Ray Kinsella: Fifty years ago, for five minutes you came within… y-you came this close. It would KILL some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. God, they’d consider it a tragedy.
Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham: Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes… now that would have been a tragedy.
Of all the lines in the movie Field of Dreams, this is the most poignant and painful for me.
From the spring of 1999 through June 27, 2003, I was on the radio. It was like a dream come true. From the time I played ‘make believe disc jockey’ when I was a kid, spinning 45s on my plastic turntable, I wanted to be on the air.
And for a little while I was. I had my own call in talk show. I interviewed some famous people, make a lot of headlines and got decent ratings.
Around three or four weeks before I got fired because of my then out-of-control mental condition (let me be clear – I would have fired me too), I spoke to one of our ownership’s consultants from Providence R.I. He liked my tapes and wanted to set up a meeting soon to discuss my future.
If I had been able to keep that appointment, God only knows what could have happened; where I might have landed up. I’m not going to be modest here – I was good. It was a small market station and I gave them a big market talk show experience straight from the memory of the Cleveland radio I grew up with.
I produced my own comedy bits, scheduled my own interviews, screened my own calls, ran my own board (that big thing with all the sliding knobs), did my own show prep, created my own promotions and even, in one instance, got my own sponsor for the promotion.
Nobody could tell me that with a little more polish and the right guidance I could have made it big.
I got blackballed from the business and never worked in radio again.
Long ago I converted my hours of air checks (tapes of my show) to digital. I have not listened to them since I prepared them for resumes over a decade ago. It’s too painful.
For years after I was fired, I would have the most vivid dreams of being back on the air again, running the board, talking to people.
And then I’d wake up – just not right away. There would be that twilight zone of disbelief between sleep and wakefulness where for 20 seconds or so I would believe it was real. And the crushing disappointment when I realized it was just another one of those dreams.
I have never known such psychological pain before or since, and I’ve experienced some real gut-wrenching times.
Unlike Dr. Graham, I can’t say with a straight face that if I had only gotten to be a government flack for five minutes that that would have been a tragedy.
I bring all this painful shit up because of a piece I read from therapist Annie Wright in The Mighty titled 15 ‘Adulting’ Truths You May Relate to If You Struggle With Mental Illness. It’s a good read so, if you can, give it a few minutes of your time. I could write a piece on each of the 15 truths, but I want to concentrate on this one:
- There comes a point where you have to grieve the paths you didn’t take.
It’s not quite the same because I did take a path – I just self-destructed and was never able to go back. THEN I took the convoluted paths that led me to where I am now.
But the chief concept here is the one about grieving. Annie says its right and proper to grieve about these paths not taken or paths derailed. What she doesn’t say is how long one should grieve them; when does a health grieving give way to a lifelong funeral dirge?
The radio dreams stopped about eight years ago. But sometimes, when I can’t fall asleep and stare at the ceiling, I think about those times – the only time in my life I couldn’t believe I was being paid to do a job I considered fun.
And it still hurts 14 years later and I still grieve. I understand and have come to terms with how and why it happened but that doesn’t erase the memories, the ‘being on top of the world’ feelings I experienced for a brief period in my life.
Earlier this year my wife and I were at Rockefeller Center in NYC and took the studio tour. At the end of the tour, the tour group gets to take the places of people on a recreation of a Jimmy Fallon-like Tonight Show. I landed up as host. I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I did.
See, I did really well. No, I KILLED it. For a few brief moments I was on stage again, engaged again. This time I was making love to a camera instead of a microphone but it was all the same. It felt natural, like I was born to do this.
NBC sent everyone a video link to the five minute show.
I have never watched it.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: Getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated. I’ve heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that been dust for over fifty years. That was me. I’d wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet… The thrill of the grass. . . Man, I did love this game. I’d have played for food money. It was the game… The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?
Ray Kinsella: Yeah.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: I used to love travelling on the trains from town to town. The hotels… brass spittoons in the lobbies, brass beds in the rooms. It was the crowd, rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep. Shoot, I’d play for nothing!