My dad owned a Heathkit radio, which was a small shortwave and regular radio in one. My friend, Chris, and I would take it out on the porch on clear summer evenings as our parents visited inside. We’d try to adjust the small antenna such that it would pick up faint AM signals from as far away as California. This was only possible on clear evenings when the frequencies of AM stations, which could only travel about 50km, would bounce off the ionosphere, and reflect back down, reaching places over a 1,000 kms away by land.

The signals would come and go, but it was our wish to see from where we could pull them in. How fun it was suddenly to start hearing a talk show from Fresno, or a raging evangelical preacher with an accent “not from these parts.”

At times the speed of the speaking would modulate, as well, giving it a little bit of an ethereal, other-worldly sound. Much of the time, as we turned the dials and knobs, it was crackling static. The tuned-in portions were the prize.

Chris was the son of friends of my parents, whom they had not seen in many years. We met them on the beach one evening in about 1968. I was eight, Chris was seven, and we became summer friends for the next dozen years. This spoken word piece is about my friendship with him, and the somewhat mystical aspect of hanging out together, and how connected one can feel in a special place during the condensed time of “holidays.”

I’d lost touch with Chris when I wrote this, but have since connected again. I guess the signals are able to reach across time as well as space.

Crackling Static

It’s calling me back, the Heathkit radio out on the porch pulling in signals bounced from the clear night air that come all the way from Fresno, California to Hornby Island.

Crackling static, voices modulating in the dark talking about things we knew nothing about. But we were glad to be like points on a giant wheel, listening for the spark, spinning under the sky, playing our part.

And, from the open window, voices of our parents in conversations of their youth, the scent of Nabob coffee percolating, spoons clinking in Petalware cups. 

Meeting when we were eight, by chance at the beach on a hot August evening. Me getting up the nerve to ask you out to play, and suddenly, like tuning in the right frequency, we were friends… for life.

The world we walked in was infinite, charged with mystery and wonder in the footsteps of those now lost to time, but we didn’t know as we crunched the crisp fallen Arbutus leaves or wandered on the rich black earth filled with broken shells, that we were not the first to feel and marvel at this beauty. We were not the first.

Then, we’d go our separate ways and a year would flow bringing us back together each summer where we’d reignite the curiosity of our existence—for two weeks.

Hours spent in lofty conversations about life, while the campfire glowed, lighting our faces, full of ease, voices dropping and topics shifting from toy boats to cars, and girls. I went along for the ride.

Drawing. Pulling. Attracting. Yearning. We were bursting with yearning… for everything. Life was infinite. Life was charged. Life was wonder. Life was ours!

Midnight, walking under showers of stars. Then, the only lights were those ethereal specks unless, we took our shoes off and ran our feet through the phosphorescent water, lighting it up like fireflies between our toes.

And the wafting breeze after the hot day rolling down off Mt Geoffrey would be warm, then cool, then warm… pockets of ambrosial delight. 

Sand drying on our feet as we sat on a log and pondered into the night looking at moonlit Lambert Channel, unaware of a channel called “time” that would come between us.

Did crickets still sound as we went our way?
I doubt for long when the dark months came to stay

Chris, I don’t know where you are, where you’ve gone
But I still feel a signal though it’s not very strong

We were like points on a giant wheel, WE were the spark
Crackling static, voices modulating in the dark