Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blue Christmas

Gilda Radner was right; it’s always something. Usually, I like to think of myself as a realistic optimist; jaded in places, yet still ultimately hopeful that good will prevail, and that those who don’t respect themselves or their fellow man will be someday shown the error of their ways via the forces of karma. Maybe they’ll realize that’s what hit them: the cumulative force of their actions coming back to haunt them. Or maybe not; maybe they’ll just carry on doing as they do, rue their bad luck, and not connect the two. I don’t know what will happen; I don’t have any control of these forces, nor do I try to wish ill on even the worst of my perceived enemies.

All that said, I do try to live a good life for the most part myself, and try to respect those forces which govern the universe by living right for myself and others. That’s why I sometimes have a hard time coming to terms with life’s little tragedies when they hit me and those I love.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our third child. We couldn’t be happier, and were looking forward to seeing the little blinking heartbeat on the ultrasound, at which point we’d be able to add some wonderful news at the dinner table on Christmas Eve. Yeah, well………..

Yesterday, we found out the results of her most recent blood test, which seem to indicate that we are going to lose the child. It’s a bit like having that red carpet rolled out for you, even though you’re not entirely sure why… and then having it violently yanked out from under you.

Now don’t get me wrong; I realize that my wife and I are truly blessed to have the two most wonderful kids in the world already. Don’t ever think for a second that I’m taking either them or that fact for granted. I realize that there are folks who don’t even have child number one, worthy folks who are willing to go (and do sometimes go) to the ends of the earth to know what it is like to be a parent. God has truly blessed us. That knowledge, as precious as it is, is only scant consolation when you learn that for some reason, the lightning that you thought would strike a third time was merely some random static electricity, here and gone without a lasting effect.

What makes it a bit worse is that aside from my wife, who is going through her own potent brand of dark teatime of the soul, I don’t really have a whole lot of people I feel comfortable sharing this with. My folks? I love them to death, but in their good intentions, they sometimes say THE WRONG THING. Maybe it’s a Catholic thing… My friends? I dunno; that’s complicated, what with all the wives and such, and they’re all connected on the Internet, sometimes in crazy little soap operas. So as pitiful as it seems, I am sharing this with you, my blog reader, just to get it off my chest. Thank you for reading this, even though chances are high that I don’t know you in real life (yet). And it’s weird; I don’t think I’m looking for sympathy necessarily, but maybe I am. I know I’m not looking for an empty, meaningless, anonymous faux-sympathetic “That sucks, man.” If you’re gonna say it, mean it, LOL. And I want to be there for my wife, to help her pick up the pieces as well; I just don’t necessarily know how to do that, yet. She reads this blog, so Honey, please don’t ever forget how much I love you. I will always be there for you, through good and bad. That will never change.

It’s like, I want to cry, but I feel numb instead. I feel like a knife has stabbed my heart, and it’s really sore, but not bleeding all over the place. It’s like, shit happens to me, why should this be any different? But it is; I know damn well it is, since it involves a child of ours that we’ll never meet. I prayed to God yesterday that he guide that little soul back to Heaven, and to keep it safe. Ah, there we go; typing those words made me well up a bit. Maybe I do have a heart, after all.

All I know, man, is that this sucks. I hate feeling this way, and I hate even more that my wife is hurting just as badly as I am, probably worse. You can’t help but ask yourself, why did this happen? What did we do wrong to have this occur? Is this bad karma I earned coming back to bite me? Did I wrong someone and fail to acknowledge it? I honestly don’t know. I also don’t know how many of these questions are even relevant at this point. I will continue to check myself, to examine what I do to look for clues to the answers to those questions. But I’m not expecting any easy answers. And I’m not expecting this to be the happiest of holiday seasons. I’ll put on a happy face for my kids and family, but inside it’s gonna be rough for us.

Sorry for the downer; I kind of felt I had to share, with somebody, anybody. I promise the next one is gonna be happier, and probably entertainment-related. Thanks for listening; I needed that.

Image available at, look up “blue Christmas” without the quotes.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Radio Apocalypse: Steve Dahl Is Off The Air

I kind of had a hunch. It wasn't anything tangible, but my spidey sense told me it very well might happen, and maybe even as soon as today. My wife and I had the day off today; our own personal economic situation, while far from poor, dictated that the Caribbean cruise we had originally scheduled couldn't take place this year. We'd managed to get a refund, and converted the existing requested vacation into a stay-cation. As we're driving in the car today, our kids at home being watched by the nanny, I tuned the radio station in to The Jack, to listen to Steve Dahl's daily morning show. I mentioned that I knew he'd been having serious ratings problems, and that it wouldn't surprise me if he were off the air soon. I even mentioned that I had already been mentally preparing myself for the day it happened. She and I had been talking, so I didn't explicitly hear what Steve had said, but I heard the lyrics to what ended up being Steve's final song. It didn't exactly fill my heart with joy when I heard the lyrics:
If you see me gettin' smaller I'm leavin' don't be grieving
Just got to get away from here
If you see me gettin' smaller don't worry
I'm in no hurry I've got the right to disappear
During the song, I turned to my wife, and said, "It wouldn't surprise me if this was Steve's last day." Then the voice of the station, a normally smart-alecky persona who did voiceovers, came on and confirmed that this was indeed Steve's last day. The voice identified his real name as Howard, and paid a fine tribute to Steve Dahl.

God, sometimes it sucks being right. My wife thought it was spooky how I had forecast that.

For those of you who don't follow Chicago radio, Steve Dahl is a local broadcasting legend. Although he's most famous on a national level for the infamous 1979 radio stunt known as Disco Demolition, he proved to we his audience that after thirty years of radio in one market, he was no one trick pony. In a nutshell, Steve and his one-time radio partner Garry Meier once were kings of their own brand of talk radio. For them, there were no rules; they more or less invented the style of radio which morphed into "shock jock". Many point to Steve as an early influence to Howard Stern, although the skinny NYC jock has vacillated between admitting Dahl's influence and flat-out insulting him. Steve was once known for his excesses; he has now been over a decade sober. He had been with CBS Radio over two radio stations since the late '90s, achieving consistently strong ratings in his key demographics. Most recently, he'd been on The Jack, the jockless CBS station which had become Steve Dahl's radio home since the dissolution of the all-talk WCKG. In order for him to continue to work during the period of his contractual obligation to CBS Radio, they worked out a deal which made him the morning man at the until-then jockless music regurgitator. This move, while it ruffled feathers on the morning-drive fans of jockless radio, gave we the Dahl-fans an extension of more than a year of Steve's show. But Arbitron's recent conversion from ratings diaries to the ostensibly more accurate automated People Meter rating collection devices caused a sea change in radio which was equivalent to Billboard magazine using SoundScan to track record sales. Many radio stations received an unexpected increase; just as many found themselves the unlucky recipient of sometimes dramatic declines in their ratings. Steve Dahl, unfortunately, fell into the latter category; media wags predicted that the end would be near.

Just because I saw it coming doesn't make Steve Dahl's departure from radio any easier of a pill to swallow. I really enjoyed his show; I had been a big fan since discovering that he had Buzz Killman and Wendy Snyder as his co-hosts. Both Buzz and Wendy were seasoned Chicago jocks who I'd enjoyed, and their presence coaxed me into listening to Steve. Before that, I honestly thought that the Steve and Garry show was kind of flat, and definitely more mean-spirited at times than I usually liked. But with Buzz and Wendy, Steve's humor was less cruel; it was a bunch of old friends who'd worked together for years at The Loop (WLUP-FM) now in a new venue. I really liked the easy humor, the fact that they all knew Chicago well, and that in a lot of ways, I could see them as just regular folk like myself. I became a fan. I realize that Steve's style of radio isn't everyone's cup of tea; there are deliberate pauses, while Steve gets information and then reacts accordingly. But you know what? I saw it as radio in real-time. Steve was clever; he didn't feel the need to manically fill every last second of dead air with snappy patter or crazy talk. Life gets hard if you consistently live your life at that speed. Steve didn't ever seem to have a problem sharing his life with us, and seemed to listen to his callers. And he was definitely funny; there was no question about that. I followed him from the late lamented 'CKG to the Jack. It sucked not having him in the afternoon drive, but that gave me the chance to catch up on my CD listening.

As of today, Steve Dahl still has two-and-a-half years remaining on his contract with CBS Radio. The good news for him is that means he'll be paid; they have to honor that. The bad news for us is that he won't be able to get another radio gig during those 2 1/2 years, barring some deep-pocketed corporation working out a deal with CBS. In today's times, and in light of Steve's most recent ratings, that seems unlikely. This sucks; why is it that I always get really fond of entertainment options which seem to be all-too-finite? Like my wife said, I seem to have a knack of picking winners. An even darker thought dwells in the back of my mind; this contractually-imposed radio ban could end up being a career-killer for Steve. In today's get-results-quick-or-change-plans-right-now corporate mentality, it lessens his chances of finding a substantive gig once the ban is over. This situation disgusts me; in any other time, Steve would be able to continue his show at its current level. With everything swirling down the porcelain bowl, sometimes even radio legends get cruelly silenced.

Steve, thank you so much for all the great radio you've given us so far. I really hope and pray that this isn't the end of your career; I dig your show too much to hear that happen.