Monday, September 19, 2011

Radio Bubblehead

When I was a kid growing up in Texas, I remember when my family got our first television, and thus began my lost years. In the evenings, the family would gather around this marvelous new invention and watch Ed Sullivan, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, and a host of other performers. The broadcasts themselves were free. All one had to do was set up an antenna and attach a wire to the rear of the television set. No cable fee, no subscription fee, just turn it on and switch the dial to 4, 5, 8, or 11 (Don't forget 11, Slam-bang Theatre is on with host Icky Twerp).

Before dad brought home the TV, we sat in the same room and listened to radio programming. It too was free and even the commercials seemed to be enjoyable, but I was just a little kid, so what did I know?

Later, when we couldn't find the ball game or the boxing match on TV, we returned to the radio and, sure enough, we almost always found what we wanted somewhere on the dial. Sadly, those days are long gone. You can still catch the news at the top and bottom of every hour, but other than politically-fueled talk shows, there's very little solid entertainment on the radio anymore.

As a teen, music took over my life and my interest in radio programming was revived. I awoke to the mersey beat and fell asleep to motown. "Turn off that %&#^* music and go to sleep!" said dad. I discovered transistor radios and earplugs and slept through first period most school days.

The lure of the television was strong though, and soon I was spending more time in front of the tube than practically any other activity. Saturdays were my favorite time. Cartoons from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, then outside for football or baseball, depending on the season, then in for dinner at 6, sitting with the folks through Lawrence Welk and other variety shows until mom and dad retired at 10. Then it was my turn again in the form of late night 50s horror and science fiction. A sleeping bag, a bowl of popcorn, and Vincent Price.

Those were indeed the good old days. Fast-forward fifty years. I have televisions in my humble abode, yet I rarely watch anything other than an occasional DVD. I have cable, but it is for internet only, so sometimes I'll stream movies online (for free). Other than that, I haven't watched "regular" television programming for nearly ten years. I admit that I've tried, but what I see is just not very entertaining. Sometimes, I even doubt the veracity of the Discovery channel, or the History channel. The comedies aren't funny and the cop shows are too gory. Plus, if you want to watch that stuff, you have to pony up to Dish or Communicomm every month. TV is not free.

Well, the radio is still free and sometimes you can still catch a ball game. Weekends on the radio, however, are taken up with all-day infomercials and I can't possibly find it in my miniscule budget to invest in gold or annuities.

I guess that's OK. Instead of watching, I read, and write, and go for the occasional walk. I don't think I'm missing much -- even when a co-worker asks if I saw the game last night. "Listened on the radio," I reply.

When I was teaching school, I admitted to one of the other teachers that I didn't watch television. "Hmm," she said, "I wouldn't let that get around."