Friday, March 21, 2008

Myron Anderson’s Listening Back: Another Good Thing about Houston

One in an Ongoing But Very Sporadic Series On Our Town’s Many Fine But Perhaps Not Readily Apparent Qualities and Attractions, Which We Often Overlook as We Spend Seemingly Interminable Moments Going From There to Here and Back …

A month or so back, when only but a select few bloggers were calling attention to the somewhat overripe commentary of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, we heard Sen. Obama declare that the choice facing Americans is between “marching forward or looking back.” At that moment an image bloomed in our mind’s eye and we could see them, the Obamaphiles, coming just over the rise, hut-hutting along, lockstep, brimming audaciously with hope, resolutely fired-up and ready to go, somewhere, while the very air seemed to billow with the strains of some jaunty martial music---was it the theme from The Bridge Over the River Kwai they were whistling? At the head, of course, was the senator himself, sporting a Lincolnesque stovepipe and pair of vintage Chuck Taylors and tossing his baton into what seemed like the upper reaches of the stratosphere.

The mind’s music was alluring and we felt the pull---we could see our self teamed with the senator in an old man’s game of two-on-two, us raining downs 3s from way behind the line, like World B. Free in his prime, Obama using those sharp elbows to clear the lane and put back our rare misfire, or kick the ball back out to us with Russell-like precision, and after two decisive to-11-by-ones victories we’d knock off for some green tea and foreign policy discussion---but ultimately we knew that we must open our eyes again and draw the blinds on the passing procession, for we are a “looking back” sort of individual and attended too many Mardi Gras parades as a youth.

Fortunately, the next day was Friday, a day we were once forced to observe by the consumption of fish at the L.J. Alleman School cafeteria (frozen fish sticks or an ice cream-scooper of a substance passed off as étouffée, which we believe was a lump of white rice doused with ketchup and containing two or three “shrimp”) and which we much later voluntarily welcomed with early-evening rounds of “Jack” and billiards while the unpleasant, hectoring sound of the Marshall Tucker Band’s Can’t You See wafted through the smoke-choked rooms of The Brass Rail. But these days, the days of our early dotage, we celebrate Fridays not with dated religious superstition or barroom debauchery but with a quick morning listen over our car radio to Myron Anderson’s Listening Back show on KTSU, 90.9 FM. It’s a definite improvement on our previous Friday rituals.

Mr. Anderson, or Myron, if we can be so familiar, has been on the air since 1981 (we believe that’s what we heard him say during his last anniversary show) and since the show’s debut there has been much more music produced for listening back. In fact, Myron says he plays music for people who came of age in the “’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s”---a declaration we found sobering when we realized that persons whose salad days passed in the 1990s might now be listening to “oldies.” Yet Myron seems to stick mostly to the music made by black Americans from roughly the early 1960s through the mid 1970s, and for that we and other H-Town oldsters are grateful.

On some Fridays, when we must ferry our 14-year-old Obama supporter to school, we find our self fighting for our right to listen back as the middle schooler presumptuously switches the dial over to 104 or 96-point-something, whatever it is. Ordinarily we shrug and let it pass---radio, after all, is for the young---but on Fridays we must slap her hand and assert our parental prerogative. We tell her to listen closely and learn. Greek and Latin may no longer be necessary, but an educated person should be able to speak with knowledge of Gamble-Huff and the Philadelphia Sound and know the words to every song Otis Redding ever sang, even the obscure shit that wasn’t released until 30 years after his death.

On the morning after we heard Obama delineate the choice facing modern Americans we were riding alone, running late and cursing the red lights and the other motorists who had the gall to be out driving on the same roadway as us. Oblivious to our plight, Myron and a sidekick were reminiscing about great blaxploitation (not a term Myron used) flicks of the early 1970s, the ones we so enjoyed as a Young White Negro-in-Training, and playing music from those movies. He spun Bobby Womack’s swelling theme for Across 110th Street, then concluded a mini-Star Set with Womack’s strangely beautiful Hairy Hippie (“I’d like to help a man, when he’s down, but how can I help ya, Harry, when you’re sleepin’ on the ground? Sorry, Harry, you’re just too much weight to carry 'round.”), which was attached to no movie but was a great song nonetheless. Then Myron spoke lovingly of The Liberation of L.B. Jones, reeling off the names of all the actors and giving special mention to Lola Falana, who, as he observed, had “some legs.” We heard no more, for we had arrived at our destination, but we needed no more, for Myron had set us in mind of the Fridays when we were young, full of Jack and free of cafeteria fish sticks, and the whole world---perhaps even Lola Falana’s legs---seemed open and beckoning.

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