spin the dial
Last night, I sat in my kitchen and spun the dial on my shortwave radio, trying to find a numbers station (the Spooks mailing list and rec.radio.shortwave both said that E10 had been loud and clear on 6930 over the weekend and I missed it) when I came across a really cool little tune. It sounded like something I'd heard years ago from Voice of Russia, or Deutsche Welle. Though I was really hoping to hear a different tune, (like The Lincolnshire Poacher or Cherry Red), I left my radio tuned to that frequency and imagined that it originated in some obscure station on the other side of the globe . . . because that's why I listen to SW: there's something undeniably romantic and mysterious and wonderful about tuning in a broadcast from thousands of miles away. I don't know many people who listen to SW, and I don't personally know a single DXer, so I feel like I'm part of something that's sort of below the radar (er, via the ionosphere.)
Anyway, the song continued for several minutes, and I still couldn't figure out what it was. I don't have a current WRTH and I didn't want to walk all the way to my office to google the frequency, so I just listened. When the song ended, a woman's voice came on . . . and all my romantic images were shattered. It turns out I was listening to Los Angeles wacko Dr. Gene Scott's SW broadcast. The woman announced that Dr. Scott had died earlier in the day, and urged listeners to get to the phones and send in their money. After a minute or so of this, the tune started up again.
Yeah. The cool music I'd imagined coming from some former Eastern Bloc country was actually coming from my own city, from a guy who was part of the background noise of my childhood.
For those of you who didn't grow up in LA, Gene Scott was a staple of UHF television. He was a televangelist, who (in)famously rambled for up to twelve hours at a time, about all sorts of crazy shit. The camera often framed him from the chin to the top of his ever-present Indiana Jones hat, giving him this look that was equal parts creepy and kind of cool. As far as hucksters go, he's no Robert Tilton, but for pure entertainment value, not even Wally George could beat this guy. You damn kids today probably don't watch UHF television, but when I was a kid, my friends and I would stay up late at night and watch this guy through the static on channel 56 or 62 or whatever, and just wonder what the hell was going on.
The freaky thing is, just a few days ago I wondered aloud when Gene Scott was finally going to shuffle off this mortal coil. Which brings me to the moral of this story: my thoughts control the future, so watch ouut.
Or maybe a better moral is: even if you don't find the numbers station you're looking for, spinning the dial in your kitchen is a good way to spend an evening.
. . . and that's not a euphemism.