Radio Radio

It’s a remarkable invention, one that I’ve taken entirely for granted all my life. It’s always there, in the corner, on a kitchen counter, in my car. The radio: reproducing sounds, music and the human voice.

In my early years, radio songs would float around, those such as “Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer,” or maybe “Can’t Get Used to Losing You.” This would be the early sixties. It was tame, safe, took no chances. I didn’t know rock and roll existed.

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I want to say 1967 is when everything changed. We had discovered WRKO in Boston, who played the top forty all day, every day. A lot of Motown, some Beatles, some Doors, some bubble gum. A nice variety. Funny disc jockeys who talked a mile a minute and pushed the envelope, such as the great Dale Dorman.

The trouble with WRKO, though, is that it was/is an AM station, and we all know FM is better. WBZ-FM came in on my bedroom radio, even though it was 100 miles from Boston. For the first time I was hearing not only top forty, but deep album cuts, with NO COMMERCIALS. Once in a while, a cool DJ like Clark or Captain Ken would inject some humor, and that was it. Pure simplicity, and I loved it.

At work, after school in a family restaurant, our food-encrusted radio would pull in WBLM from Maine. Now we’re talking! Deep, deep album cuts, a vast array of unusual artists (hello, Frank Zappa), and not even a nod to the top forty. Commercials, yes, but they were funny and home-grown. It was hard to drag ourselves to the kitchen when “Lucky Man” or some other classic came on.

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Time marched on. I graduated high school, took a few years off, and joined the military, ending up in Boston. WRKO was still there, but seemed like an antique piece by then. WBCN on FM was the way to go, with great DJ’s (including Captain Ken) and the best music I’ve ever heard. Pink Floyd, the B-52’s, the Pretenders, and a tsunami of ‘new wave’ musicians.

As the 80’s went by, things changed. I got married. The music got weirder, not better. There was less to listen to, and more to watch (videos on MTV). Bands discovered hair and makeup, costumes and smoke machines. I yawned and dialed in talk radio. I am not proud of this. Some of these people were right wing nutcases and are still poisoning the airwaves to this day.

I can see why people listened, then and now, but I broke free and never looked back.

In the mid-nineties, I made a new and lifelong friend, public radio. Here in New Hampshire, it’s WEVO in Concord, just down the street. News you can trust. Opinions of all sorts. Game shows and Car Talk on weekends. I miss Car Talk. “Don’t drive like my brother.”

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WSPS is the station from St. Paul’s School, a prep school with a computer run playlist. I assume humans choose the songs, though, and they’re good. You’ll hear everything from Bluegrass to World Rhythms to Blues, with hardly a peep from a DJ. Like a song but have no idea who it is? Just check the webpage. This is how I found Varttina and others, a gold mine of new music.

As I drive around the state, I sample other stations, but usually stick to the two last mentioned. I still love FM radio, satellite not so much. And the music? “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” still comes on sometimes, but it’s not Andy Williams. It’s the English Beat.

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Gentle Giant Lives

I was tooling around on U Tube a while back, and came across an amazing video. Some teens (and their teacher) took it upon themselves to learn a Gentle Giant song. Then they recorded it, filmed it and had fun with it. Last I checked, there were 500 comments and 96,500 views. Have a listen.

Just the Same – A cover by students at Eskilstuna Musikskola (Sweden)

What is remarkable is that they picked a hard song, slowed it down a bit, but did it well. The video seemed to strike a cord with GG fans in particular. Most of us had thought we were the only ones, and that all interest in our beloved band was officially dead. It’s as if a little-played Mozart composition had been found 40 years after his death and given new life.

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The whole thing got me thinking about the band, and the music I listened to as a kid. My friends and I didn’t call this music ‘progressive’, it was more like “good tunes”, or “stuff you don’t hear on the radio.” We liked it though, in varying degrees.

Gentle Giant first came to my attention at age 16, when my friend Ray bought their album, The Power and the Glory. He thought it was okay, but hated the second song, “So Sincere”. I loved it. It was so different. He gave me the album, I took it home and almost wore out the grooves. See what you think.

So Sincere – Gentle Giant

It was one of those cool concept albums. A despotic king (based on Richard Nixon) is going mad and alienating his subjects. The people hope for something/someone better (“Aspirations”) but it’s not to be. Nope, no comparisons to 2018, none at all.

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There were a few good ones after that. Free Hand (which includes “Just the Same”) and Interview were both excellent. But then the band, which began in 1970, began to submit to pressures from within and without to release something more “commercial.” That didn’t work, and they officially wrapped things up in 1980.

Some diamonds from their early days still get attention. Their second album, aptly named Acquiring the Taste, now sits atop my phone’s library. This tune is inhabiting my brain at the moment – I can’t imagine why. Close to Halloween?

The House the Street the Room – Gentle Giant

That sums up my Gentle Giant experience. Perhaps there will be future concerts of their work by a full symphony orchestra. Or maybe their cover band, Three Friends, will tour North America. Or a high school band will post another video. Whatever keeps the music alive.

Three Friends – Gentle Giant. You might want headphones for this.

 

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Lost Cat!

It was an ordinary Tuesday morning, around 10:35. I was taking my break, escaping from the office to get some fresh air, even though it had started to drizzle. There was an afternoon-long meeting waiting for me, and I needed the exercise.

I walked down the hill into a cluster of maintenance buildings. And there, huddled against the paint shop wall, was a cat, trying and failing to stay dry. This small black cat did not belong there. I’ve never seen a cat in all the walks I’ve taken in my office park. Squirrels, yes. Cats, no.

Gentle Giant – Black Cat

It was about 20 feet away. I stopped to look but didn’t approach. “Hope someone finds this cat,” I thought, “if it’s lost.”

Then I walked away.

Wednesday late afternoon, I was heading to town for a quick errand. On a tree near the street, I saw this posted on a tree. I pulled over, stopped the car and got out.

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That, plus the picture, got my attention. It was a good poster, not the usual tossed off Magic Marker’d thing. This poster was well made, encased in plastic, highly readable. And the cat pictured was the one I’d seen over a day earlier. I’d swear to it.

Something told me to take a picture. Just in case.

I drove downtown to do my errand, then came back home, via my workplace. I slowly drove round the maintenance buildings, looking for a small black creature. But too much time has passed – as expected, there was no sign of Poopy.

Two days later, a Friday, around 12:30, I was doing my usual walk in my office park. A weird feeling came over me. I knew the odds were huge, but I had to look one last time. I walked past the buildings to a grassy area near some Dumpsters. And there was the small black cat, sitting patiently.

I spoke to the cat. It didn’t run off. I approached her. She approached me. Although Poopy appeared skinny, lethargic and a little dirty, she seemed okay, so I stroked her back a couple times. I quickly brought up the picture I’d taken of the poster, and called the number.

“Hello?” a voice said.

“Are you still looking for your cat?”

Turns out that he was. Dana lived close by, but worked across town. He’d be there in 15 minutes.

It was a long 15 minutes. Poopy seemed happy to wait with me, but what if she slipped away? I tried to keep an eye on her while also looking for a black pickup truck. I described my location as best I could, but it’s a large park and easy to get misdirected.

Finally, Dana pulled up. It was not an emotional reunion, but you could tell the guy loved cats and was happy to see Poopy again. He picked up the animal and tucked her into his jacket while still wearing it. We chatted briefly, and then they were gone.

The Kinks – Phenomenal Cat

I turned and headed back up the hill to my office. On the way I saw Chris, a co-worker. “Hey, guess what?” I shouted. “I found a lost cat.”

He nodded and smiled. But he kept walking, as if the details didn’t matter. That this sort of thing happened every day.

Not to me, it doesn’t.

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Kim’s Convenience

O, Canada, what’s going on up there? You’re making high quality entertainment, so much that it’s difficult to leave my air-cooled lair. In just the past couple of years I’ve discovered Heartland, Anne With an E, and Schitt’s Creek to name just three. And now there’s Kim’s Convenience.

It’s a gem and my new favorite. Here’s how Netflix describes it:

While running a convenience store in Toronto, members of a Korean-Canadian family deal with customers, each other and the evolving world around them.

The family are comprised of store owners Mr. and Mrs. Kim, also known as Appa and Umma. Jung is the older child who left home at 16 and now lives with his friend and roommate, Kimchee. Daughter Janet lives at home with parents and helps with the store.

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Appa is the patriarch who stands behind the register, looking balefully at each customer who enters the store. “Steal or no steal?” he asks Janet as one comes in to browse. Appa is sure, opinionated, but sometimes open minded. Appa knows best.

Each retreating customer gets the same send-off; Appa’s catch phrase. “Okay, see you.”

Umma is more quiet but with power of her own. She volunteers at the local Korean church as much as working in the store, cooking delicious Korean foods, sometimes pulling strings to help her kids.

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Jung is the assistant manager at Handy Car and Truck Rental. His boss is Shannon, a young woman who has an unspoken crush on Jung. Meanwhile, Janet is an art student at the local community college, focusing on photography, and testing the waters of leaving the parental home.

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Shannon’s the boss at Handy Car and Truck Rental.

One character who arrives halfway through Season One makes a large impact. Pastor Nina Gomez seemingly adopts the Kims, visiting the store daily. Appa at first strives to ingratiate himself to her, to Umma’s great annoyance. But things balance out. Pastor Nina has a way of divining the truth, solving issues and making things better.

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Kim’s reminds me of other, earlier shows. All in the Family (family dynamic). Barney Miller (continuous stream of weirdos in and out of the store). And almost any workplace comedy (the hijinks and misunderstandings at the car rental place). The pacing and editing is reminiscent of Seinfeld. It’s fresh and it feels authentic, fun, easy to take, perfect for a summer night.

So there’s my review of Kim’s Convenience. That will be $24.50. Okay, see you.

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Changing the Sheets on a Queen Sized Bed

Okay, there has to be a better way. An easy, fool proof way to change my sheets. Has to be.

I changed my sheets this morning. I dread this, every time. It’s never just a matter of taking off the old sheets (that’s the easy part) and putting on clean ones. The clean ones are the problem.

It all starts with that bottom, fitted sheet. Of course, it never gets folded, just kind of wadded up, until it’s time to put it on. Who on earth can fold a fitted sheet? No one, that’s who. This time, however, I took it right from the dryer to the bed, ready to go.

But where to start? It’s a monster.

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My Dr. Seuss inspired bed.

After turning the sheet around and around, and over and over, I pick a likely corner. Nope, wrong. It’s not the right way. I try to pull the sheet down to the other corners, and it doesn’t fit. Argh! I repeat the process at least two more times until I finally get the damn thing on.

But it’s still not right. It fits like a glove on three corners. But on the last, the one closest to my sleeping head, there’s an extra ‘blip’ of fabric sticking out, like a shirt tail coming out of your pants. I should not let this bother me, but it does. It does!

I think the source of all the trouble is the queen mattress itself. Do you have one too? Go take a look at it, from above if possible. It’s practically a square. Most of us grew up on the smaller, single sized mattresses, easy to change due to the shape. But a queen? No way.

Once the fitted sheet is on, the rest if a piece of cake. Add the top sheet, blanket, two pillow cases, and done. Then, if you’re me, you take a picture or two.

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I guess you would say it’s a first world problem, and I’m lucky to have this luxury at all. And you’d be right.

On the other hand, Neil Young was probably right: a man needs a maid.

Post Script: I have it from a reliable authority (the Internet) that all you gotta do is to look for a small white tag in an inside corner of the fitted sheet. Pull this over the lower left corner of the mattress (your left as if you’re sleeping on it) and then complete the other three corners. I’ll have to try this. With my luck though, the ‘blip’ will still appear.

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Loss, Memories

Loss is a strange thing. It makes you remember.

I must have been seven or eight. My dad took me and five other kids to the Museum of Science in Boston, a Saturday outing for my cub scout den. I don’t remember what he said or did that day, but there’s a picture of us, and him, standing by the family station wagon in the parking lot. I didn’t see much of my dad on the weekends, so this was a special event. Dad died in November of 2013.

I was with Ivone for more than two years. One hot summer morning I woke up and found her in the kitchen. I greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. “On hot days like this, no lovey-dovey,” she said in her no-nonsense, Brazilian voice. Amused, I made a mental note of this and started to make some coffee.

A week later, it was still hot and humid. I was up first. When she walked in, I said, “It’s 84 degrees out. I’m sorry, Ivone, but no lovey-dovey today.” She laughed. It became a running joke between us, one that we enjoyed tremendously. Ivone lost her battle with cancer in June 2018.

My mother taught me to drive, sort of. Once I had my learner’s permit, she rode shotgun as I drove around town. When we came to a weird, dangerous intersection, she told me to slow down and look for oncoming cars. I did. “Not that way!” she cried out. “Look the other way. That’s where the cars are coming.” She had a point, but so did I. Cars to our right were supposed to stop, but often rolled right through. From then on, I looked in both directions. Mom passed away in late June 2018.

And the memories keep on coming…

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The World Doesn’t Owe Us a Living

Dads can say the strangest things. Imagine this scene from fifty years ago. I’m sitting at the dining room table with my family: mother and father, two brothers, a little sister on a booster seat. We don’t talk much; we’re pretty intent on eating and clearing out as soon as we’re finished. Suddenly, my father looks up from his plate and big blue bowl of salad, and proclaims:

“The world doesn’t owe you a livin’!”

Shocked silence. I glance at the faces around the table. Who is he talking to? And what brought this on?

Normal conversation resumes, but I’m lost in thought. It’s not like me or one of my brothers said anything like, “Gee, Dad. I don’t ever want to have to work. I just want everything handed to me.”

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No, we all knew that if we wanted something, we’d have to work for it. Like a job. Like the horrible paper route I slogged through the previous winter.

I look over at Dad, and it seems he’s done pontificating and is now focused on his extra-large salad.

About a year ago, the mystery was solved! Maybe. But I think it’s a good theory. I was watching some vintage Disney cartoons on Netflix, and up popped the classic tale of the Grasshopper and the Ants.

The short version is this: Grasshopper with Goofy’s voice enjoys the fruits of summer, never thinking about the cold winter ahead. Queen Ant tries to convince him to prepare, as her colony of ants are now doing. He laughs/sings off her advice, and in a few short months he’s starving in a snowdrift. The ants feed him soup, warm his feet, and let him revive in their cozy den. The Queen is within her rights to toss Grasshopper back outside, but…wait, I don’t want to spoil it.

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The Grasshopper sings two versions of ‘The World Owes Us a Living’, before and after the starving time. My dad may have seen this as a kid, and the message stuck with him. Therefore, when one of us kids seemed a little greedy, or pampered, or said something slightly stupid, he was ready with his Grasshopper wisdom.

I guess Dad had a point, so I will dutifully show up to work on Monday morning. After all, winter’s coming. Happy Fathers’ Day.

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