October 11, 2017 | Posted in General
I haven’t posted “The Wednesday Rant” in three weeks.
Really been working to pull back on the reins a bit, being as Zen like as I can in the wake of all that is going in the world. As California burns, I am reminded that once again, we are merely another species on the list, when it comes to “Mother Nature”. Hurricanes, flooding, fires, sinkholes, record heat and “abnormal” temperatures have humans fleeing their homes, losing their homes and waiting to rebuild their homes…and their lives.
But of course, there is human induced disaster as well.
On October 1st, 58 people were gunned down in Las Vegas at a concert, the responses to the event that has now become part of the normal course of things in America is predictable as both sides go into their corner, lace up their gloves, coming out swinging like an ongoing game of “Rock Em’ Sock Em’ Robots” that allows us the opportunity to “knock their block off” and then our foe resets their head on their shoulders and we resume battle, usually on unsocial media.
But so often the dead are forgotten in favor of opinion.
So, I posted their pictures last week on my Facebook page, a little bit about each one of them and now their faces live in a file on my desktop marked “58.” But while the rest of us moved on to other things, families were burying their children, their husbands, wives, sisters, mothers, fathers and brothers. They were sealing off their rooms, not touching a thing, consoling the children they taught and the loved ones they left behind.
So, while the predictable responses to the latest slaughter rolled in, none of the 58 who could ever have imagined they would all die at a concert, are here to be witness to our collective inability to make any attempt to find solutions.
In a country that put a man on the moon, boasts of incredible technological advances, and claims to be the greatest nation on earth, we somehow cannot figure out how to stop someone from using military grade weapons on civilians, at concerts, at movie theaters, in grade schools on a front porch or backyard.
As its been pointed out many times…apparently there is no answer to our self-induced problem.
The “carrot and stick” news-cycle moves on, begging us to follow the latest White House twitter antics, NFL controversy and Hollywood scandal, and we do, predictable species that we are, in constant “fight or flight” mode as our central nervous systems are drenched with constant downloads that we cannot possibly assimilate, sort and store in any rational manner…that makes sense of the senseless.
As we try to grapple with the steady stream of “end of the world” scenarios I am often reminded that we are at fault for all that goes on, there isn’t any alien species on another planet pulling our strings and that for all our greatness at times, our Achilles Heel is our seeming inability to see each other as equals.
That blindness creates a lot of hell on earth.
Over the past few weeks I have kept thinking about the profound truth of “that which we allow we become” be it in a personal relationship or on societal level. We allow for all that goes on in the world in some way shape or form, that which is no longer allowed, no longer exists as it once did. But true to form, the cycle of life has us dealing with the same concepts over and over again, simply in different form and messenger, deciding what to allow or not.
We allow it all.
In classical Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to create her. So, he did, using water and earth. The gods endowed her with many gifts: Athena clothed her, Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo gave her musical ability, and Hermes gave her speech.
According to Hesiod, when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus. Pandora opens a jar containing death and many other evils which were released into the world. She hastens to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped except for one thing that lay at the bottom – Elpis (usually translated “Hope“, though it could also mean “Expectation.”)
The bottom line is that Zeus was pissed, takes his revenge through Pandora who couldn’t contain her curiosity and opened a box unleashing horrible things into the world, and trapping hope at the bottom, making it the last thing humans reach for, and are so often unable to hold onto.
Once Pandora opened that box, there was no way to ever put any of what spilled out back in.
Greed, shame, hate, pain, jealousy, fear and want became part of the human condition.
Hope became “expectation” an open ended yearning that somehow life could be different than it is, but until it we transform it from a noun to a verb, taking some sort of action in the direction of the change we seek, nothing…changes.
So, we endure what we allow.
I have come to the conclusion that body count has become one of the ways we keep score in America, it is a byproduct of our collective allowing and I have no doubt whatsoever that there is some off the rails human waiting in the weeds, loading up on ammo and weapons, ready to unleash horror on even more people, putting the Las Vegas Massacre in second place and once again making sure that we spend more time on being “right “in our beliefs than finding any solutions.
The gap between “expectation” and “reality” is where suffering resides.
We hope things get better…we hope that things will change…we hope for the best…and yet the reality of what we allow is in direction opposition to our deepest longing.
The pain of hope is only lessened by the acceptance of reality and the willingness to take action…not be in constant reaction.
Nothing in life changes until we do.
And so, it goes, that we become what we allow…for better or for worse.
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.