This entry may well be: long, inappropriate, weepy, whiny, nostalgic, silly, and/or uncomfortable. Or not. It also has a soundtrack of sorts.
In 1992, when I was 16 years old and R.E.M. had just put out Automatic for the People. I called a local radio station (that’s what we did in the old days, kids) and asked them to play the Drive (which, while not one of my favorite songs, was the first and most recently released single from the album). I was…to put it mildly…excited. First and foremost, I have always been a fangirl of the things and people and ideas I love best and never (and I mean NEVER EVER) worse than I was with R.E.M. as a teenager. The radio station did play the song but in doing so they also made fun of me for being so excited and they called me sir.
Now, I don’t really have a problem with my non-binary gender anymore, but at the time, being a kid, I was self conscious about it whenever anyone called me out for it or just plain fucking confused my gender—which, to be honest, generally only happened because of my voice, but whatever. The point is it fucking hurt my feelings. In the midst of the great excitement of a brand new album from my most favorite band, this radio station shit all over me and the experience. I vowed then and there to never listen to corporate radio again.
Please remember that radio was much more integral to our lives back then, so it became necessary for me to find another station I could stand. I turned my tuner all the way to the left of the dial and worked my way right. I didn’t make it very far…just to 88.3 fm. It was jazz music and I’m not a huge fan of jazz music but it was nice and mellow so I listened a bit. It got on toward my bedtime and I turned it off, but then, when I couldn’t sleep (as was often the case on Sunday nights as I hated Sundays even then), I put it back on.
Cheech and Chong. Cheech and freaking Chong. I’d always loved their comedy so I was pretty excited. Then the show’s hosts came on and I heard Belinda’s voice for the first time. I actually heard Gene’s voice first, but while he always remained one of my favorite people involved with the show, I found out later he was just sitting in as a guest. It was Belinda’s show and it was called Bubbles In The Think Tank. And it was all the comedy and silliness I could handle. I loved it instantly.
But then it got even better. After the first hour of comedy and silliness, there was a call-in portion during which they did a Mad-Lib. On air. It was fantastic. I have always loved silliness and always, always loved word play. So I wanted to call in, but I had to ask my mom first… She didn’t like the idea of me staying up overnight (the show was on from midnight until two am) but she consented to let me call. A plural noun. Chairs.
From then on, that was my regular Sunday night cum Monday morning ritual. Bubbles in the Think Tank. My mom and brother and girlfriend and various other friends all got involved to a slightly smaller degree, but it became a huge part of my life. It was the first time in my life that Sundays became tolerable, less lonely, good. I had something to look forward to and the dreaded Sunday lost its power to sap me of my happiness.
Eventually, I made trips up to the studios and found my way on the air as a guest or co-host and, once or twice, even the main host (when Belinda was out of town). Eventually, I got my own show (I didn’t like it in the end and it only lasted a summer, but there you go.). It was very truly a part of my life, a part of my voyage from child to adult.
The first time I ended up in the hospital after trying to kill myself, when I woke up in the MICU, Belinda was standing over my bed. When one of my poems was published in a magazine, Belinda let me organize a poetry show. The first time I ever gave head to a guy, he was someone I met on the show. He also introduced me to the music of Dar Williams. I went to my first, second, and third (and only) strip clubs with these people. I got my only lap-dance with these people. I quite literally grew up on Bubbles.
Sometimes, now, I look back and I cringe, because all of the stupid missteps and embarrassments most of us make when we go from kid to teen to adult, I made ON AIR. For everyone to hear. They’re out there in the ether with people I only have ever known by voice and people I am connected to because we spent hot, stinky nights in the bowels of the Alms Hotel, sending out silliness over equipment from the 1960s.
They have so many of the parts of my past that embarrass me most…from prom night fiascos, to fangirling, to bad poetry, to all the “normal” changes of puberty. And, while I trust them with all of those prickly memories, I also look up to them so much, it’s almost hero-worship. It’s rough having your heroes know so much about your fumbling past. Sometimes, I’ll remember something I did or said on air or some odd piece of mail I sent to the show and I will actually smack myself in the forehead.
That happened twice tonight. You see, I haven’t listened to Bubble since about 2001-2002, but tonight was the very last show. It started in 1978/79 and it ended tonight. I didn’t go down the studio, but I did meet up with some of the old crowd for drinks before the show…and about an hour into it, Andy (The Patron Saint of Munchies) actually brought up the moment that, in the whole of my time at Bubbles, makes me cringe the most. He just flat out said “remember the time you called, all upset, and said ….” And I smacked myself right in the forehead.
I said, “Andy, that was the one moment I was hoping wouldn’t come up.” And then I laughed so hard because…it’s funny and I was young and dumb and I love that something I said (as ridiculous as it was) stuck with Andy. And I love him for saying “I can’t honestly remember anything you ever said that was bad or awkward.” Maybe he was being honest. Maybe he was just being nice. Doesn’t matter. I appreciated it.
And now it’s over. I cried when I hugged them good bye. I cried when I gave my last Mad-Lib entry (fuschia). I cried again when they said good bye and ended the show. I could feel my heart actually breaking. But, as I noted to them, it’s a good kind of heart break—the kind where something ends and it’s sad and you miss it as you walk away, but you’re also happy, because it was good. Because it made you who you are.