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