Nostalgic Rumblings
The Ramblings of an Old Man

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I Live a Rather Strange Life…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 10:49 pm

I know that title up there is a bit of an odd pronouncement to make, but it’s true, and has been true for a very long time. While not ancient, and not ready to pack anything in just yet, I admit I am spending more time as I get older thinking about all the weird coincidences that define my life, and am equally awed and frightened by them.

This rather reflective post started out because I’m pretty much of an average joe, a normal schlub who bops his way through life working at a job, mowing the lawn, replacing a cracked window glass, adding a washer to a faucet, and all the other things that are a part of every average joe’s life. And yet last week I drove a few hours to spend some time in the presence of incredibly smart people in a palatial setting saying goodbye and hello…hours spent watching others do a job far more fascinating than mine, people actually paid to satisfy not only their own curiosities but ours as well, about all manner of things. And watching one incredible talent who, braced by that staff of amazing people, made magic happen right in front of me.

See what I mean? Most of the time I am the most average and forgettable person you’ll ever meet, yet there are occasions when I am suddenly, and undeservedly, next to greatness. And the more I contemplate these times, I realize they are almost always the result of odd coincidences.

Many many years ago, there was a guy who wanted to trade video tapes with me. To put this in perspective, Beta and VHS tapes cost roughly $15.00 each at this time, and there was no publicly-accessible Internet (although CompuServe was available, at $6.00/hour) so trading by mail was the only way for someone to trade episodes of, say, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. for episodes of The Prisoner. (No, DVDs were quite some years off.) Anyway, this guy wanted to trade VHS-SLP tapes, something I was disinterested in doing, since I wanted to actually see the programs. But he really wanted stuff I could record off of WBFF-TV in Baltimore, MD, so he set up a bizarre three-way trade with some other guy out in middle-America. That guy and I eventually realized we were interested in many of the same things, and eventually cut the first guy out of the trades. Then he and I stopped trading and just started sending stuff to each other, and he is now one of the very small circle of life-friends I have.

All because I didn’t like VHS-SLP.

I have the telephone number of Arthur Anderson, one of the last surviving members of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre, on my cell phone. He’s an amazing guy, who has lived an incredible life, a guy I used to see once a year who would jest with me mercilessly, a man who directed my daughter in a performance (think of it…70 years from now, my daughter will be able to tell her grandchildren she knew this man!), and all because I stumbled upon a convention one year.

Or the strange “fortune” that led me to be the guy who just happened to have the knowledge base required to save an email list from loss when the owner of the list, and the person who held the server machine together with twine and bubble gum, was killed in an automobile collision. Running that list has allowed me to become friends with a few thousand people, people who know a whole lot more than I do about something I love dearly, Old Time Radio, and aren’t reluctant to share their knowledge with me and all of the others.

And saving that list provided me with an award, a plaque that still hangs on my wall, thanking me for that one small act. That award, something I cherish, led to others admittedly, but it also led to my becoming familiar, and eventually friends with, many Old Time Radio stars. Hal Stone, Bob Hastings, Arthur, and others not only knew my name, but shared their memories, thoughts, and even asked for help with those pesky computers that seem to have taken over everyone’s lives.

Running the list lead to being offered a radio show many years ago, something I declined. It wasn’t until the suggestion of doing a show with my daughter that I actually decided to say yes. Now, at an age where some parents are having problems getting more than mono-syllabic answers to most questions, she spends some time with me every week laughing, listening to Old Time Radio, reading to me (and our listeners) news stories coming from historic daily papers, and let me say the important thing once again, laughing!

Like this show, not everything is in the distant past. My anger at a large heartless corporation for screwing up my mornings (No one mucks around with my mornings!) led to my complaining loudly to all and sundry, which led to my emailing back-and-forth with a radio program producer, which led to conversations with other producers, which led to my meeting an interviewer and anchor I had “known” for years (the intimacy of radio creates a sense of bond that doesn’t exist yet feels as real as any other), and suddenly there I was talking to him.

And that in a sideways and unexpected fashion though many twists and turns (well, that and my owing someone lunch…), led me these many years later to spending those hours the other day in a cavernous structure where the magic of conversation happens, with the group of bright, smart, energetic, and awesome people I mentioned and posted about earlier.

I am certain I don’t deserve most of these things that have happened in my life. I also wouldn’t trade most of them for anything.

I will never be “great.” But I have been blessed by circumstance and coincidence to stand next to and even occasionally to walk behind greatness many times throughout my life, to have talked to and in some cases even been friends with those who are. So when I say I live a strange life, I mean it. And I sincerely hope that however much is left of it, it continues to be as strange, as wonderful, as satisfying, and as completely surprising as it has been so far.

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