© 2019 Bill Murphy
In the early 50s, when most radio was still AM only, I was big time into radio. I even built two shortwave kits.
Our big thrill was ‘finding’ impossibly distant stations, which was often possible due to atmospheric conditions, especially late at night. I had a map attached to a cork board, and used push-pins to ‘highlight’ the locations of these far flung audio discoveries.
Our brains and our hearts also have something similar to push-pins… recording and proclaiming special events and moments which we’ve deemed as extra-special, and worthy of memory. Some of these are unique to us, and for us… their special meanings lost on others. So be it.
I had such a push-pin moment in early 1964. It was so strange, so bizarre, so ‘other worldly’ that I have difficulty describing it now, let along explaining it! I know that it did have, or must have had, some military implications.
I’d just returned from Air National Guard bootcamp and training. I’d spent a total of twenty six weeks at two different Air Force bases in Texas.
I had three years of ROTC in high school. Military training was not new to me. But ROTC was not much more than a ‘subject’ one took in high school. We had breakfast at home, slept in our own beds at night. We were basically free to do what we wanted the other class periods. Not so in the USAF!
The ‘real’ military is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And in a real sense, it’s somewhat like being in prison. Others, many others, are ALWAYS in control over you. They tell you what to do, what to say, where to go, and of course–the what nots of all of those.
Now I was home. Now I was free. Now there were not a dozen different sergeants and lieutenants telling me to do this, don’t do that. I found myself having difficulty re-adjusting to freedom and being out from under someone’s thumb. The relief from that pressure was disconcerting. This, I believe, was the genesis of my unique push-pin moment.
The place where it happened was West Capitol Street, in Jackson, MS. I was standing in line at the Dairy Queen. It was a popular place, and one usually had to wait in line. I can’t remember what was going on in my mind at the time, but this I know, I was relishing the moment… I was home, and I was (somewhat uncomfortably) free.
I gazed East, down Capitol Street. It was a bright day, sunny, and colorful. This all to common landscape looked especially beautiful this day. I found myself appreciating it with all new meaning and depth. And then it happened–suddenly–out if nowhere… the entire scene suddenly ‘morphed’ before my very eyes. I saw this common sight, I saw the world, thru ‘different’ eyes!
Whereas only moments before, I viewed the world as covered with asphalt and concrete. This man-made covering had been sub-divided into squares, rectangles, and various shapes which we call ‘blocks’ and ‘tracts’ of land. After all–the roads lead ‘everywhere’ don’t they, so they must cover ‘everything?’ It was as if I had previously interpreted all grassy areas as ‘additions to’ a concrete/asphalt world.
But in this moment I suddenly saw green grass, trees, shrubs, flowers–living things, as they really are! This was the world! The asphalt, the concrete, were but ugly streaks… lines which cut across the beautiful earth. I suddenly saw what this view would be if Capitol Street was suddenly ripped away! Everything took on an all new beauty and meaning.
I suppose you don’t, or can’t understand what happened to me that day. Perhaps that moment was just too personal, too–Bill Murphy. You know how he is! Or perhaps you’ve always seen the world the way it really is, a great big blue and green ball bisected with asphalt and concrete streets and highways. Perhaps I was only ‘getting it’ that morning… and everyone else already had it.
But I did have that moment. And to me, it was special, a true push-pin moment.