder how long you have left. Will she disappear after high school or will she return until we kick her out? I think she will be gone for good, hardly if ever to return. I left home at 17, rarely to return and for good at 22 when I moved to KC. 

While trying to sleep in the middle of the night(see previous post), the phone rings. A phone call at one a.m. is never expected and rarely good news. "Hey, I wanted to let you that I'll be home at 1:40 instead of 1:30, we are leaving now". Whew, thanks kid. 

"Bye, dad".

Friday, September 21, 2018

Old Ads

Old As I Was Born

This is my dad and his mom.

I'm guessing 1908.
I only knew my grandmother as an old woman. She died at 88 in 1967.
She has a Katherine Ross feel, no? It's almost out of an old western.
At one time, the family had some money; she died poor but I believe very happy.
She always seemed happy to me.

I think my dad threw a wrench into a couple of families as I have an older half brother who is 86 and my half sister is 81.
My father was older than my grand mother which didn't set well with that side of the family. He left the mother of the aforementioned half siblings and married my mother many years later.
He was 51 when I was born and almost 54 when my sister was.
Such a normal childhood.

We would drive to Kewanee on Sunday and visit Granny and Florence. Sisters that lived in the projects, but they always had  enough to get by. Many times, we'd have Sunday dinner at Granny's. The women are from Kentucky and so, they have been known to take a nip now and then. Even as a ten year old, Florence seemed to get real happy as the day went on. Being from Kentucky, ol' aunt Florence liked a chaw or two also. So, when you mix the combination of Jack Daniels and a tug, goodbye kisses were to be avoided at any cost.
God help you if Florence got you about 5pm.

"Granny's" husband died of a heart attack in 1953. My dad in 77, my brother in 93, my sister in 17

Even as an old woman Granny seemed to enjoy us kids, but I don't think that side of the family cared for my mother. She was much younger than everyone and hard to relate to.

But, that's my dad and his mom.

Anyway, a time long ago through the rear view mirror.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Goodbye Stranger

I've been asked why I left Facebook.

Time waster. That's my response.
I was the admin for the KY Video Page, the KY Fan Club Page, The Planet Radio page and my page.
It seems I was doing nothing else but be on that platform.
I have a new job in a new town I need to focus on and I was just spending way too much time there.
I need to get back here and continue writing the book.
So, for the time being, I'll give you my opinion, reflect and write on what I think.

Planet Radio is doing a countdown from this day in 1971.
Sometimes, I wish there was a time machine to drop us back somewhere in our lives, so we could get a do over.
I think I'd pick just about that time.

Starting to be a sophomore in high school.
Would I do it different?

I think I'd be a teacher, or maybe a preacher.
Knowing me, I'd probably get busted for having inappropriate relations with a student (only early in my career.)

Sophomore in high school (sigh). The only thing on my mind was how to get the homework done on time. Had a huge crush on my English teacher who was tall and black. Ms. Newborn didn't need much to garner my attention. Coming from crackerville where I lived, having a sexual thought about a black woman was a bit unnerving but I quickly realized if this was happening to me, I should probably rethink thoughts about black people. Moving to a high school that had a multi cultured population was so good for me.
It took awhile for the message to get in, but it was an incredible lesson in the fact people are people.
My good friend Jose had an older sister that I just about went nuts for every time I saw her only cemented how right the move was. Hispanic, black...people are people. No matter.

Our high school was in two campuses. It was such a huge population. I missed the familiar faces of the graduating class in Ava, which was 68. I was now in a sea of faces, over 800 strong in our class.
1971 was a shitty year for my brother, as he was in Vietnam, but for me, it was the beginning of my education into things other than school work.

Music, girls, cars.

The top ten from this day in 1971 featured Lee Michaels, Rare Earth, Dramatics, Carpenters, Paul and Linda McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Joan Baez, Bill Withers, Rod Stewart and well, Donny Osmond.

Damn fine time to be alive, 15 and somewhat safe.
My 12 year old sister would agree.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hello Hurray!

I got to spend some quality time with my daughter this Sunday.
In fact it may be one of the best days we've ever had.
We got a burger at the Village Restaurant, and a custard at the local Kirkwood store that's been there forever. Then we found a bench under some shade, in close proximity to a train and we ate and talked.
And talked.
We cried and cried.
She seems to be at peace with a lot of things in her life and for that, I am grateful.
And jealous.
We did a "pinky promise" about me starting this up again. She promised me she'd read it.
So, if for no other audience than my daughter, I'm going to fire up this machine again.
I used to be pretty good about this and had an incredible following.
Facebook popped up and as you go through the history here, 10 years ago, three previous posts would be one day. Now, it's ten year gone. That ain't right.
Facebook became an obsession and unhealthy one at that. So, I'm taking a break, writing stuff that could or could not be used in the book depending on what you think.
It'll take me a couple of posts to figure out the lastest gizmos and stuff at my perusal.
So, Emily, here we go again.
Maybe if enough shit gets thrown against the wall, maybe some of it will be some what relative.

BTW, I have a rental car with satellite radio and I can't turn off Willie's Roadhouse.
My mother used to buy these Shurfine Country albums at the grocery store.
They had all those old country songs like Hank Locklin, Cowboy Copas, Faron Young, George Jones and the like. Hank Williams probably held a bigger place in my mother's life than ANYONE. I learned his stuff in utero. So, I'm pretty comfortable with Willie's station

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In My Time of Dying

As I literally wait for a friend to take his last breath after a four year battle....I am reminded of what an incredibly lucky man I am. 
I've met Presidents and rock royalty, but in the end, don't we all want just more time?

George Harrison likened death to just passing on into another room. I hope I'm that calm.

I found this today from Kevin Smith, who was a bit out of my wheelhouse. "Clerks" was when I was after thirty three...but he sums it up so incredibly well...

"I was trying to do a killer stand up special this evening but I might’ve gone too far. After the first show, I felt kinda nauseous. I threw up a little but it didn’t seem to help. Then I started sweating buckets and my chest felt heavy. Turns out I had a massive heart attack. The Doctor who saved my life at Glendale Hospital told me I had 100% blockage of my LAD artery (also known as “the Widow-Maker” because when it goes, you’re a goner). If I hadn’t canceled the second show to go to the hospital, the Doc said I would’ve died tonight. For now, I’m still above ground! But this is what I learned about myself during this crisis: death was always the thing I was most terrified of in life. When the time came, I never imagined I’d ever be able to die with dignity - I assumed I’d die screaming, like my Dad (who lost his life to a massive heart attack). But even as they cut into my groin to slip a stent into the lethal Widow-Maker, I was filled with a sense of calm. I’ve had a great life: loved by parents who raised me to become the individual I am. I’ve had a weird, wonderful career in all sorts of media, amazing friends, the best wife in the world and an incredible daughter who made me a Dad. But as I stared into the infinite, I realized I was relatively content. Yes, I’d miss life as it moved on without me - and I was bummed we weren’t gonna get to make #jayandsilentbobreboot before I shuffled loose the mortal coil. But generally speaking, I was okay with the end, if this was gonna be it. I’ve gotten to do so many cool things and I’ve had so many adventures - how could I be shitty about finally paying the tab. But the good folks at the Glendale Hospital had other plans and the expertise to mend me. Total strangers saved my life tonight. This is all a part of my mythology now and I’m sure I’ll be facing some lifestyle changes (maybe it’s time to go Vegan). But the point of this post is to tell you that I faced my greatest fear tonight... and it wasn’t as bad as I’ve always imagined it’d be. I don’t want my life to end but if it ends, I can’t complain. It was such a gift.

"I was ok with the end." 

I think I will be too.
A life filled with great adventures.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Key To The Highway

The funny things in life you write about.

I was chatting with a friend today and somehow the phrase "taking a new road without a map" came up. For some reason, it stuck. I got to pondering how many times in my life I took a new road without a map. Now, before that, on trips, I used to be the map kid. With my trusty always perfectly folded up guide to places I had never seen, I could tell you the next turn was approximately 6 miles down the road. Insufferable in the car.

A new road without a map?
Wow, a lot to digest in one setting. I can make this career related and then get personal later.

I'll say it was early on.
12ish, putting together my little radio station in my bedroom,in the middle of nowhere, complete with a 5 inch reel to reel, a cassette player that had an AM radio built in, a record player and a cheap microphone. I cursed the DJ that talked all the way to the beginning of the vocals because damn it, that was my job. What fun, but quite eccentric for a kid reading Encyclopedia Brown books as fast as they could make them. I was so enamored with the radio. Every Thursday night the local station would count down the top 30 songs of the week and I'd write them down. Every Thursday night. I remember getting mad that "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher kept "Satisfaction" out of the number one spot. I was furious. What to do from here? I was enthralled with radio at its best, certainly a new road but no map.

When I graduated from radio school it was ok, what now?
Where do I go to follow this dream that has so far cost me my marriage, my relationship with my father and overall great consternation among the close knits? "The boy has lost his mind." "Why on earth would he leave a great job in the foundry? He could retire there." It sure seemed like I had lost my mind. I walked out the door to no job, but dang it I had a tape. The map appeared about two weeks into the search when I strong armed my way on the air at the local country station. Now, not only did I have a tape, but I had a tape of me actually being on air. That turned into my first full time job and then three years later...the map disappeared again.

At this point in the journey, I was half asleep when I got the call.
All I wanted was to sleep. Getting up at 3:45 made sure I slept in shifts; 4 to 5 hours at night, two to three in the afternoon if at all possible. I was groggy as someone named Max Floyd from Kansas City said something about him not knowing how my tape (see?) ended up on his desk, but he had an opening at the station. "What station? Who? Is this a joke?" No joke, three weeks later, I was sitting in the drivers seat of a UHaul trailer with a garbage bag of home grown that I almost went through by the time I got all the way through Iowa bound for the bright lights and the big city, the home of pretty little women and damn it, I'm gonna get me one. Right before I left for KC, I got cold feet and my dear Aunt Jane almost slapped the shit out of me. "Isn't this what you have spent your life waiting for? Isn't this your dream? Kansas City or Moline? You want the big time or do you want to be comfortable? I think you know your answer" Little did she know the job I left paid more than the job I accepted. I got to KC about 6pm on a Sunday night, knowing no one, or where anything was. All I knew is I had to find the Howard Johnson's downtown.This was a literal interpretation of our subject as I had no map.  It's getting late, I can't find the hotel, the neighborhood is dicey and I'm about ready to call Aunt Jane form a pay phone to tell her exactly what I think. Then, it appeared. The Howard Johnson sign. I checked in, locked my truck, went to my room and cried myself to sleep.  I woke up the next morning anticipating a road without a map.

I've always taken the blue highways whenever possible.
I used to take vacations by pulling a direction out of a hat and just leaving that way. No maps, no deadlines, no worries. As I've gotten older, I've had a bit of wanderlust, I like taking off in new directions and traveling with no map. Whatever that means to you, I know what it means to me.
I wish you many mapless travels.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A New Day

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves "off the track".
My good friends know the last six months have found me so off the track, I don't know where it is...disappointments, falsehoods, game playing, heartbreak in relationships, health, employment...whatever, can grind you down like pencil lead.
When two of my best friends told me a couple of weeks ago "I look behind your eyes and I see nothing in there," I knew it was time to start over. 
Then a very sweet friend sent me this today...for anyone who has found themselves off the track and wondered..."is this it?"
Maybe you can start over...
"You can get yourself a small room in a new city where no one knows your name
just yet
but they will,
for they will see you walking quietly through the market on Sunday mornings,
and sitting at the cafe on Tuesdays
scribbling thoughts in that worn out notebook,
or in the library between the shelves of different worlds, and late on Friday evenings
you will sit peacefully in the corner of the pub
by yourself
and you will be okay with that.
Some nights beautiful women will buy you drinks and ask your name
and you will smile, but be okay with walking home alone
because one day someone will know you
without asking your name
and that’s the person that matters.
So wait a few years,
until you can get yourself a small room in a new city where no one knows your name
just yet
but they will
and there will be an older lady
knocking at your door
saying hi and you’re very welcome,
and you can have a garden
where only flowers grow, with no thorns, that you plant yourself,
and on sunny mornings in April
you can sit and watch them bloom
a little more each day,
just like you do,
bloom a little more
each day.
And on crisp winter mornings in January you can drink coffee in the cold
on your own front porch
and the town is empty
but full
of other things
like space.
And hope.
And purity.
Wait a few years,
when things are clearer, and you will go on well. Just hold on
and wait.
You WILL be ok."
-Charlotte Erickson

I am starting over. In a new town. You?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

In Search Of...."God?"

I've reached a point in my life where "God" or whatever "he/she" may be is so far removed from my life, it's scary. I realize other people don't share my belief there is something bigger out there, hell two of my kids don't believe in "it" at all. That's fine. If you choose not to believe, you believe in that choice, and that's OK.
So, where do you go to find "God"?
"He's in your heart" a good friend said. Not that easy.
"He works through you," added another.
So, does that means if I do good works, be nice, generous, kind, considerate, he (we'll use he subjectively) will magically appear?
So when searching for "God" where do we start?
I was listening to some blue grass music on the way home from work today and I thought how many people find God in bluegrass music. Alison Krauss was featured and I think she's pretty godly.
So, where do we start?
I think first we must define God. I see God as not quite a person, but a guiding force that guides us, maybe a conscience, an intuition, a second sense that, if allowed, will hopefully allow us to make choices in our lives that enrich us, surround us with a feeling of comfort knowing we are doing the right thing.
I have a guardian angel. I know it. When I was three, my next door neighbor was a guy of about 21, who would let me ride in convertible, wash his car and, from what I gather was crazy about me. He drowned on his wedding day and I guess for the next few weeks I would come over ans wonder where Bobby was. It got to the point that my mom wouldn't let me go outside because she knew how much it upset Bobby's mom for me to go over there.
It's him. He's my guardian angel. Don't ask why I know, I just do.
But as that proof of God? I don't know, if I feel he's my guardian angel, then I must recognize there is something out there, bigger than us. I know I have felt his presence a number of times in my life, and the times I have ignored that instinct, that feeling, I've usually made the wrong decision. I know people will poo poo all this, but there HAS to be something to believe in.
The last six months of my life have been me walking around the desert waiting for manna to drop from heaven. It seems like it's been kick Randy in the nuts everyday season. From failed relationships, to being gaslighted by someone I trusted respected, admired and adored, to losing my job, to just about anything you can think of, I've been through it. Where the hell has God been through all of this?
Maybe right here lurking but not posting. Maybe nowhere to be seen. I sure haven't felt God lately.
So, I'm on a search to find "him." "I'm on the road to find out..." as Cat Stevens once said.
Let's take a look at the simple things...a walk in the woods, a bike ride feeling the wind in your face as you go faster and faster. Maybe simple smile, hello or a kind gesture now and then when someone least expects it.
I've reached November in the calendar of my years, maybe even mid November and I know I need to find "him" soon.
The way I look at it, it's kinda like Pascal's Wager, it is an argument in apologetic philosophy devised by the seventeenth century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623–62).It posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not.Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas they stand to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses.
Whatever that means...I think it means if there IS a God, and you have lived your life denying his existence then you are standing before him in the afterlife, how do you explain it to him? I'll report back with various clues along the way.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Generation Landslide or Funny How Time Slips Away

I got a text from my daughter the other day and it was very interesting. She said since moving to Los Angeles, she's started gravitating to the classic rock stations. "I guess I knew it would happen someday."
I think she's a little put out at happened at only 26. She said she's noticed they play the same songs over and over and she's looking for something else.
She's asked me to make CDs of "my music" for her so she can listen to them.
I was a bit taken back by this and I wanted classification, so I texted her "what exactly do you mean by 'my music'"?
"Songs YOU think I need to hear."
Child, there are hundreds you NEED to hear.
"Send them."
That's my girl!!

Since the Time Machine on Thursday morning dealt with 1971, I started there.
Her first CD will include The Rolling Stones (three from Sticky Fingers), Marvin Gaye (three from What's Going On), James Taylor (three from Mud Slid Slim)and about eight John Denver tunes.
She wants a description why each song should be on there.
The Stones, Marvin and James are no brainers, the John Denver requires a bit of explanation.

I was his doppelganger in high school, His first BIG song came out in 1971 (between freshman and sophomore years) all the way through 1975. He was Johnny Carson's fill in, had his own show and was a movie star (Oh God!).
john or me?

me or john?
There are a hand full of people I didn't know who I have cried about when they died. John Denver was one. While he could be very pedestrian, his good stuff ranks right up with me as some of the best of all time.
I thought a could cover the Beatles in two CDs. Not even close. Not three. It looks like four. Maybe.
I'll keep you informed of what happens.

With great sadness I found out about Chris Squire succumbing to cancer earlier today. The picture above was taken in 1984 at a park off state line in Kansas City. Yes came to town wanting to play softball for some reason. Chris Squire is in the van. Most of the band came ready to play but Chris Squire was dressed in boots and wasn't really interested. He sat on the bench, chain smoking cigarettes; in fact lighting one off another. I sat next to him for a minute and the conversation went like this...
"Hey man, those things will kill ya." "It's probably a bit too late for that, mate."
"Not a softball fan?" "No not really, I just come out to these things to hang around and see new and different things. I'm not really into exercise, that's why I play the bass." (he laughs)
I told him the first Yes song I ever heard was "Your Move".
"That's a good one to find us by", he said.
"What was it about?"
"Love is such a chess game, you make your moves for future plans, and the next thing you know, checkmate, she's got you."
I told him how much time I spent under the headphones with his band and that Yes was definitely in my top ten of all time.
"Why not top five?" he laughed.
He was gracious and thanked me, I shook his massive hand (they were like concrete blocks) and I moved along to do something else. I remember he was a massive human being, especially with those boots on.  He was also very charming. Cancer sucks.

Drew Johnson from KSHE has asked my to cut a small piece about my time there and KSHE will play it on the air. It will go something like this..."when I stood up at graduation from radio school in 1976 we were all asked where we wanted to be in ten years. I proudly got up, threw my chest out and said I would be doing afternoons at KSHE 95 in St. Louis. Cue the rounds of laughter.
I made it in nine years. When I go back and look at my career, my time there provided the most interesting and fulfilling chapters in the book and the brightest colors in the picture of my life.
13 years I'll never forget and cherish forever. It was always a privilege and one I NEVER took for granted. Thank you for listening, and thank you for allowing me to come into your life every afternoon. I thought we made a great pair."
95% of my time at KSHE was heaven. The other 5% is for another day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Little Victories

One of the cool things about this blog is I never know where you have joined the story.
One radio station or another, East Moline, KSHE, I never know. So, if this is redundant, my apologies.
My early life was largely spent on a farm in the middle of nowhere.
Small town restless and bored, this was truly a place where you had to make your own fun.
Ava, Missouri, population at the time 2,504, now over 3,000. Beautiful northern Ozark Mountain range.
Pleasures were small and fun could mean anything from watching a big old frog swallow a firecracker and the aftermath to listening to the sounds of nature on a hot summer night. There was a symphony played out every evening that drew you to a bedroom window when everyone else was asleep. I was always fascinated with being outside back then. Again, we go back to the smell. Pristine.
I recently came upon a story about the two kids in Maryland who walk to school every day and how the parents are now being prosecuted for allowing their kids to do that.
My mother would have a few things to say about this. She firmly believed in letting her kids find their way. For better or worse, we knew what we could do and not do.
My mother came from a very hard-scrapple background growing up in Simmons MO, which is south of Solo, which is in the middle of nowhere.
Getting beat down on a regular basis made my mother tough as nails. She finished fights started by her brothers and could smoke and drink the best under the table.
"True Wisdom Only Comes From Pain"
One of the highlights about living on the farm is you could be gone from sun up to sun down and no one paid any attention. Freedom. It was encouraged.
 "Go get the stink blowed off ya" was my mom's favorite saying.
One of my favorite things to do on the weekend in the summer when I could bribe my grandfather into handling my chores was go exploring.
I'd put together a pack of things necessary to survive a day or two in the wild. Innertube for floating, tent, small camp stove, fishing pole, transistor radio,etc etc.
I'd leave on Friday and walk, following a creek until it became dark or impassible or until I got tired of lugging the stuff around.
Usually, if there were fish around , I'd float and drop a line behind me. Most always, I caught something and could be assured of dinner. There were a couple of times I wasn't so lucky. I'd stop at a suitable place and set up camp, usually, in the most remote God forsaken spot ever. I liked it like that. I would build a fire, cook fish and just hang. Little victories. Character. Perseverence.
I was 14.
Survival man got nothing on this boy.
Every once in awhile, I'd get an unexpected visitor, but I figured if they caught my karma, me knowing I was in their house, we'd be cool. And we were.
I was 14.
It was that kind of freedom, knowing I could go anywhere for as long as I want at 14 that made me the independent person I am now. That gene has been passed to my daughters as I know they each moved out of their house at the legal age and never moved back.
We move in small circles.
While I was there, I hated the farm. I know now it provided the strength and fortitude to know what real poverty was like. It made me tough. Like I know what tough is.
The fun stuff was pure. We had swimming holes. Vera Cruz, Big Piney, Flat Rock, etc.
We had two TV stations on a good night from a town 60 miles away.
We had AM radio.
We had a party line. Four shorts rings was for "old Mrs. Harris".
We had horses. Ours were named Scout and Gayboy. Yeah. Gayboy. I was 14.
We had discipline, having to get up every morning, do the chores, go to school, come home, do the chores, do homework, listen to the radio, go to bed, get up every morning, etc.
But it seemed just about every Saturday morning, there would be a number of people gathered around a table with lots of food.
Eggs, bacon, pancakes, all cooked in a skillet with lard and farm fresh butter, recently churned and salted. And laughter. For all her faults, my mother had the greatest sense of humor. And so did all the McNews, I guess it's how they coped.
While my family had it's problems in the middle of nowhere, you felt like it was somewhere.
It was a time when we were all alive.
In a land where I believed we would live forever.
Little Victories.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Take The Long Way Home

I love this time of year.
It seems this is the time of beginnings and endings.
The ending of the college basketball season always sets my internal syncopation up a step. All I know is I hope someone beats Kentucky in the tournament. I'm just about always rooting for the under dog in the tournament. Northern Iowa (my daughter's alma mater) has done that twice. Once in the early 90's they took out a very talented Missouri team and about five years ago did the same to the mighty Jayhawks.
Don't pick them because I'm rooting for them and that is a certain kiss of death.
Days like today should be spent outside as much as possible. Since I'm trying to destroy about 100 pounds, tonight was a great night for a bike ride as I put another 14 miles on the odometer.
Later, as the sun started to go down, I walked over to the local Hen House grocery store and after  I decided to take the long way home.
I'm at a pretty decent place in my life at this point. I like my job, most of the people I work with, my "mother in laws" quarter is pretty centrally located in suburban Johnson county and I'm within walking distance of movies, the grocery store, a Quik trip, a Chinese restaurant and so on. The neighborhood I reside in would be considered middle class, maybe a couple of the houses might move up to lower upper middle class, but I picture these houses as being built in the 60s and 70s. Some starter homes here and there but the majority have been lived in awhile by the same family.
My abode is the back of a house owned by an older couple. One of their parents lived here for a while and passed not too long before I got here. I have the essentials, or as my father would say, I have a place to "shit, shower and shave." I can cook here and it's just handy. 15-20 minutes in to work and for whatever reason, 25-30 minutes home. As I was walking through the neighborhood tonight, I immersed myself in all the smells as I've been known to do. It's freaky really, that just a waft of a cigarette smell still reminds me of my mother. I can't stand to be around it, but just that  faint smell sends me back. Someone in the neighborhood had a fire going, someone liked very spicy food. I smelled fried chicken too (another one of my favorite smells) but I'm not sure whether it came from someone's house or the Popeyes a mile or so away.
Tonight also reminded me of working in the drive in theatre for some strange reason, too. I will still say that job was one of the best I've ever had. There were weeks where I'd put in 60-65 hours a week and get paid $1.25. I remember the summer of 1973, I got a 10 cent raise to $1.40, so I went and blew at all on a brand new stereo component system. I still have the receiver too. Cranks like a boss.
Anyway, this would be the time of year I'd go to work on the weekend getting the theatre ready for human consumption. Opening weekend was usually the first weekend in April and the first few nights were always cold. You could get a propane heater up front at the box office if you wanted. I always wondered why no one died while inhaling that damned heater. It was a Redstone theatre, yes the head of the company was one Sumner Redstone, one of the richest guys in the world and he was known to drop in on places like Silvis Illinois to check out his property. What an incredible opportunity for me at the age of 17 to be the assistant manager in charge of making sure this theatre rocked. And it did.
Funny how I think of that.
It's amazing to me what lies in our sub conscious, just below our everyday world that's looking to escape, given the right circumstances. Whether it's by smell, sight, music or any other stimulus, it seems so many things accumulate there. Some things need to me let out, allowed to breathe and when that happens, I can get overwhelmed at times.
As I'm writing this, I'm listening to John Mellemcamp sing "make me feel like I want to feel, make me feel like I did at the start.." which gets me overwhelmed with thoughts of a person I can not touch. Or hear. Or see. But I can still smell her.
I had an old friend tell me many years ago the things we go through add to the chapters of the book, the colors of the painting and the soundtrack of our life.
I am thrilled my painting has such deep, passionate colors, such riveting hues and shades. My book is filled with many well written, in depth chapters that cover the spectrum of joy, frustration and being hit by a number of freight trains. My career is about a frog who dreamed of being a king...and then became one.
As content as I am now, that only allows me to think there's something around the corner, not sure who or what but this has never been about the merry go round, it's been about the roller coaster.
I hope to get off of it someday.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

So Long

The last time I was this upset about someone passing I didn't know was when George Carlin died.
I would not have done what I did for a living if not for Larry Lujack. He was the bar for an entire generation of would be wanna be broadcasters.
I first heard Larry when I moved to the Quad Cities in 1971.
I had been a fan of WLS for years as it was a long distance beacon for a lonely kid growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere. I was 12 when I got my first radio to call my own. It was a combo AM/FM/cassette recorder that I could sit in my bedroom window and listen to world from far away places like Chicago, Little Rock, Nashville, Denver and the like.
I never really had much of a family life on the farm as my mom was usually pretty hammered by the time I got home from school (she still did the best she could), my father wasn't around, my brother was in Viet Nam, my sister was too young to understand so the radio became my escape.
In the wintertime, the low power radio stations would sign off at 4:30 or 5pm and the wham, the great clear channel AM blow torches from all over the country would bellow into my room through the airwaves and out the new fangled fancy device I would have propped up in my window. I would get home from school, do my chores and then lock myself in my room, listening to WLS, KAAY, WLAC, KOA and whatever far away signal I could get. It would be on when I went to sleep and I'd wake up to white noise as the big powerful stations would be lost in the AM haze.
My escape.
My solace was those guys on the radio. I wanted to be like them.
WLS became my favorite as they played great hit music and had jocks who could tell stories over a 13 second intro. Those stories were funny, interesting, topical and marvelous.
It was at that time I knew what I wanted to do for a living.
We moved from the farm to East Moline in May of 1971. I was then able to hear WLS all day.
The guy that made it sound so easy, so simple, so relaxed was Larry Lujack. We had a great AM station in the Quad Cities (KSTT) that featured wonderful guys that sounded great but there was something about WLS. The big time, the big city, travelling through the airwaves from 200 miles away.
It was magical.
Here was Larry, sounding so spur of the moment, like he made it up as he went along. The pregnant pauses, the shuffling of papers, the timing, the wit, the humor.
Like great musicians, it was so smooth, so effortless, so natural, so funny.
I realize when I got into the business, that he had to be unbelievably prepared to make it sound so spontaneous.
There were times I'd be driving somewhere in my car and he would have me laughing so hard, I couldn't do anything but cry. I remember still having my fancy schmancy AM/FM/cassette a few years later and trying to record his daily versions of animal stories, a collection of humorous stories he would gather about animals. He would read them with the mid day guy Little snot nosed Tommy Edwards ( a great jock in his own right). He would crack Tommy up so bad, Tommy couldn't breathe.
Neither could I.
What a talent, what a gift for knowing how to be so relatable, to be the guy you invited into your car, your house, your life every day. You were sad when it was time for him to sign off.
Larry was your obnoxious but hilarious friend that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't stop laughing with him.
I wanted to sound like him.
It was a time that while the music was the reason you listened, you couldn't imagine not having Larry in between the songs telling stories over the intro that made you laugh, think, feel and care what he had to say.
Sadly, it isn't that way anymore.
I've said it before on this blog where I've pointed out that I've reached the age my mom warned  me about.  Not long before she died, she told me she didn't recognize the world anymore, things were moving so fast, everyone she ever cared about or listened to or idolized were dying.
"And I don't know anyone on TV anymore."
Amen, mom, I get it now.
So, Uncle Lar, from some punk kid you never had any idea you influenced, I want to say how much I loved what you did. I loved how you were a friend riding with me every day and how much you taught me about being that .."bright good morning voice that's heard but never seen."
You taught me the art of communication, the art of being natural, being relatable, being...a friendly voice coming through the speakers.
While the other guys who made the line up at WLS, Fred Winston, Tommy Edwards, John Landecker, Bob Sirrott, Geoff Davis were, themselves, greater than life, it was you, Larry Lujack, that stood head and shoulders above anyone I've ever heard when it came to entertaining on the radio. I took most of your stuff and made it my own. I didn't even come within a solar system to the way you did it though.
I hope wherever you are you realize how much joy and laughter you brought into a whole generation of listeners from the entire Midwest. When everything got me down and life was a shit sandwich, there you were.
Like an actor on a stage, when that microphone went on, you were on.
It was real good radio. And you were real. And good.
You were on my radio and in my life through some of the best times and worst times and I cannot in anyway shape or form in written word tell you how your body of work shaped my life and influenced me.
I always wanted to sound like you.
I read where you died of esophageal cancer. What a tough way to go.
You didn't deserve that.

I listened to my CD of animal stories today and spent the day crying my eyes out.
I'm not sure they were tears of joy or tears of sadness.
I stand in wonder at your body of work. You did set the bar so high no one ever could reach it.
I tried, but failed miserably.
Rest in peace sir. I hope God has a great sense of humor.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rock Me On the Water

One of the things I enjoy doing is reading in church.
I have been a bit removed from the Catholic faith in the past few years due to it's direction and the church becoming more inclusive and less appealing to those who have a different point of view about what the church doctrine is.
In my heart of hearts I believe Jesus loves everyone, regardless of who they love or who they are. It seems the new pope is more concerned with what the church is rather than what it isn't.
I guess that's the more liberal side of me talking.
I guess you can say I'm not as religious as I should be, but I am a very spiritual man and have been for most of my life. My mother was a big believer in going to church and while I wasn't a fan of it at the time, I think the things we are exposed to as a child come back to visit us in different ways as we get older. We went to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights (when we didn't go to the bowling alley during my father's leagues) and on Wednesday nights, wherever the services were held.
I can remember going to church at the Oddfellows Hall in downtown Moline. I remember helping build and attending the Green Rock Baptist Church in my youth.
Now, we can get into the theological debate and whether there was (or is) a Jesus. There are some of my friends and family that don't believe in any of this, that there is no God, and that's fine.
To each their own. I don't love them any less for what they do or don't believe.
All I know is if there is a divine being and I get to meet him/her in the afterlife, I don't want to stand in front of them and deny their existence. At that time, I can envision him/her pulling the lever on the trap door to hell.
That's just me.
I volunteered to read for someone who couldn't be at the 11 am mass yesterday.
As I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, not having a job and all, I got to the church a bit late. I surrounded my self with doubt and I was feeling a wee bit sorry for myself.
The lectors, servers and all who make up the mass were meeting in the sacristy as is custom. Today, it was a bit full in the room as we were celebrating a baptism of a new baby born recently to a young couple and Father Jack was going through the service and how it worked. After the explanation, all in the room makes the sign of the cross on the baby's forehead.
How unworthy was I to do that?
I happened to notice, as the explanation was given, the father of the baby needed a walker and when he was spoken to, and could hardly speak back. I couldn't figure out whether he had some kind of muscular degenerative disease or he has suffered some kind of head trauma in battle. I know he shuffled with his walker and his speech was halting and he had to be helped to get the words out.
My heart sank.
Here was this beautiful young woman, her baby in her arms and this burly, young man who was obviously facing a burden I couldn't even imagine. How foolish of me to dwell on the fact that I had a road in front of me when it came to finding a job when this man, who was probably half my age, was struggling to walk and talk. He relied an someone (I will guess it was his brother)to make sure he was understood. He has his entire life in front of him, however long it may be, to cope with not being able to fend for himself, to hold his daughter, to embrace his wife, to communicate, to live a normal life.
It took all I had not to get emotional.

The service started and my reading was the second reading which went like this:

"Brothers and sisters:
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement
and good hope through his grace,
encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed
and word.

Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us,
so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified,
as it did among you,
and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people,
for not all have faith.
But the Lord is faithful;
he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 
We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you,
you are doing and will continue to do. 
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God
and to the endurance of Christ."

As I got up to the amble, I glanced toward this family, my voice clenched and I asked God to give me the strength to do this.
My quick prayer was like this..."I don't have many talents Lord, but one of the talents you gave me was my voice, please allow it to be strong and clear..."
I nailed the reading, exhaled and sat back down.

Sitting in the pew to my left was a family I have known for many years and have attended St. Peter with me for the last 15 years or so. Their son has had some kind of learning disability, whether he has autism or something else, I have watched this young man grow from being a young boy into the spitting image of his father. The entire family was there yesterday, the boy, mom, dad and the two sisters. This family is just like any other except the boy talks with his hands and, sometimes in the past, has had trouble behaving in church as he is prone to uncontrolled outbursts. Again, I have known them for years, so his grunting and such has never bothered me. Some new members of the parish aren't quite as used to him as I am.
Yesterday, he had one of those days.
You could tell he was going to be loud and ultimately, he was. Dad immediately gathered him and his books and ushered him back into the child's room, where he could lash out and not be heard. Again, I was overwhelmed with how difficult their lives must be, having to work so hard with this young boy and the exhausting frustration they must have faced most of their lives. You can see the stress and pain in their faces and the anguished look on the two sisters face. The parents look far older than their years. I have such a sense of admiration for what they must have endured in their lives to try and give this young man as much of a normal life as possible.

Again, I stepped back and marveled at how people cope and how hard they work to lead "normal" lives that we take for granted every day. I am sure either one of those couples would have traded their troubles for mine. 

So, on a day I volunteered to read at church, not planning really to be at this service, on my right was a young couple, surrounded by people they loved, coping with a young father whose life will never be "normal" and the strength they displayed as they were getting ready to raise their family.
On my left, a family who has struggled for years to give their son the "normal" life he has deserved. And have done the best they can.
And here I was in the middle, suddenly taught the basic lessons of life and realizing that my cross is relatively very small.
No matter how hard things are or bleak they may appear, there are lessons in strength, courage and humility all around us. However bad it my seem for us, there are people in the world carrying crosses that are heavier than we can ever hope to know.

No matter how dark, there are glimpses of light, no matter how hopeless, there are images of hope, examples of love, courage and faith that keeps all of us going.
Think it was a coincidence someone gave up that place to read at that mass so I could be a witness to this?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

RIP Lou Reed

So long, Lou. I am actually surprised you lasted this long.
With all the drugs and unprotected sex you've had with both sexes, making it to 71 is quite the feat.
I first saw Lou in concert in Iowa City where he shared the bill with Jethro Tull.
He and his great band opened for JT and that was the first and only time I saw someone do heroin onstage.
During the song "White Light, White Heat," he took the microphone cord, used it to tie himself off and I swear he shot himself up that night. My friend who was with me saw it too. we just looked at each other in disbelief.
He also holds the record for my shortest interview.
I talked to him backstage at the first Farm Aid in 1985. He was not in to talking with anyone at all. When it came my turn to chat with him, it was toward the end of the day and I could tell he was getting annoyed with Midwest DJs asking him the same questions over and over.
Through the drags on his cigarette I aked something to the effect of, how do you feel playing in the Midwest with country acts on the bill raising money for farmers?
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he huffed and with that, he walked away, he was done.
To me, his career featured great the hell did he get away with a reference of giving head on "Walk on the Wild Side"? Even when I was in high school, I knew what he meant.
"Rock and Roll Animal" was a live masterpiece. It was mostly because of his band which featured Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner..
I never got the Velvet Underground. I guess I'm not east coast enough.

The rest of his catalog is hit or miss with "Metal Machine Music" being the biggest piece of crap I ever spent money on.

See ya Lou

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Small Circles

I just had dinner with one of my favorite cousins tonight.
We ate at Rudy's, always a hangout over on the Illinois side. He and his wife are always enjoyable, even though he's a lifelong Pirates fan.
One the way home, I cruised through the radio dial.
I think I heard Katy Perry twice and skimmed to see what my old station WXLP (97X) was playing.
As I passed the old studios at 1111 East River Drive, one of the songs we made famous came on the airwaves. As I started listening to it, the signal wasn't quite as clear as I remember it.
Maybe it was just me, or maybe it's always been that way and I never noticed but there was a bit of "washing" as I drove in downtown Davenport. I wonder if the tower is still in Orion (pronounced o-ree-on), as Orion is about 30 miles from downtown Davenport.
I must have played this song more than a few thousand times in my career but I always remember it fondly.
Almost like Boston.
Lord knows how many times I've played the first Boston album in my radio life, but there is something about it that still rings with nostalgia. Nothing sounded like it in 1976 and nothing sounds like it now.
While this song I heard was written about a love I'm sure, for some reason, even back then, I thought it was about me and the joyous journey in front of me.
I never did really take anyone along on this journey, but the line "pack your bags we'll leave tonight" always reminded me of the opening line of WKRP in Cincinnati.
"I got tired of all the packing and unpacking..."
Anyway, I felt a great sense of deja vu when it came on and I had to drive around the block a few time outside my apartment to hear the whole thing.
It's odd I live literally four blocks from the old studios. I played the song when it was new, more than 35 years ago right down the street and I find it weird it came on as I passed the studio 35 years later with me still enthralled by the first solo release from Eddie Money.
"Two Tickets to Paradise" still makes me think about those days when radio filled me with awe.
"I want to take you on a trip so far from here..."
Later, I got to interview Eddie. I told him how that song was very special to me and whether he meant it or not, he thought it was cool it meant so many things to so many people.
He told me it was his tribute to Bruce Springsteen

Played 35 years ago on River Drive in downtown Davenport, heard 35 years later on River Drive in downtown Davenport.

We move in small circles.

"I've waited so long..."

Monday, October 21, 2013

Basketball as Zen

This is the place I find myself.
This is my place of Zen and it has been for 21 years.
When I started playing basketball in March of 1992, I was out of shape with a weight of 237 pounds and a bad cholesterol number of 318. I found it by accident.
After taking some verbal abuse from a co-worker one day...."hey butter ball turkey..." I decided that enough was enough and it was time to do something about my fatness.

Living in Kirkwood, and doing the morning show on KSHE, I decided one day to just put the tennis shoes on and go shoot some baskets at the local YMCA. I got there about 11am, but hadn't really started any kind of official weight loss program, so I just shot and shot, trying to get the old form back that launched me to stardom in my youth.  :)
About 11:45, people started streaming in to the gym and I was in the middle of what the Y called noontime basketball. By noon, we had about 13 or 14 guys I never saw before.
Old, young, tall, short, fat and thin, black, white they all came in, looking for some exercise.
The leader was a guy named Bob, who was the executive director at the Y.
He let me know they played Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon and I was certainly welcome.
The first game I played, I had to call time out about three trips down the floor. "Ah, we don't call time out, you have to play with your team or sit until the next game", as the rules were now explained. Then it was four times up and down the floor...then five..six and on it went until in nine months, I had lost almost fifty pounds, lowered my cholesterol by over a hundred points and got in real good shape.
I found my Zen place.
This is where the only thing I worry about is what my next play is (or as I joked today, what play I can screw up next).

No matter what has happened in my life, where I've been, where I've moved, this place is home.
A gym.
Not just a gym, though.
The one constant in my roller coaster world. The place where nothing matters, just playing. I don't think about work, or anything but playing basketball.

Over the past twenty two years, guys have come and gone and we've even had two guys die on this floor. I've made great friendships that have lasted through the years and guys who have been kicked out for being assholes who took the game way too seriously.
If you don't play for fun here, you get asked to leave and it's happened a few times over the years.
Cardinal broadcaster Dan McLaughlin played years ago when he was a really big guy.
Kirkwood pro football star Jeremy Maclin (Eagles wide receiver) played for awhile after high school (and he schooled us).
I have had three severely sprained ankles, 23 stitches under my eye, broken ribs, pulled muscles, rotator cuff surgery (too many three pointers, I guess), dislocated fingers, etc.
But, I keep coming back.

When I was sick, on the good days, I'd come out and play until I couldn't. The guys there at that time, cheered me on when I played and understood when I couldn't go any further.
When my brother died on Saturday, I played on Monday. I had to. I got lost in the game.

There have been a couple of guys "retire" from playing in the past few years. Patrick, From Webster Groves quit playing when he was 74. Jules, an accountant stopped playing earlier this year at 80.
See, while winning is why we play, it's not all about that. We all play for exercise, camaraderie and because it's good for us.
During the summer, the kids come home from school and we welcome them.
My trash talk with them goes something like this..."man, it's gotta suck to be you. If I score on you, I'm an old man scoring on someone young enough to be my grand kid and if you score on me, you're scoring on an old man. You can't win."

I played today. When I take an office day in St. Louis, part of that day will be spent with basketball zen. My happy place. A place where I can be a kid again. Yes, my knees get sore, but it is sweet pain.
It's funny sometimes how we can get attached to inanimate objects that mean something in our lives. I know that this place, this innocuous gym in a suburb of a Midwestern town in America, anytown, really could mean so much and how it can feel like home.
I hope I die on this court and if I do, I'll be home and doing what I love more than anything.

Basketball zen. It's saved my life

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate

How do you sleep?
Do you sleep well?
Consider yourself lucky.

As I grow older, I find that sleep has become a precious commodity. I have found solace in drugs, Ambien became my friend for a while but also as I grow older, I just can't handle the pharmaceuticals anymore. How many who knew me in my adolescence would keel over if they heard me say that now?
Ambien makes me groggy and anxious when I take it for any length of  time. I have tried everything. A drink before bedtime? Nope.

When I was a kid, I used to go to sleep by getting out my mind eraser and slowly erase all of my thoughts and eventually, I would drift off. I guess things are a bit more complicated now.
When I was a very young child, my mom used to give me things to think about before I went to bed.
"Think of an ice cream bridge and on the other side is your favorite flavor. Now, you have to cross the bridge before the ice cream melts and you can't step too hard or you will step through the bridge and fall off".. or some ridiculous thing like that. I must say, it worked when you were eight, but not so much now.

"Deadlines and commitments, what to leave in, what to leave out..."

I find as I drift off ever so slightly, I will dream of people I haven't seen or thought about in years.

Since childhood, I've had this recurring dream of Abraham Lincoln. I have dreamt of him maybe 30 or 40 times since I was a kid. We've went fishing, driven through the Florida keys, ate dinner together and we have done a number of different things together. Consistently and with great regularity. I'm not sure what the connection might be only that my dad was born in the same town he was.
I would take a bit of Abe at this time.

All I know is that I will lay in bed all night, just dozing off enough to have real detailed, freaky and stupid dreams with people in it that just don't make sense. I had a dream the other night with someone in it that I had not thought of for 30 years. I will remember them when I wake up for a day or two, then they are filed away in the memory chip.

The routine is, I will lie there, doing everything and anything I can to sleep, changing positions, then the thinking wheel in the master cog gets started and I realize all the stuff I have to do whether it's work related or whatever.
Then, the endless movie loop starts, accompanied by the ceiling fan.
I'll doze off, start dreaming, then wake up.
Lather, rinse, repeat Then look at the clock and realize it's 4:17 am

You'd think that the following day, you'd be so tired, you'd fall right off, but alas...we repeat the drill the next night.
Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.
I would guess I've tried that.
I wonder what incredibly strange movies in my head will be showing tonight.
I'm sure Tarrentino or Fellini would be proud.

Popcorn anyone?

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