"This is your KOMX cosmic radio, in downtown Spew-town. Tonight, we are transmitting from the antenna towers, at the front of the top of the back of my house, break-break!............"
Such would start a typical night on the radio for Art. A second shift computer operator by trade, guitar aficionado, fellow boater, and connoisseur of Budweiser. I first met Art in the latter part of 1981, when the Channel 30/35 groups were first starting out. Strangely enough, it was his wife Marcel who I had first run across on the radio. Naturally, it always gets my attention when a new base station comes on the channel, especially one which pushes my meter well into the red. So I struck up a conversation with Art's wife (Who used the handle "Witchcraft") and we had been talking for a few nights. I soon found out that they lived about 8 houses up the side street from me, and a subsequent drive-by confirmed that there was indeed a new 1/4 wave CB antenna that I hadn't seen there before. One night shortly afterward, I had had 2 other friends over and we were doing a little beer drinking, and were getting a little wild and crazy on the radio in a sort of impromptu party. The next thing I knew, the door to my room opens and there's this unknown woman standing there, with a curious grin on her face, looking for a beer. My mind raced in contemplation. Was she a Jehovah's witness, tempted by the forces of the dark side? An irate neighbor, sick of dealing with TVI, and finally deciding that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em? Or was she an escaped mental patient from the local state hospital? Avon calling? Distant relative? The FCC? I certainly had no clue. At that point, I also had to wonder what my mother could possibly have been thinking, by letting just anyone into the hallowed halls of my radio sanctuary. After all, this was a private party dammit! Well anyway, once she told me who she was and my wild and somewhat delusional alcohol-inspired paranoia subsided, I let out a sigh of relief, responded with a weak "Oh hi", and reluctantly gave her a beer. It was then that I also realized that my "stash" of Miller pony bottles was almost gone. Marcel wasted no time making herself at home and she immediately sat herself down in the command chair, commandeered my radio, and called for Art. She then proceeded to tell him that it was "safe" to come over, and to bring some more beer. I remember thinking, through my alcohol influenced state; "Hey this chick's pretty cool, she even has her own beer-boy". Art appeared shortly afterward, carrying a 6 pack of Bud in hand (Hey, no one's perfect!), which kept the party going for a bit longer. But by this time, my room had become uncomfortably crowded, and I was also short on chairs (thankfully my bed was made!). Despite my apparent shortcomings as the ideal party host however, that night would be the start of one of my longest active friendships to ever come from the radio, and also my first ever experience with a beer (Bud) induced headache. Looking back, I can't believe how quiet and reserved that Art was that night. A far cry from what lay in store for the rest of the local radio clan in short order.
We would soon find out, once he overcame his initial reservations and became more comfortable with the locals, that Art was, in a nutshell, crazy back then. This was like a second life in CB for him, as he had played with CB once before as a teen in the late 60's and, in many ways, he was now reliving his youth. He wasn't very well versed when it came to radio theory, but that never stopped him from making all sorts of strange accessories (or at least trying real hard). What he lacked in technical theory, he more than made up for in curiosity and sheer determination. He was not all that much different from how I was when I first started out a decade earlier, although Art was 9 years my senior. Mostly the things that he made were bizarre, off-the-wall, and somewhat eccentric. Somehow he managed to fit that huge 64 pin 76477 sound generator chip, which Radio Shack carried back then, into the base of a D-104, and left a single wire hanging out of it, by which you could change the pitch and rate of the sounds, by simply touching it, sort of like a "touch birdie". Another "interesting" project was the LED "landing lights" which he put in the cup holders in his car, so that he could set his mug down in the dark. Then there was "Tom Bank-by-phone", a cannibalized telephone touch-tone pad, and a speaker, which he would use for the then brand new concept of phone banking. Art used to measure a project's relative difficulty in terms of six-packs. ("Fixing that radio was a 2 six-pack job"), and it seemed that some of his best work came as a side effect of those many pints of consumed Budweiser.
Art started out with a Sears AM 40 channel base station. Later he horse traded for a Cobra 135, from "Uncle Chuckie" which had some bizarre crystal arrangement in it, which allowed Art to somehow move all throughout the band, although he didn't understand how or why. Compounding the situation further, he didn't have a frequency counter, so he never knew where exactly he was. I never fully understood what was going on with that thing, but I do know that I could be way up in the high end of the freeband talking to someone, and Art would come sliding on through just to say "Science!" (Borrowed from the Thomas Dolby song, "Blinded me with Science"), or something similar. He also upgraded from the 1/4 wave GP antenna to a PDL II beam, which he got through yet another horse trade. He also played a mean guitar. Jimmi Hendrix, CCR, Neil Young, and even some home-grown music was his usual fair. Art knew the first verse of practically any classic 60's and 70's rock song. Beyond that though, and he was forced to improvise, which usually led to some funny song parodies, where the degree of outlandishness was directly proportional to the amount of beer that he had drunk at the time.
That following summer (1982) found us spending many weekends on his 26' Pacemaker boat, which he kept at the New Jersey shore, and hanging out in Barnegat Bay. Despite stiff steering cables, thrown fan belts, bottle rocket barrages, empty beer bottles rolling around on deck, and an antenna mast which fell into the water following a tricky docking maneuver, we managed to have a great time, without sinking or running up on a sandbar (Although Art would manage to do just that with a jet boat, over the Labor Day weekend in 1984). We also had some radio fun tweaking a few of the CB locals down there, by impersonating a couple of hapless Puerto Ricans named "Chico" and "Pedro", with a decidedly Cheech Marin (of Cheech and Chong fame) accent.
Throughout the years, Art and I shared many projects, usually either boat, radio, or computer related. Art got his ham license by the late 80's, and was one of the original partners in our 220 Mhz repeater project. Art is also credited for pushing me into playing with home computers when they started becoming popular. He once called me "dangerous" with a keyboard, as he felt that I picked it up way too quickly. One of those "dangerous" projects, was "Dirtball Busters". Unfortunately, I was not as successful when Art tried to teach me to play guitar. My less-than-flexible finger dexterity is just not conducive to guitar playing.
Eventually, Art moved out of the old neighborhood to a bigger house, but luckily not far away. Increasing family responsibilities took a lot of his free time away, which curtailed his radio activity considerably. Art plays more with computers than radio these days and it was he who was instrumental in pushing me into doing this website. Art currently runs his own web server at this location. Art is still involved with music and creates his own original works, which he usually mixes and produces with a wide variety of audio equipment connected with a rat's nest of wires, which makes one wonder how he's managed to avoid setting his house on fire, or electrocuting himself yet. He's also still playing with bizarre projects, like trying to run his house, or at least his computers, on solar energy, .
Since I moved in 1999, I don't get to see Art as much as I used to, but we still talk over the (ham) radio on a semi-daily basis. My goal for this year (As it's been for the last several) is to get at least one of Art's two "driveway yachts" into the water, and to take a nice cruise on the Chesapeake Bay, without sinking or running up on a sandbar. Wish me luck......