Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Day in the Life

The walk down to the Circle-K gas station each morning takes about 10 minutes. Sometimes I drive to the Dunkin Donuts for coffee, but even though the coffee is better lately it's just been easier to walk. Somewhere amongst the dozens of boxes in this house is my French press, but I haven't been able to find it. Starbucks? Several miles away. So, I've been letting Maggie out in the morning, feeding her, and then throwing on my coat and hat and making my way down the hill towards the Circle-K.

This 10-minute walk each morning has been my re-introduction to Akron, where virtually every morning has been overcast, gray, cold, and sometimes snowy. My Akron is not the Akron of the Merriman Valley. The Akron that greets me is in the form of Clark Auto and Towing, with its multitude of cars dismantled or up on blocks. My Akron is Darrow Road, just north of I-76, where its just as easy to find a check-cashing store as it is to find a Circle-K...or a vacant building in a strip-plaza for lease or for rent. My Akron sometimes even has billboards with nothing on them.

I pull the hood of my jacket against my ears and trudge through the snow, making my way past the Scoreboard Lounge and Club Energy, where several cars with ice-caked windows have been parked all night. I side-step a couple of the empty Monster Energy Drink cans that dot the parking lot and shuffle over to the Circle-K. It's busy, especially since it's the week between Christmas and New Year's. A portly man with a Cleveland Browns ski cap pulled tightly over his head is struggling to open the hood of his car so that he can empty the contents of a black plastic quart-of-oil bottle. He doesn't look happy. It is only 14 degrees and he isn't wearing gloves. I reach for the handle of the door but a young girl with purple medical scrubs on underneath her tattered white winter coat exits first and holds the door open for me. I thank her, but she doesn't speak. So far, that simple act of kindness hasn't happened a great deal since I've been walking down to the Circle-K. My Akron has a bit of a rough exterior, and the softer side, I suppose, has to take a while to reveal itself.

Starbucks this is not. Oh, well. I see that they have both "Kona" and "100% Columbian" as selections this morning. I've tried both in the past 2 weeks and they taste unremarkably similar. I grab a 16-ounce cup and fill it with the Columbian. I unpeel several of those thimble-sized containers of cream and look around. Radio station WONE-FM is on, playing a George Thorogood song...the same George Thorogood song that I played countless numbers of times when I was a disc-jockey at WONE back in 1993. 4 or 5 people wait in line, staring straight ahead with that vacant I-wish-I-had-the-week-off-between-Christmas-and-New-Year's-look on their faces. Some buy coffee and others buy huge 32-ounce cups full of soda. Some buy lottery tickets and others buy cigarettes. $5.00 for a pack of cigarettes. I'm certainly glad I don't smoke anymore.

This is my lucky day. For some reason, Donna gave me a Circle-K Coffee Club card, where each time you buy a cup they punch a hole in the card. Well, as I approached the cash register, I discovered that all of my holes had been punched, so my authentic 100% Columbian coffee for the day is free. I feel a bit warmer as I prepare to plunge back into that 14-degree weather.

I bundle up, rip the plastic tab off the cup so that I can sip and walk, and try to follow the same footprints that I made in the snow on the way down. I walk around the gigantic Budweiser truck that is unloading product and make my way slowly down Darrow Road. The salt trucks have been out most of the night and the traffic has made the roadway more wet now than snowy. I also begin to think about my day, most likely filled with emptying boxes or trying to solve some of the studio-sound issues that I've been experiencing. I turn east down Newton towards home. Someone is already at Dodd Brothers Optical shoveling snow off the sidewalk. I nod and say "hello" as I pass, careful not to step on the newly-shoveled space. He says nothing and continues to shovel. That's ok. Like I said, my Akron puts on a slightly tougher outer shell, especially in the winter. I can't imagine anybody being too terribly friendly in 14 degree weather.

-30-

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

Boxes Next to the Tree

Nothing is even close to being finished. The flooring that workers promised to have installed by the time we arrived is not complete. It looks like we'll be doing a majority of the painting ourselves. The new kitchen cabinets sit there without counter-tops, and the kitchen-sink remains in its box. Piles of tools and debris dot the living room, while the other space in this much-smaller house is covered by stacks of boxes marked "Wheaton Moving". Yep, it's Christmas on the far-east side of Akron, Ohio.

We survived the move. The Big Guy even gave us some brilliant sunshine and dry roads last Friday as we made our way north towards the Buckeye state. But when we arrived, the view was startling. Virtually none of the work had been completed. Donna had spent all that time here in November trying to coordinate all the logistics of a good portion of the main construction that was to greet us when we arrived on the 11th. However, absolutely none of it was complete.

Did I mention that all of our belongings could not fit on one moving truck? Those were some interesting looks of disbelief on the faces of the movers when they pulled that 70-foot rig up in front of this house. "We gonna get 13,000 pounds in this house?", they asked. It's a good thing we have a full, unfinished basement.

We're both exhausted. We have a good deal of work to do. Trying to manipulate around piles of debris and stacks of boxes is a formidable task anyway; making progress several days before Christmas makes it even more challenging. But amongst it all, sitting on the buffet in the living room, is a lone poinsettia, a symbol of Christmas, 2009. Under a cold, gray December sky in Akron, Ohio sits a small, unassuming house filled with boxes, dirt....and a little bit of Christmas spirit.

-30-

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So Long to the 'Lou

I'm sitting here staring at a box. It's a box that still has the green moving sticker on it from when we carted it from Ohio to Annapolis. It also made the journey from Annapolis to Pittsburgh. Interestingly enough, it also accompanied us on our move from Pittsburgh to St. Louis. And it certainly seems like it's going to go with us again as we make our way back to Ohio. I really have no idea what's inside of it. I or Donna never bothered to mark on the box exactly what its contents are. And we've never bothered to open it. It just seemed like one less box that had to be packed because, well, it's already packed. So, what the heck....we'll just take it.

Indelibly etched on to the souls of many is the mantra "moving sucks". And it does. There's nothing pleasant about it. Once you've made the decision to move, a whole cavalcade of decisions lies ahead. The whole process is rendered even more grotesque if you have to do as we're doing: selling a house, buying a house, and coping with all the logistics therein. Our biggest decision was to decide whether or not WE were actually going to do the move ourselves. When we left Pittsburgh for St. Louis, we decided to save money by doing just that. After renting a 26-foot Ryder truck, we severely miscalculated the sheer amount of "stuff" we had. So after making the 13-hour drive (this truck wouldn't go above 55 m.p.h.) I had to fly back to Pittsburgh the following weekend, rent another truck, and drive it back to St. Louis, too. (luckily, I could maintain normal highway speed in this one.) After grimacing at the thought of that ordeal, we both decided that we would bite the bullet and pay someone to move us.

Donna has been in Ohio for what seems like 3 months. She's been physically pounding on drywall, ripping out cabinets, and organizing workers to try to make our new home habitable. While she's taking care of the Ohio house, I've been here trying to move forward the sale of this one. It hasn't been easy. Our radon test came back with high levels and supposedly there's evidence of past termite existence. So, those things have to be taken care of. And then there's the whole issue of the studio and the business. My mind has had its logic-boundaries stretched to capacity by trying to grapple with a smooth transition between tearing down the studio here and re-starting it there, with as little down-time as possible.

Then, there are the really crucial issues that moving presents. For instance, if I cancel my cable with Charter Communications, how will I record The Office if the DVR is not hooked up in the new house? And what about beer? I know exactly how long it takes to get to the beverage store from where we currently live. Are there quality outlets near the new place? And will I have ample refrigeration, especially for a multitude of 22-0unce "bombers"?

What will I miss about St. Louis? Not much. It was nice being around Donna's son and his family. I loved our neighbors. And this was clearly the nicest house we've ever owned, and I'll miss it. I have to say that I did develop a small affection for the Cards (it's hard not to do that here, unless you're already a Cubs fan). And Square One Brewery makes a kick-butt IPA. But aside from that, I don't think I'll wake up yearning for Imo's Pizza, and I never did totally understand the fixation with toasted ravioli. I won't miss the August summers or the freakish thunderstorms. And as an asthma sufferer, the fact that the state of Illinois lets people burn leaves is criminal.

So as we try to mitigate radon, figure out how we're going to pay Wheaton Van Lines, disconnect microphones and cables, and cancel trash service, I continue to stare at this box, and others like it. I'm not sure what's inside of it, but it's Ohio-bound, and so are we. In another week, it's one final trip along the I-70 corridor.

-30-

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Empty Mind

Have you ever tried to sit in the lotus position? It's not easy. In fact, it hurts. I would think that even for people who are in shape, prolonged exposure to this pose would become uncomfortable. I suppose it would be bearable if you were enjoying a Bell's Two-Hearted Ale or a Penguins hockey game, at least for awhile. But zazen is usually practiced in front of a wall. That's right. With head slightly bowed, eyes barely open, and slow, measured breathing, the dedicated Zen Buddhist is able to confront himself, to see himself and be aware of himself in the most pure form available. I never imagined that true enlightenment could be obtained by staring at a wall. Yet, the practitioners of Zen Buddhism tell us that this daily practice is absolutely essential to one's spiritual well-being.

Do you pray? And if you do, how do you do it? And to whom do you pray? I don't think I'm speaking out of turn when I say that the Zen Buddhists don't really consider zazen to be "praying". It's more of a natural daily exercise that allows you to face yourself without any inhibitions or illusions. But "prayer"...that act of closing your eyes and speaking to a being that is above or beyond you...has always fascinated me. And I'm equally fascinated about the fact that I know so very little about it.

I was raised as a Roman Catholic. I spent 8 years in a Catholic grade school, 4 years in a Catholic high school, and three years in a Catholic seminary. I was surrounded by the idea and the act of prayer. I was taught prayers from a very early age and I figured that I had a reasonably good handle on what praying was supposed to be. Then, in seventh grade, I met Sister Dorothy. She was a bit of a rogue. She liked to twirl her rosary beads around when she lectured in front of the class. Sometimes after class she would talk about sports, as well as about her former boyfriends. Luckily, she spared us the intimate details. She also liked to talk about prayer. One day she asked, "Matthew, what do you pray for?" I had never been asked that before, and I felt a bit uneasy talking about prayer and other spiritual matters outside of the confessional box. I mentioned that I prayed for my family and that I asked God to make sure that nothing harmed them. I neglected to mention to her that I sometimes prayed for the Cleveland Indians, especially when they played the Yankees, although it never seemed to help. Then she said, "Prayer is conversation with God. One doesn't just have to ask for things in prayer. Tell God how your day turned out. Express your satisfaction to him when something goes well for you. And if you're angry with him, tell him that you're angry with him." Tell God I'm angry? Are you nuts? But, realistically, I had never really looked at prayer as "conversation". Prayer was "supplication by rote", and I was pretty good at it, or so I thought. Heck, I could even mimic the priest's prayers at Mass during the Eucharistic Prayer.

It wasn't until I went to the seminary that I really began to be exposed to other methods and techniques regarding prayer. It was the time that I first encountered people who were interested in the practices of the Byzantine Church. And it was also the time when I was first introduced to Zen and the practice of zazen. We were required to have what is known as a "spiritual director", a priest, nun, or brother whom we would meet with on a regular basis to discuss...prayer. This is also the time when I realized how truly infantile my approach to prayer was, and still is. I remember being quite embarrassed during those first few sessions with my spiritual director, Fr. Joseph Hendricks. Father Joe was a priest who practiced what we liked to call "rugged individualism". He disciplined himself to get up every morning to run 5 miles. He would only allow himself to have a half-cup of coffee. And he favored long periods of prayer and reflection. He was a fan of the "Ignatian Method", the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and those practiced by many Jesuits. He would ask me if I had read the various suggested readings that he would supply regarding the "Method". But the Ignatian exercises bored me. I told him of my interest in mysticism and Zen koans, but he would have none of it. I suppose he figured I wasn't a good candidate for "rugged individualism".

Years after the seminary, I'm still perplexed at the embryonic state of my prayer life. Since those days in Columbus, I've dabbled in a variety of spiritual exercises, but I always come back to those words from Sister Dorothy about "conversing with God". I try, but logic wins out and I convince myself that this supreme being has better things to do with His or Her time than to hear about my day. Then, I force myself to try zazen, but sometimes I find the act of being with myself in front of a blank wall for thirty minutes absolutely frightening. So, unfortunately, I end up simply reading about prayer and meditation, when I should be practicing it. I then usually revert to my old ways and do a good deal more "asking". I ask Him to protect me, to help us sell our house, to gain more clients for the business, and to help in the decision-making process. Then, after the supplications are over, I feel embarrassed for not having a more complex and educated method regarding my conversation with the Divine. Depression generally ensues.

So between my petitions, I'm back to staring at the wall. After multiple failures, I'm still intrigued about this seemingly simple task of spending 30 minutes with myself doing nothing, thinking nothing. And even if it isn't technically "prayer", it's better to try to do it than to merely read about doing it. And after about 15 minutes, your knees are so numb that you actually don't feel the pain. Now that's rugged individualism!

-30-

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This is your Captain speaking...

I don't like take-offs. Never have. Maybe if the pilot left the ground on a less-steep angle then I'd be a little more inclined to be able to relax during flights. But, I always have this feeling that the plane is going to capsize and I'm going to perish right there on some tarmac at Hartsfield-Jackson airport. I had planned on a much more elaborate way to kick the bucket.

It was a whirlwind trip last week. I needed to head to Pittsburgh to see my doctor, so I thought I'd go there via Cleveland or Akron so it would give me a chance to see the family. Mother Nature almost prevented this trip from happening. St. Louis has had record-rainfall during the month of October, and this huge swath of ominous-looking weather appeared imminent around take-off time. But, a break in the action allowed us to leave for Atlanta on-time. No lightning. No torrential downpours. No capsizing.

I find it interesting that airplane travel continues to be one of the safest modes of transportation. But, sitting there in my window-seat, I also realize that my life is in the hands of a couple of people whom I've never met. At 33,000 feet, there's nothing I can do to spare my life should something go dreadfully wrong up there in the cockpit. And if something does go wrong, I can't even have a final meal. Those little bags of pretzels just don't stack up as fitting culinary fare.

Leaving Atlanta for Akron, I thought of several more things that irk me about air travel:

* I understand the debacle involving obscenely obese people versus the size of seats; however, the seats are incredibly small! If I ever had the extra 49 bucks for the Business Class upgrade, I think I'd do it.
* Can the FAA put on the do-not-fly list anyone who feels compelled to tilt back in their seat? Talk about lack of space. It's an hour flight, people. Can't you wait to get to your hotel room to sleep?
* I don't like to check bags, either. It's annoying to have to go to Baggage Claim and wait for the carousel to spit out your luggage. But if a carry-on bag can't fit in the airport, then it should not be allowed to be brought on to the plane and attempted to be jammed in to the luggage space above the seats. Whatever happened to that little steel box they used to have that stated "if your bag can't fit in this box than it has to be checked"?
* What happened to all the hot flight attendants? I think standards are lacking a bit.
* If an airliner traveling at 400 miles-per-hour is headed into the ocean, is that seat belt really going to help me? I don't think I need it, really. The guy in front of me is leaning back and has pinned me in, anyway.
* On Southwest flights, I'm always in Group "C". And on Airtran, it always seems that I'm in Zone 7. Oh, well.

Even with all my incessant whining about the airplane experience, all of my flights were on-time and without incident. When there are no delays or cancellations, I suppose that's a reason to celebrate.

After renting a car, I drove over to Pittsburgh for my appointment. I miss Pittsburgh. It looked great! The fall foliage on Mount Washington was in full grandeur and it was a mild, enjoyable day, weather-wise. I can't say that I miss all of the Steelers' gear, but I saw equally as many people sporting Penguins colors, so I suppose that made it bearable. I also drove past the Pens' new arena, and it looks fantastic. The only thing I wasn't impressed with was the higher toll fees on both the Ohio and the Pennsylvania turnpikes.

Aside from getting a brief visit with the parents, I also was able to see my high school play football on Friday night. Coincidentally, it was a game against our arch-rivals, the Central Catholic Crusaders. My brother Mark, my sister Ann, and I stood behind the end zone and watched the game, which just so happened to turn in to a 21-7 win for the St. Thomas Aquinas Knights. I must have been "good luck", because we haven't beaten Central in 6 years. Because of the win, I allowed myself to indulge in a couple pints of Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold afterwards at Krause's. It always tastes better after beating your arch-rival.

Then, it was back to the airport to re-trace my steps on the journey home to St. Louis. A short, quick, but good trip home. It looks like we'll be headed home for Thanksgiving, too. So, the airline industry only has a couple of weeks to fix all of their problems. If some guy leans back into my space next time, I should at least get two bags of those pretzels. Or maybe a Business Class upgrade!

-30-

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

Monday, October 26, 2009

Those damned thunder-boomers!

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-tusseled dishwater-blonde 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? No, I think it's just thunder." She continued to look at me, dumbfounded. "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. Damned thunderstorms.

-30-

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When the Cat's Away....


I went downstairs to the basement, opened the refrigerator door, and just stared at them. There they were, resting snugly inside their little temperature-controlled compartment. They looked so happy, content. The bottles of Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA stood stoically in a row. Next to them, three offerings of Troegs Hopback Amber Ale waited patiently. And lodged majestically in the corner in all its voluminous beauty lay a 22-ounce selection of Hoppin' Frog B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout. They appeared to be solemnly gratified. Yet, I know, secretly, that they longed to be brought out from their semi-arctic reclusiveness, allowed sufficient time to basque in their new surroundings, and then have their contents carefully deposited into a perfectly-chosen glass. However, trying to strictly adhere to the laryngopharyngeal reflux manifesto, I sadly closed the refrigerator door, went upstairs, and rewarded myself with a generous helping of apple juice.

I find myself going through this little exercise several times a week. That's what you do when you're a craft-beer lover and you've been forced to endure over 5 weeks without a precious libation. It's also probably a good thing that Donna doesn't drink beer. If she did, I'd be harrassing her for the occasional sip, I'm sure. I've been on this journey several times before but always managed to find a way to eventually retrieve one of those lonely bottles from the refrigerator below. However, this has been the longest period of time that I've gone without regularly imbibing. Do I feel better? Not really. The LPR pundits tell me that true healing may not occur for several more months. Great. Three more months of staring at the 'fridge.

I've been a bachelor again, as Donna is spending the week in Tennessee helping out her son and his wife. During her absence, I'm always amazed at what a dull routine I involve myself in during the week. During the day, I'm fairly immersed in work. Since I'm not supposed to have regular coffee, I usually start the day by brewing up a batch of Teeccino. It's supposedly healthy for you, semi-organic, and completely caffeine-free... which means it tastes absolutely nothing like coffee. If the only thing left to drink were some black sludge in the bottom of a pot that had been sitting on the burner all day, I'd choose it first over my new-found concoction. But, in my attempt to stay on the program, I silently slurp my Teeccino while ingesting the day's top stories from Robin Meade and CNN Headline News.

Of course, the work-day is a mish-mash of various projects. Today, for instance, was quite busy. We had liner and copy requests from our client stations in Milwaukee, Greenville, NC, Richmond, IN, and Champaign, Illinois. I also participated in several auditions (none of which were successful in obtaining the gig) and some automobile spots for a small agency we work with in Nova Scotia. Between projects, I try to use some time for marketing (which is to say I send un-invited emails to prospective clients that invariably wind up in somebody's spam folder) or fine-tuning some demos for the website. Before lunch, I might lay down occasionally to rest my voice, where I generally fall asleep and dream about....beer.

When the work-day ends, Maggie the wonder-dog and I usually go for our power-walk. This past month, I've been doing more walking instead of running. I'm not sure why that is, exactly. I've been a runner (or, better put, a slow jogger) for the past 15 years or so, mainly so that I can claim an exemption from the sedentary lifestyle. I generally loathe it, though. The past two years my hips have really bothered me from the pavement-pounding. So, I started to do some research on running vs. walking and found out that, although running is probably a bigger calorie-burner, the cardiovascular benefits of each are about the same. So, I've been walking. Quickly. And Maggie has had no trouble keeping up (although I'm sure she'd prefer to run), so it's actually been enjoyable.

Then, the evening gets particularly crazy. I usually take a shower, feed Maggie, and then pour myself my nightly offering of apple juice. There are those times when I might take an unexpected diverent path and opt for cranberry-pomegranate juice, but apple juice has generally been a staple lately. The insanity continues when I grab my Kindle, put on the "Soundscapes" music channel, and read while Enya serenades me. I usually pop an anti-reflux pill, too, which really adds to the chaos. After that, it's dinner time. Yes, a sumptuous feast of broiled salmon, a few Tostitos chips and a bottle of water is generally enough to move this party into high-gear. When I can feast no more, I grab the remote control and really kick the excitement up a notch by... flipping through the channels with reckless abandon, deftly moving from some esoteric college football game over to a movie that I've probably seen a half-dozen times. Things evolve to a stunning climax when I blow out the candle that I've lit, turn off the television, set the house-alarm system, and casually put on my CPAP mask, typically falling asleep while pining for...beer. Now I know what you're thinking. "Does Donna know about the madness that fills up your life while she's away?" No, and I prefer to keep it a secret, if you don't mind. The less she knows, the better.

Oh, sure, I could turn my time of bachelor-hood into complete lunacy by, oh I don't know, raking leaves, cleaning the bathroom, or, God forbid, leaving the house and driving to the mall! At my age, though, I'm not sure I could handle that. With the big 5-0 looming, I need to conserve my energy, play it safe, make smart decisions, and not do anything that might put me on You Tube. So, when Donna forces me to become a bachelor, that's why I usually confine myself to the basement, where I can take occasional breaks from studio work and wander over towards the refrigerator and stare at the bottles for another 5 weeks or so.

-30-

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


Friday, October 9, 2009

Ya Gotta Do What Ya Gotta Do

A young student approached Master Dogen in the garden one day and asked, "What are the necessary steps to take in order to achieve enlightenment?" There was silence at first as the master continued to prune the flowers, and then, without looking at him, Dogen asked, "Have you eaten yet today?" The student seemed mildly puzzled but replied, "Why, yes I have." The master said, "Then go clean your bowl."

Over the years I've drained several Dale's Pale Ales while thinking of this Zen koan and have both marveled at its simplicity and been downright flabbergasted over its complexity. Don't get me wrong. We don't spend an abundance of time here at the Anthony household sitting around tossing out Zen riddles at each other when there's nothing left to watch on the DVR. Donna's more of a Scrabble gal, actually. But my long-time interest in eastern spirituality has made me very curious about the meanings behind this particular koan. And you thought finely-crafted ales were made just for sporting events!

Being neither enlightened nor a Buddhist scholar, my gut-feeling tells me that Dogen is fairly big on "taking the first step". Satori is a pretty tough nut to crack, so they say. So if one is to aspire to enlightenment, one has to get the ball rolling by doing the simple things. The boring things. And sometimes those things are the most difficult, as anyone who's attempted a diet on the Monday morning after the Super Bowl will tell you. However, I'm not sure the drudgery of convincing yourself to have a fruit cup instead of a cheese omelette in the morning is the largest initial barrier. For me, I think it's fear.

I've always wanted to ride a motorcycle. But I think I never learned how simply because I was afraid of what might happen to me. Or perhaps it was what others have said might happen to me. Hey, I'm just as scared of road rash as the next guy! Regardless, I hesitated to sign up for a class, but I finally did. And even then I canceled at the last minute, simply out of fear that I would fail, or crash, or be laughed at by some huge dude on a Dyna Glide. However, after watching numerous You Tube videos about the training class and convincing myself that I wasn't wasting an entire weekend, I joined up and I did it! I know, though, that having an M-class license doesn't make you a good rider. That comes with experience and time. But the scooter and I have done a couple thousand miles together and I now wonder why it took me so long to get started.

I have a feeling, though, that our friend Master Dogen was sharing with the young student something even more rudimentary than merely what it takes to finally decide to start a diet or go back to school or learn how to do in-line skating (my next journey). My guess is that Dogen was speaking of the tedious, ordinary everyday tasks that have to be done in order to accomplish anything...the "ya gotta do what ya gotta do" stuff. Hey, wouldn't we all like to spend Saturday simply playing video games or laying in a hammock on the beach. But the carport needs swept. The carpets need vacuumed because we have another Open House on Sunday. That giant package of toilet paper needs to be purchased at Sam's Club. And those bowls on the counter need cleaned. (or in our case, rinsed off and put in the dishwasher)

I'm not sure exactly why Zen Buddhism intrigues me. My interest probably started while watching the show Kung Fu as a boy. Sure, the fighting was great, but I remember being much more entranced with the dialogue between young Caine and Master Po. The gentle yet pointed way that he shared insight into the world around us seemed very calming and believable to me. Later in college, I was able to read and discuss Buddhism and other eastern religions with students who had much more experience with them than I did. (interesting, huh? Having the chance to discuss eastern meditation in a Catholic seminary!) And it was there that I realized that this seemingly simple philosophy required much more effort than I would have ever imagined. Sitting zazen and staring at a blank wall is, on the surface, one of the most mundane tasks that you can imagine, and yet actually trying it was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. But I know that if the end-result is to be experienced, the baby-steps must be taken.

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. It's inescapable and unavoidable. I grudgingly remember that as I approach the one-month mark of living the beer-free life. All of the pundits point to the fact that my acid reflux-demon will eventually depart the scene thus making it easier to do my job. So, I continue to believe them while taking baby steps towards enlightenment, exchanging my Dale's Pale Ale for a pint-glass filled with ice cubes and apple juice while I watch the baseball playoffs this weekend. I'll also have a clearer head, should the game get boring and I decide to ponder that "if a tree falls in the forest and nobody's around to hear it, does it make a noise?" riddle.

-30-

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blame in on "44"

There we were, sitting in a darkened corner of Shenanigans, a rather run-down-looking sports bar on the main drag of Belleville, Illinois. Donna had on one of her long-sleeved Browns t-shirts and her Browns football-helmet earrings. I had on my now-oversized Bernie Kosar jersey. The fragments of already-eaten chicken wings lay on a plate in front of us, along with her half-filled Diet Coke. I bounced the straw up and down inside the ice cubes in my glass of water, wishing that the contents could have been a beer. Several of them. Before us, one of the big screens displayed the ongoing massacre that ensued between the Browns and the Ravens. The carnage looked even worse in analog. You have to at least win a game to be worthy of high-definition, I guess. We left with 4 minutes to go. Driving home, I thought a good deal about the choices we make. And I could have kicked myself because with a little bit of prepubescent dexterity, the fiasco that I just witnessed could have been avoided.

I wasn't always a fan of Cleveland sports. My father was a Green Bay Packers fan, so early on, I, too, pretended that I was Bart Starr or Ray Nitschke. My dad even made us a lamp using a Packers helmet. But all that changed when I started watching NFL Highlights, the show hosted by Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier. It was on Sundays at 11 o'clock, prior to the start of the football games, and I quickly fell in love with the Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Len Dawson was from nearby Alliance, Ohio, which was a good thing. But that wasn't the reason. It was the fancy offensive schemes and the strange huddle they used. Halfbacks and flankers always seemed to be in motion. There were loads of end-around plays and trickery abounded. Plus, I thought their colors were pretty cool.

This fixation with the out-of-the-ordinary played a huge role in the teams that I chose to follow as a youngster. The Indians? Who cared about them when you could follow a flashy team like the Oakland A's? I loved 'em! The "Moustache Gang" were a blast, especially with guys like Gene Tenace, Sal Bando, and Rollie Fingers. And I could have cared less about the expansion Cleveland Cavaliers when there was the always-in-contention New York Knicks! My favorite player was the one-and-only Walt "Clyde" Frazier. I would practice for hours his behind-the-back dribble and his peculiar jump shot. Yes, my teams were easy to spot and easy to follow because they were winners of Super Bowls and the World Series and NBA Championships. So what would possess a seemingly bright, intelligent kid to trade in all these gifts in exchange for the downtrodden squads from the city known as "The Mistake by the Lake"? I blame it on an autographed picture that I received in the mail.

In between playing sports with my friends, I decided sit in my room and draft letters to professional athletes requesting them to send an autographed picture. So I grabbed a handful of paper and started writing. I ended up sending a stack of notes to various teams and players that I had watched on NFL Highlights, as well as other games on television. And then I waited. And waited. Each day the mail would arrive but amidst the bills and other things there were no autographed pictures. Until one day a large, flat envelope came in the mail, a package that the mailman could barely fit through the slot on our front porch. My mother handed it to me saying, "It has your name on it". Indeed, it was addressed to me, and the return address on the envelope said "Cleveland Browns". I hurriedly ripped open the envelope and out popped an autographed picture of running back Leroy Kelly. I liked Kelly because I, too, had a shirt with the number "44" on it. "Wow," I thought, "my first autograph!" I grabbed some tape, ran upstairs, and plastered it to my wall.

In the upcoming days, I waited. No autographed picture from Walt Frazier or Earl Monroe. Nothing from Joe Rudi or Sal Bando. Zilch from Len Dawson, Mike Garrett, Buck Buchanan, or Elmo Wright. I was stunned and a bit bummed out. A friend then said to me, "Why don't ya just like Cleveland. Everyone else around here does".

Yep, it could have been avoided. But, no. Leroy Kelly had to send me an autographed picture. In reality, though, it's really all my fault. I'm the one who would later lay in bed at night listening to Joe Tait broadcast Cavs games. I'm the one who had to go to the Stadium and watch Rick Manning roam center field. And I'm the one who felt abject pain when Brian Sipe threw the interception into the end zone against the Raiders. The full understanding of my choices had not yet come to fruition in those early days. Why couldn't I have had the decision-making prowess of my friend Kyle in Nashville. His Cowboys have won multiple Super Bowls. His Lakers are the reigning NBA champs. And his Dodgers are on their way to the post-season.

So as I read the forums in The Plain Dealer and the Beacon Journal online, commiserating with other bad decision-makers, I think about what could have been...and I do find some amount of solace, even amongst a pathetic 0-3 start. The Chiefs are also 0-3. The A's will finish last in the American League West. And the Knicks are one of the most chaotic organizations in sports. The only thing that would comfort me more is to be able to sit at Shenanigans and watch the Browns squeeze out a win against the Bengals. That, and to be able to trade in my water for a beer when they don't.

-30-

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mean People Suck

As I was growing up in Canton, Ohio, there was a boy in our neighborhood named Ronald. Ronald was our age but he seemed to have a bit more "bulk". He was stronger. He rode his bike a little faster than everyone else. He tackled a little harder in football and he seemed to hit the baseball just a little further than the rest of us. He was also, well, more mean than the rest of our friends. He was the kind of person who would catch a bug, take a magnifying glass, hold it up to the sun, and use the bright, hot rays to sizzle that bug right there on the concrete. Ronald was also the kind of person that you didn't want to fight. Once, for no apparent reason, he flipped me on my back, thrust his knees down on my shoulders, and proceeded to pound me, hard, on the chest. Repeatedly. Being the pacifist, I writhed back and forth and begged him to stop, but he continued to pound on me because he was....just a mean kid.

That same feeling that engulfed us in the old neighborhood when Ronald would show up is the same kind of feeling I've been getting lately with many things. It's a creeping, enveloping sense of dread, a kind of existential angst that permeates things, not unlike some mutant, toxic form of The Force. Robin Meade gives me the bad news about more job loss within our economy in the morning as I sip on my Teeccino. Clients tell me of cutbacks, and guys who once gave me instructions as Program Directors are now emailing me asking me if I know of anyone to whom they can send their packages because they've been down-sized. Disinterested voices from insurance companies on the other end of the phone inform us that they can't underwrite a policy for us because of pre-existing conditions. But the feeling of dread is more than just recurring bad news about the overall state of things. Perhaps the general malaise caused by double-digit unemployment and the health-care debate has allowed some of us to vent in unpredictable ways. And some of those ways have demonstrated behavior that has been, interestingly enough, quite mean.

I have found the health-care situation to be both fascinating and disgusting. Lately, we've been on the "front lines" of this debate. Our insurance premiums over the past two years have been stratospheric, similar to A-Rod numbers. So, Donna embarked on this long, drawn-out journey to do something about it. What we discovered is what most people already know, that insurance is: a) really expensive and b)intent on not covering anything. Because we have been between policies, we've also had to pay "sticker price" for some of our prescriptions. $246.00 for a 30-day supply? Are you kidding? That's a piece of studio gear. Or 7 cases of Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot. Talk about dread setting in.

But even though I'm absolutely aghast at the price-tag on one prescription, I couldn't bring myself to stand there in Wal-Mart and sling a profanity-laced tirade at the pharmacy assistant. That would have been pretty...mean. Not to mention fairly embarrassing to my wife. But that's what some people at town-hall meetings do. Some of the footage of irate Pennsylvanians standing there in front of Arlen Specter screaming at the top of their lungs and spraying him with saliva was simply unbelievable. It's as if our anger has given us carte blanche to say or do anything in the name of protest.

How about some of the signs at the rally in Washington, DC last week? Believe me, I'm the first to say that it's our duty to speak out against waste, hypocrisy, over-spending, injustice...or just plain political stupidity. However, I found some of the signs at that rally to be outright vile. I didn't vote for Barack Obama and I don't toe the line on all of his policies. And as Donna will tell you, I'm not the most patriotic person in the world. I'm much more quick to point out our country's faults than she is. But he is the President and he does deserve some modicum of respect. Call him a Socialist? Fine. That's your right. Super-imposing Obama's face, though, on to the body of some Islamic terrorist surrounded my machine guns and ammunition is just...mean. And this rally, and others like it, have given some a clean getaway on expressing their own racism. I saw the signs depicting Obama being hung from a tree with a noose around his neck. That's hardly a protest about the price of Prozac.

Perhaps that's the cause of my overall feeling of occasional angst. The freedom and the anonymity of the internet has allowed us to, in a way, say anything we want, whenever we want, and, more importantly, however we want. We've dispensed with the "nod and a wink" and have gone straight to the jugular. We've traded in the deftly-written op-ed piece for a expletive-laced burst on Facebook. And the cleverly-drawn political cartoon has been replaced with an anything-goes sign at a rally. It's epidemic. Robbers just don't take the money; they also have to shoot the clerk. It scares me sometimes, and it detracts just a little bit from the feelings I have about my own country.

I don't think I'm the only one who senses it. The other day, a cop pulled Donna over because Matt forgot to renew the license tags on the car. Now, $75.00 poorer, I journeyed to the DMV, which, as any red-blooded American will tell you, is the perfect storm for volatile transactions to occur. I had spent the better part of an hour waiting, and the woman who helped take care of the "Car Tags" department kept looking in my direction, seemingly sensing my growing impatience. I kept waiting to hear my name called from her clipboard. Finally, she got to me. I must have had that "I-could-spit-in-Arlen-Specter's-face" look because after explaining why I was there, she said, "Honey, you just look like this is the last place you want to be right now". I chuckled and so did she, and while she was retrieving my new plates I thought, "Hmmm....someone at the DMV not being...mean? That's a switch".

So, I thought of Ronald today. And though I don't spend a large amount of time anymore trying to figure out what made him so mean, I do give pause and reflect on myself and others. Somewhere amidst the chaos and uncertainty, I wish we'd step back and dial it down a notch. If someone at the DMV can be nice, isn't there hope for us yet?

-30-

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Your approximate wait time is...

That great Gainesville, Florida philosopher, Tom Petty, said it best, I think: "The waiting is the hardest part". Lately, it seems like the patience-game has been the only one I've been playing.

We've been waiting for somebody to make an offer on our home here. Like most places in the Midwest, it has not been going well. We put our house up for sale in March and had an immediate rush of prospective buyers. Many liked it, but similar to most locales in our nation's mid-section, it's a buyer's market and there's lots of inventory from which to choose. So, I guess they didn't like it that much. It's too bad. We've made a ton of modifications on it in the almost-2-and-a-half years that we've been here: new windows, Gutter-Monster, new paint throughout, a state-of-the-art filtration system on the furnace, a beautiful deck, and more. Apparently, these additions haven't been enough to entice someone to fax over an offer. So we wait.

I went to see my family doctor for an annual check-up. I cease to understand what the value is in making an appointment. I'm seemingly alone in the reception area and yet I wait. And wait. Finally, 30 minutes after my arrival, I'm called in. Of course, there's the perfunctory weigh-in, which is always a boost to the ego. Then, there's the blood pressure-check. She reels off the numbers as if I fully comprehend their meaning. I don't, though I'm assured that I won't keel over anytime during the office visit. Then, I'm shown to my room. Where I wait. And wait. The waiting gives me time to read all the pamphlets about high blood-pressure (which I don't think I have), acid-reflux (which I KNOW I have), diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and asthma. I skip the pamphlet on menopause. And I still wait. I play air-drums on the tops of my thighs and I convince myself that I could give Neil Peart a run for his money. And I wait some more. 40 minutes later, my doctor arrives and apologizes for me having to wait. Great.

We're told by the pundits to be proactive, to make things happen. But how do you make your doctor finish his lunch early? It seems as if many of these things are out of our hands. For instance, I have a prospective client who has been a prospective client for over a year now. She told me that she wanted to hire me as the voice of one of the stations in their cluster, but that she wasn't quite ready to concentrate fully on the station-in-question yet because of some problems with one of the other stations that needed addressed first. Fine. No problem. I wait, and agree to stay in touch. And I do. For the next 6 months, she tells me in emails that she's almost ready to dive into the format-flip but that a transmitter issue with one of the other stations has set her time-line back a bit. "Can you wait just a little while longer?", she asks. Sure, I think to myself. I have this waiting thing down cold. No worries. Another 6 months passes and now I hear nothing from her. So, I reach out, remind her who I am, and inquire about the status of the station format-flip again. She finally responds, thanks me for waiting...and then promptly tells me to wait a little while longer "while some call-letter adjustments get taken care of".

"Waiting", so it seems, has been elevated to an art-form. If so, then I have a Ph.D. Early in the week, I wait on the line to talk to an insurance broker about a replacement policy that I've been waiting to have activated. Later in the week, I'm having issues getting my laptop to connect to the network here at home, so I wait for it to repair itself. When it doesn't, I wait on the phone for a service technician from Netgear to help me. Once I finally get a tech on the line, I wait a bit more for him to find another technician because I was incapable of understanding the first technician. And don't even get me started on Sam's Club. Ever try to check out on a Saturday afternoon? And, of course, I wait for my acid-reflux to tame down by not having any beer. Who knows how long I'll be waiting to have one of those again.

"The waiting is the hardest part". Don't I know it. So while trying to enact some Zen stoicism, I wait. The next chapter can't start until the current one ends, right? In the meantime, we wait for the Indians pathetic season to draw to a close and we wait for the Browns to win their first game of 2009. Heck, we might sell our house before that happens.

-30-

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

She's a Wallflower

She was once majestic, virile, a bit gritty but always one happenin' place! Attractive bedroom communities like Barberton, Manchester and Cuyahoga Falls once adorned her. Hundreds of thousands were employed and rubber and polymer ruled. Yep, Akron was a dominant industrial city with a great future. But more on Akron in a bit.

It's been awhile since I posted a new entry. Two weeks ago I headed down to Nashville on an invitation from Jeff. We enjoyed some fine ales and also took in a Sounds game with the family. It was fun. Afterwards, I kept telling myself that I was going to take a few days off before stations began to settle in on the start of the Fall ratings period. And although business has been up, funds have been depleted. So, once again, we opted for a trip home to northeast Ohio via automobile as opposed to a flight to some tropical locale. Heck, you can drink margaritas anywhere, can't you? So, yes, we backed up the blue X-Terra, loaded it up, and headed down I-70.

While home in Akron, we stayed in Donna's mom's house. Pretty spartan digs, let me tell you. We did have running water and electricity. The toilets worked, too. We had a small refrigerator that held copious amounts of Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale and a few small cans of Diet Coke. And we had a radio, which seemed to sit on either classical WKSU or Smooth Jazz WNWV, "The Wave". Our sleeping quarters consisted of an air-mattress and a small table on which to set my CPAP machine. Oh, and we had a bag of Golden Krisp potato chips. That's it. Like I said, definitely not some swanky hotel in a sub-tropical paradise.

Akron, Ohio is a bit of an enigma. You will not likely see Akron in a Kiplinger's list of "Best Towns in America in Which to Live". At first glance, she's a poster-child for decaying rust-belt cities. There's nothing particularly attractive about her. She's a girl in jeans and a faded t-shirt with her hair pulled back and without make-up. She's a bit rough-edged with a hard demeanor and a wary glance, somewhat distrustful. Her un-trimmed median strips on I-76 are proof-positive that she doesn't sweat the details. The neighborhoods that surround the Central Interchange look as if they've been rode hard and put away wet. Hell, our old house in Kenmore is now boarded up...and Irene's house, next-door, isn't even there any more!

But it's real. What you see is what you get. The complexities and nuances are many and the niceties take awhile to find. So between visiting the folks for their birthdays and getting together with my brothers, we peeled back some layers of our old adopted hometown and found out some pretty interesting things about the former Rubber Capital of the World. We found out that people in stores are, for the most part, still pretty helpful. We found out that Akron has a jewel of a public library... clean, expansive, and new. We also drove past the new Infocision Stadium, which has replaced the Rubber Bowl, and discovered a world-class facility, at least from the front-seat of the X-Terra as we drove around the block. We also realized that the University of Akron has grown from a small commuter school to a big, bold urban university, one that dominates downtown.

We also re-discovered some things that we already knew: that Canal Park, the home of the Aeros, is as good as any minor league park in baseball...and the beer selection isn't half-bad! We also found out that West Point Market can still rival any similar store that Jeff and I could have visited a couple of weeks earlier in Nashville...that Primos Deli still has one of the best beer selections and some of the best sandwiches in northeast Ohio...that the Akron Museum of Art has a fairly impressive modern art collection. (even if I still don't completely understand how most of what I saw qualifies as "art")...and that right down the street from Donna's Mom's house sits the beautiful Goodyear MetroPark, a hop, skip, and a jump away.

No, cities such as Nashville, Charlotte, Austin, and Portland will always get the publicity. And once the economy turns around, they will probably get the jobs, too, when they return. The "niceties" are easy to see in these cities. They're chic, pretty, pampered, and cool. They're not wallflowers, like Akron. They jump on to the dance-floor quickly and with fanfare. I guess that's why they're attractive, even to people like me. But sometimes the qualities that are deep-down inside just need time to rise to the surface. Or, better yet, maybe the person doing the searching just needs to have the patience to let them rise to the surface. After all, the wallflower does eventually want to dance. You just have to ask.

-30-

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

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mother's Little Helper

My Bupropion doesn't seem to be working lately. For those of you who are terminally in a good mood, Bupropion is just one of many anti-depressants on the market. Heck, I don't know why I take it. I suppose that it's because it helps me deal with the fact that I just let seven continents full of people know that I take an anti-depressant. That's the bane of the blog world, I suppose. Perhaps it's because I was born without certain chemicals in the brain. I'm not sure. But I do know that I've felt predisposed towards depression for a better part of my life.

Did I have some epiphany about my depression that I felt compelled to share? Somewhat. I'll share it here in a bit. But I've felt this overall "haze" lately, for want of a better word. To me, it feels like a "gnawing" for something that, because it's not realized, makes me feel like something's missing. And because I can't pinpoint what it is, I tend to feel a bit bummed.

Since deciding to head back to Ohio, I feel as though a chapter in my life, namely my working life, is about to close. And, it might also be because in another year, I'll be hitting the big 5-0. Regardless of the reason, I find myself taking stock in my accomplishments. Or better put, what I've yet to accomplish.

Have you ever tried to truly size up what's really important to you? I'm finding myself in that frame of mind lately. I've been trying to isolate the things that give me joy and then really trying to capitalize on them. But, since a guy can only drink so many cans of Dale's Pale Ale without having to head to an AA meeting, I'm trying to look beyond my love of fine hand-crafted beers. What give me joy? And if I know what they are, what can I change so that obtaining them will help obliterate the feeling of being "bummed out".

I had a revelation the other day, and I believe it's something I've been feeling for the past couple of years. I'm never going to have children. And I think the joy that I see other people experiencing regarding their children makes me...a bit sad. Honestly, I've never given children a whole lot of thought. I was generally too busy trying to get to the next biggest radio market. And since Donna is unable to have any more children, it never occupied a good deal of my thought. Except for the past couple of months. So what do I do about that?

My unqualified psychological expertise tells me that I should look at expounding upon these other things that give me joy. Funny, though, most of the things that give me joy are long, sometimes un-approachable journeys towards bitter irony. Baseball gives me joy; yet, the Cleveland Indians have just experienced their biggest "fire sale" since 2001. Things of a spiritual nature give me satisfaction; however, doing zazen in order to find more meaning about myself is a long, arduous experience...plus, the Zen masters would be very upset with me for thinking that I can "get something" from zazen, anyway. Music has always been very important to me; But, knowing a D minor chord and a couple others does not make me ready to get a recording contract. And whatever Deity is up there knows that I love what I do for a living; however, "hanging ones' hat" on their career in totality makes for....well, it make for one to eventually have to succumb to taking Bupropion.

Oh, there are other things that propel me towards some feeling of nirvana. I love spending time with my wife and I really enjoy my family. I dig movies, riding my scooter, shanking golf balls, and reading on my Kindle. But these big, large, looming questions that tend to foster so much existential angst are the ones that shake me to my core and prompt me to feel...queasy...about what to do next. This angst makes me feel inferior and contributes towards this feeling that even people posting on Facebook seem to have alot more going for them...than I do.

I remember reading an article about Henry Rollins. The interviewer asked him about his thoughts on people in general and Rollins basically said that we are people who take too many anti-depressants....that we're people who are too quick to "blame" something on outside circumstances and not on our own inabilities to deal and cope. I remember him saying, "the best medicine is to get your ass to a gym. You can learn alot about coping and about yourself after a kick-ass workout." Maybe that's the key. Not dwelling on the big things or ceaselessly worrying about how to fix them, understand them, pry them apart and put them back together again.

So, that's what I've been trying to do. Just like the title says, "onward through the fog". Pop my little pill and try to find small victories in small things. Landing a new client-station. Admiring a Tribe victory even when they're 11 games out of first. Enjoy sharing a Lagunitas Hop Stoopid with my neighbor Pat. Trucking up and down the aisles at Target with Donna while she searches for the right bird feeder. Confront. Accept. Enjoy. And get my ass to the gym.

-30-

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

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Reading from the Letter of Matthew to the Earthlings...

Brothers and Sisters...

I greet you in the name of good cheer and wholesome blessings, both of which, I hope, continue to multiply in abundance for days to come. But I beseech you and I ask most inquisitively: what the heck is going on?

Why is everyone doing existential back-flips over the fact that Barack Obama cracked open a few beers at the White House with Gates and Crowley? I'm more incensed that it was Bud Lite and not something from, say, Clipper City!

Why do the Cleveland Indians feel it necessary to dispose of another Cy Young award-winner for the second year in a row? And why did they also have to throw Ben Francisco in the deal, all for some single-A players, one of which is a pitcher on the DL with a sore shoulder?

Why do raccoons have to like my garbage so much? Try greeting your morning by cleaning up last night's ribs all over the driveway and tell me how you like it!

Don't complain about the $9.00 beer if you're still willing to pay the $45.00 ticket.

Show some restraint! Just because both of us are in line waiting to buy bagels at Panera Bread doesn't mean that both of us want to listen to your inane cell phone conversation. And get an ear-piece that doesn't look like something that came off the Millennium Falcon!

Why is a government-run health-care option such a frightening consequence? The existence of the United States Postal Service doesn't hinder you in any way from still using Fed Ex! And why can't doctors take a pay cut like the rest of us who still have jobs? 40 bucks for you to tell me to come back and see you in 3 months? That's a good gig if you can get it.

Which is smaller: the airline seat in the "coach" section or the seat in the upper deck?

Is there a supplication that exists that can appease the computer gods on a consistent basis so that they don't inflict their wrath on your laptop at the seemingly most inopportune times? And when did the Geek Squad start charging you before they actually do the diagnostic?

Why does a game require a "color commentator"? Vin Scully has been doing Dodgers games for 60 years and he doesn't need one.

Can the question "Do you need some change back with that" be permanently eliminated from the waiter/waitress lexicon?

After all this time, do we still need to be prompted to "leave your message at the tone"?

Who, besides Congress, gets a month off for vacation? And how do the rest of us "go into recess"?

If no Cleveland team wins a championship in my lifetime, do I get bonus points in the Afterlife?

Besides my wife, is there a more voluptuous woman on the planet than Robin Meade?

Will Glenn Beck just please shut up!?

Is there anything more delightful than the first sip of coffee in the morning?


As the answers to these and other formidable questions struggle to make themselves apparent, I remain yours, in harmony and at one with the rise and fall of the 10,000 things....and on the continual search for my broom so I can, once again, clean up the driveway!

-30-

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting to know my arch-enemy

I used to hate the New York Yankees. Perhaps I should correct myself: I still hate the New York Yankees. However, my hatred of the Bronx Bombers seemed more acute growing up as a young "seam-head" when the Yanks and the Indians were in the same division. Now, I snicker whenever they and their $200 million payroll fall short of the playoffs. I find, though, that my hatred is much more focused on that which has torn my career apart at the seams, so to speak. I'm referring to acid-reflux.

I visited a new doctor last month. During April and May, I had been experiencing a severe amount of burning in my mouth and throat. After seeing my regular E-N-T, he (again) prescribed a rugged prescription of diet modification. Really, though, his prescription amounted to a mandate to cut out beer for 3-4 months. I had been fairly religious about eliminating the other sins of the digestive tract, such as coffee (relegated to the Sunday morning paper), salsa (can't remember the last Mexican restaurant I'd been to), red wine (oh, how I miss an oak-y cabernet sauvignon!), chocolate (ok, there's an occasional piece of Heggy's from time to time!), and citrus. But my E-N-T is convinced that my comsumption of the occasional malted barley libation is the culprit. However, I was unconvinced. In fact, after almost 2 months of a beer-free lifestyle, I was about ready to head to the bluffs north of St. Louis and jump into the Mississippi. And, to be honest, I was a bit worried that something else might be lurking between both ends of my esophageal sphincters. So, that anxiety precipitated my contacting this new doctor of gastroenterology.

I watch a good deal of those Sunday morning political programs and it always amazes me that George Stephanopoulos can toss the same question at both Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham and get two of the most divergent responses imaginable. Going to multiple health practitioners can sometimes yield the same feeling. Dr. Dahm is absolutely hard-core when it comes to diet modification. And this fundamentalist approach confused me, since I still drop 80 mgs. of Zegerid daily and still have this burning in my throat. I'm equally mystified by the fact my reflux is really more "non-acid-relfux"-related, so there shouldn't be any "burning", per se. So I was anxious to see Dr. Greenspan.

Turns out, he's a big beer fan! And after reeling off (quite proudly I might add) all of the things that I had eliminated from my diet, he says to me, "We have to tell patients not to have coffee and chocolate and all that other stuff, but I don't think it helps with LPR at all. You should sleep with the head of your bed elevated, and take 4 of these(Reglan) per day and see me in a month. Oh, have you had that Belgian beer Piraat?" No, I'm thinking to myself, your health practitioner-colleage ordered me not to have any beer. Are you kidding?

So, I see him tomorrow. The burning is gone. And so is my abstention from beer. He told me to have an occasional bottle. Of course, everyone has their own definition of "occasional". But, like Schumer and Graham, who has the right answer? What are the long-term affects of LPR? And what are the long-term effects of all of these prescriptions? Nobody seems to know. It seems like everyone is popping something for reflux, and the same with depresssion. I'm much more concerned about the short-term, and my arch-enemy's effect on me doing my job. How many thousands of times will I clear my throat today, and if I have this one Weyerbacher 12 Anniversary Ale, will it start a chain-reaction of volcanic proportions inside my esophageal tract?

Schumer vs Graham. Dahm vs. Greenspan. Geez, who knows. I do know that I still hate the Yankees. Now, give me my Zegerid, and where's my bottle opener?

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

Sunday, July 12, 2009

126 Miles to Terre Haute

The journey along I-70 is a lonely one. And a boring one. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Geez, Matt, what do you want, enemy planes swooping down on you as you outrun terrorist forces? Scantily-clad vixens welcoming you at rest stops?" Uh, no. I can live without the enemy planes. But the route that traverses our country's mid-section won't win any "Scenic Drive" awards. Heck, I'd settle for the occasional dilapidated barn with "Mail Pouch. Treat Yourself to the Best" painted on the side.

We've made this drive twice in less than a month. Last week we did it for a second time in order to have the memorial service for Donna's mother. It turned out to be a fitting tribute to her, and one she would have wanted, which is something depicting the opposite of your traditional funeral. Her sisters and relatives came over from Pennsylvania. My family came up from Canton. And we all gathered at Waterworks Park in Lakemore, Ohio to remember her, let the kids set off balloons into the air in honor of her, and to sit around, talk, and eat.

We also stayed at her house. I think we did that for a multitude of reasons. Sure, it eliminated the cost of a hotel room, but since we've decided to buy her house from the estate we wanted to...get a feel for it to see how comfortable we would be. It's difficult to do that, I suppose, when all you have is a couple of chairs, a radio, a small refrigerator for the beer, and an air-mattress. However, all in all, we both came to the conclusion that we would continue the journey towards moving our life back to the edifice at 2254 Scotland Drive.

Both on the drive out and back, I had a good deal of time to ponder, reflect, worry, and, in a sense, basque in the loneliness that is I-70 between Columbus, Ohio and Collinsville, Illinois. Donna claims to be a good traveling companion in the car, and she is....if you enjoy a passenger who is semi-comatose and continually interrupts your Mozart compilation CD with symphonic snoring even before you're south of Mansfield. But once the clarity of 610 WTVN crumbles into static hesitancy outside of Dayton, the drive, aside from brief civilized contact in Indianapolis, becomes a blur of forgotten soybean fields and mammoth fireworks-for-sale billboards.

Moving back to Akron presents an astonishing array of possibilities. I know the thought of "moving back to Akron" for some would be akin to....well, to driving on I-70 between Columbus, Ohio and Collinsville, Illinois. But as the miles ticked by and the rest stops piled up, I really tried to wrap my head around a return home. What were once thoughts comprised of watching Vanderbilt play on a Saturday afternoon and time spent thinking of what I'd say to Martina McBride if I spotted her in a restaurant were now replaced with thoughts of nephews' football games and casually wandering over to my twin brother's house for a cold one on a Sunday afternoon. I thought of the prospects of a lower house payment. I thought of not having to buy the MLB Package to watch the Indians. I thought of being able to run down to Canton on my scooter and take my mother to lunch. (whether or not she'd get on the scooter is another story.) I pondered getting involved with a parish again. I planned brewery stops. And I smiled at the thought of being able to visit a couple of my favorite haunts in nearby Pittsburgh again.

So as my companion nodded off into semi-unconsciousness and I turned up the volume on my CD, I tried to think about the positive aspects of moving back home. The whole process of "what's good" versus "what's not-so-good"...and surprisingly, the "good" had some unique advantages. And that felt good. As Donna arrived from her slumbers, only to return after mumbling, "Where are we at now?", I also made a mental note to perhaps give this solitary drive on I-70 another chance. I vowed to drive past Wright-Patterson Air Force base outside of Dayton. I pledged to stop again and visit our client-station in Richmond, Indiana. I planned to check out the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, the Candle Outlet store, and the J & J Winery. I told myself that Terre Haute HAD to offer more than just a Marathon gas station or a Starbucks drive-thru and I vowed to see what the downtown actually looked like. And I made a promise to myself that I would stop to take a photograph of the huge crucifix that sits at the I-57 turn-off in Effingham. After all, sometimes the things that go past in a blur are sometimes the things that need closer inspection.

Now if I can just remember to record my next conversation with Donna....so I can be able to play it back in the car on our next journey on that long black ribbon known as I-70. It gets lonely out here.

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Back to Libya Hill


In You Can't Go Home Again, George Webber apparently ticked off his fellow towns-folk to such an extent that he would never be able to go back to Libya Hill ever again. This, I suppose, is what happens when you expose the inner core of a city's underbelly and expect to get away with it. Luckily, I've yet to write similar things about Akron, Ohio, so I'm hoping that the former "Rubber Capital of the World" will extend upward it's economically-down-turned arms and welcome us back. No offense to Thomas Wiolfe, but even if it doesn't, it looks like we're headed there, nonetheless.

We were bound for "Music City", Nashville, Tennessee. We did our research, told our relatives, and informed our friends; heck, we even hired a realtor and walked through 11 or 12 houses. I put the orange "Power-T" decal back on the car window. I fomented plans with my buddy Jeff to initate the start of our planned brewpub down in Franklin. I even looked into a small ticket-package for the Nashville Predators. We practically had "Volunteer State" written across our drivers licenses. Then, Donna's mom passed away. And that event seemed to change everything.

After going through her house over on the far east side of Akron organizing things and trying to figure out how to dispose of 40 years of collected belongings, we started to think about the prospects of moving in to her house. Well, actually, Donna started thinking about it and then began asking me how I would feel about it. I immediately rejected the idea. "No", I thought. "This house is tiny in comparison to what we have and what we want. It's not in the greatest neighborhood in the world. Interesting idea. But....no." Shoot, a year from now Jeff and I will be making beer in middle Tennessee's hottest brewpub establishment. We're just...about a million dollars short of what we need. No big deal.

But the more I thought about it, the more agreeable I began to be about it. And truth be told, in the deep recesses of my mind, I think I've always wanted to, in one way or another, go home. We were already averaging a-trip-home-every-three-months-or-so anyway. The cost of plane fare, hotel stays, and car rentals were already adding up. The last time we were home, we seriously talked about the economic ramifications of moving in to her house. We talked about the enormous amount of work it would take to update a home that, cosmetically, hadn't been touched in quite a while.

I also began to tell people that were thinking about a return to Ohio. I stressed the "economic advantages" of going back home. The house, although lacking in "style points", had good "guts", with a new furnace and hot-water-heater. Although it's nearby neighbors on one side are duplexes and a massive apartment complex, the other side of the neighborhood consists of middle-class, typical Akronites who have been there for a good while. It sits on a corner and on a hill. It also has great highway access, is close to a park, and, if you really strain, you can catch a glimpse of the Goodyear Blimp Airdock on a clear day. But, it's much smaller than what we have and would be, for all intents and purposes (and no disrespect meant to Kay), a step down from what we have.

But as I "bounced it off" various people, including a few clients, I found myself explaining our return to the Buckeye State in "economic" terms. In reality, though, my secret, persistent "itch" to go home is really driven more by family. I thought of the time I have left to visit on a regular basis with my own parents. I pondered the fact that there are nieces and nephews whose lives are flying by at a rapid rate...and I don't really know them. They see "Uncle Matt" and "Aunt Donna" at functions, and only know me as "my uncle who lives in fill in the blank". I thought of the Cleveland teams that we follow and all the money we spend to do so via long-distance, keeping Charter Communications afloat with our purchases of the MLB Package and the NHL Center Ice subscription and more. So weighing all of the variables, I finally said to Donna, "Ok, let's do it."

I'm not sure how it will work out. I'm not sure if we'll sell our house here. I'm not sure if the far east side of Akron will be a safe neighborhood. I'm not sure if I'll eventually need to try to find a job there, a bit easier chore in Nashville, I think. I'm not sure if the Indians will start playing better if they know we live in the county just south of them. What I am sure about is that I feel the need to be closer to my family, so I guess that outweighs the dream of owning a brewpub with Jeff. Or nicer weather. Or a less-depressing economy. Or super-model-type women in cowboy hats on every corner. Or......uh, wait a minute. I'd better stop while the Ryder truck is still pointed north.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And the winner is......nobody!


One of the highlights of my radio career was learning how to do digital production. When I was hired at Y-105 in Mansfield, Ohio, the main production studio had a multi-track digital recording system. Having spent most of my time surrounded by reel-to-reel tape and razor blades, this ultra-modern method for recording commercials and promos was a bit daunting at first. But a very generous Scott Statham spent an inordinate amount of time showing me how to put that huge Tascam machine through its paces. (or at least enough to enable me to reel off a couple of commercials for Ray Bowman Chevrolet so that he didn't have to do them.)

When I eventually landed my first full-time radio job, almost all of the air personalities had to do "production". The Production Director or Traffic Director would assign "spots" and "dubs" to each air talent. They would put two or three orders into each person's "production box". Then, after your show, you would march over to your box to see what you had to do for the day and then head into the production studio, hoping and praying that the person doing work before you hadn't "gone overtime" into you scheduled production time-slot. Sometimes you'd have a full :60 piece of copy to record for a heating-and-air-conditioning dealer or a furniture store. Maybe you'd have to add a local tag to a national McDonalds commercial. Or, perhaps it was just a "dub", a reel-to-reel tape of an already-produced commercial that simply had to be put on a cart so that it could air.

Most On-Air Personalities HATED to do production. But, I really liked it. I really enjoyed working with a good piece of copy and trying to make it sound like a national commercial. I loved putting reverb and filter-effects on my voice. I also enjoyed trying to find just the right music to put underneath a spot. Later, when the copy couldn't or wouldn't suit my needs, I just wrote my own. Even later, as a Program Director at Y-105, I enjoyed doing my share in the production studio. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I left Mansfiled to take a position as a Production Director at a station in Knoxville, Tennessee...the now-defunct WXVO-FM. (98-7, The X) While I was there, I was even lucky enough to win a Knoxville Addy Award for "Best Station Commercial".

The other day, All Access posted a story about this year's Radio Mercury Awards. Amazingly, this year's awards featured NO winners in the radio commercial category. None. The judges felt that there were no submitted entries that actually merited an award:

"As for the judges’ decision not to present awards in certain categories," the site continued, "our official guidelines give the judges the discretion to make selections, or not, to reduce the number of prizes or not to award a prize if they feel the quality of the entries does not meet their standards. Please also note that, per our guideline, entry fees are non-refundable."

So, what does this mean, exactly? Air personalities who actually enjoyed going into the production studios were more talented back then? Tascam produced machinery better equipped to facilitate creativity? Radio copy today just...sucks? None of the above, certainly. Xhang Creative Founder and 2003 Mercury Award winner DOUG ZANGER writes:

"...there will be no awards for Radio Station Produced and other categories in this year's Radio Mercury Awards. That should make you upset ... Good. I give the RAB, the Radio Creative Fund, RICK BOYKO and all of the judges a lot of credit for having the guts to take a stand on mediocre creative. Yes, this is the best radio-specific award in the world, but I think it is a good thing that the standards now have a new bar. It takes courage to do this and it sends a clear message: We need to do a better job. Period."

Quality "creative" from Production and Imaging Directors in radio should, obviously, not be about "awards". However, it does speak to the catastrophe that has been bubbling for years: most stations don't have the interest, the personnel, the money, or the foresight to focus and direct their attention on the importance of what comes out of the production studio! Even during the years when stations could afford a "production director", that person who assumed the position NEVER made a salary comparable to even some of the lower-paid people on the airstaff! Often times, a dedicated production or imaging person spent up to 10 hours a day at the radio station. Sometimes, they were even seen toiling away in the studio on the weekends, or taking portable hard-drives with them to their home studios. These "creative " people got the short end of the stick even during radio's boom-period.

It's difficult to foster and grow "creativity" when you have one person doing production and imaging for 8 stations in the building. It turns in to an assembly line, a daily juggling-act of dealing with late orders and last-minute changes. The art of "slapping something together" is not production. It doesn't sound good on any radio station, regardless of market-size. So how can it possibly sound good to a judge at the Radio Mercury Awards. The answer is: it can't.

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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Man's Best Friends


The weeks that go by, sometimes in a blur, are almost always taken for granted. Our lives are filled with the seemingly mundane, obligatory events that generally force our hand to be involved. We do so, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes with joy...but usually with chin up and a mixture of "I gotta do what I gotta do" and "Hey, it's Thursday, one more day till the weekend". My now-defunct favorite record store, The Quonset Hut, summed it up best, I think, with their slogan, "Onward Through the Fog".

After weeks like the past two, I certainly long for a series of the aforementioned. I'm sure Donna does, too. I took her to the airport very early on Memorial Day so that she could fly back to Ohio to take care of some things involving her mother's house and belongings. If you look in the dictionary under the word "pack-rat", I'm sure it has Katherine Riley's picture next to it. So, the act of "going through her stuff" was probably akin to sifting through The Warren Report...or getting through a half-inning when Rafael Betancourt is pitching. Combined with her previous journey to Florida, life here on the east banks of the Mississippi River has been, understandably, a bit lonely. Driving back from the airport and thinking about what she planned to go through emotionally left me with a vague, dull ache.

Donna is my best friend. We're not apart all that much. Last year, through, seemed to be interspersed with a series of short jaunts for her to visit her sons and friends, since we can't always afford for both of us to fly. However, to be separated for this long of a time-period is pretty rare. It was impossible for me to break away from the studio to join her, so she was forced to sort through everything with her brother, a few nieces, and her mother's boyfriend of 22 years, Dave Senn.

In addition to the trauma she was going through, I started to develop what I believe is some mid-level laryngitis. This is always a welcome event, especially for someone who speaks into a microphone for a living. More than likely, mine tends to be brought on by reflux. I know I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm a long-time acid reflux sufferer, and have even had corrective (supposedly) surgery using the nissen fundoplication. Mine tends to be more non-acid reflux, technically a condition known as laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR. I try to control it with medication and strict dietary modification. But for some reason (maybe stress?) it's been acting up. And to cap things off, the Cavs were playing like pond scum against the Magic. What generally helps soothe the sting of a LeBron James-poor-shooting-performance is the comforting glow of a Lagunitas IPA Maximus, one of my other "best mates"; however, our relationship is not on the LPR-list of approved substances. So, needless to say, the week was shaping up to be anything but mundane.

So, in these troubling times of chaos and uncertainty, I usually turn to the wise counsel of a sheephound mutt by the name of Maggie. Yes, we have a cat, too. Ruby Tuesday is a beautiful and extremely talkative Sabu Bengal, and we get along just fine. But I'm a dog-guy. Always have been. To this day, I'm completely mesmerized by the fact that an animal that glides along on four legs can do something that every upright intellectual cannot: show unconditional love. And Maggie is no different.

Yinny was our dog for 17 years. In January of 2008, she passed away. At the time, I couldn't imagine getting another dog; however, Donna was insistent. I felt really uneasy about it as we walked through the shelter, but one of employees there pulled me aside and said, "You think you don't want to do this, but the best thing you can do right now to fill the void is to get another dog". She was right. I saw a beautiful black dog backed in to the corner of one of the cages, frightened and shivering after having been dropped off only 30 minutes earlier. After thinking about it for a couple hours, we brought her home.

We watch Cesar Millan all the time on The Dog Whisperer, trying to gain a little more insight into our new best friend. I can't speak for all dogs, but Maggie seems keenly intuitive to unsettling events around her. When I yell or get upset, Yinny would run for the nearest bunker. Maggie, on the other hand, runs up and nudges against me, almost as if to say, "Dude, chill. It's all good". When I grab the keys to the scooter, she immediately becomes alert. There's something she doesn't like about the 3 "beeping" noises it makes when you turn the ignition switch, and she seems to want to prepare herself for it. And when I take suitacases out of the closet, she instantly becomes edgy, knowing that she's either going to be left alone to be let out by neighbors or taken to that place where all the other dogs bark day and night.

She also has a cushion on one of the sofas that's HER spot. One night this week, after coming close to tossing the remote at the television while watching the Cavs, Donna and I had a somewhat emotional phone call and I was upset. She gently got off the sofa, came over next to me in the chair, banged up against the side of me, and just sat there.

So, this week, amongst the stinging in my throat, the apple juice in my pint glass, and the empty chair on the other side of the living room, I'm thankful for my "best friends", even as I try to get a handle on the meanings behind this flurry of events. I thought of what my friend Ed Schaefer's father used to say when we worked together at KDKA: "Sometimes it's just your turn to have your foot in the bucket". I can't argue with that, even if I wanted to. Onward through the fog.

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