Saturday, March 8, 2008

Constant Companion

I was in the office earlier today, catching up on some housekeeping (I meant to move a piece of furniture I keep walking into and finally got around to it today) and to set the clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time that actually begins tomorrow morning at 0200. I've never really understood DST and EST and all this 'spring ahead' and 'fall back' memnotic nonsense since when we're all done playing with the clock's innards, the time is what the time is.

Aside from the rabbit Alice saw in Through the Looking Glass, we're the only species on the planet who arbitrarily divides the day into smaller and smaller increments to the point that neither mind nor the eye can comprehend the difference between 0.001 seconds and 0.0001 seconds. Having been raised a Catholic, I'm used to believing in things I cannot see, but the advantages of 'more' or 'less' daylight have always eluded me. It's dark when I get up and drive to work and it's dark when I come home. I'm lucky in that my current office has a window. I've had jobs where I was not so lucky and would come home and ask my wife probing, intimate questions like 'what was it like outside today?'

Speaking of which, one of those jobs for many years was working in radio and television both on the air and as a producer, writer, editor, videographer, audio grip etc. No business like show business unless you're a landscaper and then it's no business like snow business I suppose.
In putting a paperclip back in the center drawer of my work desk this morning, I saw my old audio splicing block. I've had it all my life, or just about. I got it when I was twelve in a downtown music store in New Brunswick, NJ that disappeared I have no idea how many decades ago. Until just now I hadn't thought about it for many years and for a moment, I forgot its name but I have it now, "Varsity Music."

The music store, like PJ Arnold's, like the George Street Playhouse, like Macarones' Town House Restaurant, were businesses struggling to survive, huddled together, perhaps for warmth, near the railroad station (first, the Pennsylvania Railroad, then Penn-Central as two bankrupt operations, the Pennsylvania and the New York Central joined forces to, together, NOT make a profit even larger and faster than each had done individually, then Amtrak and then after a reorganization that took six inches off the front of the blanket and put it on the back but insisted it had made the blanket a foot longer, Conrail) had singles, 45 rpm one-song per side pieces of vinyl, posters, albums, musical instruments and supporting equipment, blank reels (but only the five inch kind on the plastic hubs, ugh!) of audio tape, and grease pencils (fancy folks called them 'china markers') and splicing blocks and splicing tape.

I smiled as I touched the neglected block sitting in the compartment where you could store pens and pencil (it's an old desk, for an old man in an old building) back when you used those, and paper, to do jobs instead of the keyboard, mouse and computer workstation now sharing space in the office. We each have favorite songs, or TV shows, foods and movies and have memories of events associated with specific moments in our lives and as I realized this morning, a lot of mine are tied to that splicing block and to a life and lifestyle that's not only in the past but would be historical if it were not already obsolete.

I tried some time back on more than one occasion to explain to each of my now grown children what it was I did for a living when I met their mom. Children are always curious about this, I'm told, though I never remember asking my parents how they met (but I do recall my stunned surprise when I found out). Radio has changed so much, in corporate structure and in how it's actually created, that NONE of the skills I learned in the course of decades working in it have survived.

I can remember dubbing an interview to open reel that had been done with the late John Lennon. I was supposed to fly to New York to do an interview, based on the question areas I'd created for the European record company (who were amazed that 'you didn't ask any questions about the Beatles?', no I said: 'do they play on his record?') but then, on active duty in the USAF, I had a military requirement that prevented me from flying to New York to do the interview and the record label agreed to have a staffer ask all of my questions, and embargo the use of the answers for 48 hours after the interview so I could use them first. Great plan and real coup except Mark David Chapman murdered Lennon the following day making the interview a very valuable item indeed. And all I could hear as I transferred the entire conversation to open reel so as to better edit it was the sound of what could and should have been. Never to be.

Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box, they tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.
-bill kenny

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