Friday, January 29, 2010

When You Least Expect It

Like most earthlings, I look forward to the weekend. Aside from doing an occasional recording session in the morning, most weekends are fairly off-limits to working. Oh, I suppose I used to pride myself on telling people that, "Matt's studio is open 24/7. I'll do whatever it takes". But over the years, I've repositioned my thinking on that. At least for now, since I don't do a weekend show on a radio station, I enjoy reserving those two days for...well, for whatever Donna tells me I'm doing with those two days.

What I really look forward to, though, most of all, is having my coffee on Saturday morning. In fact, I set my alarm a little earlier than normal on Saturdays so that I can enjoy this short but sacred time. For the past two years, I've given up coffee during the week. That sacrifice started out as a response to acid reflux therapy, but I also enjoyed the fact that I wasn't addicted to caffeine anymore.

Generally, the process goes as follows: I put water in the teapot and start it boiling. (I only use a french press for coffee now, instead of a drip-brewer.) I grab the whole beans (usually Starbucks French Roast or Columbian), wrap a towel around the grinder (so as not to wake up Donna) and grind for 5 seconds. (it would be nice to have a conical-burr grinder, but it isn't affordable right now.) I pour the contents of the grinder into the french press. I let Maggie out and then I got get dressed. I then let Maggie back in, grab the newspaper, and turn off the whistling teapot. I wait 30 seconds, and then I pour the water into the press, stirring the contents with a spoon so that each morsel of the beans is saturated. I wait 4 to 5 minutes, passing the time by going downstairs to feed Maggie. I then grab my favorite cup, pour some of the contents of the french press into the cup, and add a generous amount of non-dairy creamer. I take my cup and the paper over to my favorite chair, open the blinds of the window, turn on WKSU-FM for Weekend Edition...and enjoy. Not an earth-shattering spectacle of pure excitement, I know...but I look forward to it.

Last Saturday was no exception. It had been a fairly rough week, work-wise. I had also planned to do a few liners in the studio for our new station client in Bellingham, Washington, so I wanted to get an early start. I walked out into the kitchen to start the water boiling, and instead found a lake of water on our new kitchen floor! I loathe water. I panicked, almost slipping in the puddle, trying to get Maggie out of the way and at the same time trying to locate the cause of the flood. I pulled the refrigerator away from the wall and there it was. The plastic tubing that carried water from downstairs up into the 'fridge's ice-maker had broken off from the back of the unit and was spewing a healthy stream of water anywhere it cared to. I held the tube down into the sink with, of course, my favorite coffee cup so that it would drain and then did what any red-blooded American guy who knows very little about home-repair would do: I screamed for Donna to wake up!

This was not the most ideal way to wake her up, for a variety of reasons. The day before, she was being dropped off by her friend Connie after being at the gym. Donna said she was being extra careful walking up to the front door, but she hit a patch of ice anyway and landed directly on the cement steps...face-first! I was downstairs working and heard someone yelling "Matt, Matt!" I ran upstairs, and there was Donna, bloodied and sobbing. For a week now, her face looked like the result of owing Mike Tyson money. But last Saturday morning, amidst the purple-hued contusions and the concussion-like symptoms, the last way she wanted to be awakened was by her inept husband screaming at the top of his lungs that he didn't know how to turn off the valve to the ice-maker. She hobbled out of bed and ran downstairs with me.

There was water everywhere. It's quite a strange site to see water pouring through your basement ceiling. Luckily, a painter downstairs had left a huge piece of cardboard on the floor, and I think some of the water was absorbed by it. Also, our basket of clean clothes may have helped sop things up. Nevertheless, the contents in a large amount of boxes had to be removed. Some of my old record-albums were a bit moist and we had to throw away some cleaning supplies and other things. All in all, through, we were pretty fortunate, as most of the water-damage was confined to that room and no water reached the side of the basement where the studio resides. Several days later, however, we're beginning to see the results of the damage to the kitchen floor, and it isn't attractive. All of it will have to be replaced.

When you least expect it. How do you "prepare" for the things that you can't expect? You don't. How did I know that my sublime "me-time" would be crushed by some piece of plastic-tubing from the back of a refrigerator? The day before, Donna was being extra-careful on the ice and she still fell. Anticipate the worst and hope for the best, I guess. Scott Patterson, a guy who's been working at our house for the past several months, was probably looking forward to that evening's Cavs game as he was letting his dog out last week. Minutes later, he lay on his living room floor in a diabetic coma, an ambulance then rushing him to Barberton Citizen's Hospital. When you least expect it.

Today is Friday, and that means I'll hope that my favorite Saturday morning ritual will come to fruition. It's been a roller-coaster week, so I'll be looking forward to grinding those beans tomorrow morning. This past Monday, Donna had to travel to Somerset, Pennsylvania for her court case, which has finally settled. It wasn't how we thought a 9-year ordeal would end up, but it's over. Later in the week, I failed my written test for my Ohio motorcycle license. But, I studied diligently and took it again, and I passed. Donna's injuries are healing and she's looking a little less like Rocky Balboa after that first fight with Clubber Lang. And we found out that Scott has come out of his coma and is conscious and alert. Oh, did I mention that Donna returned from her Pennsylvania trip with a case of Dale's Pale Ale?

When you least expect it.


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

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Do You Want to Do When You Grow Up?

When I was about 9 years old, my mother bought me a rather large radio. I think it was made by General Electric, although I can't remember exactly. One thing I am sure about is that I was able to listen to MANY stations on that radio, from all over the country! I had always listened to the radio to go to sleep at night, tuning in mostly to the sports talk show on WWWE in Cleveland. Pete Franklin was way ahead of his time, a host who could give any of the Jim Rome wannabes a run for their money today. Sometimes I would listen to "Viewpoint" on WHBC-AM, but mostly it was Pete Franklin.

But my new radio changed everything. With a gentle touch on the tuning knob, I would manage to bring in stations from faraway places. Some nights, it would be WHO-AM in Des Moines. Other nights, some obscure bluegrass station in Jackson, Mississippi. One evening, I even managed to find a talk station in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. "Tomorrow's high temperature will be an enjoyable 25!" 25? In June? Huh?? Slipping into deep sleep each evening surrounded by these far-off voices made me realize early on what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't know if I had a good voice or not but I knew I wanted to be behind a microphone on the radio. Answering the question "what do you want to do when you grow up" had never been very difficult for me.

Now, 23 years later, I, like many, feel myself sitting at a crossroads. On one hand, I've been fortunate to have been able to transfer some of my abilities into a self-sustaining business. Had I not developed a freelance enterprise earlier in my career, I'm not sure what I would have done when WGST in Atlanta decided at the end of 2006 that they didn't have the budget anymore for a Creative Services Director. But the economy has hit the freelance world, too. Many stations want the same amount of work for significantly lower compensation. And other commercial clients have felt the pinch, too. Annual projects that I continue to do pay far less this year than they did last year. So as the budget-crunch took one of our North Carolina stations out of the fold early this year, I began to ponder what it would be like if I had to answer that question "what do you want to do when you grow up" again.

As I read Facebook posts from various friends and acquaintances in the industry, I realize that some people who are dedicated, talented, experienced broadcasters didn't have a freelance client-base on which to fall back. Some have had to return to college or attend for the first time. Others decided to take the technical-school route so that their employment options might manifest themselves a bit earlier. So I scheduled a meeting with a career counselor over at Kent State. I've flirted with higher education. But because I don't think I've ever had the same passion for anything else that I have for the broadcast industry, I could never justify the cost and the commitment. I just moved on to another radio job in another city.

One of the first things she had me do was to take an SDS, a Self-Directed Search. It's a kind of assessment test put together by Dr. John Holland. Through a series of exercises asking you to chronicle the activities you enjoy, the interests that you have, and your vision of what would be a "perfect job", you arrive at a more focused answer to the question "what should I do, career-wise". I was actually pretty excited! Maybe I'm supposed to be a venture capitalist...or the captain of a yacht...or maybe even a world-class chef! I tallied up all the results and then we went over it together.

No real epiphany, though. It was almost as if I were back in the 8th grade standing next to Ms. Wittig's desk looking over high school course material and trying to decide "what it is I want to be when I grow up". I lean towards "creative" things and not "scientific". I'd do horribly in an office job, and math is not my strong-suit. I tend to be motivated by "helping others". Specifically, amongst the more artistic and creative positions like "playwright" and "advertising director" that popped up, career choices such as "radio station program director" and "announcer" also rose to the top of the pile. "So", I thought, "I can be a social worker or write copy at a radio station. There goes my dream vacation-home in Costa Rica."

What do you want to do when you grow up. I suppose I'm doing it. I know that I have to ponder the results of that SDS a little more, and perhaps even do some investigating on a few related fields. In May, I'll hit the big 5-0. Is it supposed to be a milestone? Does this mean I have to have a back-up plan ready to go if my chosen career field bottoms-out? What if acid-reflux carries out its dastardly plan with succinct precision? Should I start filling out more graduate-school applications tomorrow?

I have the apps in front of me and I know the wise thing to do is to start filling them out. But my iPhone is on, too. And one of the other "apps" that I have is for "Public Radio". Right now, between sessions, I'm listening to WDUQ-FM in Pittsburgh. Maybe later, it will be a station in Los Angeles...or, hell, even Missoula, Montana, for that matter. Just like that big radio my mother bought for me, it still thrills me to scroll through the various stations and listen in faraway places. Regardless as to what happens next year or the year after, right now I still get to do what I still love to do. Growing up isn't that bad.


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

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Winter of our Discontent

It would be easy to be depressed. As I do my daily asthma breathing treatment, I've been staring out the back window that looks out over Darrow Road towards I-76 and it doesn't look pretty. Akron looks like it just got out of bed, with no make-up and no toothpaste. The trees are bare and somewhat snow-covered. What seems like a never-ending cascade of flurries continues to coat Newton Circle leading down towards Route 91. A few houses in the neighborhood seem to still have some remnants of Christmas decorating up, including our house. Honestly, I don't think I've encountered a patch of blue sky since we've arrived. And it doesn't help a bit that my prescription for Wellbutrin ran out weeks ago.

But, surprisingly, I feel alright. I counter my initial penchant towards gloom and despair by reminding myself that this is the time of year when my city looks its absolute worst. I know that more gloomy days are sure to come, as is more snow. And the gigantic potholes are right around the corner. But these are the worst months of the year, and if I can get past them relatively unscathed then I consider it a victory. And as I inhaled the final remnants of my asthma medication, I realized that, all in all, it's good to be home.

I had a great lunch with my friend Gary. He and I went to high school together and, even at its most marginal, we've been able to stay in touch. Gary is one of those guys who has remained relatively unchanged since high school. He has the same physique as he did when we wore caps and gowns in 1978. And although the dark-red hair has turned a bit gray, he is in some ways the same person who tooled around Canton in his blue Comet with Paul McCartney and Wings cassettes blasting from the stereo system. After hearing about several of the on-going issues with his son, I realize, again, that we all have our frenetic lives to deal with, on so many different levels. Still, it gave me a sense of calm to be able to sit with him, share some laughs over lunch, and hopefully plot out some future escapades of shared creativity.

Donna and I have been making some progress on the house, too. The studio desperately needed some additional sound-proofing. So, Scott, one of Dave Senn's employees who has been doing some work here, rigged up the acoustic tile on the walls and the ceiling, and it's really made a difference. The studio needs flooring as well as some other "detailing", but it's coming along. Kitchen-wise, things are beginning to take shape. And in Donna's office/den, the walls have been painted and the moulding is ready to go up. To the new visitor, the interior looks like tornado aftermath; however, what we've been able to accomplish in just 3 weeks, I think, is pretty admirable.

We haven't had a great deal of time to do much outside of home-improvement projects and visiting relatives over the Holidays. We did join the Tallmadge Recreation Center, so I've had an opportunity to go there a couple of times during the middle of the workday. It looks like an extremely organized and clean facility. Now I'm just waiting for all the kids to go back to school so that I can have a basketball court to myself!

I've yet to find my French press, but I've located a tea pot that allows me to have Teeccino during the week and a modicum of decent coffee on the weekends. Leonardos is right down the street, an easy walk to get some of east Akron's finest pizza. I've yet to make it to Primos to see Bob and the crew, nor have I had a chance to get my growler filled at Hoppin Frog yet. (although Bill Gruber at WAPS is bugging the crap out of me about meeting him there!) But, in time, I'll have a chance to do these things.

Right now, though, we'll just have to hunker down, continue to make the house habitable, and pray for warmer weather to get here. Donna has already started her Spring countdown. I'll continue to watch the snow fall on Darrow Road and fight off the efffects of Wellbutrin withdrawal. Don't pitchers and catchers report soon?


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