Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No. 786 – Surfing with the Alien

By 1988, Steve and Garry had become required daily listening, and sometime that year, they began to play Joe Satriani as both the opening and closing theme music to their show. They’d play the instrumentals Echoes to open the show and Always With Me, Always With You to close it.

I had never heard of Joe Satriani, but I liked the music—phenomenally spacy electric guitar—and a few listeners would call in from time to time to ask who that was. I finally went and bought the tape in the fall of 1988.

Actually, Surfing with the Alien conjures up a lot of sad images. I bought it at a time of severe heartbreak after Melanie and I split, and hearing it takes me back to a time when I felt very dull and empty. At work during that time, I kept the door to my office shut most of the day. I didn’t want to interact with anyone—just do my job and get out of there.

In fact, the day I bought the tape, it came as a bit of shopping therapy instigated by my buddy Jim who noticed I was in severe need of a distraction. He invited me in to Michigan City to get together and “plot strategy” about the future. All I wanted to do was run and hide—not a very winning strategy to be sure.

It was ironic in a sense: He had just met the woman he would eventually marry (and still be with 24 years later), but he felt he was stagnating professionally. He liked to call himself the Smead Jolley of journalism: a minor-league superstar who could never make it over the hump in the bigs. Actually, Jim had had enough of the sports department at the News-Dispatch and the late hours and weekends. Meanwhile, I was fine with where I was professionally but a mess emotionally. We made quite a pair.

Anyway, one weekend day, we drove down to Merrillville and grabbed some Popeye’s—my favorite fast food at the time—and I bought Surfing with the Alien at the mall. I can’t remember what Jim bought, but I remember that Jim wasn’t overly impressed with my choice on the drive back to Michigan City. Too monotonous. No problem: To each his own.

I loved it, and it became the soundtrack of fall 1988, which, in a series of jagged memories stitched together, involved covering high-school football and no longer melting in my apartment after the summer’s scorching heat finally broke. And gray—lots and lots of gray. Everyday was overcast, and any fall colors were lost on me. I saw the world only in monochrome.

I listened to Steve and Garry a lot during this time. When they weren’t on the radio, I put on old tapes: I needed cheering up on a constant basis. Eventually, the sun finally came out again, and I got out of New Buffalo. The double bonus was that when I left, Jim took my job, so he got the professional gear-shift he desperately needed. It worked out for both of us.

Awhile later, I learned that Steve and Garry’s radio station got gold records due to how much they had helped to boost sales of Surfing with the Alien. I thought that was pretty cool and appropriate. I know of at least one record that for sure wouldn’t have been sold if it hadn’t been for them.

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