September 25, 2017 | Posted in General
First, I have raised the flag in the morning and lowered it at sunset on color guard detail beginning in USCG boot camp back in 1980 and the following four years until 1984. I have been on funeral detail numerous times and folded the red, white and blue after draping it on a coffin of a veteran. I have been part of a 21 gun salute and stood in silence as that flag was handed to families who had to say farewell.
I have nothing…and I mean nothing but respect for Old Glory and all who have served and those who have given their last full measure.
Gotta call it the way I see it, always have…always will.
September 20, 2017 | Posted in General
Opting out of The Wednesday Rant in favor of “Hump Day Happy Birthday!” to my daughter Amanda Lee. I suppose I could just leave it at that but so much runs through my mind every September 20th since 1988 that I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge and share some of the lessons my daughter has taught me.
She laughs in a way that I have forgotten to at times. Still wide-eyed and open to the magic of life, she has taught me to keep that kid inside me alive and protected at all costs.
September 11, 2017 | Posted in General
I will be traveling this week so The Wednesday Rant is on hold but had a few thoughts dripping out of my brain bucket, thought I would take care of it today.
Wrapped up in the memories from this day sixteen years ago, those horrifying moments of planes filled with people slamming into buildings, the fireballs shooting out the sides of the Twin Towers, those who jumped to their death rather than be burned alive, the blanket of smoke and ash that covered New York, the gaping wound in The Pentagon that belched out fire and more carnage and that deep furrow in the ground near Shanksville, PA where the fourth plane that was headed to Washington was rolled into the earth as passengers overtook the cowards and made sure the White House was not hit.
It was shortly after 9am eastern time, I was on the phone with Ginny Weissman when she told me get off and go watch the news. It was of course, scenes that will never be forgotten.
Before I left for the radio station, I made another call.
September 11th, 2001 was my dad’s 66th birthday.
I was living in Upper Michigan, he was 300 miles away in Chicago and when the phone rang he quickly answered. We sat in silence, except for the sound of him crying on the other end.
Finally, he said… “ I will never think of this date as my birthday again, only the date that everything changed.”
I think about the last year of his life, a lot. We spent a great deal of time together, closing old wounds that often come when the son thinks he knows more than the old man, until such a time that everything comes full circle. I took him up north to see the cousins that remained, Uncle Dick didn’t even recognize him when we pulled up at his house, the deep bruises on his arms from dialysis, shaggy beard and mat of hair sticking out from under his floppy hat was a far cry from the slicked back, downtown banker he once was.
But after a couple of minutes all was well, they sat on the driveway in the sunshine drinking Chief Oshkosh beers and reliving old times when both their Carol and Ruthie were still alive.
We continued north, to my adopted home of The UP, parked him at the Hillcrest Motel owned by friends and as if connected to some unseen power source, he rallied. For the better part of a week he hung out with new people, sat out in under the glorious night sky filled with diamonds, smoked his cigars.
He even agreed to a haircut and my friend Robin treated him like a king, full shampoo, beard trim and he walked out looking a bit like his old self.
He slept most of the way back to Chicago, had to wake him up at our favorite stop- Cracker Barrel- ” roast beef, two sides of green beans and that spiced apple stuff” was always the order and as we sat eating, I watched him close and knew he was slipping away.
He passed on May 24th, 2004 at the age of 69.
His death, while heartbreaking, was eased by the knowing that he and I had “taken care of our business” before he made his transition.
Those who left for work on September 11th, 2001 and their families had no such grace period.
I knew my father was dying, and the time was growing short. The conversations were difficult, hard edged and brimming with tears at times, but also filled with moments of his hand on the back of my neck, a broad smile and laughter.
The memories of this day are many for me.
Driving home after hosting a most difficult five hours plus broadcast, with my producer AnnMarie handling the phones, as the national shows were replaced by news, and seeing the churches jammed full. Stopping to lower our flag to half-mast at a small business that had become empty as the employees had rushed home to be with their families.
After hugging my family as never before, I needed to do something that had a sense of normalcy, so I grabbed my son Andy and we went out front to have a catch until it got dark. The cold air was nothing compared to the shiver that had been going up and down my spine all day.
It was the first day in my entire life I felt afraid…and the last.
Fear was replaced by anger.
Later that evening I called my dad again, we talked a bit more and I told him how much I loved him. We both agreed that the worst thing to do is to wait until our world gets turned upside down to set things right side up.
Here we are 5,840 days later from congress on the steps of the capitol, singing “God Bless America” forgetting who was on what side of the aisle. The honeymoon lasted a few weeks as we vowed unity and retribution.
2,996 Americans never heard them.
We said that we’d never forget, and yet our actions so often do not line up with our words that we spoke on that terrible day, still bent on tearing each other apart, from the inside out…as A. Lincoln predicted was the only way we could eradicate the republic.
Sad but also predictable.
However… today I also celebrate my dad, his picture from DePaul College Prep always greets me in the morning, back when his biggest concern was his bowling average and putting gas in his car. We have coffee together and every now and then I can still feel his hand on the back of my neck.
Today he would have been 82.
It’s 9/11…his birthday… and the day we said we would remember what was most important in life…life itself.
Take care of your business today, as tomorrow is promised to none of us.
Lest we forget.
September 6, 2017 | Posted in General
During a recent interview, I was asked how it felt to have “accomplished so much in radio in the past twenty years and what have you learned?”
The concept of two decades passing since I wormed my way behind a microphone hit me in a strange way. So did the question of what lessons I have learned along the way.
I deferred the longevity thing because it isn’t always the best indicator of effectiveness. There are a handful of radio voices still taking up space for as long as I have that I don’t think add much to improving the human condition but certainly have added to their bank accounts.
What have I learned?
With over 25,000 shows in the can and half as many interviews with authors and others of name and note I guess my learning curve has come full circle.
I learned early on that everyone thinks they are right, based on how they see the world.
I’ve learned that very few people are willing to admit they are wrong, based on how they see the world.
I’ve learned there is no substitute for “showing up” when everyone else has gone home or hung it up.
I’ve learned how to line my thoughts up with my words, (which is akin to an artist choosing the right colors for their work) instead of just vomiting up a verbal stream of constant mind chatter to fill time.
I’ve learned that so much of life is a game of dominoes and connect-a-dots. You gotta flick the first domino to get the others to fall in sequence that creates a ripple effect of connecting points in life, most of which you cannot see at the present moment.
I’ve learned that given the chance and platform, you can have conversation with people that are diametrically opposite to your beliefs and find common ground.
I have learned that what Fred Rogers said is so very true for me. “The space between the host and the audience is sacred and should be treated as such.”
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t ever confuse who you “are” with what you “do” to the point that you become a “human doing” instead of a “human being.”
I’ve learned that no matter how valiant my efforts or great my intent, I cannot control the outcome, only the input. When I started in radio there were four people listening, at my “peak” there were about 3.5 million and while I would love to be doing a daily show reaching the masses with some sort of alternative to the sea of fodder that passes for information, all I can do is be ready if it comes back again.
I’ve learned there will always be someone, somewhere that can’t stand you for reasons that are really none of your business. Conversely there are people who will come out of the woodwork to support you when you are on the journey.
I learned that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Discerning what is or isn’t a good move is a product of experience and time. Don’t major in minor things.
I’ve learned that when it comes to the media, talk radio hosts in particular are often people who know everything, about everything but really haven’t done much of anything…except talk which feeds the advertising base but doesn’t do much in the name of progress.
I’ve learned the effective use of……………………..a pause.
I have learned that people who think something cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people that are doing it. I was told twenty times that “no one will listen to you unless its sports and politics” beware of “experts.”
I’ve learned that I came to the world to do more than just take up space, complain about my lot in life and blame other people for what I am responsible for. If I am lucky I get just about 29,000 days to complete my mission…or not.
I have learned that the moment that “ON AIR” light goes on, I am committed to “paying back” some of the greats that came before me and if I can inform like Edward R. Murrow, entertain like Roy Leonard and inspire like Earl Nightingale then it’s a pretty good use of a microphone.
I’ve learned to be careful of applying a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
I have learned that we give way too much power to the word “celebrity” which is a fleeting condition at best.
I’ve learned that I can sit in a really long meeting where absolutely nothing gets accomplished and live to fight another day.
I’ve learned that absolutely nothing is more important than bringing forth that which is inside you, no matter what anyone else thinks of your chances of success, and that which you do for nothing at some point means everything and can lead to just about anything.
I’ve learned that “why” you were born is far more important that “how” or “where.”
I learned that at some point, even a one-man band gets out of tune. The right team is an absolute necessity to move forward. Just make sure when you are climbing the ladder of success its up against a wall of your choosing, not a wall someone else chose for you.
I have learned that the most powerful, live changing conversations I have ever had on the air were so intense I forgot I was on the air…and that thousands of people were simply listening in on what felt like a private-one-on-one talk.
I have learned that the old adage “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me” is true…and that the more responsibility I take for my “stuff” the greater my “ability to respond” to the inevitable ups and downs of life, both personally and professionally.
Finally, my oft repeated message holds true. If you squeeze tomatoes you know exactly what kind of juice will come out. If you squeeze humans, be prepared for all kinds of shit to come out and we are being squeezed like never before…so hold on to your lug-nuts, we are all in constant overhaul.
I dug out this article from 1998, after I had been on the air for about a year.
Long way from there to here.
I had no plan, but I kept showing up. I had no direction, but followed the connect-a-dots. I didn’t know “how” but I knew “why.”
Twenty years ago I was 38, living in a motel with my family, had walked from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Chicago and back, zero experience in broadcasting.
Amazing, humbling, hard work, tedious, nerve wracking, glorious and challenging. Difficult, overwhelming, exhausting, exhilarating and…worth it.
Thanks to all of you that have been a part of the path these past twenty years from little WDBC Radio in Escanaba, to Oprah Radio in Chicago, WGN, CBS, from “Power Thoughts” and “Earth Matters” to “Life Matters” and all the specials and programs in between.
What a journey.