Once you pass the half-century mark, you realize that you have an awful lot of memories banging around in your cranium, running into each other, blending, swirling, fading, changing. A few are strengthened, and many are lost. I hate losing anything that is MINE MINE MINE, so I've worked at keeping my oldest memories alive, as best I can. I often take a virtual walk through all my old residences in my mind, feeling textures, smelling scents, seeing how the light came through a particular window during the afternoon. I remember things more than I remember feelings or emotions or conversations, often the most mundane stuff, too. It's curious why some things stick in your head, while some just don't. I often wonder why this has been so important to me all of my life -- even as a 10-year-old, I refused to go back into my early childhood home when given the opportunity. I didn't want the current owners' things to interfere with my memories of my things, just the way they were. And so they have remained, frozen or fresh, take your pick.

I still have a fair amount of real things left from childhood, although not nearly as many as I would've liked to have had now. Just as well, probably -- who wants to live in a museum? I like new stuff, too! But there are a handful of things that are so important to me, and one of them is either permanently packed away in some box in my mom's attic or -- more likely -- was long ago thrown away. I don't think I've held it or seen it since about 1971. It is without question the most important gift I ever received, although I'm positive my dad, who gave it to me rather inexplicably for my 2nd birthday -- yes, that's SECOND as in still in diapers and taking naps and wearing those white hi-top leather baby shoes -- never considered at all the profound impact it would end up having on me. Who would think giving a toddler a little red plastic transistor radio would be anything more than a goof? Well, check out this timing,'s  the Top Ten for my birthday week, 1964:

Oh. That's just THE BEATLES holding down the TOP FIVE of the Top Ten records, that's all! NO BIGGIE. This little pixie-haired mop top was a total GONER. The radio was like absolutely magic to me, a miracle, this amazing toy that I could turn off and on and off and on and off and on and off and on and it would play this GREAT MUSIC to me! I moved the dial back and forth until I heard the songs I wanted to hear, and took it everywhere I went, for years. My dad spent most of those years lecturing me on remembering to TURN IT OFF, because I'd use up the 9-volt battery and have to ask him to put a new one in pretty frequently.

It was the Golden Age of AM Radio, where these perfect 3-minute songs just kept coming and coming and coming, and it made me so happy. Pop music, pop art, pop fashion, pop stars -- the radio shaped everything I came to love throughout my life. My fondness for my first lil' red radio is deep, and I appreciate how much joy I have received because of it. Best thing ever.

With the advent of the interhoots and Ebay, every so often I would try to hunt down my radio, based on my memories of it, which were pretty strong, but I could not recall the brand name of it. I could see it, feel the texture of the gold grille, the ON-OFF switch at the top, and the station dial on the left, the nasty hard white plastic of the earbud that came with it, and the smell of its perforated black carrying case. I knew how it fit in my hand, exactly what color red it was, and that when you opened the back up, there was something round and gold inside. Well, there were a LOT of "red Japanese transistor radios" made in the late '50s to mid-'60s, as it turns out. I looked and looked and looked and looked for mine. Some were close, very cool, but no...not mine. I knew that I would KNOW IT if I saw it, and it just never turned up.

Until last week! One more search, and by god, there it was! There it was! That's IT!

My BABY! Well, someone else's baby once, but my baby's twin, let's say! I now knew that my Most Important Thing was a Tempest HT-6043. For $12.99, I got to hold it in my now-adult-sized hands, feel the scratchy gold grille, sniff the musty leather case, and turn the switch on and off and on and off and on and off. I could remember listening to every word the DJs said, far after my bedtime, under my pillow, placing the radio in my banana bike basket and taking off down the road, searching the dial for something that would make my heart soar. It never let me down, not once. Other than running through batteries too fast, of course.

A Great Happiness, this little thing, and a memory forever now retained.

WCFL 1000 Aircheck February 1967