It is customary, when writing about the things that animate one’s feelings, to quote an authority. I want to write about radio, so naturally I feel like quoting Lorenzo Milam. Far as I know, nobody has ever written or done more good for radio than Lorenzo, a fact that may not be known to SUN readers more familiar with other radiations from his soul.
I thought I might have lost my only copy of Sex and Broadcasting: A Handbook on Starting Community Radio Stations (Dildo Press, Saratoga, California, 1971), and wrote the first draft of this story without it, “quoting” what I could from memory. But today, in a rare moment of peace, satisfied at having completed my first article in many months, I remembered where that book was: in a box of files buried beneath some old books and heaps of clothes in one of the bedroom lofts. Now it sits open to the right of my typewriter, teaching truths I had forgotten, as nearly as the book. Here, on plain brown paper, in rainbow shades of spilt fountain ink, bearing the opening disclaimer, “No part of this booklet is copyright in any way; it may be reproduced in all ways, shapes and forms by anyone who may care to do so,” is a found piece for the puzzle of my life. Inserted where it belongs, a new picture emerges, and I find myself writing this story over again, remembering how very deeply I felt, and still feel, about radio; and more importantly, how very frustrating it has always been to put those feelings to work. Thanks to my newfound evidence, I also remember how well Lorenzo expressed those feelings:
A disease. Maybe we can think of the art of transmission as a need of purblind sickness: a habit as hard and driving as the very shriek of the blower which cools the white-hot tubes in the broadcast transmitter. You and I, caught in the transmission of generations of words — cascading them to the edges of our visible horizon: and perhaps to the outer edges of the universe to puzzle strange minds behind strange brows. O I know that someday, someday I may be able to explain to you my views on that particular habit, which has to do with self-image, and the transmission of generations, and the need for minorities to see themselves expressed in eyes and voices, and since we are all minorities, in some way. . . .
. . . but that’s for us to talk about at some time when we have a few beers, and the sun is stretching to die on the Santa Cruz Mountains, and I can titillate you with my image of the sensual nature of broadcasting, the fascinating tingle of the control rooms, and rack panels, and the fine hard mesh of microphones, and the dizzying amplification of a nice Collins transmitter. That’s for later; now I want to give you some hope on the how-to-do-it — because you may be able to do it.
I took to that hope like a pigeon to peanuts. Lorenzo gave purpose to my fantasies, meaning to my ambitions, a target for my moral aims. Strangely, I had forgotten how.
Memories are like dreams. They retreat from the Now, with its surfeit of details, and melt into pools of distant emotions, leaving only a few images or smells or sounds as clues to the gone shapes of their once-vivid forms. In the wide-awake world of the Now, details rule the mind. Feed it a few parts when it needs a whole and it improvises the difference. It’s a miraculous process: multitudes from loaves and fishes. Converting the Now to memory reverses the process. It’s weird: our lives are mysteries, but we’re built to hide the clues. Maybe that’s why we’re built that way, to keep us wondering. Interesting design.
For example, in the first version of this story, all I remembered to “quote” from Lorenzo’s book was “something about the hard mesh of microphones and the pure power of a Collins transmitter.” Not bad, but not much, either. These scant clues led me quickly away from “the transmission of generations” and other high-minded notions that once meant more. The clues led me to think about what the name Collins meant.
An easy thing to do. You see, Collins made a mother of a transmitter. Heavy, purposeful and military, you could anchor a boat with one on Sunday and pump fresh news through it on Monday and it wouldn’t care. For people afflicted with the radio disease (another matter forgotten from the original), that kind of iron has a special power. Not a power to communicate, but a power over communication. In advanced cases, radioholics care more about the mechanical devices of communication than about the purposes to which those devices are put. Radioholics, like computerholics and audiophiliacs, will bore a healthy human to the edge of apoplexy with talk about hardware.
A mind afflicted with such disease will, when led blindly by its good sense to the site of a memory, seize upon an archaeological treasure and lapse quickly to the evasive habit of zero-depth nostalgia. On the subjects of ourselves, we’re our own worst scholars, afraid of what we might learn.
That’s why print is such a gift. It’s a trail of clues that won’t go away. Sometimes the clues are facts. Sometimes they’re lies. And sometimes they lead us to truths we’d rather not see, and leave us there.
So I found the truth in Lorenzo’s book, now a generation old and still looking like new. And I was left to see why there was more to remember than a microphone and a transmitter. There was a self now changed; a self once hot with moral passion; a self with a mission it always thought it knew but never quite achieved; a self that changed but hardly knew it; and a few reasons why.
When I read Lorenzo’s book in 1971, I had recently left the employ of a newspaper chain that had sent me to the boondocks of New Jersey to edit a few pages of local trivia that wrapped around an enormous shopper, as if around fish at the market. I was hired away by a warm-hearted and totally ineffective social service organization left over from Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. They hired me because I had written a touching article about a small sad ethnic group that lived just beyond the suburbs in what in Kentucky they’d call a “holler,” up on dirt roads around the old iron mines, closed since The War. This group looked black, had green eyes, and sometimes considered themselves Indians, despite scholarship that traced their six surnames back several centuries to Dutch settlers and freed slaves. Five hundred of these people, most of them unemployed, many of their children malnourished, lived in 44 firetrap homes from which they rarely ventured any farther than the nearest stores and schools. This was the group that drove one poverty program administrator, a caring revolutionary with a good track record for achieving things, to recommend in parting remarks that everybody in the community over 15 be shot, the kids put in foster homes as far from the place as possible, and the damned houses burned down.
I came along just after he left. They made me a “community organizer.” Immediately I labored to solve this group’s awful problems with a community radio station. Not food. Not jobs. Not housing. A radio station.
About once a year one of those houses would burn down anyway. When I resettled in North Carolina in 1974, the TV reported that six children in one “mine area” family were killed in one of those fires. I remembered those kids. Some of them were going to help me put together our little radio station that would use the community’s electrical wires for a transmitting antenna.
I wrote to Lorenzo about the idea. He was skeptical. “I really want you to think big,” he wrote back. “If you think of some wired circuit thing that will reach barely 500 people, you won’t spark anyone’s imagination. Start thinking about a real community station, with studios and a transmitter and great tough programming — and then we can inspire a great number of people to perhaps a great number of things.”
That certainly inspired me. I went out and formed a non-profit corporation, found an available channel, obtained used equipment from commercial radio stations, staked out a transmitter site on top of a mountain, and became so embroiled with poverty program politics that the whole thing ran out of steam. But I kept writing to Lorenzo. In the postscript to one letter I gushed on about my own deep feelings, especially about the sad state of radio in North Carolina, where I had spent my college years. “Robin Harris liked your postscript so much he wants to use it in his Alternative Radio Exchange newsletter,” Lorenzo wrote back. “I hope this is all right with you.”
Sure it was. While I labored to fail at starting my True Community Radio station in New Jersey, at least it was nice to see my feelings appear in print in California.
It also made me feel good to enjoy even a distant affiliation with Lorenzo and his coastal cronies. They were doing crazy things out there. They printed some of them, and I looked forward to their arrival in the mail. These items confirmed my assumption that Lorenzo Milam was the Reginald A. Fessenden of modern radio. An unsung hero.
If memory serves (and it has to, since conventional reference books, in the spirit of tautology, sing few tunes for the unsung), Fessenden invented radiophonic communication, making radio more than a wireless telegraph. Thanks to Fessenden, radio evolved into a circulatory system for civilization: veins and arteries to the blood of music and conversation, an evolutionary leap as sudden and profound as the one that turned dinosaurs into birds.
Lorenzo and his friends took the heart of that system, which had grown to serve a body more economic than social, and hot-wired it for a while directly to the soul. Thanks to Lorenzo, there existed for a while an assortment of radio stations that insisted on doing good and having fun at any cost. They gave radio an adrenaline rush when it needed it most.
The Fessenden analogy comes to mind because the only Lorenzine artifacts I can find, other than the book and some letters, are a pair of browned KTAO program guides that arrived woefully misaddressed at two of my successive homes in rural New Jersey back in the early Seventies. Both bore the specious imprints of the Reginald A. Fessenden Educational Fund. From looking at them, you’d never know they contained program listings for a radio station. One is titled, “The Dixie Songbird and Rhythm Journal,” and the other, “The Radio Times.” The latter contains a piece titled, “Journey to the Center of Uranus: A Small Visit to Your Friendly Local Proctologist.” No two of these publications were ever the same. I remember one whole issue devoted to “The Death of Lorenzo Milam.” Its tongue nearly pierced its cheek, but from New Jersey, what did I know? I almost believed it at first.
KTAO was an interesting station. In the program listings I see “Old Radio: Adventures by Morse, The City of the Dead”; “Music from the Eisenhower Years with Jack Thorne”; and “Chris Yee and music primarily from the Orient featuring The End of the Known World.” Like many revolutionary things in those days, KTAO upset some people. One of those people once blew up the station’s transmitter, dropping its mountaintop tower to the ground. The same crazy/serious spirit animated other radiations from the KRAB Nebula, a loose affiliation of stations, most of which Lorenzo helped found. News from around the Nebula came to me via Robin Harris, with whom I maintained a steady correspondence until I found my way into the supply side of radio through a job selling advertising for a country music station even farther out in the New Jersey sticks. I believe this was a moral felony beyond Robin’s forgiveness, judging from his final letter.
I still feel guilty about it. I feared then that for a brother even distantly enmembered in the Alternative Radio family, “going commercial” was a defection on the order of a Corleone selling out to the Tataglias.
Broadcasting as it exists now in the United States is a pitiful, unmitigated whore. At some stage in its history, there was a chance to turn it to a creative, artful, caring medium; but then all the toads came along, realizing the power of radio and television to hawk their awful wares. The saga of broadcasting in America is littered with the bodies of those who wanted to do something significant — and who were driven out (or more correctly, sold out) by the pimps and thieves who now run the media.
That’s what Lorenzo says in the opening paragraph of his book. You can see why I felt bad about joining the pimps and thieves, and, of all things, hawking their awful wares. A willingness to make litter of one’s moral body, and to sell it for the privilege, is a secret power of the radioholic’s disease. So is the illusion that by “infiltrating” the world of thieves and whores, and to become one of them, you will accomplish the “significance” you intended in the first place.
The times were tough. The poverty program’s board of directors, in one of those heartless political moves that those bodies made famous, declared my community radio project ludicrous, moved me into a job I hated and fired me for failing at that too. Painful betrayals were involved. I had loaded the board with plants who were on my own community radio board of directors and they sold out to other political pressures. I was betrayed and bereft of income a week before Christmas in a terrible winter with a family to feed, no savings, and a broken-down car. I was ready to enter the supply side of radio through the only available door.
You see, I had wanted to be in radio since I was old enough to tune one. For a year in the dawn of my adolescence I was a novice “ham” shortwave operator, talking in Morse code to Swedes and Texans about the gear we all used: there was little else to talk about. I was probably spared a dull future when, three times in a row, I failed to pass the high-speed code examination that would have made me eligible for a permanent operators license.
So I became an impassioned listener, fishing through static in the darkest hours for stations like KFI from Los Angeles and KNBR from San Francisco. I didn’t have a reference book to guide me, so I didn’t always get the call letters right. The first time I heard KNBR, I thought it was “KFOR,” and sent a reception report to “KFOR, San Francisco.” In return I received a highly instructive letter from an interested employee of KFOG, a San Francisco FM station. My correspondent blessed me out for my bad form as a reporter of reception, since I had failed to record the time, date, channel, program notes, or even to enclose return postage. Rectified by the experience, I became a very serious practitioner of my first real craft, logging hundreds of stations from across the country and wasting a fortune in time and postage writing reception reports to most of them. In time, however, I felt prepared to move from the demand to the supply side of the business, and created a campus pirate station to inflict my ego on classmates at my boarding school. This was my introduction to the truly pathological side of radio. One easily becomes obsessed with microphones. Addicted.
That’s why I was so willing to actually sell advertising just for a chance to work at a real radio station and to talk to microphones at least part time. As with many obsessions, however, this one didn’t work out as a job, and I headed, in the midst of the first Gas Crisis, back to North Carolina with my family of four, pulled, as if by an invisible navigation beam, to the post-hippie enclaves of Durham and Chapel Hill, where interesting dropouts lived in big old houses and the food stamps grew on trees.
Of course, I parlayed my experience into a job selling radio ads, first with a Top 40 AM station and then with WDBS, an oddball non-profit commercial FM station affiliated with Duke University. There I failed as a salesman for a whole year before anybody cared. But I got to do funny things on the air as “Doctor Dave,” and started a column with the same name in the station’s popular program guide all in the spirit of my ex-brethren at the Fessenden Fund. Early in that period, before Doctor Dave gave me notoriety, I found myself at a party in an old Durham house so big they called it Proctor Street. There I sat between two conversational partners, talking radio, as usual. One was Pete Taylor, an executive at San Francisco’s KFOG and a member of WDBS’s board of directors in town for a meeting. The other was Bob Chapman, a good-hearted entrepreneur who, among other things, talked Duke University into buying WDBS when he was still a student there.
“I once had an interesting letter from somebody at KFOG,” I said to Taylor, recounting the story of that letter’s influence on my eventual radio career.
“I remember that,” Taylor said. “I wrote the letter.” While Taylor and I went on about this remarkable coincidence, Bob Chapman interrupted. “You’re Dave Searls?” he asked. “Sure,” I replied. “You know,” he said, “a couple years ago I quoted you in a piece I wrote for The Carologue.”
The North Carolina Carologue was a fat single-state version of the Whole Earth Catalogue, published while I was still back in New Jersey. I had seen the Carologue kicking around after I moved down, and maybe even used it once or twice (as I had used the Whole Earth Catalogue to find Lorenzo Milam several years before).
Chapman scurried around to find a copy, which he did in a short time, quickly found his piece, and in it, my name beside an emotional quote about North Carolina radio. I recognized the quote instantly. It was from the postscript to the letter I wrote to Lorenzo in California, that he gave to Robin Harris and Robin had published in the Alternative Radio Exchange.
It was a very weird experience, a feeling that God must be playing knot tricks with the loose ends of my mind. But it had a radio quality about it, an instant leaping of distances, a joining of souls by a spider thread of printed words. And something more. It went beyond radio, because it went beyond time. Radio is Now. Print has something of Forever about it. It was a print coincidence in a radio world. A message to the addicts.
And I was becoming a different kind of addict at that very time. A print medium addict. A writer. This wasn’t new. Before I did good for the social service outfit, I had served in a variety of editorial posts for a series of small New Jersey newspapers. I continued to write in the interim, but most of it went to sublimation: letters to friends (and distant acquaintances like Lorenzo), grant proposals, even letters to radio stations. One letter I wrote to an editor of a suburban newspaper, in detailed protest of an editorial that excoriated WBAI (the closest thing New York had to a KRAB Nebula-like station), found its way to the station and was read on the air by the station manager, who called it “eloquent.” That made my year.
But oddly, I never thought of myself as a writer, even though that’s what I was: a writer with an addiction to radio.
“Writers,” writes Rollo May (and I quote from memory, since I can’t find his book), “are alone among creative artists in their belief that the world really needs to hear what they have to say.” I know what the man’s talking about. Whenever I have a deep idea, my first impulse is to run it through the typewriter and find some fool to publish it.
The first fool I found for my deeper writings was Sy Safransky. During the first couple of years after my return to North Carolina, I had often seen him standing on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill, beard down to here, hawking copies of THE SUN for 50 cents apiece. Back then, THE SUN was more like Lorenzo’s program guides back then, blown more by the cool winds of human spirit than by the hot air of commercial bluster.
Then, as now, I loved everything Sy wrote, because it was so agreeable. He said things the world really did need to hear. Even when he was lost in pain and no more sure about the rightness of his opinions than any of the rest of us, he burned a pure fuel. Even when he bullshitted himself, you had to love him. He’d walk on clay feet when it was the only way to get around.
I was already a year past my failure as a salesman for WDBS when I decided to make Sy’s acquaintance and offer my services. I was a “broadcast consultant” at the time, counseling enterprises that intended to parlay good intentions into commercial radio facilities. I did this for $10 an hour, which felt usurious at the time but barely put sprouts on the table. While each of those client enterprises failed, my writing was limited to the Doctor Dave column, and parodies on WDBS of the “Bicentennial Minutes” that Shell Oil did on TV. Those efforts did far more good for me and for WDBS than my salesmanship ever did. I wasn’t paid for them.
So, of course, I approached Sy at first with ideas for making THE SUN a commercial success, including an offer of my own disproven skills as a media salesman. It was only as an afterthought that I offered my services as a writer. I remember joining Sy, Priscilla (his wife then), and some wine out at their country log cabin and talking about THE SUN’s potential for national circulation and readership. We rejoiced in the rightness of our opinions. We considered the magnitude of THE SUN’s potential for producing income, and agreed with the wine that it was indeed very large.
I never sold an ad for Sy. But I did sit down and write my first serious article that wasn’t about radio or the plight of the poor. It was for the Travel issue (each issue had a theme then, kind of like the “Us” section does now). Like many of the pieces that have appeared in THE SUN, it used Seth as a point of departure. Seth, for those readers who missed it, is a wise and loveable ectoplasm who speaks to the world through Jane Roberts, a medium in upstate New York. This first piece gave me a chance to unload all my pent-up opinions about the deeper ephemera of life, thoughts grown like fungus in the fertile rot left by my undergraduate education as a philosophy major. I invoked the names that had influenced my thinking most profoundly: Polanyi, Koestler, Roberts, and physicists like Pauli and Schrödinger. It was a landmark effort: this had been the article I had wanted to write for years, but feared I couldn’t. And here it was, published, on paper: an ephemeral substance too, but at least here, unlike the waves of radio, gone millions of miles out into space in the space of a breath. I saw for the first time what I was here on this planet for: to understand things, and to share that understanding.
There wasn’t a better place to do that than THE SUN. Not even the best-intended radio station.
One of that first article’s topics was parapsychology. I had always felt a kinship with that field, but never bothered to connect with it, even though I had worked in its hometown, Durham, for more than two years. So out of nowhere, Sy showed up one day in his VW bus, leaned out the window, and gave me a job: editing the quarterly journal Theta, the house organ of the Psychical Research Foundation, one of Durham’s two surviving parapsychology concerns. “No big deal,” he said. “Make a quick fifty bucks a month. It’ll take you two days an issue to put it out.” Right. A year later, after I failed to produce a single issue with less than a month of near-full-time work, a more capable editor was hired full time to do that job that Sy knocked off in a couple of days. That’s just a parenthetical digression to illustrate one of Sy’s many powers as an editor. I hope he doesn’t cut it.
I’ll know if he does, although it isn’t easy to tell. During that year, and several succeeding years, I wrote for THE SUN at a rate of about an article per month. Through that time, although some of my pieces were reduced by more than two-thirds, I could never tell what the man cut out. As an editor, Sy left no fingerprints.
Livelihood, if not life itself, is a self-limiting exercise, a trade among possibilities, a “but” in the middle of our sentences. And maybe we serve those sentences as self-inflicted punishments for our own gall.
Like all good things, my duties as a regular contributor for THE SUN came to an interesting end. If, as what there is of THE SUN doctrine might have it, there is no such thing as death, and our devils are all our own creations, then perhaps our bargains with ourselves are all a bit Faustian. Livelihood, if not life itself, is a self-limiting exercise, a trade among possibilities, a “but” in the middle of our sentences. And maybe we serve those sentences as self-inflicted punishments for our own gall. While my prose shone agreeably in THE SUN’s sky we both suffered shortages of income to match surfeits of rectitude. It seemed fitting that the piece Sy printed most reluctantly (and a co-editor opposed outright), was the first to earn me big money. Perhaps for that reason, it was the last regular piece I wrote for THE SUN. It was a last-minute here’s-something submission that was not written originally for publication, but rather as a joke research paper for a parapsychology convention. By this point in my life, in mid-1971, I worked full time at the Psychical Research Foundation doing public relations or something, and part time for an advertising agency writing copy. I knocked off this parody in a couple of hours one afternoon. Following its publication in THE SUN, it passed through the hands of several heavies in the science business, and finally to Frank Kendig, the managing editor of a planned mass-appeal science magazine called Omni. Kendig called Sy, who called me, who called Kendig, who gave me $500 to reprint the piece, and then asked for more submissions. I gave him another one, for which I received $800. (It was a publishing revelation to me that this piece, which received several letters in response to its SUN version, which had a circulation in the low thousands, received no letters in response to its Omni version, printed in nearly a million copies.)
The bucks came at a good time. They also convinced me that I had made it as Mister Bigtime Freelancer. I drifted out of THE SUN’s orbit. I stopped writing Doctor Dave. I got a New York agent, a friend of a friend, wrote a book’s worth of new stuff (including a parody of an entire TV Guide that I was certain the National Lampoon would jump for), and then started writing a book while my agent failed to sell squat to anybody, including Omni, which by now had a new managing editor who was not so enamored of my stuff. Here I was, Mr. Writer, telling The World what it needed to hear, and I might as well have been yelling into my pillow. So I said the hell with it and went full time into the advertising business. That’s when I started to make money. Like I said, a writer’s life has its Faustian qualities.
Since then I have struggled to find the time and energy to write anything for anybody not related to my job. This hasn’t been as bad as it sounds, because my company’s interests have drifted away from the “awful wares” advertised on broadcast waves and into the explosively interesting (and often lucrative) high technology and computer worlds. The emotional energies once devoted to radio are now sublimated into writing not just high-tech advertising but also learned works in arcane and popular journals.
The transition, however, involved several years of close personal attachment to one of our firm’s original clients, a large local radio station of some importance. This station retained our firm in large part for my advice, which was delivered mostly in dense works of literary and professional art in sum the length of books. It was a source of constant vexation to me that over the years little or none of my advice was taken, or even acknowledged. It was only paid for. Near as I can tell, of all the volumes of advice imparted, at costs in many thousands of dollars, two features at the station still bear my imprint: resumed morning traffic reports and a slogan.
I am reassured by the station’s management and key personnel that my good works and intentions were, and still are, valued. It is only now, several months removed from my official association with the station, that the radioholic dimension of my attachment becomes apparent. Service to this one client was the arena in which my needs as a writer and my passions as a radioholic were reconciled. Like many psychological reconciliations, this was an exercise in paradox and irony.
For example, while I railed against the evils of judging listeners in terms of ratings numbers, I developed an expertise in that field that is possibly without equal. I doubt that any one individual has ever studied “the numbers” more eagerly or thoroughly, or to such excess. I re-learned statistics, using texts from the course I flunked in college. I developed and refined algorithms that predicted numbers from “book” to “book” with remarkable accuracy. I can still reel off numbers from memory for nearly every station in this market, for every ratings book, going back more than 10 years. I suggested a dozen ideas that later became trends. I predicted successes and failures for stations, formats, personalities and just about everything else there is to predict in an unpredictable business. I fought nonsense everywhere I found it and capitulated nearly every time my client insisted I work it into a billboard.
Why? Because I so desperately wanted to be a part of the action, to prove something, to do not just a good job but the best job. And that’s what I did. The problem was it didn’t matter. For the most part, the folks at the station were totally absorbed in what they were doing anyway, which was usually just the same thing — trying desperately to prove themselves.
So for good professional reasons that had little to do with what I was doing for the station, our companies parted ways in July. Afterwards, I felt as one might at the end of a bad affair, or as an alcoholic might after drying out: drained, relieved and a little shaky. I still love many of the folks over at the station, but I hope my days of doing anything to stay near a transmitter is over.
That hope is elevated when I read Lorenzo in THE SUN, appearing lately at frequencies that I once enjoyed, and I marvel at the circularity of it all. There are clues here. I don’t know what they mean but at least now I can see them clearly.
I know I’ll never purge radio from my soul. As a radioholic, I’m in remission. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think about its curative powers, about the good it has done and the opportunities it has missed, and about how it perhaps still awaits me, like all blank sheets of paper, with the patience of a stone.
I don’t know if Lorenzo is still involved with radio either, or even if the light of the KRAB Nebula still shines in the western skies. As a recovered radioholic, I find myself hoping that Lorenzo is free of radio’s grip; but when I consider the crusading zeal of all the “holics” I also wonder if I’m not projecting too much. I remember Lorenzo’s words and the passions we shared, and hope that somewhere in this lull in history there may yet be an opportunity for creative, artful and caring impulses to do significant things. Maybe those things are happening right now and I just don’t know it because they’re happening elsewhere or just because my time is now past and like other once-revolutionary geezers it’s hard for me to admit that new forms express old passions in ways I can’t understand.
I still don’t really understand why radio is such a high for its earnest practitioners, especially for zany ones like Lorenzo, whose messages move people as well as electrons, and perhaps both at the speed of light.
WDBS is gone now too, its passing chronicled in a 1978 issue of THE SUN. Its magic sleeps in print, although its call letters persist on a channel now devoted to what a friend of mine calls “police state music” — that chewing gum for the ears that people like us suffer in elevators and shopping centers. But that’s okay. Last year a big station in this market dropped that format in favor of some formula promised by consultants to deliver younger numbers and bigger money. The old folks who love that gooey music staged a revolt that reminded me of the passions once ignited by threats to sounds that we once loved to hear on our radios. And they won. The new owners of DBS picked up the tapes from the other station and carried on. It made many people very happy. Every constituency deserves its station. The jazz and classical music crowd once served by DBS has moved its allegiance to the bottom end of the FM dial, where new stations bloom like dandelions in Spring. Some of those stations are modeled, remotely as succeeding generations, by transmissions made long ago in words and waves by Lorenzo and kindred spirits. If the ratings are to be trusted, people around here spend more time listening to those stations than to any one of the commercial outlets that radiate (mostly to please consultants) from other parts of the dial.
It bothers me that Lorenzo hasn’t found a publisher for his autobiography.* Meaningful and numerous as we are, THE SUN’s constituency somehow seems less than enough. But I am grateful that those of us who burn with light we can hardly endure still have our magazine.
I see the picture now. At its center is a light. I don’t know why it’s there. But if THE SUN is the only place it ever shines in print again, that’s perfectly okay.
*Lorenzo’s autobiography, The Cripple Liberation Front Marching Band Blues, of which we published excerpts last year, is now available from his own small press, Mho & Mho Works, Box 33135, San Diego, California 92103 for $5.75 plus $1 postage.