I lugged this about for years, until, at about age 6 or 7, I decided it was time to beg and beg for a "Big Boy Radio". I wasn't picky, just something that was not made out of molded plastic and had more than just a mono speaker in the back. My father has always been a stickler for research before he buys anything. I remember him poring over Consumer Reports in an effort to find just the right one that would give him bang for his buck (which is understandable as the latter was fairly limited). Finally, one Xmas, I got it.
It wasn't a big shoulder boombox circa Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo. It was a thin silver box with 2 low-power speakers and, best of all, it had 2 little built-in microphones on either side that could be recorded to tape. It was a cheap thing even by standards of the time, but I loved it to pieces. There was also a radio.
The confounding thing about the two little mics in the corner was something I didn't figure out until I understood the concept of stereo. The mics were placed on the front face at the extreme upper corners and they looked like two little vertical slits (heh). When you spoke into the left one, the recorded sound only came out of the left speaker, and verse vica. The problem was that if you stood back and recorded your voice like you were supposed to, the sound wasn't very loud and getting it just right was a pain.
Actual, real microphones were things of power and glory to me. They were so far out of my reach that they were mythical. There was no difference between the black squat things and Thor's powerful hammer. So, I dealt with what I had. When I moved and found Friend Tim, we used to sit on opposite ends of the box to record out skits, and even now, on some of those old tapes you can still hear me out of one speaker and Friend Tim out of the other.
The thing I remember most, though, is the radio. I would lay there at night with the radio just above my bed slowly moving the knob back and forth to seek out a station. I would usually settle on one of two things. Either KMOX, our local "Old People" talk radio AM station. I did so because the resonant voices at night and the airy distant transmission made me feel nostalgic and cozy, like sitting around a hearth in winter. Like bundled blankets and hot cocoa. Like a mother's hug.
I don't know how it's possible for a 10 year old to feel nostalgic. Maybe it comes from hearing tales of other times and feeling vaguely like I was born at the wrong time. It's possible. Everything is jarring regardless.
The other, more consistent, night time ritual required more attention. I would sometimes lay there with my arm stretched above my head to where the tuning knob was as I drifted through the frequencies. I was searching the static. I was convinced there was a station of which no one else knew. It would be a faint signal, but it would have someone speaking just for me, and it would play things that I liked to hear. It would be my own personal secret.
I didn't really know what Pirate Radio was, but this was my general idea about it. It was exciting, the constant searching the waves and catching little bits of signal from far out.
Now, I'm older. I've lost something of that searching nature. The Internet provides instantaneous and (usually) correct answers to a lot of those niggling things. I no longer believe there's an underworld cache onto which I will someday, stumble. I suspect I will never get that feeling back.
What I am saying, little radio, is thank you. I miss you. I'm sorry.
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