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

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Her favorite Son-in-Law...


We suffered a heavy blow this week when Donna's mother, Katherine Riley, passed away.

I believe I had mentioned in a previous post that she had fallen ill while on vacation in Florida. Earlier in the week, there seemed to be a good deal of hope that she might pull through. But congestive heart failure had taken its toll, and she died on Wednesday morning.

After conferring with doctors and her nurse on Tuesday, we decided to send Donna down to Florida so that she could be with her. Donna actually talked to her mother early on Tuesday and as we were driving to the airport, she actually had some positive thoughts. But waiting in the Orlando airport for her flight to Fort Myers, her mom's longtime companion, Dave Senn, called Donna to tell her that her mom had passed away.

That was a tough phone call to get, both for her and for me. There's Donna, all alone, sitting in an airport, knowing that she almost made it to her bedside to say goodbye. And I, on the other end of her call, feeling pretty helpless as I listened to her sob and not being able to do anything about it.

Kay Riley was a very interesting person. She grew up in Pennsylvania, but had spent a good deal of her adult life in Akron. Looking at early pictures of her, she bore a more-than-slight resemblance to Loretta Lynn. I'm told that, in addition to being a fan of Country music, she was a singer and even sounded like Loretta Lynn! Her life history, according to Donna and others who would sit around telling tales, also resembled the subjects of many of those old Country songs. She involved herself in some relationships with men who were often violent. She struggled to raise Donna and her two brothers on the salary of a bartender, often working multiple jobs. She always liked to tell the story of the guy at the bar who sold her the house they lived in...for a dollar! Donna always told me that it was a great deal...if you liked a house with no indoor plumbing and a dirt floor for a living room!

When I first met her while dating Donna, I also met her new boyfriend, Dave. And it would be "Mom and Dave" for the next 22 years. They would be inseparable. Even when radio took us to places outside of Ohio, we would invariably get a visit from her and Dave. They helped us move to our apartment in Knoxville. They'd drive over to Pittsburgh on a Sunday afternoon for an impromptu visit. And they were the first visitors here when we moved to the St. Louis area. Kay was also a huge Cleveland Indians fan, and she made Dave, who was never a follower of sports, into a fan, too. This is a woman who even watched all 34 spring training games on TV!

She also called me "her favorite son-in-law"(even though I was her only son-in-law!). No, we didn't always get along. And Donna didn't always see eye-to-eye with her mother, that's for sure. Who does? Kay was very opinionated, and her sometimes -stubborn positions helped us to clash early on. But peace usually ensued when she would share another one of those stories about how she grew up or one about some crazed guy at one of the bars at which she worked.

But even her deteriorating heart wouldn't stop her from doing the things she enjoyed. She continued to bowl twice a week. She continued to go out to movies with Dave. And they even spent a couple of days in Branson, Missouri before they ended up in Florida earlier in the week.

She sometimes wore gaudy, outlandish clothes. She loved butterflies. She made this beef-and-noodles dish that was a must-have at family functions. At restaurants, she always asked for water and an extra glass with LOTS of ice in it. She was always trying to "sell me" on some magic herbal medication that she found on some late-night QVC program. And she always said, "Matthew, when the good Lord takes me, that'll be when he takes me".

And He did, on Wednesday, May 20th in Port Charlotte, Florida. Your favorite-son-in-law will miss you, Katherine.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It is what it is...

Life can be a cool customer sometimes. It's amazing how we can be up one minute and down the next. Monday might be a great day, filled with sunshine, a couple of nice compliments from clients, and that yummy noodle-casserole-thingy my wife makes. Then, on Tuesday, severe storms with quarter-sized hail, an email about a potential format-change, and a grilled cheese sandwich because Matt forgot to go to the store. I know this must sound a little like an Ellen Pompeo-voiceover at the start of a Grey's Anatomy episode, but the ebb-and-flow, the yin and yang, of the day-to-day is sometimes a bit overwhelming.

We scored a couple of nice victories over the past week. First, we secured a new station in Dallas, as KDBN-FM switched to a AAA-ish feel with their "Quality Rock" format. Later in the day, I discovered that the HTML class that I was taking at the community college, the one that I moaned and groaned every week about going to, yielded me an "A". So, while I was planning a celebratory evening-out, the phone rang informing us that Donna's mom, while on vacation in Florida, suffered a breathing dilemma that landed her in the ICU. Because she suffers from congestive heart failure, she had to be put on life-support.

The ebb and the flow of the day-to-day. All of the dramas that get played out in front of us as we march to the beat of our drummer. Being a slightly pessimistic person, I naturally assume that something bad will happen almost immediately after something good happens. After all, when you've suffered through things like "The Drive" and "The Fumble", one does tend to side on the "Oh, no..." side of the equation. But, intuitively, I know that the way that the drama unfolds is so much more complex than that. Or is it?

I've been reading several books by Brad Warner lately. Interestingly, Brad is an Akron, Ohio native, a former punk-band member, and is now a Zen priest. His book "Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, and the Truth about Reality" was a wake-up call for me. Or, at least, it prompted me to not hit the snooze button. I've always been a fan of Zen, eastern spirituality, and mysticism, and the title of the book sounded cool. After visiting his blog, I knew I had to read the book. What I liked about it, similar to what I find so fascinating and so difficult about Zen, is this concept of "living in the now". I'm simplifying an entire religion (although Brad would be quick to point out that Zen is not a religion) but these concepts that we have such as "good" and "bad", and "this" and "that", and the things and meanings that we attach to them, are very foreign to Zen. I like to think that I can somehow manipulate what has happened in the past, and that if I "hope" hard enough or pray hard enough, that I will be able to control my future. What transpires, normally, is that I completely lose focus on the present.

"S*it happens". That's a pretty pricey piece of profundity right there. What are the meanings behind the ebb and flow of the day-to-day. I'm starting to think that I really haven't a clue. Instead of experiencing them fully, I'm wasting alot of valuable time trying to "figure them out". I have no idea why some Program Director chooses me over someone else. The same way that I have no idea why this happened to Donna's mom...on vacation! That thunderstorm with the quarter-sized hail is going to come, whether I think I can stop it or not. The same as victories and defeats. They're coming, and I'm powerless against them.

So, as I write this, we just found out that they took Donna's mother off of life-support. She's conscious and giving the "thumb's up" sign when asked questions. So, I think a celebration is in order, regardless of who is switching formats tomorrow and changing the voice-guy. Maybe I can get Donna to make that noodle-casserole-thingy-stuff again, huh!

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

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Open House - Sunday, 1-3

There are certainties in this life. Yes, we all will die. This is a given. And, yes, every April 15th, Uncle Sam will have his day of reckoning. And, the Browns will be incapable of defeating the Steelers. These are inescapable truisms that cannot be avoided. Oh, yeah...and Matt and Donna are bound to move again.

We have our home up for sale. We've been pondering a move for awhile now. Normally, packing up the Ryder truck is as a result of some gleaming, shiny-new radio job. But the circumstances leading up to this move have been different. For the first time (at least for now), we've been able to decide to go just about wherever it is we want to go. And that poses some dilemmas.

Do we hate the St. Louis area? No. It's a major city (or, was one) with all the amenities that you'd expect to find in a city of this size. We've grown to love our house, we really like our neighbors, and our little haven on the east bank of the mighty Mississippi puts us in close proximity to downtown in a location that always looms towards the top of the "Most Dangerous City" list. (Hey, I have the Rebar on the outside of my studio window to prove it!) But, as I believe I mentioned in an earlier post...I'm just not "feeling it". It's rather like that scene from Back to the Future when Marty and Lorraine finally kiss. Something just doesn't feel quite right.

So, it looks like we're headed to Nashville! Or...back to Pittsburgh! Or....you know, we're just not sure. Should we move to be closer to family? Should we move for anticipated "opportunity"? Should we move because the weather is nicer? Should we move because we have friends there? For us, it's been a non-stop barrage of "should we" questions that, lately, have not sported a whole lot of answers.

If you're an actor, or have aspirations to be one, it's easy to say "I'm moving to New York" or "I'm moving to Los Angeles". If you're dying to lobby for the NRA, then "I'm headed to D.C." is pretty understandable. Or, like so many times in the past, if a job takes you to a particular place, then, of course, that's the place you need to be and you hope that the adaptation transition is a smooth one. Or, if you simply can't survive without the sand between your toes, then maybe the Florida Keys is where they eventually bury you.

Now, I know this is going to sound like a very generic, un-informed opinion, but I had an illumination as I was on my scooter the other day while sitting at a red light. Looking around, gazing at the relatively new "Bed Bath, and Beyond" sitting next to "Borders" which sits next to "Panera Bread" which nudges up against "Office Max", I concluded that, besides some meteorological differences, a change-up in accents, and which local professional team's ticket-plans are advertised on billboards, every place is...pretty much the same. Oh, sure, the political faces change, along with that city's teams' colors...but all in all, people pretty much want the same thing: good schools for their children, affordable housing, an accident-free commute, and a Super Bowl.

We have friends in both places. We have family in both places. (ok, in Ohio and not in Pittsburgh, but the drive over on the turnpike is pretty easy.) Pittsburgh is much more "Democrat", and Nashville is still in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Nashville is growing while Pittsburgh is not. Fans in Pittsburgh cause our fixation for the Browns to be a very harrowing experience; In Music City, you can pretty much like whomever you want without fear of retribution. Pittsburgh is a much more cool city from a topography perspective; Nashville is easier to get around. Pittsburgh has pierogies; Nashville has "Meat 'an 3's". People are moving to Nashville; lots of people aren't moving to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has better beer. Nashville has hotter women. And both places have some pretty interesting accents.

Oh, hey, it's almost time for the Open House. I'll continue discerning this situation. In the meantime, gotta run 'an 'at.......ya'all!

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