The other day I was thinking about when my family used to go on vacation. The topic came up because someone else was planning their vacation and booking flights, and I asked if they ever considered driving. They immediately shot down that idea, not wanting to be “trapped” in the car for long stretches with their kids, or taking multiple days to get somewhere. I’m sure that my rose-colored glasses are firmly in place, but I look back fondly on our vacations when I was a kid. Of course I remember some of the fights too, but there were so many good things that came out of them.
Early vacations with both parents and three kids in a regular car were a bit tight, but in those days our vacations were shorter. We lived in Florida and drove to other places in Florida, like Disney or the beach, or north to Georgia to visit family. When we moved to Pennsylvania though, and trips to Georgia and Florida and other destinations got longer, the family bought a mini-van. It had two bench seats in the back, my older brother taking the front one, while my younger brother and I took the rear. In order for us both to be able to stretch out back there, we’d put a sleeping bag on the floor. It turned out to be the best place to nap because down on the floor you avoided most of the light that came through the windows.
The key, however, to long term survival in the car for our family was the purchase of three Walkmans. It is hard today to imagine the impact that portable tape decks that ran for many hours on a couple of AA batteries had on the world, but it was huge. Suddenly we kids weren’t fighting with the parents for where to tune the radio. And while music tapes had their place, for me, for vacations, there was something better. I have no idea how I got it, but I imagine it come from my older brother, through some friend of his, but I wound up with a tap of Dr. Demento’s radio show. It wasn’t a real tape, it was copied – maybe from a real tape or maybe from the radio. But it had songs like Fish Heads and Another One Rides the Bus and more, as well as other comedy bits and longer stories. This, along with a couple of Bill Cosby tapes would end up being the things I listened to most… until we wandered into the Cracker Barrel one day.
If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel, it’s a restaurant with a gift shop attached to it. The shop is full of candy, folky art and decorations, and a random assortment of toys. We’d been there many times, and I’d often perused the tape rack, which tended to contain the works of John Denver and a variety of country singers which after I discovered MTV I just wasn’t into anymore. But one day I was spinning the rack and found a tape that had two “radio dramas”. I asked my mom what they were and she explained it to me. I don’t remember who bought them, but we ended up with three tapes. War of the Worlds, The Shadow and The Green Hornet. I played those things so many times, I’m surprised they tapes didn’t break. I’m pretty sure if I look around, here or at my dad’s house, I could find those three tapes.
Many years later, after the Walkman had been replaced by the Discman, I found a radio show style recording of Stephen King’s The Mist. I love movies and I love TV, but there is just something special about putting on headphones, sitting back, closing your eyes and letting the audio wash over you while imagery explodes in your mind. It’s like reading a book but without the reading. In fact, I’m pretty certain stumbling onto those tapes decades ago actually affected how I read, because I let the words sink in and I build the scenes visually within my mind. The downside is that I read slow. The upside is that I remember what I read very vividly.
Anyway… despite loving those things and them being an integral park of my growing up, I admit I don’t keep track of what’s going on in the world of radio shows. I mean, yes, I’ve been lusting after the Dark Adventure Radio Theater set for quite some time now, and I run across things now and then, but I haven’t actively sought things out. But recently I’ve discovered (years later than most) podcasts. While I tend to hate most talk radio, I’ve been enjoying a few podcasts, mostly entertainment or comedy related like The Nerdist. It’s actually through that site that I’ve found We’re Alive, which is just awesome and one of those “Why did I not know this existed?” sort of things. (Mental note: make sure the Apocalypse Rising track knows about this for Dragon*Con.)
So now I’m looking for more. Know any good radio show podcasts? I don’t want people just sitting around and talking (but if you say it’s completely awesome I’m sure I’ll try it out). I want radio dramas, mysteries, horror, adventure, whatever. Point me in their direction…