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The Nostalgia Papers: Fever Dreams, PBS, and Bologna Sandwiches

When I reflect upon my childhood years, I usually remember the loftier, happier moments. I typically avoid the less attractive ones like the time my inner tube flipped over on a water slide and I was forced to skid the last fifteen yards on my head. However, recently I stumbled upon a treasure trove of yesteryear bliss when my thoughts drifted into the purposely ignored “negative realm” and set up camp alongside the banks of the River Sick Day.

For me, sick days usually fell into one of two camps: “at home” sick days or “at my grandparents” sick days. Each was unique with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, but at the end of the day, the outcome was the same… my ass didn’t have to go to school. And that’s cool when you’re a little kid, because it’s not like you’re really going to fall behind in your studies. Heck, in Kindergarten I remember spending half the day attempting to sculpt a paper mache mask. Need I say more?

In addressing the at home sick day, let me first state that these were usually pretty rough. I may even go as far as to say that I would rather have been at school. Such days always meant I had a very high fever and they were usually accompanied by a visit to the doctor. Aside from the delirious moments spent gadding in and out of consciousness, I was also strictly forbidden from even looking at my Nintendo. It was as if sitting upright and allowing something to take my mind off the misery was the worst thing I could possibly do for myself. Did my mother think I had intentionally licked the toilet at school just so I could stay home and play Super Mario Bros. for eight hours straight? Did she think I was trying to pull a fast one here? She always did seem overly suspicious about my lust for 8-bit gaming while being simultaneously attacked by a viral infection.

But anyway, the bad would have almost outweighed the good here were it not for one thing, Nickelodeon. If I got to stay home I could watch Nickelodeon all day long during what in my opinion was the high point of the network. Quality programming like Pinwheel, Today’s Special, and You Can’t Do That on Television were in store for me if I managed to pull off an at home sick day. And yes, I must admit I imbibed liberally when successful.

Well what about the days when I wasn’t deathly ill yet still deemed unworthy of attending grade school? Ah, that meant a day at my grandparent’s house and the situation could turn out pretty boss if this young fellow planned ahead. You see, the “survival kit” was essential in a successful remote sick day. The kit would contain all the comforts of home that I would need to get through the day. You know, important things like Silverhawk action figures and plastic dinosaurs. And the good news was that I could play with these bad boys like it was my last day on Earth. I could make noise, throw them around, and act the six-year old donkey in a fashion my mother would never have condoned. I can remember getting so excited once that I actually broke a leg off of Quicksilver, the heroic leader of the Silverhawks, as I sent him on an ill-fated flight into a table leg.

Lunch was always better on remote days as well. The bologna sandwiches my grandmother served easily beat the soup and crackers I inevitably had to eat at home. Oh, and it was the good kind of bologna too. The kind with the red ring around the edge. I would like to personally thank my grandmothers at this time for teaching me good bologna from bad. It’s a fabulous lunch meat, and it should always be purchased with the little red ring round the edge. Anything less would be uncivilized.

I know you must be saying to yourself, Dang, it sounds like a remote sick day was perfection! What could possibly be the downside?PBS I tell you, PBS. I will admit that PBS has a fond place in my heart now as an adult looking back, but when I was five or six it was often times boring and honestly a little bit terrifying. Look, we all know what I’m talking about. The puppets from The Land of Make Believe could keep a kid awake at night. However, since cable wasn’t an option at grandma’s, the “kid friendly” lineup of PBS became my only viable option. It’s why to this very day I always mentally connect PBS with a day spent at my grandparent’s house on a remote sick day.

Lightning

The Nostalgia Papers: It’s Electric!

The bad kids told of its existence. The rest of us always wondered if the rumors were true. Did Mr. Perry have an electric paddle? Of course as adults we now laugh at such a notion, but I tell ya, there was a time in my life where there lived deep within me some doubt over the matter. I thought to myself, perhaps old Mr. Perry did in fact have an electric paddle, and if I messed up, I might just experience its wrath.

I guess the electric paddle myth can find its origins in the existence of the electric chair, a device often associated with condemned men. Birthed in the mind of some over-imaginative child on his way to the principal’s office, it must have found its way into grade school lore as the ultimate in capital punishment for naughty children.

In my earlier years, grades K – 1, I remember seeing the paddle in my mind’s eye as looking like an ordinary paddle on the surface, but secretly being able to fire electric beams into the buttocks of unsuspecting kids with the push of a button. Interestingly, I abandoned this make in my later years of belief, grades 2 – 3, for a more reasonable design. The revamped electric model looked more like a ping pong paddle. However, at the push of a button, the head of this one would flap back and forth at adjustable speeds. Thus simplifying the spanking act and making it so that the disciplinarian needn’t even swing his arm.

I was by no means a bad kid in school, so I never actually got sent to the principal’s office for lashing out. However, due to my good behavior, on occasion I would be asked to run an errand to the beastly location. Once inside, I would strain to see if I could spot the infamous whacking stick. I never did, nor did I ever hear him fire it up as he let out a maniacal, door-muffled laugh. So it is with this sentiment that I quit believing in the electric paddle. But as you can see, I still haven’t totally forgotten about it… just in case.

Radio Analog

Coast to Coast AM and Art Bell: The Soundtrack to My College Existence

My Radio Years

In the late 90s, I was a college student by day and a talk radio board operator/call screener by night. I worked for my local news/talk station running the board for the afternoon drive show and for the news broadcasts at the top and the bottom of every hour. When the talk show would end, I then moved over to the sports station next door and inserted commercials into various sporting events while doing any school work I needed to complete for the next day. It was a sweet gig. Low paying, mind you, but enjoyable nonetheless. I met lots of interesting people, and even though my studies took me down a different career path, I’ll always love my time spent in radioland.

My Old Nightly Routine

Often, I would find myself leaving the sports station late at night. Thanks Braves rain delays! On my way out, I would duck back into the news/talk station to make sure things were running smoothly for the night. I’d linger a bit, waiting for a certain host to take to the airwaves. That host was Art Bell and the program was Coast to Coast AM. I would hang around and listen to the thumping beat of the show’s opening theme, the theme from Midnight Express. I’d also stick around, off the clock, for the show’s first segment. There was something downright romantic about taking it all in there in the darkened studio, the only light coming from the soundboard and computer screen in front of me.

After the first segment, I would transition to my car, and begin my drive home. I’d stretch out my return commute a bit, taking the long way on purpose just to hear more of what Art had to offer while driving down deserted roads. I should point out that Coast to Coast AM didn’t offer any sort of subscription download service at that time. Unless I was willing to pull an all nighter, I was rarely able to hear every interview in its entirety.

Once I arrived at home I would put on my headset radio, you know the kind with the antenna that sticks up from one side, and go out for a late night jog. I did all of my exercising under the cloak of darkness back then. Anyway, I’d tune into Art and keep the party going as I ran around in the shadows, often times getting hellaciously creeped out by the subject matter of Art’s program which mostly dealt with the supernatural.

When I finished my workout, just before bed, I would end my day by logging onto Art’s website so I could checkout his web forum. I can remember a time in the early 2000s when his message board contained communications from the mysterious “time traveller”, John Titor. I can remember reading all of these posts in real time. Gosh, did I ever sleep back then? It felt like the most amazing time to be alive. Art’s site also had this cool Star Trek console visual theme at the time. I’m not sure why I remember that, but it’s stuck in my brain so there ya go.

My Life Today

I eventually earned my degree, left radio for software development, and switched to a less vampiric life schedule. Coast to Coast AM eventually offered a subscription service too, so I’ve been able to stick with the program off and on over the years. George Noory, the show’s current host, is a different animal to say the least, but he still scratches the itch so to speak. Streaming Noory by day isn’t the same as experiencing Art in the dead of night, but I’ll take what I can get.