Sunday, August 7, 2011

270 (unedited)

There were many memorable things I wrote in the 269 previous installments from the jukebox. Some of them have been valuable to me, as I have revisited them more than once. Some were less than brilliant, and that's to be expected. Some are painful reminders that after 40 years life only gets harder.

There are times I have been way more personal than I care for in my writing, and facing a very uncertain future -- one I face with sorrow rather than enthusiasm -- I can't allow it to happen again.

I faced great personal challenges in my life without the benefit of a blog or journal, and I have overcome those challenges. One might think that detailing the personal struggles I face through a blog would be beneficial. I'm skeptical.

I will spend countless hours wondering how and why two people who made each other very happy in 2010 are destined to spend the rest of their lives not making each other happy. I could write about this topic for hours, but it wouldn't make a difference. The worst part is that I can't put into words what it is I'm feeling. I guess I could do it, but I wouldn't do it well.

I had finally filled a 38-year void in my life, only to find out I get it back, 10 fold, in 2011, and I'll never fully understand why.

Whether you believe in a god, karma, fate or something else, you start to lose faith in it when you find yourself four decades into a finite journey, yet still empty inside.

It would take me hours to list all my faults, and I'd miss several. There's nothing I'd enjoy more than growing as a person, and growing old with somebody to love.

Love conquers all, they say. They lie.

Janis and I loved each other, yet somehow that's not enough. If two people loving each other isn't enough, why am I going through the daily motions? I really don't know.

I will spend countless hours wondering why I'll never have the happiness I desire, but I won't write about it. I can't.

The jukebox is going silent. It will collect dust, at least for now, but I am determined to ensure it has played its last song.

I am pulling the plug.

Man down (unedited)

It was an unusual day on the bikeways of Minneapolis.

I was bicycling with Margaret today. We were on a Minneapolis bike trail when I heard a thud behind me. A guy, older than me, hit the pavement. Hard.

I sensed he was trying to get past us as soon as possible, as he seemed to be right behind me. We were approaching a stoplight and had a green light, so we proceeded across the street. It seems that as the guy rode up the curb cut onto the trail he lost his balance somehow. Thud, he hit the pavement hard. I knew that sound the instant I heard it.

I stopped, grabbed my phone and walked toward him. Somebody behind him had stopped to check on him. I asked if he was hurt, he said he was, still lying on the ground. I called 911 to report a single-bicycle accident. As I called 911 the operator asked what kind of injuries he had. As I asked Margaret and the other guy I learned it wasn't a head or neck injury, but he indicated he had pain in his ribs. The guy was wearing a helmet, but riding shirtless. He scraped a few parts of his body and is going to have serious road rash on one shoulder.

The guy slowly sat up, then got onto one knee. He called somebody to report his accident. It took an ambulance about five minutes to get to the intersection where we were. The three paramedics in the ambulance didn't sense it was a serious injury as they took their time getting out of the ambulance and approaching us. At that point Margaret and I went on our way.

That wasn't my last 911 call of the day. Eighteen minutes after I called 911 to report the injury I was calling 911 again. Margaret and I had been back on our bikes less than 15 minutes when we approached a biker down on the trail. We didn't see him fall, but two people had stopped to check him out. The guy and his bike were still on the ground. After a quick inquiry regarding an injury I was calling 911 again.

A different ambulance crew arrived. This guy, who wasn't wearing a helmet, slowly got up. We had to convince him to sit down on a nearby bench and take it easy until an ambulance arrived. He was surprised to learn he crashed, as he didn't remember it. Margaret said he kept repeating the fact that he was surprised that he crashed.

When the ambulance arrived we departed yet again, thankfully not to be making a third 911 call for the day.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Join the club (unedited)

I have two less co-workers today. Their life is better off because of it, even if that's hard to believe tonight when they go to bed.

My toxic weekly newspaper conglomerate tried to make its editorial staff feel better in January, announcing we would ramp up staffing after years of bleeding it to death. Some of that bleeding was unavoidable thanks to the slow death of the newspaper industry as we knew it. Plenty of that bleeding was self-inflicted.

We will never be as healthy as we were when I was hired more than a decade ago, but for the first time in years we were filling seats that had deliberately been left vacant. That grand announcement was made in January. Here's how we arrived at August 2011 in approximate chronological order:

• Our reorganization and seat filling meant that the trio responsible for layout of many weekly newspapers would be systematically eliminated. (I'm not sure any of us realized that at the time.) Saying there was a method to the madness is a bit generous, but we have managed to phase out the trio. The first to go was a design guru who had been with the company longer than I had. He has the luxury of not having to worry about his income as much as I do, so he could afford to walk away. He was given a management job for my group of papers, a job he didn't want, as it meant more responsibility, more office time and likely more hours in a given week than he typically worked. He quickly departed after being "promoted," opting for a part-time job closer to home. Like I said, he could afford it, his wife is a medical professional.

• The kid was hired as my new manager. He was about 7 or 8 years old when my co-worker Phil started his job with one of our newspaper holdings.

• The second member of the layout trio was booted less than three months ago. They decided that it was time to eliminate his job, but offered him the opportunity to go from full-time designer to a writing position that likely would have had him doing some layout work each week. He's another guy who has the luxury of not working full time, so he opted to stay at home with his kids while his wife brings home the bacon rather than take a job that was less accommodating to his childcare needs.

• A small staff, comprised of a few full-time employees and a few part-time employees, assembles a variety of papers relatively independent of the group I am a part of. They were told, rather insultingly, that their papers were in trouble, and that they'd have to work harder to keep their papers afloat. They were given a new weekly responsibility without the benefit of additional resources, as far as I can tell.

• One of the three full-time members of the aforementioned newspaper group took a job with Patch, the hyper-local online scam that is paying journalists more than advertising revenue can cover. She left less than two months ago.

• Last week one of the managers for my group walked away from his job, opting to go to work for his wife. (Marriage has never looked so good to me.)

• Today it was announced that we wouldn't be filling the two seats that have been vacated during the past two months. We were also told that two people were being kicked to the curb. One, the last remaining member of the design trio, wasn't a surprise. I knew it was only a matter of time before she was phased out, too. We also lost Phil, who has toiled for his small, fledgling group of papers longer than I have been with the company. His group was absorbed by our evil conglomerate several years ago, a conglomerate that punishes loyalty.

So it's 2010 all over again. We hired several people to fill vacant seats in 2011, and now we're just about back to where we started at the beginning of the year. The difference is that we have lost experienced, talented people and replaced them with young upstarts that mean well, but don't have the background and experience to give our organization the limited credibility it once had. It's a sad, sad world, and it pains me to be a part of it.

In the past I have been angry. Today I am despondent.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Exit strategy (unedited)

Today the kid told us we weren't making enough sausage.

The kid is the editor for my newspaper group. He's a couple of years removed from college, so therefore he has a world of experience and should be managing a group of suburban newspapers. He knows how to do some of the technical crap that is part of his job, but there's no chance he was the best candidate for the job. So why was he hired? I'm certain that it's because he works cheap. We don't care about hiring experience at my half-assed newspaper group, all we care about is getting people cheap.

During a group meeting he said we were doing great work, but he needs more. He knows the crappy parameters of our jobs, and how difficult it is to produce quality work en mass, but he still insisted we need to make more sausage.

I have had mixed feelings about my job for a long time. It's a job where we can only value quantity. We may applaud quality, but we really don't encourage it, and certainly can't expect it.

It has bothered me for a while now, and the fact I'm working for a kid who is willing to sell his soul in his 20s in order to pad his resume and live high off the hog down the road doesn't make me feel any better about the fact I am compromising my skills by trying to juggle an ax, Samuri sword, hand gernade, flaming torch and porcupine at the same time.

I have given myself two months to chart prospective courses that will lead me elsewhere. I have several ideas I want to pursue, and I will pursue whichever one makes the most sense come Oct. 1. I may pursue the wrong one, but all I can do is choose the option that seems to be the best when decision day arrives.

Without a doubt, riding the roller coaster that has been my life the past 13 years is the wrong decision. I use to think that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. But I'm a gamblin' man, and if there's a chance that there's a brighter, happier future out there for me, I'll wager on the unknown.

The life I have now is a losing proposition, and that's a sure thing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pulling the plug? (unedited)

There are times when I ponder whether or not to put my name to a blog, attach the blog to my Facebook profile and share my exhaustive observations with those who know me.

Then there are times I think I want to keep writing anonymously just for the mental exercise it gives me, spared from the comments and criticism about things I don't necessarily agree with, but write anyway.

I don't know when the end of this blog will come, but in the four years I have been writing, my life has been on a roller coaster, a roller coaster I recall vividly. I don't think I'm unique. I suspect most people would consider their lives to be roller coasters. Mine has been a dramatic roller coaster. And I'm ready to get off.

I plan to stop riding the roller coaster of life this year. I want to ride the Ferris wheel. And when I finally take my seat on the Ferris wheel, I will have written the last chapter of this book. More appropriately, the jukebox will have played its last tune.

I'm ready to pull the plug.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ready, go (unedited)

Short and simple: I have a monumental challenge ahead of me during the next two months. If I succeed in accomplishing my goals, I will find peace, and happiness, in my life. If I fail I can dust myself off and try again.

I use to have a defeatist attitude. I have mourned my lack of good fortune. I am blessed in many ways, and I have more than many people could ever hope for. I will not dwell on the negative. There's a light at the end of my tunnel. I'm not sure what that light is coming from, but I will find out, and I will reach it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What a strange Journey

I was never a big fan of Journey, but I did go to a Journey concert in 1987. I think it was 1987, my memory is far from flawless. I do know I was in high school and went to the concert with comp tickets from WLOL. That's another story -- a great one -- and one I rarely tell.

Journey had its share of hits in the 1980s, but traces its roots back to the 1970s. Since the late 1990s the band has soldiered on without the lead singer from its heyday, Steve Perry. Perry sang most, if not all, of the hits we know.

It's not clear to me whether Perry has voluntarily distanced himself from his biggest success or if the band dismissed him because he delayed their touring plans as a result of surgery he put off. Either way, the band replaced him... three times.

For several years after Perry departed Journey's lead singer was a guy named Steve Augeri. After about eight years he was replaced on a short-term basis, and for the past few years the band has been fronted by a Filipino guy who they found through a YouTube video of him performing Journey tunes. I don't know about Perry's first two replacements, but the Filipino guy is often touted as a Perry soundalike.

On Thursday night Journey was in St. Paul, performing with Foreigner and Night Ranger. (Foreigner has also been touring for years without the guy who sang all the hits, Lou Gramm. According to Wikipedia, the only original member these days is its lead guitarist.) Nine hours after the concert Journey was in New York, performing live on the Today Show plaza. Every Friday during the summer NBC's Today Show has a concert on its plaza. The performances vary greatly. Sometimes it's a big artist that is popular among today's youngsters, sometimes it's an established artist that isn't the biggest draw on the concert circuit. Journey has persevered without Perry, and their hits have become rock classics that have stood the test of time.

One of my friends made a comment on Facebook this morning about not knowing Journey has an Asian lead singer. I noted the irony that in the same 10-minute span Journey and its YouTube sensation were singing "Don't Stop Believin'" on NBC while Debbie Gibson and Tiffany were singing the same song during ABC's Good Morning America concert in Central Park.

Those comments generated a couple of discussions about the validity of Journey. A few people seem to think that Journey shouldn't exist without Perry singing lead vocals.

One comment: "Simply saying that a Journey song originally recorded by Steve Perry shouldn't be sung in concert by anyone other than Steve Perry."

Another comment: "Just don't bill them as Journey. Because without all the originals they arent."

The rules regarding bands are often fluid, and rarely is a case black and white. People identify most bands by the lead singer. A guitar player or drummer may stand out and be recognized as an intregal part of the band's sound, and success, but most bands live and die by the lead singer. AC/DC flourished with a replacement lead singer, Brian Johnson, who replaced original lead singer Bon Scott, who died. Van Halen succeeded with Sammy Hagar when David Lee Roth decided he was bigger than Van Halen. (Roth is often held up as the poster child of lead singer disease.)

Does the absence of the lead singer mean the band should be forced into retirement? In the case of Journey, the writing credits for Don't Stop Believin' belong to three people, one of them is Perry. The other two are still with the band to this day. Should the band be forced into exile if any one of the three no longer tours with the band? Since it's Perry that is the odd man out, should the rest of the band be forced to continue without performing any of the songs the band wrote simply because the lead singer of the original recording is no longer present? I don't think so.

As far as I know nobody forced my brother, my college friend, my former co-worker or anyone else to attend Thursday night's Journey concert, or to buy tickets to the concert. If people want to enjoy the music as performed by musicians who wrote it, why does that bother people? Should nobody be allowed to vote with their wallet because somebody else is singing the song we hear on the radio? Last I knew, people still have free will when it comes to spending their entertainment dollar.

More ridiculous, however, is the moronic suggestion that a band should no longer exist without all original members. If that was the case, Journey as we have known it wouldn't exist because Perry wasn't the first lead singer of the band. Beyond that, so many bands would cease to exist today if they were forced to rebrand themselves or abandon music they had written previously because the original drummer or bassist is no longer in the band.

People will always remember bands and music in their heyday, and I get that, but why is it that it bothers people that some form of the band exists for those who care more about the sum of the whole, rather than the individual parts?