People have said, implied, suggested, and even attempted to cajole me, for whatever reasons unknown to me, to write a book about my life. I have resisted that idea for the same reason I rarely watch a movie or read a book more than once. I’ve not only seen it and read it, I wrote it. I know what happens next, and what fun is that? The more interesting thing to me is not what I’ve done or where I’ve been, but what I’ll do and see next. So I’m not going to write the book. However, after managing to avoid the grim reaper for as long as I have, maybe I’ve experienced some things that will either be funny or sad or maybe even informative, and the best I can hope for by sharing is to be helpful.
Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” And if there’s one thing I have, it’s untold stories, and many will be left untold until sooner or later they are scattered silently in the wind along with the “dust” of me.
I stopped blogging well over a year ago except for the occasional paragraph regarding some musical event. When I was blogging once a week, thanks to my friends at KISW, “The Rock of Seattle,” who ran those blogs and podcasts each week, I became obsessed with politics and the Orange Round Mound of Sound Clown running the Big Top Circus in DC. I will still at times concern myself with the swamp blob’s attempt to annihilate us all, but I think I have better stories to tell and will concentrate on those while hoping that orange will become the new black for him. So here goes. Installment one I call “Blind Dreams.”
Waking up blind in the morning when you went to sleep the night before and you could see just fine is a very scary thing. Fortunately for me, it was a relatively minor thing, as I’ll explain, but it gave me insight into how it must feel to live your life in darkness, and I think it’s also one of the reasons that to this day I have issues with sunsets and nighttime, but that’s another story for another time, maybe.
Imagine you’re three maybe four years old and you wake up, you know you’re awake, you can move, arms and legs all in working order, but you’re afraid because you can’t see. Everything is black, total darkness, no light. I knew I was awake by the sounds of my home. I could hear my mother in the kitchen and my dad leaving for work, my collie Lady sniffing around and my parakeet Sugar Boy flying from room to room, perch to perch. It was a very scary feeling for the very young boy, and sometimes still is today for the old man, to wake up and not see, but the problem was not with my eyes. It was my eyelashes. I had very long lashes and they would get stuck together while I slept, stuck so tight that I could not move my eyelids apart to see. One of my first and cherished memories of my mother was her carrying me to the kitchen and placing me on the counter where she would take a warm washcloth and gently rub my eyes until I could open them.
The radio was a faithful companion to this caring process. Usually, it would be tuned to a country station—after all, what else would you have in early 1950’s Tennessee with a mom from the mountains? The voices of Hank Williams, Sr., Ernest Tubb, and Patsy Cline would keep us company as my mother tenderly brought me into the light again. But sometimes it would be Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club. Don McNeill came to our home all the way from Chicago. Even at my early age, I knew Chicago was a long way from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and I thought what a miraculous feat for a man so far away to be talking to me in my home. It was probably Don McNeill that planted the first seeds of being a radio professional in my young mind. I remember listening to him and thinking what fun that must be.
Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club had a thirty-five-and-a-half-year run and remains the longest tenure for an emcee of a network entertainment program, surpassing Johnny Carson’s twenty-nine-and-a-half years on The Tonight Show and Bob Barker’s thirty-four-and-two-thirds years on The Price Is Right, although McNeill’s was split between radio and television, whereas the latter two were television only. I remember listening to Don’s magnificent voice and show and saying to my fledgling self, “I think I would like to fly like that someday,” and so I did.
Unlike some of my friends who took to the open mic and stayed there, I was often between radio gigs for a lot of different reasons and would find myself working at some retail job or customer service job and many other forms of painful employment. One time when I was bemoaning my fate, as I grumbled about my life, a friend asked me, “Did you get a chance to live your dream?” and I answered yes. She said, “Do you know how many people never get that chance?”
Yes, that little temporarily blind kid, who listened to country music and Don MacNeill’s Breakfast Club, did get a chance to live his dream. And it has been a long, strange, and mostly wonderful trip.