Posts Tagged ‘Weirdness’

It was exactly twenty -one years ago yesterday that OJ Simpson led police on a slow speed car chase in Al Cowlings white Ford Bronco.

Now, I don’t know if you remember how shocking the thought of OJ Simpson killing someone was at the time. He being a star of stage and screen, a beloved sports hero, and for all we could see in the public, a generally good guy. Now we hear he’s suspected of a brutal murder, which is weird enough, right? But no! NOW he’s got his best friend driving 30 M.P.H. on the LA freeway, followed by an army of police, lights and sirens ablaze, while he talks on a carphone (remember carphones?) to the very cops chasing him the whole way!

Odd stuff, right? But wait! There’s more! My own special brand of weird was added to the mix! I didn’t WATCH it as it happened! Oh, no! I LISTENED to it on the RADIO!

See, my then girlfriend and current BFF, Bubba and I didn’t have a TV. What with us being in our early 20’s and it being the early/mid 90’s we were not only full of idealistic youthful disgust for all things mainstream, we were also basking in the glory that was 90’s music (we were and are consummate audiophiles; Elastica, HUM, the Birthday Party, Counting Crows, Black Sabbath could all be heard at one point or another in our pad. Except Prince. Bubba despised the Purple One and I could only listen when she was out. She’s since come to her senses), and we were, most importantly, broke.

So we listened to the radio CONSTANTLY. Local folks will remember when WRTI played ONLY jazz, Fred Williams being obnoxious and Terry McNulty doing his “Goose Pond” shtick on WILK (AM, mind you! Not their fancy new FM station.). Late night was the always gloriously weird and campy ‘Coast to Coast AM’ with Art Bell. Weekends were filled with the hysterically entertaining Car Talk, A Prairie Home Companion, Marian McPartland’s ‘Piano Jazz’ and Fiona Ritchie’s ‘Thistle and Shamrock’ on PBS. Laced between it all was a great new Alternative station called “The Mountain” (not to be confused with the current station of that name, this mountain became “the Bear” and featured a then still-relevant Howard Stern…but I digress) that filled the place with a solid mix of both new and old Alternative music. The Replacements to Prodigy. I miss that station to this day.

It was the perfect time to NOT own a TV!

So, here we were, both home on a Tursday afternoon (it was around 6:30 in LA, making it 3:30 ish here in PA). The fact we both had the same day off was an anomaly, as we both worked in the Steamtown Mall (when it actually had stores). Retail gigs never have set schedules, and neither, then, did we. Bub went to school full time and managed a jewelry kiosk that was in the center of the mall, directly in front of the where I had a gig in a poster framing shop. When we did work the same hours, we’d call each other and gab while we looked through the window of my shop and made faces at each. Or call and pretend we were idiot customers asking the most bizarre questions and watch to see each others reactions. Work was a good time back in the day, yo. I have much blog fodder compiled from those days.

Okay, back to my actual story… so, here we are, milling about the house. I seem to recall one of our famous two-man house cleaning parties was happening, when suddenly there’s a station break during Rush Limbaugh (settle down, Beavis. We all go through phases. Like I sez NO TV!) telling us OJ’s ex was murdered and he was a suspect and…wonder of wonders, he was leading the police in a slow-speed chase. We all know what that means NOW, but in 1994 when the words “slow speed car chase” wafted from the speakers, it broke my brain. “Dafuq?” was the only thought it could muster after such an announcement. BUT WAIT! THERE’S EVEN MORE! Al Cowlings was driving. But Al Cowlings wasn’t a suspect. But it WAS Al Cowlings’ car. Not OJ Simpsons’ car. But OJ WAS a suspect. MAYBE. Or maybe just a ‘person of interest’…

Now I’m thinking… What exactly was IN that bowl I smoked before I started scrubbing the toilet? Isn’t this really only a bunch of people driving and one dude just happens to be in front? And OJ? Nordberg from ‘Naked Gun’? (No relation to Mike, yo) 1968 Heisman winner OJ? NFL Hall of Famer OJ? The fucking Hertz airport sprinter? Getdafuckouttahere!

I distinctly remember standing in our living room, intently listening. I remember we each had these huge glass mug filled with ice water that we got at Boscov’s department store that I adored and we seemed to alway be chugging from (I have since broken both and never found replacements). I can also remember thinking for the first time “Fuck. I wish we had a TV”. I promptly stated said thought out loud and received “Fuck yeah, ainah?” as a response.

That moment is frozen forever in my head. As is the moment we heard his not guilty verdict while in the long gone Woolworth’s in the South Side shopping center. I actually was convinced he was innocent. Again… a phase, Homes.

We listened all day, enthralled. We listened for the next four months to the trial, Cochran, Dershowitz and Kardashian making a case that, in retrospect, was Barnum-esque at best, but certainly did it’s job establishing reasonable doubt. We listened to Marsha Clark being picked apart by commentators for not being Hollywood Fantastic and looking, instead, like a prosecuting attorney. We listened to Kato Kaelin pretending to be stupid while successfully milking his 15 minutes to a full half hour.

It was our entertainment for nearly all of 1994. It was ‘The Trial of the Century’. Everyone knew the latest developments. Walk up to anybody over 40 right now and say “If it does’t fit, you must aquit” and I’ll give you a donut if they don’t know what you’re talking about. It was the single most culturally dividing and at the same time unifyin event of it’s era.

It was, as were the 1992 Rodney King verdict riots, a bleak exposé and harsh commentary on the realities of our society during that decade, a decade that saw the ugly truths of racism exposed, a decade that got lazy, disaffected suburban kids to get off their asses to change things (like their parents 30 years previously), and a decade that nurtured artistic freedoms like no other, acts like PJ Harvey, Bjork, Spacehog, Alice In Chains, Ministy, Beck and of course, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were played on COMMERCIAL RADIO! A glorious decade of possibilities. Until it ultimately all came to an end, at least symbolically, with Woodstock ’99. The death knell of positive youth culture happened at a concert. Again, just like our parents generation at Altamont speedway 30 years before…

But what stays with me the most, the longest lasting, most indelible impact of the entire event, the only thing I could think about when I finally saw it on TV a few days after we stood aghast in our living room with our ears glued to the radio like Grunge era Walton’s, the only thing that came to mind yesterday when I heard it was the 21st anniversary was “It sounded faster…”