Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Those $3.69-per-gallon Blues

As my beloved client stations know, I pulled a "Charles Kuralt" last week and hit the highway. (which explains the sudden lack of material lately here on this small corner of cyberspace) I claim multi-purpose reasons for this journey. I had to drop my wife off in Cincinnati to hit the flower show circuit with a few of her friends who drove over from Pittsburgh. Then, it was off to see the folks. Seeing as how my parents will both hit the "80" mark this August, I've felt more and more like I need to spend more time with them. Better put, I want to spend more time with them. It's tough, though, to do that often when you're a 10-hour car trip away.

While I'm home ("home" being Canton, Ohio, the birthplace of professional football...although Pottsville, PA generally has something to say about that) I also get to see brothers and sisters, nieces or nephews I've yet to meet, and a few friends...or at least the ones that are still there. I also get to grab a few things that I obviously can't get here. The first? Pizza from "The Pizza Oven". I defy anyone to present to me a better sausage pizza. I don't think it exists. Second? Milk chocolate peanut-clusters from "Ben Heggy's Candy". In fact, had I not had in my possession a two-pound box of Heggy's when my wife crawled back into the car on the return trip to Cincy, I'm sure divorce proceedings would have begun immediately.

I also had a chance to hop over to Pittsburgh to meet up with a few friends from KDKA, as well as grab lunch with John Robertson, the Program Director for BOB (WRRK-FM) in Pittsburgh. John is an old friend of mine and one of the "good guys" in the business. We talked about doing a bit of imaging work for one of his HD channels. There were certainly lots of "Crosby" jerseys walking around in the Golden Triangle. (Go Pens!) There were also LOTS of orange barrels. They were everywhere! In fact, from the minute I paid my $3.00 in order to have the luxury of driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the orange barrels, construction signs, flag-men, and dump trucks never ceased until I parked downtown.

The other crucial element to any trip home? Beer. You see, this large chunk of real estate known as the "midwest" is, in some ways, lacking a few of life's important sustenance, like Commodore Perry IPA from Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, the "greatest location in the nation"...or Blithering Idiot from Weyerbacher Brewing in Easton, PA...or Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues in Colorado...or my neighbor's favorite beer, Red Tulip from New Holland Brewing in Michigan. (there are more, but my rented Kia Rondo was only so big.) Plus, I've been involved in a kind of "beer trade" with a buddy out west, so I had his "list" to satisfy. Include a stop at "Jungle Jim's" in Fairfield, Ohio on the way back for other sundry offerings and I'm sure I broke, like, 23 different intra-state laws involving the transport of beverages. But I'll tell ya...that Nosferatu from Great Lakes sure hit the spot while watching the Pens mop up on Jagr and the Rangers last night!

A few other observations:

* WEBN in Cincinnati still sounds pretty darned good
* Every semi-truck in America is on I-70 whenever I'm on I-70
* Except for this mesmerisingly huge cross in Effingham, there's not a whole lot in southern Illinois
* There isn't too much more between Indianapolis and Terre Haute
* Pittsburgh is still one of the most gorgeous-looking cities
* My wife snores really loudly when she falls asleep in the car

So, there you have it.

My"see-mom-buy-a-cheap-Indians-shirt-share-a-birthday-beer-with-
my-twin-brother-fill-up-the-gas-tank-6-times" Charles Kuralt-like sojourn!
I'll more-than-likely do it again before the summer is over.

Oh....and those gas prices hurt! I mean, really hurt. Can't wait for 4 bucks.

Pass the Commodore Perry.

-30-

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

Friday, April 18, 2008

Those Damned Tectonic Plates!

So, there I am, casually standing at the bar in my Armani jacket, taking a long drag off my Dunhill, and admiring the complex malt profile of my wee dram of Laphroaig when she walked in. With wind-tusselled auburn-red hair, lip-gloss, painted nails, and a provocative trail of Rive Gauche, she strode towards my end of the bar, her high-heels coinciding gracefully, or so it seemed, with the band, as they deftly moved through their rendition of "Blue in Green". She walked past me, brushing ever-so-slightly against my jacket, and moved in to a spot next to me.

Without asking, she grabbed my Imco off the bar and quickly lit her cigarette. She dropped the lighter next to my scotch, exhaled loudly, and exclaimed, "They do Miles Davis pretty well." I took a slow sip of my drink, pausing briefly after I swallowed, and looked down but in her direction, careful not to look directly at her red cashmere sweater, or the contents therein.

"Not bad. Drummer's a bit sloppy, but not bad."

This wasn't the first time she'd been in this place. The bartender had already placed a glass of what looked like pinot noir in front of her. Williams Selyem, I figured. Probably a '93. She looked like a '93. Out of a possible 100.

She took a deep, long drag from her cigarette, stubbed it out in the ashtray I was using, and turned fully towards me.

"You planning on staying through this band's whole set?"

I turned to face her. My, how I do enjoy red cashmere sweaters.

"As a matter of fact, I am," I replied, carefully, so as not to hyperventilate.

She stared at me briefly, then at the band, and then back at me. Crossing her arms. she said, "There's something more interesting to look at on that stage?"

I turned away from her, drained the remaining Laphroaig, and lit another Dunhill. "Do you see the microphone in front of the piano player?"

"Yes."

I exhaled slowly and then motioned to the bartender, pointing to my empty glass. "I bought it from him. And when he's done singing tonight, I'm going to take it home."

She looked towards the stage, the light from the bar bouncing seductively off of her lip-gloss . "Let me get this straight. You're being given the opportunity to legally violate the most voluptuous woman in the room, and, instead, you're going to opt to spend the remainder of the night listening to some pathetic Miles Davis cover band...so that you can take home...a microphone?

I slammed my glass down on the bar. "A microphone? No, hon, that's not a microphone. That's a Telefunken Ela M 270 Stereo Tube Microphone, one of the most well-crafted and most highly-sought-after microphones in the world! That microphone is a Lamborghini! It's Beluga caviar! It's a freaking Steinway! It has dual 1-inch, gold-sputtered, 6-micron CK12 capsules placed one on top of the other, offering three polar patterns per capsule: cardioid, omni and figure-8. That thing you call a "microphone" has a GE JAN 6072a tube and two Haufe T14/1 output transformers. Two! And you know what, hon? It's mine! MINE! I've waited my whole life for this microphone and as soon as he's done playing tonight I'm going to run up on that stage and...

BOOM!

...and there's my wife waking me up at exactly 4:37 this morning by whisper-screaming, "Was that an earthquake?" And I was, like, "What?" And she says, "You didn't feel that?" I stared at her momentarily, throwing aside my CPAP mask. "An earthquake?" She continued to look at me, dumbfounded. "Yes, I swear to God that was an earthquake. I can't believe you didn't feel that!" And as she was getting out of bed, she stopped. "Oh, let me guess....red cashmere sweater again, right?! Geez."

No, actually, it was a Telefunken Ela M 270 Stereo Tube Microphone again. And I still haven't been able to touch even one of those. Damn earthquakes.

-30-

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Grace Under Pressure

My friend Chuck Matthews was "downsized" yesterday. It's always a bummer to read about people losing jobs in our business, but it hits you even harder when it's someone you know. It's especially difficult when that same person is a multi-talented guy. It makes me wonder why more companies don't attempt to find talented people another spot in another market within that company. So, if you're reading this and you know of a position that could utilize a talented imaging/production person with top 75-market PD experience, Top 20-market Imaging experience, and one HUGE voice....drop me a note.

When I was in the seminary, the great Monsignor Leonard J. Fick would often times call upon the wisdom of Santiago, the old man in The Old Man and The Sea. He would ask us to use Santiago as a model for overcoming obstacles. (I guess he figured there were enough priests in residence at the seminary who would already ask us to utilize that of the sacrifice made by our Lord and Savior. Best for him to stick with his beloved literary figures!) He would say, "Look at Santiago, for there you shall see the ultimate display of grace under pressure".

Grace under pressure. No, it's not the same as discovering that you have cancer or some horrible disease. But losing a job is never an enjoyable event. I know. I was "down-sized" at the end of 2006. After the initial shock wears off, and after you're done putting on a front for family and friends with clever sayings like "well, now I can find out if Drew Carey has been the right replacement for Bob Barker on The Price is Right", and things like that, the cold, hard reality begins to sink in.

What do I do now?

Do I send out massive emails to acquaintances and industry contacts? Do I send a package to the competition? Do I switch careers? Go back to school? Move...again? I found the hardest thing to deal with was the fact that I felt like my chosen profession, in a way, let me down. How could I be let go? I thought I had "talent"? Why aren't there 5 other stations already vying for my services? The Glenn Beck promo for the next day is not going to get done now. Surely, they'll realize this and by late afternoon tomorrow I'll get a phone call with the "we've reconsidered" lament and all will be right with the world.

But I was amazed at the ...small amount of reaction. People close to me shared their sympathies and a few extended an offer to "keep their ears open". But, all in all, the reaction was...not overtly strong. I told my wife several weeks afterwards that I felt really lonely. I thought I had more industry friends than this. I thought I was better than this.

So I thought of Fr. Fick. And Santiago. And "grace under pressure". And shortly after exclaiming "what a bunch of bulls*it" several dozen times, I decided to gather a bit of poise and press on. A little grace under pressure. And since then, after cultivating some very important relationships that I have with my current station clients, I'm able , at least so far, to pay the mortgage and occasionally afford a couple bottles of "Hot Rod Rye Ale" from Bear Republic Brewing Company. (an absolutely delicious beer!) After all, we all have our own version of "grace"...right?

You're not alone, Charles.

-30-

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com

Friday, April 4, 2008

This big, metallic upside-down "U"!

Radio can, and probably always will be, a "vagabond" lifestyle. It's interesting...early in my career, I always looked at "market-jumping" as a kind of necessity. Certainly, if one wanted to earn more money, one sometimes had to pack up the Ryder truck. Or, if a person wanted to make a move in order to secure their first PD position, or their first Morning Show gig, they sometimes were forced to toss their belongings in a box (or several boxes, in my case) and hit the highway. As the years pass...and as I gaze at photos and souvenirs of various locales where I've dragged my wife kicking and screaming, I have a tendency to feel the opposite way. I'm a bit envious of the people who have managed to find their niche, make their mark, or be perfectly comfortable with what's in their bank account by staying in the same spot. (that's, of course, presupposing that they've managed to deflect the menacing sickle of the "Downsize Reaper".)

My wife and I continue to be, in a sense, "vagabonds". After spending 5 years in Pittsburgh, we opted to follow her career aspirations and head to St. Louis. (or at least the "Illinois" side of St. Louis) After being here for almost a year, I must admit that I'm struggling to figure out what it is exactly that I feel for this place.

We were living in the Washington, DC area (Annapolis, to be exact) and I was working for Sports Talk 980 when I was approached by the folks at KDKA in Pittsburgh. The Steel City is close to home in Ohio, so after much reflection we decided to trade in crabcakes at Mike's in Riva for pierogies in Pittsburgh. That took some adjustment. We loved Annapolis, and I'm sure my wife still holds it against me that I took her away from glorious Quiet Waters Park, afternoons spent on the City Dock, and the colonial, if not highly "touristy", feel of truly one of America's coolest cities. (I mean, where else can you find a street with the name "Duke of Gloucester"?)

But I grew to love Pittsburgh. It didn't take long to become attracted to its quirky geography, wacky provincialism, and European feel. I could do without the "Pittsburghese", ("yinz guys wanna go dahn Strip District 'n 'at and git a Primanti sandwich?") And as a Browns fan, I could certainly do without all that disgusting black-and-gold and all those Jack Lambert throwbacks.
But it began to fit like an old shoe. I hated its weather but loved its strange topography, and I especially enjoyed playing "tour guide" when people would come to visit. (and it has, in my opinion, one of the finest brewers in America, in Scott Smith at East End Brewing Company. Man, I miss that Big Hop!)

And now we're here. And I'm just......not feelin' it, ya know? It's a city with a storied history and a tremendous fan base. (Man, do these people LOVE their Cardinals!) But, there aren't any midshipman marching in during a Navy game on a Saturday afternoon. There's no little table to sit at to drink Fordham Brewing's "Oyster Stout" to go along with my mussels, while I stare at the boats out on the Chesapeake Bay. There aren't any rides on the incline to the top of Mount Washington in order to take pictures of the Golden Triangle. And there's no "Pierogies Plus", an old gas-station-turned-kitchen, staffed by people who emigrated from the Ukraine, Poland and all over eastern Europe (Julia Balik has been making pierogies for over 75 years!) who close up shop when all the pierogies they've made for the day are sold.

But about 13 miles from me is this big metallic arch. It's an architectural marvel, really, when you're standing next to it. And there's a big river. And there are lots of people wearing red. And there's a ton of Budweiser. And I'm sure there's more than that. But, for some reason, I'm.....just not feeling it. Maybe I need to go stand under the arch, look up, and stare at it for awhile. Maybe some oracle will provide me with Show-Me-State inspiration.

Now, if I can be less contemplative for a moment and a bit more thankful...for being able to be a part of Rochester, Minnesota's newest rock station, "Z-Rock 107-7"! (Thanks Brent and Jeff!) And, The Matt-Man is back in the Tar Heel State, a proud "voice" of "96-5 The Drive" in Fayetteville. (Thanks, Stoney!) And to show my thanks, I'm going to go search for a tasty, local St. Louis micro-brew. I hear Square One Brewery has an awesome pale ale! (there's another way to celebrate!?)

-30-

* Why not grab your favorite beverage, cop a squat, and groove to some DEMOS at www.mattmultimedia.com