The TV show “The Middle”? It’s ok, I guess, but it’s a real mind-f@#! for me to see the wife from “Raymond” and the janitor from “Scrubs” raising a family. My kids get a kick out of the goofy looking kid on the show (hey, they share a common bond with him), and this show is the lead-in to the lead-in to the genius “Modern Family”, so unless there’s a game on, “The Middle” is in front of our eyeballs on Wednesdays.
The thing I hate more than anything about “The Middle” is the name. The phrase has always been a bummer. I know people who say they’re “in the middle” when they’re busy. It drives me crazy. I never could put my finger on why I hate those two words, “The” and “Middle” though until Charlie Sheen traveled from Mars to address the people of Earth.
In one of the most lucid of his historic string of moments bathed in awesomeness to America’s delight, Charlie blurted this out on camera in February, 2011:
I don’t live in the middle anymore. That’s where you get slaughtered.
See, the trolls (as Charlie so perfectly calls them) only embraced the things he muttered like a madman about “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA” and “Winning, duh”. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I love those quotes too. But, as Charlie also quipped, “I’m battle-tested bayonets, bro.” So, when he uttered that phrase about living “in the middle”, it was like I was floating in the ether. Nothing else surrounding me could interfere as my synapses crackled with life and a rising, light drone served to beat back the world around me. Nothing else existed in that time and place. Not my wife. Not the dog. Not the kids. I saw nothing but Charlie. I truly heard nothing but Charlie. I was awash in enlightenment. I felt like my legs had left the building without me. For a moment in time, after decades of meandering search, I could see my path at last…even feel it. A bright light had been shined upon it by the most unlikely of messengers. It was as if he was speaking in code to me, only me. For that instant, Charlie Sheen was The Beatles, and I was a madman who thought the White Album was talking only to me.
I grew up wanting to be on the radio. I was fortunate enough to do that at some pretty cool joints like WLUP and WUSN in Chicago. I also helped create successful radio shows for guys like Donny Osmond (a rich black haired guy you’ve seen on TV for ages) and Kevin Trudeau (a rich black haired guy you’ve seen on TV for ages). In the process I learned something that’s proved to be pretty life-changing for me. The omnipresent “struggle” to get on the radio and get these guys on the radio (neither was a cake walk, and for totally opposite reasons ironically, let me tell you) and get all of us noticed and accepted turned me into that which I supposedly never wanted to be: A middleman.
In the radio world, DJs are the middle men between the people with the money on all sides of the equation: the consumers (aka the listeners) and the advertisers (aka, the merchants). The only ones truly making out in that transaction are the higher-up middle men, the “suits,” aka the execs and the sales people. The lower-tier middle men, the dudes like me, never or rarely do.
So I’ve decided to move from the middle. See, I now realize that if I don’t go out and take what I want in life I’m doomed to merely take what life metes out. The same dudes working with me on the radio talking up records and being “Js” were the same crowd saying “Man, I don’t want to do sales, I want to make great radio.”Everytime they opened the mic they were supposed to be performing a sales function. They didn’t see that, and for the better part of two decades, neither did I.
No matter your station in life (no radio-related pun intended), if you are unwilling to stand up and tell someone what you know and why they need it and how it can help them and at what price they can have it, you will end up in the worst place I can think of (if Dante knew about this place, there would have been an 8th Circle of his “Inferno”). My worst fear is to live my entire life in a land I call “The Middle”. Unfortunately, it’s a land many if not most call “home”.
The Middle is nowhere. No one remembers those poor s.o.b.s who fall into The Middle. You get lost in The Middle; it sucks you in like quicksand. It lies to you and masquerades itself as “success”. It’s the place we retreat to when we fear to fly high because falling “hurts”.
What is the other name for “The Middle Ages”? Oh yeah, “The Dark Ages.” Who grows up wanting to be “Middle Class?” Horsehockey. You didn’t. You wanted to “Rich”, not “Middle class.” And, hey, don’t even get me started about that place called The Middle East.
Need more proof the middle is nowhere, and possibly even fatal? You need look only as far as Mr. Miyagi for apropos guidance:
Mr. Miyagi to Daniel-san: Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes gesture with tiny fingers to indicate squish like grape]…squish, like grape.”
So, after years of being in The Middle, being what I like to call a “Middle Man”, I’ve devoted my life to getting to one side of the road or the other and ushering others there too.
I know the way out of The Middle. If you’re not there, I can help you avoid it. It’s my life’s mission to help you not end up in The Middle. If you like The Middle, that’s cool. I won’t be seeing you there.
Charlie, on the other hand: I’m coming.