Dark summer evening years ago at 2 Merrall Drive, Lawrence, I remember hearing for the very first time interlineated squeals, yawns, buzzing and squawks of short wave radio. I was about 6 or 7 and spending time on the high roof terrace of my grandfather’s house in the company of my uncle Stephen. He was still in college then at Brown and I can’t remember whether the radio was his or my grandfather Martin’s. Stephen was actually my step-uncle, my mother’s step-brother, although the significance of this wasn’t apparent to me then.
The radio bursts – quickly, loudly, softly, slowly, often dramatically spoken words in Russian, German, English, French, perhaps Chinese – spun like a web and were unforgettably exciting. When Stephen explained what I was hearing and let me adjust the dial myself, I felt connected to the universe for the first time & also a personage.
Around then I began to hear murmurs – from my parents’ bedroom at night, at cousins' house visits, during seen-but-not-heard restaurant family gatherings – why we hated Stephen and his mother. These conversations meant nothing to me at the time -- they were only slightly confusing white noise -- and 50 years later still don’t. Nothing ever was explained in subject-predicate detail and I have been forced on several very awkward occasions to inform people really wanting to know and understand me, including my wife and daughter, that I really didn’t know my relatives well.