Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Sadness Of FM Radio

All week long I have been haunted by Talk To Me, a brilliant understated movie in which Don Cheadle plays Petey Greene, an ex-con turned famous Washington D.C. disc jockey. The film documents his release from prison and subsequent friendship with Dewey Hughes played by Chiwetel Elijofor. Greene's star rises in that predictable fashion of movies and life, but he tanks on the Johnny Carson show, the moment that Hughes has worked for to make him famous, a vicarious thrill shown in sad splendor when Hughes takes a spin in Johnny's chair when he thinks no one is watching during dress rehearsal. The two part ways after this debacle of disappointment, but get together in the end before Petey G. dies an early death from hard living. In the interim, Hughes finds his own voice in radio and dumps the Uncle Tom outfits for the occasional dashiki. Even so, he still watches Carson late into the night. His soul is, for all intents and purposes, split. This formula is nothing new, but at the end, I found myself oddly affected by the eulogy at Petey's funeral, a rehash of his old radio sign off, and found myself trying not to cry like during E.T. when I went with a group of friends and prided myself on being the toughest one, all the while digging in my hand, physical pain replacing the emotional turmoil.

The movie has funny parts, lots of them, but it can't shake the feeling of something lost, wounded and broken. "Sometimes I miss that itty-bitty room with the record player and the phone," says Petey when he starts to make it big, a man who is in over his head. We miss it too, I'm afraid, the fleeting beauty of the radio whispering in and out of our days. There are so many voices we grow dependent on, the reliability of which is always in jeopardy because of the demands of life, the toll of addiction, the sure finality of death. When we hear something wonderful and new and true, we know it won't last because it can't. Petey often plays Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," one of the most hopeful and saddest songs I know. It's the kind of song that you listen to when you're alone in an itty-bitty room, the big world outside, and you know that at some point you have to step into it and nothing will ever be the same again.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn." Charlie Parker

Cocktail Hour
Drinking essay collection suggestion: The Honeymoon Is Over edited by Andrea Chapin and Sally Wolford-Girand

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!


Charles Gramlich said...

"A change is gonna come." About as close to a prayer as one can get.

paul said...


fotoface said...

don't mean to be rude, but you beautiful

fotoface said...

sorry should read YOU'RE beautiful

Alice Cooper said...

When Steven Spielberg was an eight-year-old he looked just like E.T.

the walking man said...

It is as big a world as you want to make it. It's your world, but the changes that matter, are only the changes we fear the rest is just a small room with a radio that sometimes plays sad songs and sometimes happy ones that make you dance around. Just life and what it is you strive for.



Marks Music Moment: Diamond Dogs--David Bowie

Cheri said...

Watch Party Monster, which features Seth Green and Macaulay Culkin (who turned 27 today, 4 years my senior.) That movie reminds me of the scenes you've talked about from the Don Cheadle movie.

Stephanie said...

I've been lurking here for a while, but didn't have a blog yet. I loved your "can this marriage be saved" post and I love this one too.

Once long ago, while having my first and scary trip on purple mescaline, the only thing my mind could hold onto was the voice of the DJ. After a while, I was able to dial the phone and that sympathetic voice became a sympathetic ear. He talked me down for 3 hours. I'll never forget him.