I have never been one for talk radio. My late Lola Siason, a seamstress, slept for most of the day. She made up for it after sunset, working late into the night in her sewing room which was connected to the powder room where I, as a college freshman then sophomore then junior then senior, could often be found at one o'clock in the morning dutifully washing my face with Noxzema just as my mother had taught me. And Lola would be listening to talk radio. Crazy shit talk radio. The following day she'd come downstairs in the afternoon and play solitaire and proclaim strange truths such as, "John Huston is Whitney Houston's father! He is!" Or she'd tell you that the annual Spam parade was taking place the following weekend. Everyone would wonder where she came up with these things, but it was clear to me: late night talk radio.
Now, I'm not saying Lola killed any chance of my ever falling in love with Fresh Air or whatever, but she certainly did not help. And you'll have to beg my pardon because now that I've begun to write about her, it seems I'm unable to stop. I must veer off course to say...She instilled the fear of sunshine ("You'll turn brown! You'll turn brown!"), peasant skirts ("You look like a maid! You look like a maid!"), and sleeping with my hair wet ("You'll die! You'll die!") deep within my heart. Her skin was as white as an egg; she dyed her hair herself in a shade called "Flame." She took bus trips to Reno with other seniors and always won the scavenger hunt game because she used to carry a purse the size of a Volkswagen and fill it with everything from a roll of pennies to an assortment of safety pins in various sizes. She cheated at mah jong. She excelled in carving large cuts of meat, but couldn't cook worth a damn. If you were looking for her, she could often be found sitting up in bed and holding hands with Lolo while watching Big Time Wrestling.
But back to talk radio.
After reading "Confessions of a Listener", I feel as if I'm missing out on one big party. What is it about Garrison Keillor's prose, anyways? He's the great seducer of the heartland, that guy. So calm, so patient, and then bam!—he's got you. I love this:
...Here at the low end of the FM dial is a show in which three college boys are sitting in a studio, whooping and laughing, sneering at singer-songwriters they despise, playing Eminem and a bunch of bands I've never heard of, and they're having so much fun they achieve weightlessness—utter unself-consciousness—and then one of them tosses out the f-word and suddenly they get scared, wondering if anybody heard. Wonderful. Or you find three women in a studio yakking rapid-fire about the Pitt-Aniston divorce and the Michael Jackson trial and the botoxing of various stars and who wore what to the Oscars. It's not my world, and I like peering into it. The sports talk station gives you a succession of men whose absorption in a fantasy world is, to me, borderline insane. You're grateful not to be related to any of them, and yet ten minutes of their ranting and wheezing is a real tonic that somehow makes this world, the world of trees and children and books and travel, positively tremble with vitality. And then you succumb to weakness and tune in to the geezer station and there's Roy Orbison singing "Dream Baby" and you join Roy on the chorus, one of the Roylettes.
And imagine that. As I was writing about late night, it actually became late night. To sleep I go.