A Boomer’s journey

September 1969…

I was 17 the first time I sat behind a microphone and cued a record. I was nervous but too excited to be scared. I had dreamed of this moment since I was eight. I was ready.

The first button I pushed exploded with thunderous drums, brass and a godlike voice:

On the air at KROY, Sacramento 1969.

“And now, LEE WILLIAMS on a Solid Gold Weekend!”

(Singers) “K-O-B-O, Yuba City!”

The second button I pressed started a rock song and my career.

Liftoff! I felt like I was on my way to the stars.

Program Manager at WHBQ Memphis 1975

Somehow 48 years have slipped away since that Saturday morning in Northern California. My resume is as long as the roads that took me from Yuba City to Sacramento to Los Angeles, back to Sacramento and then on to Memphis, back to Sacramento again, to Los Angeles again, then Chicago and now Dallas.

Along the way I’ve been married twice, became a father and bought three homes in different cities.

I’ve made and lost friends and watch loved ones die.

My son just turned 40.

I’ll get my first Social Security check next month. Medicare has my vitals.

And still, I arise at 2:45 a.m. to go do what I do. The old giant radio studio console has been replaced by computer screens and I haven’t played a song since 1975. I talk about the news these days and frankly, most of the stuff in the news is either boring, depressing or comical in an inside joke way, because at my age I feel like I’ve seen and heard it all before.

In the 60s, at the so-called dawning of the Age of Aquarius I first met my now writing partner, Anita Garner, and was given my dream job at KROY, Sacramento. I was the youngest member of the staff. Now I’m the oldest by more than ten years.

Dave & Amy, Mornings on KLIF, Dallas 2014

Some of my colleagues today are young enough to be my grandkids. As people do between one generation and another we’re nice to each other but we don’t really connect. We can share a laugh and bits of our lives but we can’t relate.

I’ve had a wonderful life including my career in radio, though sometimes I wish I had been allowed to stay in one house for more than just a few years. As Anita points out in her latest post radio life is nomadic. Moving from city to city can be exciting but as I near the end of my working life I wonder almost constantly where I will finally call home.

Between now and then I will write about the places I’ve been, the things I’ve learned and some of the stuff I’ve thunk.

That’s the beauty of a life. By the time you close in on the finish line you have tales to tell and wonders to share.

What follows on this page are some of those tales and thoughts compiled over the past several years.

And, you will love Anita. See inside her delightful mind by clicking here.

I got nothin’

I write less than I used to. As time goes by I am becoming convinced that I don’t have anything original or interesting to say.

When I was young I was much smarter. Wisdom came to me so fast I couldn’t explain it all.

But, over the years I’ve come to realize the older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

That was an original thought when I thunk it. Nobody enlightened me. I had never heard or read anything like it. It was a brilliant and original epiphany. But now we have the Internet and ego crushing reality is just a search away.

A minute ago I typed “The more I learn…” into Google and here’s what popped up:

The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why bother to learn? — George Bernard Shaw

And,

The more you know, the less you understand. — Lao-Tse

And the real stunner:

The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. — Socrates

Socrates had my original thought some 2,400 years before I did and said it more crisply!

AND, in ancient Greek!

socrates-funny-nose

Worse yet, I’ll bet he wasn’t the first guy to figure this out, either. He just had a tremendous publicist.

I suppose having an idea expressed by one of the great thinkers in history come to me all by itself is cool but there’s no point in my passing it along. It obviously occurs to everybody eventually.

Plus, if we all regurgitated every brilliantly mundane original thought we have what would become of the poor philosophy majors who have nothing else to do with their educations?

The other reason I don’t write much anymore is because Americans don’t read much anymore.

We don’t consume information, we spew it.

We Tweet. We text. We spend our days expressing every banal thought that crosses our mind in such a way that we don’t have to bother hearing or reading a response.

Maybe we don’t want response. We’re just spewin’.

Maybe we’re just trying to shut off the noise and hear ourselves think.

I could be wrong about this.

Maybe, but how can I know?

I’ve learned so much, so fast, I’m rushing toward total ignorance.

 

 

 

Just ice cream

 

Last night I lost a crown while eating ice cream.

 

Let me repeat and clarify that: a gold crown fell off of a tooth while I was eating ice cream. Not while I was chewing on taffy or beef jerky…

 

Ice cream.

  

Not crunchy butter brickle ice cream; not nutty sundae, rocky road or Ben and Jerry’s Preposterous Peanut Brutal ice cream…


Just regular chocolate ice cream.

 

And guess what? It doesn’t hurt at all, not a bit. I have no need to rush to a dentist for an extortionately priced bicuspid emergency. The tooth has been dead for years. My whole mouth is dead, apparently. I’m just going to leave it be.

 

And that, friends, is the thin silvery lining surrounding the big black cloud of aging. When you reach a certain point pain apparently serves no purpose.


Yippee? 

Then and now

My radio partner, Amy Chodroff, and I had a conversation yesterday (570 AM KLIF, Dallas, TX) with a man who proposes we all learn to disconnect from our social gadgets just one day a week. Think about that: no Facebook, no Twitter, no My Space, no Google Plus, no Instagram, no Pinterest, no e-mail, no texting, no nothing:

Just you and the people you can see in real time and space.

I remember decades ago, before Cyber World Genesis, when people were making similar suggestions about technologies and social habits that would seem quaint to us now. “Turn off the TV one night a week”, they said. “Get reacquainted with your family. Talk about your day. Play a board game. Make popcorn.”

It really does sound nice, doesn’t it?

All the way back to my own childhood in the fifties and sixties I can remember the social psychologists urging families to always eat dinner together at the table. It suggested we strive for TV family perfection. Dad would be there smiling in his sweater and tie, Mom would be fresh as a daisy after a day spent driving a vacuum and an iron and then wrangling dinner in the kitchen. We could have funny conversations like the Cleaver family.

It all sounds wonderful but what I remember from my real life family dinners is complaints about the food, being scolded for the griping, Dad grousing about some idiot at work and dear Mom trying to hold it all together. Not always, of course, but often enough that I learned early that nostalgia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Like it or not, family and social dynamics change with culture which is largely driven by technology.

Nobody sends handwritten letters anymore. Gone are the summer nights on a blanket in the front yard together watching the stars come out. Rocking chairs on the front porch over a pitcher of lemonade and shared tales of greater glories past are the stuff of fanciful memory and our social fabric.

It’s good to remember the past but a terrible mistake to try to live there.

I think I may give this disconnecting idea a shot, occasionally. Maybe not once a week, like on a schedule. Just occasionally, like opening a shoe box filled with old pictures. It’s fun.

But I’m not going to stress about it.

Just a handful of memories

 

Our heat wave seems to have broken. It’s below 80 this morning for the first time in over a week. Clouds are gathering for a welcome summer storm.

 

I think the reason we’re so darned interested in the weather has less to do with our plans and personal comfort than it does our inability to notice the passing of time. If the weather never changed we would seem to be living the same day over and over, though we age rapidly.

When I was young I thought it funny, and to be honest more than just slightly annoying, that the older people in my life told the same stories time and again. My dad did that. His dad, too. And it seemed to me the older people got the more often they retold a dwindling number of their personal adventures. Now I find myself doing it and often apologizing to my kids as a disclaimer. “I may have already told you this,” I’ll say, but then I’ll go ahead and tell it again anyway.

 

The truth is, as wonderful as a long life can be we are pathetically short on memories.We remember the highlights of our lives as if they were moments that stand out from old movies. The rest of it seems to be bits and pieces of black and white images, remembered without context or emotional texture. This is why we take so darned many pictures, I guess, to try to hold onto special moments and even the ones we know will be deemed insignificant or forgotten altogether a short time from now.

We mark the passing of our lives by changes in the weather and by how fast the kids grow up.

People come and go.

Sixty, seventy, eighty years. Life sounds long but lives fast. And if we’ve done it right we are vastly wiser and happier for all the great lessons we’ve absorbed, the good with the bad; the monumental and the insignificant. They add up to an existence we can rest assured was meaningful. The world would be a bit less joyful if you or I had never passed this way.

Oddly, though, as miraculous as we are we wind up retelling stories.

We only have a handful of memories.

Obsolete

I’m sixty years old. It didn’t seem like a big deal back in August when it happened. Forty was a big deal but not sixty.

A couple of days ago I was talking about aging with Gloria, my son’s mother-in-law and one of the wisest people I know. Specifically, I mentioned that as much as I’ve learned about the craft of radio performance over forty-three years of it, none of the younger people I work with seem to be interested in picking my brain. If I offer a small nugget of hard-won wisdom it seems to fall with a clunk on deaf ears. I believe I’ve occasionally seen a furtive wink, a roll of an eye. I’m pretty sure of it.

Gloria nodded sagely. She understood.

It’s a shame, I continued, that as we age we learn so much but eventually we die and all that knowledge of fact, of wisdom and experience, is lost without ever having been shared and appreciated. Worst of all is the lack of respect that piles on top of the years. Instead of being honored, I lamented, old people in our culture are the butt of jokes.

If brevity is the soul of wit, Gloria is a prophet.

“You’re obsolete,” she said offhandedly. “We all are, people our age.”

She said it as if she had just noticed that my shoe was untied and thought I should know.

I’ve been unemployed since October and this is the third time in three years I’ve been between jobs. Radio is an aging technology, an industry being dismantled. We’re sputtering to an end together.

I’ve had a wonderful career and no regrets. If it’s over that’s fine because I still have plenty of life left in me with wonderful friends like Gloria.

I’ll age gracefully. I’ll be obsolete, except to my family. That’s all that matters.

Sometimes, though, sixty is starting to feel like kind of a big deal.

The coolest generation

“‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky!”

One day not too long ago I wandered into a 7-11 store and hid my smile from the clerk. He appeared to be on the fringe of his “golden years,” rotund, gray and balding. He was the only guy in the place and had Jimi Hendrix blaring from his boombox behind the counter. I thought it was pretty funny that an old guy like him was digging Jimi. Then, what you have already figured out hit me.

That “old guy” was my age.

Something happened in the mid-1960s that suddenly narrowed all future generation gaps. It was a social sea change rooted in technology and nourished with an elixir concocted by a new breed of post be-bop musicians. Everything about them was radical, from their long, unkempt hair to their wildly-colorful disdain of fashion sense to their electronically amplified screams of youthful exuberance.

Our parents were apoplectic.

And we dug that, too.

“Yi-pi-yi-ay! Yi-pi-yi-o! Ghost riders in the sky…”

When my mother graduated from high school in June of 1949 the top-selling record of the day was Riders In The Sky by Vaughn Monroe. Twenty years later, June of 1969, I graduated high school and the number one song was Get Back by the Beatles.

So, what? So, this:

I’m not sure I have ever heard a Vaughn Monroe song but I’m absolutely positive I never owned one. On the other hand my son owns a nearly full Beatles collection and knows as much about the songs and the group as I do. He also loves the music of Creedence, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys and other artists who made their impact years before he was born.

And it works the other way around, too. I believe my contemporaries and I keep up with cultural changes much more readily than my grandparents did. When I was a lad you wouldn’t find me sitting with Grandma in front of her Philco TV watching the Lawrence Welk Show but here I am, my grandparents’ age, parked in front of the big flat screen Sony for each new episode of American Idol.

And it’s not just music, either.

I’m pretty sure neither of my grandfathers would have been caught dead at Disneyland. I’d bet on it, in fact. My dad went there with the family on our vacation when I was a young teen but I don’t remember him riding the Matterhorn or Dumbo. He would never stand near Mickey Mouse or Goofy for a photo op. By the time I became a dad, though, Disneyland was a whole new ballgame. That’s not surprising since the park was born after I was and having grown up with the Magic Kingdom experience under my belt, enjoying it with my kids and grand-kids just comes naturally. In fact, Carolann and I have annual passes.

So, here’s the thing: While we always hear people bemoaning the loss of American family relationships I’m not buying it. When I was a kid, yes, we all ate dinner together at a single table, at the same time, without the TV. But frankly, I don’t recall it as being a particularly nurturing and bonding experience. I don’t remember it being anything at all except dinner.

So, while my son didn’t often have meatloaf at the family dinner table he did have me at his Chuck E. Cheese’s birthday parties and I like to believe he enjoyed that.

I’m no social scientist so I really can’t figure out what it all means, if anything, but that has never stopped me from reaching a happy conclusion and here it is:

If our parents are the Greatest Generation, as is the title applied to them in recent years, we are surely the Coolest. So far, anyway.

Copyright © 2010 by Dave Williams, all rights reserved.

Making reservations for the cackle factory…

For some inexplicable reason I awoke this morning at 4:48 with this song running through my head:

There’s a hold up in the Bronx,
Brooklyn’s broken out in fights!
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem
That’s backed up to Jackson Heights!
There’s a scout troop short a child,
Kruschev’s due at Idlewild!!

CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU??!!

If you never heard those words, it doesn’t matter. Move on and have a great day!

If you do know what this is about, you’re already shaking your head and thinking, “Oh, my God…” 

I awoke this morning with the theme song from a 47-year-old TV sitcom running through my head, a song I haven’t heard in at least 35 years.

My working theory is that at some point in life our mental filing cabinets start to get too heavy and the little wheels in the drawers break down. Those little folders collapse and some old piece of useless memory crap spills out all over the floor.

That’s what I’m going to tell the doctor.

I’m making the appointment right now.

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

The loving “ism”

Racism; deplorable. Sexism; unacceptable.

Ageism; adorable.

I recently annoyed some friends in an email chat group by expressing my irritation at the proliferation of jokes about old people. They think I’m overreacting. It’s no big deal, people have always made fun of old folks, right?

People still tell race jokes, too, but at least we know that’s disrespectful and wrong.

Look at what I just found at a website called “Old People Are Funny.”

If an old man falling on an escalator is funny to you, go ahead and close this window and go to that site, instead. It’s a damned giggle fest.

Black birthday balloons! Hoo-hah, how funny is that?

Look, I know it’s mostly in good, innocent fun and we should always, at all ages, be able to laugh at ourselves. It’s not that. No, what gripes me is the fact that many people, maybe all of us eventually, buy into the notion that getting old means we’ll be doddering, slobbering, laughable old fools. So, we simply assume the role, sit down in the rocking chair and watch the world pass by without so much as waving to it.

The jokes take us by the hand and lead us there

And, it’s not even the jokes that bother me as much as the allusions to how “cute” old people are.

I just received an email that had a link to a video of an elderly man and his wife playing the piano together. They weren’t doing anything amazing. They weren’t playing Flight of the Bumblee in rounds and different, harmonic keys. They weren’t playing the notes with their noses, toes, elbows and tongues. They were just playing a little tune together. Isn’t that cute!?

Why? What’s cute about it? If these people were in their thirties or forties instead of their eighties it wouldn’t be adorable. Nobody would have turned a camera on them in the first place.

I simply think we should treat old people the same way they were treated when they were young adults and middle-aged. Give them the same respect we afford people we take more seriously. Judge them by the content of their character and the wisdom of their years rather than the number of them.

And, by God, when an old person is being a pain in the ass, unload on ’em! Don’t give them a pass because of age.

It’s hard to text a sigh.

I know I’m being silly. Well, I don’t think it’s silly but I know a lot of people do. And certainly, part of my concern is personal and yes, I am offended at the idea I will soon be marginalized by stereotypes. Please don’t ever refer to me as a “senior citizen” or some other gentle euphemism. I will simply be old and wear my age as a badge of achievment, thank you.

I will laugh, I’ll converse as intelligently as I’m able and I’ll keep writing as long as I can. But I won’t be cute, okay?

© Copyright 2010, Dave Williams. All rights reserved.

The mirror lies.

My blogging buddy, Anita, just posted one of her typically charming and smile-inducing pieces on the subject of aging, Fifty is the new forever. I suppose that’s what we do here whether we address the subject head-on or just obliquely, through our personal kaleidoscopic lives.

One of the things I love most about Anita is that aging never seems to give her a moment’s pause or stress. I, on the other hand, am borderline obsessive.

I look in the mirror only out of occasional necessity and all I see are lies.

I stopped growing older in my mid-thirties. It was a good age for me. It’s the age I chose to be for the rest of my life. So, as I push sixty (though I prefer to think of it as pulling fifty) my thirty-five year old spirit peers into the mirror at an old man and while I’ve never been especially attractive nor self-conscious it just doesn’t work.

I can’t feel like this and look like that.

I know the only option I have in order to re-frame myself is to give up and be my age because I can’t possibly look thirty-five again. That’s fine if I can figure out how to age without getting old. That’s really what concerns us, isn’t it?

Do I have to turn grouchy? Will I be forced to wear khaki pants and sensible shoes?

I’m going to work on this self-image thing because I don’t believe it much matters what anybody else thinks of my appearance as long as I’m clean and semi-tidy.

The thing is — at thirty-five this stuff never crossed my mind.

© Copyright 2009, Dave Williams. All rights reserved.