R.I.P. Kidd Kraddick

Kidd Kraddick 1984

Last night, ├╝ber-famous local radio personality Kidd Kraddick passed away suddenly. It happened late at night, right as I was headed to bed. It prompted me to stay up way past my bedtime to learn additional details and fully absorb the impact. It wasn’t until tonight I could articulate my thoughts, so I’m writing this post now to share how important an influence he was to my family.

Kidd blew on the Dallas radio scene in 1984, shooting to stardom as weeknight DJ at KEGL 97.1 FM. Back then, this was huge — The Eagle was king of Dallas pop radio (remember the rivalry with Y95 and Moby?), and it was the eighties (lest we forget). He lasted there for eight years, before landing at the fertile grounds of morning drive time at KISS 106.1 FM. It was there he truly blew up, eventually becoming a national presence after syndicating in 2001.

Kidd was a big deal to child-size McGarityDotMe. In 1984, I was eleven years old and entering a really awkward stage of my life. This was less because of puberty and more due to a severe lack of friends and respect from my peers. Middle school was the loneliest time of my life, and each day I would wish the school hours to fly by as quickly as possible so I could escape back to home.

My brother Michael was still around at this time, still a couple years away from college. After dinner, we would spend hours listening to the radio, anticipating the next pop hit we loved to be played. We even engaged in the time-honored tradition of hovering over our boom boxes, pouncing upon the “record” button just in time to capture the most song with the least amount of DJ chatter. It was a special time in radio.

I quickly fell in love with Kidd. To me, he was special: he had That Voice, he oozed confidence, and above all he seemed kind. I needed kind people in my life at the time, and each night he delivered. I’d listen to him until mom told me to go to bed. Of course, my mom forgot about my old crystal diode radio, which I would sneak into bed and use to continue my late-night FM rendezvous. In many ways, Kidd was one of my few childhood friends. He never burned my buns.

Here’s a sampling of what I heard each and every night:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTrmi7lmZI4

Years later, after I had grown up and away from radio, and in many ways had forgotten about the essentials of my childhood, I met my wife. Jenn turned out to be a big Kidd fan, and she re-introducted to me the disembodied personality that filled my youth. Coincidentally, Kidd had a similar effect on Jenn during her adult life, buoying her daily spirits while she toiled away at a less-than-fulfilling job. And for years on a regular basis, Jenn would share with me recordings of Kidd’s funny bits and stories of his inspiring charity work with Kidd’s Kids.

I’m tearing up while writing this, because thinking of Kidd reminds me of a tough childhood, an era of my life that still affects my character to this day. But I tear up less because of the bad memories but more of the calming effect he had on me. I think that many Metroplex locals shocked by his passing were also similarly touched by his presence in our formative years. Today, I’m also thinking of the people Kidd personally touched with his works — he not only served as people’s morning coffee, he also left behind a family and co-workers, and so many children benefitted from his charity. As I grow older and have become a husband and father, I can empathize with his survivors well enough. But knowing that a childhood friend has passed only compounds my emotions.

R.I.P. Kidd. You’ll be missed!

Image credit: Dallas Morning News, via Robert Wilonsky

How the Dallas White Rock Marathon’s New Location Fails

Today it was announced that The Dallas White Rock Marathon was shifting its start/finish from Fair Park to downtown Dallas, specifically near the new Omni Hotel.

While such a move will surely please out-of-towners (as it provides start/finish proximity to hotels), this in-tower thinks it sucks. And apparently amongst my local running tribe, this is a singular opinion. Everyone I know (except one person) is praising the move on Facebook, but I’m not sure what they are seeing.

So I’m motivated to explain my negative reaction and see if anyone can convince me it’s a good move on the part of the DWRM organizers. I may be demanding too much, but I’ve participated in different races (including local ones) that had better organization, at least in the past.

I found interesting that the start/finish was once at Dallas City Hall, which is just a stone’s throw away from where it will be this year. I did run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas Half-Marathon its first year, which had a City Hall start. For that race, we had to park at Fair Park & take buses to downtown Dallas (shuttles are a great way to harsh early morning race ‘mellow). But shuttles were required for that event the finish line was back at Fair Park; this year’s DWRM is different because both the start/finish are the same place.

I’ve only ever run DWRM when the start/finish was The American Airlines Center or Fair Park, and between the two I found Fair Park to be the far better location.

During the three years I ran at American Airlines Center, I found navigating the highways/roads to the AAC to be difficult and the parking situation to be painful. Back then, they charged $10 for parking, and you had to arrive butt-ass early to get favorable spots. And when you ran, you had to navigate two rough patches of pavement early in the race: the brick-lined streets of the West End (where an errant brick was enough to send people tripping) and the over-crowned, pothole-lined Ross Street west of the Dallas Museum of Art.

And in recent years when I’ve run the half marathon, we had an entirely different finish line than the full marathon, thanks to the fact our final miles were along the Katy Trail. Taking hundreds of runners accustomed to spreading out wide on a city street, then funneling them through a bottleneck like the Katy Trail, and dodging pedestrians & pets along the way, was a classic course planning mistake. During that year’s edition, my time slowed down in the last few miles because of the artificial crowd I had to plow through.

When the switch to Fair Park was announced, I was immediately excited.

I immediately had visions of ample, free parking…an easy commute that didn’t involve navigating closed-off downtown streets…running past the Cotton Bowl, art deco buildings, and the Espalande…multiple DART stations, should I choose to take public transportation.

The course was an improvement, but not perfect (see below). Because you approach downtown from the east instead of the west, you avoid the mess on Ross Street and instead get to run past some incredible venues such as The Cathedral Guadalupe Church, the Winspear Opera House, the Morton Meyerson Symphony Center, and more.

And the way the full and half courses merged immediately before the finish line was exciting…I still remember how I was able to run with the Kenyans because my half time lined up exactly with their full time, and the fact our courses merged when they did. It will be the only time I could possibly keep up with them!

The Automotive Building was a great finishing chute — immediately after crossing the finish line, you could scamper into the building while barely getting chilled. At the AAC, you would have to find one of four sets of open doors which were a hike-through-the-crowd away from the finish line. I doubt the Omni will be opening up their doors for post-race recovery; that function will likely fall onto the Dallas Convention Center.

Fair Park had its issues, don’t get me wrong. In Year One, I had several friends who were caught in the paralyzing traffic snarl between IH45 and IH30, causing them to miss the race start. Luckily,this didn’t affect me, as a lifetime of Texas State Fair visits has taught me to always approach Fair Park via Munger St. instead of 2nd Ave. exit on I30. Also, in my first experience on a relay team this year, I found that the slog which was my walk between shuttle stop and my car was excruciating — I blame this more on last year’s epic freezing rain than the distance. I gave the race a pass: it was just the second year at Fair Park, it was improved from the previous year (better bathrooms, bag drop-off, starting chutes), so there was room for improvement next year.

Now we are switching locations yet again, so be fully prepared for a new round of Year One cluster-fucks this time around.

The bigger issues with the DWRM go beyond the start/finish line.

I’ve always found it criminal that the half-marathon course never approaches White Rock Lake. When the Fair Park start was announced, I had high hopes that this wrong would be righted. In fact, I registered for that year’s race before the new course was determined. Alas, my dreams were crushed: not only did we still avoid the lake like a plague, we also no longer ran down beautiful, wide Swiss Avenue. It was like paying a runner’s penance.

I’ve also been frustrated by DWRM’s social media efforts. Two years ago, during the first Fair Park year, people were anxious about the lack of a published course map until just weeks before the race. Instead of communicating with runners & soothing their anxiety & concerns, their response was to keep posting their copy points. I vividly remember their FB wall being shellacked with negative buzz which they ignored. This was not an effective way to run a social media campaign.

I hate being so negative, but these have been my experiences at the DWRM. Other races I’ve run (Twin Cities, RnR Dallas, RnR SA, Austin, and DRC Half) have been pleasant & well-planned experiences. There is some grumbling about how DWRM doesn’t get the world-class rep it thinks it deserves, that the business community is never fully behind it — perhaps addressing some of the above complaints might help.

That is, unless I’m the only one who feels this way.

What are y’all’s thoughts?

My Soulmate

Brooklyn Decker picking her nose. Yes, it can be a deal-breaker. Photo by Esquire.
Nearly every summer in college, I worked on a crew of conference assistants. Our job was to prepare the dorms for the presence of different summer camps, ranging from prepubescent cheerleaders to over-singing barber shop quartets. It involved a lot of cleaning, moving of supplies, and sweat in between. Mostly, it was a way to pass the summer, and not think too hard about the fact I was lonely and desperately wanted to fall in love.

One afternoon, I was part of a crew transporting some materials to West Hall, which was located at the crossroad of a three-way stop T-intersection. My coworkers Dan and Michael were driving a van, while I stood on the curb guiding them as they backed it up to the dorm’s entrance.

Suddenly, my concentration was broken by the epic sound of harkening trumpets. While trying to pinpoint their source, I came to realize they were coming from my heart.

To my left, a vision arose on the horizon. It shimmered like a mirage only to become material as it approached me. Soon, a black Jeep appeared, emblazoned with orange stripes that stood out like wings. Instead of rolling towards the intersection, it glided above the road on a cotton-like cloud that glistened with silvery brilliance.

As the vehicle came to a halt before me, the heavens parted and a shaft of the purest light shone from the sky. It beamed down like a spotlight on the Jeep, making all things around it inferior in comparison. Angels high up could be seen crying, and as their falling tears hit the ground, fresh flowers would sprout in their place.

It was then that I first saw the unearthly creature in the driver’s seat. She rode high, wearing a cute halter-top that revealed lean, sun-browned shoulders dancing underneath an ocean of strawberry-blonde hair. Sugar-sweet winds, like those that blow forth from Pan’s flute, whipped through that fiery mane, making it dance back and forth around her face. And that face — it was almost impossible to look at, it was so perfect. It was at this point that time stopped and all other people in the world disappeared, leaving just the two of us.

She turned to look at me, and the gleaming emeralds which were her eyes caught my gaze and wouldn’t let go. And with the voice of a thousand songbirds, as if she had known me her entire life and had been looking for me forever, she said, “Hi!”

I was so stunned, the most I could do was stare and murmur, “Uhhhh…”

Her stop now complete, she drove forward, away and out of my life. The heavens sealed back up, and the world resumed its normal schedule.

Dan and Michael poured out of the van, ran up to me, and couldn’t hold back their excitement. “Dude, who was she?!”

I was still reeling. “Uhh…I don’t know.”

“Dude, what did she say?!”

“Uhh…I don’t know.”

Dan couldn’t believe me. “Damnit, Matt”, he said, “that was your soulmate. And if you had said the right words, she would have stayed with you forever!”

And for the next several years, at every opportunity, Dan and Michael would not let me forget it.

It was the first day of Spring. The cloudless sky sparked with sunny warmth, and I celebrated by sitting in a horrible traffic jam during my daily commute to the office.

My drives to work occurred during the dark days before Tolltags, when there wasn’t an elite group of RFID-armed individuals that could easily zip past the huddled masses of the tagless waiting in queue to pass through tollbooths. No, at this time we were all equals. As in equally screwed, stuck in a slow, ponderous line to pay the piper.

While sitting in the traffic jam, I passed the time using my mirrors to check out my surroundings. My rearview mirror showed an endless stream of cars following me. Just behind my vehicle was a Jeep, itself tailed by a Toyota, followed by a Ford, and so forth. We were all lined up like lemmings with no other way to go but forward. My attention went back to the Jeep. Its top was down, providing a view of the beautiful woman behind the wheel.

A woman with strawberry-blonde hair.

Suddenly, a flair of recognition! The mirror became a portal back in time, and my mind drifted away from reality into memory. I saw it all as if it was yesterday, that provident event from seven years ago where I encountered my soulmate for the first and last time.

I snapped back to my senses and once again looked into the mirror. Her hair glowed in the sun. She was also passing the time, directing her gaze to the left and getting lost watching the sea of opposite traffic. But then she looked forward! I quickly took my eyes off the rearview mirror, but slyly used the side mirrors to continue my research.

Like the woman I remembered, the driver was slender and quite attractive. Her Jeep was black, adorned with the same orange stripes that were burned into my brain. Could this be my soulmate? Like Charlie Brown, was I in the presence of my little red-headed girl?

Oh fickle fates, I thought! If it was truly her, I must make up for the mistake of letter her disappear seven years ago. I resolved that no matter where she was headed, I knew I must follow, even if she were to drive a hundred miles in the opposite direction of my office.

But before I could chart such a course, I had to be sure it was truly her. I had to gaze into her eyes and feel the same connection that linked us before. I looked once again in my rearview mirror.

I saw that she was picking her nose.

I then realized then that she wasn’t my soulmate after all.

I laughed and looked forward again. And this time around, angels did me a better favor this time around as the traffic before me cleared up. I threw my truck into first gear, drove away from that wrong soulmate, and went about finding my real one.