I try to watch PBS news every day. With the writers' strike, it’s the only TV I bother with anymore. It’s enough to enable me to know the most important things going on. For example,I know there’s likely to be a U.S. government shutdown this upcoming weekend.
But the other day I was astounded to learn from PBS that light pollution was now making it hard to see the night sky.
The last time I remember seeing the Milky Way in all its glory was when I was 16 years old; that was 58 years ago.
Pretty soon, I expect PBS will tell us the Soviet Union has collapsed and the People’s Republic of China is now capitalistic. Eisenhower isn’t president anymore, the news marches on.
I tend to think of the shutdown of the U.S. government as just a natural extension of the inconvenience of not getting late night talk shows. I can’t have the TV I want, so of course, I can’t have government services. No Stephen Colbert, no child care, that’s just how it goes. At least during the COVID pandemic there was no writer's strike; they just had to keep their distance and call it in, and we got Stephen Colbert from a closet.
I’ve been surviving the dearth of TV options by watching YouTube videos endlessly. But I’m starting to think there are no new cat videos for me to see. I’ve run out of Romanian goatherd music videos. So I’ve started thinking about what we had in the past. What were they? Books? Magazines? Theater? Nah, that can’t be it.
Radio! That was it. So I dusted off an old clock radio that was waiting to die on a window sill, plugged it in and got nothing but humming noises and a few squawks. If the clock didn’t still work, the clock radio would have died right there and then.
Anitra had to come to the rescue. She did what I couldn’t think of; she ordered an actual new AM/FM radio. I didn’t know they made them any longer. It’s our first functioning radio in 10 years. I was surprised that it came with a cord and plug so I didn’t have to buy any batteries for it.
Back when I last saw the Milky Way, I had around four or five transistor radios, given to me on birthdays and Christmases by various relatives who couldn’t think what else to get a 16-year-old. Trouble was they all took nine-volt batteries, and I couldn't afford to keep replacing them, even for one of the radios.
So I went to an illegal dump site where people tossed their used TVs, which in those days usually still had vacuum tubes wired up to resistors and capacitors and such stuff. I salvaged parts sufficient to make an AC/DC converter and used it to play the best radio at home.
I guess somehow I thought the situation with radios could only have gotten worse and I’d be having to find old TV parts from 50 or 60 years ago to make a new AC/DC converter. But, no, this radio has one built in!
One of the first uses the radio will get is we’ll start hearing BBC news again. We used to get to watch it when we had cable, but those days are over. But now, we can hear it on the radio. KUOW still carries it and also has the weekend programming I always liked.
I’m also returning to an old habit of listening to nonstop classical music.
Maybe I can find some foreign-language channels. One of the big surprises I had in my life was when the last cat we had ran over our alarm clock and turned the radio on to a Chinese channel. I never figured out how he managed to do that.
The internet has gotten better at helping me find out how to do things like that without waiting for a cat to go nuts and pull off a miracle. I remember when one of the reasons you had to subscribe to a daily newspaper was to get the local radio listings, because they weren’t going to be in your TV Guide.
So the country can stop paying its bills and I’ll just listen to the radio like it’s 1965 all over again.
Read more of the Sept. 27-Oct. 3, 2023 issue.