I like to get away from the three or four of you every once in a while. It has to feel good for you, too.
Alexis and I, in a quirk of scheduling, attended three concerts in three nights in Chicago. That was too much. It won’t ever happen again.
So it’s July 3rd and we’re back to our radio life. Tonight, we broadcast live from the Munster fireworks. WJOB has been doing this for a number of years. In the past, I hosted the stage and went on the air and all that. It’s a 10-hour workday. After a few years, Alexis turned to me and asked –
“Are you going to work every July 3rd?”
It was a fair question. But, truth be told, in all of the frenzy I didn’t even know that I was working. I thought it was just one big party and we were all part of it and it just happened to be on the air. Then one year I was still there at 1am breaking down equipment and I realized then that it was indeed work.
The following year, I tabbed Miguel Flores to talk on the stage, interview people, go live on WJOB, to make sure the musicians and politicians came to the microphone on schedule. Last year, Alexis and I went to a movie on July 3rd. That’s when I realized again that I had been working all of those years.
Not that I mind working. It’s just that sometimes in radio the line between fun and work becomes blurred. Same thing with the morning show. Sometimes it’s just me blabbing away with callers who have become friends over the years. And sometimes there’s a lot of hate in the world and I realize that I’m just breathing from one breath to the next to get out of the studio alive. That’s work.
This is not work, writing to the three or four of you. For some reason, in this quest to tell you about the transition from radio to something other than radio, I discovered that I could squeeze out 1,000 words a day like nobody’s business. I just sit down and start writing and, next thing you know, the word count at the bottom of the page starts spinning like a gas pump. By the way, gas prices are at their lowest since 2005. Imagine that.
In an attempt to get away from the three or four of you for a while, Alexis and I went to Tom Petty and then two Grateful Dead concerts – all at Wrigley Field. These were our presents to each other. We are not wealthy jetsetters who can go to big-time concerts on a whim. We are a working family with two kids in college. That means it’s a really big deal for us to get together for this kind of celebration.
Tom Petty rocked. No doubt about it. And so did my beloved Dead and Company, the ancestor of the Grateful Dead. But, to be open and sincere in the relating of My Radio Life, perhaps I had set unrealistic expectations. I was looking for a true “moment” with my wife and daughters, a true sense of togetherness of a radio family. And I was hoping that the moment would endure. But not even Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead could make that happen.
On Thursday, Alexis and I went alone to Tom Petty. And on Friday, we went with my daughter Jackie and her boyfriend, Tommy. And then on Saturday night, we went with both of our daughters, Jackie and Jeanie, who flew in from New York for another matter and could come with us. The concerts brought us physically together, but I gotta be honest in that I was thinking during “Scarlet Begonias” and “Fire on the Mountain” that my kids are adults now and no longer totally a part of the flock. I suppose that all dads sooner or later realize that what they once were – just a dad – is fading away. I happened to figure that out during John Mayer solos at Wrigley Field on perfect July nights. I was surprised by the sadness of knowing that my daughters don’t depend on me for everything any more. It was a lot easier when they did.
So there. That’s not directly My Radio Life stuff, but since part of the understanding of the changes in radio is to understand the changes in me, then there you go. I had a great time on this July 4th weekend in Chicago. I loved every minute of hanging out with my wife and daughters. It’s just that I wanted to hang on to every moment, and when you try to do that, the moment is gone and you miss it while it’s still in your hands.
I don’t know if that makes any sense, except to those of you who love radio. Here we are doing radio and listening to radio and loving radio… while at the same time we miss it. It is here in front of you, but at the same time you miss what it once was. Radio is turning into something else. That something else can be beautiful and meaningful, but it’s not the radio of old. And you miss that radio with all of your heart, just like I do.
Somewhere along the line, long before I started writing Another Thousand Words about my radio life every day, I accepted the ongoing change of radio. It was with grief for the old way of doing radio – of overnight live talk shows, of live remote broadcasts from the parking lots of hamburger joints, from covering each city council, from ripping the paper off the Associated Press ticker. I could go on and on about what I miss from old radio, but I got through that stage a while ago.
I’m going through a similar difficulty of acceptance with my own family now. Right now, as I type, my daughter from New York is downstairs in the kitchen. She will be leaving tomorrow to go back to that massive city. But as I type to the three or four of you losers who aren’t doing anything on a July 3rd evening, I miss my daughter already. I feel it way deep in my core. It’s a sorrow almost. We’ll drop her off at the airport tomorrow and I won’t see her for months. That makes me sad as hell writing this to you right now… while she’s ten feet below making a salad.
This may be where you are at with radio. You may not be as far along as I am with the acceptance that radio has changed and will continue to change. You also may not even give a rat’s ass one way or another. You may read this for other reasons.
But there are some of you – I can see it in your eyes when you come up to me, like one woman who did, in the back room at Murphy’s Bleachers outside Wrigley – who bemoan the change. You long for the days when we all sat down together each night for a meal. That will never happen again. Deal with it, as I started to during a solo by John Mayer at Wrigley Field during a particularly beautiful verson of “Fire on the Mountain.”
I looked at the cloudless sky, the pink and purple lights, the tens of thousands of people – including my wife and two daughters – bopping up and down and singing the refrain. The beat of the two drummers matched my heartbeat. Bob Weir kept a perfect rhythm guitar pace, and John Mayer spanked every high note.
All was perfect. All was present. And it was in that moment that I realized that everything had changed and will continue to change. And I got sad. In a moment of pure beauty, I got sad as hell.