Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Great Times," chapter 5

Copyright 2006, Terry F. Phillips Sr.

All rights reserved

Chapter five

There would be no notes left behind.

Eddie had learned in previous trips that good-bye notes only made things messy.

His friend, Roger, had ceased to exist because Eddie broke the heart of Roger’s great-grandmother. She never fell in love with Roger’s great-grandfather as a result of his flirting. So, Roger was never born. He ceased to exist.

Eddie would leave no paper trail, if possible. He sang on the radio, but he gave no autographs. People thought him egocentric, but that was all right. There would be no paper trail. Not again.

Historians could write about him all they wanted, but he would leave no paper trail.

A radio show is a delightfully fragile thing. It comes with no warning, unless there is a written schedule of programming or advertisement in the local newspaper. That would be all right, because Eddie could exist many times, if his assumed name was preserved in any printed radio program guides. And he would like that.

A radio show disappears as soon as it is over. It remains only in the memories of people who listened to it. There are collectors of radio programs, but the record is uncertain.

Was that show originally broadcast on Feb. 8 or March 9? Is the recording intact, or has it been edited before being distributed via the Internet or in shops that cater to collectors? Or in catalogs mailed out. Or on Internet Web sites set up by dealers of OTR - old time radio shows.

The radio show is ephemeral. Called the “theater of the mind”, radio is different to each listener. The face of each performer is as dashing or pathetic as the listener believes it to be.

Someone has asked if there is empirical evidence that we all see the same things. For example, how do we know that the red I perceive is the same shade you see; or, is my red really your green?

Such discussions may not too helpful when discussing vision, after all, colors can be measured mathematically as frequencies of light.

The radio show is much more subjective than color.

We both know what Jack Benny looked like from his photos (assuming we do see the same picture when we look at it). But my idea of what his Maxwell looked like has to be different from yours, because I have never seen a picture of a Maxwell automobile. The same is true of Benny’s home as depicted on radio.

What about the numerous characters played by that voice virtuoso, Mel Blanc.

Do you see him as the Mel Blanc we came to know on television or does his appearance change from the guy who announced trains “leaving on track five to Annaheim, Azusa and Cuc--------amunga!”

What does that train look like, anyway?

I see the silver, fluted sides of the New York Central passenger cars I remember passing near my home in Niles, Mich., each day. You may see the darker colors of the Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars.

The effect is true for the local disk jockey show starring the local guy on a 2five0-watt daytime-only AM station as it is for the biggest productions put on national networks for Farm Aid or by Garrison Keillor’s troupe or the WXBR Beer Variety Hour.

Eddie knew that radio was a very temporary medium. Any record of him performing on radio would leave his appearance very subjective in the mind’s eye of the beholder.

There would be no railroad tickets - and no ticket stubs -- to New Mexico, but the last freight train to leave Chicago for California would have an extra person on board, in an empty boxcar. Eddie would ride the rails.

Hopefully, there would be no bums in his boxcar, he thought as he made his way to the railroad yards.

“I really don’t need to meet someone like John Steinbeck, who sets me down in a book, or someone who gets to know me and submits me to Reader’s Digest as their “most unforgettable character”.

Eddie could use another false name or avoid other travelers altogether, but he thought the hobo’s selected means of traversing the country would be best.

A few miles outside Chicago and before the train crossed the Mississippi River, Eddie’s worst fears were realized.

Two bums who were hiding beneath loose material on the boxcar floor made themselves known.

“Well, what have we here?” said the first. “I’ve been watching you, sweetie.”

“Now, you mustn’t keep him to yourself,” said the second bum. “Remember, I saw him first.”

“What do you think about that, boy?” said the first hobo. “You want to be shared by two strapping guys like us? I’ve seen enough to know you’re the kind that likes their men rough and rugged. Well, that’s us.”