Category Archives: story teller

“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.

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.

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.

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?

 

 

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.

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.

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.