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02 August 2011


My first radio was a black transistor in a leather case with a looping handle over the top that my brother brought for me on a brief, lone, trip back from Hong Kong in about 1964. We were living in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania at that time, and I'd listen to WFIL, WIBG, and at night when its signal came through, WNBC from New York. Philadelphia was a self-defined oldies/dance town, and was where American Bandstand began. I was used to being plopped down any old place and my inner identity had nothing at all to do with my physical location in the world, which seems to be the opposite to the current way of thinking.

I remember sleep-overs with friends, hanging around dancing, swimming parties - all to the tune of radio. Radio station published little pamphlets each week with their top ten. I believe I have some stashed somewhere.

I used to listen to radio in the car - still do, but now mostly talk not music. I switched to NPR-listening in the car in the Eighties, but the station it was on played jazz normally and I was about 25% a jazz radio enthusiast so would switch stations 75% of the time upon jazz start-up. It's funny how something you hear or see that stands out can form a touchstone in memory. I was driving down the Nisqually hill on the I-5 one day - that spot where the vista opens up most grandly - and on NPR they were talking about the centenary of Van Gogh's death, and how at a museum party (Van Gogh Museum? I can't remember.) ear-shaped canapes were served. That obviously startled me enough for the whole scene to burn itself into my memory.

In the past few years in the car I've mainly listened to somewhat irritating talk radio that would be switched off if my irritation crested too high. Last year (I think it was, or maybe the one before) I suddenly noticed that the talking people had begun referencing the internet. At first it was funny, as though the clouds suddenly looked like puddles or corn flakes had tiny newspapers on them. Then it got irritating, especially as it happened more and more until radio was a kind of description of the internet (useful for the blind) only a week or more behind the times.

Where once there had been two separate sources of interest, now one had become about 50% subsumed in the other. Well, that's not good, I thought. Simultaneously the New Yorker began doing a bit of the same, to better effect and not quite as laggy and irritating. I don't really listen to radio to hear someone describe a viral video from the week before. Anyway, the highlight of the actual radio-type blather to me is when one of the faceless voices recounts an incident from his/her life.

Recently someone-or-other told a story about his father's first sports car, and how he, as a teenager, had totalled it. When he stood before his father to say what'd happened his father asked him if he was all right. That stands out in my mind because I had a friend whose father was an NFL player with plenty of money. When my friend was to be shipped to fight in the Viet Nam war his father said, "If you come home I'm going to buy you any kind of car you want." My friend told me he didn't care about the car, he just wanted his father to say when. When you come home. He did return and his father bought him a super-duper expensive sports car and he totalled it on a stone wall shortly thereafter, nearly killing himself in the process. He's actually been dead for decades, now; his father is still alive as far as I know.

I R tired; I stop.

posted by - 10:29 PM

In the spring of 1954 the kid next door's parents divorced. A couple of months later the kid's dad bought the him a television set for his sixth birthday. All the kids in the neighborhood heard about it. My fifth birthday was approaching so I asked my parents for a television set. My parents bought me a clock radio for my birthday.
I had a skinny boyfriend with thick glasses, who came to our house for my sixteenth birthday. We were listening to my sister's turquoise transistor radio and talking. Suddenly the dj played "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen" and he kissed me. It was the most wonderful, romantic moment of my teenage life.
my transistor radio was one of the most wonderful things i've ever had. i'd fall asleep with it playing dreamy music under my pillow, i can hear every note of those songs in my head now. my sister & i got them for xmas, mine was white & hers was TURQUOISE!! maybe we had the same transistor-sister!

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