The sum total of my existence and mental state got summed up in a few moments during a Sunday birthday brunch.
Guys my age aren't supposed to embrace change or new technology but I handle the first okay–I'm certainly not a Luddite–but embrace the second willingly as I always love the new toys. Folks my age are also expected to show a certain level of maturity. By the time you're this close to the rocking chair, it's assumed you've acquired a certain level of refinement, if nothing else from exposure if not by choice.
All that got cleared up in a burst of accidental clarity as we gave one of my freshly unwrapped birthday presents a spin that afternoon: my son in law gifted me an Amazon Tap, my introduction to the wonders of Alexa playing out in front of the whole fam as we took turns barking “Alexa!” while taking the machine through it's A-I paces. She was answering questions, spinning tunes, all manner of Wi-Fi wonder until my son said, “Alexa–fart!” at which point this testament to high tech, this cylindrical dream machine that can spew knowledge, music, pizza orders and flight reservations literally from the ether unloosed an air biscuit that would've made the campfire guys in “Blazing Saddles” applaud.
What it lacked in fragrance, it made up for in spirit. And I howled like a seventh grade boy.
There's GETTING old, and then there's ACTING old. The first I'm doing with aplomb. The second, well, only when I walk as arthritic knees give me the gait of someone sporting a vigorous pant-load. I like to think I'm old only when I walk. Fact is, inside this gray 62 year old head is the mind of a 13 year old boy to whom the passing of gas (especially at the worst possible moment) is the pinnacle of comedy.
62 is when you can technically retire but that's not an option for someone who loves his job and really enjoys having health insurance. It's hilarious that a man who's made a living for 42 years by sitting on his dupa behind a mike has the knees of a guy who worked the docks for five decades, but truth is I lift nothing heavier than a coffee cup executing a task that is different each and every day. Sure, I'm as sick of talking about the weather as the next person but the challenge is to make sure you're telling the same story in a new way each day. That's not work. That's baked into the job description.
Time was when snow was gold in this business–we drove to work in drifts and blizzard conditions to tell the rest of the world to stay home, the irony of which was never lost on me. I've had more people come up to me to tell me that I was one of their favorite people when they were kids, the guy on the radio who closed their schools on snowy days. That part of the gig is gone, as those same folks are now parents (or grandparents) who get that kinda news via app push or text.
As you get on in years, you realize progress gives, and it takes away. Long hours of research and book-digging are gone, now that life's answers are a mouse click away, no matter what the question as the same old duties become so much easier to do: no more splicing tape on a reel-to-reel recorder. A click here and a clack there on a computer screen tightens up every bit of sound, and a drop down menu offers an “undo” option to obliterate any mistake. Need a song for a feature you want to spin that morning? No more trips to the record library–that's why God and some now-very-wealthy guy came up with iTunes and YouTube Music. When did that Miller Park sales tax get passed? Don't rely on that addled memory when a simple Google search serves up the answer in seconds.
Mastering new technology isn't unique to my gig–you've probably had more than your share of software updates, new servers and other Jetsons-esque gear to deal with in the course of a career, too. It keeps you fresh. It stretches old muscles. It opens new vistas. And, it keeps you employable. Resistance is futile. –
I'm always a little awe-struck each morning as I pull up in the dark alongside Radio City, realizing I'm going to work in what amounts to a broadcast museum where so many greats plied their trade. There's that voice in the back of the still-half-asleep-head that says, “What in the hell are WE doing here?” For the kid who got his start as a radio go-fer in Sheboygan, the thought of doing mornings on “The Big Stick” will always humble. The chance to work with so many young (hell, EVERYONE is young to me now) and talented (all of them are THAT and then some) radio folks keeps me on my toes, and the fact they don't treat me like the crazy old uncle makes me feel like I belong (even if they look askance as I sing “Plastic Jesus” under my breath in the hallway). It'll always be a young person's game, this radio thing, a gig that's changing faster than it ever has in all my years behind a mike. It may be tougher to make a buck doing it, but that's part of the challenge, and challenge is always part of any job.
And a fart will ALWAYS be funny. Right, Alexa?