And now, I can visit only in thought and memory…

We can’t know everyone, and most of you will not have known Rick. He was the one dressed only in a tin-foil diaper, appearing at the stroke of midnight as the Baby New Year at a party in his senior year at high school. He was the fellow who would do something like that and think only – What larks!

That served as my introduction to the real Rick Smith, who at the time was a part-time DJ at KTMC in McAlester, where I was working afternoons. Many years later, when I returned to the station as manager, I hired Rick to work morning drive. By then, we were good friends and had a long history as such.

As an ice-breaker at the first staff meeting, I offered a fifty-dollar bill to the person with the most “unusual” item carried with them in their purse or billfold. There were some surprising things produced, but the staff agreed that carrying a folded picture of tennis star Chris Evert was unusual – to the point of being somewhat bizarre. Rick got the fifty.

He was never shy about his enduring crush, although I never did know the basis for it. Rick – over the years – kept company with some of the most beautiful women, and I teased him that his search for the perfect woman in his life should start with his tossing out of the folded Chrissie Evert.

When Rick and I called each other “brother,” it was not slang, but a term born of fraternal affection, as of adopted siblings. Often, Rick was “me brogie” – my corruption of Brother and Droogie, from Alex’s description of his henchmen in A Clockwork Orange. As a fun-loving droogie, there was none better than Ricky T.

With younger brother Robbie, we made the small town night life circuit, which mostly consisted of young men sitting or standing and looking at sports on wall-mounted televisions. We were cavalier in our regular weekly forays, but it was Rick who was in his element. He had DJ’d at a local spot – Crazy Uncle Alberts – and perhaps it was that experience that worked to his advantage.

Once, I arrived at the radio station at sign-on time, only to find him in the parking lot with a young woman sitting behind the wheel of a car I did not recognize.

Forgot my keys, said Rick. He grinned and scrambled out, and we hurriedly got the lights and the transmitter fired up.

He took a fill-in position at K95FM in Tulsa when I was news director there, and Paul Langston put him on a weekend shift at the oldies station to get him more hours. Steady work never did come to pass. I don’t remember how the opportunity arose, but Rick came into his own when he joined a station group in Grand Junction, Colorado. The town was small enough for comfort but cosmopolitan enough to draw vacationing A-Listers.

His quick wit always at the ready, Rick immediately became a recognized character about town, hailed and hand-shaken as we entered a popular restaurant when I visited one summer. Once settled in, he pointed at the door and described how he had once pulled open that very handle and barreled in, nearly knocking down a woman who was exiting at that same moment.

It was Chris Evert.

In the company of Elton John.

Because we were brothers, Rick admitted to me that he had once rehearsed a series of lines that he intended to use in the event that he should ever meet Ms Evert (I almost typed “ran into her” – but that would have been too literal). He confessed that he was completely overwhelmed and rendered speechless when the event actually occurred and that he only managed to mutter something apologetic and largely unintelligible.

But he HAD met her, he maintained with pride.

It might have been a long-lived career in Colorado for him, but his health took a sudden and serious turn that kept him off the air long enough that his position was filled. When he called me, he had just taken a fall and injured his wrist along with his pride.

By then, I had left broadcasting after a twenty-year career, and was working as an apprentice cook, with the idea of opening a restaurant. I convinced the owners to hire Rick as a line cook and that between the two of us, we would produce the work of three employees. They fell for it. And we made good on the promise.

Even with one arm in a sling, Rick became efficient at the grill, and – to both of our surprise – he enjoyed it. When his mother’s health began to fail, Rick moved out of my guestroom and back to McAlester to help in her care. There he continued to spend time cooking in addition to some microphone work at some of his old haunts.

My plan was to take a sojourn down that way, to reconnect and reminisce, someday soon. Alas, I have delayed too long.

But I tell you, brother, all it was – was that I was young. But now as I end this story, brother I am not young, not no longer, oh no. And my brother has passed from this life.

Where I itty now, O my brothers, is all on my oddy knocky, where you cannot go. Tomorrow is all like sweet flowers and the turning young earth and the stars and the old Luna up there and your old droog, all on his oddy knocky seeking like a mate.

Sleep well, me brogie.

Back then: Doctor My Eyes. Now: Doctor Everything.

The exact chain of thinking is already lost, but Dustin told me he was going to a concert this evening and suddenly I’m reminiscing about a random show I once attended.

Somebody on Facebook mentioned The Eagles and now I’m trying to recall my own history… wondering whether I had seen them opening for the Rolling Stones (nope, that was Stevie Wonder) – searching the internet for clues to my own past, then BAM!

There’s a memory, courtesy of David Dean and the Tulsa Poster Project.

Bonnie Raitt, opening for Jackson Browne at the Tulsa Assembly Center. How well I remember it!

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That’s a lie. I remember the show pretty well, and some things vividly. Other aspects that might have been important at the time – nah, not so clear. Hey. It was 1974.

I remember I was poor as a churchmouse, working as a 10-speed bicycle mechanic while attending broadcasting school. Money was so tight that I couldn’t eat on Saturday until after the weekly paychecks were handed out (after lunch). The girl behind the counter at Burger Chef (where I ate almost every day) figured out my dilemma and starting slipping a little hamburger across the counter to go with my Saturday Cola-only lunch.

It occurred to me that I could return the favors and ask her to go see the just-announced Jackson Browne/Bonnie Raitt concert (okay, so my little Chef was cute too…). Saved up. Bought tickets.

Not so clear these days whether she suddenly changed jobs or whether I was too chicken to ask her out. At any rate, I made it to the concert… probably by myself. (Did I mention that some parts of this memory weren’t as clear?)

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Maybe it was the fact it was a Wednesday, but even the cheap seats were great. There weren’t enough people to fill the floor area of the arena. There were some folks seated in the first section on either side of the stage, but they weren’t much closer than anyone else.

In fact, when the spotlight first hit Bonnie, she grabbed the microphone and called out – “Is this everybody?” and pointed out at us. “We ought to just clear the chairs out and rollerskate!”

We made up for our lack of numbers with enthusiasm. None of us was disappointed in the performance, and I was only slightly embarrassed when one of us in the audience shouted out “Rock and Roll!” in the middle of one of Jackson Browne’s tender ballads.

How I first heard of Bonnie Raitt also escapes me these days, but I believe I was as anxious to hear her perform as I was the better-known Jackson Browne.

I know it was my ol’ buddy Mike that drove us down to the Rolling Stones concert in Texas, where we were surprised to learn that Stevie Wonder was opening the show. And it was Mike who occasionally lent me his glasses during the show so I could see the stage from the nosebleed seats we were in.

So, Mike, if it was you sitting with me in the Browne/Raitt audience, it wasn’t so much forgettable – just Burger Chef Girl: Plan B.

Auctioning Off Old Memories…

It’s the rare day when you find yourself up for sale on eBay. Not a Buy-it-Now, either. Selling off a bit of me, Auction-style.

Back in the day, between the job and the raisin’ up o’ the children, I would hunch myself over a typewriter of an evening, tapping out words. (That’s the sound typewriters made: clack-clack-clackity-clack, ding! Bzzzzzssssttt. Some of you will recognize the Carriage Return there.)

I don’t think I ever truly harbored thoughts of becoming a famous writer. One whose novel was turned into a blockbuster movie. Lounging on the veranda in sunglasses even on a dreary, overcast day. Maybe holding a Meerschaum pipe near my lips as though I was smoking the thing.

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There wasn’t enough time to finish a novel, so I cranked out short stories. Bad ones, mostly. It was like a compulsion though: get a little free time and plop down at the writing table. Finish one up and deposit it in the closet with the others, maybe expecting a publisher to break in the house one night to pilfer and publish one of them. Didn’t ever happen.

So, instead of continuing to wait for the Thieving Publisher, I sent one of them off, safely tucked into a manila envelope along with my great hopes.

The thrill when a reply arrived! The nervousness. My name beautifully hand-penned on the envelope, bearing a publisher’s return address, me fearful, but opening it anyway. He liked the story, he said. Thought it was a little Bradbury-esque (goosebumps for me by that point) and wondered if I would object to it being included in the next issue.

What??? Are you kidding me?

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He later mailed me a little check (even smaller by today’s standards…) and I waited anxiously for the arrival of the copy he promised me.

Publishing has changed greatly in the past decade, and the idea of desktop publishing was a new thing way back when my story was accepted. Not that it made any difference to me. My fiction was in the magazine along with stories by other folks, several of whom were pretty well known (in some circles).

I was published, thought I.

The capper to the thing was this: shortly after the magazine came out, my buddy and I attended a convention on the east coast. Some well-known authors were there (Stephen King was a no-show). And a lot of fans/readers. Heading out to dinner, we were joined by a fellow we met, who casually asked if we were published writers.

Hah! I was a little embarrassed – but a little bit proud, too – to reply that, amazingly, I had a story in the latest issue of a little magazine. He wanted to know what magazine, and I told him. He knew the publication. What story, he wanted to know, and I told him.

He had read it!

As good as it gets for me, at that moment in time.

We had an enjoyable evening, the three of us heading out for an exotic meal. (He had heard of Arby’s but there were none in his home-state. Oh, well… it would have to do for exotic.)

There aren’t many copies of that little magazine around any longer. At some point I had entered an eBay search to alert me in case one ever came up for auction.

Today was the day. I’m tempted to put in a bid just to own it.

But I already know how the story ends.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!