Aerial View was WFMU’s first regularly-scheduled phone-in talk show. Hosted by Chris T. and on the air since 1989, the show features topical conversation, interviews and many trips down the rabbit hole. Until further notice, Aerial View is only available as a podcast, available every Tuesday morning. Subscribe to the newsletter “See You Next Tuesday!” and find tons of archives at aerialview.me.
December 8, 2015: WFMU Literary Guild Meetup
Recorded at the KGB Bar on 12/5/15, this special on-location Aerial View Podcast features readings from the WFMU Literary Guild Meetup. You'll hear (in this order): Bronwyn C., H. Faye Kahn, Dan Bodah, Cheyenne Hohman (who reads a poem by the under-the-weather Yvonne Szymczak as well as a piece of her own), Chris M. & me
You'll hear everyone listed above except for Scott and Amanda. Scott's audio was, unfortunately, compromised by a loud static/buzz and Amanda asked to be left off of the podcast.
Below are pictures of the readers, in order. Click the pic for a link to that person's WFMU profile.
I read the piece The Other Chris, which began as an off-the-cuff story I told on Aerial View years back and was then written down and appeared in this newsletter. It was recently published on the website theweeklings.com.
I wrote this as an intro to an Aerial View show but I don't know if I ever used it. Here it is.
It’s so quiet in here. Then I heard waves crashing, like I was at the beach. I remember my mother taking my brothers and sisters and I to Jones Beach. She always brought tomato and olive oil sandwiches in a picnic basket. I was then, as now, ashamed of myself. Back then I was ashamed at being the fat kid. Now I am ashamed of that and SO much more.
I’m ashamed because I sit here in my tiny apartment at one fifteen in the morning, having just gotten very stoned, trying to say something. Why am I getting stoned at 1:15 in the morning? Why am I still up? Why am I about to have a cigarette? Why do I feel so goddamned depressed? Oh, there’s so MANY reasons…
I saw my mother on Sunday. I finally got out there on the Long Island Rail Road. I tried to drive the Jeep but it broke down on the Verrazanno. In the left lane. At three-thirty on a Friday afternoon. I finally had to be pushed off the bridge by a Port Authority truck because I hadn’t made the apex of the bridge, the point at which gravity would’ve rolled me off. It happened to me once before, on my way to Coney Island, to host the Mermaid Parade. It was a ’79 Wagoneer and the upper radiator hose went. I was able to fix it myself, though. I went and bought a hose and clamps and put them in. Not the Wrangler. The Wrangler caught on fire, back in June. And instead of taking the insurance money and running away from it, I decided to have it “fixed”. Here I am, five months later, and I’ve got over a grand into its “resurrection”. The Buick is gone. That was going to need two grand, easy. The back brakes had stopped working. The ABS was almost out the door, the water pump shot, the alternator dying. I hated to part with it. What a plush ride. What accelaration. And not bad on gas. I especially hated parting with that brand new set of tires. Maybe a month on them. I really came to enjoy driving that Buick. PARKING it was another story. Damn thing barely fit anywhere.
Jesus, the year’s almost out. I can’t believe it. It hasn’t been a very good one. And now it looks like I might lose my benefits. I got a call from a woman in Human Resources, who says I might lose the benefits I’ve been getting for several years now. The benefits that make the money tolerable. Twenty-five dollars an hour is respectable. And I’m in the union. In the union with no benefits. How is that? What is it with this part-time thing? And why should I stay if there’s no benefits? I want to stay but I’m forty years old and will definitely need a goddamn DOCTOR if I’m to make it to sixty-five and retire on that Social Security money. But who the hell offers benefits nowadays? Does anyone?
Why am I depressed? The break-up back in November. It has affected me in ways I would not have suspected. I miss her. Even though I know we couldn’t be together. I have too much of my own mess to clean up. I can’t clean up anyone else’s. (Should I just go lie down now?) It would never have worked. But I do miss her. There was that honeymoon period, three weeks maybe, before the demons became apparent.
I try to figure out my demons but it rarely works. I don’t really know what I’m afraid of. What my fears are. Okay, that’s a lie. I know every one of my fears. Like everyone, I fear dying alone. I fear that I will never find love. I fear love doesn’t exist. I fear I am a fraud. I fear you are a fraud. I fear it is all a fraud. I want to light a cigarette and I was clean for five weeks. We quit together, she and I. The current ex-girlfriend. I can’t bring myself to say her name or the images come flooding back, of all the good stuff… and then all the bad stuff. The bad stuff always wins. I need more good stuff.
I’m not gonna sit and weep again…
I felt like crying today. That hasn’t come over me in awhile. I have to talk to the doctor about it. I’m speaking to her tomorrow, on the phone. I have no car. No Buick, no Jeep. No “wheels”, man. And I grew up with a car. Owning a car. I have been chained to one all my life. And I keep wondering if it’s time to break the chain, to do without one for awhile. Hell, I live fifteen minutes from Manhattan. I can almost see Ground Zero from my house.
There, I said it: Ground Zero. I am at an emotional Ground Zero. Winter quickly approaches and I can feel it in my back. I don’t now much more strength I’ve got. I feel I am weakening somehow. Not mentally. Mentally I get stronger. I get sharper. I see the challenge ahead, to keep from sliding into a horrific morass.
Did I mention I finally made it out to see my mother on Sunday? What a bizarre visit, as always. My mother blamed her upbringing for the fact that she’s never hugged or kissed her kids. Never. Even if you were bleeding from the head, like the time Michael two doors down dropped the piece of slate on me. I ran into the house with blood all over my hands from holding my brains in and my mother wiped my hand off and sent me out to play. She thought I was yelling HAND HAND when I was yelling HEAD HEAD HEAD. I was maybe six years old. I’d already been through EYE SURGERY to correct a lazy eye. The best thing my parents ever did for me, I’m sure. That eye, that wandering eye, freaked everyone out. It freaks me out to look at it in pictures now. One eyeball focused on the camera, the other one staring off into space. What the HELL? And now Michael from two doors down dropped a huge piece of slate on my head from the top of the slide and split my scalp. And when the bleeding wouldn’t’ stop (head wounds tend to bleed a bit) I ran back inside and my mother finally figured it out. I was rushed to Good Sam in a police car. I’m not sure why we had to go there. Maybe because they had the right kind of surgeon? That must be it. Because they had to stitch my scalp back together.
I wonder if the blow from the piece of slate is responsible for the life I now lead? Wouldn’t that be something? If all it took was a piece of slate to change everything? To make my life turn out like this instead of how I would’ve liked it. But you’re a young man, you say. Yeah. I guess so. There’s still time to correct my course, right? But what if the piece of slate made it impossible? What if my something got under my skin when my scalp was open? What if a piece of slate is STILL IN THERE? OHMYGOD!
No, I don’t believe any of it. My life is the way it is because I’ve been too lazy to do anything about it. I’ve watched my life sail by like a passenger on the deck of a steamer. I’m in a deck chair and there it goes, forty years, sailing by. With little or no input from me. I was having such vicious flashbacks at my mother’s house. That cliché about feeling so BIG when you go back home… it’s true. I wandered around my mother’s little brick house on the south shore (I never think of it as MY little brick house on the south shore or OUR little brick house on the south shore) and I felt like a GIANT. The room me and my brothers grew up in? TINY. I couldn’t believe how goddamned small it was. And how long did we live in there? The three of us. I can’t remember a single moment of it, somehow. I’m sure I did, at one time. But now? Just flashes, impressions. Of what it was like to listen to one brother bang his head against the wall until he fell asleep. Of the radio on the night table. And the night my father whipped my ass in front of the family. I can’t remember what I did? What did I do? I just remember my brothers and sisters laughing as my bare ass hung in the wind and my father belted it. What the HELL did I do?
I probably went down in his workshop and took something apart. And left it that way. A radio? A lamp? I wanted to believe I could fix things, like him. If I only looked hard enough for the problem. Meanwhile, I had NO idea what I was looking for. And no tools or procedures. I was trouble-shooting long before I knew what it meant. Let’s see, maybe I can find where the wire is bad and just replace it. Like they’re gonna do with the Jeep. I got the call from Serge today. Another three hundred dollars on that cursed automobile. Why do I hang on to it? Because it represents escape. Intellectually, I know that’s a lie. Cars don’t bring us freedom. They bring our enslavement. They roll it right up to your door with 0% APR and $2500 cash back! Why do I even need a car? I live fifteen minutes from…
…Ground Zero, which continues to resonate. It will for the rest of our lives, I suppose. THAT SUCKS. What else can you say about it? Everything’s been said. The carnage continues. Maybe there’ll be a suicide-bomber Santa in Times Square for Christmas. Or at Rockefeller Center, at the tree. Some symbolic stab at Christianity, using the secular symbol, good old Saint Nick. It has a brilliance about it. Because you can’t see who’s under that Santa suit. Or whether that’s padding or C4 strapped to him. And you can send out an army of Santas. Hell, they’ll cover it on the news. Should someone call the Department of Homeland Security?
What is I’m trying to say? That I know my fears. I don’t think they’re all that great. They’re fairly common. The basic ones: will I be able to get by, earn enough money to live? Will I meet someone and fall in love. Does love exist? Blah blah blah. My biggest fear is this: that I don’t learn from my mistakes, that I am stuck in neutral and have no forward momentum. I fear entropy most of all. I fear stalling. Like the Jeep on the Verrazzano. In the left lane. All those poor bastards trying to get around me. And my stupid little Jeep. It was FREEZING up there. A very high wind. But a GREAT view, a clear day. No snow, as predicted. I didn’t like the trampoline effect, the bridge bed dancing beneath me, rising and falling. I guess they’re designed to do that, so they don’t twist apart, like that famous footage of that bridge...
I did one thing right recently: I renewed my AAA membership. I signed up for the PLUS package, with one hundred free miles of towing. I’ve used a quarter of that already. I’ve gotten to hang out with tow truck drivers. I always got along with tow truck drivers. They’re blue-collar. Like my old man. Or he who denies my paternity. I finally broached the subject with my mother. We were driving in the Pontiac, to Farmingdale to see Die Another Day. It would’ve been like old times, my mother and I at a Bond flick. I don’t even know if she liked them but she sure liked Sean Connery. And she always like Pierce Brosnan. I know she loved my father. She insulted him the last time they spoke. Something about him never being able to make up his mind. I can’t remember. But she meant to insult him, she admitted it. It was right after she told that story that I told her mine. About the conversation with my father about her putting holes in the condoms. About how they were trying to not have so many kids and she kept thwarting that. My mother couldn’t believe it. “He’s really lost his mind!” she said. “Did he tell you about how many condoms BROKE, Christopher?” She blurted it out and was immediatedly embarassed. She apologized. “He’s OUT OF HIS MIND.” she said again. I couldn’t believe I told her. I hadn’t intended to. But something brought it out of me. Sitting there in that old rusting Pontiac, being driven to a Monday morning matinee by my mother. And we went to the wrong theatre. We went to the one by Republic airport and not he one out on Route 110. We were going to rush out and try to make the other theatre but my mother doesn’t move that fast anymore. She has a tendecy to hobble. She’s seventy. So we went and saw, My Big Fat Greek Wedding instead. Instead of “Bond, James Bond.” And Halle Berry in a bikini. But my mother enjoyed it. We got into the theatre just as the last credits faded. It was goddamned dark in there and my mother couldn’t see a thing because of this black wall. But I realized once you got around the black wall, you could get to a seat. So I turned on my little flashlight and tried to show her the way. We finally made it to a seat and the voiceover narration began. What IS it with voiceover narration? It rarely adds to the visual experience which is movie-going. Why do we need someone to EXPLAIN everything? Very few film-makers do voice-over narration properly. Martin Scorcese is one of them. I can’t remember the others right now. Stanley Kubrick? Defintely. But he rarely did it. My Big Fat Greek Wedding has PLENTY of voice-over narration. About stuff you’re seeing on the screen. But I didn’t let it bug me. I just watched Andrea Martin. My God, she is great. And Lanie Kazan. And Michael Constantine. But then that guy from Northern Exposure is in it. SHEESH! Mr. Sincere. The Sex and the City guy. Why HIM? Couldn’t this chick pick someone ELSE? I’m probably just jealous of his good looks. But my mother laughed, and leaned over and asked me things or made comments. Like the time we went to see Young Frankenstein and she told Bernadette across the street she peed her pants it was so funny. I didn’t get the jokes at the time. I was maybe twelve. I don’t remember. There is so much I don’t remember.
My mother had a hard time getting out of the theatre and back to the car. I offered to pull the car around to a near exit but she said “No.” I don’t know if she didn’t want me behind the wheel or she just wanted to walk. She drove us home and we talked about the neighbors and what they’re up to. The next door neighbor I had a wild crush on has a kid with a tumour behind one of her eyes. She’s remarried, to a plumber. She has two kids and one has a tumour. My mother said she’s not old enough to be operated on. I wonder how old you have to be.
We went back “home” and I made a nice turkey sandwich. I even toasted the bread. I was so damn hungry I thought about not even bothering. But I was glad I took the time and toasted the damn bread. I wish I had a nice turkey sandwich right now. My mother offered my turkey soup before I left. “How am I supposed to take it on the train?”
“But I’m not going home. And there’s no freezer at work.” (Christ, now that I think about it, I could’ve put it in the microwave at work. But it might’ve melted long before I got there. Who the hell knows?). My mother also offered me the Pontiac again. “You offered it to me once before. Then you took it away. I don’t want this car. It’s too damn big. Have you ever been to Hoboken? Do you know what PARKING is like there?”
My mother keeps offering me stuff and I keep turning it down. Should I even think about the implications? Nah. I do want the hurricane lamp. The nickel plated one. But I think my sister claimed that one. I’d be happy with a big one. She’s got lots of small ones but I want a big honkin’ one.
Chris Nirvana T.
Come As You Aerial View Are
Obligatory Throwback Pic
Merry Christmas from the family!
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