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“The Ballad of the Sandman” by Mike Agranoff, Intro by Dan Sanders

Hi, welcome back, or is it I who has returned? This week I’m doing something very different. For the first time in the roughly ten years or so that I have been blogging and podcasting, I have a guest, sorta. His name is Mike Agranoff. I do not know Mike personally, but he is a musician, folk singer, and poet, and we have been in touch over the years by email. He has a piece of poetry that I have loved for many years called “The Ballad of the Sandman.” The first time I wrote to Mike was about 7 or 8 years ago asking if I could publish his piece on a blog as part of a fundraiser I planned to do for a memorial for my wife who lost her battle with cancer on September 27, 2011. I was going to raise money to place a permanent bench overlooking the harbor and ocean at a place we use to visit to watch the ships go out to sea and come back in again. I never did do that fundraiser, but Mike’s response was instant, saying “Yes, of course, you can do that for your wife.”

“The Ballad of the Sandman” is a piece of writing that anyone who has spent most of their lives behind a microphone will relate to, but I think it’s also a piece that will bring back memories to anyone who grew up listening to “real” disc jockeys, people you got to know and who became your friends through a box that sat on a table and had a dial and needles and sometimes static and woke you in the morning and kept you company in the middle of the night.

As some of you know, I came of age on Staten Island, a reluctant borough of New York City, for years wanting to secede from the city. I never did understand why. In the late ’50s and ’60s it was a good place to be, close enough to the big city and yet isolated and country. In fact, in high school, we would play football teams from the inner city–Bedford Stuyvesant, the Bronx, Queens, and others–and as they would line up against us, the calls of “country bumpkins” and “how do we get off this hillbilly island” would only serve to make us more determined to lay a beating on these city slickers, and most of the time we did.

At night when all the games were done, it was radio time with friends–yes to us they became friends because they would talk to us–Cousin Brucie, “Dan” Daniel, Jonathan Schwartz (a name you will hear in Mike’s reading of “the Sandman”), and of course, Wolfman Jack. Those are only a few of the names that led me into broadcasting.

Mike said I could do the reading of his work and at some point, I will try my interpretation, but I think no one can read something the way the person who wrote it can, although, as Mike pointed out to me, he does not read his work. It is all done from memory, which amazes me because it’s not a short piece. At the end of this blog, I have included a link to the written version of “The Ballad of the Sandman” and a link to Mike’s website, if you want to contact him directly.

CLICK HERE FOR PODCAST

Link to Mike Agranoff  http://www.mikeagranoff.com/

Link to The Ballad of the Sandman http://www.mikeagranoff.com/lyrics/Sandman.htm

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I love Old Things, For What They Bring.

I love old things

For what they bring

Memories of those that touched

And loved them

And now are gone.

They loved them long before

My name was known,

Then they touched me

And loved me

But had to leave

The pain wounds the heart

And so, I grieve

But I still love old things

For what they bring.

Memories of those that long ago

Taught my heart to sing.

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The Super Bowl and The New England Patriots, Song

In 2003, the crew at WZID a really good radio station in Manchester New Hampshire put together this Patriots song based on the Toby Keith song “I love this bar” which Toby released in August of 2003. from the album “Shock’n Y’all”. In 2003 The song reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart, keeping the top spot for five weeks. Keith wrote the song with Scotty Emerick.  The New England Patriots finished that year with a league-best 14–2 record before going on to and winning  Super Bowl XXXVIII number 38.

The WZID version of the song is called “We Love This Team” and at the time I was doing their traffic reports for a company then called Metro Traffic. The crew at WZID made a copy of the song and gave it to me. So with thanks to them for a musical way of remembering a great football Patriots year of 2003 and looking forward to this weekends Super Bowl and another win now we can all sing along and as you hear the names mentioned it makes you realize how much time has passed and what an accomplishment for a great team

Click here to hear the song

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The Last Hurrah and Me

This song was recorded and released in 1975. I first heard it that same year as I walked into the first bar I ever visited in Boston, The Last Hurrah located in the Omni Parker House Hotel, that is where Billy Joel’s uptown girls visit. Imagine that, a lost hippie peacenik revolutionary pretty much non-drinker walking into The Last Hurrah in Boston at around 4 on a hot afternoon, this is uptown business and financial district so you can imagine I was not dressed like the rest but I do think I impressed and they served me.  The Parker House and The Last Hurrah Bar were the unrivaled political hotel and restaurant of Boston, thanks to their location across the street from Boston’s City Hall, it was built-in 1865. People like James Michael Curley (mayor of Boston who is said to be the model for Edwin O’Connor’s protagonist in his 1956 book The Last Hurrah) often were seen at The Parker Houses main dining room. And by the way, I had no idea about any of this before a year or so later, hell I was just a long-haired hippie peacenik a rebel without a cause for the first time in my adult history and figured I’d try a beer. As I seated myself at this long wooden bar and looked around at the overall well-polished rustic look of the place the piano player was still holding my attention and he was playing and singing this song and I have been loved, and I have loved, and I have  loved this song from then on and every once in a while I have met an old lover.   https://youtu.be/Q5Eoax6I-O4

 

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Chloe Cat

I don’t think it’s possible to convey personal pain and loss, especially when that pain is caused by the loss of a tiny 11-pound four-footed ball of fur mostly commonly referred to as a cat. A small loving soul that was with me through my wife’s cancer and her dying process and death. It was Chloe Cat that cuddled me through the summers and the winters attempting to purr away my tears. She was there through my sickness and our near homelessness. Chloe was there when no human seemed to even know we existed. A small bundle of love that for 6 years was in most ways my only companion and confidant seeing me through some of the worst times in my life and then on December 16th, 2017 this tiny life that I had gained so much comfort from suffered what the doctor thinks was probably a blood clot and within two days she was taken from me. I know a priest that says they believe all animals go to heaven and I am sure all humans that have loved and lost a pet know about The Rainbow Bridge where all animals cross over and wait for their humans to join them and I try to believe that to be true as well. I have loved all my animal friends as I now love my new companion Shianna, but Chloe Cat was a special soul a one of a kind, a once in a lifetime. I do so hope to see her again.

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Winter

The hibernal solstice, the winter solstice, or midwinter.

I’ve come to prefer hibernal as it applies to animals that hibernate in winter.

Even the sun wants to seek shelter below the smallest ridge or tree line.

As if saying I’ve spent my time.

Saying goodnight earlier and earlier and letting the cold wind and snow have its way.

And like the other animals that shelter in their space

I too prefer to view the earth through curtains from my hiding place.

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A lonely Question

Darkness comes too soon

For the lonely

Midnight last longer

The pain cuts deeper

Nights never end

Day never begins

The sadness starts

The aching deep within

Then morning comes

The sun is bright

And you try again

For what else is there?

 

 

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From the Shores of Styx, The Unbroken Circle.

­

A baby cries from

The shores of Styx

A child cries from the darkness

Of a ghetto

A baby cries

And a child cries

A mother cries

As a father dies

A war starts

Jobs end

House is lost

A father dies

The child grows

The child says why

But the man knows

Like those before him knew

And so

The child sighed

As the man dies

From the shoes of Styx

From the deepest part of Stygian

A baby cries again

Screaming out of the darkness

Crawling out of the gloom

Refusing to keep the circle

The child from the darkest recesses of Stygian

Screams I will fight

For light and though I may lose

And die alone in the dark

I will have created a glimmer

Of hope

As the man cries

The woman dies

And once again

A child rises from the darkness of Stygian

Screaming I will create light

And the circle remains

Unbroken.

**In Greek mythology, Styx is a deity and a river that forms the boundary between earth and the underworld(the domain often called Hades, which also is the name of its ruler). The rivers Styx, Phlegethon, Acheron, Lethe, and Cocytus all converge at the center of the underworld on a great marsh, which sometimes is also called the Styx. According to Herodotus, the river Styx originates near Feneos. Styx is also a goddess with prehistoric roots in Greek mythology as a daughter of Tethys, after whom the river is named and because of whom it had miraculous powers.

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Paid to Persuade

You might have noticed the mid-term elections are here, with local elections from the smallest villages to major cities and statewide elections from the governor to Congress. Two years ago, Donald Trump ran for the Big House on Pennsylvania Avenue, now many including me wish he would end up in the Big House like the one in the 1930 movie “The Big House”

There is one thing that all the folks running for anything from animal control officer to the president have in common, and that is paid advertising. It’s impossible to watch 30 minutes of television without hearing some very sincere voice telling us how good one person is and how bad another is, or how this bill should pass or not. And all these announcements end with the equivalent of “I’m Daffy Doodle and I approved this message.” Well, of course, you did, and you paid that very sincere voice to do it, or you got some damn good coaching from a professional announcer. 

As many of you know, I spent my life in broadcasting, not doing facts-and-figures news but music and entertainment, a world of make-believe. At some of the radio stations I worked at, I was also a production director in addition to doing my air shift. The job of a production director is to take the written copy and turn it into 30 or 60 seconds of recorded brilliance that makes the listener want to drop everything and run out and buy whatever it is the advertiser wants to sell. This is done in a few ways—with music and sound effects but most importantly with that sincere, trust me, would-I-lie-to-you voice. I have done ads for places I have never been and made them sound like my home away from home.

Voice acting is a world of make-believe all its own and in many ways, much more difficult than stage or screen acting. With voice acting, you do not have the ability to use body movements or facial expressions. It’s all done with the voice. In today’s whacked out world of advertising, it’s also not unusual to hear a well-known actor’s voice selling you something. The magnificent voice of James Earl Jones is a classic example. However, many of those wow-do-they-sound-so-sincere political ads are done by only a few dozen voice-over artists, both in high-profile races as well as the ones you’ve never heard of. In August 2008, Newsweek reported on this in an article called “How Voice Actors Are Chosen for Political Ads.” Some of these voice actors do only ads for politicians or issues they believe in. For more than 30 years, Sheldon Smith has been one of the leading voices of Republican political advertising.  Smith admits that this doesn’t mean every word he speaks into the microphone has to be true, but he says he won’t knowingly perpetuate lies. “I’ve walked away before. If it gives me qualms, I won’t do it.” On the other hand, other political voice artists put personal politics aside, differentiating blue and red candidates by who’s got more green to pay.

The next time you hear that so sincere voice telling you what a slimeball so-and-so is or how great whats-their-name is and how bad one issue might be for you as opposed to how happy another issue will make you, ask yourself this: how much is this person being paid to tug at your heartstrings, and while they are telling you how great one candidate is, are they really going to vote for them? Bottom line read and then read some more don’t fall for the voice.

 

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A little Piece of Blue

The sun sets west of me

And if the light is just right

It cast a little piece of blue

Across the sky just before night

Disappearing beyond the tress like you

The clouds take on a glow of light

Just west of me then out of sight

You left to go not far

From where I started

A course of life still uncharted

Sitting on the White House lawn

Surrounded by unrest

To a cheese shop stool

Wanting only rest

Drifting away

Now worlds from anything

I had ever known as real

Floating on a vagabond’s ship of memories

Attempting to gain an even keel

A soft voice

A simple request

May I have a little piece of blue

I need to tell you before the sun sets

West of me one last time

And while the light is just right

Sometimes I miss those days

And think of you

And the gifts you gave

For a little piece of blue.

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Jumping Off, and Blind Dreams

Jumping Off

People have said, implied, suggested, and even attempted to cajole me, for whatever reasons unknown to me, to write a book about my life. I have resisted that idea for the same reason I rarely watch a movie or read a book more than once. I’ve not only seen it and read it, I wrote it. I know what happens next, and what fun is that? The more interesting thing to me is not what I’ve done or where I’ve been, but what I’ll do and see next. So I’m not going to write the book. However, after managing to avoid the grim reaper for as long as I have, maybe I’ve experienced some things that will either be funny or sad or maybe even informative, and the best I can hope for by sharing is to be helpful.

Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” And if there’s one thing I have, it’s untold stories, and many will be left untold until sooner or later they are scattered silently in the wind along with the “dust” of me.

I stopped blogging well over a year ago except for the occasional paragraph regarding some musical event. When I was blogging once a week, thanks to my friends at KISW, “The Rock of Seattle,” who ran those blogs and podcasts each week, I became obsessed with politics and the Orange Round Mound of Sound Clown running the Big Top Circus in DC.  I will still at times concern myself with the swamp blob’s attempt to annihilate us all, but I think I have better stories to tell and will concentrate on those while hoping that orange will become the new black for him. So here goes. Installment one I call “Blind Dreams.”

 

Blind Dreams

Waking up blind in the morning when you went to sleep the night before and you could see just fine is a very scary thing. Fortunately for me, it was a relatively minor thing, as I’ll explain, but it gave me insight into how it must feel to live your life in darkness, and I think it’s also one of the reasons that to this day I have issues with sunsets and nighttime, but that’s another story for another time, maybe.

Imagine you’re three maybe four years old and you wake up, you know you’re awake, you can move, arms and legs all in working order, but you’re afraid because you can’t see. Everything is black, total darkness, no light. I knew I was awake by the sounds of my home. I could hear my mother in the kitchen and my dad leaving for work, my collie Lady sniffing around and my parakeet Sugar Boy flying from room to room, perch to perch. It was a very scary feeling for the very young boy, and sometimes still is today for the old man, to wake up and not see, but the problem was not with my eyes. It was my eyelashes. I had very long lashes and they would get stuck together while I slept, stuck so tight that I could not move my eyelids apart to see. One of my first and cherished memories of my mother was her carrying me to the kitchen and placing me on the counter where she would take a warm washcloth and gently rub my eyes until I could open them.

The radio was a faithful companion to this caring process. Usually, it would be tuned to a country station—after all, what else would you have in early 1950’s Tennessee with a mom from the mountains? The voices of Hank Williams, Sr., Ernest Tubb, and Patsy Cline would keep us company as my mother tenderly brought me into the light again. But sometimes it would be Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club. Don McNeill came to our home all the way from Chicago. Even at my early age, I knew Chicago was a long way from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and I thought what a miraculous feat for a man so far away to be talking to me in my home. It was probably Don McNeill that planted the first seeds of being a radio professional in my young mind. I remember listening to him and thinking what fun that must be.

Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club had a thirty-five-and-a-half-year run and remains the longest tenure for an emcee of a network entertainment program, surpassing Johnny Carson’s twenty-nine-and-a-half years on The Tonight Show and Bob Barker’s thirty-four-and-two-thirds years on The Price Is Right, although McNeill’s was split between radio and television, whereas the latter two were television only. I remember listening to Don’s magnificent voice and show and saying to my fledgling self, “I think I would like to fly like that someday,” and so I did.

Unlike some of my friends who took to the open mic and stayed there, I was often between radio gigs for a lot of different reasons and would find myself working at some retail job or customer service job and many other forms of painful employment.  One time when I was bemoaning my fate, as I grumbled about my life, a friend asked me, “Did you get a chance to live your dream?” and I answered yes. She said, “Do you know how many people never get that chance?”

Yes, that little temporarily blind kid, who listened to country music and Don MacNeill’s Breakfast Club, did get a chance to live his dream. And it has been a long, strange, and mostly wonderful trip.

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Alone

There were colorful lights and people singing

Santa’s in windows

And popcorn stringing

I spent Christmas alone.

News years came and bells were ringing

Promises made and children singing

Skyrockets flashing across the sky

Helping to hide the tears in my eye

I spent New Year’s alone.

My birthday rolled in

As it does every year

Some seem to notice

But most didn’t care

I spent my birthday alone.

We come in and go out of this world on our own

I’ve had plenty of practice at being alone

But still at night as the north wind moans

It scares me to think

With my eyes final wink

I’ll still be alone.

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Once There Was A Time

Once there was a time. It was a perfect storm of music, issues, and people all coming together at just the right time in just the right way in just the right places. Once there was a time that I think will never be equaled, and sometimes when I feel old—and those times happen more and more to me every day now—I see something or hear some music from the 1960’s and very early 1970’s, and I remember and  I smile. I smile knowing that yes, once there was a time, and I was there.

A very good friend told me the other day that I was his favorite hippie, and I told him it was likely that I am the only hippie he knows given our age difference and that we old hippie radio DJ’s are a dying breed.

I think many younger people today, and even some in my age group who might have somehow escaped the scars of the sixties, don’t realize that their idea of hippie is not what they might think. All hippies were not pot heads dancing naked at Woodstock or jamming to the Dead at the Fillmore. To me and to a lot of others, it was a belief, a lifestyle, and a commitment that while the world was not perfect, we could and would make it better.

I said “scars of the sixties” because of something I call “movement casualties.” We are the survivors who once believed so strongly in–and forgive me for using these terms—peace and love and making changes for the better, and then we watched as all our hopes crumbled. We watched as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King fell to hatred stronger than our love. We watched as Brian Epstein, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan­­­­­­­­, ­­Phil Ochs, and many others left us behind. But we kept on believing, and maybe for many the final blow came when John Lennon was killed.

We old hippies learned that all the things we thought we could do were not strong enough to stop bullets of hate or the despair of a drug overdose or a raging social or political lunatic.

My friend replied to my statement about being a dying breed by telling me it was time to pass the torch and joked that he would start growing out what was left of his hair, growing it long. I said the tie dye was optional, but he would need either a peace earring or a pendant.

Just recently I realized that I was indeed tired. Maybe I had continued the struggle longer than most and got tired of trying. I posted this on Facebook last Wednesday: “I quit. I am tired of jokers and fools and arguments. I am tired of trying to convince anyone that certain things are just plain wrong, so I quit. I tried. Now go on and believe what you want, do what you want, and say what you want because it has become obvious that nothing I can say will make a difference in your way of thinking. So I quit. More on this on Sunday.” Well, here it is Sunday.

Maybe I should go put on some Grateful Dead or John Lennon music and remember and be glad that once there was a time. It was a perfect storm of music, issues, and people all coming together at just the right time in just the right way in just the right places. And I was there.

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To Sail or Sink,or Drown Trying

August 4th would have been Jennifer’s birthday if cancer had not wiped away that celebration from my life. I still commemorate her by remembering her unstoppable spirit. Jennifer woke up every day and grabbed the bull rope with one hand, threw the other high above her head, and yelled, “Let’s go do life.” For Jennifer, there was only one way to live and that was to ride it to the bell. Jennifer did not become that way after learning she had cancer. She was born that way.

One September night, windows open, wind calm, total silence, I heard two bells: One, two, swift ring, ring. Only twice did it ring, one, two. Whatever was tugging on the bell-rope knew it would be understood. Two rings, loud and clear. I have ears that have always heard even the tufted feet of my Maine Coon cat as he crossed my carpeted floor, but I had never heard this sound before. But now, two bells clean, clear, and near, just outside my window. Once, twice, gone, silence. Earlier that day, we had learned that my wife’s fourteen-year battle against cancer was entering a zone of last chances. “Chemo is not working. We have nothing else to offer you at this time.” Those words will haunt me for the rest of my life, and they ring as clearly as bells in the middle of the night.

The summer of 2010 was her last generally healthy summer, but she was also in phase one trials at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Phase one trials are done with experimental drugs on people when traditional chemo treatments have failed. She took a drug that less than a dozen people had ever tried; I think the actual number was only six people before her. Jennifer would say lab rats had a better life than she did, but she said that with a big smile and a happy heart, feeling much sadder for the lab rat than herself. She also said that she knew it was unlikely that the drugs would save her life but maybe somewhere down the road and just around the bend they would save someone else’s. In this final summer, Jennifer decided against my better judgment to become part of a small crew aboard an all-wooden, 118-foot, totally wind-blown sailing ship with the appropriate name of Raw Faith. Raw Faith ( pictured above) was well known for not being seaworthy, having been rescued several times by the Coast Guard, and had come dreadfully close to descending to the bottom of the Atlantic at least once. She had been built by a man whose heart was bigger than his shipbuilding and sailing abilities, and her purpose was to take handicapped children on seafaring adventures. While I wasn’t sure how far we would make it, surer we would more likely sink than sail, Jennifer was sure we were going sailing and by god then, sail we would, or sink trying.

 

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The Gambler and Me.

For me, it was a Greyhound Bus Station in St. Petersburg, the one in Florida not Russia around 1974. And as I sat there listing to the bombardment of departure announcements, busses now departing for all places north, south, east, and west, and I thought and many places in between. This old gentleman came over and sat down next to me. We listen together for a few minutes and then he looked over at me and said “I’m not going anywhere myself, I’m just resting.  “

 

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Memories

I’ve had a theory for a long time that as years pass and we look back on our personal history and at the people and events that have come and gone in our lives, we develop something I call compressed remembrance. It’s a feeling that something that occurred many years before happened only yesterday. Time collapses and years become weeks, weeks become days, and days seem like only hours.

On Friday, November 22, 1963, I was in history class, and it seems surreal that I would have been in history class on a date that will be read about for hundreds of years. I have no idea what I was thinking about before the news was delivered to the classroom. I probably had my mind on the upcoming Thanksgiving football game and practice after class. I’m sure I was not listening to Mrs. Loffler drone on about the Magna Carta or the Louisiana Purchase. I don’t remember the names of most of my high school teachers and fewer names of my college professors, but I remember Mrs. Loffler because she was there that day. That was the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  I can still hear how her voice changed as she gave some brief explanation and told us that school would be ending early.  I remember feeling very detached from whatever new reality was taking place and annoyed that whatever this event was had suddenly disrupted my well-planned afternoon and weekend.

Quickly now it’s 21 years later, November 23, 1984. I’m no longer living on Staten Island, a naive teenager dreaming of gridiron glory. I’ve resisted a war, lived in the mountains of West Virginia, and been to prison. I’m back in radio and living in Boston. The Boston College Eagles are playing the University of Miami. There are 28 seconds left in the game, and Miami is leading 45 to 40 when some too-small-to-play quarterback guy named Doug Flutie dropped back and let what became known as the “Hail Mary” touchdown pass take flight. It traveled 48 yards, taking what seemed like forever to go that distance and reach its target, Gerard Phelan, and gave the football Eagles a 47-45 victory. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Fast forward. It’s now 2017, and I am watching what will be remembered as the greatest Super Bowl ever played. My granddaughter is about to become the same age I was on November 22, 1962: Sixteen, a magical age full of hopes and dreams but also fear. She was born into a time when the world seems to teeter constantly on the brink of disaster. I’m watching a man named Tom Brady who is leading the New England Patriots to a mind-blowing come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons. No team in history has ever come from 21 points behind to win a Super Bowl, but in the last quarter New England tied the game and went on to win in the first Super Bowl overtime in history. I saw people laughing and cheering and watched, even if only for a twinkling, the cares and troubles of their everyday lives dissolve away. I was proud of my city of Boston as they danced in the streets, not one-act of violence and no arrests. I have a few more years to keep that memory.

We live in a world where smiles and good times are difficult to come by, and we don’t have many years in a lifetime to make memories. I read somewhere that someday we will only be a memory to someone, and we should do our best to make sure it’s a good one. Trust me, I’m dancing as fast as I can.

 

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A Radio Christmas Remembered

I suppose everyone gets nostalgic around holidays. I certainly do, and I’m not even a big participant in what has become holiday madness instead of holiday joy. I love the ads that tell me how much money I can save by spending twice as much as I would have spent.

New Year’s Day especially has always been a time of reflection, gladness, and regret for me. Even as a young person, I always had that special someone or moment to look back on. As we grow older those moments become greater in importance.

I have not done live radio since 2006, and sometimes I miss it. After all, how can you not miss something you yearned for from boyhood and once had. Then I talk to friends who confirm what I already know. Radio is not the radio of my day but a homogenized, programmed system of corporate brainwashing that keeps personalities under control. I am grateful I worked in radio when it really did mean something when underground FM radio broadcasting was fun and creative.

The story that follows I wrote two years ago, but it happened over 30 years ago. I am republishing it here because it is real and it matters and people tell me it is one of their favorite pieces. And it is one of my special memories of Christmas.

December, around the year of ’82, 1982, wind-blown snow, middle of the night (or morning. After all, what is 3 a.m.?). The snow, the kind that sneaks up on you, slowly drifts, quietly getting deeper. It moves across a large deserted parking lot, transforming this lonely place. This deserted piece of asphalt is being molded into the Montana or Wyoming Prairie, a perfect backdrop as Merle Haggard asks the Big City to turn him loose. Though not that far from the city of Boston, it is easy to feel cut off from the rest of the world, watching this snow fashioning beauty from desolation. I will likely not see another human for at least three more hours. I am the keeper of the light from midnight to 6 a.m. I can still see most of my car, but whether or not I’ll be able to move it when the morning comes is doubtful, even if relief is able to get to me.

As keeper of the light, I maintain contact with others who dwell in the darkest part of day, the night people. I love night people. They walk on the other side of life, often by choice, and my way of reaching them is from a country radio station operating from the basement of a small strip mall in the middle of nowhere but reaching everywhere, an AM signal that sails across flat lands and water, especially at night, and I am the only show in town, the only one playing music on the AM dial in the middle of a lost time zone.

About once a week I get a call from a cross country trucker. As he enters Rhode Island and starts to pick up my signal he calls—“The California Kid is on the line”—and this time wishes me a Happy Holiday and as usual requests a few tunes to help him reach the state of Maine a few hours away. I am his traveling companion.

I also get calls from Alice. Alice drives all over the area maintaining ATM machines, and she calls once or twice a week as she makes her rounds. I never meet Alice as she is a little like the coyotes that patrol the prairie parking lot, preferring to remain elusive. I call her Dallas Alice, from the Little Feat tune “Willin’,” which goes out to her each time she calls.

On this snowy night, Alice calls to wish me a Merry Christmas and says to wait a few minutes then look outside the door.  We end the call, I queue up “Willin’,” and go up the few steps to the door. There waiting for me, already collecting snow, is a small prelit Christmas tree and a card that says “Merry Christmas from Dallas Alice.” I see her footprints across the snow. She had parked near the entrance so she could easily get back on the main road.

I never met Alice, but she left footprints in my mind, and I never met the California Kid, but we road many a lonely highway together. A woman named Alice, Dallas Alice, and the lonely trucker, the California Kid, on a cold snowy night so many years ago, gave me a lifetime of Christmas smiles.