“Thank you for your many years of service to television,” says the tuxedoed emcee to me at the banquet. “And in recognition, we’re giving you this computer external hard-drive.”
“No way,” I sob in disbelief. My years in TV had counted for something. What, I wasn’t sure. But then, I was the last to know anything– let alone what to do with an external hard-drive.
It’s a fantasy, that retirement party. Reality—the end of local TV as we know it– is much more subtle. I knew something was up in the TV biz when others around me began disappearing—on-air people, sales people, technicians, everyone who made the business work. But somehow, I still had a job. Still, I felt like the old possum-hunting hound-dog who came home to find that the family farmhouse had become a shopping mall.
I can identify with Jay Leno, Johnny Carson or anyone else who has seen the world change around them and decided to make a graceful exit—a decision made with someone else’s “help.” And as them, I feel as if I am the luckiest man alive. And oh, how I wish I could do it all over again.
I knew the TV folks didn’t know what to do with me. It’s not their fault. Now, you can operate a TV station almost automatically and practice your guitar at the same time. I’ve seen it for myself. Video tape and cathode ray tubes are things of the past.
Old habits die hard, and mine was working for a living, even when there was no living. Said the Social Security people, “We expect you to be retired by now.” So did my TV bosses, I guess.
I thought about it, right up to the day Brian Papstein, “Mover of Mountains,” (his real job-title), came to my front door. He and his wife Angela run Eureka Broadcasting including KWSW and the Spanish language Juan 790 a.m. Brian bore frankincense and myrrh—actually two bottles of Pepsi sweetened with Latin American sugar cane. He had me at “I hope you’re not busy.” Indeed, I wasn’t. The rest is history, all two weeks of it. But in broadcasting, that is a long time.
Still, I long for something more. It comes with my territory. Living with a battery-operated pacemaker will do that. It paces me every second of my life. It makes one anxious and impatient—but also open and loving. In my last conversation with Father Eric Freed, we talked about working with the poor of other countries. I am seeking to do just that.
As you know, I already have done so, spending time in the Dominican Republic. Some people among us suggest bussing our troubled people somewhere else. That’s not what Father Freed would do. With tighter security, he could have forever insulated himself from a perilous world. He chose not to and I understand. I prefer to go where the peril is—where he has been.
We sometimes cling to the past at our own peril. Now I embrace the future, one plane ticket, one prayer at a time.
For the time-being, I’ll be living in a place I used to live with Nina, our house in Cutten. I’ll be doing a job I used to do. It’s funny how if you stay on the train long enough, it always comes back to the old station, even when the track has been torn up.
Still, I believe that new life is possible and for me, it is fun to try. I’m sure it’s frustrating for those who don’t know what to do with me. But for those who do, life can be exciting. Or at least different – very different.