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.
Today's show takes place in my home office (below), one of the most utilized rooms in my house. You'll get a tour of the place complete with my commentary. But wait, there's more: in a nod to the great Coen Brothers film Barton Fink, we'll also look into that other "home office", namely my mind. DON'T BE SCARED! It's really not that bad. We'll delve into my thinking on many subjects, WFMU and otherwise. In other words:
"I'll show you THE LIFE OF THE MIND!"
Click the above pic for a 22 minute Chris T. home office tour.
Last Week: Aerial View Archive 9/15/00
Last week'sAerial View Archive wasn't heard since it originally aired Sep. 15, 2000 and was never previously archived. It featured a conversation about the coming year 2001 and my fascination with the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
This is an excerpt from a work-in-progress, "Punk Rock Saved My Life".
Billy The Kid & Me
Where do you get that walk oh so lean? Your shirts and your shirts all just right.
Here's what's on my nightstand: How An Auto Engine Works: an illustrated guide to the THE VISIBLE V-8 ENGINE assembly kit (came with a recent birthday gift from one of the cutest girls I know); SHIFTING FORTUNES: The Perils of the Growing American Wealth Gap; the Smoky Mountains Knife Works catalog; Death in Midsummer and Other Stories (given to me by a soon-to-be ex-girlfriend); The Old Farmer's Almanac; UNFAIR ADVANTAGE: WORKERS' FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION; DARK HORSES and BLACK BEAUTIES; The Working Majority; the Victoria's Secret catalog; THE YEAR 1000; STALIN and THE LIFE AND WORK OF DENNIS POTTER.
I’ve skimmed the Smoky Mountain Knife Works catalog; some of Working Class Majority; some of UNFAIR ADVANTAGE and a little of all of the others. I actually read all of How An Auto Engine Works:. But it's barely a pamphlet. I can’t bring myself to delve into the other titles with any degree of commitment. I’m too fucking depressed and out of it. So I’m leafing through the Victoria’s Secret catalog. Again.
It's now just after nine and – so far – no call from Margaret. I’ve popped in disc two of Quadrophenia, an album I haven't heard in a very long time. I have it on vinyl but the surface noise is unbearable. My all-manual turntable is not playing too well. Probably needs a new cartridge. I don't have the time or patience to check into it. I found the CD on Ebay. It was $12, with shipping. I listened to it the other night, on headphones, and it was just so incredible. Pete Townsend is a fucking genius. The Who is one of the greatest bands of all time. This might be their best record. It is, to me. The really cool thing I never noticed before is you can hear Keith Moon on the drum tracks. With headphones on you notice him grunting, vocalizing, going AAAHHHH and URRRHHH. Poor old Keith. Poor old sod, eh?
When I was thirteen and just learning to play guitar, I met Billy – the kid who turned me onto The Who – through my best friend, Glen. Billy lived at the end of Glen's block, on the canal. He had two older, very cute sisters. Billy himself was not a handsome guy. He had a head like Frankenstein. Some of the kids used to call him that behind his back. He also had terrible acne.
One day, while I hung out with Glen after school, Billy came by. He had an SG with him. He’d just come from Music Land, where he tried to buy a case for the guitar. I turned him onto a Sam Ash store I knew of that might have the right case in stock. I’d been there a few months earlier when my saintly grandmother bought me an Ibanez Les Paul copy, white, gold trim, for my birthday. It cost $200, with the case.
I told Billy to ask for a salesman named Mick. He thanked me, saying he'd get his mother to drive him to Melville. Before he left, he said, “Do you want to get together and jam? I said, "Sure!" having never jammed before. About a week later I was in Billy's bedroom with my Ibanez and trusty Univox combo amp (tubes, fifty watts, two twelve-inch speakers). Billy’s family lived in a split-level on what was then the newest block in Lindenhurst. They had sewers and underground phone lines. Billy’s father – who had his own floor-tile business -kept a Boston Whaler with a Mercury outboard at their private dock out back.
I liked Billy’s house better than mine. Maybe it was the proximity to the water. My family lived on the South Shore too – but we were a few blocks from the water. Or was it that Billy had his own room and I still shared one with my weight-lifting brother, who hated my guts. It was probably that his house didn’t include any of my family.
I was wearing Converse sneakers, Levis and a black Led Zeppelin T-shirt from Jolly Joint in the back of the Home Decor at the Sunrise Mall. The design on the T-shirt was one of those prismatic transfers, glittering, in a very simple (unlicensed) design. I wore it like armor, imagining it somehow made me less of a dick. I thought it was enough to actually make me cool. And let everyone know Jimmy Page was my favorite guitar player, period.
Billy wore essentially the same outfit, with Frye boots and a Who “Maximum R & B” T-shirt. He plugged his SG (Deluxe, walnut finish, two mini-humbuckers with black plastic covers) into an Ampeg Reverb Rocket and said, "So you like Zeppelin?"
"Yeah." I played a little bit of Ramble On, one of the world’s easiest riffs. Billy smiled, then tossed off the opening of Pinball Wizard. There we were, riffing at each other. Then I joined him, aping as best as I could what he was doing on the fretboard. Within three or four passes I was right there with him.
Then Billy began playing the chords and singing. He had a pretty good voice, upper register, like Pete’s but adolescent. He strained a bit at the high notes but he knew all the words. I stood there, mirroring the chords, trying stay in time. A knock came at the door. Billy’s mother pushed the door open gently, stuck her head in and said, “Billy?” She was about thirty-eight, in good shape, attractive – I liked her. “Stop that for a minute,” she commanded. We stopped. “Dinner’s in fifteen minutes.”
“Can Chris stay?” Billy asked. He looked at me and added, “Do you want to eat dinner here?” All I could think to say was, “What are you having?”
“What are we having?” Billy asked his mother.
“Spaghetti and meatballs. Chris is welcome to stay, if he likes.” She stepped out of the room, closing the door gingerly behind her. Jesus… not all moms are as loud and angry as mine. I kept fiddling around on my Ibanez, doing whatever licks I knew.
“Do you want to stay?” Billy asked. “Ummm, maybe. I have to call my mom.” I answered, lying. My mother wasn’t even home. She was still at work. I just didn’t know if I wanted to sit with Billy’s father, a man who scared me almost as much as mine. But the house smelled good. And it was probably TV dinners again at home.
I was still trying to decide what to do when Billy asked, “Have you ever heard Quadrophenia?” I’d seen one of my older brother’s friends with the album. But I’d only heard pieces of it, through a closed door. “No” I said.
Billy slid the album out from a stack of records on the floor. He pulled one of the discs and passed the jacket to me. I opened the gatefold, leafed through the booklet and thought, What the hell is this? What’s with all these pictures? It looked exotic and mundane at the same time. Here’s this isolated figure, interacting with but not touching anyone. I especially liked the one of the kid asleep on his bed, with all the pictures of naked women on the wall.
Billy set the needle of his Garrard turntable down on the first cut. Waves crashing. A piano tinkling. An affected voice: “What the hell is he saying?” I think. More waves. Some far off singing: “Can you see the real me? Can ya? CAN YA?!” Then BOOM, a kick in the chest, high up bass notes, a razor guitar slashing. And the fucking DRUMS! What is this guy ON? Billy bobs his head, noodling along on his SG. He’s nowhere near playing the song.
The phone rings. I open my eyes and Billy is gone. I pull off my headphones, hit PAUSE and wait for the call-screening to kick in. My outgoing message plays and then I hear:
“Hello? You there? Pick up if you’re there.” It’s Jeff. I pick up.
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“What are you doing?”
“Lying on my bed, listening to Quadrophenia and thinking about Billy .”
“Really? What ever became of him?”
“I don’t know. I was nineteen the last time I saw him.”
“Yeah, you two were always together, man. You had that band, right?”
Jeff is one of my oldest, dearest friends. We’ve known each other since elementary school. Our first meeting was on the stairs, when I tripped him. I’d taken a huge dislike to him because he carried so many books and wore the ugiest vests you can imagine. When I stuck my foot out he went flying, books and all. I helped him up, feeling guilty. We’ve been friends ever since.
“What else is going on?” he asks.
“I’m trying to duck Margaret. I have to break up with her”
“Jesus! You haven’t done anything about that yet?!” “Jeff, I am so scared you have no fucking idea. I know it’s time to get out of this but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I feel so guilty…”
“Well, you have to do something. You haven’t been very happy with this whole thing…”
“I know, I know. But I keep wondering if it’s some defect in me. I can’t tell if this is another case of dumping a woman who wants me…”
“Or if it’s just not there. If there’s no spark.”
“Well, is there a spark?”
“I don’t feel one. I’m not having a good time. It feels like we’re some old married couple already and the fire’s gone out. I don’t fucking know. I just can’t bring myself to do what I have to.”
“Look, it’s going to be painful. But you haven’t said anything good about this girl.”
“Shit, it hasn’t all been bad. She actually likes me. Who the hell am I to turn my back on that? Doesn’t that count for something?”
“No, no – that’s very nice. But you can’t stay with her just because she likes you and is nice to you…”
“I know. Shit, this truly sucks. I hate this.”
“It’s never good, when the time comes.”
“I was at my shrink’s today and I told her I wanted to do it by e-mail…”
“E-mail!” He laughs. Sure, go ahead – be a total coward!” I laugh. “You think it would be evil?”
“Vic – come on! You do not do this by e-mail. And you don’t do it over the phone. Not if you’re a man.”
“Jesus, now I’m not even a man!”
“Not if you E-MAIL her!”
“You know, Matt said you’d be the one to talk to about this…”
Jeff laughs again, “He did? I guess I am.” Jeff has dumped more women than I will ever meet in my life.
“Yeah, he said ‘Talk to Jeff’. He also didn’t approve of the e-mail idea.”
“If you dump her by e-mail you are a total pussy.”
“Why do I have to do this face-to-face? It’s just going to be a bad scene. She’ll cry, I’ll feel like a shitheel. I have to do that in person?”
“Listen, the first time I broke up with Stacy I was with her all that night, all the next day and the next night TOO. She was a complete fucking mess, I couldn’t leave her like that. We even went for a little drive. She laughs about it now. She says she’s embarrassed about how she acted. Bu she fell to pieces. She says she would never do that again.”
“How did you do it? What did you say?”
“It was very hard. I told her the truth. I said ‘I don’t love you’.”
“Shit. You did? Shit! What did she say?”
“Whadda ya mean “What did she say?’ She started crying and didn’t stop for days. She was very upset.”
“At least I never told Margaret I loved her. I didn’t want to lie to her.”
“That’s good. I still haven’t told Stacy I love her. I said we’d take it day to day. We have a good time together. She’s very nice to me, puts up with my shit.”
“But what about the spark?”
“The spark?” He laughs again. “At this point in my life I’m not expecting any sparks. I’m just trying to have a good time. And we’re having a good time.”
“I’m not. I’m not having a good time with Margaret. She’s too wounded for me. She’s like a bruise.”
“What do you mean ‘a bruise’?”
“She’s like a walking bruise. She’s got ‘Don’t hurt me’ written all over her. I can’t take the way she looks at me sometimes.”
“With these big imploring eyes, like she’s saying, “I know I shouldn’t trust you. I know you’re going to let me down’. I can’t take it.”
“That doesn’t sound too good.”
“It’s painful. I just want to have a few laughs, have some nice sex. We’re not even having sex.”
“You’re not having sex? That’s bad.”
“I know, I fucking know. She keeps putting me off. She’s done the whole ‘I’m tired’ thing. You know, saying ‘I’m tired. I’m really tired’ before we even head off to bed. Which means ‘we’re not having sex tonight.”
“Yep, yep – that’s usually what it means.”
“She did this last Friday night. Then I thought we might do something in the morning. She actually said, ‘Maybe there’ll be a surprise in the morning’. I woke up feeling frisky – you know. And even though there’s no spark there she is lying next to me, soft, warm, naked – all the right parts. I get up to take a leak and when I come back, she’s getting dressed! That was the surprise!”
“Did you talk with her about this?”
“Jeff, I can’t talk to her. That’s another problem. We don’t talk. For some reason I’m afraid to. I’m afraid to upset her or something. She’s so fragile, with the migraines and the depression. It’s like I don’t want to add to her pain.”
“So you add to your own?”
“I know, I know – I was asking the shrink why I’m being such a martyr about this.”
“What did your shrink say?”
“She said I haven’t come to terms with the parts of me that are awful, that I want to be liked.”
“Yeah. She said I have a defective superego because I attack myself first. That I hate myself for having human feelings.”
“A defective superego? What the fuck is that?” Jeff laughs.
“I’m not totally sure. Internalized parental authority? The voice inside of you, saying what’s right and wrong for you.”
“And yours is defective?”
“I guess. I see what she means, kinda. I’ve been feeling so awful about this. And people get together and break up every fucking day. Maybe it’s because I haven’t done it all that much. I think my superego should be telling me ‘It’s okay – this goes on all the time’. But it’s doing the opposite. It has me more concerned for Margaret than for myself.”
“You have to watch after yourself. You can’t make anyone happy if you’re not happy.”
“Shit, I’ve heard that so many times and I’m still not sure if I believe it. Why can’t I be totally fucking miserable and make someone happy?”
“It doesn’t work that way.”
“So when are you going to do this?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want it lingering into the weekend, that’s all I know. I don’t want it dragging on. I want to make a quick, sharp cut.”
“Man, be prepared. You’re gonna be depressed for days.”
“I know. I can’t stay around here. I don’t want to. I have to try and get away this weekend. I’m going to try to get up to Vera’s house.”
“That sounds good. Get the hell out of town if you can.”
Then there was really nothing more to say. We made some small talk about mutual friends and said goodnight.
I put my headphones back on and pop in disc two. The fucking phone rings again. The call-screening kicks in and I listen as Margaret’s voice – unsure, tentative – comes over the speaker: “Umm, hi. Are you home? Hello? Hello? (a pause) Okay. Call me?” Then a click.
Is it me? For a moment?
The Rolling Chris T. Stones
2000 Light Years From Aerial View Home
Click the pic above to see me sing "Troglodyte" at the Marathon Finale.
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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.