News From The Woods - October 23, 2009


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published June 30, 2010

"Working Late Tonight"

2:00 AM

It's been a beautiful night tonight. It's now past midnight. I am working late on a video project which must be sent out tomorrow so I have no choice but to stay up until it is finished. Robert is at church summer camp and Jane had a hard day at her job so she hit the sack early. A lot of time on this job is waiting while the video files render, so it's not a good idea to multi task while the processor is pre-occupied. I manage to move around the control room doing various sub chores, keeping busy as my usual MO is to be doing several things at once, all running in the background, while I answer the phone, juggle appointments, let the dogs in and out, leave a Facebook comment, and tend to the many duties I do every day. Usually there is one primary job that keeps my mind working while the background things just run on. But when I am rendering, one computer is essentially locked up, unless I am rendering two different projects at the same time which leaves me with only one poor computer I can "play on". Right now, the file is rendering for burning to a DVD. On another computer I am dubbing the audio off the video project for a different job application. I am sitting at my third computer at the moment, doing my word processing for News From The Woods.

It's very quiet in the house. It has been conspicuously so since Robert's departure on Monday. Ranger is lying at my feet while Fritz is upstairs in our bedroom. About thirty minutes ago I saw that I had a block of about thirty minutes coming up and decided to hit the hot tub. I grabbed a Mic Ultra out of the fridge and walked out to the tub, only a few feet from the studio entrance. After removing the hinged top and turning on the jets I stepped in and slowly sank up to my neck. As I allowed the jets to pound the soles of my feet into oblivion, I glanced up into the night. It was so beautiful. We finally got a decently cool summer night. There was hardly a cloud in the sky. The Big Dipper had lowered a few degrees to the West since the last time I took notice. I sat there for perhaps ten full minutes watching small meteorites and the occasional satellite pass overhead. There wasn't a single boat out on the lake. I could hear the tree frogs and cicadas play their concert while fireflies ("lightnin' bugs" for you locals) danced around the back yard, the entire lake and night sky their backdrop. I had an uncontrollable urge to heave a big sign and let the air escape slowly from my lungs. Then taking in the smell of the night and the grass and the mimosa I slowly sat up for a second so I could look out over the lake. Ranger, who had followed me outside, was contently sitting at the very edge of the grassy hillside with his back to me, keeping guard over his domain.

I thought to myself, this is just about perfect. I rarely stay up late anymore and I remember how I used to love the late night. As a life-long musician, our days start at noon and we just get warmed up by 7 PM. In the old days I could work all night in the studio and walk out the front door at sun up. Even when gigging for a living, your "day" starts at 8 or 9PM and ends, sort of, around 1 AM or so. Of course, there's pack up and load out, travel to the room or the next stop, and re-live the adventure in a new city or for a new audience every night. It doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me know, and for the life of me I don't know why I did it when I think of it in that context. Yes... I know the answer. I'm a lot older (and wiser). But after years and years of living a certain lifestyle, it's not only difficult to make the transition but sometimes it can be dangerous. I recall the bad times at the old studio in town when my 3rd marriage was coming to a painful end, I took a sign-on job at a local radio station. I had to be at the studios at least thirty minutes before I cut into the satellite feed and "go local", which was at 6AM. That meant I had to be up by 5 at the least in order to just make it. The first week went pretty well, although it was hard to be "Bob the Chipper Morning DJ Guy" . My mind didn't start to function until at least 7:30. I really did work at it because we needed the money but by the second week I slipped into a routine where I got there, signed on, read the news and weather, then when I joined the network news I had five minutes to run to the bathroom, throw up violently, throw water in my face, and then get back in time to cut away at the end of the news and start playing music. Then, for the next couple of hours I played a lot of classic cuts that clocked in at over 5 minutes each. Recurrent favorites my audience came to expect were "Hey Jude", "MacArthur Park", "Green-Eyed Lady" (the album cut), "Riders In The Storm" or "Light My Fire" (also album cuts).

By the second week I was going into the production room during my show and recording 2-3 songs in succession to a broadcast cartridge (like the kind we put the commercials on) so I could play the whole thing on the next show if I was having a particularly hard time and needed ten, twelve, (or TWENTY) minutes. I finally got so sick I was sick when I woke up. At the time I was living in the back of the studio, surrounded by a black wall of plastic. I had a bed, a dresser, and a TV with a Betamax and a Nintendo, all neatly tucked into the back end of the studio, hidden behind racks of equipment and metal shelves filled with obsolete audio, video, and broadcast gear. It was my personal little "hidey hole" and for a time there while I was at the pits of despair it was my sanctuary. I recall my 2nd engineer Chris Patton practically took up residence there with me. Before I took the radio job we'd spend all night playing this stupid "interactive" game called "Out Of The World". It was one of the first role playing games and we got into it, playing for hours on end eating graham crackers and washing them down with a quart of chocolate milk. Pretty bad, huh? Of course, all that came crashing down when I took the radio job, and then the job came crashing down on top of that. And to add the icing on the cake, due to some recent storm damage (another story entirely) I was raising a healthy crop of mold on the lower walls of my sanctuary. This could have greatly affected my already aggravated case of "up earlies" a thousandfold. In the end, I could not even get out of bed without gagging or throwing up and I had to give my notice.

I slid back into the late night routine, mostly because I'd been doing it all my life up to that point, so it was fairly easy once I cleaned up the mold. And it wasn't long after that when I moved back into my mom's house to be my step father's care giver after mom died. And from then on I stayed with the late night lifestyle until I met Jane and when we had Robert my world once again turned upside down. But this time it was in a different way because Robert was a real enough reason to change my lifestyle. It was hard for the first year and I know Jane cut me a lot of slack for a long time as well. I remember falling asleep slumped over Robert's crib while making sure his Tigger doll kept playing its tune until he dropped off. Some nights were worse than others, but at least I never got sick or threw up.

And then the hot tub's auto shutoff triggered at fifteen minutes and I was snapped back to present, remembering that Robert was at church camp. As I soaked my ancient body in the healing but still waters of the hot tub I could once again hear the insects, and I looked up just as a shooting star shot across the sky with such speed that for an instant I thought it was an illusion. I stood up, dried off, covered the tub, and escorted Ranger back inside the control room and shifted mental gears back into multitasking. I need to remind myself more often to do that because that fifteen minutes was the best fifteen minutes of the day.


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