Wednesday, March 23, 2011


A few days after September 11th, I was sitting on a cardboard box, sharing a cubicle with a co-worker in Jersey City. The company I worked for had been located mainly in the World Financial Center with a few floors in the North Tower of 1 World Trade Center. A corner of 3 World Financial Center had been lopped off by the collapse of 1 WTC and we would never return there. The phone rang and I picked it up. "Hello?" a southern female voice asked. "How are you?" "Just fine, how are you today?" I answered. "How are you? Are you okay?" the voice plaintively asked back. She was from Georgia and she worked for a company that leased us our photo copiers. She'd given herself a week, and was now taking to the unfortunate task of asking how many, if any of her copiers were still around. Midway through our conversation, she apologized for having to call for this matter and started to break down crying pleading to me that she and everyone she knew were thinking about us all the time. I didn't quite know how to react other than to thank her and give her a few minutes. On September 21, 2001, the City of New York hosted its first major public event since the 9/11 attacks that felled the Twin Towers. As is fitting for Gotham's great metropolis, this event was a baseball game.

And even more fitting that this game should be played between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves. Normally this match-up delivers bowel-distending unease but something happened before this game started that made me, your neurotic and psychotic Mets fan, take pause.

Before the game, both teams were announced and they took the field along the baselines - the Mets along the first base side, the Braves along the third base side, aligning with their respective home and visiting dugouts. Much to Major League Baseball's dismay, the Mets were wearing FDNY and NYPD caps in lieu of their uniform caps. They would wear these for the duration of the season.

During the national anthem ceremonies which paid tribute to all who'd lost their lives on 9/11, the back outfield opened up and dozens of bagpipers marched onto the field playing 'Amazing Grace'. Everyone wept. Watching at home, I wept. Fans in the stands wept. Mike Piazza wept. And then, just before the game began, I saw something I never knew possible - the Mets and the Atlanta Braves met in the infield and embraced one another. I thought of the woman from Georgia who'd I'd spoken to on the phone and I hoped that she was a Braves fan and that she'd be watching right there at that moment.

That night delivered a great game. The Braves were winning 2-1 going into the eighth inning until Mike Piazza delivered a 2-run blast to left-center. It is, to me, the most significant home run by a New York Metropolitan. Ever.

And more miraculous was Armando Benitez being able to shut the Braves down in the ninth. Among his strikeouts was BJ Surhoff, shown here taking a bat to the Shea Stadium visitors' dugout after the game. Class.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From Pete Hamill

"Willie Mays ran the bases, carrying all those summers on the forty-one-year-old shoulders, jogging in silence, while people in the stands pumped their arms at the skies and hugged each other and even, here and there, cried. It was a glittering moment of repair, in a city that has been starved too long for joy. Don't tell me New York isn't going to make it. Willie Mays is home."

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Representative Peter King (R-Long Island) has opened up his dog & pony show 'hearing' on the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism. The threat of homegrown terrorism is real, however considering they just arrested the neo-nazi who planted a bomb at a MLK Day parade in Spokane (which fortunately didn't go off), it'd make sense that King open his inquisition to the radical right as well. Don't hold your breath, though.

(Separately, thank you mom and dad for getting us the hell out of Long Island).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A New Antenna

This didn't work out so well. I've had some success improving my receiver by attaching some lengths of wire to the built in telescopic antenna. So I figure, more wire, better reception, right? Not quite.

Here in this picture you can see I have about 25 feet of 18 gauge stranded wire attached to the built-in antenna via an alligator clip. I then have the wire headed into a tree off my deck.

It all seemed like a good idea but I think it was too much to overload the small receiver (Grundig G8). Guess I'll have to buy a bigger receiver!!

Other recent shortwave listening highlights:
  • I mentioned bizarre weather reports on my last post that I was hearing at 3413kHz and 3484kHz. I've since learned these are aeronautical weather broadcasts from Shannon, Ireland and New York, respectively.
  • Last night at 3:05UTC, I was listening to two lunatics broadcasting at 3215kHz. Their show was essentially a long rant against Canada. Canada, really? Have insane radio hounds run out of things to hate that they have to go against Canada?
  • 3880-3880kHz - picked up Hams from Missouri and Colorado.
  • AM900 CHML - vintage radio broadcast.
  • 14280-14347kHz - another mystery. It's too garbled for me to make out but it sounds like broadcasters in dialogue, quickly, somewhat urgently responding back to one another. One kept repeating a phrase, almost in cadence. I'm stumped so drop me a comment if you have a clue.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Leather Man

I first inflicted the Leather Man upon my family some thirty years ago. I was in third grade at Wampus Elementary School in Armonk, New York. We'd had an assembly in the cafeteria that day. An odd looking man stood before us, as we students were chatting away, clearly not ready to give this gentlemen our full attention. He had shaggy hair and wore a long woolly sweater. Although our visitor was from a local historical society, he looked as though he was from another time and place.

Finally our guest held up a large turtle shell, about the size of a manhole cover. He then pulled out a thick stick and struck the shell three times. The strikes reverberated throughout the room, even over the sounds of a hundred chattering children.

"That is the sound you would hear...when the Leather Man would come upon your home!" Our assembly became deathly silent. It is a testament to the power of effective story tellers because I don't know who this man was, or if he still is lives, but because of that seizing introduction, I have never forgotten the Leather Man.

Who was the Leather Man? He soon became somewhat of a joke in our family because I came home to my family dinner table that night and gave a breathless word-for-word replication of that amazing man's story. The Leather Man was a hermit who lived in the late nineteenth century. He made his rounds in upper Westchester County and western Connecticut, constantly wandering from farm to farm. He'd beg for food by day and sleep in caves by night.

The Leather Man spoke little and tended to communicate through gestures and grunts. He was presumed to be French based upon a prayer book he carried with him. No one knew where exactly he came from, what his name was or why he wandered. If he were asked a personal question, he was most likely to quickly make his exit.

In absence of a formal name he was known as the Leather Man as his outfit, head to toe, was made of boot leather and was believed to have weighed 60 pounds. Some historians have theorized that the Leather Man was autistic or perhaps suffered from Asperger's, based on his inability to socialize while maintaining a wandering routine that became almost mathematical in its predictability.

The Leather Man died in Briarcliff Manor, just a few miles from my house. The small cave where they found his remains has now been overrun by developers building mansions for hedge-fund overlords. (Okay, I know that this is a bit extreme of me and I don't know the exact spot where the Leather Man's final cave was, but I do know that Trump mowed over a large swath of Briarcliff Manor to build a golf course and housing pods for the magnanimous).

A recent article appeared in the New York Times prompted a frantic phone call from my mother: "Slimbo, it's the Leather Man!" She was delighted to see her whimsical boy's obsession manifest itself decades later. It appears someone wants to exhume the Leather Man to see if testing his remains could provide some answers about his life. Many people believe this to be a severe violation of the one thing the Leather Man treasured: his secrets.

I tend to agree. The world needs the Leather Man as he was - an enigmatic wanderer who, amid all our national obession with industriousness and convention, chose simply to exist on his terms and live inside himself. Some mysteries don't merit solving as they are beautiful in and of themselves.

Some Nice Shortwave Surprises

Since my last posts about shortwave radio, I've come across some nice surprises:

  • 3413 hHz / 3485 kHz - In my last post, I spoke of these frequencies as being enigmatic and mysterious. I've since learned that these are aeronautical weather reports broadcast from Shannon, Ireland (3413 kHz) and New York (3485 kHz).
  • 5050 kHz - WWRB (from Manchester, TN) - Saturday night seems to be when all the ultra right wing religious squakers take a break, perhaps gearing up for their Sunday jihad. So Saturday night, I happened upon some beautiful vintage bluegrass gospel music on WWRB. It was like a time capsule coming through the ether. I heard a wonderful rendition of Precious Lord, Lead Me Home (which by the way, I would like sung at my funeral, should anyone be keeping track).

  • 5755 kHz - WTWW from Lebanon, TN - again the Saturday night mellow existed here as well. Some slightly more contemporary religious music, but still very beautiful and non-pretentious.
  • AM 1120 - Picked up a broadcast of a hockey game - Buffalo Sabres vs. Edminton Oilers.
  • 7285 kHz - China Radio International - a young hip broadcast called Roundtable Discussion. The struggles of gentrification in urban areas and the suddenly unaffordable rents for ordinary working folk and young struggling workers. Gentrification in Beijing. They speak of it as though they'd just discovered an exotic animal in a rain forest. Welcome to capitalism, kids. I guess it ain't all Happy Meals and small business loans.

  • 9625 kHz - been picking this up in the early morning hours. CBC (Canadian) broadcast in Inuktitut coming from Sackville, New Brunswick. They almost sound Russian. I doubted my trusty frequency guide when it clued me into that this was CBC - then I heard the broadcaster give a weather report and I heard them say "minus 41".

  • AM 1260 - I think...I think...I may have picked up WDKN from Dickson, TN. That would be a pretty epic feat for a little Grundig G8.