no. (roses_rejoice) wrote,

Stories for children

i had this friend, I'll call him Don (not his real name). Don went to my college and worked at the college radio station. As a high skewler I was a big fan of the radio station and would listen to my favorite DJs and sometimes call the more friendly-sounding ones up and make requests, or just try to sound knowledgeable about music. Don was one of the DJs who was just too cool and world-weary for that approach, plus he generally played the sort of super-obscure weird stuff that nobody, including me who spent every weekend at the library researching bands (No Internet then, kids, hadda read books and 'zines), had ever heard of.

I did call one of Don's shows once. I tried to request Depeche Mode, who were unheard of then. Unfortunately, I did not take French in high school. Don actually cracked his cool exterior to laugh at how badly I mangled the pronunciation. (Came out sounding something like Shamu the whale.)

When I got to college, the first place I went was the radio station, anxious to meet all these gods of arcane musical knowledge. I didn't meet Don there though. I ran into him at my first official Drunken College Party. I didn't drink, I was babysitting some drunk jerk I liked at the time, when Don showed up with his oh-so-skinny-and-cool date (who later absconded to NYC with a boatload of stolen rent money and was never seen again) and a large handful of illegal pills, which I didn't take.

I was a bit freaked out and decided Don was mad, bad, and dangerous to know. But for some reason he seemed to enjoy talking to me. Probably because I was young and naive and sometimes said phunny things. He would talk to me about music, and the psychedelics he was taking (something else I never did, then, later or now), and about the 13-year-old girl he was dating and really loved tho her parents didn't dig it. I would mostly just listen and crack a remark here and there. I wasn't sure how I got this cool guy interested in talking to me; for one thing, he knew I didn't drink, didn't do drugs of any kind, and at that time didn't have sex, and he never tried to talk me into any of that. But I tried like hell to be cool myself and converse intelligently and not mess up.

Eventually I found out Don was only a couple years older than me (he seemed a lot older) and had attended a local Catholic boys' school that I knew well. Said school was considered the "jocks" school, not exactly the bastion of intellectual hipness. This to me explained a lot of Don's need to keep up some kind of facade. So after that I felt like I understood him, having gone to a similar all-girls institution mice elf. It sort of brought him down off the pedestal and more to my level as a friend.

I was working at the station by this time, so sometimes Don and I goofed around on the air or in the studio. He announced once on the air that I was there, and that I was his friend, and that if he saw me laying dead in the street he'd feel sad, and he didn't feel that way about most people. That made me very happy, both because I didn't have many friends growing up and because, well, Don was cool, y'know. So if he liked me I must be cool too.

Once he took me to his liberal arts lit class on Joyce. It was the first and last lib arts class I ever attended. It was awful. You couldn't eat or sleep or read the paper or get up and walk out like you did in my big engg sections, where the profs basically didn't care whether you showed up or not. Instead, this old prof actually expected you to sit there and pay attention and act interested in what I considered his nitpicky, meaningless blackboard dissection of two sentences of "Ulysses". You were not allowed to leave the room. It was like being back in high school, ick. Anyway, I had read that James Joyce himself was a fun dude who drank and read porn in church and I figured ol' James would be as appalled as I was. I couldn't understand how Don put up with several sessions of that garbage per week, much less seemed to enjoy it---esp since it obviously wasn't going to land him any sort of a decently paying job.

About midway through the year, Don's good buddy got into a major battle with the station management. I can't even remember what the issue was, but it quickly turned into one of those stupid angry-young-man-against-the-college-establishment scenarios, and Don's pal either resigned or got fired from his position. Don decided to quit the station as well in support of his friend. I and the other first-year staffers had only the basic idea that there was a conflict going on from notes left in the station log and scuttlebutt----we weren't involved at all and weren't privy to the situation. I recall Don was relatively upset over this - at least, as upset as a cool intellectual dude can allow himself to be - and he spent a lot of time talking to older, ex-hippie coworkers who'd been through similar battles. So Don and I weren't talking to each other much, but I knew he felt bad.

Don and his pal did Don's last radio show together. School was on break so I was at my parents' house, and of course I tuned in. They started to play a lot of silly commercial stuff that they never would have played otherwise. "Would you like to ride/ In my beautiful balloon?" That got my attention because I liked cheesy songs, and that had been one I loved as a child. So I figured I'd call in and just say hi and sorry you're going off the air, I will miss you, etc. Maybe request something else silly. Or listen if he wanted to talk.

So I called. Don answered. I started to talk and the phone cut out. I figured he hit the wrong button or accidentally pulled the cord or the old, beatup studio phone screwed up. So I redialed the number and started to talk. It cut out again. He had hung up on me deliberately.

I couldn't believe this. I thought maybe it was a game. Some of my other DJ friends played a game called "It's Your Hangup!" where they hungup on random callers. If you called back enough times you got through. So I called again. And he hung up again. And I was mad now so I redialed. I couldn't understand why a friend would hang up on me. We didn't have a fight. We didn't even have a disagreement. We hadn't even been talking! What the f*ck (only I didn't say That Word then)! I just couldn't believe it and kept redialing. And he kept hanging up. About ten times. I think maybe he took the phone off the hook then. I can still remember standing there with the phone in my hand and "Beautiful Balloon" playing in the background. Like, why?

Shortly thereafter Don came on during a break in the repeated playings of "Beautiful Balloon" and announced in his dry, ultrahip tones that I had called (Using my actual full name) and then proceeded to tell the entire listening area, which spanned a major city, that if he saw me laying dead in the street now, he wouldn't feel sad...he wouldn't feel anything.

We never talked again.

To this day I have no idea what I did, besides call in when he didn't want me to. Probably nothing, probably he just got sick of me and everything else associated with the station. He was around the campus for the next couple years getting his degree and we'd pass each other without speaking. Except about a year after that, when I walked past him one day and we were both alone I smiled and said, "HI DON!" real loud just to watch him jump. He did.

The summer after all this happened I met somebody I really liked and on our first "date" I waited till we were close and told this story to see if I could get him to feel sorry for me. I got the desired response. The first step to a long and reasonably good romantic friendship. So, y'know, I got sympathy points out of it, anyway.

if anybody's still reading, happy end of the real millenium.
can't come soon enuf, sez I.

back to work...

oh yeah...forgot to add that it was a really long time, like years, before I could stand to listen to "Beautiful Balloon" again.
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