Monday, January 22, 2018


Last week, I had to say goodbye to a dear old friend.  He was more than that, really - he was one of my children.  My dog Ringo died of renal failure at the age of fifteen.  He had a wonderful life, & was a wonderful creature, & my life is so poorer for his passing but so much richer for his presence in it for the time we had him.

He was technically the first dog I've ever owned.  My wife Magda, when she was my girlfriend, brought her dog George into our relationship.  My family had had a dog in my teen years but he wasn't really mine.  As my wife reminds me, I paid for Ringo to be ours.  The circumstances were this:

In the summer of 2004, my girlfriend Magda went to New York City to work to make money because she was a graduate student & then as now they don't make much money.  I was left alone with her dog George & my two cats, Buster & Beatrice.  While in New York, Magda browsed the web for what she called "beagle porn": adoption websites.  She found a fellow named Grady at Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue with whom she fell madly in love.  A picture & a story & Grady won her heart.

Grady had been mistreated by people who kept pit bulls they trained to fight.  Grady was apparently used as a "bait dog" for the pit bulls & in one unfortunate circumstance, Grady's left eye was ripped from its socket.  They were able to reattach it, but it probably didn't work for the rest of his life.  (Veterinarians often told us he might see "shapes" or "light.")  The eye was something of a conversation piece - we were often asked "what happened to his eye???"

You can see his eye in this picture from 2014:

When Magda returned from New York, she wanted us to adopt Grady, & so I procured him from the group & he arrived at our house in August of 2004.  We called him our "love child," since he was the expression of my love for Magda.  But I didn't like the name Grady - it reminded me too much of the gross fried southern food chain Grandy's - & since we already had a George, I figured we could use a Ringo.  I don't recall if he took to the name at first, but I do recall he appeared in the house & proceeded to run around for a full day, while George barked at him, for a full day.  Magda reminded me that he took a shit in the middle of our living room floor - the only time he ever did that until he got sick in old age - but he would make more of a mess when it came to food.

Beagles love food.  They will eat until they're delightfully morbidly obese.  We do our best to make sure our animals aren't too unhealthily fat, but they will eat anything & everything.  Ringo proved to be an expert at getting into things & eating too much.  (His brother George was, as well, but Ringo took it to a new level.)  He broke into our pantry & stole kibble, he knocked over a deep fryer & ate oil, he ate dried beans, flour, anything.  He once ate one & a half bags of Costco tortilla chips.

One time, when I was setting up to deejay at a Lion's Club that had been rented for a friend's birthday, Ringo & George spent some time licking up the animal fat that was on the concrete under a barbecue smoker.  Ringo got so sick - well, he got pancreatitis - that he was in the hospital for a couple of days, & it almost killed him.

Another time, he almost killed everyone in the house.  This was in our first year in Lexington, after Magda had gone to pick me up from a WRFL meeting.  She had made some sweet potatoes for burritos, & they were cooling, mashed, in a pot on the stove.  Ringo used the door of the stove as a kind of springboard to get on top of the stove, eat the sweet potatoes, & generally make a mess.  The trouble was, it was a gas stove, & he accidentally turned it on as he was getting up there.  Had we not returned as soon as we did, he might've gassed the entire household.

If you had met Ringo in his later years, you might scoff at such a determined & active dog - Ringo certainly knew how to conserve energy.  But Magda took him & George for long walks at the Greenbelt in Austin where she'd let them off leash & they'd go running, looking for food & fun (mainly food).  Magda tells me that late in the walk she'd often hear a plaintive bark - Ringo's - & Magda would call his name.  He would then come running.  The truth is, though I had gotten Ringo for Magda, he would turn out to be the best gift we could've gotten for George.  They became fast friends, partners in crime, & sleeping buddies.  I used to think they were closer than Magda & I were!

Ringo was just so easygoing.  Soon enough there was another cat, Bolan, who was attached to him from the get-go (in general all the cats have tried, & failed, to be Ringo's best friend).

Then there was little beagle Winston, who had many issues, & who wanted so badly to be George's number two.  (One of the saddest things about Ringo's absence is that Winston was very kind to him in his illness, & encouraged him to go outside when he did.  Winston lately looks around when I let him out as if to find Ringo to take bring him along.)

In West Virginia, we adopted Bronte.  In Lexington, it was Boone, & after George's death, Pauline, & after my sister Pat's death, Yoko.  Ringo had no complaints.  He was always a good traveler, even after surviving a car accident with his mom & brother that left the car totaled on I-10 outside Van Horn, Texas.  He was always a good eater, even though this past year he slowed down, chewing rather than inhaling his food.  & he was a good cuddler, usually at his mother's side on the sofa in the evenings, & sometimes in bed with her, always closer to her than to me.

When I lived in Austin, I was quite busy, work in the day, a KOOP meeting at night or on weekends, & so I didn't really get to know Ringo too well until we moved away.  Pretty much every day since the summer of 2009 I have spent with him, & I'd like to think he came to like me, if not love me.  Certainly I walked him, although if Magda were around, he'd walk with her, & certainly I fed him (& the others).  Plus I give way more treats to the animals than she does.  Here's another thing: if I were back in my room or somewhere else in the house, & he needed to go out, he would bypass Magda (even if she were right there) to come find me.  He knew she was less likely to get up off the couch than I was to walk the length of the house to let him out.  He had me pretty well trained.

Ringo was a stingy kisser.  I think the last time he kissed me he did so by accident.  He wasn't a howler like some beagles are but he did have quite the voice.  He wasn't aggressive, & had very little interest in other dogs, & didn't care in general about issues of dominance, although occasionally the odd dog would push his buttons.  He didn't mind being George's second-in-command, & after George was gone, he didn't mind letting Winston pretend he was the most important.

He got less spazzy as he aged, like we all do.  He used to have a very distinctive walk, which we called, "slow-slow-slow-quick-quick-slow": he'd amble a bit, then speed up slightly, then return to the amble.  Like I said, always conserving energy.

Ringo traveled with us to California & back, he moved from Austin to Huntington to Lexington to Fort Worth.  He visited Georgia & North Carolina & Ohio & Tennessee, among other places.  He loved Texas, though.  On our first return to the state after leaving, at a stop in Texarkana, he got out & just rolled on the Texas grass.  He was doing that outside our house days before he died.

& yeah, death.  At some point last year, on a vet visit, we discovered he was in renal failure.  We adjusted his diet & watched him, but of course there's no cure.  Although we did toy with the ideas of an organ transplant (though Ringo may have been too old to survive such an operation, which has about a 40% acceptance rate) & even dialysis, we didn't want to complicate things for a creature of about fifteen years of age.  He seemed to hold steady for a while, but the end came quickly.  He traveled with us to Austin at the end of last year, & two days after that stopped eating his regular food.  The next fortnight we tried so many foods to get him to eat, but more & more his condition made it hard for him to find anything acceptable to eat.  & how tragic an end for a beagle who loved food more than anything.

Here's one of the last pictures I took of him:

In his old age, he had lost most of his hearing, but he could see all right.  He had suffered a bout of Old Dog Vestibular Disease last February or March & remained a bit wobbly, but he was walking with us up until two weeks before he died (though he walked a shorter route than the others for the last few months).  He loved his routine, he woke around 9am, went outside, took his place on the big circular pillow he loved to sleep on (or on the sofa), but when he went for a treat, he didn't want them, & his breakfast & dinner went uneaten.

Was he in pain?  Our vet says no, but Magda talked to people who had helped humans who went through renal failure & they do report pain.  Ringo didn't complain at all, he remained soft - he was quite frankly the softest-furred dog in the world - & endured my embraces & kisses to the end.  We just kept hearing people say things about his "quality of life," & we knew a beagle that is not eating has no quality of life to speak of.

Ringo Starr Muchlinski - often fondly called "Ringo Pants" - died in the early afternoon on January 14, 2018.  He hasn't really gone, of course.  I've dreamt about him almost every night in the past week, & I look for him, like Winston does, when I wander around this colder & emptier house.  I hope we were able to give him a good life, I hope he knew how much we loved him & how much we gave him beyond meals & treats.  & I am going to celebrate him with a radio show this week.

People who've never had the love of a dog - people who imagine they're just animals & treat them somewhat different or even meaner than their fellow humans - they won't understand what a loss this is.  Ringo was sweet, sometimes kind, often ridiculous, always adorable, always hungry, always sleepy, always ready to go for a walk, to go to bed, to wake up, to bark happily when you got home & to bark grumpily when you wouldn't let him back in.  He endured walks in rain, on ice, in snow.  He got to run free from time-to-time, where he'd roll in dead things & feces & return happily smelling like all manner of filth.  He got into trouble but I don't remember him being as guilty as the others.  He had a beautiful face - his eyes looked like they were lined with mascara, so we joked he was a goth who wrote sad poetry - & bunny-soft fur & an expressive tail that often betrayed his neutral beagle demeanor.

It's quite cruel that these animals who can mean so much more to us than humans have such short lifespans compared to ours.  I would've gladly traded places with him so he could be on earth much longer.  As it is, he lives in my heart, the ridiculous Ringo Pants, our love child, the beagliest beagle we have known.  I of course don't believe in anything supernatural but right now I think I believe there's a place where dogs go after they die & Ringo is there with George & the two of them are running around, fucking shit up, & having the best time.

I miss you, my sweet child, my sweet friend.  Thank you for sharing so much of your precious life with me.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

This Week's Show

(Image from here.)

This week's theme changed because of something sad that happened, something I thought I could write about today, but I was extra-procrastinatory (I'm sure that's a word) which signaled to me that I needed to give myself a little more time.  Let's try tomorrow.

& by the way, sorry about the weird graphic, it sort of implies there'll be some kind of change to Self Help Radio & that's not what's happening.  I was just trying to think of something that would serve as a placeholder while I made a lame but heartfelt excuse.  & frankly I'm just too exhausted & sorry to change it right now.  Or look for a better graphic.

But tomorrow.  Tomorrow, it will all be made clear.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Self Help Radio 011718: 1982

(Most covers found on Discogs, but some on Allmusic & some on Wikipedia.)

I wonder if you find the music of 1982 as breathtakingly good as I do.  I cannot get over how excellent it was.  & I left so much out.  While I was making this show, I gathered about 120 songs from 120 releases from the year for me to choose from.  That was a hell of a choice.  I think it will get harder, frankly, as the eighties wear on.  I'm not someone who believes the best music was made in the past, but I do know I began to truly love music in the 1980s.  Some parts of me still listen to music in that way - it's why I still focus mainly on indie rock, postpunk, & the like - but of course as one gets older, one changes how one does everything.  I'll just say this: every one of the songs I played sets something in me on fire.  I sang along to this entire show.  I know these songs by heart because they live in my heart.

Anyway, enough gushing.  The show is now here.  You'll need a username - SHR - & a password - selfhelp - to listen.  The show is in two glorious parts, & what songs are played in each part is listed below.  Don't worry!  Ronald Reagan & Margaret Thatcher can't hurt you anymore!  Just the policies they championed.  That's the reason the world's in the shitty situation it is now.

(part one)

"Temptation (7" Mix)" New Order _Temptation_
"Falling & Laughing" Orange Juice _You Can't Hide Your Love Forever_

"The Classical" The Fall _Hex Enduction Hour_
"In Shreds" The Chameleons _In Shreds_
"Alice" The Sisters Of Mercy _Alice_
"Wax & Wane" Cocteau Twins _Garlands_

"Human Hands" Elvis Costello & The Attractions _Imperial Bedroom_
"More Than This" Roxy Music _Avalon_
"Walking On A Wire" Richard & Linda Thompson _Shoot Out The Lights_
"Suspended In Gaffa" Kate Bush _The Dreaming_
"Love --> Building On Fire" Talking Heads _The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads_

(part two)

"Big Jesus Trash Can" The Birthday Party _Junkyard_
"Blue Spark" X _Under The Big Black Sun_
"Weatherbox" Mission Of Burma _Vs._
"Ghetto Defendant" The Clash _Combat Rock_

"All We Ever Wanted Was Everything" Bauhaus _The Sky's Gone Out_
"Cold" The Cure _Pornography_
"Forever Now" Psychedelic Furs _Forever Now_
"Life On The Line" Fad Gadget _Under The Flag_
"Painting By Numbers" Television Personalities _Mummy Your Not Watching Me_

"I Melt With You (7" Mix)" Modern English _After The Snow_
"Come On Eileen" Dexy's Midnight Runners _Too-Rye-Ay_
"Our House" Madness _The Rise & Fall_

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Whither 1982?

(Image from here.)

It's very simple.  (When I write that, I hear it in my head in Bob Dorough's voice.)  In the first year of this show, around or on my birthday (which is January 20), I decided I would "celebrate" my birthday by playing music from the year of my birth, 1968.  When the next birthday rolled around, I decided I'd go to 1969.  & so on, & so on.  I have a birthday on Saturday.  We're up to 1982.

So!  Tonight's show will be my favorite music from 1982.  Not necessarily the music I liked best in 1982, although we're close to the point in time where I was starting to actively seek out new music, but definitely music from 1982 that I truly love now & have listened to at some point between then & now.

The show is on tonight from 8-10pm central, 9-11pm eastern on WLXU in Lexington - that's at 93.9 fm - & everywhere at LCR online.  Listen & compare your faves from 1982.  Because I know you've got a list.  C'mon.  You've got a list.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Preface To 1982: Age Fourteen

On January 20, 1982, I turned fourteen years old.  I wouldn't say I was a happy kid, but I wasn't necessarily a sad one, either.  The family was poor, I lived in a pretty lower-class apartment complex called Villa Cordoba, & I knew it was a sketchy place to live not because I had any sense of such things but because two adults let me know: my mom once asked me, "Are you ashamed of the place where you live?" alerting me to the idea that I might be ashamed of the place where I lived, & one of the teachers who was the supervisor for the yearbook, on which I worked, made a weird face when I told her I lived at the apartment cater-corner from the school.  "You live there?" she said, like I had admitted I mainly lived in ooze & detritus.

The family had lived in Villa Cordoba since I was in fourth grade, but in three different apartments, whose numbers I remember.  They were, in order, 27, 18, & 48.  18 was the biggest apartment, which had three bedrooms, because my sister Karin was old enough then to have her own room.  But she grew up & moved out, & the last couple of years we lived in apartment 48, which was in the front of the complex, looking out onto Fifth Street, with the bedroom I shared with my little brother overlooking the manager's office in the middle of the complex.

That last year we lived there, things had somewhat changed.  So many of the people who had been my friends had moved away, as apartment denizens, especially in the suburbs, don't tend to stay for long.  (I had in fact lived in four different apartment complexes since I was four.)  As well, the age of the kids around me had dropped, to around an average of ten, & I had nothing in common with them. My brother Chris & I, we're about a year apart in age, we were quickly growing apart - he was more into sports, I was more into comic books & music like the Beatles.  I remember a feeling of loneliness in the place where once, I felt, there had been so many people I could see, play with, hang out with.  It didn't help of course that once puberty hit, girls tended to segregate themselves.  I seem to recall only the manager's daughter, a girl named Samantha, would talk to me, but usually only to insult me.

My mother had previously worked at a convenience store owned by an old man named Fred from whom she stole a lot.  We always had many different kinds of junk food & other amenities in the house because Fred either didn't know or didn't care (I suspect he was involved in his own shady dealings) that his employees stole from him.  Like, when I would go up to the store, & Fred wasn't there, my mom would give us soda & chips & would let me take any comic I wanted off the rack.  At the time, I thought it was a perk of the job.  It wasn't.

Fred sold the store, probably in early 1981, & my mother got a job at a local drugstore, at which she probably earned just enough to pay rent & keep us fed.  That job was not a job at which she could steal, & our refrigerator showed it - I don't think we had soda for months.  My mother had a boyfriend, named Ed, who was universally disliked by the family, but I think he helped out.  He moved in just three doors down from us, & his apartment, which was like the worthless leftovers from a ransacked antique shop mixed with a slightly skewed idea of a Playboy-level bachelor pad, was endlessly fascinating to me.  He had taken a mirror & broke it - not smashed - he made sure there were long shards - which he pasted onto some kind of board, which he had up on his wall.  He gave one of these creations to my mother, who refused to have it in the house - she was very superstitious & she knew Ed would catch hell for that whole "breaking a mirror" thing.

At some point between the summer of 1981 & the beginning of 1982, my mother's fortune's changed.  Fred had purchased another convenience store, called the Time Saver.  I was near where I had lived before fourth grade, on Kingsley Road, in-between Garland Road & Saturn Road, & I remember walking to the store somewhere around that time through a big vacant lot with my father, who was picking up pecans & cracking them with his hands.  He had taken us there to buy us soda.  & now Fred wanted my mother to come work there for him.

But Fred decided soon enough he was too old to get back into that biz, & wonder of wonders, Ed decided he would purchase the store.  He figured my mother knew how to run it, & how hard could it be?  They renovated - they laid the store out much like my mother's old place at Orchard Hills (which by the way was barely a half mile east on Kingsley) & I think even installed a deli.  My mother seemed to feel the need to sell the place to me & my little brother, telling us that they'd make an area in the back for us to do homework & things like that.  Whatever was going on there, certainly nothing like that materialized - why in the world would we want to go to a convenience store to hang out after school?  Anyway, my mother tended to work mornings & Ed at nights - which probably suited her fine.  She nowadays likes to laugh about how she "used" him, but even then I don't think anyone thought she was all that fond of him.

Which makes the next decision even weirder: that summer we moved out of Villa Cordoba & into a rented house with him.  With Ed.  It was the first house I could remember living in (I had apparently lived in one when I was a baby) & even better, I got my own room, the walls of which I promptly covered with comic book posters I had been collecting for many years now.

The house - which did have age-appropriate children living in the neighborhood, although we weren't there long enough to make friends - was further away from my high school than the apartments (I could've walked to my high school from Villa Cordoba) & my mother did not want me taking the bus (she had heard of horrible things happening on buses, you see), so when school started I immediately had problems getting there.  My mother enlisted family members, & my first day of high school (& much of the first month) I was dropped off at a donut shop across the street by my sister-in-law Julie I believe at around 6:30, & played video games until the school started letting people in an hour later.

Things at the house were odd.  Ed was a strange man, a tall, grizzled, skeletal figure who enjoyed walking around late at night naked.  He & my little brother did not get along, & soon enough Chris was spending most of his time at my sister Pat's house.  Many times I was the only human there, Mom & Ed at the store, Chris at Pat's, my only companion an old mutt named Kalijah who had been my brother Ralph's dog but had been adopted by my mother when Ralph couldn't or wouldn't take care of him.  I don't have a picture of my bedroom on Mayfield, I don't have a picture of the Time Saver from the outside (it was torn down by the folks who bought it from Ed), but I do have a picture of Kalijah, from a few years later:

Kalijah did not like me, & I didn't know how to make him like me.  He was fond of my mother, because she fed him, & let him out when he needed to go out, &, as the picture shows, she let him sleep on her bed.

Boy did I like having my own room, & I liked that the place was closer to my comic book store.  Here's something that's true: I could ride my bike to the comic book store from my house & never once touch my handlebars.  It was all downhill.  I couldn't do it the other way around.

But I was very far from school, & if I had to stay late, I would have to walk home, which was about two miles.  For a short time, I got a ride with my friend Scott & his mom (I talked about him yesterday) & my sister Pat would meet us outside the Braum's next to the school after classes were done, & she'd give both me & him a ride home.  But Pat at the time was pregnant with my nephew, & eventually she had to stop driving.  So eventually Scott's mom stopped giving me rides to school.

This is already way too long but I want to say that I think it was in ninth grade I became friends with a fellow named Mike Jones, who became our school's valedictorian.  We were never anything but school-friends, although we did play D&D together briefly, thanks to Scott, & I only saw him once after graduation, & it was pretty obvious we had very little in common.

& I was teased a bit in school because I was a nerd - girls in my first period algebra class didn't like my video game tee shirts, for example, but I was never picked on, never beaten up, never really noticed by mean upper classmen, mainly because I wasn't in sports, or band, or whatever.  My brothers had told me that would happen to me & I confess I was a little baffled why it didn't - though also I was very happy too.

My father was an alcoholic - it's why his marriage with my mother ended - & it turns out Ed was too. My mother could sure pick 'em!  So by the end of the year, we were no longer living in that house on Mayfield.  I'm not sure if we moved out at the end of the year or before or after, but it seems a good stopping place, as that's when 1982 ended.

One thing about 1982 that's important to my radio show: my friend Russell made me a David Bowie tape that year.  I think I still have it somewhere - whether it plays or not, that's questionable - but it opened my ears to sounds other than that which we now call classic rock on the radio.  Plus, he & his friend Lee, with whom I sat during lunch for a time, they talked a lot about a guy named Elvis Costello, & it wasn't too long before I found some of his records (in cassette form) in a bargain bin at a mall record shop.  The Gary who would become the Gary who has a radio show called Self Help Radio was just beginning to form in 1982.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Where Were You In 1982?

Because I was in Garland, Texas, the entire damn year.

When 1982 began, I was in eighth grade, my last year of middle school.  I enjoyed it somewhat, although there were some downsides.  My friend Scott would come over to my apartment when his mom dropped him off at the school, since I lived in an apartment complex right next to the school, &
we'd watch cartoons until 8 & run to school.  We had our first period together, which was Earth Science, & we sat at the same table, & we were late so much we got detention together.

Scott was the first friend I ever made who liked me as me, & who didn't care to be friends with my little brother.  This did not make my little brother happy, but he & I were growing apart anyway.  Scott shared my interest in comics, in sci-fi, in gory stuff.  We made fun of nuclear war, probably out of fear we'd die in one.  He would introduce me to D&D.  He my first true best friend.  Here's what a mensch he was:

Sometime around the end of the school year, we were all to go to an assembly in the lunch room where a group of singing high schoolers (coming from my future school, South Garland High) were to sing to us.  I used to remember the name of the group, something corny, but I don't recall now.  Anyway, my last class, seventh period, was a math class, & my teacher liked me, I had a high A, & on that day I was not feeling well.  I had a headache & a stomach ache & the last thing I wanted to do was to sit with everyone in a hot, cramped auditorium (they made us sit on the floor) & listen to people sing songs I knew I was going to hate.  I begged my teacher to let me just stay in the classroom alone with my head on the table.  I even said, "I'm a good student, you know I won't leave until the bell."  She said no.

& boy, did I hate those singers.  First of all, most of the music was religious.  I was never raised in any particular religion, & my mother's love of superstition had cured me of that kind of belief system, & my love of science made me deeply disinterested in any religious stuff.  But add that I didn't feel well, that I didn't want to be there, & that I was resentful that my teacher didn't trust me to just chill in the classroom, well, it all became too much.  I sat there with Scott while he mocked them but I just seethed.  At the end of the show, while everyone else was applauding, I just decided to boo.  & not only did I boo, I booed loudly.  & Scott joined in.  & of course other ne'er-do-wells in the crowd booed.  I sometimes wonder if I felt bad for the high schoolers, but truly they were awful.  It was 1982 & they were putting on a show that would've been corny in 1962.

The booing did not make me feel better.  & my American History teacher, a woman who I adored & who liked me, saw me instigate the boos & took me aside & told me to go to see the Principal in the morning.  She was so disappointed in me.

Did Mrs. Lane ask Scott to go too?  I guess I thought she did, but I don't know.  There he was at 7:30 with me, at the Principal's Office, where I was marched in & sat down & asked if I knew what I did was rude (I did) & what sort of punishment I thought I should get (not licks! not licks!).

Oh yes, the punishment was going to be physical violence.  I should point out that my mother never spanked me, that she controlled me & my siblings with fear, so I had never really had a paddle to my posterior.  Scott had - he told me he got licks all the time back in Illinois, & they were no big deal - you should've seen him, he was as defiant as I was terrified.  I don't remember how many licks I got, or even why they're called licks, which sounds fucking stupid, but I remember that they didn't hurt so much surprise me.  Again, no one had ever done that to me before (& no one has since).  Tears came to my eyes but Scott laughed them off.  "Told you it was nothing," he said, as we went out to wait for classes to begin.

Scott was fun to be around & I liked him a lot.  & after eighth grade, something happened that made me stop being his friend for the entire summer.  What could that have been?

Enter my older brothers, Ralph & Steve.  At some point in the early summer, they thought it was their brotherly duty to make me absolutely terrified of high school.  They described hazing incidents, like being "trashed," which meant someone put you into a trash can head first, & of course beatings, fist fights, being cornered in the rest room & your face being put in the toilet.  They implied any number of painful humiliations which I did not want to happen.  I don't know if my brothers told me this more than once (& I'm sorry that I never asked them about their own experiences because how shitty must their high school experiences have been), but one thing they made clear was that my friend Scott, oh man, he was such a nerd that just associating with him was going to get me beaten to a bloody pulp.

Why I believed them I don't know, but that summer I avoided him.  & I missed him.  My mother had however been so good at instilling fear in me that every time I thought about calling Scott I would see myself with mean kids dunking my head in a toilet with impunity.

On my first day of class at South Garland High School, at the last period, which was sixth period (only sixes classes a day in high school), I had Social Studies, & who was there?  Scott was there.  He didn't seem like anyone had done anything to him - I should've sussed out that he was tougher than I was but the fear was strong in me - & we hung out after school, & began walking home together.  I had my best friend again!  It was probably the best thing about 1982 for me.

But there's more to tell about that year, & I'll continue tomorrow, because we moved away from our apartments in the summer of 1982, & I got to have my own room for the first & only time in my life before I left home.  Anyway, yeah.  More 1982 tomorrow.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I Melt With You

This week's show continues a tradition that began in the first year of Self Help Radio: on the week of my birthday, I play my favorite songs that were released during one year of my life.  The year isn't random - in 2002, I played music from 1968, the year of my birth.  & since the show is now fifteen years old, this year I'll play music from... 1982?  Oh yeah, I didn't do this birthday thing one year.

But, yeah, the tradition continues this year, & we're getting now to the point where the music I love that came out that year is actually music I was listening to at the time.  This is because, while I was an avid listener of radio since I was a child, the music that I would come to love was suddenly showing up on radio.

There's a theory about that, & that theory isn't mine.  It's because of the increasing influence of MTV. In those days, there were very few places to see music videos, & also few artists made them.  But the ones that did got heavy play on MTV, which caused people to call radio stations & request those artists.  So suddenly on the radio we were hearing Psychedelic Furs, Adam Ant, Madness, ABC, Joe Jackson - people who weren't really breaking through to American audiences because they weren't getting airplay on classic rock radio - but people who were making cool music videos that MTV needed to play.

One song that was played way too much was "I Melt With You" by Modern English.  It's a great song, & probably did more to interest me in jangly indie music than I can measure.  But in 1982, with me spending any extra money I had on comic books, it never occurred to me to seek out music beyond the radio or beyond tapes people made me or records I borrowed from my older brothers.  & my older brothers were certainly not listening to post-punk from across the ocean.

This story isn't really about 1982, but about that song.  Years later, when I had the money to buy records & comics, I searched my brain for music from the past that I loved back then.  (It's hard to imagine me in 1986 thinking 1982 was so far away, but it was.)  My friend Russell one time took me & my friend Joe somewhere in his car, & he played the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way" (released in 1982), & we both said to him, "We love this song!"

My experience with "I Melt With You" was more bittersweet.

In my twelfth grade year, I fell in love for real for the first time.  It was with a girl named Laura Anderson who was smart & beautiful & who had a wonderful laugh.  It was lucky that I was occasionally the one making her laugh.  I'm sure she knew how I felt though there was never any profession of feelings - how could there be?  But one time she talked to me about how much she liked "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" & I discovered there was a stage performance of it in Dallas & I
bought tickets & asked her to come to see it with me.

Then as now I had no idea what constituted a "date," how one made one's feelings known, what would happen if there were any kind of reciprocation of feelings - all the songs I listened to gave me nothing but vague clues.  I had planned to take Laura to the play & then we could get some food or something, maybe end up talking in my car, who knows?

But as we drove home - I think she liked the show - she told me she didn't want to go eat, that she was done & had stuff to do at her house.  I had the radio on, & what should suddenly be playing but - as if my life were a comically maudlin teen movie - "I Melt With You."  What's worse, she loved the song, too, & she & I sang along to it as I turned off the highway & headed to her part of town.

Just imagine that.  The perfect new wave love song, the sort of feelings I wished I could express to her as melodically, & I am singing it out loud, as if to her, & she is singing along, too.  & yet, there wasn't a chance she felt the same way.  In fact, there was always a chance she regretted going with me & perhaps leading me on.

It's funny, I don't think the two of us ever talked about that day again.  After I took her home, I went to the Mobil gas station where my friend Joe was working & I slept in my car until he was off work.

Laura & I stayed briefly in touch after high school but she & I were never quite friends.  Eventually I tired of writing letters & paying for phone calls.  A few years later, she came to Austin for grad school, & I guess we ran into each other then. I even shared a ride with her around that time back to Garland, but I was kind of dickish for no reason & we never spoke again.  & with a name like Laura Anderson, she's probably not easy to find.

Anyway, this isn't really about 1982.  & there's much to talk about this week when I talk about 1982!  My fourteenth year on the planet.  & my god one of the best years of music ever.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Self Help Radio 011017: Evenings

(Original image here.)

Evenings are good time for radio.  Or are they?  Aren't they better times for spending with family & friends (& by friends of course I mean "animal friends")?  In fact, evenings are terrible times to listen to the radio!  Who wants to listen to a dumb radio show while eating, for example?  No one!

What's more, one might be expected to don evening wear if one is going to listen to radio in the evening.  Absurd!  Ridiculous!  Who dresses up for the radio?  Not the deejays (in general) (I mean, I have seen some well-dressed deejays) (most of the time they're lucky I remembered pants)!  So why should you have on evening wear if the evening deejay(s) on the evening show doesn't bother?  It's an outrage & I am furiously penning a letter to my senator in my head.

Please note: I am penning the letter in my head.  I do not have a senator in my head.  But if I did, it would probably be Kirsten Gillibrand.  I mean, I would want it to be that senator.  It would probably end up being Mitch McConnell.

Where was I?  Who knows.  Here's Self Help Radio's show about evenings.  It's made with knowledge born of experience, as Self Help Radio has aired in the evenings now since gosh the fall of 2016.  So we know what we're talking about here.  For once.

Listen at the Self Help Radio website.  Remember the password/username info.  See what the two parts of the show contain below.

(part one)

"Wednesday Evening" John Lee Hooker _The Classic Early Years 1948-1951_
"Wet Wednesday Evening" The Hardy Boys _The Hardy Boys Play Songs From The Lenin & McCarthy Songbook_
"Good Evening" The Tickle _Real Life Permanent Dreams (A Cornucopia Of British Psychedelia 1965-1970)_

"In The Evening" Robert Petway _Big Joe Williams & The Stars Of Mississippi Blues_
"Some Enchanted Evening" Ezio Pinza _American Musical Theatre: Shows, Songs, & Stars, Vol. 3_
"The Evening News" George Carlin _More Napalm & Silly Putty_
"A Quiet Evening" The Silly Pillows _Woosh! Little Teddy Recordings 1991-2001_
"Evening Standards" The Jags _Evening Standards_

interview with fortune teller Freed Jonesin

"Return The Gift" Gang Of Four _Entertainment!_
"Evenings Fall" Louis Philippe _Delta Kiss_
"It's Getting Late In The Evening" Bobby Powell _Soulin' Vol. 4_
"Rapt: In The Evening Air" The Art Of Noise _The Seduction Of Claude Debussy_

"Music For Evenings" Young Marble Giants _Colossal Youth_
"Raymond Chandler Evening" Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians _Element Of Light_
"Evening Sun Goes Down" Reverend Gary Davis _Pure Religion & Bad Company_
"Evening Time" Allen Clapp & His Orchestra _One Hundred Percent Chance Of Rain_
"Evenings Of Damask" Tyrannosaurus Rex _Unicorn_

interview with the Rev. Dr. Howard Gently

"In The Evening" The Memories _Royal United Song Service_
"That Evening Train" T-Bone Walker _Stormy Monday Blues_
"Another Evening, Another Town" The Pooches _The Pooches_
"This Brilliant Evening" In Embrace _This Brilliant Evening_

interview with talk show host David Fruchter

"Evening Gown" The Left Banke _There's Gonna Be A Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966-1969_
"Evening Dress At 3pm" Fosca _The Painted Side Of The Rocket_
"An Evening Out" Brincando De Deus _Moshi Moshi: Pop International Style_
"Red Bar Evenings" Spring _The Last Goodbye_
"The End Of The Evening" The Airfields _Up All Night_

"Evening Of Light" Nico _The Marble Index

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Whither Evenings?

Sometimes*, this show will have a theme somehow connected to the date, or to some recent event, or something topical**.  This will happen on Valentine's Day, Halloween, Christmas, etc.  But mostly, we have to admit, a theme has almost no bearing to what's going on in the real world, especially since it is formed in my brain, which is the very opposite of the real world***.

As Dave Gahan has said, "But not tonight!"  No, the theme this week is "evenings" & it just so happens - I mean, seriously, what are the odds - it's way too fitting to be a coincident - believe it or not, young Ripley - Self Help Radio is a radio program that airs in the evenings.

Crazy, right?

Tonight will be an evening show about evenings.  Hell, it might even represent an evening out**** of the divide between topical themes & arbitrary themes.  This evening's show about evenings may mark a new way of choosing themes for Self Help Radio!

But probably not.  Listen anyway, this evening, from 8-10pm central, 9-11pm eastern, on 89.3 fm in Lexington & online at  It may not be the best way to spend an evening, but I will be in fact one way to spend an evening.  & I am standing by that statement.

* Rarely.
** A topical topic.
*** True that.
**** You know, like making things even, not like going out for an evening.*****
***** You know it's a terrible pun when you have to explain it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Preface To Evenings: Seriously, I Don't Know How Bees Do It

This evening I am busy working on tomorrow's Wednesday Morning Blend on KNON.  Which makes me busy as a bee.  Busy how?  Look:

Okay, maybe not busy as a bee.  But too busy to write nonsense in here tonight.  But listen tomorrow morning!  & then tomorrow night!

(Image from here).

Monday, January 08, 2018


Hey! I can't write now! I have to do a radio show on KNON tomorrow morning!

Also! I have to do a radio show on KNON Wednesday morning!  & for a lot more Wednesday mornings after that!

& there's that show I do on Wednesday nights!  Oh no!

It will be a helluva radio week!  But it will make the blog lonesome & sad.


Sunday, January 07, 2018

Prospects, Part IV

(This is an image of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, from here.  It has nothing to do with this blog post.)

Previously in this blog - here, here, & here - I detailed my attempts to find a home for Self Help Radio in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  I've lived here for about a year & a half, & I must say never has it been so difficult for me to find a place for the ridiculous radio show that I am attached to, & the truth is, I have been resigned to doing it on WLXU until such time as they tire of it.  (I hope that isn't any time soon!)

But there has been a development!  It's not that Self Help Radio has found a home on the Dallas airwaves, but rather, that I will be doing live radio in Dallas.  I have been chosen to helm the Wednesday Morning Blend on KNON starting this Wednesday, January 10th.

The idea behind the various Morning Blends is that it's a showcase - a blend, if you will - of all the different sounds you'd hear on KNON during the day & week.  If you've listened to Self Help Radio, you know I'm all right about playing different genres, so this should be a good fit for me.  But never underestimate my ability to screw things up!

But for now, I'm glad to have a chance to be on the radio in the city & I'm ecstatic it's on KNON, a legendary community radio station.  It's 7-9am central every Wednesday, starting this Wednesday.  I hope you'll stop by at some point!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Self Help Radio 010318: One Hundred Things

(Original image here.)

One hundred songs?  Nope.  One hundred minutes of radio?  Not exactly (more like 120).  One hundred insights?  Not as such.  One hundred different voices?  No one counted but, probably not.  Just one hundred things?  No - hundreds of things!  In increments of one hundred!  One hundred lovers, calories, degrees, roses (& other flowers), pounds, fish, unread messages, pounds of clay, reasons, times, years, words, rooms, dollars, days, nights, brides, punks, cars, & percent!  That's probably one hundred times one hundred!  (No, it isn't.)

The first Self Help Radio of 2018 contained multitudes, including interviews with a spiritual mentor, a voice artist, & a travel writer.  The show can be listened to now at the Self Help Radio website but be aware!  It'll ask you for a password & a username, both of which are available on the site if you look hard enough.  The show is two hours long but divided in two so each mp3 is an hour long.  What's in the parts is listed below.

Here's hoping you listen one hundred times!

(part one)

"100 Lovers" Tennis _Small Sound_
"100 Calorie Man" Boat _Setting The Paces_
"100 Degrees" Shout Out Louds _Howl Howl Gaff Gaff_

"One Hundred Roses" The Smittens _The Coolest Thing About Love_
"£100 In 15 Minutes" Puritan Guitars _Messthetics Greatest Hits: The Sounds Of UK D.I.Y. 1977-80_
"100 Fish" Space Ghost _Yeah, Whatever..._
"100 Flowers" Gingerlys _Gingerlys_
"100 Unread Messages" Gruff Rhys _American Interior_

Interview with the Rev. Dr. Howard Gently

"The Hundredth Time (with Duffy Driediger & Ryan Peters)" Gigi _Maintenant_
"A Hundred Pounds Of Clay" Gene McDaniels _The Very Best Of Gene McDaniels_
"Give Me A Hundred Reasons" Ann Jones _The History Of Country & Western Music, Vol. 18 (1949-1950)_
"100 Other Lovers" Devotchka _100 Lovers_

"One Hundred Years" The Migil 5 _Ripples Vol. 4: Uptown Girls & Big City Boys (30 Brit Building Gems)_
"Hundred Times" Shapiros _Shapiros_
"100 Different Words" The Enormous Room _100 Different Words_

(part two)

"House With A Hundred Rooms" The Chills _Heavenly Pop Hits (The Best Of The Chills)_
"100 Years War" The Paper Cranes _Halcyon Days_
"100 Years" Vagabon _Infinite Worlds_

Interview with comedian Sasha Kaboingaboing

"I'm A Hundred Percent For You" Fats Waller _1934-1935_
"I Need A Hundred Dollars" One String Sam _Rural Blues, Vol. 1_
"One Hundred Million Dollars" John Mulaney _The Top Part_
"100 Days, 100 Nights" Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings _100 Days, 100 Nights_
"Wedding Of The Hundred Brides" The Motions _Rubble, Vol. 5_

Interview with travel writer David Fruchter

"One Hundred Punks" Generation X _Punk You! Vol. 1_
"100 Car Pile-Up" Scrawl _Nature Film_
"A Hundred Years Of The Street" The Victorian English Gentlemens Club _The Victorian English Gentlemens Club_
"100" Even As We Speak _A Three Minute Song Is One Minute Too Long_

"One Hundred Years" The Cure _Pornography_

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Whither One Hundred Things?

(Original image here.)

The first Self Help Radio of the year tells you one thing you probably already knew: nothing much is going to change.  Sorry about that!  It's going to be another year of mostly arbitrary themes, goofy interviews with "experts," & of course great music of all genres in service of the goofy & the arbitrary themes.

This is not an apology or anything - sorry if you thought that - wait - I just want to make it clear that a show like Self Help Radio is mostly impervious to things like resolutions.  Mostly.  I mean, it's like that Squeeze line, "I want to be good, is that not enough?"

With that in mind, tonight's show celebrates a bevy of things in the quantity of one hundred.  It also features interviews with a comedian called "the man of a hundred voices," with a travel writer who's written a book called "100 Places To Go," & with my spiritual mentor, who, I don't know, will tell us one hundred things maybe about the Numinous?  You'll have to listen to find out.

You can do that by tuning your radio dial to 93.9 fm WLXU in Lexington but also you can listen online.  It's from 9-11pm eastern.  It's bound to be an awkward way to bring in the new year.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Preface To One Hundred Things: Numbers

For a show based on themes, numbers may seem like an easy, go-to way to fill a few hours.  People are always singing about numbers; as long as you don't pick something weird like 37, you can probably find lots no problem.

In fact, Self Help Radio has done number shows before.  The number nine & the number zero come to mind, & recently seventeen, but I don't think the show has leaned on numbers as much as it could have.

It's much more fun to do things like I've done this week: a number of things.  I've done that too!  A million miles comes to mind.  But you know what?  When you aren't specific, like with "miles," the show is basically what you do when you do numbers anyway.  I could have just called this show's theme "one hundred" & it would've been the same.

Oh em gee this is boring.  But it has been a fun show to put together.  A hundred things!  I think you'll like it.

Monday, January 01, 2018