Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, September 10, 2012

Nostalgia: It Came From My Clock Radio

When I was a small fry, living in San Francisco (okay, technically Walnut Creek - but no one outside of California seems to know where that is, so I just say San Francisco and call it good), we had a whole-house intercom system that was hooked up to a radio, and - as evidential proof that I was then a VERY BIG GIRL (all of five years old?), I had full radio dial privileges and could listen to music in my room whenever I wanted (well, up until bedtime).

When we moved to Houston, midway through my kindergarten year, I could not help but notice that the new house lacked a whole-house intercom system hooked up to a radio.  Also quite noticeable:  the lack of furniture and other personal effects.  See, because the truck with all of our furniture in it somehow managed to get flooded with water (don't ask me how - it didn't make sense when I was five, and it doesn't make sense now), and everything had to be dried out, so for the first two weeks, I did not have access to my toys, and I had nothing in my room, really, except for a mattress on the floor.  So I lobbied for, and received, a clock radio.  And I have vivid memories of my bedroom finish-out initially consisting of just a mattress and a clock radio, and I remember feeling INCREDIBLY MATURE (even more so than when I was awarded intercom radio privileges) because my parents had entrusted me with such a sophisticated piece of electronic equipment.  And actually consented to letting me set it to wake me up in the morning.  Double bonus score.

I think about that clock radio often, because I spend a lot of time listening to satellite radio through the TV, and my go-to station is "70s Hits," which might as well be called "Kathryn's Circa 1976-1977 Clock  Radio Top Forty."   Ah, so many memories.

The Eagles' "New Kid in Town."  I don't know why I thought this song was so cool, but I so totally did.  Maybe because it was kinda melancholy, and melancholia was a "big person" thing? And I was growing up to be a VERY big person - witness Exhibit A, MY VERY OWN CLOCK RADIO.   It wasn't until years later that I learned that J. D. Souther co-wrote this song - the same J. D. Souther who sang "Her Town Too" with James Taylor in the early 1980's, which was another melancholy song that I thought was way cool.  (Still do.)  It was MANY years later when I learned that J. D. Souther was a dude.  Hey, in my defense:  J. D. is an androgynous name.  And his voice tended to occupy a higher register.  And since when do dudes duet, when they aren't issuing warnings about babies growing up to be cowboys?

Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou."  Again, with the melancholy.  I was convinced that Linda was singing this song to me.  Because I was new to Houston and was attempting to get acclimated.  And, although I had a very limited grasp of what bayous WERE, I knew that I was supposed to pay attention to them, because we were the "Bayou City," after all, and we were also supposed to fear them, because an awful lot of bodies seemed to wash up on their banks.  The same year that "Blue Bayou" was released, a group of police officers beat up a young man named Joe Campos Torres and dumped him into Buffalo Bayou.  Said murder was, obviously, quite a scandal, and was discussed ad nauseam in the press, so as a young person living in Houston in 1977 and 1978, the evening news sounded, to me (and perhaps a lot of other, older people), basically like this:  "Joe Campos Torres.  HPD.  Buffalo Bayou.  Body.  Dead.  Joe Campos Torres.  HPD.  Buffalo Bayou.  Body.  Dead.  JOE CAMPOS TORRES.  HPD.  BUFFALO BAYOU.  BODY.  DEAD."  I developed a healthy fear of bayous - whatever they were.  And then here came Linda, singing about a bayou in a very soothing tone, and it put my mind at ease - just like in the song.  Buffalo Bayou may have been a scary place, but BLUE Bayou was the kind of bayou that we, the people of H-Town, could get behind.  (Never mind that there isn't a Blue Bayou in H-Town, and Linda wasn't addressing me personally, nor was she directing all of that emotion towards the then-current level of bayou-related angst in my new hometown - she was covering a Roy Orbison song.  Again, something that I learned much later.)

In case you were wondering, my confusion over bayous in those days was eclipsed only by my confusion over the naming constructs for roads.  Service roads aren't "service" or "access" roads in the Texas Gulf Coast region - they are "feeder roads."  So there were signs everywhere:  EXIT FEEDER ROAD.  And I came to believe that FEEDER ROAD (which, no doubt, was named after a Mr. Feeder, who was quite important in Texas history) was THE LONGEST ROAD IN THE WORLD, and was also the second most interesting road in the world behind BUFFALO SPEEDWAY.  Was it truly a raceway for buffalos?  And what, exactly, was up with the BUFFALO thing?  It's a bayou, it's a speedway - was there a MR. Buffalo who, like Mr. Feeder, perhaps stood shoulder to shoulder with Davy Crockett at the Alamo?

Kenny Rogers' "Lucille."  As if the whole bayou/speedway thing wasn't confusing me enough:  I was convinced that Mr. Rogers was accusing Lucille of heartlessly leaving him with FOUR HUNDRED children and a crop in the field.  Which crop, apparently, wasn't abundant enough to feed FOUR HUNDRED children, nor could it be harvested by said four hundred children - because of child labor laws, perhaps?  It was a great many years later that I worked out, "Oh - four HUNGRY children."  But, see, in 1977, four hundred children seemed plausible, because that was the year that the documentary, "Who Are the DeBolts?  And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?" was released.  The DeBolts had five children of their own (unhungry ones, based on the documentary) and adopted another fourteen (primarily with special needs), so while FOUR HUNDRED was a bit of a jump from NINETEEN, it seemed possible that Kenny might have that many kids - five were probably his and Lucille's biological children, and 395 were adopted.  Maybe from the same orphanage that all of those extra DeBolts came from.

What can I say?  I was a little kid.  My mind moved in little kid ways.  And now, through the power of satellite radio, I get to reminisce about those days, while simultaneously enjoying my own Little Kid's unique world view.  Or not-so-unique.  The apple didn't fall too far from the tree.

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