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Saturday, January 25, 2014

"The only thing constantly changing is change..." -- Lou Reed

I took this mantra of sorts from "The Raven," and it is more than true. It's been a while since I have blogged, and mostly that is because I'm so busy doing other things. But anyway, I'm listening to this:

This collection is one I often meditate to. Really nice stuff. I'm using it now at the Office because who knows what is going to come up on playlist today? Not that it's all bad but I've made my pronouncements on some of the stuff.

So...change. It is inevitable, and for the past year I have contemplated the oncoming rush of change that has to happen. I have not been afraid of it, more concerned about the execution thereof.

Before I get into details, I have found a job. I accepted an offer from a certain company, and I begin training on Monday. I need to explain something to have been hearing in the news (if not having experienced it yourself), how people just go on and on looking for work, and are not finding anything. How some people have given up looking for work, have lost their benefits, and so forth?

Well, it happened to me. It's no different than what anyone else has gone through, but I am fortunate that I only am responsible for myself and my cats. That made it easier, but I know how hard it's been.

With my acceptance of this offer, I should soon be moved from part-time training to full time. Do you know how long it has been since I have had a full-time job? Meaning however many hours one is supposed to work to get "full-time?"

Five years.

Yes. I was let go from XM Radio in January 2009. I have been a jobber since then. To be fair, I did have severance for a while, and I did go back to school for ten months. I did not plan to go back into broadcasting, but it kind of happened that way.

My official job search lasted 27 months. I have a 92-page document of all of my job contacts, answers, interviews, etc. Now it's not Excel, so it probably would be a whole lot smaller than that, but that's what it is.

I am not one to subscribe to conspiracy theories or wild ideas of what is coming in this country. I left junior high school, folks. I do think however that the landscape of our economy must change as well, and fairly soon or we will have a serious issue.

On the same token, we can't sit around. I have not. My job hunt was a job, as I've often said about other things. We each must make those things happen for ourselves, best we can. 

So, where am I going?

If there is one portion of the broadcast world that is still working, it is...traffic. What do people need? What do they have to have to get about their work, their day, their lives?

The science has come a very long way. I spent nearly five years at XM doing traffic for more than 20 cities. It is an art, to take masses of information being hurled at you and turning that into a report listeners can understand.

With Twitter and all the immediate forms of social media, it has intensified. Our thirst for information is huge, but think about what kinds we NEED?

Tango is a new player in the arena, relatively speaking. I do not know the whole deal by far, and I train with one of my old colleagues from the XM and Metro Networks days. We go back a decade or more, and I've seen inside enough to know where we are headed. 

This is pretty exciting, actually. Now, what is funny is back in '09 or '10, I briefly worked for a startup firm called Traffic Talk. Sadly they could not get the money together for this, but the guys who I was with had an interesting idea, another way to make the traffic world understandable. That could even still work, I think, one day.

It's funny: I cannot remember where I saw it, I think it was in a trade publication, around 1990 or '91. There was a joke one-page promotional ad for an LA radio station: ALL TRAFFIC, ALL THE TIME.

The idea was that you would have DJ's or hosts on the air in studio, giving you constantly updated traffic with their own twists. "The Great Pandini" was a guy who would hypnotize you while driving; another guy who's name I can't remember would play driving music to make your commute go faster, like stuff from the James Bond movies.

My favorite was the guy who would broadcast live, every day from a car. And a lucky motorist might get a huge rubber arrow stuck to their ride as they traveled about: this was the DRIVE-BY SHOOTING OF THE DAY.

Now, that probably would not fly in LA, or anyplace else for that matter. But it was funny.

Back then, we didn't have Internet, but for a very few clued in tech geeks. Cell phones were not a big thing for everyone, nor pagers. That would have been a very big challenge to do something like that.

All traffic would not work on a terrestrial radio station, but it sounds like it would be fun. I believe in Tokyo there is a low-power AM station that just does traffic, but I don't recall details. Stuff I learned while researching one of my books.

Bandwidth on satellite radio makes it easy to allocate space for Sirius/XM to do traffic channels, though the mashing of them together, post merger I wonder about.

Now how about the traffic world? Tango is out in Chester County, which is just to the west of Philadelphia. The warehouse they are in is a temporary location, and they'll move to a new place soon. Jim Battagliese, my former XM boss and one of the gurus of the changing face of traffic reporting likes to tell the story of his first company operating out of his house in Philly. The whole house, from attic to basemen was the traffic center. Think about that.

This is not unusual, not at all. Now, I have to tell where I was the other day.

Without naming names, I had an interview in Maryland at a company that has been around a long while. I wasn't sure what to expect...I didn't expect this:

A fairly active city site, floors up in a big building. You'd think this is gonna be slick, right, professional, all that?


The only parking was in an expensive garage next door. I then had to go through levels of madness to get into the building, show my ID, jump through hoops and then take an express elevator.

I got to the big glass door. It is locked. At 11 am.

It is dark. No receptionist. No lights on, apart from a screensaver showing all the stations they do traffic and stuff for.

The man who would have become my boss arrived after me. I waited while he did whatever he had to do to get ready for me. Quiet...deathly quiet.

I was taken on a tour of a dark, poorly lit level of Hell that only Dante could imagine. There is a horror movie to be shot here.

This huge floor was a dead zone. Lights off, cubicles that looked like from a time capsule. It seemed all the occupants got up and left things as they were, like they were going to come back. And they vanished. 

Everywhere I turned, there were places where people once worked, but no more. I saw at one corner nearly three dozen computer towers stacked on the floor like coffins.

The man I spoke with was very nice. He tried to put the best spin on things, consolidation of people down here, this, that, other. 

There was one person working in a tiny studio in one corner. Another way down the hall in another studio. The traffic center looked like an air traffic control center from the 50's or 60's. Three people there. Now it was not drive time, to be fair, but this was surreal.

I have never seen anything like this in my life. If this is how it runs, then fine, I've been in crazy places too. But this...I thought of Luigi Pirandello's plays and the interplay of ongoing behavior that leads all to think the rest of the universe is insane, but you are not.

Or is it you that is mad?

Escape from the time capsule led me home, and Tango's offer was waiting. So there you have that.

Honestly...would I have worked for the other? If that was the only offer, yes. What choice have I?

Change again, this is what has come about. I will have to move, after 14 years in York, 13 in the same place. There are things I will miss, but much I cannot miss.

The sameness. I have written and spoken of the feeling that this part of the world fears change more than most, and refuses to do so. A colleague likes to say this part of the world "still thinks Kennedy is president."

They live in 1962, Camelot, JFK and Jackie, Reds under every bed, the Cubans are coming to destroy us, and what do those "Negroes" want, anyway?

They didn't know from gay people. Of course where I move, is that any different? At least I am close to Philly, so that will be a change.

I have to move, and I do not like that. Moving is a horrific prospect, and I will have a company do it while I can still afford it. Trying to find a place, going through all that again, relearning my surroundings, and navigating a big city... get used to knowing where stuff is, and I imagine "here" will fade away, as it does for most people. You go somewhere, where's everyone else, right?

The 'net lets us all stay sort of in touch, so wherever I go I know I'll be sure to hear/see about what everyone else is doing. The next chapter in the great adventure, right?

So what does that mean for other things?

I do not know at this point for a lot of it. I don't have a clue.

As for the writing, it goes on. I have to do a couple of readings of "Parasite Girls" in the near future here, and I'll find other spots to do them. I know I have to do them, and yet I am rather worried about trying this method. It bothers me, but I also know (back to the changing landscape) I have to engage the public.

Got a letter today from Barnes & Noble, regarding my wish to get "Parasite Girls" on the shelves. They just don't have the space for self-published books, and I get that. Worth a try.

They said they noted that most self-published authors only sell "about 100 copies." Well, thanks for that bit of lovely news, I'm soooooo encouraged!

But they are right, I guess. So what is my writing going to do? Apart from being therapy, and a hobby? I still plan to keep on writing. I pretty much do not see myself ever getting a publishing deal, but I think a lot of that has to also do with building a body of work, and I am just getting started. I hope to live long enough to see it really happen. But again, I must engage.

"Parasite Girls," well it's too soon to tell how it is going to be received, but I've gotten some nice comments. For that I am thankful, and I'm going to keep at it.

What's next...oh...lots of things, but what will be next? I do not know for sure at this point. is my online site for numerous things. There, you will find rough cuts and openers. Two or three possibilities are right there. 

So I'm probably going to give out more copies of "PG" than I sell, but that's how it goes. 

The thing that is important to impart on you: my painter friend Sunny said over 20 years ago when I expressed doubt: just do it.

Not the Nike way, but the way each of us have. There you are.

So, hopefully I will have time to blog again in the near future and tell you how this new venture goes. And how everything else goes...time to move on because I feel my years are slowly getting away from me. Every day I have is one to make something happen, something more. 

Warren Zevon had an interesting take when he faced cancer, and the final days of his life: "Enjoy Every Sandwich."

I think he found a sense of place. Lou Reed did as well...his wife Laurie Anderson wrote that right to the end, Lou's sense of wonder at the world didn't go away. He lived to the end.

We gotta just do it.

Peace, Out.

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