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Over 60...and Getting Younger: September 10, 2010

The Radio

My generation grew up with radio.

Today, radio is secondary to that all-consuming monster called television, and the Internet. With radio, you could do a crossword puzzle, file your fingernails (or toenails), or even shave while listening.

In the 1940s and 1950s, pre-TV, radio gave us much more than it gives us today. We had soap operas, Martin Block’s Make Believe Ballroom, the Shadow, Superman, the Green Hornet, Molly Goldberg, Eddie Cantor, Jack Benny, Fred Allen and Arthur Godfrey. The mysteries and suspense shows were more satisfying, as we let our imaginations run free, instead of seeing pictures and closing off our mind’s eye. Today, radio is more a news medium, with political views and opinions thrown at us.

Personally, I am an all-night radio listener. “Give us 22 minutes and we will give you the world.” That includes crime, weather, hurricane warnings, sports, and the stock market results of the day.

Let me tell you about two radio programs that Lorraine (my beautiful wife) and I tune into every weekend. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

First on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m., we listen to As I Please with that great storyteller and radio actor Simon Loekle. I took his courses on literature at Queens College about seven years ago. He is a fascinating speaker, an expert on James Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake. His readings of Shakespeare, Coleridge, and Yeats are thrilling. His reading of The Ancient Mariner is a classic.

Interspersed with his intelligent chatter and poetry he mixes in the best of Frank Sinatra and the music of Count Basie. The station is 99.5 on the FM dial, WBAI (not ordinarily one of my favorite stations.)

The second recommendation comes at 8:39 a.m. Sunday on National Public Radio at 820 on the AM dial. It is Will Shortz, the New York Times wonderful puzzle master.

He gives word puzzles to the audience, and you try to solve them along with the bright contestants. Every week is a new puzzle, and he gives a puzzle to unravel for next week’s show. Lorraine writes them down and gives them to the grandchildren.

As a mad Brooklyn Dodgers fan, I listened on the radio to Red Barber, with his southern drawl and expressions, along with Connie Desmond. Those early teen-aged years were in some ways more satisfying than watching the super coverage of the sport today. I still love radio.