Forever A U. City Kid And A New Yorker

An atypically reflective post subject and a tl;dr alert. You’ve been warned…

 

I’m not even close to the only person that has called The Big Apple home to say this, but this time of year is usually not a particularly good one for me…at least not since 2001. And given things that have gone on in my personal and the US’s bubble in the past few days and months, I’m feeling it a bit more than I have in most other years. It’s not all bad…but I’m certainly not 5-by-5.
For most Americans, and certainly pre-September 10th New Yorkers, any drama surrounding this period of late summer/early fall started on September 11th of that year. For me (and the rest of my family), it started two days before that .
September 9, 2001 was the day that I got the call from The States (I was teaching English and being a freelance journalist in Japan) informing me that my mom was gravely ill after a severe stroke. I needed to make my way back home to St. Louis.
I would have caught a flight the next day on September 10th, but Typhoon Danas decided to pay a visit to the Tokyo area that morning; so kicking off an international flight with all of that strum und drang directly overhead was certainly not going to happen. I didn’t think that anything else was going to take place to keep me from getting back to Missouri.
Little did I know what was coming up about 18 hours later…
After finally being able to place a call to the US two days later and wrapping up some affairs, a couple of weeks later I headed back to the Midwest to check on and to be with the family.
So thinking of this time of year for me involves a bit more up close and personal hurt than it may for some others.
Fast forward to a few months after that, and past a cancelled contract to finish my year and a half in Tokyo and then head to Paris for a radio gig, I decided to move to New York City so that I wouldn’t be on the other side of the planet from my folks while I trying to do whatever it was that I was going to do next in my life.
Now most people were not moving TO New York right after 9/11 and the debilitating aftermath, but I’m rarely accused of being someone that does something because most people do it. On top of that, I’d just spent a deliberately educational year in the Land of the Rising Sun. That country has a well-earned reputation for not being a place that you can ever fully become an integral part of by spending a certain amount of time there and doing all the typical things that a life-long resident would.  外人だ! (There’s a foreigner!) is a phrase that any non-East Asian appearing person would become accustomed to hearing constantly after almost no time at all. You could ride the Yamanote Line every day for decades and function as a Tokyoite, but never truly be one.
So going from Kanagawa to Queens…from speaking .20 of the language used daily everywhere to 2.0 of the languages used daily everywhere…and from knowing absolutely no one at first to being around some of my oldest friends from University City the instant I rolled over the George Washington Bridge made the prospect of setting up shop in a place with an actual bombed out crater in its heart not the worst thing that I could come up with. I wanted to give it a go.
And I gave it a went.
I went on to earn my NYer stripes through being in blackouts, transit strikes, heat waves, blizzards, hurricanes, nor’easters, and random parties in random places. I kept on earning by being stuck in the subway, stuck with crazy neighbors in my building, and stuck on bad dates in fancy places (and being a bad date myself).
I worked in a loud telephone survey call center and on a loud Wall Street trading floor. I waited on line for Summer Fest for fun and I waited on line for cronuts for work.  I whiplashed my brain by being an assistant for a philosophy professor at Columbia University during the day and being a transcriber of video for a reality TV show at night.
I even learned how to tolerate karaoke, properly eat a slice, successfully hail a cab while Black, and not hate riding a city bus.
But most importantly I met the people…my neighbors…my friends…my friends-as-family. They were New Yorkers all, whether they were natives or transplants like myself. And it was good.
They lived in all five boroughs and came from five other continents.  They were older, younger, and even exactly the same age as me.  They had skills and talents and strengths that were not to be believed.  And they walked too fast and cursed like sailors because, fuhgeddaboudit, that’s what’s fuckin’ done by everyone.
We danced. We drank. We went out. We hung out. We performed. We learned from and supported each other. And we talked. And we talked. And we talked. I told them my stories, and they told me theirs. We did what friends are supposed to do and did it well.
And even though I was literally on the other side of Earth on that clear, blue Tuesday when many of their worlds changed forever and that day became an unshakeable part of their story, they called me one of their own. I was still a New Yorker too.
My original tenure in The City was at an odd “shoulder” time for New York and myself. We were both in between eras…in rebuilding periods.  I was already in Astoria the first September when the two ghostly shafts of light shot up into the night from next to The Pile downtown.  Less than 13 months before that in Yokohama, I could not have contemplated that I would have moved to town only six months after the twin towers fell any more than I could have imagined that I’d be leaving town just over a dozen years later…about six months before the “replacement” One World Trade Center tower would be completed.
The trauma that rocked the tri-state area because of two airplanes was being addressed at the same time that I was trying to address the familial trauma that strokes and age and time had imposed on my world.  There’s no way that I would have known that I’d get another call back home 12 years later to attend to another stroke dealt to my mother and end up on a 1,100 mile, 54 hour snowbound Amtrak rail/bus adventure instead of an 18 hour trans-Pacific flight.  But that happened…and I unexpectedly changed course again. I found myself back in University City once more, but this time it was for a long haul.
So now, 16 Septembers later, with an inconceivably crazier political landscape than 2001, an even bigger and more frequent set of hurricanes, and with the very recent death of my mother, I find myself a bit more reflective than usual.  To be de rigueur, let’s just say I’ve been “triggered” to be a bit more reflective than usual.
Since I was finally able to get some of my belongings out of storage in Queens only a few months ago, The City has been on my mind more and more. I’d had to put New York out of my mind. I had more pressing and acute family related issues to worry about and no time to think about my stuff in boxes in Woodside near LaGuardia. After all, they’re just things, most of which could eventually be replaced.
But most of the people that were in my so-called-New York-life were harder to put out of my mind. In most cases, it wasn’t possible at all to put them out of my mind. It would be equally impossible for me to deny my birthright as a kid from U. City as it would be to not think of some of my New York friends. (That is not possible.)
And in the couple of trips back for more of my stuff that I’ve made this spring and summer, I’ve gotten to connect and reconnect with more people and see what I’ve missed in my three plus year absence.  There have been some tremendous ups and tragic downs with folks. There are people who have left The City who I never thought would go and some that have stayed in spite of every indication that they would have been outta there.  There have been those extremes and all sorts of things in between.  There has been Life there.  That is in order and to be expected.
Facebook and other social media has, of course, provided a window for me into some of what they’ve been through. The main consensus items from everyone seem to be that the MTA is infinitely worse, plus the Rent Is Too Damn HIGHER, and this and other things have made the town even more unlivable (and not in the way that every NYer constantly says that either…it’s actually being made unlivable).
So my “reappearance” has made many people ask, “What are you going to do now? Are you moving back?” The answer is I don’t know what the future will bring or where it will take me. I’m open to any number of possibilities and things I haven’t even thought about.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully acknowledge the Greatness of New York City; but, I was never one of those New Yorkers who thought that The City was the only place in the world to live.  New York is uniquely amazing and a place that I loved living in.  Period. End of story. That can’t be denied.  I could see myself being there again at some point. If I had unlimited funds (bahahahaha) I’d love to always have a place to call home there. But I don’t see Sodom-on-the-Hudson as the alpha and omega of life. I don’t know that anywhere is for me, personally.  So I can’t answer that one set of questions that I keep getting asked.
But I do know that my brain seems to have shaken itself from its four and a half year stint in Neutral and has remembered how to go into Drive…slowly. And I know that that’s a good thing and that I’ll try to figure something out in short order.
I do know myself a bit better, and I do know who my friends are a bit better, because of who’s been there for me and who hasn’t…and that’s as important to me as any sort of location and job that I need to find myself in.
That said, today there is only one place and one set of people on my mind. That’s just the way it is. It has to be that way. I spent as much of my adult life in New York City as I did anywhere else. There’s no way that I can’t have it and all of the inhabitants during my time there in my thoughts.
So I’m with you today, New York. I’m with you today, New Yorkers. I always will be.
Singned,
Just Another U. City Kid
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Watch & Listen to The Show w/ Rod Milam from Saturday, October 10, 2015

This week on “The Show with Milam” here’s the music that I spun for you. You can watch and listen to the “action” until about 11am CDT on Sunday, October 11, 2015 by clicking here and following us on Periscope at http://periscope.tv/ucitykid88

Time Artist Song Album
10:05:00 Prince Raspberry Beret Around The World In A Day
10:08:00 Lenny Kravitz Are you gonna go my way Are You Gonna Go My Way
10:17:00 Living Colour Desperate People Vivid
10:19:00 Lenny Kravitz Is There Any Love In Your Heart Are You Gonna Go My Way
10:24:00 The Paragons The Tide is High On the Beach With the Paragons
10:27:00 Blondie The Tide is High The Best of Blondie
10:34:00 Talking Heads Once In a Lifetime (Remastered) (Live) Sand in the Vaseline
10:36:00 Elvis Costello Pump it up Pump It Up
10:42:00 Elvis Costello and the Roots Refuse To Be Saved Wise Up Ghost
10:15:00 Fiona Apple Criminal Tidal
10:53:00 Peter Martin Broadmoor What Lies Ahead
10:58:00 Jon Batiste and Stay Human Express Yourself (Say Yes) Social Music

In the coming weeks we’ll have interviews with some musicians and artists to add to the mix of music we do for you each Saturday morning from 9:00a to 11:00a (Central Daylight Time USA).

Remember to follow us on Periscope so that you can watch and comment as things happen with the rest of the world. Also, please “Like” us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ucitykid88 and “Follow” us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ucitykid88 so that you can put in your requests, questions, and comments.

St. Louis TV News Asleep At The Switch During State Of Emergency Call? (COMMENTARY)

Six pictures of media outlets in St. Louis, Missouri hours after a State of Emergency was called by the St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger. The top 5 are local terrestrial TV stations showing regular programming, and the bottom picture is a screen capture from Huffingtonpost.com reposting a tweet from the largest local public radio station commenting on the declaration of the SOE.

Six pictures of media outlets in St. Louis, Missouri on the afternoon of Monday, August 10, 2015, hours after a State of Emergency was called by the St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger. The top 5 are local terrestrial TV stations showing regular programming (Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil, Ellen Degeneres [a re-run], Family Feud, and Hot Bench), and the bottom picture is a screen capture from Huffingtonpost.com reposting a tweet from the largest local public radio station commenting on the declaration of the SOE. ©Rod Milam 2015

For a little over three years now I’ve been cable TV free…a cord cutter. After a 12 month weaning period, I paid for tons of programming that I didn’t need for years for the last time and immediately wondered why it took me so long to do so.  I did this while I was in New York City and had long since abandoned looking at local TV news (save NY1) in favor of online outlets and social media contacts for more relevant, up-to-date, and in-depth information.

When I returned to St. Louis after being gone for a bit over 14 years, I continued my relatively new rules regarding TV consumption:

  1. Only turn on TV for severe weather threats
  2. Only turn on TV for acute terrorist/civil unrest threats/transit events
  3. Only turn on TV for Cardinals playoff and World Series games
  4. Don’t bother with TV for almost anything else at all

I was in NYC around eight months after the September 11th attacks, I went through area closing blizzards and hurricanes, and I made it through multiple MTA shutdowns, blackouts, and World Series appearances during my Big Apple tenure, and I was able to pretty much follow these four rules even before I formalized them toward the end of my Astoria adventures.

Back in the St. Louis area after less than two years I’ve been through big ice storms, a record hail storm, a tornado touching down less than a quarter of a mile from home, near Biblical rainfall this past spring, all of the initial Ferguson activity less than eight miles away last year, and another playoff appearance by the Cards.  I still followed the rules.  I found out what I needed from TV news when it was urgent, but still got the bulk of my info elsewhere.

Now one year and one day after the killing of unarmed Mike Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, and a half a day after overnight gun play between police and someone proximate to demonstrations from the day before in Ferguson, the St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger made a midday announcement that many of the one million plus residents of his county were under a State of Emergency because of the shooting incident from the night before and the protests and arrests of many people in Downtown St. Louis.

How did I find out about this SoE and the arrest and protest activity initially?  Facebook.  Where did I initially follow up to find out more information? Twitter.  What did I feel the need to do next?  Invoke Rule #2…turn on the local TV news.  What did I find on local TV channels hours after the announcement by the County Executive?  Non-sense.  As Public Enemy’s frontman, Chuck D., put it way back in the late 1980s, I found “Channel Zero”.

As of the 3 o’clock PM hour, more than two hours after the announcement and more hours than that after the protest arrests, ALL of the local TV stations with big news rooms must have felt that these events weren’t pressing or important enough to preempt the showing of their regularly scheduled programming. I turned on the 1920×1080 box and was greeted by the likes of old TV hot messes like “Jerry Springer” and “Dr. Phil”, some new-to-me hot mess called “Hot Bench”, and general innocuous fluff in the form of “Family Feud” and “The Ellen Degeneres Show” [a rerun].  I just caught the end of “Days of Our Lives” before the top of the hour and was stunned that it was both on during this time of unrest and on television STILL at all.

I had to take a picture of the screens to prove to myself and others that the big local TV newsrooms along with their parent stations combined their thought processes and wound up concluding that it was best to continue to “sell soap” instead of informing a total of nearly three million citizens that a huge swath of residents that their lives had been fundamentally changed by a government official in response to renewed civil unrest.

This isn’t to say that all local media ignored the story as it was happening. I snapped a screen shot of the largest local public radio station’s, KWMU, Twitter post that I saw, and I also saw a retweeted link from the St. Louis American, the largest weekly newspaper in the state which also focuses on the Black community.

Eventually the TV stations posted items on their websites on social media feeds, but that’s hardly the point. They’re huge local TV stations with the widest local reach.  Locals should be able to find out huge things like this from them on their largest platforms.  There should be no reason why I should see and hear about all of this first on large national cable news outlets and my friends in 5 different states on Facebook before that. These stations are chartered by the federal government to serve the public interest…so I can hardly think of many things more in the public interest than a State of Emergency declaration versus the possible 3,891st episode of the freakin’ Jerry Springer Show.

How seriously is anyone in the area supposed to take TV news channels seriously when they say that they want to convey and do what’s best for their viewers when they are quick to show “visually-attractive” fires during protests but pass off more “cerebral” announcements by officials of state-of-emergencies as something that can wait until the audience finds out which family knew that 54 out of 100 men found boxers the most comfortable form of underwear?  I would say here, but I don’t know if that’s against the rules of the State of Emergency because I’m still waiting to see when they’re going to talk about it on-the-air.

Musician John Bolduan In-Studio Guest from Bilbao, Spain Today!

We’re very happy to announce that we’re scheduled to have native U. City musician John Bolduan as a guest, in-studio, today for the next episode of “The Show with Rod Milam“.

Musician John Bolduan as he performed at The Focal Point in March of 2014. (Photo by © Rod Milam and seen as part of The University City Musician Documentary Project)

Musician John Bolduan as he performed at The Focal Point in March of 2014. (Photo by © Rod Milam and seen as part of The University City Musician Documentary Project)

John is a singer, guitarist, and song writer that currently lives in Bilbao, Spain and is back in his home town for a couple of weeks to visit family and to perform.  Click here to tune into the program today from 12:00 noon to 2:00pm on The U (UMSL Radio) for our chat with John and for a performance or two: http://streamer2.umsl.edu

Playlist for Episode 1, Volume 2 of “The Show with Rod Milam” – Original Broadcast: Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yesterday, was the official kickoff for Volume 2 of “The Show with Rod Milam”, and the debut on “The U“, student run radio on campus of the University of Missouri – St. Louis.  It was great to have this show back on-the-air after more than a 17 year absence.

A lot of fun was had and I just plain loved it!  and I reprised several of the segments of the program that were mainstays back in the 1990s: “A Prince, The Police, and A Posse”, “Make/Remake’, and “Free Samples”.  I also introduced a new segment that features musicians that are subjects of The University City Musician Documentary Project, of which there are more than 250 people identified in more than 15 different countries.  This week was music by “callers” (featuring Sara Lucas, UCHS c/o 1998) and “Kevin Batchelor and Grand Councourse” (featuring Kevin Batchelor, UCHS c/o 1979). I’ll be keeping this feature around for sure and expanding on it with some live phone or in-studio interviews playing on the weekly program.  Plus there was a huge mix of other music from as far back as 1975 to songs released in the last year.

Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to replay the entire show online at this time. So you’ll have to catch the program when it airs live.  I’ll work on doing a rebroadcast of the program at a different time on “The U”, but for now, just check below to see the playlist and the picture including album covers and pictures of the featured artists from U. City!

Musicians from University City, Missouri featured in Episode 1 of The Show: Sara Lucas (and her group "callers) and Kevin Batchelor (and his group "Kevin Batchelor and Grand Concourse).

Musicians from University City, Missouri featured in Episode 1 of The Show: Sara Lucas (and her group “callers) and Kevin Batchelor (and his group “Kevin Batchelor and Grand Concourse).

Playlist for Episode 1, Volume 2 of “The Show with Rod Milam” Broadcast on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 12:00pm-2pm CDT

Artist Song Disk
Prince Hot Thing Sign O’ The Times
The Police Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic Ghost In The Machine
A Tribe Called Quest Can I Kick It? Peoples’ Instinctive Travels & the Paths of Rhythm
Callers Howard 2 Hands Reviver
Callers Heroes Reviver
Elvis Costello Pump It Up Pump It Up
Elvis Costello and the Roots Refuse To Be Saved Wise Up Ghost
The White Stripes Icky Thump 10
Lenny Kravitz Is There Any Love In Your Heart Are You Gonna Go My Way
The Heavy How You Like Me Now How You Like Me Now – EP
Daft Punk Harder Better Faster Stronger Discovery
Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories Taffy Tails
Daft Punk Lose Yourself to Dance Lose Yourself to Dance – Single
Dwende Someone You Don’t Know Collective
Aerosmith Walk This Way Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits
Run DMC Walk This Way Raising Hell
The Winstons Amen Brother Amen Brother
LCD Soundsystem Dance Yrself Clean Dance Yrself Clean
Robert Randolph & The Family Band Squeeze UnClassified
Kevin Batchelor Leave It Alone Kevin Batchelor’s Grand Concourse
Kevin Batchelor Five Minutes Kevin Batchelor’s Grand Concourse
Joshua Redman Riverwide Momentum

 

TODAY: Final Test Run for “The Show with Rod Milam” from Noon to 2pm CDT (-5 GMT) (Music from the 1980s)!

http://streamer2.umsl.edu

Hey everyone! Rod here. Everyone around the world has heard a lot about St. Louis in the news over the past week and a half because of the issues going on in #Ferguson, just north and west of this picture of the city’s Gateway Arch (the US’ largest national monument).

Well, we won’t be talking about that this week (but who knows when we kick off “The Show” officially next Wednesday…), but I will be going on the air this week from 12:00 noon through 2:00pm CDT (that’s 1:00-3:00pm EDT and -5 GMT) and I’d love to have you along. Just click on this link and you’ll be able to hear everything from a browser, iTunes, mobile device, or Windows Media Player: http://streamer2.umsl.edu

I plan on bringing you the first “A Prince, The Police and a Posse” feature, “A Make/Remake”, and “Free Samples” in the mix of music that I do.  That and some other sounds from the 1980s should be enough to fill up our now confirmed weekly 2 hour slot in the middle of the week.

So I hope you join us today and spread the word to all of your friends about the program.  Follow us on all social media outlets too:

Facebook: http://facebook.com/ucitykid88
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Thanks and can’t wait to keep the tests running up to the official start!

A view of the Gateway Arch from the Metrolink going over the historic Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri.

A view of the Gateway Arch from the Metrolink going over the historic Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri.

How Citizens & Police In St. Louis Peacefully Handled A Large Protest In 1999 (audio)

In the last five days, Ferguson, Missouri, USA has played host to many scenes of violence involving citizens of the greater St. Louis region and the police from the city of Ferguson and those from the St. Louis County Police Department.  The initial incident that sparked subsequent protests and clashes with police was the Saturday shooting of an unarmed, Black teenager by an officer from the Ferguson police department.

Since that shooting, there have been peaceful protesters that have taken to the streets of the St. Louis County suburb that demanded answers to many questions from the police about the shooting.  Simultaneously, there have also been other individuals that have come to the town and caused large scale property damage and burglary during a vacuum in police presence.

Subsequently, there has been a consistent ratcheting up of tension between protesters/reporters on the scene of daily demonstrations and police as the local and county departments have increased both the number of officers in the area and the tonnage and strength of materiel.  As of the writing of this post, there is no reported movement by the police to stop the escalation of weaponry that they display or decrease it even while there has been no direct violence shown by protesters nor continued property damage by people from outside of the city.

I report the above as undisputed facts in what has been occurring without commentary.  The clashes between police and protesters has gone from peaceful daytime marches to tear gas being deployed to disperse residents of the area.  I will not introduce opinion (at this time) into how this has gotten this far down this road and what the outcome may be.

However, I was a reporter at CBS’ largest owned and operated radio station, KMOX, back in 1999 during the time of another protest that caused, arguably, a larger disruption to the entire St. Louis area that involved issues of race and received national attention.  During a summer protest 15 years ago that involved Reverend Al Sharpton, people walked onto one of the area’s main arterial highways during morning rush hour to demand more minority participation in construction projects.  This protest shutdown the highway for hours and caused major backups on all of the area roads.

But, in that demonstration, the interaction between the City of St. Louis Police Department, the Governor of the state, and the citizen protesters was totally peaceful, even while more than 100 arrests were made since the protesters were actually breaking the law by walking on and blocking the highway.  (The protesters in the past week have not been breaking any laws during their protests, but the looters clearly were.)

The message of disapproval was heard by the state from the citizen groups and changes were subsequently made.  Here are two reports (one live on the highway and one after the fact) that I made on the scene on the highway and back in downtown St. Louis.  First the beginning of the arrests, starting with Al Sharpton:

This clip is a post event report to the CBS network with finalized numbers and statistics surrounding the highway shutdown:

While these two protest scenarios are not totally analogous, they do share a good deal of overlap.  It also shows that it is possible inside of the entire St. Louis Metropolitan area to have large scale protests take place without the perpetration of violence by the police toward peaceful citizens or the committing of crimes by criminals that take advantage of decreased police attention.

I MAY come back to this blog with a much, MUCH longer and broader set of posts to contextualize some of the drama that is occurring now in St. Louis (because SO much is needed now), but I have not 100% decided to do so.  I want to make sure to separate my  opinion, as much as possible, from facts on the ground when talking about this very sensitive subject while providing as much information as possible to the people I know are reading and listening around the world to these events.

Feel free to spread this link, if you choose.

(h/t to KMOX and CBS)