Lester the Nightfly.

Alan has taken to listening to the radio at night. This is deeply suspect, if you ask me; radio is not a nighttime entertainment, unless you’re in the car. Sometimes I listen to talk radio at night, driving home from wherever; after sundown is when the lunatics come out and howl at the radio. Michael Savage, Laura Schlessinger — they used to be the hot thing in radio, and now they’re mostly on at night, and that ought to tell them both something. Not that they are listening.

Alan listens to public radio, so I don’t have to doubt his sanity. After dark, public radio is the Ed Love program on WDET (excellent jazz; sort of the antimatter Leah Tourkow), followed by various earnest chat shows (Can Hillary reposition herself as a moderate? My guests tonight are…), followed by the BBC world service, which must be when everyone but the overnight engineer finally goes home. I love the BBC world service, if only because they run on Greenwich Mean Time, which gives the whole program a certain otherwordly quality. Somewhere in the world, your Auntie Beeb is hard at work all the time.

Another reason to love the BBC: They let you know what’s happening in the world of cricket.

(Which reminds me of one of the thousand minor pleasures of my fellowship year — hearing Vahe, our resident sportswriter, try to explain American sports to the overseas fellows. No one appreciated the NFL.)

Late in his life my dad went through a period where he needed to have KMOX on the bedside radio all night long. If my mother tried to turn it off in the middle of the night, he’d wake up and turn it back on. It drove her insane, which is probably why she eventually moved to the guest room. Sometimes I think men spend the first half of their adult lives trying to lure women into bedrooms and the second half driving them out. Yes, I’m talking about you, Mr. Snorey Pants.

Why KMOX? Who knows? It comes to us from St. Louis, my parents’ hometown (mine too). They had all-night talkers then, local ones I think, and maybe it was some sort of audio security blanket, hearing the hometown through a light layer of AM static. Or maybe my dad just grew another eccentricity in his old age.

He always liked radio, though; he went through a period where his preferred coffee companion was J.P. McCarthy’s show on WJR, the great voice of the Great Lakes, coming to you from the golden tower of the Fisher Building in downtown Detroit.

To give my dad credit: He never listened to Limbaugh, et al. Nor Art Bell (that I knew of).

Anyway, night radio is the voice of loneliness. It reminds me of driving to work last summer at 4:45 a.m., the last few minutes of “Coast to Coast” winding up, too early for even the morning drive-time guys. Just me, the earliest paper carriers, a few cops and the semi drivers idling outside Perfection Bakery. Tuned in.

Bloggage: I missed this when it ran a few days ago, so thanks to Eric Zorn for pointing it out — Leigh Anne Wilson’s account of coping with her intensely hyperactive son, proof, if you needed more, that some parents are simply better than the rest of us. (Even if they sell vibrators, as Leigh Anne does, although I think this fact is simply amusing.) A sample:

After he started walking I spent the next two years trying to get the boy to act right. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get him to stop breaking everything he got his hands on. I couldn’t stop him from coloring on the walls, I couldn’t stop him from unbuckling his carseat, I couldn’t get him to use the potty, I couldn’t get him to stop dumping shampoo onto the floor or plugging the bathroom sinks and flooding the upstairs, and worst of all, I couldn’t get him to acknowledge my cries of “No!,” even when he was darting toward the street or trying to stick his hand in a roaring fire. It ended up being easier to lock all the bathroom and bedroom doors, and remove all the furniture from his bedroom and the playroom. It was easier to buy board books he couldn’t rip up, and easier to let him have a sippy cup longer than he should so he wouldn’t pour whatever he was drinking onto the keyboard. If he was warned in advance not to exhibit a particular behavior, it was like handing him an engraved invitation to do exactly that.

Yes, there’s a happy ending. But you must read.

Posted at 11:18 pm in Uncategorized |

13 responses to “Lester the Nightfly.”

  1. alex said on October 5, 2005 at 12:01 am

    Well bless her heart.

    My mom put me on Ritalin at one point because I was impossible, although I imagine not as impossible as that Alex. And when she saw the zombified automaton I became, she was even more horrified than she was when my brother and I spray-painted each other shamrock green�faces, tongues, hair and all. She had me off that shit immediately.

    I’ll confess I’ve tried pharma a few times since and it’s made me, well, a perfect angel. And a crashing bore. Frankly, the individual in me does better self-medicating with the things doctors and mothers and employers frown upon. If only they knew I was such an ace precisely because I’m not a robot and don’t want to be one.

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  2. alex said on October 5, 2005 at 12:09 am

    Oh, and by the way…

    All middle-aged and older women move to another room regardless of what’s on the radio dial. It happened in my house growing up. And though people deny it like teen-age boys all deny they masturbate, I’m hearing lotsa folks ‘fessing lately.

    “My father sits at night with no lights on…

    His cigarette glows in the dark…

    The living room is still.

    I walk by, no remark…”

    I first heard that song when I was seven, but it didn’t resonate until many years later.

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  3. Dorothy said on October 5, 2005 at 8:39 am

    My father-in-law, age 79, lives in Pitstburgh and we are in South Carolina. We only see him two or three times a year now. He leaves two radios on all day long. They are not the same stations upstairs and down. The one upstairs is set to KDKA, which carries Pirates baseball. But it’s usually blasting talk radio every time I go up to use the bathroom. It’s been like this for at least 20 years. Downstairs he has music on, usually some bouncy old 60’s crooners like Vic Damone or Steve Lawrence, and we can barely converse due to the volume level. Dad is not hard of hearing. He says he keeps the radio on to discourage would-be burglars. Makes them think he’s home even if he’s not. I have a feeling the burglars are on to him, though.

    And Mike wonders why I have a hard time tring not to glance at my watch every 10 minutes, praying it’s time to kiss Dad goodbye and hit the road. I am certain I leave brain matter behind every time we go there to see him.

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  4. mary said on October 5, 2005 at 11:29 am

    I listen to KCRW here for an hour or so while I work. The guy who plays music from nine to noon has interesting taste, and I’ve bought cds quite a few times after hearing them on his show.

    The other thing I enjoy, which I’ve tried to convince my kids is one of the real pleasures of life, is listening to a baseball game while doing some fairly tedious chore. The best is listening to a baseball game while washing the car.

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  5. blue girl said on October 5, 2005 at 12:12 pm

    I agree with you Mary — listening to baseball on the radio while you’re outside putzing around — it’s what memories are made of…

    Nance, that link was really something — thanks for that. (I loved the way she ended it)

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  6. brian stouder said on October 5, 2005 at 12:13 pm

    Washing a car would be an excellent backdrop for a short story. For one thing, it is an emotional experience in itself, as one examines in excruciating detail all of the newest nicks, scratches and blemishes on the once flawless surfaces of the car.

    Even if the car was �used� (a lovely term!) when you bought it, still the discovery of new offenses against it is unpleasant (if not painful). On the other hand, there are other bits of history and reminders of times past, recorded on the car�s skin. The scuff on the front bumper from the time you stole a kiss at a redlight and allowed the car to creep forward into the cement mixer ahead of you; or the faint outline left from the sticker for that politician you once believed in, and then later � angrily – scraped off; or the ding on the engine hood where someone landed an errant chip-shot at the municipal golf course � etc etc

    Going to an automatic carwash is to hand-washing your car as watching cable news on television is to reading a newspaper front to back.

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  7. Dorothy said on October 5, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    Brian that was just a lovely entry. I wish you had written it on Sunday morning just before I washed my white Malibu, and could not scrub off all the icky dead bugs stuck to the front bumper. I’m thinking this might have been a good time to take it to an automatic car wash – and I could have read the paper while waiting for all the cars ahead of me to get done! (I DO read the paper every day so I’m in total agreement with you. In fact I read my Greenville paper, and then read the Post-Gazette on line, and try to read some of the Virginian-Pilot where my daughter works as a copy editor now.)

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  8. ashley said on October 5, 2005 at 1:00 pm

    Wunnerful wunnerful link, Nance.

    If not for ritalin, I would not have finished my dissertation.

    I was at the point where I would stare at a single page of a book for 2 hours, reading and re-reading, but not able to get to the next page. I went to the campus clinic (it’s nice to do that when your University has a med school), and the head of Neurology at Tulane told me I was the textbook case of Adult ADD. He put me on ritalin (he wanted to put me on dexedrine, but the FDA asks too many questions about dex), and I finished my dissertation that semester.

    Told my mom about it, and her response devastated me.

    “Oh, they diagnosed you with that when you were 5. I didn’t want you to be on drugs.”

    Thanks, mom. C*nt. Maybe if you’d actually finished high school, you would have had a friggin’ clue. Years and years of that shit could have been avoided. Yeah, I was a national merit scholar, and did really, really well on standardized test, but man, to think about what could have been.

    Oh, and Tom Cruise, bless your heart.

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  9. brian stouder said on October 5, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    Last time I de-bugged the front end (probably two months ago) I cheated and went to one of those coin-operated U-Wash deals.

    $1.50 in quarters gets the thing going, and you can spray soap for however long. Then when the ’30-seconds to go’ warning beeps, switch to water only, and another 50 cents gets another two minutes to rinse off everything.

    btw – I LOVE Virginia! It has everything I like: mountains, history, beauty, rural splendor, history, interesting cities, beaches, big rivers, and more history; plus the Navy! Virginia Beach is a great place to be, especially when a carrier air group is flying overhead, back into Oceana.

    If I could live in the rolling hills west of Richmond and east of the Shenandoah Valley (maybe Lexington, or Charlottesville) – then I’d be as happay as a pig in mud!

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  10. Dorothy said on October 5, 2005 at 2:14 pm

    Virginia was very lovely, driving through a corner of it on the way to Pittsburgh twice in August. Went to visit my dad, and then a week later for his funeral. My daughter lives in Norfolk and it’s very pretty, too. The only thing I know about Charlottesville is my ex-sister-in-law lives there. Boo hiss. She was a snot to my brother Joe.

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  11. mary said on October 5, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    I was about to defend ex sisters in law, then I realized I’m not one. My ex was SUCH an only child.

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  12. Mindy said on October 5, 2005 at 5:51 pm

    One of my dogs was on Ritalin and it had zero effect on him. Another doggie downer called Clomicalm made him sort of possible to live with, but after forking over bales of cash for it every month and blood work every six months, we called it quits. On the second day sans medication, he knocked me down, wrapped himself around my neck, and tried to get my head in his mouth. A few days later I drove him to the vet’s for the last time.

    As for the radio, I’ve been a radio junkie for most of my life. Bad a.m. stations as a teenie-bopper, local dinosaur rock as a young adult lacking an alternative, public radio now. Shows like This American Life are wonderful to listen to while knitting. Books on tape are equally great.

    Snoring drove me out of the bedroom ages ago. Slept on the couch for years but gave up and headed for the guest room last year. Bed and box spring $500. Clock radio: $10.99. Sleeping well every nigh: priceless.

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  13. brian stouder said on October 5, 2005 at 10:49 pm

    So – if I make sure (by whatever means) NOT to snore as I age, then my lovely wife might consent to continue sleeping with me?

    Or is the theme here one of veiled drifting?

    Or am I way off on the wrong tangent and this is a sex thing?

    Not to treat Madam Telling Tales’ blog as an advice column again, but as a 44 year old feller, I would be very interested to get a hint!

    (and while we’re at it – I always used to hear that women’s sexual apetite peaks as they get older – and now may be a good time to find out whether or not there really IS a ‘piece dividend’ coming [so to speak] as the years go by? All this sleeping in the den gives me a bad feeling about that particular prospect)

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