Thursday, May 7, 2015

The day the music really died and other endings

I've been thinking a lot about endings recently. The sort... Wait a minute. No. Not those kinds of endings. For heavens sake, don't be so morbid. Sheesh.
 
Just endings of... things. For example, I was there the day the music really died, at least in my mind, when AM radio ceased to have any relevance for anyone, anywhere. I grew up with a teeny portable tinny-sounding radio stuck to my ear, listening to rock music on AM stations.
 
When I started working at the AM radio station in Geneva, it was still about playing the hits, Top 40 lists, having a big personality, piling one record on top of another while talking over the musical introductions of every song, annoying the heck out of just about everyone, except maybe station managers and other disc jockeys. By the time I was fired, AM radio was well on its way to becoming what I find it to be today: talk radio for people who like to argue and who would rather hear uninterrupted blah, blah, blah all day, than blah, blah, blah interrupted by an occasional record.
 
Likewise, my entry into newspapers coincided with the end of the hot type era. Though I did work on one paper that still had its copy set in hot lead and was laid out on metal forms which made each page of the newspaper weigh about 75 pounds, The Eastwood Recorder was about the last of its kind.
 
Initially, the offset process relied on punch tape, then moved on to film and, eventually, computers. I was also there for the rise of computers as the way to produce newspapers. I know... that sounds like a Terminator reference. But I think you know what I mean.
 
Wow, huh? History, man. Real “You Were There!” stuff” You probably think, “Hey grandpa that's great. But, really dude, who cares?” which, if the case, would be an incredibly shallow, unsophisticated thing to say. Then, though, it would free me to make my own incredibly shallow, unsophisticated observations on your opinion which, alas, would have to be incomplete because I've never mastered how to represent the sound of a raspberry using words only. And, if you're over 16 years of age, you would lose points for saying “dude.”
 
On April 6th, I ended another 365 days of living in America. That was the date, in 1963, when my parents and I arrived in the United States from Scotland. How long ago was that? Well, Kennedy Airport was still called Idlewild and the reason to change the name was more than eight months away.
 
When we were milling around, shortly after landing, waiting for our luggage I guess, my dad asked some guy in uniform if he could smoke in our particular portion of the milling around area. I don't know what the uniform was, but I think it had more in common with the uniforms worn in the cafeteria than it did with any true form of authority. But still, the fellow displayed no lack of assumed authority when he answered, “Sure, buddy. You're in a free country now.”
 
Now, I was only 13 at the time, but I knew, right then and there, we had all made a horrendous mistake in coming here. My father was concerned with smoking around high-powered jet fuel, but uniform guy seemed to think we had barely managed to scrape our few belongings together and escape before the Queen started demanding our heads. It wasn't the dumbest thing anybody said to us in our early days in this country; it just happened to be the first.
 
It was a poor beginning, but in America we were and in America we were going to stay since we couldn't afford our way home. So, my dad took his chances and lit a cigarette. Uniform guy showed up again a few minutes later to say, “See. Doesn't it feel good to be in a free country?” True story. Seriously.
 
Obviously, in the intervening 52 (!!) years, this has come to be my home and everything I love and hold dear is here. I'm proud of my Scottish heritage, but I consider myself an American. At one time April 6 was a really important date as I counted the years very carefully. I'm not sure when I stopped caring, but it was a long time ago, probably about the time I put my faith in George McGovern.
 
And today, as I write this, it's the end of my first year as a stem cell transplant recipient. What do you suppose the kid who heard the asinine comments from uniform guy in soon-to-be-Kennedy Airport in 1963 would have thought had he even the slightest inkling how things were going to turn out. Maybe if the uniform guy had said, “Watch out kid. It's a free country, but multiple myeloma is a killer,” that might have been worth something. Still, I doubt it. 'Cause, who knew?
 
Besides, as we know, I have no gripes about any of it at this point. My life is amazing, filled with incredible people. When Sheri and I think back to May 6, 2014, getting ready to embark on the great adventure that is dealing with cancer, we see we had little more idea what lay ahead of us than that 13-year-old kid did. All we probably knew was that we were scared too.
 
The first day of the rest of my life indeed.
 
There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere