August 9, 2017 | Posted in General
I had a few things on the docket for this second installment of my weekly foray into all things human after taking six weeks off.
The list of possible subjects for 1200 words of insight, foresight and hindsight includes the best sandwich I’ve ever had, what it’s like to get back in the gym after a year, the seeming epidemic of broken turn signals, watching Johnny Carson again, what Kim Jung Un would look like with Trump’s hair and our great challenge with living ” a real life” when so much “produced reality” confuses our anterior reticulating system.
But all that can wait for another time.
Glen Travis Campbell passed away yesterday at the age of 81 from the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease.
When I heard the news of his death, even though the whole world had been following his slow decline since he announced his struggle in 2010, my eyes welled up, and I stopped what I was doing and just sat for a few moments.
The voice that had us all singing “Galveston,” “Gentle On My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Try A Little Kindness” had gone silent.
Those songs and many more, created a visceral connection to millions of people all over the world.
During his 50 years in show business, Campbell released more than 70 albums. He sold 45 million records and accumulated 12 RIAA gold albums, four platinum albums, and one double-platinum album. He placed a total of 80 different songs on either the Billboard Country Chart, Billboard Hot 100, or Adult Contemporary Chart, of which 29 made the top 10 and of which nine reached number one on at least one of those charts. Three of his early hits later won Grammy Hall of Fame Awards (2000, 2004, 2008), while Campbell himself won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He owns trophies for Male Vocalist of the Year from both the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Academy of Country Music (ACM), and took the CMA’s top award as 1968 Entertainer of the Year.
Not bad for the seventh son of twelve children born into a sharecropper family in Arkansas and who learned to play the guitar when he was four years old.
As his awards were publicized, so was his battle with alcohol and drugs. A mug shot of him from those days shows a man in ” a very long dance with the devil” said Campbell.
He would overcome his inner demons with a renewed faith and his music.
As the disease progressed and he became a shell of his former vibrant self, friends like Alice Cooper remarked how his guitar became a lifeline to the talent the endeared him to fans, the instrument that brought him so much joy and according to Cooper, immense respect in the music industry.
“Eddie Van Halen knew that Glen and I played golf quite often and asked me once if I thought it might be possible for him to get a couple guitar lessons from Glen. That blew me away.”
I did what we all do when someone of name and note takes their final bow, immediately went to MeTube and yanked up a bunch of “Glen’s Greatest Hits” and for about an hour let the soundtrack of my life fill back up again as I thought about why I got emotional over hearing of his death.
Might have been the phone call I guess.
Back in 2008, when I was in the thick of it at Oprah Radio, putting Dr. Oz and Jean Chatzky through their radio paces, residing in the corner office that had a slew of celebs streaming by, my name on the door and with a business card that gave me more power than I deserved because of the word “Harpo” on it, the amount of “pitches” (people sharing their ideas, product or book to get placed on a show) was overwhelming. I tried to sort through it all best I could, as an author I have a soft spot for books and anyone that is trying to make the world a bit better had my ear.
One day by special delivery a small package arrived addressed to me, probably delivered by Ana Torres-and when I opened it up, there was a promotional CD inside, from Glen Campbell with a note.
“Hey John, I’d love to be on the Oprah Show, lets talk! GC”
I had nothing to do with getting anyone on The Oprah Winfrey Show and I wanted to let Mr. Campbell know right away of course so I called the number on the card with his business manager’s name on it and as mentioned before, anyone who was a producer calling from Harpo always got through on the first try. I remember when I was creating the John Denver Tribute for radio in 2007 I called George Bush Sr. at his office, was put on hold and his assistant picked up the phone, as I knew that Mr. Bush was a fan of JD’s and was inquiring to his availability in being a guest. A moment later the assistant came back on, said that Mr. Bush wasn’t able to participate but had a request. Next thing I know our 41st president is on the horn and said “Would you play Rocky Mountain High? I really enjoy that song.”
“Yes, Mr. President.”
So when Campbell’s business guy got on the phone I started to tell him that I appreciated the CD but I had zero sway in booking the Oprah Show, that I could perhaps get him a name or two and considering Glen Campbell’s near legendary status, it might work out. I also gushed on a bit about how much I enjoyed his music and path, including overcoming the demons of addiction, a hard fought lesson the world had witness to.
Next thing I hear is that earthy Arkansas twang, thanking me for taking the time to call and offer to help. Then he starts telling me how blessed he was to still be performing after all he had been through and how much the fans “kept me alive” when his life was at its lowest points.
Apparently I was on speaker phone, and Glen Campbell was in the office when I called.
I don’t remember the conversation after that, but what struck me is that he took the time to sit in his office, next to his business manager, put his name on countless sticky notes that had been sent to various media outlets in order to continue on with his work.
Somewhere I still have that demo CD.
Campbell once said in an interview that he felt he had “a gift from God” in the form of a guitar and that his goal with every note was to “lift people up in some way.”
No question he paid back the Almighty for entrusting him with such a task.
At the end of the day, I concluded that my emotion was in response to the incredible talent he had, that he shared with the world and the one thing that kept him alive when so much was being taken from him.
It’s a lesson, a reminder and blessing all at once.
August 2, 2017 | Posted in General
Six weeks out of the FB and internet landfill, no posting of comments about the current state of the government or grinding of teeth over politics and policy, no meltdown of my central nervous system over whatever the latest “broken news” that got shoved in the pipeline or inflammation of my thalamus (you know the large mass of gray matter in the dorsal part of the diencephalon of the brain with several functions such as relaying of sensory and motor signals to the cerebral cortex) due to an incessant, repetitive bombardment of life ending messages regarding the “Most Wanted” virtual man in the world, Jayden K. Smith (remember him?) or worrying about burning for eternity if I didn’t click “Like” and type “Amen” on a picture of Jesus who was wearing an American Flag lapel pin on his tunic.
All has been quiet in my brain bucket, the tele-mirrors and syntax’s recharging and regrouping. My grip loosened, my shoulders relaxed, my furrowed brow lay flat..
I could take a deep breath, not in anxiety of the latest political gaffe, blunder or dung pile, but a real genuine deep breath of relaxation.
It was an interesting experiment in disconnection from one of the many ELS (electronic life support) devices we have with their unseen umbilical cords linking millions and millions and millions and millions of humans to the Mother Ship like one of the “Alien” movies.
There was a hesitation at first, but as I spent time on other projects that are far more lucrative than watching “Bat Dad” videos or being asked to sign a petition to end…”Fill In The Blank” my eyes began to clear, my mind was sharper and I was fleet of foot and light of heart.
I whistled now and then.
I didn’t start the day watching a group of people who will never probably meet in person argue over an issue that none of them can solve, launching personal attacks from behind the firewall of their limitations, bent on being “right” no matter what, foaming at the mouth like some Pavlovian experiment gone wrong.
Instead I sat on the back porch, drank my coffee and watched the sun rise. The past six weeks the term “Time Line” took on a whole different meaning than Facebook.
The only “Posts” I saw were on a highway in the vast expanse of South Dakota. My “Likes” were confined to ice cream cones, thunderstorms, blueberry pie, and the forests of western Pennsylvania.
I knew I would return eventually but it was a process for sure.
Slowly I began to ease back into the FB landfill, just a toe here and there, like peeking inside a house you used to live in just to see how the new owners redecorated the place and if it was the same.
It was just as I left it.
It is what it is.
It is what it was designed to be.
A platform for connecting, a dumping ground of information, a reservoir of rants, raves and the ridiculous. It’s also a sanctuary for the soul, a virtual billboard of life changing content, a safe place for millions and a cornucopia of communication.
Like everything else humans invent, be it a government or an iPhone, how we use a thing determines its worth or lack of it. Neither good nor bad, just a vessel we fill and drain every day, searching for some sort of value, a return on our investment of time and energy.
After pounding out “The Wednesday Rant” weekly for over 18 months without a break, it took something breaking for me to…you know…take a break.
So what broke?
My perspective on life.
I had spent too much time looking at a 17″ computer screen filled with so much vitriol and hate, so much negativity and sarcasm, so many tug-of-wars that never end and the erosion of the incredible gift we all have been given, a gift that has a shelf life and an unknown expiration date.
I had become a human doing and not a human being.
Then it happened.
One morning as the sun was coming up, I spied a tiny, armored “Armadillidiidae” aka a “Roly Poly Bug” making its way across the concrete sidewalk. and upon further inspection of the little tank, I noticed it seem to be on a mission of sorts, lumping along in search of a hiding place. I watched it go under the plastic garbage can in the yard and out of curiosity I lifted up the can only to find a sizeable population of the bugs all milling about, bumping into each other, getting rolled in and out of the way, connecting and reconnecting.
You know, kind of like Facebook.
For some reason the bugs also reminded me of “Beetlejuice” when he grabbed a handful and took a swallow and then picked his teeth.
But I digress.
I took it as a sign from the insect world that enough time had passed and throwing in my six cents worth once a week might not always change the world for the better, but if I looked at it a certain way, would keep me from letting the world change me for the worse.
Writing “The Wednesday Rant” is my way of contributing to the cause of higher ground, the concept that we can find something within ourselves that is worth redeeming and bring that forth as a way to pay rent for the space we take up on the planet.
Or we can just argue.
Once again I was reminded that life is too short, too unpredictable and too uncertain to major in minor things.
July 27, 2017 | Posted in General
HIATUS ENDS 8.2.17…”Your gonna need a bigger brain…”
July 18, 2017 | Posted in General
The Wednesday Rant…on a Tuesday.
For the record I am still on unsocial media hiatus and I wrestled a bit about jumping into the landfill but after a couple cups of coffee and some pondering, I gave in because of the subject matter.
A milestone marker is defined as 1. A stone marker set up on a roadside to indicate the distance in miles from a given point or 2. An important or significant event in life or history.
Both of those definitions describe every July 18th since 2002 for me. This is the day fifteen years ago I was able to give my daughter life, for the second time.
She was born with a kidney “defect” with a really long name that I don’t need to include here. By the time she was just year old, searing fevers indicated something was amiss. Frequent trips to the doctors office, an onslaught of meds and finally just before her fifth birthday the decision to go in and fix the problem. The subsequent phone call that brought the news that her right kidney was toxic and had to be removed- was the first time in my life I had ever really been knocked to my knees, right in the kitchen of our small townhouse.
The prognosis from the docs had her on dialysis and the transplant list within a year. Through some serious work on her belief system, a bit of time spent with an old Chinese herbalist along with conventional medications, Amanda would make it eight years before her remaining kidney started to fail. During that time she was always smiling, the early morning trips for shots, constant monitoring of meds, water and blood pressure. Her “defect” was a minor inconvenience for her, a major concern for mom and dad.
On July 18th, 2002 Dr. Hans Sollinger removed my substantial fist sized kidney that had been marinating in my body for forty-three years and placed it in the body of my thirteen-year-old daughter. The effect according to the nurses who were there when I came out of anesthetic was “incredible.”
I didn’t get to see Amanda until the next morning, when my son Andrew helped push my wheelchair into her room one floor above. Andy was only eleven at the time, but he was my staunch guardian and right hand man.
Upon entering the room, there she was…sitting cross-legged on the bed playing cards with her mom.
Her cheeks were flushed with color, eyes clear and bright, smile beaming and she looked up and said.
“Hey dad! How you doing?”
It was the most glorious sight I’ve ever seen in my life.
She had literally been born anew.
That was 5,475 days ago.
Amanda is now 28, vibrant as ever, its as if that kidney was a spark plug of sorts and she continues to simply glow. Smart, talented, driven, tenacious and funny, she lives life to the fullest.
For years I got on the stump pounding out the need for organ donation, more PSA’s that I can remember on national radio, I’ve spoken at events like the Kidney Walk in Chicago to 5,000 people and sat with just a few who were on dialyses waiting for their chance to live a different life.
I’m not posting the numbers here, you can find those out on your own. The need is great, but like everything else its not a need until it becomes a problem for us personally.
I’m in the process of a project on my friend the late, great Walter Payton that you will hear about in the near future. After being diagnosed with liver cancer and unable to receive a transplant to save his own life, Sweetness took to the media with a series of messages about organ donation and in doing so saved countless lives, of that I am sure. Now and then when I am driving in Chicago I will see at license plate with “34” on it and the words “Be An Organ Donor” hammered into the metal.
Unending thanks to Connie, Jarrett and Brittany for their dedication to the cause through the Payton Foundation.
Fifteen years have passed, Amanda’s health is excellent and every day is a gift…something that can easily get lost in the chaos of life, the perspective that if you have your health…you are truly wealthy beyond measure.
As Walter said…”Tomorrow is promised to no one.”
Become an organ donor today…and if you already are…thank you.
The life you save might not be your own…and that is the whole point.
June 5, 2017 | Posted in General
I am pretty sure it was the following email via my website that is the proverbial straw the broke the camel’s back.
“You are just another stupid liberal tree hugger that is trying to tear America down and turn it into a liberalist state of chaos. If you were as smart as you prove to be then you would know that climate science is a made up science and not real. This is the home of the free and land of the brave not some experiment that you and your kind think they can just step on and have the way you want it. Glory be to God!”
I rarely read through some of the stuff that comes my way anymore, after two decades in the media, most of it behind a microphone on live talk radio, my skin has gotten pretty thick.
But at this point, I am not on radio and for a few reasons that follow, this email was a gift in disguise.
First, I’m not stupid. I have a degree in Environmental Interpretation and Communication from an accredited four year university. My core competency is to take massive amounts of information, data and trends, then distill it down to bite sized, digestible chunks for public consumption. After creating and producing 300 episodes of “Earth Matters with Bill Kurtis” along with hundreds of research hours, I have come to the conclusion that we are late in the third quarter when it comes to our involvement in contributing to climate change.
I see what most people miss, because I look in places most people cannot see. Politics and religious beliefs often cause blind spots.
There was a time, not long ago when the hole in the Ozone layer was discovered, a gaping wound in the “sunscreen” protection of the planet that congress and industry acted, CFC propellants were banned (that were a major factor in creating the hole) and the damage has mostly been repaired as the the natural systems began to heal.
The threat was recognized, the cause we determined, actions were taken and more harm to humans was averted.
Those days are long gone for the most part.
Secondly, that “liberal tree hugger” thing. My biggest influence has been Theodore Roosevelt, who despite his many shortcomings epitomized for me the best political stance that can be taken. 110 years ago TR was the reformer that “walked softly and carried a big stick.” He blocked an attempt to allow strip mining in the Grand Canyon and was a visionary when it came to environmental issues.
Today TR would be considered a liberal tree hugger too, so I am good with that.
The rest of that note, climate science not being real, “home of the free and land of the brave” being transposed for effect (I guess) America not being an experiment and somehow the greater glory of the Almighty is exalted by this sort of email is for me a clear sign to get out of the game…
I should really know better by now.
Denial is deeply embedded in our DNA.
To me trying to convince someone that humans are in part responsible for the changing climate is akin to talking with a life long smoker who takes off their oxygen to have a cigarette. Since 1966 there has been a big warning label on the side of the packs since totally ignored by everyone that lights up.
“Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous To Your Health.”
One half century later, millions still fire up despite clear warnings, wracking coughs and repeated warnings from their doctors.
The CDC estimates that 430-435,000 people in the United States die each year from smoking related disease.
Self-inflicted death otherwise known as suicide…over a very long period of time.
The tobacco companies spent billions trying to convince their customers that smoking was “healthy” and seeing ads with doctors lighting up was the norm. They created ultimate male in the form of The Marlboro Man who would fire up a ciggy, round up some cows and turn his weathered face into the sunset.
Four of the actors that portrayed “The Marlboro Man” all died from smoking related disease.
I had forgotten that old adage ” To those who believe no more evidence is needed. To those that do not, no evidence could ever be enough.”
As I watch the unending name calling in the face of facts, I am reminded that the way each of us sees the world is basically in place by the time we are ten or twelve. Our core beliefs become galvanized over time, for better or for worse and it takes a some serious maturity to confront the rudder that steers our course, much easier for most to simply say “ You’re stupid.”
Because they are scared and reacting takes no thought.
That email was a serious wake up call for me…a reminder.
I have a terminal condition called “Life.”
With the average age in the USA being 78.6 that equates to about 28,689 days to be alive if I am lucky.
I have already used up 21,170 of my allotted chits.
Remaining balance of 7,519…as of today.
So that “gift” in the form of an email, came at the right time, confirming that its time for me to stay out of the virtual landfill of the internet for an undetermined amount of time.
That time thing.
I have a book project about to begin, mentoring a burgeoning author who at the age of 88, lived through Nazi Germany as a child and wants to tell her story to the world.
I won’t have enough brain space to wade through the landfill looking for something of value buried in all the garbage and build out a book this important at the same time. As I type these very words, the “right” is batting the “left” on a post I wrote two days ago. Humans who are on opposite sides pushing any common ground to the side, creating more cracks in our already fractured spiritual infrastructure.
Might continue with Sacred Sunday Songs on Facebook, which for the most part hasn’t elicited any name calling but after five years of virtual concerts, even that might need to be on hiatus.
I drive past a cemetery near where I live quite often. Sometimes when I need perspective I walk among the headstones, looking for evidence of how important it is to define and divide ourselves along political lines.
Can’t find any.
Never once in all my years of attending funerals was their ever a eulogy mention of how someone voted. Never once standing at a graveside service did I hear about their choice for president and never once in all my wanderings among the dead I have ever seen “Democrat” “Republican” or “Liberal Tree Hugger” etched in stone.
What we think is most important while we are alive turns out to be least important when we die.
Thank you for all your support over the years. Until further notice…
Be well…safe travels.