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Yes, it's been a while. Ham radio, music and my health have been major players lately, and I've managed to find a moment in my day to let you know what's up.

Thanks to my Catholic work ethic, I'm obliged to feel guilt and make excuses for my absence, so here goes: Ham radio has really captured my imagination and takes first-place for discretionary time-waster. I love to tinker with electronics and computers, and this self-proclaimed, unashamedly-named "hobby" is simply the best thing going for a guy like me. Antennas, amplifiers, digital communications, Morse code, and gathering the courage to get "on the air" with your voice (a.k.a. "phone") all get my geek going.

Ham-wise, I've pretty much stuck with the relatively anonymous digital communication mode called "FT8." It's taken the hobby by storm because it removes the embarrassment of saying something stupid in front of a bunch of other hams. FT8, some say, is cheating. You download free software for logging, communications and mapping, configure everything, and find someone to "chat with" (a one-minute digital exchange including callsign, location, signal strength, and thank-you). This entire chat is launched by a single mouse click, and executes automatically. The operator (that's me) just needs to know what and when to click, and voila, I perform a two-way exchange with a complete stranger, experiencing a morsel of geeky gratification. This exchange gets me points towards awards, like "Worked All States." Cool, right?

So, yesterday, on my birthday, I mustered up enough courage to power up my shack, get on 20 meters and announce "K3CDY, CQ, CQ... (etc.)." Within a minute, I hear a loud response telling me I'm on someone else's frequency, and to "tune up" (that is, get out of the way!). So, embarrassed that I didn't CHECK the frequency before yapping, I tuned up, CQ'd again, and... nothing. (Oh well, tomorrow's another day.).

In second place is music. I continue playing for two reasons: 1) income, and 2) enjoyment.

In that order.

This wasn't always the case. Not too long ago, playing for enjoyment ruled. Heck, when I was still an amateur, I'd pay to play (hoping for "discovery." Welcome to Hollywood.). Since then I've grown up, played thousands of gigs for money, while having the time of my life performing with my friends.

Lately, health has stepped in to take first place. I've augmented my vocabulary with terms like SVT, HCM and AFIB. I'm becoming too friendly with my cardiology team, who has reminded me of my mortality. Lately, I find myself getting more introspective and observant. (I think it's an age-thing.) I pinch myself for being so blessed with a group of seriously-good people who also happen to be scary-good musicians. Killing a show with precision is a feeling like nothing else. I will always cherish the people and the moments.

During all of this, I am also blessed by a wife (and family) who has stood by me, supporting me and my dreams (reminder: one does not want to be a musician's wife). In the grand scheme of life, with the "use by" date getting closer, it's simply time for us to live our dream, which is: "to always want to be where the other person is" (credit: Andy Stanley).

Bottom line, our plan is Crystal tolerating me a couple more years gigging, doing our best to stay healthy and moving somewhere warm, near the ocean, with room for hobbies, friends, family and each other.

I'll be in touch.

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