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Sometimes All You Need Is A Radio

Labor Day ... end of summer. Enjoy today because tomorrow is Black Tuesday. End of summer. I'll be honest it's gotten way easier to deal with the end of summer as you get older, but those days in grade school may as well have been walking into the electric chair (metaphorically). 

In High School it sucked less because you were back in with your boys everyday and going out every weekend anyway. Same with college etc. Post college summers didn't really exist as you were working around the calendar anyway but regardless there is always something sad about the end of summer. Packing away your bathing suits for a briefcase, tucking away flip flops for snow boots, and not just being able to lay on a beach or in a pool at the drop of a dime are shitty. It hurt even more as a kid. Trading in the freedom of hopping on your bike and meeting up with your friends 5 streets away might as well have been 50 miles. You had the world by the balls. Basketball camps, wiffleball, ice cream man ... summer was 1 never ending day of fun rolling into the next. The best. 

The one thing I always remember about Labor Day Weekend was packing up in the car as a family and heading down to our grandparents house in Breezy Point, NY. For all it's flaws, “Breezy” does have a cool feel that it's an escape for the working class to have a “bungalow” or a “cabana” as they have been called for years to go to on the weekend. For the record the bungalows and cabanas have been replaced by houses long ago, but the point remains people at Breezy are usually blue collar families who scraped up enough to have a summer getaway to enjoy the beach, the sand, and a few bars. My grandparents worked their ass off to obtain it and cherished hosting the family down there. I was the oldest grandchild and my grandparents bought it just before I was born. In fact my aunt still breaks my chops I ruined her secret graduation party at the “bungalow” because while they were their partying a friend back in Bay Ridge saw my grandparents race out of the house and into the car. The friend thought for sure it was to bust up the party. Turns out my mom had just gone into labor and they were going to the hospital to meet them. Sorry Aunt Goose. 

Anyway… back to Labor Day . Like many other weekends, as kids we would pack into the car and head down to Breezy. For us it was always an awesome day. Triangle ball, staying in the water until your skin was as wrinkled as an old shirt in the back of the closet, a catch with a football, unlimited sodas from my grandfather and a cold cut sandwich in the cooler. Heaven. My grandfather even kept an extra set of bikes or scooters in the shed so we would get to drive down to the beach (it’s like a 2 mile walk and getting further and further away by the day with the tide … I think I’m not a scientist which is the biggest pain in the ass about Breezy) and my poor dad would have to drag a wagon with all the stuff in it. A ton of great memories as a kid. 

In that wagon was of course a cooler, some snacks, balls to play with , towels , an umbrella and beach chairs. Let me tell you the Tommy Bahama chair with the shoulder straps like a back pack should have been around 20 years earlier than it’s debut because poor bastards like my dad had to balance beach chairs that looked like folding chairs for YEARS. 

The last item in the wagon … a radio. Now for you kids out there… this wasn’t a Bluetooth speaker this wasn’t a fancy radio with Spotify , it was the most basic thing you can imagine. Ran on batteries, had an antenna that was almost always broken or needed positioning  to exactly the right angle to get the station you wanted and had AM and FM… that’s it. 

After my Dad would set up the chairs and my Mom would make sure every ounce of our face was covered in SPF 6700 , we would run down to the water and he would bust out the radio as the last thing to set up. Almost always on ballgame if the Mets were playing, and on Labor Day Saturday - Notre Dame football, but other than that it was almost always on CBS FM 101.1. "New York's Greatest Hits" . As a young kid we never knew any better than to have a music preference, in fact having been in the back seat of the car forever we just started to love it and sing along with the songs. By the time we wanted to hear our own stuff at like 11-12 we knew better than to ask our parents to change it, instead we let them listen to what they wanted after lugging down the wagon and feeding us, and letting us live their rent free. It was the least we could do. 

CBS FM was famous for their countdowns. Always on holiday weekends they would do a Top 500, one year on 4th of July weekend they played the entire catalog in Alphabetical order. 

NY Daily News - Want more variety on the radio?

Well, if you don't mind hearing it alphabetically, check out the "A to Z Countdown" that starts this morning at 9 on WCBS-FM (101.1).

The station is counting down its "entire music library" from now through next weekend. Program director Brian Thomas says that includes about 3,000 songs, from "ABC" by the Jackson Five to "Zorba the Greek."

And Labor Day they would do the 1001 best songs. It would start Thursday or Friday and go all weekend. 

My Dad always knew about it and would have it on during the drive down, and then on the beach. I have vivid memories of "That was #468 by The Beach Boys … God Only Knows" off in the distance while sitting in a beach chair. As I was in High School and then college I actually started to love picking up a new song I hadn't heard or gained an appreciation of "oh that band sung that", and then would add it to my Itunes later on when I got back home. I always did think the holiday weekend countdowns were genius. You were never going to flip off the station because you knew you may miss a song you love if you did, also a countdown is one of the best ways to keep people listening. Of course they will keep the station on if you are telling them the songs will get better one by one. It's genius. It also gives people a chance to comment or play along. The year they had the A-Z countdowns I remember my family being half awake in the chairs trying to guess the next title. 

I think a lot about those days on the beach and that little old radio, and those countdowns and all the memories had while it was going on. Tons of days, tons of summers, tons of waves, tons of laughs, and tons of drives home in bumper to bumper traffic on the Belt Parkway … all with CBS FM as the soundtrack. It's funny how little details have to be a part of a memory. I can't remember the beach and not remember the music playing. 

Sometime along the line CBS stopped these countdowns (if they still do them I sure as hell can't find them) and they definitely don't do the 1001 top songs like they used to. I'll be honest I really didn't go out of my way to look for them aside from Labor Day Weekend. Something about trying to squeeze out that last little bit of summer made me search for it. It's been a long time since I could get in the car and sit in a chair and toss the football around as a kid on the beach. We grow up, life moves on. But as sure as I sit here and write this, I sure do wish I could. Maybe at some point today when the laundry is done, and the house is cleaned up I can find a chair in the yard, an ice cold Sunkist and a cold cut sandwich wrapped in tinfoil,  pop on the radio ( I might have to cheat now and put on Spotify) and pop on In The Still Of The Night or one of the other 1000 songs, and pretend I'm back on that beach with my family without a care in the world. Literally it will never happen, you can't time travel, but in your mind … sometimes all you need is that little old radio. 

Happy Labor Day