Tuesday, May 14, 2013

#670: Fall 1973

It's the Fall of 1973 in Boise, Idaho, & Life Is Good.
I'm in 9th grade at North Boise Junior High, just starting to figure out what I'm good at & what's ahead of me. I'm on the school newspaper staff, writing silly comedy columns for my mostly-silly classmates. I know I want to be a writer when I grow up.
I'm living in the basement of my parents' house on Bannock Street in the North End, just off of 23rd St., in a two-tone brown stucco house from the early '50s -- & for the first time ever I don't have to close my bedroom door to get some privacy, because except for calling me to dinner, nobody ever comes downstairs!
I'm writing in that basement -- short stories for English class & newspaper assignments mainly, & I'm playing the radio, & I'm reading constantly. Sometimes all three at once.
My Cousin Dave has joined the Navy, & somehow I've inherited several boxes full of his old science-fiction novels & short story collections, & old mid-'60s issues of GALAXY and WORLDS OF IF magazines, with stuff like Larry Niven's first stories, & classic old Harlan Ellison stories, Robert Silverberg, parts of Roger Zelazny's great CREATURES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS, & LOTS more. I'd give anything to get those old magazines back now.
Among the books are Terry Carr's great BEST SCIENCE FICTION OF THE YEAR anthologies (with Graeme Leman's hilarious "Conversational Mode" & Joe Haldeman's gritty "Hero"), & tons of novels, & story collections from the mid-'60s that I'll never see anywhere ever again -- Tom Boardman's ABC'S OF SCIENCE FICTION, CONISSEUR'S SCIENCE FICTION, & probably even Harlan Ellison's OFFBEAT CLASSICS OF SF. All this stuff is rare & priceless now, & it's all long gone.
I trade-off almost all of it at The Used Bookstore that's a 2-minute bike ride from my house. I spend DAYS there, picking up newer SF magazines & stuff that I'm more interested in. This starts a lifelong addiction to SF, kicked-off by discovering ANALOG magazine & reading George R.R. Martin's amazing & surprisingly erotic "A Song for Lya." & the thousands of paperbacks in the store are available for a 2-books-for-1 trade, or for 25 cents each.
Back home the radio is going through a golden autumn. KFXD is kicking butt among pop stations in the Boise Valley, as it always did. They're playing stuff like Steely Dan's "My Old School," 10 C.C.'s "Rubber Bullets," Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Still ... You Turn Me On," Pratt and MacClain's "When My Ship Comes In," Cozy Powell's "Dance With the Devil," Austin Roberts' "One Word," The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver's "You've Got Me Anyway," Elton John's "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding," "Grey Seal" & "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," Matthew Fisher's "Interlude," Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells"....
Over on the FM dial there's signs of life, as KBBK uses their brand-new no-static-at-all computer-automated format to blast out Yes's "Starship Trooper," which I've never heard before -- though I soon obtain a copy of Yes's YESSONGS & start playing it over&over on my tape-player....
On the radio at night I can pick up Art Finley's talk-radio show from San Francisco, L.A. Kings hockey games from Los Angeles, oldies rock&roll from Vancouver B.C. Canada & Oklahoma City & El Paso, Texas, & all-news from Omaha. From right in town I get CBS's Radio Mystery Theater.
& if there's nothing good on the radio I've got dozens of cassettes filled with hits from the past few years & other silliness -- some of the hits go back to early 1971: The Wackers' "I Hardly Know Her Name," Kracker's "Because of You," Johnathan King's "A Tall Order for a Short Guy," Billy Lee Riley's "I've Got a Thing About You Baby," Manfred Mann's Earth Band's "Living Without You," Joni Mitchell's "Raised on Robbery" & loads more, stuff it takes me YEARS to find again after the tapes fall apart -- The Royal Guardsmen's "Snoopy's Christmas," The English Congregation's "Softly Whispering I Love You," Five Man Electrical Band's "Absolutely Right." Some I never find again -- like Heaven Bound's "Five Hundred Miles" & The Road Home's "Keep it in the Family."
My record collection at this point is Nothing Much -- lots of singles, but on albums only Neil Diamond, Bread, Lobo, The Carpenters, Three Dog Night, The Osmonds, Mike Oldfield. But when we visit my Cousin Jim's house, he's got a ton of albums left to him by Cousin Dave, & he puts on DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED and SGT. PEPPER and BEATLES '65 and The Monkees' HEADQUARTERS and The Turtles' HAPPY TOGETHER and Count Five's PSYCHOTIC REACTION and Tommy James & the Shondells' CRIMSON AND CLOVER, & tons more.
M*A*S*H and THE WALTONS are all I care about on TV -- MASH because it's so freakin' funny. & John-Boy Walton is my hero & role-model.
With Cousin Jim I ride my bike all over the city & never crash or get hit by cars. I somehow ride the bike all the way to the top of Highland View Drive -- halfway up the Boise Front, it seems like -- then turn & coast all the way back downhill, really picking up speed, & roll halfway across town through the North End, somehow avoiding cars & signal lights & stop signs & traffic cops.
I've just turned 14 years old, & I'm likely never going to have this much totally innocent fun ever again....

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