IT'S JUST ANOTHER DAY

A blog about a life awakened and rejuvenated around Western New York.


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THANKS, BUDDY!

I grew up on radio.

(Big whoop! We all grew up on radio.) But I guess it was the time that stands out more than anything. The influences that we garnered from the artists and songs that we heard in our lifetimes had a hand in molding who we would become. Be it Big Band music of the forties, or the 50’s and the birth of Rock ‘n Roll, the British Invasion and beyond, we were birthed in the sounds we heard.

I was a shy kid. (Very shy, extremely shy.) It was debilitating. (I got better!) But my social interactions were slightly above non-existent! I always seemed to find “friends” in the music that played on my transistor radio. (Those born after 1980, I’ll explain transistor radios in another posting. Think of your Mp3 player’s Great-great Grandfather.) So, I had become ensconced in the music of the early sixties and British Invasion, all the way  through the Woodstock era of Classic Rock. (I remember vividly the moment Ed Sullivan introduced those Beatles guys to the world on that February 9th Sunday night in 1964.)

Here in Buffalo, we had some great radio stations across the dial that offered all the music for which this kid could ask! We had WGR (550) on the lower frequencies of the AM scope. WBEN (930) ruled the mid-dial with WNIA (1230) a bit further up the scale. WYSL (1400) put a strong push against the King of Buffalo radio in the day, the 50,000 watt blowtorch, WKBW (1520) which was heard all up and down the Eastern North American  seaboard. There were others, but these five filled many memories with the music of my lifetime.

But the AM dial became a graveyard with the advent of the stereo quality the FM roster of stations provided. Through many machinations, those above favored channels were resurrected to shades of their former glory. WGR’s format went from music to News/Talk Radio and its current Sports Talk blather.   WBEN went through a stint as an Adult Contemporary radio staion to become what they currently program, News/Talk Radio.  WYSL and WKBW had their transformations as well, with KB holding court as the ESPN affiliate and more sports ga-ga.

Resorting to the above mentioned mp3 player (after the stint with cassette tapes and CD players) I found myself gravitating to the online music services. Pandora, iHeart Radio, Spotify, et al, all offered the music I remembered with great fondness. But it wasn’t the same. Something was missing.

Personality. The music lacked personality. Pre-programmed and sterile were no substitute for what I remembered. And the personalities on the radio in Buffalo were wonderful. Jackson Armstrong, Shane (Shane, Brother Shane) Gibson, Sandy Beach and Don Berns, Joey Reynolds, Tom Donahue, Tom Shannon, Dan Neaverth, Jim Quinn, Fred Klestine, Jefferson Kaye and Don Kobiella (Don Kobiella?). Even the News guys added their character. Jim Fagan, Henry Brach, Jim McLaughlin, John Zach, Joe Downey and the incomparable Irv Weinstein.

WWKB (the reformatted version of WKBW) made a short-armed attempt to resurrect the radio giant a short while back with the best ratings they had since the 1990’s. But with little promotion and a real lack of commitment, the once great 1520 fell to the curb.

Flash forward to 2017. A guy named William Ostrander bought WECK Radio (1230 – the former WNIA). The on-air persona of Ostrander is Buddy Shula, and Buddy seems to be on track to do it right on the Buffalo Radio dial. He’s bringing “Buffalo’s very own” personality back to the music we love. Local radio with local news and local broadcast professionals to replace the pre-programmed “music of your life”.

I, for one am excited to see the advent of “Good Ol’ Radio” done with a new drive. And the names? Tom Donahue will remain the morning show host, bringing on Buffalo radio veteran Gail Ann Huber, coming on board as co-host and the aforementioned John Zach returning to Buffalo airwaves as their news director, anchoring the local CBS News affiliate. Jon Summers, another KB legend steps into the 9-12 spot and Harv Moore “the boy next door”, taking noon to 3:00 PM. Harv’s former sidekick, Robert Taylor (Taylor and Moore) is the on-air branding voice of WECK. Mike Jacobs covers the three to seven slot Monday thru Thursday. And Friday evening from 3-7 will be filled by Dan Neaverth, ready to move your “Friday Fanny”. To top off the night, Buddy Shula will take his turn behind the mic from 7-9. The changes take place on July 10th. This should be interesting to hear. And long over due. My music, the right music, done the right way. Anyway, I think it’s great!

Thanks Buddy!


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MAKING MY WAY BACK “HOME”

It’s been a while since I posted here. Situations and circumstances put life clearly on my doorstep. But we persevere. It’s what life is about.

So here I sit, less than two weeks to Christmas 2013. The tree’s up (the SECOND thing that gets my spirit right – the Christmas music that begins on Halloween not withstanding). That sight and those sounds brings the feeling closer to home. Those who know, understand. Losing both parents at Christmas time (mom on Christmas Eve ’86) it takes some doing every year to find my Christmas. It comes around eventually, but it is still a struggle. The girls are grown and all the magic of their wide-eyed Christmases lingers in the shadows. They “will” my spirit to come our and play!

So I am slowly coming home to Christmas. The decorations that have laced our traditions are being put into place. I will be ready.

A little known secret. Every year for twenty-six years, after all have retired to bed, I put on the suit to dress under the tree. All gifts wrapped and brightly adorned are placed beneath by me in the guise of the Jolly Old Guy! They believe because I believe. Even if only for ten minutes once a year on Christmas Eve, I AM the spirit of the Season. I am Santa Claus. We are all Santa Claus.

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For a journey through my Walter-ego, visit my poetry blog, I AM SANTA CLAUS ( iamsantaclaus.wordpress.com )


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LIFE IS A BEACH

Beach7513 004Last day of vacation of a sucky, rainy week, we decided to take a ride to the beach of our separate (but connected) youths. The drive up Route 5 along the lake passed through bright sunshine to overcast skies to smatterings of rain (some downright monsoon like). But we continued on.

Evangola State Park was the place we went for a day of sun and fun, picnic lunches and escape. It remains the same. However, it looks different. Maybe it was just perspective from childhood to the verge of my senior years. But the essence of it was Eerily familiar.

Grabbing the blanket and radio (and with umbrella in tow) we headed through the park to the shore, getting caught in a downpour before our destination. Under a tree, we debated ending the trek and returning home. But, just as suddenly the rain stopped.

Down the ramp to the sand, barefooted and determined, we found the beach deserted. No one, save for the two guards still on duty.Even the gulls were few. The skies changed but our connection stayed strong. As the rays of sun made an occasional appearance, it reaffirmed our believe in a greater power. My wife and I took our leave in the expanse of this Lake Erie shore. Even one day at the beach, albeit a rainy one, was just what the doctor ordered. It was sill a good day!


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WATCHING WALLENDA

Nik Wallenda.

What can you say about him? The guy is insane. He’s nuts. He has a death wish. He is extremely talented, And focused. And driven.

Nik Wallenda is amazing.

My knees knock on an extension ladder more than a story high. They say, “Don’t look down!” I look down and worry about falling and breaking something. What does that say about Wallenda? (What does it say about me?)

To be so sure that’s what you want to do when you grow up is commendable. To achieve your dream is a gift from somewhere way North of the horizon. It’s no wonder Nik Wallenda is so successful at what he does. He’s the seventh generation in the “Family Business”. And he walks with Jesus.

Now this isn’t a religious diatribe. It’s just that from his first step over the gorge that is as deep as the Empire State Building is tall, Wallenda was thankful for every new step forward he was “allowed” to take. And if he were going down, he’d go down with his prayer in his heart. But, Nik Wallenda was held aloft. As you watched (if you watched) his incredible feat, you noticed something. After a while, the high wire disappeared. It blended into the grandeur of the Grand Canyon’s magnificence. And there he was, the Great Karl Wallenda’s great-grandson suspended in mid air walking with the most spectacular view in the house.

Nik

Photo credit: AP

It laughs in the face of the old joke, “Why does Wallenda cross the Grand Canyon (and last year, Niagara Falls)?” It’s obvious. To get to the other side (which was the side this whole trek started on before helicopter whisked him to the starting point!)

Every ending is a beginning, after all!


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IN CELEBRATION OF FATHERS

Let’s see… I have two Martins, two Walters, two Josephs, a James, a Richard and a John. I celebrate them all today.

The “Martins” are the anglicized versions of the Polish, Marcin (both Great-Grandfathers – Marcin Wojtanik and Marcin Kura).

The succession of Walters ends with me; Walter Francis (Grandfather) and Walter Edwin (Father) broke the name in; I just added some flair.

One Joseph (Great-Grandfather, Josef Jakubowski – Paternal Grandmother’s father) lived well into his nineties (as did many of his progeny). One daughter, Theresa (a Felician Nun – S.M. Consolata) lived days shy of her 100th birthday.

Joseph (Jozef) Kura was my mother’s father. He was my mentor and role model, having spent many hours together in my formative years. A naturalized Polish immigrant, I didn’t know a day without his influence until the day he passed in September of 1974.

James (Maciej) Wasiela was my other Great-Grandfather, (my mother’s, mother’s father). Richard Wojtanik was my Godfather (Dad’s brother) and John Burkowski, my Father-in-law, is the only living celebrant – he is of a diminished capacity in the throes of Parkinson’s and Dementia, but still holding onto this precious life.

Congratulations to my brothers as well: Paul, Tim, Ken (Wojtanik) and Brother-in-law Ray Sahr for carrying on the “tradition”. Happy Father’s Day to every last one!


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RAISE THE FLAG

It’s my father’s flag. It flew in our yard for years and when he passed and it was lower for the last time, was the final statement of his life.

But now, I have his flag. A corner is a bit tattered, and my intention is to have it repaired and preserved. A noble gesture to some. A frustration for me in that I don’t want to fly it without. Plus, I can’t remember where I had put it since last year.

Picture 094So on this Flag Day, I needed to get a new flag. It’s still the standard under which we live and I love the idea and principals behind it. So I bought a new one, pretty much assuring I will find my father’s flag.

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone?

Who knew I’d be quoting “Big Yellow Taxi” on Flag Day?


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RETROGRADE

Screw George Jetson!

His space aged flying sportsters are still a pipe dream (although it seems we’ve pretty much nailed Jet Screamer on the wall sized television sets!) The move forward keeps taking steps backward.

When I was a kid with visions of having my license, I saw a Mustang, or Camaro, or a Challenger or Charger in my future. Rather myopic, agreed! But I was a kid. Give me a freakin’ break. And before I could realize owning any one of these, they disappeared from sight (or had gotten ugly enough to not even be considered.) I mean really, who the hell envisioned a Dodge Charger as a luxury car Cordoba wannabe. Fine Corinthian leather, my ass!

So on my drive in to work this morning, in my reliable and roomy family car (a gas guzzling S.U.V., you tree hugging bastards!) I noticed I was in a string of cars that included of all things a retro-Mustang, a revamped Camaro, and awesome looking Charger and a reincarnation of the old Dodge Dart. Four-for-six, an awesome statistic.

In my day, I came close. My first car, a ’72 Plymouth Duster, was a pretty awesome car (and would have made a great “project car” now – but family obligations blah, blah, blah…) and a two time try in Pontiac Firebirds (Camario’s poorer cousins – a ’77 and an ’80). But as always, no cigar!

So I live vicariously through your cars as I go through ice, mud and snow. I guess for the time being, the only way to go!