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.
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.
In The Village Voice Wednesday’s edition, Steven Thrasher has the cover story, The 100 Most Powerless New Yorkers. The piece is brilliant, and while this humble blog can’t share the entire list, a good number of the most powerless are worth noting. There are a bunch of politicians on the list, but they’re not particularly powerless or interesting. Others, whether categories or small groups of people, make the story worth reading.
For example: weed delivery guys. Certainly they’re doing something illegal, but they also, according to Thrasher, are at the bottom of a pyramid scheme as far as sales and distribution are concerned.
In other words, they’ll never get rich. Bodega owners also make the list.
I’m not sure why, but in New York City anything that isn’t a large supermarket like Whole Foods has become defined as a bodega. Little by little, as the city changes, these small businesspeople are being driven out.
Homeless people who hang out in public library branches, librarians themselves, carriage horses, and an 82-year-old resident of Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant who’s facing eviction from her home (don’t ask!) are among the most powerless.
Weed delivery people aren’t the only powerless deliverypeople, according to this list. Food delivery people take it on the chin as well, as everyone knows they carry cash and often get robbed.
A young lesbian also made the most powerless list. She’s homeless, and spends her nights on the subway. Even members of the press made the list. This is because 21 or 26 journalists busted trying to cover the Occupy Wall St. protests didn’t have press passes the NYPD doles out. Right after them come those with press passes, since they think they have an easier time by trying to flash them.
Also among the most powerless: food cart vendors, pedicab drivers, riders who get on a “Select Bus” without a receipt (that gets you a $150.00 fine), postal workers, retail clothing workers, security guards, and journalists who have to come up with lists like the one done by Thrasher (refreshing to see a writer with both a sense of humor and irony).
After scanning this list, one comes away with a unique sense of what it’s like to live and work in New York City, but not being able to exert much influence on the forces that call the shots. Here’s hoping Steven Thrasher does another list next year.
Maybe things will get better for some of those on this year’s. What do you think?