Sunday, September 15, 2013

Good Morning Jessicca...

Letter to my Daughter
Sunday, 15 September

Palace Bar

Good Morning Jessicca…

Rod Stewart sang the number one song of 1977, just in case you were wondering – Tonight’s the Night (Gonna be Alright).  It’s thirty-six years ago so you wouldn’t remember it.  I barely do.  The Eagles sang Hotel California that year.  Jimmy Buffett made a name for himself with Margaritaville.  I was working the morning shift at KYCA radio in Prescott, Arizona that year and living in a converted laundry room at a trailer park that bordered the town’s Whiskey Row.  Its oldest establishment, the Palace Bar, celebrated its first 100 years of existence in 1977.  On the night of its official birthday that year, a country group named the Wilburn Brothers entertained anyone willing to go out into that cold December night air and pay nine dollars at the door.  Prescott is a mile high mountain town and the temperature was sixteen degrees that evening, as I remember.  I had switched to working evenings by the night of the big celebration and I always walked to and from work because I didn’t have a car.  KYCA was a green stucco building next to its transmitting tower in a field beyond the railroad tracks.  At the time you could say this marked the edge of town. 

There were two cats that called the radio station home.  The duties of my evening shift, besides playing the Top 40 hits of the day, included feeding the cats and vacuuming the carpet.  Lou Silverstein owned the station back then and he often did live remotes from places like local car lots.  His on-air name was Lou Magillicutty.  His wife, Nancy, did the shift starting at ten in the morning.  It was a real Mom and Pop operation and you had to stay on top of things to keep the station going.  After all, the entire town was only 15,000 back then, not counting the local Indians living on the nearby Yavapai reservation. 

A guy named Steve did news and sports for the station.  It was an old cowboy town and there wasn’t always much to report.  I remember one morning Steve led with the story that someone had taken a power mower out of the pickup truck of Ed Somebody-or-other.  He’d parked the truck overnight on an off-street near the town square and, wouldn’t you know it, someone stole his damn mower.  Naturally he called the police and described to them the purloined article, just in case they might run across someone using it while they cruised about the town in their squad car.  Chances are, though, it’s rusting somewhere in the desert among a scattering of empty beer cans.  As I remember, there wasn’t a big need for mowers in Prescott back then.

I know the movie Rocky came out in 1976 but I think you could still see it at our local theater in 1977.  At least its theme song, Gonna Fly Now, was one of the hits of 1977.  Bill Conti’s rousing instrumental wasn’t big with me and I tended to ignore it.  I preferred playing music like Foreigner’s Cold as Ice.  I don’t think it really mattered what I played.  I had the feeling no one was listening, anyway… not even Lou and Nancy.  As a matter of fact, I don’t remember having any commercials during my shift.  I was strictly a public service, sort of.  I fed the cats and did all my vacuuming in the space of a four minute song.  Around eleven at night I said, “Good Night”, shut down the transmitter and turned out the lights.  It seemed to me during those walks home that the stars’ light was somehow more precise on the coldest of winter nights. 

One other thing about 1977 – the satellite Voyager 1 was launched.  It was announced this week that the spacecraft has finally gone beyond our solar system and is now traveling in interstellar space.  In 40,000 years time it will be closer to the next nearest star than it will be to our sun.  Imagine that.  Who will be around to remember by then?  In 40,000 years the cows will have learned to count to ten.  They might give it a thought.


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