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.
For the past few days our upstairs bathroom sink has been out of commission. One day it was draining well, the next day not. In my experience these things don't develop overnight. You notice the sink draining slower than usual, then - over time - it stops draining at all. This was like a light switch.
This is the sink over which I shave, so it's on me. I used to shave in the shower, with one of those quadruple-blade monstrosities and flammable shaving cream in a can. In February 2011 I wandered into a shaving store in Palm Springs and my life was changed. I bought a new safety razor, a shaving brush and soap and went back to the way I used to shave, over a sink, taking my time (though, in the past, I never did use a brush and soap). Shaving became an enjoyable ritual, a chance do something contemplative, to look yourself in the face and ponder its changing topography. It was a reason to slow down.
Four years of hair and shaving soap have colluded to provide me with another reason to slow down. But attempting to unclog a sink is not my idea of a way to end the year. Usually, clogs are no big deal. When I shaved in the shower the drain would periodically run slow and I'd grab my trusty auger (some call it a snake) and have it cleared up in minutes (I'm not a fan of commercially-available drain remedies because they contain the nastiest chemicals known to man). I actually own TWO snakes, one is hand-cranked and the other connects to a power drill for especially bad clogs. When I went looking for the hand-crank snake I keep in an upstairs closet I discovered the "music wire" (the part that actually snakes down the drain) was missing. I'd thrown it away when it rusted beyond repair (this is what WD-40 is for). Out to the garage I went, seeking the power auger, which was nowhere to be found. It's quite possible I sold it at a garage sale, intending all the while to replace the music wire in the hand-crank snake, which was much easier to use and generally all I needed.
In the absence of an auger I tried the baking soda and vinegar remedy., using repeated applications. Nothing. Then I got under the sink and removed the plug from the P-trap (above). The sink drained (that's the black water in the enamel pot, below) and I was able to fish out some gunk with a bent wire hanger. But when I turned the water back on and tested the drain there was still no flow, so it was time for another ritual: the inevitable trip to the home supply store. Not the place I wanted to visit on a Sunday. I wanted to visit the basement and binge on Ray Donovan some more.
I decided "Two birds, one stone." and I wired myself up and recorded my trip to Lowe's Depot, as I like to call them (the two are located right next to each other where I live). Here's my Zoom H6 in a shopping cart:
But this Aerial View podcast is about all manner of clogs, metaphorical and otherwise (but not the wooden ones). It's about time running out, compressing and stretching and presenting you with difficult choices to make. In 2016 I have to decide whether to continue with this show or not. At the risk of harping on a theme, Aerial View requites much care and feeding. Now that the show is a podcast, I'd estimate I spend eight to twelve hours on each episode, between pre-production, recording, editing, mixing, writing the newsletter, creating the playlist, etc. It's a massive commitment and I no longer know to what end. It was so much more clear-cut when the show was heard over the air. I had instant feedback. Not anymore. I get the occasional e-mail or hear from a friend, but otherwise I have no idea who's listening or how many of you are out there. It's hard to create in a vacuum and as much as I thought I'd figure out a way to do a "live" show and take phone calls, it hasn't panned out that way. Maybe that's yet to come. Maybe this thing just needs to get unclogged:
I keep thinking of my thirty year radio anniversary, this July 4, 2016 and wondering if that's the right time to end Aerial View. It some ways it would kill me but I also feel like that's a good, long time to have done one thing. Right? It's not like I'm being a Drain Weasel...
I know we've all heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D. I don't know if that's what's been bothering me lately (see For Joan, below) but I do know that I am not a fan of the end of the year. It's the mother of all Sunday afternoons, when you sum up the what just finished and brace yourself for what's to come. All the while you know time is not on your side, despite what The Rolling Stones had to say about the subject. There are things we need to get to., For instance, in last year's final newsletter I wrote:
Fuck personal growth. The only resolutions to be made this year are these:
1) Help others.
I did what I could on both fronts but still feel I let myself down. I'll resolve to take another shot at it this coming year. Please believe me when I say I'm torn about ending Aerial View because while it may satisfy the decluttering part what if it also helps others? Is what I'm doing here helpful to anyone?
As always, thanks for letting me think out loud. See you next year!
An update on the sink: the plumber is here now, Tuesday morning. As Clint once said, a man has got to know his limitations. Mine involve extensive plumbing repairs.
I'm the furry kid with the guitar.
Last Week: Mega Chris T. Mess
I had a pretty good Christmas. Got some beautiful gifts, including the Jimmy Page By Jimmy Page book (yes!), drank some excellent booze, ate some delicious food and partied with beautiful friends and family. I hope you a good time, too, and I hope last week's show helped.
While there IS a parody menu already, I've come up with some of my own items:
AOD: Asparagus Over Dose
Beat On The Bratwurst
Bobbie Steel-cut Oatmeal
Corrosion of Cornformity
Dessert Before Dishonor
Gang Green Salad
Gorilla Biscuits & Gravy
Hearty Breakfast Attack
Hollandaise In Cambodia
I Need Brunch
Jerry's Kids Menu
Johnny Cake Thunders
Meat Plus Three Men
Sick Of It All You Can Eat
The False Muffins
The MC5 course meal
The New York Rolls
My mother's 83rd birthday would've been yesterday. She died on Jan. 1, 2013. This time of year always reminds me of her. I wrote this at my sister's urging, to read at my mother's memorial service.
You always think there’s going to be time. You think, “Next time I see her…” And next time doesn’t come. Time runs out. But what I wouldn’t give to hear those three little words from my Mother again: TURN THAT DOWN!
It’s true. When I was a teenager, my mother banged on my door so many times to ask me to turn down whatever I was listening to, that one time I decided to bang back – with my foot. I ended up putting my foot through the door. This is not a boast. It was one of those hollow-core doors, and it wasn’t hard to put your foot through it. My mother’s solution was to remove the door. There. Now you don’t have a door for your room. For God-knows-how-long I lived with a blanket covering the doorway to my room. The first time I snuck a woman home I had to keep asking her to be quiet in case my mother heard her through the blanket…
Being quiet was not something my mother knew about. She was easily the loudest person on our block. Which is why I nearly went deaf as a teenager turning up my music to drown her out. I can still hear her calling me: CHRIS-TO-PHER!! She had a way of saying it, with the emphasis on the third syllable… and she never said “Chris” – it was always CHRISTOPHER… that would put the fear of God in you. Actually, I feared my Mother much more than I ever feared God. He may or may not exist. She was most definitely real.
Which is why it’s hard to believe she’s gone. I thought there would be time, to finally say “thanks” to her for the person I turned out to be. Because – believe me – my Dad had precious little to do with it. I’m the last of five kids and by the time I came along my father was either working all the time or, later on, he was gone. We would see him once in awhile and it was always a revelation to me just what an uptight individual he was. The man didn’t even like The Beatles, for God’s sake. I was visiting him once and Yellow Submarine was on the TV and he wouldn’t let me watch it because it was a quote drug movie unquote. I just liked the music.
My Dad was Eisenhower, Pat Boone, Bob Newhart and Pepsi-Cola. My mother, on the other hand, was JFK, Tom Jones, Mel Brooks and Smirnoff. She was the opposite of uptight. She loved a good time, she loved music and she loved to dance. She even made the car dance. We’d be heading down this very street – Oak Street – and she’d make her Impala station wagon rock side to side with whatever pop song was on the radio. We loved it! Every time we were out in the car we’d yell MAKE THE CAR DANCE! So, Mom: thanks for my sense of rhythm.
And thanks for my love of music. And for letting me make music. When I was 12, 13 and discovered the guitar I walked around our house playing Dueling Banjos over and over again. It was the only thing I could play. My mother never asked me to stop. She never took my guitar away. She might tell me to go to my room or take it down in the basement. But she never discouraged me. And – years later – when my band needed a place to practice, she let me use the upstairs of the “barn”, the shed my father built in our backyard. We’d go out there for hours and blast our crummy attempts at playing rock & roll and my mother would tolerate it. And if she couldn’t tolerate it anymore she’d turn off the electricity to the barn. That’s how you knew rehearsal was over. But she never told me to go somewhere else and do it.
Even when I became a punk rocker and would head down to my basement with my friend Mike and make an ungodly racket, she never kicked me out. When Mike and I began driving into the city to play at clubs that are now long gone, she never told me I couldn’t go. She never said, “I don’t like these kids you’re hanging around with.” I can’t IMAGINE my father doing the same. Even though there was a time after my parents got divorced that I wished I’d gone to live with him, because my mother COULD be incredibly demanding, overbearing and angry, when I finally came to my senses I realized I would’ve ended up a very different person if my mother hadn’t been the person who raised me.
So, thanks, Mom, for not turning me into a humorless bore. Thanks for taking me to see Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles and a hundred other movies and for laughing so hard and so loud that I sank down in my seat, embarrassed at who might see me. I understand the value of a good, loud laugh now.
And when we couldn’t laugh – when we couldn’t even talk - we could always put on a movie or a TV show - Hill Street Blues was especially important in the 80’s – and find some way to start a conversation. Or we could talk to one of the pets that was always around, have a chat through the cat or the dog or the snakes or parrots or parakeets or gerbils or mice or…. God, we had A LOT of pets! I once counted all the cats that would routinely make our backyard their home and I stopped at thirty-four. So, thanks, Mom, for teaching me to love animals.
Did you also know my mother was a trendsetter? Poker is a big deal now – there’s online poker, video poker, casino poker, etc. But my earliest memories involve me carrying cans of Ballantine beer to the adults assembled around my grandmother’s table, standing by my mother while she explained the rank of hands and how to bet. She was into poker before poker was cool.
And thanks, Mom, for also teaching me how to type. Oh, she didn’t sit there and say “These are the home keys…”, etc. But she DID let me use her Royal, then her IBM Selectric as much as I wanted. She never complained about the paper or ribbons or Wite-out I went through as I figured it out for myself. And as much as I may have longed for a mother who was involved in every aspect of my life, I get it now: my Mom was letting me figure it out for myself.
Mom, I’m sorry I couldn’t say these things to you before you left us. You always think there’s going to be more time. I would say to everyone here that no matter how awkward it might be, no matter how difficult, that you sit down with the people you love and you thank them. The days grow short and time runs out.
My Mother as she appeared at my wedding, 2007,
Oil portrait by Janet Tsakis,
Obligatory Throwback Pic
L - R: Me, Diana, Mario Jr. (RIP), Joanie (RIP), Marc.
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ON DEMAND ARCHIVES: The Aerial View Archive page features archives going back to nearly the beginning of the show in RealAudio and MP3 format.ON THE WEB:Listen from the playlist page aeriaview.me.OVER THE AIR: Aerial View is currently off the airwaves of WFMU until further notice.PODCAST: Aerial View is available on iTunes as a podcast.