Saturday, May 24, 2014

No. 12 – Heart of the Sunrise

Performer: Yes
Songwriters: Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford
Original Release: Fragile
Year: 1972
Definitive Version: Union Tour, 1991.

Even though I’ve known this song since high school when I bought Fragile and it’s been my favorite Yes song for almost as long as I can remember, it was only recently that Heart of the Sunrise became a song disciple (top 12). It started with Tributosaurus in 2007 doing an incredible version—one of the final songs. Then I went to YouTube.

I found an unplugged version by the California Guitar Trio that was incredible. It featured Tony Levin (yes, THAT Tony Levin) on bass and, to the surprise of everyone in the audience at what appeared to be a Starbucks, Jon Anderson himself on vocals. Aside from that being my introduction to the California Guitar Trio, it renewed my admiration of this song.

Then I found the version taken from an import DVD of a show in Denver on the Union Tour that took the song to the next level. Where the unplugged version was delicate and sublime, the Union Tour version—with all eight musicians blazing away—was majestic. The opening instrumental section is what really makes it for me, from Bill Bruford’s drums to Chris Squire’s bass to, ultimately, Rick Wakeman’s triumphant choral synth.

As I rekindled my love of Heart of the Sunrise in spring 2007, I faced new job pressures. Right when I finally was establishing some comfort in my job duties, they changed. Of course, they changed because I was promoted.

Now that I was managing editor, instead of taking care of just five projects, I had to oversee 12. That meant my preparation had to be ratcheted up, so I had some rudimentary knowledge of each of the projects to direct the senior editors properly. I also took over the editorial schedule, so I had to keep an eye on the deadlines and where everything was. More than that, I now was in a position for the first time where I had to manage other people.

They don’t teach management skills at Medill. In fact, it isn’t really something you can be taught to a certain extent. You either are good with people or you aren’t.

Truth be told, and this should come as no surprise after more than 30 months of this here blog, I’m not a great people person. I’m more comfortable professionally left to my own devices. Well, it was time to move up the ladder, so I had to become at least competent at relating with people to get the best work as possible out of others at the magazine.

My stint as a senior editor prepared me to a certain extent. When you manage free-lancers, you can’t just browbeat them into submission like you might an employee, because you have only so much leverage. If it gets too hot, a free-lancer can just take his ball and go home, leaving you to finish the project. To get a free-lancer to deliver is a delicate process of push and pull. Why not apply that same strategy to co-workers?

I also had a lot of observational background knowledge on how to be a boss. I’d seen how my bosses operated, and it was useful—particularly from those at The Dispatch: I would do the opposite of what they did.

Whereas my bosses paid more attention to satisfying the people above them (to best continue their upward mobility), I would take care of the people below me. Whereas they were lazy asses, I would work harder, so the workers below me didn’t have to any more than was necessary. As my mentor, Randy, once said: You want to be the boss? BE the boss. That meant lead by example.

I still had to supervise a single project, so I always volunteered to take on the most difficult one, and I always put aside my own work when I received one of the senior editor’s drafts, so they wouldn’t be waiting for me to clear work off their desk. If that meant I worked longer hours, so be it: With great paycheck, comes great responsibility, and if no one ever said that, they should’ve.

Believe me, the hours piled up. Among my new duties was a role in the hiring process for every editorial position, usually as part of the second round of interviews. I participated in hiring the senior editor to fill my position, as well as the next two after some turnover in 2008. I was involved in copy editor interviews—the copy editor was placed under my direct supervision—and even those for the associate editor, althought I didn’t handle the magazine departments that the associate editor produced, at least at first.

Being on the other side of the hiring desk was an interesting process, and, again, I used my own experiences to my benefit and, I hoped, to the benefit of the magazine. Knowing that the editor would handle most of the job-responsibility talk as well as all of the financial items, I could just sit back and gauge intangibles like smarts. The hires I was involved with ended up being good long-term fits for the magazine, stopping a trend of quick turnover.

So I worked nights, weekends, vacation, but I didn’t mind, because I knew I my efforts were appreciated. I’d never felt that that was the case before. After 20 years in the business, I can’t tell you how good that made me feel.

The appreciation was shown in my pay, which grew by leaps and bounds. By my second review, I was making as much as I made after eight years at The Dispatch, which vindicated my decision to leave.

More important, my bosses showed their appreciation in the leeway they gave me with respect to time off. When Laurie went through her vacation from herself in 2008, my bosses bent over backwards to give me the time I needed to go to the hospital as needed. I made sure all the work got done, on time, so nothing got backed up.

By September, I needed a vacation, and Laurie wanted one. But I was out of paid time off due to all of the time I used to take care of Laurie. Fair enough; I’ll take the three days I want as unpaid to go to Maine. The publisher said, not a chance—my vacation time would be paid. I felt so thankful, which, of course, just made me work even harder.

As I reached my fourth anniversary in 2010, I felt fortunate to be where I was. Not only did I have a good-paying job, I felt respected, which you can’t put a price on. I had no interest in looking for work elsewhere or working anywhere else.

And then … that all changed.

(To be continued)

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