Monday, November 8, 2010

Burn Notice

I've never lost a person for 20 years. I lost my wedding ring once. I put it down someplace, the ring not the person, while I was doing some repair and, well, misplaced it. Wife Donna told me I should never loose the ring...or else; so I never told her and she always seemed to be pre-occupied with something very important whenever I was about to bring it up. I didn't want to burden her. I'm a caring person.

I eventually found the wedding ring just where I left it - two house moves later. It was in the top drawer of a toolbox under some screw drivers, so I guess you can say it was never missing, just misplaced. Same with the person.

Gene Burns had the premier talk radio program when I lived in Boston back in the 80s. There were many talk radio programs in Boston, but his was by far the best. It has been said that the major preoccupation of Bostonians is "politics and revenge" and "revenge" not only took a back seat; it spent a lot of time locked in the trunk. A minor political appointment on the Board of, say, Parks and Recreation gave life to more animated conversation and discernment of twisted motivations than an overcrowded lifeboat in a very stormy sea. And that would be just the first day.

Gene Burns was a master at lifting discussion of those events to a higher level. His knowledge of government and mastery of common sense, mixed with a zest for life pushed his show several rungs above all others. His political slant was libertarian and had in fact run for President in the Libertarian Party. You would have to ask him the finer points of libertarianism, but if the platform of the party took on the shape of interior decoration then I think the walls would be white, sans doors, windows, furniture, or drapes (nihilism on the other hand would be painted black and any entrants would be required to wear a blindfold). His familiarity with the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Federalist Papers made listeners bring their "A game" to the calls. One would think James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were in the next room on a smoke break and could be beckoned at any moment. Gene also discussed things of narrow interest, but with such skill and affability that he engaged his listening audience. I remember one time he spent three hours talking about photography (before digital); not an easy thing to do on the radio, and he had the listeners' attention from beginning to end. Lastly, he was not doctrinaire and at times would change his position on an issue after listening to callers' differing points of view. Imagine that! In short, he created a forum where opposite ideas could shake hands.

I'm not sure when he left Boston, I left in 1990. I found out he went to San Francisco to radio station KGO, but pre-internet, pre-computer, I lost track. Every once in awhile, on certain issues, I wondered what he thought and if his diastolic possessed a comma, but without web casting I never knew. On a recent search, the KGO website now allows us to listen to his program. Give it a try if you like superb radio.

Here's How:

-Goggle "KGO"
-click on "810am"
-click "On Air" then scroll down to "Gene Burns"
-Find "Gene Burns daily podcasts", click "listen"
-If you need to download the supporting player, take that option.

I must say I was surprised how much he has mellowed. I haven't listened enough to hear if he has changed many fundamental positions, but even if he has - so be it. Changing seats in the political area can sometimes afford a better view of the fireworks.

Mr. Burns is a two-fer. If you give him a try you may just learn (like me) that the "Reserve Clause" is not your favorite restaurant's reservation policy. And if it applies, you may learn something else as well.

I don't want to overdo this, but I think his show provides for many of us some needed purchase into community. TV was hailed as a "global village" back in the 60's, an expectation it could never realize. TV is a wonderful and valuable medium, but not an interactive one. Radio, although not perfect, can let us ride the ripples of conversation and for some of us, an entree into something larger than ourselves. Talk radio is not therapy, a substitute for companionship nor should it comprise a large part of our lives, but it can be a purpose for good. It can forge connection or at least be a condiment for that connection.

Again, I don't want to overdo this, but at times I think we Americans (meaning me: I try to remember CS Lewis admonition to look in the mirror before you look out the window) tend toward the solitary, and at other times toward comity. In other lives I've led, the solitary was usually dominant. I didn't have other people's voices in my life. I'd work among people all day, go home at night and keep my own company. My choice...except when the loneliness visited and settled in for the night then self worth and value gets questioned. I had a feeling I was a character in an Edward Hopper painting. I was of life, but not in life. Like the usher in Hopper's New York Movie painting. This is the time when you may may want to turn off the TV, turn on the radio, talk to God, and talk to another person - get connected to something outside yourself, something bigger than yourself. Now I am out several nights a week - with other people! There were past times in my life when that would be as unlikely as seeing a nun dressed in full tunic and scapular seated in the 2nd row of a World Federation Mixed Martial Arts cage fight, but you just never know.

The opposite of me is my friend Larry Williams of Fuquay-Varina. His avocation is beekeeping. Can you think of a more solitary endeavor? I don't think the bees hold up their end of the conversation too much, but Larry likes people. He enlists friends to help him harvest (harvest?) the honey; bottle, then sell at the local Farmers' Market. He is past President of the NC Beekeepers Association and goes to meetings on a regular basis. Very social. Larry will love Gene Burns! They will be like two bees in a pod.

There are a lot Grumpys and a lot of Larrys in the country - we can both benefit listening to Mr Burns with his curiosity of all things and a willingness to share. He is good at what he does and as my friend Judi Gaitens said...the nature of good is to give itself away.

I think even the nun in the 2nd row may agree with that.

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