TODD: When he talked to callers — you think about all the calls Rush took, and he still got jazzed when there was a unique idea or a hard question. In fact, anyone who ever got through to the famous phone, 800-282-2882, remembers the thrill of being greeted by the Maha…
RUSH: It’s Open Line Friday. Here is Stewart in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Great to have you, Stewart. How are you, sir?
CALLER: Hey, Rush. Love ya. Great man. Question is this. Lee Greenwood sings a song about starting over with his children and his wife. My question to you is, “If you had to start over with nothing, what are some things that money can buy that you would miss?”
RUSH: Ha-ha-ha-haaaa! What a clever, clever question. Let me translate this: If you were poor and destitute and pooping in the streets of San Francisco, what would you miss the most?
CALLER: That’s right.
RUSH: That money can buy. In other words, money can’t buy happiness, but we’re gonna pretend here. What would you miss that you can afford now that you can’t afford or wouldn’t be able to afford? Oh, man. Well, there’s… (chuckles) Now, this is one of these questions, do I answer this honestly or do I try to come up with something clever? (interruption) Yeah, at the top of the list would have to be EIB One, because I still pinch myself when I get on board that thing, Stewart.
All this tech stuff, not just the iPhone. Tech stuff is a brain exercise for me. It’s something that keeps my brain from stagnating. To keep up with this stuff is a challenge; it’s fun to do. But it would be within range if I were destitute, hopeless, pooping in the streets of San Francisco, ’cause he didn’t say that I had no chance of getting it again. So, it’s an interesting question. I appreciate that, Stewart. Thanks.
TODD: See what I mean about the interaction? Rush, he’s jazzed at the question and the sort of the challenge and the intellectual challenge. But there’s something else there. If you’ve not lived in San Francisco, that pooping on the streets? That’s a real thing. I remember the first time I was in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, and I thought, “Oh, that person’s… He’s lost something.”
Well, yeah, sort of. Sadly, he’s lost his humanity. So sad. And then this, in the midst of that phone call… Did you hear it? The optimism. The smarts. The quick analysis of the caller’s question. He said, “Stewart from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.” He didn’t say “poor, destitute, and hopeless.” That’s Rush to a T. He’s imagining, “I have to start completely over.
“My money’s gone and I’m on the streets in San Francisco, and I’m forced to defecate on the streets. I’ve got nowhere to go,” or, “I won’t go to a shelter.” Rush would find a way to get help. Even at that moment, he’s saying, but he didn’t say hopeless. He didn’t say talentless. So, no, I look at the national picture. We’ll get into your calls about this.
It’s easy. It’s fundamentally easy to be hopeless. We see people who didn’t take the lesson from Rush and do fold to cancel culture. You see organizations that fold to cancel culture, and now they have to rebuild. But even in that moment you see this optimism — and that, more than anything else, I believe…
I truly believe that emotion. Anything else may have been the key… Well, there’s the talent. There’s the magician as a radio performer. Not that Rush was performing for us. He was just analyzing and talking with us. But that core optimism, always talking about things that could be done. I could see… It never happened, thankfully, but… It did. I mean, what did he say?
He was fired five times but only (laughing) twice for rank insubordination. I could see a Rush having woken up and the money’s gone and a lot of us would roll over or go back to sleep or duck and cover. I could see Rush getting up, getting a piece of paper — if he had to borrow one — and putting down the list of things he’s going to do now.
Do you believe that it was that hard, that form of optimism, that didn’t just propel the career, but propelled every day us listening with hope — even as things look bad, with hope — because that’s how Rush communicated?