So that happened…

Hijinks on the Midway

It’s Ohio State Fair time and I’m going to take my state pride, as well as my love of hastily smacked together death trap carnival rides, and head right down there! No, I’m totally lying. I’m not going because I’ve paid my dues at the fair and now that the penance has been served, I will get my elephant ears elsewhere.

My son has to go, though. He’s entered that magical stage of life where you take every and all menial labor, however debilitatingly tedious or physically punishing, because you need the money. And so, he’s a carny for the summer.

No, only in my overly romantic imagination. No, he’s manning a shyster booth – trying to con fairgoers into purchasing some inexpensive bit of science. In his case, it’s little capsules that water your plants for you. Back in my day, it was Ford trucks.

Yes, I, too, took the menial and seasonal work offered by the fair when I was 19. In fact, my then-mustachioed and mulleted beau George was working his radio booth just down the Midway from me and my purple pick-ups. After our shifts we’d undertake zany, fair-related misadventures, like eating fair food, or bungee jumping.

That last one was a bad idea. I elected to go first, no doubt to prove that I was fearless or some other utterly ridiculous lie. George and I were still dating at the time. But it turns out that I should have let George be fearless because I was in for unexpected public humiliation – Oh good! My favorite kind.

So, to bungee jump, the carnies – I mean, bungee technician professionals – need your weight. Sensible, really, because they have to make sure they have the right cords. So they weigh you, then shout your weight to about eight different people up the rigging, who likewise make sure your harness is properly adjusted. And, of course, the shouting also guarantees that your cutie pie boyfriend and EVERYONE AT THE OHIO STATE FAIR is now familiar with your weight.

As a rule, I don’t weigh myself. I hadn’t been on a scale in years and was taken a bit by surprise by the appallingly high number being hollered through the grounds.

Rather than pay attention to the directions being given to me as I ascended the rigging, my mind was racing through ways to remedy the weight situation. I need to start running again, I should lay off the Cap’n Crunch, cut out the maaayooonaaiiisseee…And just like that, I’d already jumped without really even noticing it.

What I did notice was that searing pain that shot from my ears to my spine when my neck snapped like a whipcord. Wow – a public weighing followed by a traumatic brain injury. What fun bungee jumping is.

I then hung upside down, bouncing with the elastic, for thousands and thousands of years while all the blood in my body collected, tick like, in my throbbing head. My head was like something that epically unfunny Eighties comic Gallagher might smash onstage with a mallet, spewing gore on the audience.

Which reminds me, Gallagher stopped by Riley’s booth a couple days ago, throwing around self-referential comments and believing himself to be hilarious. Riley, having been born nearly a decade after Gallagher ceased to be relevant, had no idea who he was and politely suggested he move on. Words were exchanged.

And see, isn’t that really the joy of menial labor? Accruing those stories?

So that happened…

Nine Inch Wall

Trent Reznor says he’s putting together materials for a new Nine Inch Nails album. This is great news for the MaddWolf household, since all three of us are fans. In particular, it means that I will recognize the sounds blaring from my bathroom while my son Riley is in the shower – as opposed to the Norwegian Death Metal, Lithuanian Punk, or Pirate Metal (I swear this is true) I might hear today.

One of Riley’s earliest concerts was the NIN show at the old Germain amphitheater. Bauhaus, a band from my childhood who sings of vampires, opened. Riley considered them “adorable.”

“They’re like 50 and they take their shirts off. The one guy’s wearing all mesh. Who does that?”

I couldn’t defend my aging goth band against these charges of adorableness, though, because some out-of-place, incredibly drunk dude in faux blonde dreads kept trying to frat-boy dance his way into our row. Riley was about 11 and I didn’t want him crushed up against the rest of the row, so I did the only reasonable thing. I planted my feet and boxed out.

NIN took the stage and Riley beamed. We sang along. Periodically the kid in the row ahead turned around to ask me which album one song or another came from, as I was the only ticketholder old enough to remember the band’s 1989 debut album. All went well, until the body count beyond Riley shifted, and suddenly a woman wearing only police tape for a shirt appeared to my son’s right.

The mesh shirt seemed epically reasonable to me at this point.

Sgt. Nipply stumbled close to my boy and murmured some, “oh, isn’t he cute” remark. I placed my right hand firmly on her left shoulder, straightened my arm (I do have an impressive wing span) and pressed.

With my right arm as a brace above Riley’s head and my left guarding against rhasta-frat-drunky, I stood as a force field for the balance of the program, in what is now known as the “Head-off the Ho’s Memorial Box-Out.” Riley danced and clapped and had a generally great time within my perimeter of party-poopitude.

Some years later, Riley got the phenomenal opportunity to meet Reznor because our glorious friend Cheryl won backstage passes, and her possibly-more-glorious husband Demetrius unselfishly decided to make a 16-year-old’s dreams come true. He gave Riley his pass. All Riley had to do in return was promise to ask Reznor how much weight he could bench press, which, to Cheryl’s dismay, he did. (FYI: Reznor didn’t give a number, but he did ask Riley if high school still sucks.)

My only job was to get him there.

Riley took his buddy Nate, both 16 but not yet licensed, so I drove the boys to Nationwide and looked for the ice cream truck where they’d meet Cheryl and the other winners.

Some of those winners were women in their twenties who (presumably) misjudged Riley and Nate as of-age. This band of tramps openly eyeballed – even flirted with – my charges.

I put a quick end to that.

George says there’s a name for people like me, and it’s not Cholesterol Blocker. But I don’t care because I’d do it again. I would, that is, if Riley and Nate would ever again be seen in public with me.

Anyway, to sum up: 1) Nine Inch Nails may have a new album soon, 2) Don’t take your mom to a rock show.

So that happened…

Confessions of a Radio Wife

I hate country music.

 Oh, it feels so good to admit that.

I know that it’s America’s music, our cultural heritage. I understand that many of the best musicians on earth come from country music, and that its lyrics speak of the common citizen overcoming emotional and societal oppression – and how else would we know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em? From a sound proof distance, I admire country music and its truly talented musicians and songwriters. 

I feel certain country music wouldn’t find me especially entertaining, either, and that we could have lived perfectly contented separate lives, similar to the non-relationships I enjoy with, say, opera and camping, were it not for Columbus radio.

You see, for twenty years or so, country music paid my bills. 

My husband George works in radio, and over the course of nearly our entire relationship he worked his way up the ranks from weekend part-timer to full time DJ to music director to program director at a Columbus radio station. Over the course of those years, his station swung back and forth between classics and current hits, occasionally mixing the two, but tragically, the variety was always well within the bounds of country.

Our son grew up hearing daddy on the radio, and learning the words to every Travis Tritt or Toby Keith song to hit the airwaves. This, combined with what George and I listened to at home, opened Riley up to a rich and varied musical world. 

My own musical world, on the other hand, was already populated and I couldn’t seem to find room for Faith or Dolly, George (Strait or Jones). Every new crop of up-and-comers gave me a migraine. Taylor Swift seems like an awfully sweet kid, but if I could go a single day without hearing one of her songs I will feel truly blessed.

It’s me, I’m not pretending it’s not. The problem usually is me. The heart of the issue, truth be told, has never been so much that I don’t care for country music. Everyone has their own personal likes and dislikes when it comes to music. 

The problem is that I have had to suppress this fact publically for two full decades. I don’t suppress well. Trying to behave in any way that is unnatural makes me uncomfortable, and once I’m uncomfortable, I simply lose all sense of appropriateness and start acting a fool.

For instance, many years ago at the old Germain amphitheater, I was in a backstage meet-and-greet line at a Reba McEntire concert. My husband was escorting the winner of their contest – What’s the Craziest Thing You Would Do to Meet Reba?! I, naturally, was his date. 

We were all wearing radio station tee shirts, and I’d had to borrow mine from another DJ. Reba warmly greeted the winner, pulled out her Sharpie, and began autographing shirts. 

I blanched and said, “No thanks.”

It wasn’t my shirt. 

Would the owner of the shirt have appreciated the autograph of an icon of her chosen field? Oh, I feel sure she would have. 

Ms. McEntire eyeballed me like the social alien that I was. The guy in front of me had literally tattooed a very good likeness of her face (and huuuuge hair) on his arm, all for the opportunity to meet her, and I wouldn’t let her autograph my ten dollar tee shirt. 

You can see why I should never be allowed to participate in this kind of thing – I only embarrass us all. 

There was also that time at the Ohio State Fair when Willie Nelson kissed me full on the mouth. I’m not even sure what went wrong there. 

Anyway, at just about the time our son graduated from Grandview Heights High School and we had to face an impressive tuition bill from Ohio State, George was downsized – released from the land of belt buckles and steel guitars. 

Unemployment is no laughing matter, especially in a field as tough as radio. And yet, I could scarcely conceal my glee over just that one little perk: I would no longer have to sit quietly and smilingly tolerate Kenny Chesney music.

But the better news is that George’s new gig as midday guy on Rewind 103.5/104.3 has him spinning tons of Eighties hits. Goodbye Blake Shelton (I braided his hair once. Don’t ask. I believe I was mistaken for a member of the staff.) Hello, Billy Idol (call me!). I can barely control my joy. 

Oh, one more thing. NASCAR is not a sport. 

This is so freeing!