Monday, January 19, 2015

Common Sense, and Other Classic Tales of Monotony

Much has been made of the new study that says 1% of the world will soon control 50% of the wealth. This seems outrageous until you realize how unsurprising it is. People don't do a lot of things well, but pissing away money sure is one of them

I had the bad judgment to choose radio for a career,  knowing full well that unless I was in the top 1% (!), it wouldn't be a high paying job. Not only was it low paying, but it was the antithesis of secure. Every radio newsletter contains an except about who lost their job that day. Thus, I went into it thinking how important it was to save. Save save save. My streak of days with a Buddig meat sandwich once hit 20 days. My weekly allowance from the ATM was $20. That was my fun money. Money spent? No more fun. It wasn't that hard to do.

Fast forward a few years. The jobs got better, the money got better, the approach stayed the same. Sure, my so-called "allowance" changed, but I've never lost the habit for saving and making moves that made economic sense. Married well. Chose not to have children. Bought a small house (no pool). Paid off my car 2 years early (NOTE; No car payments for 12 years is great fun). Again, these aren't things that are hard.

My parents were raised in an era with no handouts. Nothing came easy. Not making enough at your job? Get another job. Can't afford it? Don't buy it. That kind of stuff was passed down to me, and I thankfully married a gal that now also sees it that way. It didn't come easy for her, but she knows now how nice it is to have money in the bank (and the stock market). You can go to school for 20 years, but the lessons you'll carry with you as you get older are usually the ones you learn under your roof growing up.

Yeah, there's plenty of cool stuff to buy. Nothing's cooler than not living paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth. I'm not even close to the 1%. Never will be. That's fine. The view is plenty sweet in the Top 20.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


"When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer," Stuart Scott told the audience. "You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live."

Optimistic words from a man who had every reason to be otherwise. At the time he said those words, Scott, longtime ESPN "Sportscenter" anchor, knew that cancer was going to take him. He certainly couldn't have inspired anyone by going on stage at the 2014 ESPY's and saying "F**k it, this is BULL***t!", even though everyone would've understood if he had. So he went with the inspiring quote, even if it's one of the dumbest things ever said by mankind.

I lost my mom to cancer on December 17th at the age of 80. She had held off three cancers (breast, lymphoma, thyroid) over the last 6 years, but Number 4 (lung) got her.She went quickly, quietly, peacefully. She just stopped breathing. No last words, no dramatic speeches, no goodbye kisses. Poof. She was gone. Cells related to her lymphoma had "gone to sleep", and when they awakened it was like one army had grown into ten, ravaging her already weakened immune system. Beating cancer once is hard. Twice is incredible. Three times is unheard of. The reward? Here's Number 4. Goodnight.

Mom would always roll her eyes when people would speak of how brave she was. "What's brave about wanting to keep living? You have to do what you have to do". Her biggest concern was having to put too much of a burden on my dad, and too much worry on her kids. In our last conversation, she said "Don't worry about me", then asked how my dog was doing. When I asked if I could allot just 20 percent of my daily amount of worry (I am my mother's son, after all) toward her, there was a pause and she quietly said, "ok". That's when I knew things had taken a much more sinister turn. She was gone 3 days later.

My days have been foggy ever since. I think the healing may begin when I convince myself that I'm not okay. Then I can begin to grieve. Maybe I'm still in denial about never getting the chance to talk with her again. The hardest part has been seeing what it's done to my dad. They were attached at the hip for 56 years. It's funny how the person you thought was the tougher in the parental relationship turns out to be the more needy. In death, I came to realize my mom was the toughest person under that roof.

"When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer," 

Just got off the phone with my dad. The tone was anything but celebratory

Monday, August 5, 2013


My last post was May 13th. I brought home a puppy on May 26th. That's all you need to know.

It's been two months on never letting a dog out of my sight. Two months of cleaning up accidents in the house. Two months of "puppy proofing" the backyard. Two months of unbelievable tension between me and my gal (she pushed, I caved). As I type this, Badger (a Rottweiler of 4.5 months) is sleeping on the front tile. Over the last week there's been an astonishing transformation from hellion to angel. Either he's finally come around to our ways of thinking and training, or he's got some intestinal disease that's eating away at his insides. I'll prefer to side with the former for the time being. Peace has returned, and lessons have been learned.

I'm done with puppies. When my parents' dog passed away in 1990 at the age of 14, I wanted to ask why they never got another one. I never did. My answer was supplied on Badger's first day. They simply didn't have the time or the energy that they did in 1976 when Cindy was brought home (that, and they didn't have any more kids in the house to nag them into such a purchase). I'm in good shape for my age, but my levels of energy and patience are nowhere near what they were when Maverick came into our lives in 2003. Badger was/is simply nothing more than a normal puppy. Jumpy, hyper, enthusiastic, whiny, not to be trusted, challenging. Puppies are babies without the tax credit. My longing to fill the hole left behind by Maverick led me to push for a puppy and my gal in no way pushed back.

You shouldn't get a dog to replace a dog. I learned after Badger came home that I didn't miss having A dog. I missed having THAT dog. Mav. That was my dog. As much as my gal tried and tried and tried, he was always mine. Through no fault of Badger, he's coming into a home where he has to succeed a dog of incredible sweetness (and medical bills) and win over an increasingly curmudgeon- like owner. Unthinkable even last week at these time, he's allowed me the time to share a few thoughts and take a few sips. Maybe we'll actually make it through this. What I've taken away most is this: knowing what you can't do can be more important than knowing what you can.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Joke Of A Soak

In the time that we've been without a dog, I've taken to going to the gym most afternoons. It gets me out of the house and I know once another fuzzball starts to roam, my exercise is going to be limited to running him outside when he attempts to mark all of our rug. Benefit: I'm in as good a shape as I've been in years. Drawback: Something different hurts every day. I mean, it's like a "What's THAT?" type of pain. On days that I don't go to the gym I take myself a nice soak. 20 minutes, epsom salts, maybe even a glass of Walgreens wine while I'm at it. I guess it helps a bit, but it was just so damn boring, laying there in a tepid pool of warm water and silence. Then I had a revelation.

I have a smart phone! I have the Tune In app! I can listen to any radio station in the world while I soak! This is gonna be great! Yep.

I picked a legendary rock station from my home state- The Iconic WAPL, "The Rockin' Apple", in Appleton Wisconsin. Why hadn't I thought of this before? The question was answered within minutes

Here's the order of what I heard during my Soak

1) The end of "Patience", Guns N' Roses
2) "Money Talks"- AC/DC
3) Jock Talk- WAPL has two guys on in the afternoon. Some stations do this to bring the jocularity and reverie of the morning zoo to the afternoon as well. Problem with this? People may want talk in the morning, but on the way home, they only want music. They've been talking to and talked at all day. They're talked out. No more talk. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. 2 unfunny minutes on a Florida woman who stole things from graves. Cue the zither
4) Spots. For years, there's been a problem with commercials playing on a radio station's online stream. Long story short, you won't hear spots online that you hear on radio. What DO you hear? Public service announcements. Minute after minute of public service announcements. I heard the same loop. 4 times. I'd estimate the spot block lasted 6-8 minutes
5) "Comfortably Numb"- Pink Floyd (interrupted halfway through by the alarm telling me my 20 minutes were up and it was time to get out of the tub)

What started with anticipatory excitement ended with another reminder of why radio continues to be in a death spiral. In 20 minutes I got one great song I hadn't heard in awhile followed by dumb jocks, a ton of spots, and a song I never need to hear again in my life. Had I just listened to an iPod, it would've been 4-6 songs that I love and no idiotic chatter. Radio now exists only to serve the clients. Listener serve thyself

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Foolproof Doesn't Apply Here

"Why does radio suck so much?"- James, bartender, Putter's Las Vegas

Mind you, this question was asked in a mostly deserted bar during the first round of one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. I could've turned it around on James and ask why his sports bar had me and only me as a customer. You don't ever mess the the people who fix your food or mix your drinks, so I let it go. Besides, James was right.

Radio has this dilemma. They very thing that saves it (sales) is the very thing that's killing it. It's really that simple, and the reason why there's no quick fix. Like a flesh-eating bacteria, the sales arm of radio has taken over so much of the industry that we're more likely to eliminate morbid obesity in Samoa than we are to see terrestrial radio become relevant again .

The first thing I do after starting my car is turn on the radio. This afternoon, I tuned in in the middle of a spot break. 5 minutes later, on came a two-fer (it's Tuesday after all!) from Black Sabbath. Off went the radio, in went a cd. A 5-minute wait to hear something I could easily live without, and radio just lost a valued customer for the rest of the drive. People don't have to suffer through that anymore. An iPod guarantees you a) commercial-free listening combined with b) songs you love. Because, you know, you put them there.

Radio's effort to counter-program against the competition has been so monumentally wrongheaded you could almost charge the large radio groups with arson. No one could be this stupid on purpose. Radio's biggest moneymakers are its biggest personalities- Stern, Limbaugh, Hendrie, Seacrest (ugh). People want to hear what they have to say. What's radio's response to get more listeners? SILENCE THE PERSONALITIES! Less talk, more rock! The problem with that is that there isn't more rock. There's more inventory. The less the talk, the more sales can squeeze another ;15 or :30 spot. Ratings stagnate, jocks get let go and hands wring wondering what can be done. Their solution? More commercial time per hour.

My solution is a simple one, but since sales has taken over programming it's unlikely to happen. Let the personalities run with it. If people want music, they'll go to their iPod. If they want personality, they'll go to their radio. If it's entertaining, people will listen. They'll tell others what they heard, and maybe that person becomes a listener. How many people are going to tell their friends "Dude, I heard a two-fer from Sabbath today!" No one, of course. Don't be ridiculous.

People tune out the commercials, not the talk. Try telling this to the salesperson who would sell his daughter's soul for a sweet commission. I'm off to charge my iPod in case I get a block of Soundgarden during the always groundbreaking "All Request Lunch Hour" tomorrow

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't Do Something You Like, Do Something OTHERS Like

My work hours are 4:30a-12p. Some call that brutal. I think it's perfect. No rush hours to deal with, and my afternoons are free for whatever appointments come up. Or I can do something as simple as going out for a drink.

Last Friday was the 1st round (screw the play-in games) of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, so with the rare chance of seeing some live sports that actually mattered during lunch time, I found myself at a place stumbling distance from my house (just in case I was over-served). Surprisingly, I was the only customer. Being the only customer in a bar can be like being the only shopper in a high class boutique. The employee won't leave you alone. Back when I was tending bar, my boss always told me "when they come in alone, they want to be left alone. Serve 'em and shut up".  If only today's over the counter retail beverage consultants heeded such words.

The bartender was James, and since the tourney was on we started talking hoops, brackets and general March Madness- related topics. Then he hits me with the biggie, something I never have a good answer for:

"So what do you do?"

I really need some sort of "employment rolodex" in my head, where I can make up a phantom job on the fly. I just can't come up with one that, if he starts asking followup questions, I'll be able to talk my way through. It has to be something dull, but not interestingly so. Any suggestions would be helpful. I decided to answer honestly and told him that I worked for a group of radio stations. He didn't ask the normal next set of questions, (What station? Have you ever met Jack White? Can you get me free tickets?) instead choosing to swing for the fences,

"Why does radio suck so much?"

Even those who aren't in the business know that radio sucks. It sucks today, it'll suck tomorrow, and the long range forecast is Mostly Sucky. Radio used to be cool. I got in when it was still cool to say you worked in radio, not before it became the entertainment world's equivalent of gum on a shoe. What I've witnessed over the last 20 years has been Exhibit A for how to run not just a business, but an entire industry into the ground. Ah, it's been a blast

Why does it suck? Stay tuned. Trust me, it'll still suck by the next post.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Follows Is Extremely Corny

Its been 3 weeks since Maverick died. I no longer cry like a little girl, but I'm prone to welling up at a moment's notice. Fine if alone, but not if I'm in the testosterone-laden cesspool known as Gold's Gym. I'm able to spend more time in the house by myself, and the pictures and videos I watch bring more smiles than sadness.

Almost lost in the grief of losing my dog was good news shared by mom the day after Mav's passing. Mom had battled cancer (courageously, of course) for 6 years. Breast, thyroid, and lymph node. On the day after Maverick died I was talking with mom and she shared the news that the doctors had pronounced her cancer-free. She knocked out all 3, something the doctors honestly didn't expect from someone mom's age. I was happy to hear it, of course, but my sadness about Maverick kept the happiness tempered. I'd been hoping for this day for 6 years, and when it came I think I said something stupid like "Sweet!". I was still in a fog.

Ok, here's the corny part:  I have this picture in my head. Maverick arrives in heaven. Sure he's a little confused (his 4th leg is back!), but they do the best to make him comfortable. He has his entry interview and is asked if he has any concerns.

"I don't have any concerns about myself, but my daddy's really sad right now. Can you do something to cheer him up?"

"I don't know, Maverick", replied the gatekeeper,  "We get a lot of requests up here."

"Yeah, I know, but aren't those usually prayers from below? I know Mom said she prayed every night for me. Still does. I'd think once we get here we wouldn't need to ask for anything"

The gatekeeper gave thought to Maverick's argument. "You make a good point. What did you have in mind?

"Well, daddy's mom- my gramma- has been really sick. Can you make her get better?"

"I'll see what I can do", said the gatekeeper. "We get thousands of requests a day"

With that, Mav boarded the Jeep to take him to the Boneyard, to play and fetch and eat and sleep. He didn't have the people he loved by his side, but he at least tried to make sure that our sadness could be eased if for a little while by some uplifting news. And then I got the call the next day. The cancer was gone, and to celebrate, my parents are coming to Vegas.

The subject line warned you of corniness ahead, and if you've come this far, I don't think you hated it. Without a bit of corniness, the realities of life (and death) are overwhelming. I'd like to think that even though he'll no longer lay at my feet, he'll be looking out for his daddy as much as his daddy looked out for him.