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.
Last week Aerial View presented excerpts from the 2010 Mermaid Parade. This week I'm thrilled to bring you the 2016 parade IN ITS ENTIRETY. That's right: over two hours of glorious stereo sound from Saturday's parade, including every moment of on mic commentary from yours truly, my co-MC Kay Sera and Chief Justice Mark Alhadeff.
Listen for all the vintage cars, marching groups, individual performers, floats, freaks, dancers, musicians, sea creatures and - of course - Permanently Unelected Mayor of Coney Island and Parade Founder Dick Zigun opening the beach for the summer swimming season, joined by this year's King Neptune and Queen Mermaid.
An extra-special moment was the Parade's first ever marriage proposal, as Bambi the Mermaid receives the biggest engagement ring you've ever seen!
I know, I know: the Mermaid Parade two years in a row? Well, I thought this year's parade was so amazing (as did the Daily Mail and the Guardian) that I though you should hear it. You're welcome.
Below are some pictures I took from the podium:
Father's Day on Facebook
Waking up to a Facebook feed full of pictures of someone else's Dad and utterly forgetting that today is that day. Father's Day. There's no part of me that can relate. I feel nothing but emptiness as friends and acquaintances go on about how wonderful their fathers are, how they wouldn't be the people they are without their Dads, how their fathers taught them everything they know about what it means to love and be loved, to be wise and kind, to be generous and gentle, etc., etc. "Thank you, Dad!' feels like an affront to me because those are words I can't ever hear myself saying. My father was a son-of-a-bitch.
I know: you probably think I'm being hyperbolic or simply forgetting his "good qualities". Maybe. Maybe if I reach back far enough, to when I was small enough to be cute I can recall feeling loved, wanted. But my earliest memories of him involve prosaic things like lying on my parent's bed after a bath, watching the TV show "Tarzan" with my Dad and brothers or taking long trips in the car to visit relatives, my father behind the wheel and in control, the way he liked it. My father was BIG into control. He was one of those people who believed there was a wrong way to do things and then there was his way. The messiness of childhood was not something he could endure. It might be because he had to be responsible at an early age, working as a messenger in New York City to bring in money for his family. Perhaps he resented his own childhood or maybe he was being loyal to his father and how he handled kids but my dad neither spared the rod nor spoiled the child. He believed in corporal punishment as theater, pulling our pants down in front of our brothers and sisters to deliver a spanking. When he wasn't hitting us he was using constant threats of physical violence to keep us in check. From a very early age I can remember thinking "Do not anger him." and I worked hard to not incur his wrath. Which was almost impossible. My father was an angry man. Could it be that he was married too young or had too many children? Or did he really believe - as he first told me in 1987 as I helped him and his third wife move from Massachusetts to Memphis - that he didn't believe he was my father and was convinced my mother had been cheating on him? Could his indifference to me all along be explained that simply? That every time he looked at me he thought "I'm forced to raise and pay for this child that isn't even mine because my wife is a slut."?
Prior to 1987 I thought my Dad didn't care for me because of my weight, that he was embarrassed by me. He was always fit, with a lean physique. Me? I was told endlessly that I looked like my mother's side of the family. "Doesn't he look like Uncle Vic?" Uncle Vic was a short fat guy, round of face. Post 1987, I went around thinking that the man who became my mother's boyfriend after my parents divorced was my actual Dad. When I finally got the courage to tell my mother about my father's theory she yelled "YOUR FATHER IS OUT OF HIS MIND!"
When my father left my mother I was 11 or 12, on the cusp of puberty and desperately in need of a male authority figure. Not to provide "authority" per se but to answer questions I had, to lead me through the shoals and keep me off the rocks of those horrific teenage years. But he was largely absent, except for the summer I was 13 and stayed with him and his second wife, Stephanie - who was approximately half his age. In a bid to help me lose weight, my Dad had signed me up for a day camp. Young People's Day Camp. Every day, a van would pick me up at his apartment in Westchester and take us to a local park, where I'd stand in right field of some baseball diamond, waiting for a softball that never came my way. I'd return in the afternoon and when my father got home from his job he'd ask what I did that day. "We played softball." Same thing we did the day before. After a week of this, he got on the phone and bitched out someone at Young People's Day Camp and the next day they took us to a pool to swim. It was a terrible summer because it was obvious Stephanie didn't want me there and I could barely interact with her without feeling deep shame, so I consoled myself with Mad magazine and the Revell and Monogram model kits I'd brought along. She finally threw a fit at my father, declaring that I was the most ungrateful child she'd ever known and that I didn't appreciate any of the effort she was making. I began crying and I n the deepest kindness my father had ever shown me, he told me to gather up my clothes, that we were staying in a motel for the night. After an hour of heated conversation behind a closed door, he relented and I retreated to my Harley-Davidson chopper model.
That was the last summer I remember my father spending any length of time with me apart from the rest of my brothers and sisters. He'd occasionally come to see us out on Long Island, usually in some cool two-door car like the cream-colored 1966 Mustang convertible with the red interior, the one that screamed "I'm no family man." With his salt and pepper hair, handlebar mustache and turtleneck he continued to turn female heads even as he toted his kids back and forth on outings that he began to increasingly resent. Years later he'd complain to me about how we never wanted to go anywhere with him, that he'd show up and some of us would beg out of going with him despite the trouble he'd been through arranging the time and the outing. When I asked my sister about this she had a different take. "We were teenagers and had friends we wanted to be with and places we wanted to go, rather than hanging out with a man we hardly knew who was only coming to see us out of some sense of obligation. He never asked us what we wanted to do. He always had something planned that he wanted to do and we just had to go along."
After the Young People's Day Camp summer I discovered the guitar and it became an obsession. I didn't care about much else. Not my father. Certainly not my mother, sitting on the couch night after night, getting bombed with the man my father thought was my actual father. Guzzling their Smirnoff Vodka and smoking endless Kools and Parliaments, yelling at each other across the living room, I'd retreat to my room, slap on my headphones and lose myself in "Physical Graffiti" or "Dark Side Of The Moon" or anything I could turn up loud enough to drown out their bellowing.
I went years without interaction with my father. He paid his child support and sometimes appear in our house, I'm not sure why. If he caught sight of me in my punk rock years with my shaved head, bleached jeans and military surplus jacket he'd consider me with pure disdain, lecturing me on why "That uniform you're wearing clearly tells everyone that you're rebelling and no one is going to want to know you or hire you for a job."
It wasn't until I was well into my twenties and had moved out of my mother's house and to New Jersey that I attempted to reestablish a connection with my father. A year later he asked me if I would help him move to Memphis and I roped my friend Kaz into coming along, the both of us thinking it would be a cheap way to get almost all the way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Kaz eventually tired of my father's rigid schedule (get up at first light, quick breakfast, get on the road, break for lunch, back on the road, drive until it's dark, dinner, hotel for the night) and the glacial pace of travel (we followed my father and his wife Karyn in their Ryder box truck with my father's Chevy conversion van and never once topped fifty miles an hour) that he bailed out before we got to Memphis. The final straw was the heated argument in Lebanon, Tennessee as we tried to convince my Dad to let us take his tiny Plymouth Horizon (being towed behind the Ryder truck) the few miles into Nashville so we could see the town, Kaz nor I having ever been. My father absolutely refused, convinced that we would get drunk and crash his car and ruin his plans. That's what led to my father and I sitting in the van in the rain, having a long, painful conversation that culminated in him telling stories of my mother poking holes in condoms, so Catholic she couldn't bear to use birth control. None of this jibed with my mother's oft-repeated refrain about how she "...never wanted all these kids" and how she'd get pregnant if my father so much as looked at her.
When we finally made Memphis, my father dropped me at the bus terminal and we said awkward goodbyes that lasted years. I rode a Greyhound to New Orleans, almost getting left behind somewhere in Alabama or Mississippi and arrived just time for Fat Tuesday.
In the 90's, inspired by my little sister's reconciliation with our father, I decided to reach out to him. I was in therapy for the first time, trying to work out my relationship to my parents, when it occurred to me my father was no longer part of my life. By now he had moved to Florida, giving up on Memphis, declaring its residents "too cheap" to spend money and support the cooking specialties store he and Karyn had opened. I flew down to Florida at some point, to visit the two of them in their gated Jupiter community, and again my father explained to me why he felt I wasn't his biological child but that he "...loved me anyway, like all the other kids." This was a love I never actually felt. My father went on to build a case for himself as the wronged parent, the one who wanted kids, the one who was forced out by a cold and unloving partner who no longer wanted him, the one alienated by children who had turned against him. He told me of his childhood, how he grew up feeling as though his mother (his father had died early) cherished another son and made it clear he was far from her favorite. How he didn't go to college like his brothers but went to work early to earn money. How he didn't have the things I had as a kid and how I took all those things for granted.
Years after Jupiter, when I got engaged and my fiancée thought about buying a house together, I reached out to family members, asking for help with a down-payment in lieu of any toasters or blenders or household items we already owned. My father shocked me by offering a generous amount (for him) of money to help us on our way. When the check finally came it was for substantially less, my Dad explaining that he thought he could do more but really couldn't. Prior to sending out the wedding invitations, my father called and eventually came around to his true intent: upbraiding me for asking him for money "...when you knew we couldn't afford it, that we're on fixed incomes." As if I twisted his arm. He went on to tell me that I had only reestablished a relationship with him for myself, that I had no real interest in him and - as usual - was just being selfish. He cryptically explained how I had no idea what it was like to stay with someone who was in ill health, that I was the type of person who would cut and run at the first show of trouble and that I better pray that my wife never got sick. He was in mid-sentence, raging at me, when I hung up the phone. I didn't know it at the time but Karyn, who was bipolar, had been put on a new medication and she had gotten progressively worse, her symptoms causing her to be agoraphobic, fearing that my father was leaving her every time he had to go out of the house. She became utterly dependent on him and just then his youngest, the one who wasn't even his, hit him up for some dough. Needless to say, we didn't invite him to the wedding.
My father and I didn't speak again until our first Christmas in the new house. He called my brother to say "Merry Christmas" and before I knew it, my brother was handing his phone to me.
"How are you, kiddo?"
I always hated when my dad called me "kiddo". Never "son", always "kiddo". We went back and forth for a minute, being polite for the sake of expediency, and I handed the phone back to my brother. The next time I heard word of my father it was the news of his death. He went a week after my brother, the one who put me on the phone with him the last time we spoke.
My father made a point of leaving nothing to his kids, no money, no belongings - nothing but a few bucks to my sister, his executrix. Whatever he had was left to Karyn, to see to her care. When Karyn passed recently, my sister called and said there was a bit of money that would pass on to her, our brother, myself and our nephew. It was a small windfall I hadn't expected and my father certainly hadn't intended. He just never amended his will. But there was one caveat. The wedding gift my father had generously given, then vociferously accused me of guilting him into, had been characterized in his will as a loan, to be paid back before any distribution of funds.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" was all I could blurt out when my sister imparted this information.
"I know, I know."
My sister said we would handle it, that she knew it wasn't a loan. I told her I'd dig out the letter my father included with the check, wishing me a happy marriage and saying he wished he could do more. I had dreams of also digging up my father and dragging him on to "Judge Judy" and proving that this "loan" was a gift he'd come to instantly regret. Because I wasn't his, supposedly.
When my mother died a few years ago, I decided to do a DNA test to see if some other man was actually my father. Secretly, I wished it was the case because the other guy was in failing health and had no children. He was someone who also held blue chip stock, who had property out in Montauk and who was going to leave a small fortune to his father's medical school. I had visions of visiting this man in his nursing home, telling him how I wasn't related to my father, wheedling out of him the story of how he seduced my mother around New Year's Eve 1961. After initially running the test with my sister, forgetting my 8th grade biology, I talked my first cousin into doing the test with me. It turned out we shared a male ancestor. My dad was my dad. All along.
When Father's Day rolls around I try to stay positive and think about the good qualities I got from my dad. But - honest to God - I can't tell you what those are. Everything I am - my sense of humor, my sarcasm, my quickness of mind - comes from my mother's side. I barely knew my dad's side of the family. I'm sure my ambivalence about him is the main reason I never became a father. If I can find my father anywhere in me, it's when I'm at my workbench, taking something broken apart, trying to make it work again. My father was a master at things with a motor. Anything with a heart, not so much.
If you had or have a dad who loved you, who cared for you, who helped you when you needed it, who didn't regret that help or resent you for asking, who guided you sagely through life, who embraced you as his own even if you weren't, happy Father's Day. The rest of us will see you tomorrow.
Beastie Chris T. Boys
No Sleep 'Til Aerial View Brooklyn
It Won't Be Long Now
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Obligatory Throwback Pic
Here's the "Go Cart" section of those Tsakis home movies I recently had digitized. Circa 1967, this clip shows everyone in my family except my sister Diana (who was likely shooting the footage) and brother Mar circling some Adirondack track. You'll see my brother Mario Jr. (RIP), my mother Joan (RIP), my sister Joanie (RIP) with attendant, myself on my brother Mario's lap and my father Mario (RIP).
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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.