Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Transistor Radio

In the cyber-dark ages of the mid-2000’s when I had a MySpace page (grandpa, what was MySpace?) I started a series called A Life Of Rock & Roll. "The Bathtub" (blog entry January 2nd, 2012) was the first story in that series.  This was the second.

May 1966, later in eighth grade.  I’m feeling a little better.  I’ve inherited my older sister’s transistor radio as a hand-me-down and it’s pretty much my constant companion.  (For those readers under 40, the transistor radio was the Walkman or the Discman or the iPod of its day. No headphones, though, you just had to press it up against your ear.)  It’s difficult for me to convey how shy I was at that point in time.  I was shy to the point of invisibility.  I STROVE for invisibility.  I clung to anonymity.  I was shy to the point of mental retardation.  You kinda had to be there.  I was a mess.

Anyway, during recess and lunch every day of eighth grade I would stand on the playground outside the cafeteria door with my back against the fence and listen to my transistor radio.  One fateful day a song called "Girl In Love" by an Ohio band called The Outsiders (their big hit was "Time Won’t Let Me") was playing when the four prettiest and most popular girls in my class walked by.  "Oh, I love this song!" one of them beamed, "Could you turn it up, please?" "Girl In Love" was the current slow dance favorite at the eighth grade dances at which I would blend seamlessly into the shadows of some dark corner.  (I HAD to see the bands.....)

I managed to turn the volume up and hold the radio at arm’s length while being otherwise paralyzed by this recognition of my existence.  When the song ended the girls started peppering me with questions: "Do you know who sings that song?"  "Is this your radio?"  "How much did it cost?"  "How many batteries does it take?"  "Do The Outsiders have any other songs?"  I swear to God I have no recollection of any of my answers.  I somehow managed to stammer out replies and the girls actually seemed interested in what I said.  When the interrogation (as I perceived it) was over one of them touched my arm and said, "Thanks for letting us listen, Richard."

This girl knew my name.

These girls were the four most popular girls in eighth grade.  They were true teenage royalty.  In the caste system endemic to American elementary school, probably to this day, I was one step above leper or one step below outcast, but no higher.  How could this girl possibly have known my name?  At the cafeteria door, they stopped, twirled, and one of them asked, "Will you be out here tomorrow?"  "I guess," I managed, my voice cracking.  They smiled and went into school.

That had to be the moment, the moment I made the connection.  The moment I realized that if I PLAYED music, encounters like that one could be repeated.  The moment that my universe opened up and a host of possible futures appeared on the horizon.

If I could just get ahold of a guitar.
© 2012 Ricki C.

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