It’s Thanksgiving week and even though many are not in the least religious I’ve long thought that, being a national holiday, it’s just a good point in the year to sit down and think about everything we have to be grateful for. I’m not one to prattle on about my personal belief system, I make a conscious effort to keep my opinions as regards religion and politics to myself. It’s been my experience that there is little, if anything I can say that will persuade someone who does not share my beliefs to change his or her mind. That’s OK with me. When I see others do it, I just smile and shrug. They usually don’t see that they almost always come off looking petty or mean-spirited. Like Dirty Harry said in Dead Pool, “Opinions are like assholes…everybody has one.”
Patrick Henry, probably the most revolutionary of our founding fathers, is often credited with saying, “I may disagree with you, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.” While that might have been a sentiment he would hold, the quote is actually much more recent, having been written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in 1906 in her biography of Voltaire. He never said it either, but she thought it would sum up his feelings and it certainly sums up MY feelings.
First and foremost, I am thankful for my family. My wife is my absolute rock. She helps me weather the storms that roar through my life pretty regularly, with style and grace. Although I don’t like it when she gets on my case about diet or sleeping habits (both bad), I know she does it with a heart full of love and concern. She is always by my side, even when she’s traveling on her own, constantly giving love and support. She’s not just my better half, she is my everything.
Our kids and grandkids (soon to be a great-granddaughter in the mix too) bring so much light to my life. I don’t get to see all of them nearly often enough, a downside to being a somewhat nomadic family, but when I do, it is definitely a time I treasure. To all of them in Idaho, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and New York, thank you. You are so treasured.
I am blessed with one brother and one sister, both of whom make me extremely proud. They are profoundly successful and educated; Luke holds a PhD in Music History and is in charge of the LGBTQ outreach program at the University of Maryland and Terri is a retired aeronautical engineer, formerly with Rockwell. You both have complicated my life in an entirely positive way. Harper Lee said, “You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't.” I hate looking silly, so thank you for being you. You’ve both made my life richer and fuller.
I am thankful to be a citizen of the United States of America. It is arguably the best nation to ever have existed. William Wallace had the right idea before the battle of Stirling Bridge. In his passionate speech on horseback portrayed by Mel Gibson in Braveheart, it all came down to one word: Freedom. Freedom is everything. I can sit here in my studio in Austin and write this word salad, publish it for all the world to see and know that no government official will come to my house and arrest me for having done so. There are some who would argue strenuously that the USA is NOT the best, but that is their right, a right recognized by very few governments.
My pride in being American has never been stronger than when there is a natural or man-made disaster. Seeing the Cajun Navy take off to help the Florida panhandle deal with Hurricane Michael or firefighters from dozens of states race to help with the wildfires of Northern California makes me feel like this country is filled with people who really care about their fellow Americans. On 9/11, as I was racing away from Jersey City after watching both of the Twin Towers fall, I saw long lines of fire trucks, ambulances and police cars racing TO the disaster, dozens of F-15s streaking through the sky to defend Manhattan from further attack and I almost had to pull over to stop crying long enough to see where I was driving.
I am an unabashed supporter of the President of The United States. I always have been, regardless of who sits in the oval office. I didn’t agree with what our previous President said or did most of the time, but my support for Barack Obama as President never wavered. His successes were OUR successes. His failures were OUR failures. Because of that, I’ve never said an ill word of the man himself. President Trump says and does things that often make me cringe, but again, his successes are OUR successes. I support him 100%, just as I have every President since…well, since I could keep track.
I fully support our troops. Whether they’re in Afghanistan or on our border with Mexico, I am thankful every day that they are on constant watch over us. I'm also deeply thankful for their families. My father was a career officer in the Air Force, so I know: without their sacrifice, we would all be in jeopardy. I’m one of those people who can’t help but get very emotional when I see one of those reunion videos online, showing a father or mother coming home from deployment to surprise the kids. It gets me every stinking time.
Likewise, I am eternally thankful for our first responders. Like just about everyone, I get upset when I get pulled over by a police officer for whatever reason, but I choke down my anger when we part ways and sincerely thank them for their service. Our fire and EMT people do so much for us, even when we don’t see them working. If it weren’t for the EMTs from North Hays County, I wouldn’t be sitting here today writing all this. I would be dead and buried for more than a year had they not answered the call at 5am.
I am eternally grateful for the series of events that led me to the broadcast industry. I didn’t start down this road at all, but one thing kept leading to another and before I knew it, I had dropped all my dreams of becoming a Marine Biologist in favor of making noise for the amusement of others. When I started doing this radio thing, like many, I really didn’t have a clue about how it all worked. I had to depend on people who had been ‘around the block a few times’ for guidance. A few names that pop into my head are Walt Soper, Lee Stott, Brian Capener, Gene Manning, Lee Scanlon, Peggy Fugal Johnny Rider and Jim Collins…well, the list is a LOT longer and that just gets me to my first major market gig in Washington, DC. Each one of these people, and so many others taught me so much.
Now, after decades of getting that guidance and a LOT of experimenting, I find myself in the position of offering guidance to others. Long before the movie made ‘paying it forward’ a thing, my mother taught me that helping people ‘become’, as she would put it, is the only currency that really matters, regardless of what business you’re in. It helps the business, it helps the individual and it drops a pretty heavy thumb on the scales of Karma in your favor. God knows, I can use all the good Karma I can get. So, I will continue to write these blogs, my column in RAP Mag and eventually that book I keep promising. (The good news is, I’ve written pretty much 3/4s of it.) I honestly don’t expect it to be any kind of a best-seller because the pertinent audience is almost microscopic when compared to the rest of the world, but publish I will, even if I have to do it myself.
The radio biz is like any business in one respect. There are a lot of asshats out there who seem to believe it is their mission to make life miserable for everybody else. I am even thankful for them because they’ve taught me how NOT to live my life. When you run into one, just ignore him or her, and keep moving like a shark. The minute you stop moving, you lose the oxygen you need to succeed. Keep reaching for the stars and before you know it, you’ll be the one people are asking for advice.
My very first speaking engagement (thank you, Dan O’Day) was sub-titled “How To Get My Gig.” I meant it too. Never be afraid of the up-and-comer. There is always room for another production wizard. There are never enough brilliant producers. If there is ever a way I can help you be the next Picasso of radio production, please let me. It’s what I live for.
Well…that and finding the perfect cup of java.