I will no longer commune and connect with my people every day from 9 to 1. That sucks.
I love being a part of your day. The spontaneity and precariousness of live, interactive radio is unmatched, as is the genuine magic that occurs when a show gets rolling.
Our show was rolling. Spiegel and Parkins had come so far in terms of our chemistry, and you knew it. The quality of the conversation, the unpredictability of every segment, the musicality (or honest lack thereof) in our song parodies, the evolution of ideas, the inclusion of the whole crew with Jay and Rick; the momentum was palpable to everyone. Well, almost everyone.
Also, as you’ve probably read by now, the ratings numbers had steadily climbed and by now were very, very good. That was not the issue. My contract or salary was not the issue. As far as I know, societal conversations and other non-sports content was not the issue.
The issue is that each radio host is not beloved by everyone, and a new boss gets to do what he wants. This has played out in our industry, and others, for decades. Because I’m me, I’m reminded of so many rock bands who sign a record deal with a passionate A & R man, only to be hung out to dry when that record label goes through management changes. I feel a little (just a little) like Wilco when Reprise Records said they didn’t want to put out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. The band found a way to get the music out, but it was awkward and tumultuous. It’s the content creator’s lot in life to carry on.
So It Goes, as Vonnegut wrote. In that sense it’s been pretty easy to not take the move personally.
But please know that I miss you. We had a hell of a 9 year run.
We is not me and Danny Mac, or me an Jason Goff, or me and Patrick Mannelly, or me and Danny Parkins. It is not me and the 30 or so different co-hosts that have joined from 9 to 1 at some point.
We is me and you. The connection we’ve had is the absolute goods, and I deeply appreciate it. I thank you for hearing me, for yelling to or at me, and most of all for furthering conversations with me. You’ve made my best thoughts funnier and more fleshed out. You’ve withstood my worst thoughts, and let me find good ones again. You’ve shared life experience that helped conversations synthesize and be enriched deeper than I could have imagined.
I’ve always thought of you as one big collective, theoretically comprised of every slice of Chicagoan imaginable. It took a couple years, frankly, to accept that amidst that collective were some that deeply loathed me. Local radio is unique in that way. We are often chosen by listeners with the direct expectation of supplying a target for derision and/or rage. As long as you listen, it counts. This can lead to some really bad programming choices by certain hosts, who go for the easy denominator of being provocative instead of genuine. If you’re not careful, you can lose yourself and become a contrarian by convenience, ready to inhabit a debate role that virtually anyone could play.
Thankfully, I realized this danger, and have worked to avoid it. I didn’t succeed all the time, but please know I tried to remove as much of the filter between my head, heart and microphone as possible. I’ve been me, for better or for worse. Sometimes my sensitivity would show through, but I lived with that because it sure felt better than being a fake tough guy. Anyway, if you feel like you know me, you do.
Onward! I’ll be on the station, filling in on various shows as needed. I’ll resume writing baseball columns for The Score. I’ll be launching the podcast idea of my dreams, through the station’s website. This idea has been percolating a long time…if I can pull it off, it will fuse my worlds together as they’ve been destined to be. And, I’ll obviously still be playing and singing around town with Tributosaurus.
I want to thank each and every one of you who have reached out to wish me well, or remind me of moments that meant something to you. It’s been amazing; kind of like a living wake. I’ve joked that both me and Jason Goff have had that “noble martyr” thing going, like when Conan O’Brien got displaced on The Tonight Show by an entitled, waffling dinosaur in Jay Leno.
But that imagined martyr role doesn’t last, or carry any real heft. I have to create content, and keep the connections with you active. I’m on it. Hell, Conan’s been pretty damn funny since then. Content is king.
You’ll hear or see or read me soon. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your life.
Good vibes babe, (staying on brand)
I don’t set out aiming to be political on sports radio….we’re your distraction from some truly awful things. We’re the funny papers. But sometimes the issues of the greater world come to us.
Remove yourself from whether you believe Eric Garner’s killer should stand trial, or not. Seriously, take a minute and lose the partisan side, any racial side.
This country was founded on the strength of protests, standing up for fairness. This country was started with a revolution. Starting with the disenfranchised British settlers, minorities of all kinds have since had to stand up for fairness for the last several hundred years. Your lives would not be as free nor as rich as they are today, were it not for protests. And for civil disobedience.
Protesters should write their congressmen, their aldermen, they should post blogs, and more.
And, as long as they don’t turn it into mindless looting or criminal activity, they should march, and scream, and stop traffic to get the nation’s attention. Make a unified, country-wide stand if the energy to do so is there.
And, if an athlete wants to show his support for a cause, he should be applauded for it. Stand for something bigger than yourself. Noah has the commercial about gun control; “what do you stand for?”
Derrick has done and said some really bad, ill-advised things in recent months and years. Neglecting to mention championships as he talked about meetings and graduations was a mistake, then doubling down on it when given a chance to clarify was just awful. Then he tripled down and said he could care less. Bad PR, stupid statements, and selfish, sloppy thoughts.
So he’s done and said some stupid things. This wasn’t one of them.
WHAT ARE YOU MAD ABOUT, IF YOU’RE MAD?
Derrick in general these days? Dumb comments past? Separate things.
Derrick has always been active in talking about, raising money for, and helping in inner city neighborhoods. This is not some new, politically correct issue he doesn’t understand. This is not something he doesn’t understand….he knows it first hand. He has talked about inner city violence, blaming his culture, blaming the city’s structure, not just blaming cops. He’s donated a million dollars to an after school charity trying to keep kids off the streets and a life of crime. He did that 2 months ago.
So much has been discussed about how the goal of his life was to escape his neighborhood, and how he has never lost that connection to and with his struggle. That connection has been cited as a detriment for all sorts of things. And now some of the same people who have written about that connection being a problem are saying that he’s coming from a place of ignorance on it? Shameful.
He doesn’t need to explain what that represented. What wearing that shirt meant. It’s all around you. You watch the video? You see a frustrated man, living a hard life, who’s not going to take it anymore. He can’t face yet another arrest for a very minor crime—selling “loosies,” cigarettes without tax stamps. Mayor Bloomberg has made cops go after stuff like this relentlessly.
You see a dude dying, in an illegal chokehold, begging for his life and his breath? You see him lying there unattended for several minutes before the EMT’s arrived. He died because he could not breathe.
And you need to know what Derrick meant by the t-shirt? It might mean you just don’t want to hear it.
Merry Christmas, 2017, everyone. Engaged, here. Very happy. It helps me to write about big stuff, process it, and then I always end up figuring I might as well post it.
Love is best when shared.
Last Monday night, Rubin asked why I packed up and moved his monster truck and racetrack set.
“I didn’t Ru. Christine cleaned your room up…isn’t that nice?”
“Daddy, she isn’t allowed to touch my toys! You and mommy can touch my toys without asking, but only people from our houses are allowed to do it.”
“Rubin, what if Christine and I got married. Could she touch your toys then?”
“Mmmm…let me think about it.”
There were 10 seconds of thoughtful contemplating, with fingers on his chin, all of this while fully naked sitting on the potty.
“Daddy, yes…if you and Christine get married, she can touch my toys. But if you ever get unmarried like you did with mommy, then she can’t, okay?
“Okay Ru, that’s fair. I promise we won’t get unmarried.”
It’s not just about me anymore. Any life partner I might pick better be good as hell to that boy, and understand the priority list. His safety, happiness, health, and maturation atmosphere comes first. Before me. Before her. He is the cooperative King of this realm, learning how to live with supreme confidence while fitting into the world, hopefully learning utmost empathy for as many people as possible.
It’s going well so far, as he finishes up his 5th year. I genuinely like him. Passionate, he enjoys life. John Fournier, a musical and creative soul I admire, has watched as his daughter babysits Ru for a few different nights.
“That kid, man…he loves everything! Wanna build a puzzle? YES. Wanna watch a show? YES, LET’S DO IT.” John says that’s rare. Says that Ru is a little version of me in that way.
I know John meant it in the reverse, but the truth is that I am flattered by being compared to Rubin.
Christine is a jewel of a woman. Deeply kind, always striving to be the best version of herself, and working to remain as positive as possible each and every day. She believes in putting goodness into the world, and trusting that it comes back to you. She believes in God, she was raised a Catholic, and generally has faith in both a benevolent higher power, and the possibilities for humanity. We can be good. Love can triumph. It must. Her spirituality dovetails so perfectly with my hippie side. I didn’t see it coming.
Rubin is going to be blessed with an amazing stepmother. And we will both be blessed with Christine’s two college-age daughters in our lives. I will be an instant stepfather, with so much to learn. The relationships I could have with them are a huge opportunity; how good and strong a man can I be, while also respecting their individuality and growth?
I have thought and lived with her for 7 months. I have learned the value of her spirit in my life, how we genuinely make each other better. We have grown to communicate better than I thought imaginable; this is easily the best relationship I’ve ever been in. Not even close.
I was given a 6 month deadline when she moved in.
“At this age, we should know.”
I get it. But a man can’t truly own his destiny on deadline.
I successfully retook the power of the wedding proposal time frame at the 6 month mark. I needed this to feel like my choice, needed to make sure that by the moment I committed and did this, I was free of any possible regret, concern, or trepidation. Given my lifelong struggle with conflicted emotions, this was perhaps an unrealistic aspiration. But I got there.
I got there because I am in the best therapeutic health of my life. I am in touch with my aggression, and mobilize it whenever possible. I am careful to be quiet and look for my center, my own moral compass, and try to base decisions on what I truly want and need. I am conscious of a lifelong desire to appease others that has been beneficial in terms of getting along with people, but detrimental in terms of holding on to unspoken resentment. I let things out these days, more than ever before.
A wedding proposal is a rare opportunity for a man. It’s a chance to define his sense of romanticism, to express himself aesthetically, creatively, symbolically. I wanted our moment to be memorable, emotional, and unique.
Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years’ Eve, and her birthday all loomed as possible dates to work with. Also present, though, was her need for the clarity of our engagement as she lived through those holidays. The endless questions about her future and our timeline from friends and family have been stressful. I did want to alleviate those soon, and had visions of her enjoying said holidays with relief, pride, and a shiny ring.
So the plan was hatched, for a Wednesday night at 7 pm. I told her there was a show in a tent downtown in Grant Park, a seasonal show I’d heard great things about. We would have to be outside for about 10 minutes, so we needed to dress warmly. No googling! Was she game? Of course she was.
As she fell asleep on the couch at 6 pm, she looked at me hopefully and asked if we HAD to go out. Yes, baby we do. I promise it will be worth it. I made up some more bullshit about the show. This was a lot of lying, and I am NOT good at lying to this woman. That’s one of the best things about us.
Our ride came, we got in it and headed downtown.
“The city looks beautiful!,” she said. “I love that we’re here, I love that this is my home.”
“I know, baby. Remember when we rode bikes, on our 2nd date I think? We went to Buckingham Fountain, and you got emotional.”
“Yes…my dad used to take me there.”
She moved out of the city with husband and daughters for sensible suburban reasons, but now I offered her a life downtown; a surprising 2nd opportunity to live the way she’d always wanted to.
The driver dropped us off right in front of the fountain. It was 7:05 pm, about 35 degrees, clear and cold with absolutely no one in sight. We walked towards the patch of park where I pretended a seasonal tent circus show of some kind might be. I feigned confusion, and we turned around to walk back towards the fountain.
In the distance, a man walked towards us. As he got closer, Christine noticed he had an accordion on. “Oh great,” she says she thought, “he’s gonna want to play a song for us and ask for money. There’s no one out here…this guy isn’t making any cash tonight.”
It would indeed be a weird night to be the wandering accordion guy saying “can I play something for you and your beautiful companion?”
As he approached, he began to play the intro to “Knocks Me Off My Feet” by Stevie Wonder. Christine had never heard this song when we started dating, and she adores it. As he hit the groove, I started to sing.
“I see us in the park…strolling the summer days of imaginings in my head….”
I take out and open a ring box.
“Baby!!!!” She screams. She cries. She covers her face with one gloved hand. I keep singing.
The accordionist is my friend Scott Stevenson, a man I’ve known an intermittent band mate for 23 years. He has perfectly disguised and nailed his role in my romantic gesture, as I knew he would.
We do the whole tune, modulation and all, with Scott singing the backup “I love you, I love you, I l-o-o-ove you.” She cries the whole way through, even as I film the entire 2nd verse. We slightly botch the modulation, and Scott slightly butchers the bass riff mid-choruses, but the totality of it is perfect.
Side note; I am fortunate to have been a musician for so many reasons. But one of them is that the list of people I could have called to accompany this moment is vast. They include perhaps 4 or 5 musicians who I feel as if I know deeply, trust soulfully, and would be perfectly comfortable existing in this memory for ever and ever. We have been fortunate to connect with each other on earnest, delicate levels that allow for bonds like this. I love that Scott is part of this image for the rest of our lives.
She says yes, we are engaged. We have the following day off of work, by sneaky design, to bask in the glow of the moment. It is best to pause the chaos of daily life right here, to share the news with who and how we see fit, at our pace. To live in the happiest of moments, unencumbered for a day. Thursday was wonderful.
As I expect the rest of our lives to be.
1-10-16, On an airplane.
You make time for a solo visit to your sacred ground.
The Boston Public Garden is spiritually comforting to me. It always has been. But this time I realized why.
I think of the 10 or 15 long late nights with the best of college age friends spent there; tripping, exploring, and communing with nature as urban Thoreau’s. One night, as we circled the duck pond as closely as possible, we saw something in the water. It was a school of what seemed like thousands of tiny fish, traveling together slowly, unified in motion. We guessed they were babies, spawned en masse within hours of our arrival, and learning to make their way in the world as we stood above them.
True or not, that explanation held. Probably because we were doing the same.
This past August I did the kind of self-analysis I had not been ready for in previous years. Hard core exploration of why I was unhappy, how those feelings were manifesting in damaging behaviors, and what could be done about it. I learned so much, at age 45. It’s always possible to better one’s self. Always.
What I divined deeply were my values. Inner Peace, Connection, Passion, Curiosity, Fun, Aesthetic Beauty; these are the bedrocks for a healthy Matthew.
I later added a physical one I feel deeply now, but wish I had decades earlier: Maintaining a Healthy Vessel. My body deserves love, attention, and respect, so it can help facilitate a long stay on the terrestrial plane. My son deserves my most rapt attention to this value.
So here’s what I realized. The reason those nights felt magical then, and seem to grow more resonant every year, is that those nights were spent chasing those same values. I didn’t realize it, mostly. I just knew I was on to something, and that an intellectual and/or emotional moment of perfect understanding felt achievable. I hunted those moments, and still do…when a lifetime of learning coalesces into what feels like grand clarity. Only an optimist believes those moments are right around the corner, as I do every day.
Those nights, we merry men were connecting so deeply. We were passionately following our curiosity around the city. We had uproarious fun. The Garden, along with the Esplanade along the Charles river, provided so much natural beauty. The early American architecture brought so much aesthetic pleasure, especially when juxtaposed with modern life.
And I did feel some peace then. The peace of friendly love, the peace of knowing I was in the right place. I was with my people.
I feel more peace now. I have defined how I attain it.
I am at peace when I am self aware, accepting what my issues are, and trying to lessen their damage. That’s it. That’s doable. I will not lie to myself any more. I accept who I am, admire my goodness, and gently acknowledge my weakness.
So there I was, for an hour alone in the Boston Public Garden. A monk approached me, slipped a green beaded bracelet on to my wrist, asked me to sign his contribution book, and said “Peace to you.” I happily gave him ten dollars.
I was mindful. Quiet. Thoughtful. And so grateful. I am alive at 45, vibrantly active in pursuits I love, financially solid thanks to those pursuits, and the father of a beautiful boy. Yes, I aspire to more wealth, achievement, knowledge, insight, and pleasure. But right now, right here, I am a happy man.
Whatever forces brought me here were with me in the Garden. And they know of my thanks.