Back before I knew better, I used to make speeches around the state. Politics and press, mostly. Not once was I asked for a return engagement. So I brushed off my ego and just flat dropped off the rubber chicken circuit.
Before I hung up my cleats, I was asked to speak to a volunteer fire department out in a small West Texas town. When I rolled into town and began to set up some equipment, one of the guys revealed my talk was going to be broadcast live and in its entirety over the town's only radio station.
"Gosh," I said. "I've got some visual aids to punctuate my talk. Quite a few, infact. That won't play very well on radio."
My host was nonplussed. "No problem, he assured me. "Last month's speaker had a 30-minute slide show."
A slide show. Live. On radio.
At first, I thought that was hilarious. But the more I thought about it, I remembered how much early radio stretched our imaginations. How we became active participants and filled in the blanks from inside our own heads.
I fell in love with Mercedes McCambridge's whiskey voice on "I Love a Mystery" with Jack, Doc and Reggie. My first radio was a crystal set. Nearly fell off the roof hanging the antenna.
Radio just doesn't do it for us anymore. I suppose there are a few local bright spots here and there. But National Public Radio is our last show case of what radio could be. Should be. Satellite radio? Maybe.
You don't know outrageous until you've heard commercials for Crazy Water Crystals. And Wolfman Jack broadcasting from the Rio Grande border. And ...
At least we'll always have ITunes.