If you’re a follower of this blog, your mailbox has been eerily silent for most of the past year. It’s time for me to fix that.
COVID-19 hit the world like the proverbial ton of bricks. It disrupted just about every activity we know, and for over 600,000 people in the United States, it ended their life. The “new normal” wasn’t normal at all, and it included a lot of time spent at home trying to avoid catching the disease. While being at home seems like an ideal time to get a lot of writing done and a lot of records played, the opposite turned out to be true. What happened instead?
–I taught. A lot. The typical teaching “load,” or course assignment, for a faculty member at my university is three courses a semester with the summer off for research, writing, mental health, etc. Here’s what my schedule ended up becoming:
Five courses in Winter 2020. (My assigned three, and two that I had to complete when a part-time faculty member decided to walk out rather than finish her courses.)
Two courses in Spring 2020.
Four courses in Fall 2020. We were all asked to pick up an extra to stave off a budget crisis.
Four courses in Winter 2021. Same as above.
Two courses in Spring 2021.
So, by my count, that’s 17 out of an expected nine courses during the time period. And, figuring out how to flip all of these online in a moment’s notice wasn’t a picnic. Some standbys, like my Introduction to Radio course, don’t translate well when students can’t get into a radio station and ply their craft. None of this takes into account that I continued my quasi-administrative service to the university, I continued my work on behalf of college radio at the national level, and the voiceover jobs didn’t stop as businesses required new phone prompts to explain their pandemic protocols.
–I moved houses. Our idyllic retreat on the lake in rural Michigan turned out to be anything but. Without getting too personal, I’ll just say that as the tensions heightened through the pandemic, so did the gunfire. We actually felt it was safer to live in the city, so that’s what we did. Pack it all up and move it again. At least now the records are starting to come out of boxes, some that had been packed since we first left Grand Rapids in 2017.
–I thought. A lot. Mostly about the passage of time. I was explaining to a colleague just today that I now, at 52, can remember my grandfather at this age. (While I may now bear an uncanny resemblance to him, I have resisted the temptation to trade my little car for a giant Ford LTD with the radio stuck on the beautiful music channel. Then again, I got that format out of my system at 20.) I have now outlived my stepfather, who contracted cancer and passed at a far-too-young age, fortunately not before teaching me more than a few things. I work with our incoming first-year students each summer; this year, they’re born in 2003. The 35th anniversary of my first college radio show is looming in 2022. And, when you are stuck at home reading the stories – far too many – about young people losing a battle with COVID, it hits you that you very likely have less time left than you’d care to imagine. When you are young, time is infinite. There will always be tomorrow, until there isn’t. I was remarkably fortunate to have lost very, very few people in my youth. For a group that drank a little too much and took more than a few chances, we came out reasonably unscathed. As the silence of a quarantine looms, you start to wonder when, like a roulette table in Vegas, that luck will change.
And yet rather than depress me, that motivated me further. It’s time to get the records back out. It’s time to tell a few more stories. It’s time to re-think this blog a bit.
I think I got a little lazy around here. While the weekly “what was new on the charts” posts were a lot of fun to research, and allowed me to discover/re-discover some great music, they became a little formulaic. When “time to write the blog” is uttered in the same tone as “time to make the donuts,” something’s gotta give.
So, what’s to change?
–More featured records, fewer lists. I started this thing with the idea of “here’s a record I dug out, and there’s a story behind it.” (Five years ago today, in fact.) It’s time to go back to that premise much more often than I had been as of late.
–Not being limited to a musical tie-in. I’m only going to forget stories from, say, college radio the older I get. It’s time to start writing this stuff down in a semi-permanent fashion (as permanent as pixels can be). The breadth of this blog already surpasses the size of my dissertation, and I’ve still got a few stories I haven’t covered. Sometimes I’d pass on one because I couldn’t think of the “You can hear x by clicking here” ending that made sense. No limit necessary.
–For that matter, not strictly musical, either. I have enjoyed the hell out of teaching my media history and communications law classes, and there are great stories and topics there as well. I may dig into those from time to time, especially things like television history. But I promise not to stray too far from the original intention: after all, that’s what many readers came here for, and I don’t want this to be like the McDonalds billboard I saw years ago that only mentioned “salads.” I’m here for the burger, with maybe a salad on the side every so often. Or a fish sandwich and a green shake.
–And, a whole new topic: I have spent quite a bit of time this summer up on the roof of my building on campus. The purpose was to put up a radio antenna and launch a brand new radio station for the campus community. Details will come in August when it (hopefully) launches just as the newest students arrive on campus. But I expect it will trigger some great tales, just as the search for its music library has reminded me of some great music I haven’t heard in years.
So, there you have it. My apologies for the absence. But, it’s time to start writing again, and I look forward to interacting with you and maybe even jogging your musical memory bank a touch.