Mike Daisey is a friend of mine and a very close friend of my son, John. Mike is a world-renowned monologuist, famous for his many one-man shows performed around the world over the last 15 or so years. Not surprisingly, Mike is also a man of immense ability when it comes to describing a scene. The following was written and sent by Mike as follows:
I am writing this from downtown New York. In a perverse reversal, I have no way to contact anyone except through my high-speed wireless internet connection--phones are out, and electricity in the area is intermittent.
The media will ultimately tell the story better than I, but I can tell you that there is massive loss of life. The sky is black with ash, the people have been panicking and fleeing in unadulterated terror. I have never seen anything like it. It is very difficult to breathe, even with your mouth covered--the ash blows down the streets and burns your eyes. It feels like the world has ended. When the screaming started and the crowds began to run after the second plane struck it was a horror film running in overdrive, jumping frames and cutting in and out. Time got lost--I don’t know how long this went on. I have a cut on my leg. I ended up in a Wendy’s where a huge number of us took refuge. I don’t know where the workers were--I helped get water for people.
I am starting to see emergency workers, and the streets are clearing somewhat--at least the first waves of panic are passing. I’ve seen bodies draped in white sheets--it took me a time to realize those were bodies, not injured people; they must be out of room or not be able to get them to the morgues or the hospitals.
I’m headed for the Brooklyn Bridge to walk out of the city. I’m going to stop at any hospital I find to give blood before leaving. If anyone reading this can, please donate blood--I heard from a medic that the hospitals are already running out.
Mike Daisey 2:26 PM
I am writing this from my home in Brooklyn after leaving Manhattan. I have signed up for a time slot to give blood later this evening and have a few hours available before then.
After my last posting I made my way east through an urban moonscape--everywhere there is ash, abandoned bags in the street, people looking lost. I managed to get a cell line out to Jean-Michele, who is still in Seattle, and she helped me navigate with online maps as I plotted my exit strategy.
Bizarrely, I caught a taxi crosstown. I was standing at a corner, I’m not even certain where, and a taxi was sitting there. A very pushy woman, whom I will always be thankful for, barged her way into the cab. In a moment, without thinking, I climbed in too. The driver, a Pakistani guy who had an improbable smile, immediately took off.
The ash blocks out the sun downtown--it’s like driving in an impossible midnight, and even more impossible that I’m in a cab, with this woman who won’t stop trying her cell phone and another man, my age, who looks like he’s been crying. Maybe he just has ash in his eyes. I know I do--I feel like I will never see properly again, though that’s probably just trauma. I don’t even know where the driver is going. The crying man got someone on *his* cell phone, starts explaining what he’s seeing out the window. It’s like having a narrator traveling with us--I only notice the things that he is describing as he describes them.
God bless that taxi driver--we never paid him. He let us all off, and I think he got out as well, near the Brooklyn Bridge. There are cops everywhere; people are herding themselves quite calmly, mutely, onto the bridge. We all walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, which is unbelievably beautiful, the wires and stone of the bridge surrounding us and the bright sun ahead, passing out of darkness.
No one is talking to each other, but there is a sense of warmth. Everyone has his or her cell phones out, fishing for a clear signal. Those who catch them talk hurriedly to families, friends, people in other cities, children in their homes. It is comforting to hear their voices, telling how they are okay, shhh, it's okay, I’m okay. As we walk out into the sunlight, I am so happy to be in this company, the company of people who are all right, those who walked out.
I was in the city today to turn in some of my book, I had stayed up all night writing and I was so worried--is it ready, have I done my work? Those questions seem small today--not unimportant, but smaller, in a new proportion. I kept thinking of how much I have left to do in my life, so many things that are undone, people I haven’t spoken to in years. It's overwhelming to feel everyone around me thinking the same thing, the restless thoughts trickling over this bridge as we come back to Brooklyn.
From the Promenade I stand with hundreds of others, listening to radios, watching the plumes of smoke and the empty holes in the skyline. People stand there for a long time, talk to one another in hushed tones. Someone hands out a flier for a vigil this evening, which I will go to after I give blood.
What can be said? Just this: we will emphasize the horror and the evil, and that is all true. It is not the entire story. I saw an old man with breathing problems and two black kids in baggy pants and ghetto gear rubbing his back, talking to him. No one was rioting or looting. People helped each other in small and tremendous ways all day long…a family was giving away sandwiches at the Promenade. Everyone I talked to agreed to go give blood. If a draft had been held to train people to be firefighters there would have been fights to see who got to volunteer.
No matter how wide and intricate this act of evil may be, it pales in comparison to the quiet dignity and strength of regular people. I have never been more proud of my country.
(I wrote this back in May of 2007 and posted it on the Radio-Info.com blog site. I had forgotten about it until today when I went looking for the KATV sign-off I mention below. I was surprised when my original blog entry appeared first on the Google search. After reading it, I thought I'd post it here as well. Enjoy!)
I miss radio and tv station sign-offs. Back in the '50's and '60's and even into the '70's the majority of broadcasting stations were not 24-hour operations. There were lots of radio stations that were known as "day-timers", which meant they began their broadcast day at local sunrise and stopped broadcasting or "signed-off" at local sunset. Many still do, but the majority now run 24/7. TV stations usually signed on at 5 or 6am, local time, and off at midnight.
It took a good deal of legal work to extend hours of operation through the FCC, but the possibility of increased revenues, combined with the fact that staying on the air 24/7 didn't really cost much more caused the change to full-time operations. It didn't hurt that people who were listening to your station the night before stayed with you when they woke up the next morning. They hadn't left you for another station that was on longer than you were.
That aside, my purpose here is to share a couple of memories regarding "sign-offs" I've heard and been a part of. My first memories go back to TV in the early '50's, when stations didn't sign-on till midday or later due to the lack of product. You'd turn on your TV and see the familiar circle with dashes in it and some numbers and that face of an Indian chief in profile, complete with headdress. This was before the days of color bars on your screen.
Most broadcast stations used the "Star-Spangled Banner" as a sign-on/off aid...but some didn't. When I worked at WRBC in Jackson, MS in 1968-69, we used Duane Eddy's famed "Rebel Rouser" for sign-on/off music. After all, WRBC stood for Rebel Broadcasting Company! Some TV stations in the '60's used a chorus singing "The Lord's Prayer" while the video showed a full shot, outdoors, of an Indian chief, also in full headdress and buckskins, "signing" "The Lord's Prayer". It was very effective. The best sign-off I ever saw was the one used by KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock/Pine Bluff back in 1965 or 6. They had just built a tremendous tower to hang their antenna from and were proud of it. It was 1200 to 1500 feet tall or some such number. They had the idea of putting a camera in a helicopter and lifting off near the tower and going straight up until they were above the tower, shooting all the way. Then they had the gumption to put the 4th movement of Dimitri Shostakovitch's 5th Symphony behind it. If you're not familiar with it, you should try to hear it. It builds and builds to a triumphant climax that is terrific. The combination of video and audio in that sign-off was magnificient.
In the early '70's in Memphis, when WREC-TV (now WREG-TV) signed off, they would put up a slide of a nighttime view of Memphis and play an audio cut by WREC-AM's "Nightsounds" host, Al Kenngott, which said something like, "Not quite ready to retire, then enjoy "Nightsounds" on WREC radio right now with me, Al Kenngott."
I remember in about 1980 getting a call from a production guy at a new radio station that was about to sign on in Memphis. He was desperately seeking a copy of "The Star-Spangled Banner". "My boss says we can't sign on this station until we get one!", he told me. I sent him a tape and they signed on the next morning. They went dark a few years later, so no harm, no foul so far as helping out the competition, I suppose.
My mother later took that reel of tape to Memphis and had it transformed into an acetate disc for use on a phonograph. She had it done, incidentally, at Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Studio where, a year later, a young Elvis Presley walked in and recorded his first song. Through the years we listened to that old record to hear those wonderful voices singing and reciting those early memories. I became a radio broadcaster and, in 1972, did my version of "Little Rocket's Christmas," produced with music. I played it for my radio audience for over 20 years at Christmas as my present to them.
My grandparents have been gone almost 50 years now along with my parents and all but one of those wonderful aunts. For this Christmas morn, I thought I'd post that poem for you to enjoy, along with this wonderful picture of a young Lawrence Ludlow Cowen and Effie Mae Arnold in their courting days before the turn of the 20th Century. Merry Christmas to you all.
LITTLE ROCKET'S CHRISTMAS.
I'LL tell you how the Christmas came
To Rocket—no, you never met him,
That is, you never knew his name,
Although 'tis possible you've let him
Display his skill upon your shoes;
A boot-black—arab,if you choose.
And who was Rocket? Well, an urchin,
A gamin, dirty, torn, and tattered,
Whose chiefest pleasure was to perch in
The Bowery gallery; there it mattered
But little what the play might be—
Broad farce or point-lace comedy—
He meted out his just applause
By rigid, fixed, and proper laws.
A father once he had, no doubt,
A mother on the Island staying, Which left him free to knock about
And gratify a taste for straying. An ash-box served him for a bed—
As good, at least, as Moses' rushes— And for his daily meat and bread,
He earned them with his box and brushes. An arab of the city's slums,
With ready tongue and empty pocket, Unaided left to solve life's sums,
But plucky always—that was Rocket! 'Twas Christmas eve, and all the day
The snow had fallen fine and fast;
In banks and drifted heaps it lay
Along the streets. A piercing blast
Blew cuttingly. The storm was past,
And now the stars looked coldly down
Upon the snow-enshrouded town.
Ah, well it is if Christmas brings
Good-will and peace which poet sings!
How full are all the streets to-night
With happy faces, flushed and bright!
For all the world is glad to-night!
All, did I say? Ah, no, not all,
For sorrow throws on some its pall.
But Rocket? On this Christmas eve
You might have seen him standing where The city's streets so interweave
They form that somewhat famous square Called Printing House. His face was bright,
And at this gala, festive season
You could not find a heart more light—
I'll tell you in a word the reason:
By dint of patient toil in shining
Patrician shoes and Wall Street boots, He had within his jacket's lining
A dollar and a half—the fruits Of pinching, saving, and a trial Of really Spartan self-denial.
That dollar and a half was more
Than Rocket ever owned before.
A princely fortune, so he thought,
And with those hoarded dimes and nickels
What Christmas pleasures may be bought!
A dollar and a half! It tickles
The boy to say it over, musing
Upon the money's proper using;
" I'll go a gobbler, leg and breast,
With cranberry sauce and fixin's nice,
And pie, mince pie, the very best,
And puddin'—say a double slice!
And then to doughnuts how I'll freeze;
With coffee—guess that ere's the cheese!
And after grub I'll go to see
The 'Seven Goblins of Dundee.'
If this yere Christmas ain't a buster,
I'll let yer rip my Sunday duster!"
So Rocket mused as he hurried along,
Clutching his money with grasp yet tighter, And humming the air of a rollicking song,
With a heart as light as his clothes—or lighter. Through Centre Street he makes his way,
When, just as he turns the corner at Pearl, He hears a voice cry out in dismay,
And sees before him a slender girl,
As ragged and tattered in dress as he,
With hand stretched forth for charity."
In the street-light's fitful and flickering glare
He caught a glimpse of the pale, pinched face—
So gaunt and wasted, yet strangely fair
With a lingering touch of childhood's grace
On her delicate features. Her head was bare And over her shoulders disordered there hung
A mass of tangled, nut-brown hair.
In misery old as in years she was young,
She gazed in his face. And, oh! for the eyes—
The big, blue, sorrowful, hungry eyes—
That were fixed in a desperate, frightened stare.
Hundreds have jostled her by to-night—
The rich, the great, the good, and the wise,
Hurrying on to the warmth and light
Of happy homes—they have jostled her by,
And the only one who has heard her cry,
Or, hearing, has felt his heartstrings stirred,
Is Rocket—this youngster of coarser clay,
This gamin, who never so much as heard
The beautiful story of Him who lay
In the manger of old on Christmas day!
With artless pathos and simple speech,
Sh<~ stands and tells him her pitiful tale;
She tells of the terrible battle for bread,
Tells of a father brutal with crime,
Tells of a mother lying dead,
At this, the gala Christmas-time;
Then adds, gazing up at the starlit sky,
"I'm hungry and cold, and I wish I could die."
What is it trickles down the cheek
Of Rocket—can it be a tear ?
He stands and stares, but does not speak;
He thinks again of that good cheer
Which Christmas was to bring; he sees
Visions of turkey, steaming pies, The play-bill—then, in place of these
The girl's beseeching, hungry eyes; One mighty effort, gulping down
The disappointment in his breast, A quivering of the lip, a frown,
And then, while pity pleads her best,
He snatches forth his cherished hoard,
And gives it to her like a lord!
" Here, freeze to that; I'm flush, yer see,
And then you needs it more 'an me! "
With that he turns and walks away,
So fast the girl can nothing say,
So fast he does not hear the prayer
That sanctifies the winter air.
But He who blessed the widow's mite
Looked down and smiled upon the sight.
No feast of steaming pies or turkey,
No ticket for the matin6e,
All drear and desolate and murky,
In truth, a very dismal day.
With dinner on a crust of bread,
And not a penny in his pocket, A friendly ash-box for a bed—
Thus came the Christmas day to Rocket, And yet—and here's the strangest thing—
As best befits the festive season, The boy was happy as a king—
I wonder can you guess the reason ?
- Current Mood:happy
Happy Birthday, Dad. Even though I am thousands of miles away from Amite County now and you are with Mom and so many others of our extended family in eternal rest, I just wanted to say once more, I love you and thank you for all the wonderful lessons you taught me. Though I was hard tested by them, I find them of more and more help as I grow older.
Who'd a thunk that 100 years later, three of your four grandchildren and one of your children would all be living within shouting distance of each other on the far Northwest coast of America, so far away from the Big House in Amite County, Mississippi.
Good night, Dad.
- Current Location:Shoreline, WA
- Current Music:"'T' For Texas"
One of my favorite lines comes from the movie, "Contact," when Ellie Arroway's Dad, Ted, tells her: "Small moves, Ellie, small moves."
Though I was covered by an insurance plan at work, out-of-pocket expenses relating to birth caused me to lag behind on payments to my Bankamericard - I owed $200! I received a dun notice in the mail (remember mail?) asking for immediate payment of a minimal amount the week after my wife and son were home from the hospital. I was enraged at this intrusion and sat down to write a letter along with my check for the entire amount. I also enclosed the cut-up Bankamericard in the envelope. I spoke harshly in the letter, I'm sure, though I don't remember what I wrote. I generally speak harshly when I write a business a letter because that's about the only time I ever write a business a letter. I'm sure most of you have similar feelings about business correspondence.
Now flash forward about 2 years. Our son was growing swiftly and we needed outside space for him to play. We lived in a duplex at Jackson and Avalon in Memphis. Jackson is a very busy street and we feared for our energetic son's safety when in the yard. I asked our landlord if I could have a chain-link fence put around three sides of the duplex and he agreed. I went to Central Hardware (remember them?) to price the job. They said $200 for two gates and the posts and fencing to do the job. I went to my bank for a loan.
We did business with First Tennessee Bank. I worked in the Peabody Hotel and the main office of First Tennessee was our primary bank. For some reason I went to a branch office a couple of blocks south and talked with a bank officer. After a preliminary discussion he asked me to return the next day after he had checked a few things out. This is before banks were shoveling money out the door with bad risks, even for $200.
I returned the next day and was shown into the branch manager's office. I'd never met the man, but he asked me to be seated. He asked why I hadn't used my Bankamericard for the sum and I said I had no such account.
He said, "Oh, no, you do."
I said I hadn't had one for a couple of years, that I had cut up the card and sent it back to the bank.
He said, "And you sent a letter with it, right?"
I said I supposed I had, but couldn't remember for certain.
He said as he pulled open a desk drawer, "Yes you did and I have it right here. Mr. Tynes, we cannot make this loan because you have a 'W' against your name."
Stunned, I asked what that meant.
"You had some very harsh words to us in this letter and, unless you apologize to me here and now, you will not receive the loan," he said.
I sat back in my chair and pondered while my blood pressure rose. I remembered now the incident around the birth of my son and my feelings of pressure and concern for his and our future at the time. I got mad.
"Sir, I don't remember the words I said in that letter, but I'm certain of my feelings at the time. I will not retract or apologize anything I said...and you and this bank can go straight to hell." I remember using stronger words than that, but this IS a public forum.
I rose and walked out. I wish I could say I had the gumption to close our account then and there, but we still are customers of First Tennessee after all these years. I know that will be one of the joys I anticipate with us moving out of Tennessee and into a new life in the Northwest this year.
I still get mad when I think about that guy, whom I had never seen before, asking me to apologize to an entity with no soul or concern about a young couple and a baby boy. So far as I know I still have a "W" against my name and I'm proud of it.
I went back to Central Hardware and financed the fence through them. My son grew straight and tall. Nowadays, I drive past that fence on Jackson Avenue and remember him playing in the sun, safe from the traffic, unconcerned and loved, and I smile.
"Football is only a game. Spiritual things are eternal. Nevertheless, Beat Texas."
"After you retire, there's only one big event left....and I ain't ready for that."
"The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it."
"When you win, nothing hurts."
"Motivation is simple. You eliminate those who are not motivated."
"If you want to walk the heavenly streets of gold, you gotta know the password, "Roll, tide, roll!"
"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall."
"I don't expect to win enough games to be put on NCAA probation. I just want to win enough to warrant an investigation."
"You can learn more character on the two-yard line than anywhere else in life."
When asked if Fayetteville was the end of the world. "No, but you can see it from here."
"I make my practices real hard because if a player is a quitter, I want him to quit in practice, not in a game."
"There's one sure way to stop us from scoring-give us the ball near the goal line."
"Lads,you're not to miss practice unless your parents died or you died."
"I never graduated from Iowa, but I was only there for two terms -
"My advice to defensive players: Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in a bad humor."
"I could have been a Rhodes Scholar, except for my grades."
"Always remember ..... Goliath was a 40 point favorite over David."
"They cut us up like boarding house pie. And that's real small pieces."
"Show me a good and gracious loser, and I'll show you a failure."
"They whipped us like a tied up goat."
"I asked Darrell Royal, the coach of the Texas Longhorns, why he didn't recruit me and he said: "Well,Walt, we took a look at you and you weren't any good."
"Son, you've got a good engine, but your hands aren't on the steering wheel."
"Football is not a contact sport - it is a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport."
After USC lost 51-0 to Notre Dame, his postgame message to his team:
"If lessons are learned in defeat, our team is getting a great education."
"The only qualifications for a lineman are to be big and dumb. To be a back, you only have to be dumb."
"Oh, we played about like three tons of buzzard puke this afternoon."
"It isn't necessary to see a good tackle. You can hear it."
"We live one day at a time and scratch where it itches."
"We didn't tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking."
"Three things can happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad ."
"I've found that prayers work best when you have big players."
"Gentlemen, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football"
In the summer of 1950, my father accepted the position of Superintendent of Schools for the west half of Tallahatchie County. A brand new high school was being built in Webb, MS, and we moved into state supplied housing on the school's campus, along with most of the new faculty and their families. There was a large apartment complex flanked by two single homes. My family lived in one of the single homes and the ag teacher and his family in the other. There were 3 apartments in the complex for families and 3 apartments in which single men and single women teachers lived, dormitory style. It was a wonderful place to be a kid. I went back there with my Mom in 2002 and couldn't believe how small the place was!
The memory I'm reminded of was of us watching television together. There was a TV in the common living room in the apartment complex, but it was also the only place where socializing among the single teachers could take place, so weekend evenings were for them and not for us kids. The high school had an audio visual room with around 150 movie type wood seats bolted to the floor in rows, a stage two steps up from the main floor, a curtain, and, mounted on a plywood cabinet with casters, a 15 inch Motorola TV. I'm guessing at the screen size, but it certainly wasn't any larger than that in 1951.
Friday and Saturday nights would find anywhere from 20 to 45 people seated in that room. We watched what the majority wanted to see - "The Life of Riley" was on Friday nights and "Your Show of Shows" on Saturday night. Milton Berle was in there somewhere with his Texaco show. I don't remember folks bringing food or drink, just themselves and lots of kids. Let's see, there was Tom and Lucy Coward, Mary Margaret Seale and her brother Ted, my sister, Betty, my brother, Larry, Bernie and Doug Blackwell, me, and some or all of our parents along with single teachers and not a few townspeople from Webb - all watching television in a group. All my memories of those times are happy ones.
It would be 1958 before my family got its very own TV, a used Admiral, when we moved to Biloxi. I didn't know it was possible to have my own choice of what to watch - "Ramar of the Jungle" and "Soldier of Fortune" and "Jungle Jim" and "Wyatt Earp" and "Bat Masterson" - you can fill in more as you wish.
Nowadays I watch TV by myself as do most of us, I believe. Remote controls tend to cause solitary watchers, particularly for men. But tonight, watching that wonderful kinescope, I was once more sitting on a hard seat along with 30 other folks, laughing together in communal harmony. I don't know that we're better off today with all the color and surround sound and 1080p and HD than we were all those years ago with that black and white Motorola sitting on top of that plywood box on rollers in the center of that stage in Webb, Mississippi.
By the way, the second half of the title of this entry is the opening to the Alma Mater of West Tallahatchie High School:
"In the heart of the Mississippi Delta,
Land of cotton, land of smiles,
Stands our dearly loved Alma Mater,
dum de dum dum de da while. (That old annual with the lyrics is packed away.)