Does and Donts: Tuning In


pdDoes and Don’ts

By Paul J. Doe, Former Editor, Cumberland News

A Columnist for the Grapevine Newspaper

The grandkids have renewed our columnist’s interest in listening to music on the radio.
You can learn a lot from your grandchildren—if you pay attention. The latest thing I’ve learned is that there is a whole lot more to life than listening to the rants and ravings of self-proclaimed experts.
I was never much of a music person, despite the fact that my mom was a pretty good honky-tonk piano player and we always had an upright in the house.
Her attempts to teach my brother, sister, and I were all a disaster and I only lasted a couple of weeks when she brought in a professional teacher.
Turns out that although I wasn’t a very good student, I was an excellent listener.
My wife is constantly surprised when I start singing along with some old song in a vintage movie or that I know the words to many of the old-time gospel songs.
Listen to my singing at your own peril, though; I joined the high school choir because I was interested in a particular soprano singer and was sent to the back row and instructed to “just mouth the words.”
Anyway, I noticed that whenever I had grandkids in the car, they, especially the girls, would insist that I put on the local pop-music station. The seven-year-old knows all the words to all the songs and sings along quietly. The nine and 12-year-old sisters not only know the words but have developed their own harmony part assignments for most of the really popular ones.
I had pretty much tuned out music radio years ago. Queen, Dire Straits, and some early disco probably marked the beginning of the end of my easy-listening years.
For a while, my fallback stations were all PBS affiliates, but that wore off after a few years because the hosts always sounded either out of breath or barely clinging to life.
Then I switched to talk radio and for a while enjoyed the rants and ravings of the commentators even though about 75% of what they said was the same thing over and over again.
Then I switched to sports talk radio and a whole new world of mindless, thoughtless chatter opened up to me. It took me a few years to realize that the sports talkers were more repetitive than the talk-show people.
When you’re broadcasting 24/7, seven days a week, about sports (mostly football on the Philly area stations) I suppose you have to repeat yourself sometimes.
It’s sort of like the old adage that an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of typewriters will eventually recreate the works of Shakespeare. That may very well be, but the fact is that most of what the monkeys would turn out would be pretty much what you get every day on the sports talk, talk radio and PBS stations.
So, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that I actually enjoyed listening to my grandchildren singing along with modern-day pop tunes, even if I didn’t know the words and couldn’t join in.
Then, one day I was riding with a buddy to the Bridgeton Amish Market and he was listening to our local oldies station, WVLT 92.1 FM. I remarked to my friend that the DJ was playing some pretty good songs.
Although I didn't sing along, as I didn't want to get dumped on the side of the road, I did make a little mental note and now my radio is set to 92.1 FM and if you’re in a car riding beside me these days you will likely hear me singing along.
Turns out (unlike my grandchildren), I don’t know all the words to all the songs, but the beauty of my generation’s music is that it wasn’t very complicated, plus it had a good beat and you could dance to it.
Smart grandchildren make for smart grandparents—if we only listen.
Speaking of grandchildren, I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the stress and strain of the holidays and how I hate getting caught up in the gift-giving thing. My seven grandchildren (ages seven to 12) are just getting into the computer thing. Each one has their own little mobile device loaded up with games.
For Christmas, they want gift cards to computer stores so they can pick their own games and apps. I don’t want to be a part of that, so I decided to gift my grandkids with family memberships to the YMCA.
I split the cost with another grandparent and it actually left me enough money to buy each of them another little personal gift.
Although I can no longer realistically play baseball, basketball, or soccer with them, I can take them to the “Y” and swim or ride the stationary bike while they do the fun stuff.
I know the world has changed and is still in flux, but I also remember the best times always involve doing something.
Paul Doe can be reached via e-mail at