A Bit More On Steve Young

For those who are interested, here’s R&R’s coverage (Radio & Records is a radio industry trade, for those not in the know), a short video of Steve, and a Facebook tribute (with some great photos and remembrances.

The mood at work has slowly improved, but we’re still in a state of shock; I think it’s still working on hitting us. Every morning as I pass Steve’s empty office, it’s a bit of a heartstab. It was often empty, as Steve travelled a lot, but he was always coming back before.

He recently became the Senior Director of Programming, and with that, a lot of stress entered his life – though, not the sole source of his stress, as I recently found out the reason he was making so many trips to his home city of Toronto: His brother had terminal brain cancer.

The week before, he had been having shoulder pains — he’d spent most of that Wednesday asleep in his office chair as he didn’t sleep at all that night; it turned out sitting was the only position that didn’t cause him shooting pains. At our weekly meeting, he mentioned it, and we were all concerned; I mentioned that he should see the doctor, and he was initially dismissive. He DID see a doctor the next day, who said he was exhausted. Steve had already put in for vacation this week, and he’d made reference to how badly he needed it. He wasn’t kidding.

Apparently the doctor said that the best thing he could do was go relax on a beach somewhere. So, that’s what Steve was going to do; he was on a Mexican cruise down to Cabo San Lucas.

As Spider Robinson says, God is an iron.

The night before last, I had a dream where I was leaving work, and as I boarded my elevator down, the one across from me opened, and Steve was there, and he said “Hi, Matt” like he normally did (note: I just typed “does” there originally. I don’t like that I’ll now have to get used to talking about Steve in the past tense.), and then I woke up. That was it. If I were a religious man, I might take that as some sort of sign — ideally one that he wasn’t actually dead. Instead, it’s probably just my subconscious taking information that’s been heavy on my mind lately and running it through the dream filter.

The most frustrating thing that’s coming out is how LITTLE I actually knew Steve. For example, I didn’t know that wasn’t his real name. Admittedly, no one in radio uses their real name (it may shock you to know that I wasn’t born “Syung Myung Me”), but still. “Steve Young” was such a normal-sounding name, albeit a sonorous one, that I just kind of assumed he’d been born that. I just found out yesterday his real name was Neil Hiltz. You’d think that someone’s name would be one of the basic building blocks of knowing someone. And I apparently failed at that.

Luckily, I did find out what a wise, caring man he was, so at least that’s not too bad.

One of the things I liked hearing was about how when he was up in Canada, he had one of (if not THE) the highest rated rock stations in the country – and he got this by finding loopholes in the CanCon laws and playing the absolute minimum required (so, basically just the acts that were actually big and popular — Rush (Steve: “Canadian for ‘Led Zeppelin'”) and what-have-you). When confronted on it by the Canadian government, he showed that he was 100% legal, and while they tightened up the loopholes, they left him alone, as long as he didn’t let word get out about HOW he did it! I always thought that was pretty funny.

I know this essay’s a bit meandery, but it’s still a little hard for me to just sit down and write a good, formal piece. This is more or less a brain-dump, without much editing. I feel bad for Steve’s loss, and, I suppose, selfishly, that I didn’t get the chance to learn more from him. It looked like he was going to be in the office a lot more with the Senior Director gig, but, sadly, it wasn’t to be. At least I got to know him a bit, and I really liked him. Actually, I still do like him. He reminded me of my Grandpa Jim, actually. Kind of outwardly crotchety, but it was just a thin veneer for a heart of gold and an incredible mind. Neither suffered fools well, but also knew that foolishness was not defined as not knowing something, but rather the desire to remain that way. They could suss out non-fools-who-merely-didn’t-know expertly, and teach them readily and easily, and bringing them up to their level and being a friend to boot. Both definitely had CAUSE to have a huge ego, given how much they knew and could do — but neither DID. And that’s rare and amazing.

I wish I had more time with Steve. I wish I had more time with my Grandpa, too. I think the best thing any of us can do is to learn from them and people like them, and be as much like that as possible. Never stop learning and examining things, but always be open with anyone who wants to learn the same things you know, too. We can all bring each other up, and that’s one of the things life is about. Steve lived life — and it’s a tragedy that he didn’t get to do more of it.

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