The Clock Radio

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This is the clock radio I was given for Christmas around the year 1994 by my late grandpa Bill Morten. On that day, I learned that it was going to be time for me to start setting my own alarm to wake up in the mornings. Still interested in dolls and toys, a clock radio shouldn’t have been a gift that would excite a nine year old. But for whatever reason, it did. Maybe because it was from my grandpa, whom I didn’t see often, or maybe it was because I was starting to grow up, but I recall being very happy to receive such a shiny, new, sleek electronic device. After all, now I had my very own radio AND cassette player. Cha-ching!

A little-known kids’ station on the AM dial called Radio AAHS filled my room every day. I loved to call in requests, even though I hardly knew the names of any songs. One day I liked the song I heard playing, then, to my good fortune, the deejay said the name after it concluded. I called in immediately, “Hello, I have a request. I’d like to hear the song ‘Great Big Animal Picnic’.” The deejay informed me they’d JUST played that song, and they couldn’t play it again back to back. I felt stupid, but I also didn’t understand why you can’t play a song twice in a row if you like it a lot.

One morning Radio AAHS had a contest, and if you were the 78th caller you’d win a prize. My mom and sister and I were excitedly calling in hoping to win the prize. “You’re the 39th caller! Try again!” they said on one of the calls. “You’re the 72nd caller! So close!” said the next one. Finally, “Hello! You’re the 78th caller! Who’s this?!” My mom threw the phone to me and we all seemed to be running around with excitement like we’d just won the lottery. I won an Easy Bake Oven video tape. Not the oven itself, mind you, but a video tape series that went along with Easy Bake Oven about three friends who loved to hang out and bake things with their Easy Bake Ovens. It was clearly created to push excitement over the huge girl obsession of the day, the object of which I did not own. Even the very first time my 10 year old self watched the video, I could tell it had poor production value and the acting was terrible, and why would I even spend time watching a show about a toy I didn’t even own? But I kept watching, because gosh darnit, I’d won it on the radio.

Not until later, when I was an adult and called in to try to win other prizes on the radio, did I realize what a tiny listenership Radio AAHS must have had. In one call-in contest, our family was caller 39, caller 72 AND caller 78?? There must have been a total of nine people calling in for that silly little contest. But boy did I love winning it all the same.

After I’d saved a few weeks’ of allowance, my mom took me to the Christian book store across the street from the Brea Mall, to buy some tapes of my very own. I browsed their tape section for what seemed like hours, listening to tape after tape on the little boom boxes they had stationed in the corner with stools for people to sample music. I settled on two: Crystal Lewis’ Greatest Hits 1995, and a virtually unknown Christian band called PFR (Pray for Rain) who were like a lesser Savage Garden, but their lyrics were about God instead of women. I knew both tapes backward and forward within two weeks. I’d go to my friends’ houses and we’d lie on the bed and listen and replay our favorite bits and feel cool, even though the rest of the world was listening to Greenday and the Beastie Boys. I suppose on the Hipster scale we were the ultimate in cool, because we were sitting around listening to music that literally no one else had heard of.

As my music interests began to grow up, I started sneaking and listening to KIIS FM while doing my homework in the afternoons. I’d keep the volume low so that my parents couldn’t hear, since I wasn’t allowed to listen to that type of music. I will never forget the first time I heard The Cardigans’ “Lovefool”. Oh, how I waited and waited for each time it played to get my euro-pop beat fix. I loved Madonna singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” so much I could barely stand it. I called in to request it a half dozen times over its radio air play months. I discovered the Spice Girls and Eagle-Eye Cherry and R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”, and man, did I adore late nineties pop music.

When my family moved to Chino Hills in 1999, my clock radio came with me. 13 years old and desperate to know what all the cool kids were listening to, I became a faithful listener to LA’s biggest hip hop station, Power 106 (105.9??), and through that was able to partake in the release of what I consider to be some of the best hip hop in history. I became well-versed in Notorious B.I.G, Bone Thugs N’ Harmony, and Tupac. Yes, me, a thirteen-year-old Christian white girl living in Chino Hills. But that was all of us, anyway, wasn’t it? My little friends and I gathered around the CD player in a friend’s room THE DAY Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 came out, and we all listened with such rapture to Eminem’s “Forgot About Dre”, you would have thought the winning Power Ball numbers were hidden somewhere in the lyrics.

Fresh off playing with Barbies and Mall Madness, there we were, all head-bobbing to Snoop and Dre singing “I’m representing for the gangsters all across the world, Still hitting them corners in them low low’s girl, Still taking my time to perfect the beat, And I still got love for the streets, it’s the D-R-E.” Meanwhile, the only “streets” we’d ever seen were the well-manicured, equestrian neighborhood streets of Walnut and Chino Hills where we pretended to know how to skateboard in hopes that the boys would think we were cool. In those days, I’d listened to Tupac’s “Life Goes On” so many times, I memorized every lyric, and would impress my friends by rapping it alongside Mr. Shakur when we’d listen all together. To this day, I can still remember a good two-thirds of it, but generally need a few cocktails before I start giving any performances.

I discovered KROQ’s “Loveline” with Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla, and would go to sleep some nights getting a hilarious and probably too-thorough education on sex, all the while listening intently for motion in the house – terrified that my parents would walk in and discover the abominable things to which I was listening. Although I likely could have asked the same questions to my parents and gotten a straight answer, I later realized how many kids I knew whose parents didn’t want to approach those subjects. I’d imagine Dr. Drew prevented a lot of unwanted pregnancies, STDs and drug addicts. And boy, did Adam Carolla make it all so stinkin’ funny!

As I grew close to finishing high school and starting college, God really got a hold of my life and I began taking my time with Him more seriously. A worship music station called KSGN became my alarm radio station, and it surprised me how calming it was to wake up to the sounds of the worship of God. Hearing things like, “Holy, holy, holy” as you turn over and press snooze just one more time changes how your day begins.

When I got married in 2008, long past the death of cassette tapes, and far into the era of iTunes and online music, my clock radio still came with me to our first apartment. I knew its dials and snooze button by heart, and it didn’t seem plausible to let go of something so useful. It sits next to my bed to this day. Now, instead of Ryan Seacrest, or Big Boy (who’s not so big anymore), I awake to the soothing voice of classical KUSC’s Dennis Bartel, as he selects works by Mahler and Vivaldi to woo me from my slumber.

For a while, about a year ago, I switched to using my iPhone alarm, in hopes that forming a new habit would free up the huge amount of space my clock radio inhabits on my tiny night stand. It didn’t stick. The maneuvers required to set and turn off a phone alarm just proved too difficult in my half-asleep state, and after 20 years with it, setting the clock radio felt natural and easy. Besides, in the middle of the night, when you’re disoriented and your contacts are out, big, red, glowing numbers remind you of the time much more readily than tiny iPhone numbers.

If it sounds like I’m justifying the costly nightstand real estate the clock radio occupies, it’s because I probably am. It is, for all intents and purposes, obsolete. Sitting right next to my clock radio, in the form of a phone, I have a clock, a radio, an alarm, and the world’s music at my fingertips. No dials to turn or buttons to click. No need to reset it after a power outage.

But my iPhone is not a time capsule. It has not watched me get up every morning for twenty years. It has not provided the varied and hilarious soundtrack to my childhood and my adolescence. It has not seen me at my very worst, drool-covered, bed head state. It didn’t wake me up on the first day of school as a fourth grader, nor did it wake me up on my first day as a fourth grade teacher. It didn’t watch my head pop off my pillow on my wedding day, reminding me to go marry the man of my dreams. My clock radio did. And for that reason, paperweight as it may be, it will remain at my bedside, big and old and faithful as ever, for the foreseeable future. So if anyone has any cool cassette tapes they want to loan me, I’m more than ready for them.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Rochelle
    Jan 20, 2016 @ 09:12:39

    LOL!! Hi Miriam, This is Ryan’s mom Rochelle and I have to tell you, I absolutely ADORE reading your thoughts!!! They make me giggle so much!!! Thank you!!! Have a great day sweetie & God Bless!!

    Reply

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