turkeys can’t fly
The other night I woke up in the middle of the night. It’s impossible to tell the middle when it’s a cloudless night and everything outside is clear and bright. To find the middle of the night you need a cloudy night where when you wake up it’s the kind of dark that makes you sure the power is out. The power doesn’t have to be out, it just has to feel like it is. The comfort of the nightstand light being within arm’s reach suddenly evaporates and you suddenly listen hard for the buzz of electricity somewhere telling you that you can push the darkness back any time you want only to worry that it might not be the case. People say that it’s always darkest before the dawn but in the middle of the night it’s obvious that these people have no clue what night is all about.
I woke up smack dab in the middle and I knew this because there is shit buried in your brain that is only accessible when it’s that dark out. You can lay awake and search every corner of your head for this stuff before and after the middle with zero success. It’s like that scene out of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the sun hits the staff at just the right time and it unlocks the exact resting place of a certain memory or emotion.
I opened my eyes and there was no difference. Blackness. I blinked and waited for everything to come into focus but nothing did.
I was in the middle of the night.
I listened for the hum of the air conditioner or the clock or the noisy street light outside and heard nothing.
Yep… it was the middle.
A shaft of darkness shot through some unseen staff or cracked gem or whatever and I braced for whatever horror was to come next from the depths of my brain. I thought about burying my head under the covers like a kid but I knew that didn’t work anymore. Something was coming but it wasn’t as easy as a beast emerging from the closet or scaly talons dragging up the stairs. It couldn’t be hidden from. It was coming from within. I was not disappointed.
WKRP in Cincinnati.
As a kid I use to love that show. You might not have ever seen it but it was funny and had some very memorable characters. Truth is though, I haven’t thought about it for 20 years. So what might you ask is terrifying about remembering a sitcom from my youth? Surely episodes like the one where as a publicity stunt the radio station drops live turkeys out of a helicopter over a shopping center as a Thanksgiving Day giveaway couldn’t invoke any fear right? Even though domestic turkeys, which cannot fly, plunge to their deaths as shoppers run for their lives it was done without any intention of being scary. In fact the entire event occurred entirely off-screen as nerdy Les Nessman described the scene in words reminiscent of Herbert Morrison’s reporting of the Hindenburg Disaster. Maybe one of the funniest shows I ever saw (rivaling an episode of Taxi when Jim tries to get his driver’s license). So why would this trip down memory lane cause me any upset?
The theme song.
A theme song I heard week after week without taking any notice of it.
In the middle of the night you hear it differently.
Baby, if you’ve ever wondered,
Wondered whatever became of me,
I’m living on the air in Cincinnati,
I read them back now and they seem harmless enough but in the middle of the night they resonate on a much deeper and darker level. Suddenly I feel the angst. I wonder if there is anyone wondering about me. Am I worthy of being remembered?
It gets worse in the second verse.
Got kind of tired packing and unpacking,
Town to town and up and down the dial
Maybe you and me were never meant to be,
But baby think of me once in awhile.
Suddenly it’s a plea. I finally understood what the writer meant. Like some emotional Da Vinci Code. For a few moments I shared his longing, this middle of the night longing that dusk and dawn know nothing about. The vocalist masking the pain with a bright and cheery melody. Knowing that the song will deflect through the Raiders of the Lost Ark staff in just the right way years later in an inky beam to plunge into the exposed breast of a former fan.
And then the last line, the terrible last line. The stuff of nightmares.
I’m at WKRP in Cincinnati…
There is nowhere to run in the middle of the night. No answer to the obvious question of “is this my WKRP?”. Why couldn’t it have been zombies chasing me or werewolves stalking me in the shadows?