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Radio Time Warp

27 Jul

July 27, 2018

One of the strangest days of radio I’ve ever heard happened back in 1992.

At that time I was working as the supervisor of the stock and maintenance department of a large department store. That meant that I spent my days off the sales floor, in the warehouse area. Not only did I make my own schedule but I was able to listen to the radio all day. I’d put my radio on WXRK (K-Rock, 92.3 FM) and listen to Howard Stern all morning and classic rock all day. They’ve switched formats a couple of times since then but in those days Stern went on the air around 6 a.m. and went off the air at 10 but in reality his show ended whenever he wanted it to end. I was common for his show to run until around 11, and on one memorable occasion, to close to 1 pm.

I may still have this bumper sticker in a box in the back of a closet.

On this particular day, Stern’s show ended right about 10, which was always a disappointment since the longer he went, the faster my day went. But it wasn’t his choice: station management needed him to end on time since they had a whole day event planned.  It was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Summer of Love and they planned to treat the day as if it was a day out of 1967. The DJ’s were going to pretend that it was really 1967, introduce “new” songs by artists whenever they played a classic rock song that they had played thousands of times over, and talk about upcoming events, like the new album by Country Joe and The Fish they’ve been hearing about. The ads, however, remained current.

The DJ’s generally had a fun time but in the afternoon it got surreal. Dave Herman (though I believe it may have been Pete Fornatele) had special guests in the studio. Of course, this being pretend-1967, both they and the listeners had to work overtime to suspend their disbelief. Because there in the studio were The Doors! Ray Manzarek! John Densmore! Robby Krieger!

You see where this is going? Sure, they had The Doors- the remaining members of The Doors. But without Jim Morrison there was really no point. He was The Doors, no disrespect to the artistic talents of the rest. Problem was, Morrison died back in 1971.

But this was pretend-1967, so Jim Morrison wasn’t dead, he simply missed the interview. No one in the band was quite sure where he was- he was back at the hotel, or hungover, or somewhere, someplace, any place but absolutely not dead. In fact, if he hurried, he might make it to the studio in time for the show.

Dave Herman asked them about upcoming projects, all of which came out 25 years before, and they all danced around the fact that the one member of the band people really were interested in was not there, they couldn’t address his death, had to pretend it was 1967, and just generally, awkwardly, talked about what they want to do in the future as if it not only had not happened, but how it would happen if Jim Morrison remained alive, since they had no clue he was going die in just a few short years after 1967. There was even a touch of black humor when they talked about all the things they expected Morrison to accomplish, wink wink, and speculated what it would be like in the future if anyone would even remember the Summer of Love in 25 years.

I didn’t understand it, then or now. Was there no one else to have on from 1967? No one alive? Flo and Eddie of The Turtles became K-Rock DJ’s a few years later, I’m sure they were available. Why did they have in studio a group, though iconic, which had a glaring void? No matter what they did or said, or how they talked about their music, they couldn’t gloss over the fact that Jim Morrison was long, long dead.

Rather than celebrating 1967, this interview mourned 1967.

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Willie The Ice Cream Man

19 Mar

March 19, 2018

I was going through my last few remaining comics. I once had 32 short boxes full of comics. Each box holds around 200 issues, more or less, so that’s 6,400 comics. But I had many loose ones in stacks on shelves, probably at least three more boxes full, so that’s around 7,000 comics. Over the last few years I sold or gave away nearly all of them. I have just about 65 comics left. Yes, I downsized 6,935 comics.  So those 65 comics amount to around .0085% of what I used to have. But each one has a meaning or a sentimental value. I kept them not because they are valuable (a couple are, most are not) but because they all have a story, not between the covers, but behind them.

To drive home the point, where I once had hundreds and hundreds of Batman comics I now own exactly 5.

These are my two favorites.

Detective Comics 406 and 409, published in 1970 and 1971. In the condition in which I own them they are worth around $15 – $20 each.

But they only cost me 25 cents each, and that’s the background of this story.

It was around 1980, maybe as early as 1978, maybe as late as 1983, but I date it to 1980 because I distinctly remember riding my bike up and down the street pretending it could fly like the motorcycles on Galactica 1980

It was summer, of course. There was no better time to be a kid than in the summer. We had an ice cream man who came every summer day in the afternoon, and when school started he came around a little later after we were home. His name was Willie and we all knew him because we were kids and what kid doesn’t love ice cream? He peddled around the neighborhood on an old fashioned ice cream cart, basically a bicycle with a freezer in the front.

He’d jingle the bells on the handlebars and we’d hear him coming down the block. Since I and my brother lived in an apartment building (we were city boys) we didn’t have time to run all the way upstairs to get money. We’d just yell for our mother to come to the window. “MOM! MOOOOOM!” Half the mothers in the building would look out the window to see if it was their kid yelling. But our mother would come to the window and we’d yell “the ice cream man is coming!” and she’d put some money in a can or a box and she’d toss it out the fifth floor window to us. We never caught it though. We’d always have to crash through the bushes in the front of our building to retrieve it. 

So now we’d yell “Willie! Ice cream! Over here!” and he’d peddle over to us, jingling all the way, to borrow a phrase. But this is the best part. Not only would we get ice cream, we’d get comic books too. Willie had a box somehow lashed to the back of his bike with old comic books. They were old even then, and he sold them for a quarter apiece. 

Was there ever a better summer day? Playing outside, riding bikes, eating ice cream, reading comic books. This is what a kid’s life should be.

So when it came time for me to pare down my comic collection the two Batman issues had to stay. Sure the covers are great, and yes, I like the stories, but I had gotten rid of issues with better covers and better stories. But none of them had a story that I was part of, that reminded me of the days of my youth. There are very few comics that I distinctly remember buying and reading when I was a kid, and not many that put a smile on my face, so these two issues are keepers.

(The Incredible Hulk 216, which I bought new from the corner candy store is another, and yes, I still have that one too.)

 

 

And by the way, here are the flying motorcycles I used to pretend I was riding. 

 

Before I go, one quick ice cream man story. One day Willie was not there, and someone else was driving the cart. He was coming down the block, ringing his bell. We started calling out “ice cream man! Ice cream man!” and waving to him.

He looked at us and, with a big smile, waved back. And kept on going.

We didn’t get ice cream that day. 

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