Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Good Times, Bad Times, You Know I've Had My Share

So, here we are at the end of the decade, and if I had to describe it, words like "surprising" and "shocking," as well as "gratifying," and at times "disappointing," come to mind. It was a decade that was often unpredictable, and sometimes unforgettable.  As 2019 ended, and the new decade was about to begin, many media sources were doing retrospectives on the decade's big news stories (and there were plenty of those); I don't want to bore anyone with ten years of my personal memories, but I do want to look back on a few events that affected my life during these past ten years.

To say the least, it was a decade of ups and downs. Let me begin with some positive events:  one of my favorite  memories involved Rush.  I was invited to give a talk as the band got their much-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in June 2010. Thousands of fans were there, and I got to meet a lot of them-- some still keep in touch with me.  There were also several wonderful gatherings of Rush fans, and I was included in a documentary about the band-- "Beyond the Lighted Stage," as well as in a video by film-maker Ray Boucher.  It reminded me once again how much these three guys from Toronto changed so many lives (including mine).

My other favorite Rush memory, as you might expect, is when the band finally got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2013. I got called by several Canadian TV stations (and a couple in the US) to comment about it, and I was there, in Los Angeles, to see it happen. It was quite amusing when Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone, who by many accounts had never been a fan and did his part to keep the guys out of the Rock Hall for years, began announcing the evening's inductees, and just as he was about to say Rush's name, the audience (which had many, many loyal fans in it) began to boo him. They booed him for several minutes, till he basically had to admit that Rush did deserve to be inducted. (When HBO broadcast the taped highlights of the event, I'm sure that part got edited out!)

Not all of my memories of the decade involved Rush, of course. In May 2011, at the age of 64, I received my PhD. I had gone back to school at age 55, and although it took nine years, going part-time and driving 100 miles up and back to the University of Massachusetts, I was able to make it happen, proving it's never too late to follow a dream. (My other dream is to own a radio station, but thus far, I haven't been able to make that one happen... yet.)

Throughout the decade, I had a number of articles and essays published, and several books:  a 2011 history of Boston radio, and a 2014 second edition of my book "Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting."  In June 2017, I had the privilege of giving a talk at a baseball history symposium at Cooperstown NY's Baseball Hall of Fame; I spoke about five unique women who wrote about baseball, as far back as 1907. (My talk was later selected to be in an anthology of the best presentations from the symposium.)  I also was invited to be a guest speaker at a number of colleges, civic organizations, ham radio clubs, and public libraries.  I always enjoy bringing my rare memorabilia and talking about how people lived in the "good old days." And my ongoing efforts to collect and preserve the history of broadcasting won me the 9th annual Collectors Prize from Historic New England in 2018.

But there were some difficult times too. In late 2014, I found out I had cancer. Fortunately, I was able to go to one of the best hospitals, and my doctors were outstanding. Although it was a scary time in my life, today, thank God, I am five years cancer-free. But a dear friend of mine was not so fortunate. Earlier that year, Jerry Brenner lost his battle with cancer. Many of you may not know his name: he was a record promoter for many years, and a very influential figure in the music business. But more than that, he was a mentor to many of us in radio, including me; I had known him since I was in college, and he always believed in me.  I miss him to this day.

In 2015, I began blogging. And while it hasn't made me famous (or rich), it has allowed me to express my opinions on a wide range of subjects.  I appreciate those of you who have read my postings.  My most-read entry was from September 2017, about another event that was memorable in this decade: the end of Rush's performing days. This post focused on why Neil Peart had decided to retire, after an impressive career that made millions of fans happy all over the world. https://dlhalperblog.blogspot.com/2017/09/finding-our-way.html

I could easily get into a discussion about the politics of the past decade, or some of the famous people who left us too soon, or how I wish that as a society, we could be kinder to each other. (I still can't get used to people calling each other rude names on social media.)  I could talk about the changing technology-- I remember that back in 2010, most people were just beginning to use smartphones; today, few of us go anywhere without them.  As this new decade begins, who can predict what other changes lie ahead?  All I can say is I'm glad to be alive to see 2020 begin; and I'm ready for whatever comes next.  Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

It Goes to Show You Never Can Tell

If I'm still here on Tuesday the 17th (and I sincerely hope I am), it will officially be five years since I had my cancer surgery. I am told that's significant, because if it hasn't returned by then, it probably isn't going to.  That will be a tremendous relief. As many of you know, when you have had cancer, you always worry about if (or when) it might recur.  By nature, I'm generally not a worrier, but I have to admit I've spent a lot of time worrying during the past five years, even though I'm well aware that worrying isn't very helpful.

But in addition to worrying, I decided the best way to cope was to keep busy. So, in early 2015, I began blogging. I also took a few online courses (yes, I already have my degree, but I've always enjoyed learning something new). I wrote some media history articles for academic journals. I spoke at several conventions and conferences (including going to Cooperstown to give a talk at a baseball history symposium held at the Hall of Fame).  And no matter how I felt--and some days, I didn't feel so great, believe me-- I kept showing up for work, and I kept trying my best to be an interesting professor. Mainly, I tried to follow the advice I often give to my students: it's okay to worry, but don't let it stop you.  So, some days, I worried. But I didn't let it stop me.  

As I've mentioned in other blog posts, evidence suggests I shouldn't be here. Nearly every one of my female relatives on my mother's side died of cancer (including my maternal grandmother, who had the same kind of cancer I did-- but she only lived to be 44, while I'm 72, by the grace of God). I try to keep things in perspective, and keep an attitude of gratitude. I had wonderful doctors. I got great medical treatment. Having good health insurance was a plus too. In other words, as scary as things were sometimes, it really could have been a lot worse.

In the past five years, I've lost a few friends to cancer.  However, there were others who made often-remarkable recoveries. I'm not very good at predicting the future, so in my own case, I've just tried to take things a day at a time, while hoping that everything would turn out well. I've thanked many of you before, but I want to do it again: there are many people who reached out to me during this journey, to encourage me and to let me know I was in their prayers.  To those of you fighting your own battle with cancer (or with some other illness), I hope you too have a positive outcome. And if I've learned anything from my own situation, it's that so much of what we all get upset or angry or frustrated about on a day to day basis isn't worth the time we spend on it. In the greater scheme of things, what matters most is being alive. I'm grateful I'm still here to write those words.