I woke up at the Howard Johnson’s Long Wharf, and showered. It was March 4th, 1985, 30 years ago today.
I had been out of college since 1980, and had clawed my up to the the position of morning show co host at 97 Rock in Buffalo, New York (my home town). I had been fired, along with with the bulk of the air staff, in a format change at the beginning of the year, but a guy named Neal Mirsky had heard me in Buffalo and wanted me for his new morning show on WPLR in New Haven, Connecticut. I was being gently “courted” by a couple of stations in Buffalo, and wasn’t really thinking about leaving.
I ended up flying into Hartford to meet with Neal and then General Manager Manuel Rodriguez. I really liked both of them. Two Heinekens later, I was seriously considering the job.
Later that week they offered me the position and I turned them down. When I hung up the phone, I felt as if I were making a huge mistake. It turns out this was a crafty “ploy” on my part: they called back and upped their offer – from 22k to 24. I was all over it.
That was on a Wednesday. By Sunday I had flown back to Hartford, been greeted by Neal, and before I knew it, was ensconced at “The Johnson”.
That night, we went to dinner at the Rusty Scupper, where I met my tall (and Fu Manchued) new on air partner, one Brian Smith, with whom I would work for the next 18 years.
The next morning I found myself compiling news stories from “the wire” (an ancient pre-internet device that relayed information from the AP and/or UPI) in preparation for our first on air break. I had had very little sleep, and Brian and I hardly knew each other. (While performing a “tease” for this newscast, Brian referred to me as “Bruce Banner”, before correcting himself and moving on.)
Somehow I got through that first show, but the thing I remember most was the Muffin that Brian was thoughtful enough to bring in. I was physically and emotionally drained, and that little act of kindness represents the tastiest muffin I’ve ever had.
Brian and I would go on to a long and successful run, and though it ended abruptly – and not without acrimony – I have some of the fondest memories of my life from those mornings spent reading the papers, saying whatever crazy stuff popped into our heads, and having some of the most hilarious, non-repeatable conversations while the records were playing and the mics were off.
It was a wild ride, and during those years I gained not only a lifetime of great stories – I made lifetime friends, and for that I will always be grateful.
Which brings me to the inevitable question I get in bars and supermarkets: “What are you doing these days?’ And the answer is always the same – I’m loving life.
My kids have all grown up. “The Girls” that have been part of my life since I met their mom, “The Good Doctor”, almost 25 years ago, have grown into incredible young women. “The Boys”, both born during my PLR tenure, are now 18 and 21.
I’m an independent producer for WNPR, “Connecticut’s Public Media Source for News and Ideas” (no they didn’t pay me for that – there’s no money in public radio!), and I host the 7 to midnight time slot on weeknights, along with 6 am to 1 pm Saturday mornings. The change feels like a natural evolution to me, and while I miss my former compatriots, the group at WNPR is phenomenal, and I feel so lucky to be in their midst.
Which brings me to The Real Life Survival Guide! I started this “pet project” more than 15 years ago, while listening to a “Martha Stewart Minute” on a New York station. I started thinking about how I could use my love of the audio medium to share suggestions for living, a la Martha, with my contemporaries. The result over the years has been a series of website iterations and radio programs exploring the question of how to live a better life.
Going forward, I see the Guide evolving into “a website and podcast featuring entertainment and lifestyle suggestions – along with “Real Life Deals” on great products and services”, but owing to the fact that I’m much better with ideas than implementation, this could take me a while.
In the mean time, if you were ever part of the Smith and Barber madness, thanks for the memories – as I said before, it was a great run.