Unpredictable autumn

by Dave Williams
November 3, 2018

Live in the moment.

In Texas fall teases you like a puppy. It yaps at you, snaps playfully at your fingers and then darts away to plan another surprise attack.

I wore a sweatshirt last week. Today it will be 80. Tomorrow could bring snow. It’s the wonder of Texas weather that I love because I don’t like predictability.

Life itself is unpredictable and that’s how it should be, even and maybe especially life’s tragedies.

A man arises before dawn, showers, shaves, kisses his slumbering wife and kids goodbye and then he leaves home and dies.

I don’t mean to be morose. It’s just the unpredictable nature of life.

On my early morning radio news shows I’ve told these stories daily for decades. We get used to them, both in the telling and the hearing because the stories are framed in frigid cop talk, in matter-of-fact terms detached from emotion and personal reality.

“Dallas police responded to a fatal head-on  crash early this morning. Officials say a wrong-way driver slammed into  a late model Toyota southbound on I-75 near Walnut Hill. The driver of the Toyota died at the scene.

We don’t even learn his name.

Let’s see how that’s affecting traffic: live with Traffic on the Fives, here’s Bill Jackson…”

Bill explains that emergency vehicles have the wreck confined to the divider with officers directing a ten minute slowdown into the right two lanes.

“Meanwhile, inbound on the Dallas North Tollway there’s a slowdown at Northwest Highway…”

The Toyota driver’s wife and kids are still sleeping as a hundred thousand commuters deal with a traffic jam.

The family will probably be wolfing down breakfast on hurried schedules when the knock comes at the door.

But, I digress. I was talking about unpredictable fall weather and the unexpected turns in our daily lives.

Live as a child.

Most people seem to live their lives focused on annoyance, oblivious to the small joys of the moment. We worry about trivial things and bitch about each day for trivial  reasons.

We wish it was summer, we wish it was Friday.

We wish away the unpredictably wonderful moments of our lives.

We’re constantly told to live for today, in the here and now, and to stop and smell the roses. I don’t know anyone who has figured out how to do that but I’m working on it.

I thank God each morning for another day of life.

I don’t wonder if He exists. I’m just happy to be grateful.

Before I go to sleep at night I conjure images of my wife and children, my grandchildren, the friends I’ve made and the handful of very special people I’ve known and loved in my life. I give thanks for them all. Then I drift off to sleep without a care in the world.

Tomorrow will be another unpredictable day and though the possibilities include everything, glorious and tragic, I’m looking forward to it.

I’m going outside to mow the lawn now. It might snow tomorrow or I could die tonight.


Circles of Influence

Had lunch with Dwight Case yesterday. 

We met at one of those fabulous intimate, classy joints along Ventura Blvd. — this one in Studio City — on a perfect, sunny and mild Southern California autumn day.

Dwight knows everybody in the place, of course, including the owner, with whom he has established a warm relationship fostered over nearly 40 years of business/social events.

I arrived first and was sipping a Heineken at the bar when I spotted Dwight through the window handing his keys to the valet. He came through the door and was greeted like Dolly Levi strutting through the entrance to Harmonia Gardens.

I gave him a bear hug and we were swept to our table by a doting proprietor and his staff, fairly singing the signature to Dwight’s return and my unquestioned VIP status for merely being in his company.

We spent two hours over wine and one of the best lunches of my life. (Place is called The Wine Bistro, on Ventura just east of Laurel Canyon.) And while we shared a fair amount of warm, laughing reminiscence it wasn’t one of those maudlin affairs where old men gather to bitch about the changing world. We talked a lot about the current state of media but Dwight, as always, has his sights firmly fixed on potential and possibilities and “what ifs?”

He walks slower now, though bears no cane. He wears a windbreaker on a warm day.

Dwight Case at KROY 40+ years ago    

But he’ll still have three drinks with you and give you more great ideas in two hours than you’ve heard or dreamed up by yourself in two years. Now, for example, he is studying what type of music will soothe the nerves of dogs in the waiting room of a veterinary hospital. There’s money to be made there, I kid you not.

We talked briefly about my situation. He knows I am out of work, flat broke and can scarcely afford the gas money to drive the 30+ miles to meet him.

Nevertheless, he suggested we split the check, and we did.

For those of you who don’t know him, let me just explain that Dwight understands every nuance, consideration and emotion going through everybody else’s mind, or so it has always seemed to me. By suggesting we split the check he wasn’t being stingy, he was cutting away the uncomfortable pride and insistence dance that always comes delivered by a guy in a stained black jacket and bow tie.

He was also showing me the respect I have proudly earned over forty years of being his student and admirer. He has rewarded me for achieving a degree of equality.

It’s not at all unlike a boy growing to become a man in his father’s eyes.

And, you know what’s really cool?

I have a couple of not-so-young proteges who feel the same way about me.

Things you’ll remember: Part Two

Nothing lasts forever. Except, perhaps, forever.

Before I got onto that honey bee tangent I was talking about the things from our lives which are rapidly passing into memory. And, in a mere generation even the memory will be gone.

Technology does that. It creates new ways of doing old things and mind-blowing new things most of us could never imagine. That’s cool stuff but what’s even better, I think, is that technology sweeps us all forward in a stream, rushing past ever-changing landscapes.

Take my profession, for example: broadcasting. It is rapidly become anachronistic.

For my forty years of experience and supposed expertise I can’t for a minute understand why music radio stations still exist. Who needs them? The human factor, camaraderie and entertainment, were distilled from them years ago. Now we’re left with mostly mindless jukeboxes that play songs they merely guess we might like to hear (and commercials they know damned well we don’t want to hear.) The fact that we all carry our own radio stations containing thousands of songs of our own selection in a device the size of a matchbox seems to have been missed entirely by my industry.

Talk radio is still viable but only because there is money yet to be made in it, which soon won’t be the case because technology has given everybody a pulpit: a microphone, a web cam, a podcast and a blog.

I am a lamplighter in the twenty-first century.

Luckily for me, I am approaching retirement age. My younger colleagues need to get scrambling to learn new ways to earn a living. And honestly, as much as I have loved my career I won’t bemoan its passing. That’s the way things work in a world driven by creative human ingenuity. We dream, we strive, we achieve; we move down that stream.

Last week Carolann, our seven-year-old grandson, Isaiah, and I were singing along with Christmas songs on the car radio. When Feliz Navidad came on we all had a bit of trouble remembering the lyrics. (That’s pretty funny considering there are literally just six words in that song plus a seven-word English translation.) Specifically, we were all butchering “Prospero Año y Felicidad.” When the song ended Carolann was repeating the words aloud so that she might remember that new year greeting en español. But Isaiah had a simple solution:

“Play it again, Nana.”

He couldn’t imagine a device that played a song one time, and one time only.

Goodbye, radio.

© Copyright 2009, Dave Williams. All rights reserved.