A Day in the Life of a Bored Kid, A Fiction

This is a bit long. If you don’t make it all the way through, sorry about boring you. If you did, thanks for that.

“Mom,” I called out as I gave the TV set a glazed and bored stare. “Mom, I’m bored. There’s never anything to do.” I pause to listen to the silence, now that I have the TV clicked off. “Mom… mom…” a little louder, so she can hear me from where ever she may be in the house, “Mom!”

“What do you want? Don’t you have feet? Get off your butt and come in the kitchen if you want to talk to me. There’s no reason to shout!” she shouted back at me through the house. “Mom, I’m bored,” I began, but knew a second too late that it was the wrong thing to say when I looked into those furious eyes that shot daggers back at me. “I mean, there’s nothing to do. Nothing ever happens around here.” There was still no sympathy in those hardened eyes.

“You want something to do?” she said to me, her mood shifting slightly. Suddenly, I felt a dark cloud on my horizon. Why didn’t I see this coming? She continued, “I have laundry to do downstairs, if you want to lend a hand.” All I could muster was a deer in the headlight stare. “If you prefer, there’s weeds in the garden that are calling your name. The grass could use cutting. Is your room clean?” Her list grew, and began picking up steam, like a steam train pulling out of the station. “Your dad would love it if you’d clean up your mess in the garage…” I had to cut her off, “Mom.” It was too late, she was on a roll, and picking up steam, “…the trash cans never got put back where they belong. It wouldn’t hurt to run the vacuum over the living room. There’s dusting…” Oh no, I’ve unleashed the monster, “Mom,” I repeated. “What.” It sounded more like a command than a question.

“Can I have a popsicle?” I asked, hoping it would derail the Mom Express train to hard labor. It worked. “Sure,” she said after a pause, “get one for me too.” As I handed one over to her, and started to give the wrapper a rip to open it she said, “You. Outside. I don’t want any messes in here.”

“Mom,” I said a little plaintively, “I’m not a baby, I’m 12 years old.”

“No you’re not, you won’t be 12 for at least 2 more months,” she corrected me. “Out!” There was no arguing, so I turned to head out the door. Taking a long pause, I turned back in hope of a reprieve. “Get out, and shut the door. I’m not paying to cool the outside,” she admonished me.

“Mom.”

“What?”

“I’m bored.” I called over my shoulder with a grin, and slammed the door as I tried to out run her last words, “Go! And don’t slam the door!”

I sat on the front steps, and saw my friend riding down the block. “Bobby! Over here!” I called. “A popsicle,” he began, “got one for me?” I knew better than to go back inside at the moment, so I asked “Can I ride the unicycle?

“No way.”

“Sorry, no Popsicle then.”

“What you been doing since school let out?”

“Nothing. It’s been pretty boring. Nothing ever happens in this rinky dink little town.”

“This weekend my dad’s going to take his .22 rifle out to Losch’s field. They’re going to cut down the wheat, and scare up some rabbits.”

“Really what does he do, shoot them or something?”

“Yeah.”

“Won’t he shoot the people in the field too?”

“No, you dummy, he rides on the tractor with old man Losch.”

“Oh, but what about…” my question trailed off as we watched a police car pull up at the house across the street. It was our one and only cop, or sheriff, or whatever his title was. He just sat in the car for a while. “I wonder what he’s doing,” Bobby said. “Maybe its Mrs. Warren,” I replied. “Maybe she’s hurt or something,” I continued.

Bobby replied, “No, he’s just sitting there. If she was hurt, there’d be ambulances here, and he’d be breaking down the door to rescue her.

“Maybe he got a report of an unlicensed unicycle driver, and he’s coming to give you a ticket.” I teased.

“Ha-ha,” Bobby said without a shred of humor, “that’s so funny I forgot to laugh.”

As we sat there watching Mr. Matthews, our police man, looking over a clipboard, and making a radio call, another car pulled up. Mr. Matthews got out of the patrol car and went to talk to the other man. We could hear them talking.

Mr. Matthews said, “I told you before, you don’t need to be here. It’s time to let the law handle this.”

Bobby and I just sat there to watch, and see what was going on. The other guy looked pretty old, he had to be at least 40, and he looked pretty mad. “He looks like somebody made him put on a shirt with the color button buttoned.” Bobby said quietly to me. “Yeah, and a few sizes too small,” I said. “Look at how red and purplish his face looks.” Bobby gave a little giggle; his eyes might pop out and hurt somebody if he doesn’t settle down.”

Mr. Matthews tried to make him stay by his car, but he wouldn’t stand for anything less than marching right up to the door with him. “Let me do all the talking,” Mr. Matthews commanded. The man muttered something, but I couldn’t make it out.

Mrs. Warren came to the door, and it looked like she was about to slam it shut again, until Mr. Matthews spoke. “You do know why I’m here today ma’am?” he asked. Mrs. Warren seemed a little terrified and nervous, but she said, “I have a good idea what it’s about if he’s here.” She indicated the man with the bulging eyes. She sounded really upset. That was unusual for her. I’ve been cutting her grass for this summer. I started helping her out last winter, shoveling the walks, and stuff like that. Mr. Warren used to do it, but he got sick and died just a few months ago. I really don’t know what it was, he was just old, and… Well… that’s just what happens. Hey, I’m just a kid, go ask the doctors. It’s just that Mrs. Warren always had a smile, and wasn’t the kind of person to be in trouble with the law, or anybody for that matter.

“I want this woman out of my house!” Bulgy Eyes shouted. Mrs. Warren started crying. I never saw her cry like that, at least not since the funeral. Sometimes I’d see her on the front porch on the glider, looking like she wanted to cry. Then she would get up and rush in the house, like maybe she did cry, but didn’t want anybody to know it.

“What did he say?” asked Bobby. “He wants her out of his house?” he asked. “That’s what he said? I remarked. That was news to both of us, don’t all old people own their houses? They even have that sign next to the front door, “The Warren’s, Established 1974.” That was before my parents were even born. Well, I think my dad might have been, but not my mom.

Mr. Warren was a Viet Nam vet, and they got married when he was in boot camp or something like that. I know that because after mowing the yard, Mrs. Warren would let me come inside to cool down, and have a glass of lemonade. She has pictures everywhere. There’s some of her in her wedding dress and Mr. Warren in his Navy uniform. She told me they lived on base, and that four of her kids were born in Navy hospitals. I don’t remember where, but there’s no bases around here, so they might have been married even before that sign says. I like to sit and talk with her, and look at the pictures of her kids. It’s kind of neat. All six of her kids have their own picture frame. Mr. Warren made these special, but I saw some like them in the store. They’re just not as fancy. There’s a circle of pictures for each grade of school, and a picture in each.

The argument across the street was getting Bulgy Eyes even more worked up, and Mr. Matthews had a hard time trying to keep Mrs. Warren from crying. Another car pulled up just as Mr. Matthews finally made the decision, “Look, Mrs. Warren, I’m not going to do anything today. I’m going to leave now, but the eviction notice says you have to be out by next Friday. Do you think you can do that?” Mrs. Warren just nodded as she shut the door, but Bulgy Eyes pointed his finger right into Mr. Matthews face and said, “You get paid to enforce the law. I expect you to do what the law tells you to do sheriff.”

“Pop, what’s going on?” the young guy who just drove up asked. “Mom told me you were coming over here.”

“Then you should know what it’s all about.” Bulgy Eyes said.

“Pop, this is Mrs. Warren you’re doing this to.” the young guy, apparently the son of Bulgy Eyes. Only he didn’t look like his dad very much.

“I’m not doing anything to anybody!” shouted Bulgy Eyes. “That’s my property, and payments need to be made. People just can’t expect a free ride.”

“But pop, you’ve been friends with Mrs. Warren forever. Wasn’t her brother in your class in school??” the son tried to sooth Bulgy Eyes temper. “Remember when her son Phil and I were in Cub Scouts together…”

It sounded like he was going to say more but he was cut off.

“You’re on her side!” Bulgy Eyes screamed back at his son. I think he turned a few shades deeper purple, and his eyes bulged out farther than ever. “You just don’t get it…”

Now it was Bulgy Eyes turn to be cut short. He grabbed at his chest, then made a funny sound, and fell over. Mr. Matthews tried to catch him but he just kind of deflated, and fell down like dropping a sack of laundry.

“Pop!” the young guy shouted, and closed the distance with a leap. Mr. Matthews was doing something to Bulgy Eyes, it must have been CPR. It was just like they do on TV. He managed to get the young guy’s attention, and told him to call 911.

I went back in the house. My Popsicle was gone, and it was probably long enough for mom to not get freaked out at me.

“Mom!” I called out. “Mom can you hear me?”

No answer. Good. “Mom, can I have a popsicle for me and one for Bobby too? If it’s OK then don’t say anything.” I waited. No answer. Remembering my manners I added, “Thanks mom,” as I grabbed a pair of the frozen treats, and went outside. Bobby and I enjoyed the popsicles as we sat on the steps, dripping Popsicle juice down our elbows, and onto the sidewalk. I guess mom was right about me making at least a little mess.

It took a while for the ambulance to get there, it didn’t have a siren blaring, just the flashing lights. Mr. Matthews didn’t spend much time doing the CPR stuff. I think Bulgy Eyes must have had a heart attack, and was dead before he hit the ground. We watched them take Bulgy Eyes away, and then Bobby asked, “What time is it?” I looked at the nonexistent wrist watch on my arm and said, “A hair past a freckle. Why do you want to know?” Bobby said, “You dork. I’m going to go home and see if I can go to the pool after lunch. Want to come?” I had a season pass, so all I had to do was get my mom to say it was OK. “Sure, I’ll check with my mom, and meet you there,” I told him.

Bobby rode off, and as I stood there, watching the now empty street, I felt like I needed to do something. I went over to ring the bell at Mrs. Warren’s house. “Can I help you?” She asked as she seemed surprised to see me there, and touching a worn piece of Kleenex to her red rimmed eye. “Not exactly,” I said. “I just came over to see if you needed a hug.”

She started crying, as she gave me a big, grandma style hug. I don’t know why I didn’t expect that. “Thank you,” she managed to get out once the tears stopped. “I needed that.” I told her that I hoped she was around in the neighborhood for a long time, and she gave me a curious look. It made me wonder if she saw me sitting on the steps earlier, but I just told her I should probably be going home.

As I let myself back in the door, mom was coming up from the basement with a laundry basket in her hands. “Are you just coming in,” she asked?

“Yes,” I answered.

“Didn’t I hear you slam the door earlier?” she asked.

“Maybe.”

“Maybe? What’s that supposed to mean? She asked.

“It depends on how mad at me you would be when you find some extra popsicles missing.”

“Extra popsicles?”

“Yeah, Bobby came over for a few minutes, and I got him one.” I admitted.

“And another for yourself, I’ll bet.”

“Of course. It would be rude to have Bobby eating something in front of me. Wouldn’t it.” I teased, testing her mood some more.

“What’s new with Bobby?” mom wanted to know.

“Nothing much. He’s as bored as me.” I told her. “He wanted me to ask if I can go swimming with him later.”

“Because he’s bored.” she commented.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“And nothing ever happens in this boring little town.” she said with a mocking tone in her voice.

“Nope. Nothing ever happens.”

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An Outside Perspective of Vic and Sade

I hate sharing weaknesses, or anxieties. It always makes me paranoid that someone will exploit the thing I share, and use it against me. The one thing I fear the most is that someone will slip $500,000 into my bank account, because…

What? No takers? So much for reverse psychology.

I really do hate being lost. The scary feeling that you have no recognizable landmarks to go by. Following the travelling directions to a tee, but suddenly finding yourself in a spot that is off track and alien. It’s even worse when there’s nobody to ask. No idea of which direction North is. It’s like floating adrift at sea, with nothing but the horizon as far as the eye can see, and nothing but sky above.

To bring a little light to the topic, and switch things up a bit, consider this perspective of Vic and Sade.

How did I get here? I’m lying in the grass, but it’s so tall. I can hardly see anything over it. Wait, there’s people coming.

“Hey! I’m down here!” I want to yell, but no sound comes out.

They’re talking about someone named Cynthia, and she’s giving her ring to the butler… no, it’s not the butler, its Hector… or is it a rattlesnake? No, no, that can’t be right.

“Forget about Gilmore Grizzwald the cattle thief, it’s only a character in a movie! Down here! I’m over here! That’s right, walk a little closer” Hey, did he just say something about a lawn mower? This could go badly for me.

Just listen to that woman over there. She’s not looking in the right spot either, but you’re all getting warmer. I’ll bet if I were a dime, or a silver dollar, you’d be sure to find me.

What did she say? It’s me! They are looking for me after all! “I’m down here! Look over here!” Oh, why can’t I talk, and make them hear me? I wish I was back in Decatur, or at least with Mr. Gumpox. How did I ever get here anyway?

Stop all your useless chattering! Don’t worry about shoes, or how they fit, or how I got lost. I’m lost, and I’m right over here. What? The whole neighborhood is out looking for me. That’s a relief; at least I know that people care about me.

You’re doing it again. You’re too worried about how I got lost. That’s right I fell out of his pocket, what did you think… that I fell out of his mouth? Gumpox sure has some crazy clients along his garbage route, I’m telling you. No, I didn’t jump out of his pocket. No, I didn’t bite my way through it either. I don’t think you’re funny at all.

Hey, is that Mrs. Corkel over there? And look, Mrs. Parker has her whole family out looking. There’s Mrs. Drummond and her husband. Come on people, just look over here, your almost on top of me. That’s right, I’m right here, smiling and gleaming in the sunlight, just waiting for you to see me. Hey, did that kid just refer to me as ‘fangs’? I’m teeth, not fangs. To be precise, I’m a high quality, custom made set of dentures. Hmm… I hope it’s not your grubby little paws that find me.

Finally! They’re coming my way. A clothes pin? A cigar butt? You’re finding everything out here, except for me!

Oh no. They’re doing it again, just talking, and not hunting for me. Making dumb jokes at my expense, and gossiping about that Mrs. Razorscum. Who cares if she’s not looking for me, neither are you at the moment.

Yikes! I’m flying through the air! Hurray, someone found me. Thanks to Mr. Overholtzer. Now take me back to Gumpox, I have work to do with him.

PS: For the rest of the story behind this weird piece of work enjoy the podcast episode when you visit:

Vic and Sade – Mr. Gumpox Has Lost His Dentures. 440809.

The Lost and Found of Old Radio Programs

Lost and Found. That phrase conjures up memories for me dealing with the box of the same name that can be found in any school.

For almost all my school years, my dad was a custodian at the same school district where we lived and went to school ourselves. He started out working in the high school, but as his kids grew into the middle school years, he asked to be transferred to the elementary school in the town where we lived. On occasion, my mom would go to pick him up from work, and since we were fairly young, she would take us along, and we would sometimes get to hang out in the janitor’s office while we waited for his shift to end. That’s where the box of lost things was found. There was always an interesting collection of misfit items. Always a single sock, or glove, or shoe, never a matched set. There was never anything of real value, unless it was clearly broken and missing parts. Sometimes a jacket, or a shirt, or… don’t tell me those are somebody’s underpants… ew! It’s not the fact that they’re actually there. It’s most likely an innocent mistake, where they just fell out of someone’s gym bag, at least I hope that explains their presence.

Since this is a blog about old radio shows, it occurred to me to use that theme to filter a few aspects of the genre of that branch of media.

On a broad scale, the art of audio drama is largely a lost one. It’s not entirely dead, but far from being as popular as to market it on the radio as it once was. Unless a person is a history buff, or curious to learn where broadcast media got its start, I’m sure nobody thinks much about it. Even folks who are from that era, and heard the shows as they originally travelled from the studio, through the airwaves, and out the speakers of the radio in their living rooms don’t mention it much in conversation. They may reminisce about the political climate, or their favorite old musicians and songs. They may talk about historical events, or the shift in social issues, or styles and fashions. They may share about cars they drove, or toys they had before the era of electronic games, and social media on the Internet. Or maybe not. As part of assignments when I was in grade school, we studied the Great Depression. I decided to ask my grandparents since they lived through it. The short answer was, “The what? When did that happen?”

I was sure they were joking, how could they miss an entire decade from 1930 to 1940? “Oh, then. We were too poor, we didn’t notice,” was the response I got. My grandparents were all farm people, especially my mom’s people. “Those were the years that we worked the hardest. There was always work to do and not enough people around to do it all. There were animals to feed,” they began, but they were just getting wound up. “We had fields to plow and tend to, tractors to keep running, fences to mend, not to mention the chores around the house. We didn’t even have electricity or indoor plumbing until the mid-30’s” That does sound like a lot.

I asked, “What did the women do, grandma? How did you do laundry, and cook back then?” She continued, “We did all the same work as the men. Well, I never worked on the tractor, or did mechanical work, but I would put on overalls, and do all the other farm work”.

After a moment in memory she added, “We had a wood burning cook stove. The guys would stack up the cord wood, but the women had to keep the kindling cut up, and fed into it. Before we bought our first electric washing machine, it was a washer ringer; there were big round wash tubs we heated over an open fire. That was hot work….” she trailed off.

In our studies we learned about the fireside speeches of Franklin D Roosevelt, and our teacher even had a record or two that had old radio shows on them. One of them was an episode of ‘Red Rider,’ a cowboy show for kids, and who can still be seen on certain models of BB guns. Although kids today would be clueless that the cowboy image looking at them on the package of their BB gun, was once as well known to kids across the nation as Sponge Bob is today. I know I was clueless when I was a kid, and Scooby Doo was the latest, new hero across the nation.

Another recording was the radio report of the crash of the Hindenberg. There may have been more, but those are the ones I remember. I asked my grandparents about another historic moment in radio. “Did you hear the Orson Wells show of ‘The War of the Worlds’?? If you did, were you afraid the Martian invasion was real?”

They chuckled, and gave a simple, “No”. Did they even hear it? “Probably not… but that was a Sunday, and we were probably still at church. Besides, on a Sunday night, if we weren’t at church, we would probably have been listening to Jack Benny”. Years later I did some research. The date in question was October 30, 1938. They would have heard Jack Benny’s Halloween Party., with his cast joking their way through the party preparations.

I had totally forgotten about such things as radio dramas until a few years ago. I thought it was all lost to the ages. Shows were done live, broadcast, and gone into the ether after being enjoyed by the listening audience… right? I had heard the word, ‘transcription’ but never knew exactly what it meant. Little did I know about the practice of recording radio broadcasts? Fans, clubs, and even the military had been recording and preserving radio broadcasts for years. With the technology of the Internet, and the methods of sharing information we have with us today, discovering archives of these old recordings is like discovering buried treasure. Every time I learn about a show I had never heard of, it’s like finding a gold mine. With every episode I listen to, it’s another nugget, another story, another chance to stop and look at the date of when it originally aired. How old were my parents at the time, or were they even born yet? If the grandparents of then could meet the me of now, I’d be older than them for most of the old time radio era.

At first there’s a lot of jokes, and names of political figures that are strange, and out of context. There are references to other radio shows and actors that mean nothing. There are voices that seem familiar, but you can’t quite place where you’ve heard them. The more you listen, recognition creeps in. You may recognize voices of cartoon characters of the 1960’s or early 1970’s, and place them in the show you’re listening to. You pause to listen to the acting credits at the end of shows, and slowly learn names of some of the people behind some of the characters, and begin spotting their work from show to show. Granted, the audio quality is sometimes terrible, but most often it’s passable enough that it becomes more about the story telling.

Now that I’ve managed to discover this lost art of entertainment, the time and technology is ripe to share it with new generations. That, in a single sentence, is why I do my Retro Radio Podcast.

Gotta Have My Technology

I’ve been avoiding outright mentioning each day’s writing challenges that I’ve been doing. For those who’re taking part in it, you know what the assignment is. For those who aren’t part of it, I hope that whether you’ve figured it out or not, that you’ve at least been entertained.

For today’s installment… I don’t get the challenge. It has to do with writing in my own voice. Unless I’m intentionally trying to write fiction or expressing something in character… the voices are all mine. What am I supposed to do in writing in my own voice?? Write about something that is being taken away, and protest it. I suppose that could either be something real, or imagined. Life has a way of throwing some really crappy curveballs at you in life. I try not to hang on to anything very tightly. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21. Who am I to challenge God either?

The biggest thing that I would agonize over, short of the death of a loved one, is the loss of my laptop. By extension, that would also include my smart phone, and any other technology gadget. I sometimes joke about my pathetic life as a hermit, but taking away my technology tools would pretty make that a reality. You might as well hide the prosthetic limbs of an amputee, or take the hearing aids away from a deaf person.

I know, computers, and the things people typically do with them can get a bad reputation. Too much time wasted in gaming, surfing social media, visiting adult web sites, or a host of other time wasting activities. Other than occasional touching of base with Facebook, or Twitter, both of which are much easier for me to do on my phone than the laptop, I don’t do any of that. Did I mention in all these blog posts somewhere that I’m blind? Sure I did. You must’ve missed it. So here I am to tell you now. Believe it or not, computers are not only simple for blind people, but once you get past the small hurdle of the accessible software; they’re as invaluable as the aforementioned prosthetics that folks of other disabilities use. Technology devices are how I interact, and express myself. In fact, if you were to meet me in real life, I’d just be that guy over there in the corner, sitting quietly, not really talking to anybody. Eyes closed, relaxing… hey, he’s not asleep is he?

People ask what I do, and I answer, “I have a podcast, and I ‘m webmaster of a handful of web pages.” They usually don’t know what a podcast even is, and are only vaguely aware that there’s somebody who actually knows how to build the websites that they like to visit on the web. The conversation then falls flat. Sometimes ending with a patronizing comment, “I didn’t think blind people could even use a computer. That’s amazing”. Then I’ll go back to being the quiet guy in the corner, thinking about what to feature next on the podcast, or trying to mentally work the code on that page that I’ve been developing.

To take my technology away is to shut the door to nearly everyone I interact with on a daily basis. No podcasts to inform me, entertain me, or educate me. No online chats to interact with Internet peeps from across the globe. No feedback from listeners to my podcast to talk about something I got wrong about an old radio show, or something I got right about it. Though the hundred or more junk emails would disappear, it would cut me off of forums I participate in from issues of blindness, to Christian people, to disabled veterans, to various newsletters, and even notices to pay my electric bill. Don’t send me any paper mail to my snail mail box. It could take a while for me to find someone to read it to me… then I’d promptly forget it. No offense, but paper all looks the same to me.

I use my phone to read audio, or books in plain text, and my laptop to both read and take extensive notes about whatever crosses my mind. If I had a real, human type person reading all the stuff I consume everyday, they’d go hoarse with all the talking. My wife sometimes accuses me of not listening to her. She doesn’t realize that the computer voice in my earphones is often also competing with the chatter from a podcast, or music, and she’s just one more voice in the stream. Not to mention I may be in some intense concentration as I’m focusing on a long string of computer code, to get to the real important part where the buggy stuff is located. It’s always at the end of a line that is long enough to have the person in the room decide it’s a good time to repeat themselves just as the computer voice reaches that crucial spot.

There are times I do step away from it all. It makes for a nice change of pace to go either technology free, or at least on a reduced tether to it. I just like to be the one in charge of throwing away my prosthetic devices, and in charge of picking them up to hit the electronic pathways again.

Pay No Attention to the Generous Man Behind the Curtain

OK, I haven’t been reading much lately, but I was listening to an episode of Jack Benny lately. It seems that the most common thing thing that comes to mind when you ment8ion his name is that he was known for being stingy. There’s otther things that fans might shoot out to me, and in the particular episode, his blue eyes, and perpetual age of 39 were also mentioned. Stinginess ran through out the whole show though.

The word was never really mentioned, but it was the most prominent topic of the jokes. His use of a pay phone for his home phone, to charge his house guests for their phone calls. His advice to “whack the coin box” to get the last phone call coin returned to you indicates his skill at not having to spend money himself. The mention that his phone was upside down on the wall to poke fun at how frequently he battered his phone to get that coin out of it.

That’s all in the opening few minutes of the show, stinginess moves on to the form of a loan that one of the cast asks Jack Benny to borrow. Not just a few bucks, which Jack would’ve balked over loaning, and had enough comedy to milk for a laugh, but the sum of $500. For the kind of miser that Jack Benny was, it would be in his nature to even have problems with a loan for as small as a few cents, let alone, a few dollars. Keeping in mind factors of inflation, those few hundred dollars would be an amount easily into 4 figures in today’s money. The ridiculously high amount not only is enough to leave a miser like Jack Benny speechless, but it begs to know why in the world that much money is needed, but that’s a secret to be revealed later in the show. To me, the reason it was needed isn’t nearly as funny as the reason Bob Crosby can’t borrow money from his famous brother, or a fiasco regarding a loan from years ago.

The focus in the show drifts to an upcoming live stage show that was to take place, and a fictional need for Jack to audition tallent for it. There’s still a joke where the neighbors valet comes over to borrow a few items. For a new listener to the show, it may not seem like its that big of a deal, and the humor go over the head.

Old time comedians, especially of the Vaudeville era, learned that if something was funny once, and got a laugh, to keep on doing it. It could take a long time for a joke to make the rounds and be heard by a large population, and that one joke could be the anchor for a life long career. In the faster paced era of broadcast media, that one funny bit would be old news to the listening audience in a week. When comedians tried to milk a particular joke, or catch phrase, it was known to end careers. The people growing tired of it, but the comedian not knowing how to stop using it. Jack Benny saw that early on, and developed his onstage character in a way where he was always stingy, but the jokes about stinginess were limitless, and ranged from the obvious to the ones that were over the top. He could tell the same jokes, or actually the same topic of jokes, and it was never exactly the same.

With that in mind, getting back to the visiting valet, it’s part of a long time running gag that ties in to shows from earlier in the season, and in fact, from earlier seasons. Jacks next door neighbors, Ronald and Bonita Coleman, were always being visited by either Jack Benny, or his butler, Rochester to borrow any number of household items from cups of sugar, to Academy Award statues. Of course, the Colemans were frustrated and annoyed with Jack, but were too courteous to confront him about it. Today’s show is a rare moment when they send their butler over to borrow a few things back.

The fun in the show is all fiction. In real life, Jack Benny was far from stingy, and was actually very generous. His neighbors were never the Coleman’s, though they lived near by in his neighborhood. It’s all a matter of his ability to create characters, based on a little real personality, and stretch them to make the audience not clearly recogn9ize the blurry lines of truth and fiction crossed.

Behind the scenes of a Podcast – I Got my Good

This may seem boring to most people, but it’s just a typical example of another day in my life in producing a podcast.

Previously I told about my frustrating, lost day of work in the Retro Radio Podcast office. Well not entirely lost, but a full day of wasted time when all it should’ve taken was an hour or less. Good news! I had an unexpected success today.

Poking around my night stand, I found my iPhone charging cradle. I stopped using it because it diverts the audio to external stereo speakers that didn’t come with it, therefore I don’t have any to use with it. It charges fine, but sometimes it’s nice to doze off to sleep listening to music, or a podcast. I thought I’d try hooking it up to my computer in the office to see if I could tap into the audio from the cradle.

The USB cord was the easy fix, Plug one end into the laptop docking station, and the other to the cradle. Drop on the phone, and success! It’s charging, and synchronizing with my desktop version of iTunes. The problem is that I can’t hear anything through it. All the audio is going to those nonexistent speakers.

If this next step works, I’ll end up with an extra bonus or two. Strap yourself into your seats, hold your breath, and cross your fingers. The excitement might be too much for you to take. When I found the charging cradle, I also found my missing patch cord. How’s that for amazing news? OK, you can stop holding your breath, but stay buckled in and keep those fingers crossed. I patched the audio from the cradle to an input to my little 2 track mixer, and I can actually hear the podcast I fired up to get some test audio. Well, sort of, it’s only coming in through one side of my headphone, and it’s cutting in and out in a weird way.

Let me make a little adjustment to see if I can even out the audio.

It didn’t seem to do much, but wait… while tweaking the knobs, my hand bumped the patch cord, and the audio came booming through. When I leave the plug only part way plugged in, the audio comes through. Weird, but now for the big test, mixing it to my audio editor.

After a quick test, and adjustments to balance the audio, another success. Now I can mix in audio from my phone when I need to, and I can keep the little beast charged up at the same time. Why is that so important? On the rare occasion where I get to interview somebody, I don’t have to worry whether they have Skype, or can log into an online chat. I now have the option to grab the audio right from the phone.

I know, boring stuff. It’s just another day though, behind the scenes with a podcast, and a reveal about claiming the small victories in life.

Radio Families

A comment I heard lately made me think about shifts in social norms. The lament had to do with growing up in what might be called a broken home. Divorce had torn apart the typical, traditional model of dad, mom, and kids. A thing that is increasingly not the norm, but one that is still engrained as normal.

In modern days, the mantra seems to be, ‘anything goes,’ it’s all good, and what works for me isn’t necessarily something that works for you. I can agree with that on many individual preferences, but there’s still a place for certain structures of society. The basic building block in any group of people boils down to the basic family unit. I’m not trying to suggest that a rigid, cookie cutter approach to the family should be held. Looking at some of the families found in the world of old radio shows will bear out that even in that idyllic age of squeaky clean families, there were many different kinds portrayed.

Despite some exaggerated personalities for comic affect, some radio families held to the expected model of mom, dad, and kids. Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, along with Phil Harris and Alice Faye brought their real life families to the air. The kids normally being of the variety to stay in the background, and the real comedy in the story with dad’s goofy adventures, while mom is the long suffering one who holds the family together. Versions of that formula also show up in the fictional families on shows as the Life of Riley, and Father Knows Best. Although the Andersons of Father Knows Best, had the kids more in the forefront as they had a knack for proving that maybe it was really mom who knew better.

Maybe one of the families that a modern audience can relate to from the air waves was on the Great Gildersleeves program. For a family meant to be in the middle class, they had a maid, but since the premise was of a man who became the guardian of his deceased sister’s household, it made some sense. Birdie also served as a mother figure, lending that element, yet leaving the door open for Gildersleeves to have love interests outside the home. It was also a lot more likely to feature the kids in more stories, and not being brushed aside for much of the show, or not appearing at all.

Outside of comedies, there really weren’t many portrayals of families, at least not as a regular feature. Dramas like One Man’s family tried to take a realistic look at family life, but there were still elements of the exotic that the typical family might never experience. Large country estates, summer homes, taking airplane trips, or cruises all around the world, inheriting huge amounts of money, and the like. On an interpersonal level though, the relationships between the generations could come from any family, of any time.

To extend the family, as we often do today, to the work place, or school, or a circle of friends, the door flies open, even for the old radio era.

Jack Benny’s cast was one that he cultivated through the years. Each character had a recognizable personality, and certain jokes or wisecracks were expected as they interacted with other cast members. Our Miss Brooks was all about life in high school, and the private life of English teacher, Connie Brooks.

For Westerns, Detective, or Mystery shows, all the dark, dysfunctional sides of life cropped their ways into the family. Typically in the lives of jealous or cheating married couples. Sometimes between siblings who might have it out for one another, vying for an inheritance, if not in schemes to bump off their wealthy family member to move the matter along. If divorce was portrayed, it seems to mostly be as part of a murder motive, and not to indicate any ups or downs of a single parent trying to raise their kids.

Were there families in that era that had only a single parent? Yes. Were there families who had an abusive or drunken dad? Yes. Were there broken homes? Yes. One difference that we can see based on the entertainment media was that it wasn’t held in high regard, or as the norm, and that in someway, the individuals involved had failed society.

I can’t hope to preach that striving for the traditional family is exactly what every adult should work towards. However, if it’s a thing that you don’t have, but want it, the goal is attainable. It won’t come without a little dedication and individual effort though. Find a partner with that same determination, and someone who has made it happen for them to be a mentor to you. Who knows, with a concerted effort, and desire to change, maybe the tide of social norms will shift, and the future social statement in the entertainment industry will reflect healthy families, and the shrinking image of broken homes.

Memories of Back Home

Another peek behind the scenes of what goes on with the Retro Radio Podcast.

Almost three years ago I went home for the last time. I mean, I went back to the home where I grew up. My mom had been in poor health, and we went to visit her in the hospital, while staying in her house.

The first time I walked through the doors, I remember being barely tall enough to stand at the bathroom sink to brush my teeth, with my chin just reaching high enough to clear the sink. There wasn’t much hope in being able to see my face in the mirror looking back at me, not without standing on the toilet seat. Today I’d have to bend my knees a little just to see the lower part of my face to shave. Over the years, the rooms didn’t noticeably shrink. We had often come home for visits, and the perspective managed to shift slowly. With the dire situation as it now was, thoughts of the house brought on long forgotten memories.

The brick house was less than a thousand square feet, but there was a big yard to play in, and a two car garage for storing bikes, toys, and sometimes even a car. My brother and I soon took over a bedroom in the basement, to let the new editions to the family have the upstairs rooms. For most of my childhood days, and when there weren’t any good programs on TV, or chores to do, we spent on the street, riding bikes.

When riding laps around the same neighborhood streets got a little boring, we would set up ramps. A concrete block or two, and a long 2 by 8 plank, and we were flying our bikes over ditches, over rows of soda bottles, or just over chalked lines on the pavement. Once, and only once, a neighbor kid wanted to join the fun. He didn’t have a bike, so he volunteered to lie on the ground and let us jump over him. Hey, it was his idea. We tried to warn him off. On the first run at the ramp, and just as my front wheel approached it, his mom came running out their front door, screaming at me. Imagine that. I knew how far I could jump. Her kid was in no danger. Somehow that logic didn’t work once I got home to find that his mom had already called my mom.

This time, the visit home was different. Mom’s ordeal in the hospital rapidly grew more serious, and the short weekend trip stretched into most of the week. By day, we spent the time at her bedside in the ICU, waiting for her to beat the battle that was raging in her body. At night, we’d go home long enough to freshen up, and try to get some sleep. Days stretched into a few weeks. Barely realizing it, the months changed, and then Summer had slowly changed to Fall.

Memories of growing up in that house were shared: The Christmas when we got the model train set. We ran it on the kitchen table all day, forcing mom to forego making lunch, and we all just ate the candy and stuff from our stockings. She eventually made us take it all down so she could make a proper dinner. Who could forget the time my brother discovered how to climb on top of the garage, or the time we spun my little brother around the big cottonwood tree, until he flew off the tire swing, or the time the dog chased a rabbit through a culvert under the road and got himself stuck. The time frames all blurred together. I couldn’t tell when, or how old I was for most of them.

The house is still there, but mom isn’t with us any longer. The time has come to build new memories, and keep on sharing the old ones.

Guilty, but Safe Pleasures

I’ve been challenged to tell about a favorite meal from my childhood. I can’t think of any. Instead, I thought of a special treat. In considering what there was about that tasty treat I enjoyed, so much, I also thought of a treat that I indulged in that can be described in similar ways. Even better since my new treat isn’t fattening, has no harmful cholesterol, sodium, or any side affects to your health. I’m talking about hot, steamy, home made fudge, and the magical world of audio dramas.

Sweet, chocolate goodness, with just the right texture. The ingredients are so simple, but it requires a delicate balance of getting the production just right. For that silky, chocolate, fudge, that meanschocolate chips, marshmallow creme, and a little extra sugar, and butter. For audio drama, it means a story from a writer, and actors who bring characters to life.

The complexity for home made fudge is in getting the temperature right, and keeping it steady for the proper time. A pot that isn’t heavy enough won’t get hot enough. Cooking too cool, or too short makes it sticky and runny. Cooking to hot, or too long dries it out, or it goes to sugar, and become grainy. Audio drama that’s done well needs a delicate balance of audio engineering,sound affects, and stage production.

Both can then be left to cool, set up, cut into little bite sized pieces, and savored over time.

On the podcast, I feature the old radio dramas, comedies, and the like because they’re freely available, and there’s so many of them. There’s a secret treat behind making my sweet, hot pan of fudge. Once the job is done, you get to scrape the pan and enjoy the rich decadence of a rare treat. There’s only a small window of time to enjoy it.Let the pot cool just enough so the residual fudge won’t burn you, but is still plasticc enough to be scraped from the pot, and right into your mouth. Hot, melting in your mouth, creamy and rich. A rare moment that only comes once, and only for the cook and her kitchen helpers.

As much as I enjoy the old productions, it’s a rare treat indeed, when a new audio production source can be found. Hot and exciting, fresh and new. A rare treat that comes with frequencvy that’s too far apart, and more difficult to find.

Lost in the Park, A Fiction

Hey readers and lovers of old time radio, remember that challenge to write something every day that I’m trying to keep up with? Here’s a bit of fiction to stretch my imagination. No OTR stuff today.

Her thoughts drifted as she sat on the park bench, her hands mindlessly busy with her knitting. She was back there again, reliving the last day she saw him. Those dimples and dark brown eyes that melted the hearts of any woman who met him. Heaven help us, he was only 3 years old. What kind of a lady killer might he be in another ten to fifteen years? Myra would have to beat the young girls away with a stick. The thought gave her grin to her moment of sadness. He was there in the department store with her, and then suddenly vanished. The search found nothing; nobody could tell where her little Danny went. It was like he evaporated. Myra always suspected her husband. It couldn’t have been him, he died in a car crash shortly afterward, and if Danny was with him, certainly he would’ve been returned to her. Roy’s family had never liked Myra, thinking she was beneath them. The refused to even acknowledge the marriage and Myra had never met them. She didn’t even know where they lived. The wealthy family had several homes they lived in as the seasons, or mood moved them. If they didn’t want her to find them, she didn’t know how to find them. All the days of her life since then were filled with the hopes that her little Danny would somehow be returned to her. Myra was brought to the real world when she heard footsteps. Could it be? No, it was just a man and woman coming down the path in the park. Her mind went back to her knitting the tiny sweater, for a son she couldn’t find, and humming a tune that she often sang to her little darling.

Sadie was enraptured by Benjamin as they held hands and walked through the park. He loved for who she was, and not for her appearance. She was tired of men at the modeling agency ogling her, and thinking that just because she was beautiful, that they had the right to own a little piece of her. She always had to be on guard to keep from getting involved with someone who was so shallow to only see her on the surface. Benjamin was different. They met on a crowded subway when he surprised her by nearly sitting on her lap; Enraged at the act, Sadie opened her mouth to pour out a few choice words, thinking he was just another pervert who wanted to cop a feel. “Watch it pal, what are you…” her words were cut off, as abruptly as the shutting doors on the train. Her last word came at the same instant reality struck her at the sight of his long white cane. “…blind?” Embarrassment washed over her, and she was suddenly nervous as she back pedaled, and seeking a way to retract her blunder. “Oh… I see that you ar… I mean that…” Benjamin was kind enough to let her off the hook. “I should be the one to say ‘I’m sorry.’ I usually check to see if the seat is empty before sitting, but I guess my timing was a little off when the train lurched forward like it did.” His words had a way of soothing her embarrassment, and soon they were making small talk. Phone numbers were exchanged, and they soon found themselves meeting for dinner, or just hanging out like they were this evening. Sadie had never thought of disabilities before, but the barrier of blindness meant that Benjamin knew her for who she was inside. He wasn’t distracted by how she looked. She knew his admiring words and smile was for her alone, and not for any shallow, cosmetic reasons.

Usually he used his cane to tap his way down the sidewalks of the city, but Sadie’s apartment was near the park, and it would be nice to just take a stroll with her. They walked hand in hand. Benjamin didn’t often trust people to lead him around, but despite his first awkward encounter with her, he felt that Sadie was the kind of person he could trust with more than guiding him. Benjamin was beginning to think he could trust her with his heart. He grew up with his grandparents, they were a doting pair, but could be aloof, often leaving him in the care of nannies. He couldn’t remember his father or mother, but was told that they died at a young age. It was a car crash. ‘Is that hereditary?’ Benjamin mused to himself. It was an auto accident in his college days that cost him his eyesight. He managed to bounce back from it with the resilience of youth. There was a few weeks of recovering from the initial injuries, then more time spent in the Blindness Rehabilitation Center. Since then Benjamin had hit the ground running, and returned to finish his schooling with ferocity. Through his dedication to live as independently as possible, Benjamin had little room in his life for people who offered him patronizing attitudes, or showed pity on him. Sadie was different though. She somehow managed to look past the image of a man with a white cane, and want to the person within.

“What are you thinking?” Sadie asked. “Just how much I love you,” was Benjamin’s reply. “You’re just after my good looks,” Sadie teased. “You’re just after my dimples and sexy brown eyes,” came his response. “You’re just being a silly man, Daniel Benjamin Westmoreland.” Sadie admonished him. As they strolled past the woman on the park bench who was knitting a sweater, a tear came from Benjamin’s eye. “What’s the matter?” Sadie asked as they continued further down the trail. “Nothing,” Benjamin replied. “It’s just that a tune just entered my head. One that I think my mother used to sing to me. I wish I could remember more about her. I was only 3 when I last saw her.” Sadie squeezed his hand a little tighter, then he continued as they walked, “It’s just a fuzzy memory, but we were in a department store one day when…”