Two score and eight years ago, it was hot and sunny, especially for people wearing black gowns and caps, and U.S. Sen. Bill Proxmire, D-Wisconsin, got an honorary degree, irritating my dad the staunch Republican.
I spent that night and a few nights later in an ancient hotel in Waupaca whose name escapes me — or was it called the Waupaca Hotel? — before securing a home above Hansen TV while I worked my first grownup job.
When I walked into WDUX on the morning of May 19, 1975, the energetic morning man with the radio voice greeted me cordially and invited me to have some coffee. I had made it through four years of college and untold all-nighters without drinking coffee, but that morning I was willing to give it a try. And thus began a 48-year (so far) addiction. Caffeine is an insidious and wonderful slave master.
The first professional favor I ever received was from the friend who took me aside and showed me the word Weyauwega, the name of the next town over from Waupaca. Knowing I would encounter it very early in my news-reading career, he pointed and enunciated, “Why-uh-WEE-guh” (hard G). I am forever in his debt. I would have been stymied.
Every year around the anniversary of that turning-point day, I sit and reflect in what has been and what is yet to be. I was an arrogant young man who thought he knew more than he did, and now I’m an arrogant but more humble old man who thinks he knows more than he does, but at least, I think, I am a kinder, gentler soul than I was when I knew it all.
I spent 22 years in radio, processing sound, which is why I am still irritated when PA systems and TV/radio/podcast audio is sloppily produced or neglected. As recently as yesterday, I have been known to mutter, “Use the mike,” disgusted, under my breath, as someone across a large room talks with the microphone down by the belly instead of near his/her lips.
The rest of my time has been spent in newspapers — most all 48 years reporting the news in one format or another. I am not a legend in my chosen field, nor did I make a fortune, but I made enough to build a house with my sweet partner and companion, I won some awards, and I was the editor when the Door County Advocate won Newspaper of the Year in 2004 and Best in Division in 2014. I guess I’ve done OK.
I started taking God seriously on Easter morning 1982, when I took that familiar invitation seriously and prayed the prayer, although I remember a couple of times much earlier when I encountered a sacred moment. Jesus and I have always had an informal friendship, largely because I’ve often been called upon to work the Sunday morning shift, so regular church-going has not been my thing, but I’m certain He is around and caring — and every so often when I have my doubts, He surprises me by making Himself known.
I’d better make some coffee.