Friday, February 13, 2009

Is this your lucky day?

Photo Creative Commons Cayusa

Today marks a sea-change for The Fuddler. From this day forward, The Fuddler will be updated at least once a week, on Friday. And what better Friday to begin with than Friday the 13th!

Speaking of which, the traditional belief about Friday the 13th is that it’s unlucky. I myself have never experienced any more or less bad luck than usual on any Friday the 13th. What I have noticed is that some rather strange things sometimes occur on that day.

As a f’rinstance, years ago I lived in an apartment in a late-19th-century home, on a main street, which was showing signs of age. The building had recently been purchased by an athletic man in his thirties who turned out to be a very skilled renovator. He went through each apartment, stripping every room down to the bare studs, replacing the obsolete, turn-of-the-20th-century knob-and-tube wiring, extracting the occasional carcass of a long-dead squirrel, installing new copper water pipes in place of aging galvanized steel ones, putting in modern, energy-efficient windows and finishing the job with new drywall and a fresh coat of paint. He once showed me how he leveled the warped and bowed floor in one apartment by painstakingly installing a new floor over it. On the evening of Friday the 13th he was hard at work ripping out the cracked and discolored original plaster ceiling in a room directly below my kitchen. In the process, he found an old cast-iron stove plate from a wood-burning stove (all of the stoves in the house at the time were either gas or electric). On top of the plate were thirteen hollow-point .22-caliber long rifle shells. Neither I or my landlord could figure out who had put the shells there, when or why.

Another Friday the 13th incident which sticks in my mind happened while I was on the air at my college’s radio station in the early 1980's. It was a free-form station, which meant that instead of spinning John Cougar Mellencamp, Madonna or Tom Petty, most of our DJ’s played “new wave”, punk or hardcore. Since much of the student body was from New York City and Long Island we also played whatever dance music was popular in the New York underground scene, including a good quantity of early hip-hop. So, there I was that afternoon, spinning a Talking Heads album when the control room phone rang. I expected it to be someone calling in a request. What it was instead was a young man from the Republican National Committee. It should be noted that this was around the time that one of then-president Ronald Reagan’s proposed budgets was making the rounds on Capitol Hill. Like those from previous years it seriously pumped up defense spending (along with the federal deficit) while drastically reducing funding for silly things like education, regulatory agencies, health, and financial aid for college students. Anyway, the nice man from the RNC told me that his organization had put together an audio press release to help dispel any possible misunderstandings about the budget which people might have on account of the liberal media. He asked me if I would mind airing it. Sure, I told him, I would most certainly consider it my patriotic duty as an American to air it. In those pre-digital days news actualities and other material were delivered over the telephone. I put my caller on hold and cued up an album side on one of the control room’s two turntables. After starting the album side, I opened the station’s recording studio, put a fresh reel of 1/4-inch tape on one of our two reel-to-reel tape recorders, patched the phone line into the mixing board, picked up the phone in that room and told Mr. RNC to let ‘er rip. After I’d “downloaded” the rather slickly-produced sales pitch for that year’s round of Reagan budget cuts, I took the reel into our main studio. When the album side had faded out, I played the tape on the air, the whole 3 or 4 minutes of it, following it with my own comments and analysis.

However weird or scary this Friday the 13th might be, it can never hold a candle to the day which follows it, one which causes hearts to pound and palms to sweat, one which makes them commit the most degrading acts of desperation, one which engenders fear and loathing like no other.

I refer of course to Valentines Day. More on that later!

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