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Backstage at Reggae on the River, 2017...
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HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast
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Crossing the Eel River at French's Camp

If you've seen one butterfly, you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.

If you've seen one butterfly,  you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.
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My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017
Something I have always wanted...

Mahlon Masling Blue

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Play it [Again] Mark

Play it [Again] Mark
Brother Noel stopped by my blog the other night to make a comment on my piece about the radio shack.  What he ended up saying jogged my brain, so I want to talk about the origins of this bachelors’ quarters, out in the back yard of our house on Fellowship Street.  Noel wrote, “Boys would enter that shack, and in time they would exit young men, ready for the outside world.” 
Growing up with six brothers meant that when Papa added onto our 1920’s era home, the four older of us boys ended up in one room, in two bunk beds.  As the sixties unfolded, two of my older brothers got bitten by the ham radio bug, and as they pursued this interest, they needed a site to conduct business.  As they began to acquire the tools of the trade, it became obvious that they were going to need more space than what our house could provide.
We lived in the last house on our block, before the “new” tract home units were built, beginning in the late fifties, when they bull-dozed down the orange groves, against which our house was built.  We had an acre and set back about one hundred feet from the back screen door, was an old shed that was divided into two rooms.  One was about ten by twelve and was used as a storage shed; the other was about 16 by 12, and was referred to by all of us as the “boat house,” ostensibly because Papa had originally intended to build a boat in this shed.  He never got to the actual construction of it at this time, but the name stuck.
When Eric and Noel plunged into the world of ham radio, Papa told them that if they would do the work, he would orchestrate electricity being routed to the old boat house, and the boys could set up operations in this shed.  The transformation took place one summer, and what had once been a forbidding edifice, noted more for the presence of black widow spiders, became a freshly paneled, newly-carpeted, brightly lighted bachelors’ quarters.
As long as the boys were still operating the ham radio, the newly named “radio shack” served as headquarters for this activity, and nothing else, really.  However, when Noel went off to Dominguez for school, and Eric went off to Chicago, no one was left to operate the radio, and I began to eye the radio shack for purposes other than what we had been using it for.  In 1967 I was coming off of my freshman year in high school, and began working for Sunrize Market that summer.  That meant I was a wage-earning contributor to the family.
As much as my mom and I went around in circles on this issue, I was required to give 75% of what I earned to the household-we all contributed.  Working as a box-boy in the grocery store, I told a parent-sanctioned lie, to get into the Retail Clerks Union, as a fifteen-year-old, and was seriously helping the family maintain the home fires, when I began to envision the radio shack as a place where I could not only spend the bulk of my time, but a place where I could sleep as well.
Coming home from Sunrize Market, around 9:30, or thereabouts, the rest of the household was routinely in bed, so I could not listen to music, or make any racket whatsoever.  So I talked Mama into letting me make the move out to the radio shack.
Living in SoCal, heat was not an issue, and I transformed my new quarters into a boys’ paradise.  We acquired an electric refrigerator for a song, and I was in business.  I plastered the walls with posters of Led Zeppelin, the four pictures of the Beatles that came out of the “White Album,” a picture of Raquel Welch, in the film “One Million Years BC,” and I acquired a four-foot long florescent black light, with a little help from Noel.
We had gone to Orchard Supply Hardware, and the price on the black-light bulb was outrageous, compared to the regular bulbs, and since they looked identical, Noel thought it would be pretty smart to simply switch price tags.  I expected buzzers and whistles to go off, as we left the store, or at very least, a bolt of lightening, but nothing happened, and the radio shack now resonated with whatever you call the light that a black light makes.  It wasn’t very practical, but it was so bitchin’.
  We had some monumental ragers there, a couple of them even sanctioned by the ‘rents, because they were parties that were thrown as a result of me getting drafted and ending up in the military.  There are a lot of anecdotes to be discussed, when thoroughly rehashing the history of the radio shack, but they will have to be the subject of later posts.  But yes, when you went into the radio shack, you were a kid, and when you went off to school, you were not.  It was a mutually beneficial arrangement; after all, Mama could only hear “My Baby Wrote Me a Letter,” by the Boxtops, so often, before she was ready to permanently burn that “letter” and get it over with.
“You are asking me if you can move into the radio shack?  Does your stereo go with you?”  That was all it took, and then there was no one to listen in, when I played “Suite Judy Blue Eyes,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash, twenty-five consecutive times, when Kathy Wiseman dumped me, my senior year of high school.  Mama never thanked me for that.

10 comments:

  1. I have to say, that the first thing I did while writing this was download "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" and listen to it twenty-five times. OK, I'm lying, I only listened to it twice. The damn thing still brings tears to my eyes, but it is the first time I have ever seen the lyrics to the very end of the song in Spanish. I was totally delighted, as I have never been able to access those lyrics with the defective set of ears that I came stock with.

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  2. I guess many families have that place that is disconnected from the main domain that serves as launching pad. Adolescents aren't ready for complete independence, but they need somewhere to "try things out". Yes, we did a lot of experimenting in those old digs!

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  3. Great post, Mark. I of course was at the tail end of the brothers who utilized the Radio Shack far beyond its originally intended purposes. I joined brother Matchu out there as a pubescent melancholic freshman attending Bishop Amat, enjoyed 3 solid years of teenage rockin' & rebellion there, till it all came to fruition one afternoon in August of 1976 when I packed my life belongings into Rob Ward's green VW camper van to start the next chapter of my life as a freshman at UC Berkeley. So much life happened out there. The Radio Shack was where I drank my first beer (actually 5 in a row--16oz tall Buds), grew my first cannabis garden (spread on the roof in pots amongst the pepper tree branches), and of course the unforgettable experience of making love the first time (with Anila). The Radio Shack was also the headquarters for the staff of the Independent Press and the 6 editions of our HS underground newspaper that we printed by hand with an old borrowed Mimeogragh printer. The music and stereo tradition of course was maintained--while we were raised on the classic 60s standbys (thanks to a large stack of records that for some reason remained after you guys left), we of course were also entranced by the 70s sounds of the day, e.g., Pink Floyd, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Jethro Tull, Stevie Miller, etc. And boy did we put that refrigerator to good use--we had rocking parties out there on a Friday night basis, and with Joe Nelson aboard along with his 21-year-old-looking brother Dana, all we had to do was scrounge up $7.50 to score a case of Budweiser, fire up some of that homegrown weed, and then crank up Who's Next on the stereo--what a scene!

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  4. Buddha, you got into it like a meditation. Thanks Noel and Tomas-you guys done good. I sure left a good chunk of me behind when I went off to the army, but you guys made sure that that chunk of me was kept up to date. I remember those Berkeley days. We went to see "Twelfth Night" in a tiny theater, at the same time I was studying it at SJSU with Nils Peterson. Heady days.

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  5. There was a tradition to that place that seemed to grow and expand as the younger more vital energy came into the scene.....I do recall once walking out late at night to the radio shack with Mark and being accosted by two sheriff deputies looking for the neighbor boy, George.......we let them know that his scene was not our scene, and we did not know (or care) where he was. They left, perhaps a little frustrated. I am sure in the end they got their man. Tom, was additional detail to this tall tail was most appreciated.......LOL

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  6. Traditionally, two bunk beds, one on top of each other. Now, the litter has grown and become an elegant piece of furniture extremely practical.grown up bunk beds

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  7. Mark, I liked that story about Noel changing the price tag on the black florescent lightbulb. That's so Noel for you. I remember once accompanying him to a salvage yard in a mission to find a replacement for a cracked VW head that an engine of his required. We walked in there with the cracked head, the guy stuck his head out the office window and said, "Sure, there's a bunch of VW heads out there in that thar shed, just find the one you need and bring 'er back in!" All right, we went over to that thar shed and sure enough found exactly the one we needed, Noel exchanged the defunct one in his hand with the one from the shed, and as we strolled past the office hollered out, "Hey thanks anyway buddy, but couldn't find what we was looking for!" We hopped back in the van grinning nervously at each other, Noel raised a little dust as we drove out, and then just for the hell of it had to keep adding to the drama by peering over his shoulder every half minute, "HOLY SHIT, IS THAT GUY FOLLOWING US?!" Of course I'll never know if we were being pursued or not, but it made for a grand adventure. Noel would no doubt recant the entire episode now, but let's be perfectly honest here--his underground deviant side is actually one of his most endearing qualities.

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  8. I think you've captured the entire teenage aesthetic/life philosophy in one line here:
    "It wasn't very practical, but it was so bitchin'." So perfect! Love it.

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  9. Mark - who is the Myra in the above comments?

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  10. Best guess? Noel or Olga on Myra's phone. I cannot recall a Myra from Fellowship Street.

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