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.
February 21, 2016: Love & Loss
From Feb. 18, 1994 (five years into its run), this An Aerial View Archive entitled "Love & Loss" has a little bit of everything: An original short story; a determined crank; great phone calls from regulars and newbies alike and Chris T. keeping all the plates spinning. This show hasn't been heard since it originally aired and is not currently archived on the Aerial View playlist page.
This is going to be schizophrenic (bipolar?), so stay with me.
I got home late Saturday night from my lovely vacation (more below) and there's been no time to record, edit and mix a new Aerial View, so I'm doing something I've done rarely: dipping into my extensive archives.
From Feb. 18, 1994. Love & Loss, features everything I treasured about the over-the-air version of my show: An interesting topic; an original short story; a determined crank; great phone calls from regulars and newbies alike and me keeping all the plates spinning. This show is not currently archived on the Aerial View playlist page and hasn't been heard since it originally aired. Listen for:
Me complaining about my least favorite question.
Lots of echo.
Jim C., the host of the previous program.
A caller obsessed with Church Of The Subgenius.
A man in a bar atop the Space Needle, drinking Zima.
My short story Big Screen Man.
Same-sex cheating during a date.
Oral sex in a van.
More same-sex cheating at home.
Cheese-grater revenge on genitals.
Legendary regular caller Mick from Lodi.
Good friend and very tall person Jim Ryan.
Aerial View fixture Mr. Chin.
Why schizophrenic? Because the show is old but the newsletter is NEW.
In keeping with today's archive, this is from Jan., 1994.
Someday A Memory
This is the rest of the sordid tale:
We got together again on Saturday, Dec. 18. She had some things of mine (my front door key, a "999" single, a tape recorder, etc.) that she insisted be returned in person. On the phone that Friday night I told her to leave the things by my door or just inside ("Use the key but please leave it.") but she persisted, saying she'd stop by Saturday morning on her way to the bank.
After a weak protest I gave in - partly because it didn't matter much to me but mostly because I wanted to see her again. I was nervous with anticipation, wondering what I'd say, wondering why she needed to see me so badly. "She wants to get back into it, back into the relationship." was my first thought. Could it be possible? After all that had passed between us: the hurt feelings, the loud, endless arguments, the slammed doors and phones, the finger pointing, the yelling and storming out on each other? "She could be coming over to tell me something particularly nasty," was my next thought, followed closely by "She wants to spit in my face for something, anything", "She wants to tempt me somehow and laugh when I give in," and "She wants once last chance to be cruel." Then I became horny.
No matter how I else I felt about her, I always felt attracted. I wondered if I'd ever see her undress again. I longed to see her underwear, bra first (black or white? Clasped in the front? Behind? Frilly? Unadorned?) Then the panties (Cotton or synthetic? Matching? Different? Bikini? Man-cut? Practical? Pretty?). I wanted the slow uncovering, the miracle of nakedness revealed piecemeal. It is the only place I could imagine God: in the desire created by nudity. Who else would give it such power? Who but God could make protuberances and patches of hair so compelling? What did Adam and Eve do to fire themselves up if they couldn't undress? Did God throw them out of the Garden of Eden because he, too, likes lingerie? Surely, he must be a loving God, if for that reason alone. And the Devil's playground? Nudist colonies (what could be more evil or boring but constant nakedness?). It's such a simple thing, clothing. But remove it and everything becomes complicated. We risk shame, we invite judgment, we incite desire. In the right circumstances we gravitate toward procreation.
That's where I found myself an hour after she appeared, gravitating toward procreation with all due haste. I can't say how it happened. I intended to stay strong if she made a case for getting back together. I planned on telling her off, suggesting she get lost, letting her know how much she'd hurt me. But she took off her coat and beneath it was my favorite green sweater and it was all over but the shouting. We were kissing and telling each other how sorry we were and how much we missed each other and how miserable we'd been. Nudity followed, and then sex and then afterglow and sighing. We sighed over the wretched state of affairs we'd made for ourselves, the distance we'd put between us even though we (seemingly) wanted the same things. "Why couldn't we just get along?" I thought. What was this nonsense that constantly got in the way and made even simple conversation a mine-strewn field? Why were we such children at times - frightened, bruised, trembling - not believing anything good could come to us? What were we acting out, what karmic obligation did we fulfill with this arrangement we made? I long ago rejected the idea that all relationships have a bit of S & M in them, either overt or hidden. I don't believe we must assume one role or the other, the torturer or the tortured. I don't want to hurt others and I don't want to be hurt myself. But the relationship we were attempting to revive had already cast me in the part of obliging masochist (except in bed, where she insisted the roles be reversed) and her as the demanding, hard-to-satisfy sadist. I hated it. I balked every chance I got and whenever I attempted to abandon the part or the whole idea and suggest a new mode - whenever I stood up for myself - she got angry with me.
That's how it worked: I'd get mad, then she'd get angry at me for being mad, then the arguing would start then someone would get exasperated and stalk off and afterwards I could never recall what we argued about. Like a dog taking cues from the tone and timbre of his master's voice, I'd respond to how things felt; frustrating, pointless, upsetting, endless - not what was said. Each time we fought it took something out of me, made me less eager to see her again. I would avoid her for fear of what new unreasonable, unintelligible thing she'd say. What self-help bon mot would she regurgitate? What daffy new-age inspired belief would she utter? How many people could she compare herself to unfavorably? How many minutes would she spend beating herself up and insisting she was no good and a hopeless loser? How much later would she turn around and accuse me of exactly the same behavior she exhibited?
I asked myself over and over "Is it me? Or is it her? Is what she says about me true? How do I find out what I'm doing wrong here? How do I change my actions to ones that will make her happy?" No answers were forthcoming, least of all from her. The most she would do is let me know that whatever I was doing, it was wrong: "Just don't do what you're doing and everything will be okay." It was like trying to discover a secret no one really knows.
Toward the end we stuck to small talk. Whenever I'd try to go beyond that she'd clam up, change the subject, make a joke, move into another room. She didn't want me to know what she was up to, she wanted me to relax and enjoy our time together. She didn't feel I had the right to ask for anything more. She wouldn't provide me with the security I needed by saying something as simple as "You're my choice." I couldn't stand the open-end arrangement she wanted to continue (I also suspected she was seeing another man). I hung in there long after I felt I shouldn't be around.
We went along for a little bit without incident, from the 18th to the 24th (six days of actually being nice to each other) and then we fought again. On Christmas Eve.
I was house-sitting for friends off in Maryland. She came over around 11:30 PM. We exchanged gifts and kissed a little and then she wanted to go up to the bedroom. I had a few drinks under my belt - Wild Turkey for that Christmas feel - and everything felt okay, peaceful, languid, unhurried. But she wanted me upstairs and NOW. Soon she was pulling me on the bed and pulling off her pants and all I could think of were condoms (she doesn't use birth control, flat out refuses). And it made her very angry. I went hazily hunting up and down for the pack of Trojans I knew I had and finally found them in my laundry bag (?). By then she had lost all interest. I tried to make a joke of it, keep it light, make her see the humor. It didn't work. She stomped off to have a bath. After a few minutes I followed her. She wouldn't let me in the bathroom. She had locked the door. I went back to watch some TV and fell asleep on the couch after a few more drinks.
In the morning I went upstairs to slide in bed alongside her and try to make nice but she was still upset, still steaming about the night before. Eventually she calmed down and we made love but it was perfunctory and uninspired. We didn't see each other again for a few days and I felt the old tension coming to the surface. We were moving further away from that fantasy of coming together again. We were reverting to old patterns and there was nothing either of us could (or would) do about it.
It angers me that I was drawn in again, caught up in the endless cycle of recrimination, accusation, confrontation. Frustration brought on anger. The anger became a physical pain, my head throbbed and my stomach churned. Nothing I said mattered, it all went to the same place inside her head, the placed labeled "nonsense" where everything else I'd ever said had gone. It was pointless arguing with her. She would never concede a point once she took her position. She would never go down in defeat. She had her pride and her unshakable belief in her spiritual superiority (she used to refer to me as a "heathen", only half-joking). She felt she was far more enlightened, in touch with things unseen, in tune with deeper harmonies. I thought she was a little crazy. She'd meditate twice a day but it never seemed to calm her. During conversation, she'd bristle constantly, jump from one topic to another and was sometimes unable to focus on one thing long enough to make sense. I'd label her "manic-depressive" but (apparently) they call it "bi-polar disorder" now. She was a textbook example with her constant swinging between two overblown, overwrought caricatures of what it's like to be happy or sad (when she was happy she was VERY happy. When she was sad she was suicidal). There was no restraint in either position, no attempt at finding a middle ground or striving for a balance. Or even coming to an understanding of the problem.
I wanted to tell her so many times that what she needed was help, someone to talk to, maybe a drug to restore some imbalance but she would hear none of it. Besides her parents being Christian Scientists she had absolutely no faith in medicine and thought doctors were the worst sort of charlatans and thieves. She believed, like her parents, that sickness comes from within, that it is the mind wreaking havoc on the body and that there's no such thing as viruses or colds or stomachaches. I never tested the depth of her belief. I felt it had more to do with pleasing her parents or believing they must know best. I found it almost prehistoric and couldn't understand how a reasonably intelligent woman could deny the existence of even germs. I often thought she was kidding but then I'd tell her of some small bug I picked up from the office where I worked and she'd scoff and say, "You know I don't believe that".
Last year, when she had pneumonia, I dragged her to my doctor and insisted he see her without a physical. Later, when she felt strong and assured and on top of the world, she said, "I would have gotten better with or without him and his prescriptions". Much later, when she was especially down, she thanked me for showing concern and taking her. "No one has ever done that for me," she said. When she's not feeling loving it is all my fault, somehow. She insists, "You want me sad and angry. You're not happy unless I'm unhappy. You don't know how to experience happiness". But SHE is the one crying, saying "life sucks" and "I'm a loser and I might as well just shoot myself," etc. I hear again and again how she feels she's having a nervous breakdown. I see how it affects her actions and how irrational she can get. I wonder if it isn't just me getting everything wrong, interpreting the signs incorrectly. I feel so stupid all the time, so unable to bring her happiness, to make her love me or see why I love her. I want us to be together without all the bickering and petty squabbles but there's just too many problems between us and she doesn't seem to care anymore.
We finally busted up on New Year's Eve. The day started badly. She wanted to go shopping for a party dress and a clock. She was supposed to go my friend's New Year's Eve party with me but she still hadn't said for sure. We agreed to leave from my house at noon. I said I'd swap my parking space with her and I sat out in my car from noon to 12:20 with no sign of her. It was freezing cold outside and icy as hell and I thought maybe she had an accident. I went back in the house to see if she called. No. I went back out to the car, gave it another fifteen minutes, still nothing. I went back inside, checked the phone machine again. No message. I went to the bathroom and was pulling up my fly when I heard a car horn blasting out front, incessantly. She must've honked seven or eight times. Then a minute later the doorbell rang. And rang and rang and rang. She was leaning on the bell and when I finally got downstairs and pulled the door open she look stunned by my reaction: "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!"
"You never hear this bell," she matter-of-factly replied. I explained to her about sitting out in the car waiting for thirty-five minutes. She didn't seem impressed, mumbling an apology about being late and blaming it on not having a watch (she has several watches, she just doesn't wear any). She didn't want me to be upset with her, she wanted to wave it away with her hand. I was mad because I had originally suggested we meet at 1 PM. She felt it was too late and agreed when I suggested we leave at noon. It was her idea to leave earlier and she's showing up closer to one than noon. I could've stayed in bed later or had breakfast or done something else with my thirty-five minutes than wait around for her. But she really didn't want to hear it and tuned me out.
Then she offered to buy me breakfast. At her insistence we went to Burger King. I had a fish sandwich and a Coke. It was unbearably depressing, sitting there surrounded by carousing children, eating mystery fish and not knowing how to have a conversation with the person opposite me. What the hell could I possibly talk about that wouldn't set her off? I kept it innocuous and then we went shopping, first for the clock, then the dress.
When we got to "Annie Sez" I told her I'd like to stay in the car and read but she insisted I come in and help her pick something out. Once inside, she went scattershot across the store, checking every rack, pulling out the occasional blouse or dress or sweater. She'd ask my opinion, I'd offer it and she'd move on. I asked her how much she had to spend and she said "Twenty dollars." I told her I couldn't afford to buy her anything and it seemed to me that she should be looking at things under $20 (which is not what she was doing) and she seemed to become dejected and lost her taste for looking. She told me it was okay for me to wait out in the car and I was still reading when she came out ten minutes later.
Not a word was spoken on the ride home. I asked her if everything was okay and she offered "yes" but didn't mean it and when we got in the house another argument developed spontaneously out of nothing, like one of those cotton candy machines at the local carnival, spinning a pink mass out of empty space. She again insisted that I want her unhappy. I asked her if she could answer even a simple question like "Are you going to this New Year's Eve party with me or not?" and everything went downhill from there. Her inability to make up her mind was especially infuriating. Another minute and she stormed out on me, saying it would never work between us. She called an hour later, apologizing and asking if she could come to the party after all. I had begun to look forward to the idea of going alone when I heard myself asking her if she needed a ride or not and she answered that she was going to take a cab and meet me at the party around ten.
I went over to the party early, to help out with last minute things and have some Scotch. Around 9:15 the guests started arriving. I sat on a stool at the home bar and didn't wander away until 10:30 or so and there she was, in the next room with her sister-in-law, making small talk.
"How long have you been here?”
"Ten minutes or so."
I was a little miffed that she didn't come say "Hello" when she arrived but everything else she did that night indicated that she didn't really want people to know we were "together". She wasn't there for a kiss when midnight came. She stayed away from me all night, except when she'd accuse me of flirting with some girl named Cookie, whom I spoke to for nearly a minute at 11:30 and didn't see again for the rest of the night. She'd lean in my ear and say, "So, how's Cookie?" then walk away. She let some pony-tailed guy hit on her and get her champagne while I watched the whole thing and waited for her to indicate my presence. She got drunk and around 2:30 AM was headed for Tad's bathroom to vomit, I suppose, so I followed to see if she was okay. We got in the bathroom, closed the door and sat on the cold floor. She asked if Carl and Meg were still there and I said Meg had gone home. "By herself?" she asked. I explained that Carl had taken her home and then come back. She thought that was the greatest thing in the world and a smile spread over her lips. I've suspected for awhile that she has a thing for Carl so I asked if she wished she were Meg and she nodded "Yes". She realized what she had done and brushed it off, saying she was drunk but I was upset and left the bathroom. I put on my coat and left the party, too.
I called her the next day to see if she got home okay and she had. She got a ride with Carl. I told her what I thought of her actions at the party, she once again said she was drunk and told me she didn't want to discuss it. She begged off the phone and I haven't talked to her since then. And I don't plan to. The last year of my life has been all her. She's all I thought about and all I cared about from morning to night but now I have to stop. I don't want to be treated this way anymore. I know I have a bitter pill to swallow. It will be hard to put it behind me but someday it'll be another memory.
The 2016 WFMU Fundraising Marathon begins and runs until Sun., Mar. 20, ending with the infamous Hoof & Mouth Sinfonia Finale! Pledges of $75 or more to Aerial View get this year's limited-edition flip-top refillable lighter, with Chris T. illustration by Piersanti and graphics by Jack Taylor. JUST ANNOUNCED: Thanks to Fantagraphics, each week during the Marathon, one lucky pledger will get a copy of Underworld: From Hoboken To Hollywood, by Kaz!
Obligatory Throwback Pic
Me, July 4, 1987, Tenafly, NJ.
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