You Will Eat Your Oatmeal! (From the upcoming book, “The Slow Death Of American Radio”)

I’ve always been a picky eater. What I didn’t like I didn’t eat, period.

But I grew up in a time when children were supposed to eat everything on their plate. This caused a bit of a rift between my mother and I, given her penchant for cooking stuff I didn’t like. The list included chitterlings, liver, kidneys, and all pork other than bacon. My brother and sister, on the other hand, dutifully ate what was given to them, especially my younger brother Norman (he’s now vegan).

What does this have to do with radio? Read on.

One of the foods on my don’t eat list was…and still is…oatmeal. I hated its texture, and thought it tasted like lumpy paste. Yet my mother insisted on cooking it for breakfast way too many times for my taste. Most of the time, I could get away with dumping it in Norman’s bowl, since he would eat anything.

One crisp fall morning, at the age of seven, I decided to enforce the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.

My mother put a bowl of oatmeal in front of me, and I simply said “I’m not eating it”. To be clear, this kind of insolence would usually result in a quick slap upside the head.


My mother, however, decided to take a stand as well. She narrowed her eyes, and said to me, “you will eat your oatmeal, or you won’t get up from this table”! The last part was between a yell and a shriek . I repeated that I wasn’t eating it, and so, I sat at the kitchen table for what turned out to be all day.

The only solace my mother allowed me was the radio on the table, which she had tuned to WCBS-AM. Prior to that morning my contact with radio had been casual. I’d listen to Top 40 radio when my mother let me (wasn’t often). That morning, I heard WCBS’ entire program lineup.

Arthur Godfrey, WCBS
Arthur Godfrey, WCBS

There was Arthur Godfrey, Claude Kirschner, and soap operas in 15 minute increments. I was utterly fascinated. I imagined what the voices on the radio looked like. In the case of the soap operas, I created the plot lines in my head.

Needless to say, the oatmeal sat in the bowl, untouched. My mother must have thought I was in a trance. Yet she never thought to turn the radio off, which would have made that day pure torture and might have resulted in my capitulation.

Instead, what came out of the radio that day became a portal, a means of transportation away from where and who I was. As I got older, and began listening to music radio as a tastemaker, I also imagined what a studio looked like, and the lives my favorite disc jockeys led. Radio, even more than television, became larger than life.

Yet radio in my consciousness began at that kitchen table. About 5PM that day, the milk in the oatmeal began to curdle, and my mother realized I could no longer eat it. She sent me to my room without supper that night, but further down the road, something changed. Little by little, my mother stopped trying to make me eat things I didn’t like.

She never realized the true impact of her insistence and my stubbornness.

Mark.Janet.RTileyAlways the wiser…Thanks Mom!
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4 thoughts on “You Will Eat Your Oatmeal! (From the upcoming book, “The Slow Death Of American Radio”)”

  1. President Obama did himself-and the country-a big disservice by not being more proactive in managing the ACA. His sense of the post-political (and post-racial) is not the least bit realistic, particularly in light of GOP obstructionism and Tea Party racism.

    To rely on at least 55 government contractors (barely supervised and overpaid), without appointing a competent manager, was just asking for disaster; particularly in light of the GOP seeking to repeal the ACA at every turn.

    The ACA is a start in reforming the broken and corrupt American healthcare system; however why a democratic president felt confident in choosing a republican concept of healthcare-rather than single-payer, or even the public option- is truly beyond me.

    In the futured, I sincerely hope President Obama looks to the examples of FDR, Senators Bernie Sanders (Vermont: the New Economy and single-payer) and Elizabeth Warren (who opposes the TPP and the fraudulent chained-index for social security); while being less enamored of Ronald Reagan (the “first tea-bagger”).
    Personally, I’ve had enough of centrist, triage, triangulating, Wall Street “democrats,” regardless of the color of one’s skin.

    Deborah Carroll

  2. Happy New Year and surprise! I have spent last night and all of today reaching out to friends, family and former colleagues. Had a challenged 2013. Was in the hospital 3 times. Have a hernia the size of a baseball and severe peptic ulcers which have to be operated on once I gain more weight. Down to 110 pounds; can you believe that! My number is 202-374-1831. Had a heck of a time to find out how to e-mail you. Please send me your info so I don’t have to speak to you via public commit.

  3. I wsd!wad look forward to reading your opinions on politics and just everyday life! I was shocked to no longer be able to listen to you on 1600 .I retired on 12 31 2013 and did not listen to talk radio for the 2 weeks prior to the end
    I bought a new car and was planning to take in to dealer to report .
    That 1600 was picking up a Spanish station! WOW I am glad I found you again …I love me some Mike Riley

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