Facebook Birds Of A Feather

Broadcasting is familial. We accept each other, enjoy each other, tolerate each other, and miss each other when circumstances change. Facebook is  often a broadcast yearbook in motion. It contains our “remember when” and also sends us updates and photos.  We learn of special events in the lives of people we treasure.  Sometimes we learn from a post on a Facebook page about the passing of colleagues.

I’m grateful someone lets us know on Facebook, not because we can do anything, but so we can honor the life. We can acknowledge the loss, even if all there is to say is, rest in peace. Prayers and sympathy and empathy are not nothing because they can’t arrive in person.  A life matters.  A passing matters.

The End Of Youth

The End Of Youth surprised me one morning. It didn’t sneak up on me gradually, the way friends have related their own revelatory experiences with mirrors. For me, it came all of a sudden and I was hugely, comically surprised at the face in the mirror. It was as if the wrong person had jumped out of a cake in a sitcom. What? Who is that?

I’d ignored previous clues. Now they all piled on together. The checkout counter. Any given cash register where senior discounts were figured.

In the past, I’d ask for the discount and the person in charge made a fuss of saying, “No, you can’t be.” Some were sincere, others not, but I was fine with their reaction and fine with pulling out I.D. to prove I deserved the discount.

You can guess what’s coming. One day, everything changed. As I presented my merchandise, the cashier asked “And are you a member of our Senior Club?” That was the first time nobody said, “You can’t be,” and from that day forward, it happened more frequently.

It’s not a specific age. It happens to some of us  decades too soon, because an observer isn’t really observant or doesn’t know what aging looks like, or isn’t paying attention. It also happens the other way around for some of us, years later than we really deserve, and we are offered a grace period, while we pretend not to notice the changes in the mirror.

But it will arrive. It will come in some way at some time to you, personally, and that will be the beginning of many other things, some of them very good. It can be the beginning of figuring out the next stage, of deciding our own worth based not just on a set of physical markers.

This isn’t to say that I have the answers yet, but only to remind you, as a friend, that day is coming, the day you fully accept you are no longer young and that it’s okay.

(Writing partner, Dave, shares his thoughts on the subject. Dave’s Blog)

Old dog, new tricks (Stayin’ Alive)

My broadcast buddy, Dave Williams, and I decided to write a book together about what life is like for former rock and roll disc jockeys who are now more mature in years, if not behavior.  We’re grandparents now.  We’re both still working, and everything about the way we work has changed. We haven’t written the book, but we talk about it a lot, which is almost the same thing.

We’re on opposite ends of the Boomer curve.  I’m the older one.  He’s the former high school student who stood outside the window at the radio station where I played rock and roll music (KROY, Sacramento, CA) where fans lined up before heading off to join the local cruise, with their car radios turned up loud. Somebody ushered Dave in to say hello and it wasn’t long after I left that Dave took up that same chair alongside those same turntables (yes, turntables) at the station.  We became friends back then and we’re still friends, decades later.

A career spent talking into microphones is nomadic.  When we began, we had to be in the same physical location as our audience.  We moved home and hearth and families to the next town (“markets” in broadcast-speak) with the goal being to eventually occupy a chair in front of a microphone in one of the major markets.  Both of us accomplished that.

It would be impossible to overstate how drastically technology changed our industry.  Those of us who worked in radio, television and print, ran fast just to keep up.  In order to survive on the air, we had to learn new skills overnight, and we’re still adjusting.

When we began, we launched our records from a slip-cue position (you can see the slip-cue technique demonstrated online) with one hand holding the record while the other hand twirled knobs or slid controls up and down to regulate our microphones, our music, and our commercials (spots) which ran in a separate cartridge machine and often got stuck or completely failed, requiring a new plan.

Both hands were engaged, along with head, voice, and yes, heart, all required to fast-pedal in order to sound either upbeat and party-ready or mellow, depending on the station’s music.  In larger markets, we sometimes had engineers who did the twirling and regulating, but much of our time on the air was spent with us doing all of it at once and never letting it show in our voices.

Technology altered all that, and moving from music into talk radio also required a different set of skills, but through it all, it’s been the “air personality” as we were called, who had the biggest, fastest adjustments to make, just to stay employed.

I don’t talk for a living anymore, but Dave still does (KLIF/ Dallas every morning.)  The studio in the picture above is where I learned to slip-cue a song before moving into a whole new world.  (Thanks Gary Avey, KHSL, Chico, CA.) The studio below in this “after” picture is similar to where Dave works now.

Today I write in Northern California, connected to my computer, and if I have something to say on the air, I don’t have to leave this room to do it. Dreams we never could have dreamed during the Age of Aquarius.

 

The Magic of Four O’clock

Four o’clock is golden.  I can hear four o’clock coming, as surely as if it’s wearing a bell around its neck. I feel it in my bones.

It’s the turning point in my day, and it has nothing to do with its proximity to five pm.  Time to exhale. Get up. Think about what’s next. Could be coffee. Could be something intoxicating. (Only a rude person would suggest four o’clock is too early for it.) It might be a walk around the block or aimless wandering into another room.

Four o’clock’s intent changes with the seasons. In winter, the light is leaving and there’s the pleasant prospect of an early evening. In summer, if I choose to follow the light, there’s plenty of time left to see where it leads.

Professional schedules these days are often malleable, mutable, personal.  We may still be accountable to somebody, but how we do it varies.  It seems to me it’s our own business how we set our internal clocks.   Four o’clock is my touchstone, the lodestar.  It insists I pay attention.  Time to tap into fresh resources and keep going, or wrap it up for the day.

I’m guessing everybody has a magic hour, declared or undeclared, a time when everything shifts.  Four o’clock is mine.  What’s yours?

Bacon is the gift that keeps on giving.

bacon

In decades past, we carried Grandma’s gravy and barbeque sauce home on the plane. I still take food home after family visits, but it’s easier now because I drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles with a cooler in my trunk.

Holiday mornings always include Mimosas and bacon – in a quiche or with eggs, or snatched from the platter before it’s cooled. This year, my daughter and granddaughter surprised me with a batch of biscuits made with bacon grease. Best biscuits ever.

We Southern-born cooks put bacon grease in just about everything except dessert. We add it to breads. We sauce our vegetables with it. Gravy? Not possible without a roux that begins with bacon grease. Sometimes it’s bacon grease and butter creamed together, but the bacon grease is crucial.

bacon grease

My people kept bacon grease in a tin can near the stove. I keep mine in a jar in the fridge, and that’s the only part of the equation that’s changed. Bacon grease is the prize ingredient. We buy bacon just to render it, so we can own the drippings. As our holiday visit was ending, I remembered that the bacon grease jar in my fridge at home was almost empty, and made a note to stop at the market to buy several pounds of whatever bacon was on sale.

bacon grease 2

While packing to come home, I heard whispering and giggling from the other room and then my granddaughter appeared with a big grin, both hands hidden behind her back. She held out a gift “from Mom and me” – a small, round container with a red bow on the lid, filled with bacon grease. The last gift of the season is, so far, top of the list of Best Gifts Ever.

Container 2

New Year. Revised definition of happiness.

untitled

Remember when we were very young and thought “happy” was our birthright? As the years went on, we’d do a lot of things just to get some of that. Today I think “content” or “peaceful some of the time” will suffice. I don’t think of these as compromises, but rather as more likely-sustainable states of mind.

newsletter-2

They’re arriving. Cards and envelopes with newsletters and photos and stories of work and travel and details about what life brought and even some telling about what life took away during this year that’s ending soon.

I especially like the ones I receive from people with whom I don’t ex-change emails all year. Nor even phone calls. People who don’t use Facebook. This is often our one communication and it’s become increasingly im-portant. I don’t want to lose track of people even (especially) when we’re not really in touch (much.)

Stories are what I love. I even enjoy newsletters with stories about people I don’t know. And pictures – the more, the merrier.

One surprise newsletter is written by the husband of my first roommate. I had the honor of being part of their wedding ceremony, back when we were barely out of our teens. Seeing their year told in words chosen by him reveals a side of him I hadn’t known before.

An envelope I wait for each year comes from a couple whose children I used to babysit. Now they’re great grandparents and in close touch with every member of their growing family. They share details about college classes and hopes and dreams and plans and romances of each of their multiple grandchildren, and I’m happy to make the acquaintance, in this way, of people I may never see.

Last season there was less mail and I worried about some who always wrote, then stopped. This year, they’ve begun arriving again and there are more of them. Maybe this tradition matters even more during a time when so many people have had to cut back on so many other things.

Keep them coming. Your newsletters will always receive a welcome here.

The End Of Youth?

The End Of Youth surprised me one morning. It didn’t sneak up on me gradually, the way friends have related their own revelatory experiences with mirrors. For me, it came all of a sudden and I was hugely, comically surprised at the face in the mirror. It was as if the wrong person had jumped out of a cake in a sitcom. What? Who is that?

I’d ignored previous clues. Now they all piled on together. The checkout counter. Any given cash register where senior discounts were figured.

In the past, I’d ask for the discount and the person in charge made a fuss of saying, “No, you can’t be.” Some were sincere, others not, but I was fine with their reaction and fine with pulling out I.D. to prove I deserved the discount.

You can guess what’s coming. One day, everything changed. As I presented my merchandise, the cashier asked “And are you a member of our Senior Club?” That was the first time nobody said, “You can’t be,” and from that day forward, it happened more frequently.

It’s not a specific age. It happens to some of us  decades too soon, because an observer isn’t really observant or doesn’t know what aging looks like, or isn’t paying attention. It also happens the other way around for some of us, years later than we really deserve, and we are offered a grace period, while we pretend not to notice the changes in the mirror.

But it will arrive. It will come in some way at some time to you, personally, and that will be the beginning of many other things, some of them very good. It can be the beginning of figuring out the next stage, of deciding our own worth based not just on a set of physical markers.

This isn’t to say that I have the answers yet, but only to remind you, as a friend, that day is coming, the day you fully accept you are no longer young and that it’s okay.

Highway recipe

This morning, I drove I-5 through Central California. Ahead of me – tomatoes on a truck. Behind me, a truck full of garlic. In the middle? Me and spaghetti sauce. Really. My daughter made me some in L.A. and froze it and it was in my cooler in the car, thawing out for tonight’s supper in Northern California