Sporadic Cure For The Sporadic Blues

“There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.” That’s the way the old song goes.

Yesterday was one of the prettiest, sparkling days in a long time here in north central Kentucky. We had brilliantly blue, cloudless skies and if there was any coal-fired power plant smoke in the air it was at least invisible and odorless.

And yet I had the blues. Not crippling depression. Just a vague sadness.

My business is slow in the summer and since I work from home I can usually put my profession on temporary hold at my discretion. So, I decided to blow the dust off my ham radio and fiddle with the dial for a bit.

First, a word from science: A large part, but not all, amateur radio works by the principle of sending a signal into space and hoping it hits one of the layers of ionized particles in the planet’s upper atmosphere. It bounces back to Earth where someone, maybe, is listening. The reflective layers above us have letter designations D, E, F1, F2. There’s more here if interested. Hams have various methods of knowing when certain layers are active.

Yesterday was one of those summer days when the “E” layer of the atmosphere was bouncing signals. The phenomenon of these floating clouds of particles are so unpredictable and elusive that they are called “Sporadic E.” When the E layer is doing its thing radio operators find they can use certain frequencies, such as the 10 meter band, to bounce signals once, twice, three times or more – you never know if you’ll be heard in California or Japan.

So, yesterday afternoon I tuned to 10 meters and heard a fellow calling “CQ” – meaning he was asking if anyone could hear his transmission. I responded. We were soon chatting like two neighbors over the back fence.

He was a year younger than I and sounded cheerful and young for his age. I am often told I sound young. He said he liked my call sign which incorporates my initials with my state – AB4KY. He was in Loveland, Colorado. He told me about the town of Loveland, the origin of the name, and how people like to get their Valentines postmarked from there. I told him we have a place near here where people get their Christmas cards postmarked Santa Claus, Indiana. Which gave me an opening to joke about the city of French Lick “It sounds nicer than it is!” He laughed.

I talked about my clients and friends from Colorado. He told me he had grown up in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I talked about my wife’s commute to work each day and my dog’s insistence on attention since her fuzzy head was in my lap looking up with loving eyes and maybe wondering “Who ‘ya talking too?”

He responded to my dog talk with a wistful “Oh yeah, dogs.” There was a long pause but he was still transmitting. “Dogs. Oh man. It’s been such a long time but I remember the last one so well. They are wonderful. Such good company.” Another long pause. “But it just wouldn’t work out here especially since I’m out here alone now . . .”

With that, the “E” layer cloud weakened and my new friend’s transmission faded into nothing, like a distant AM radio rock-and-roll station on a summer night. That’s the nature of Sporadic E and hams know voices can suddenly just vanish like ghosts without a chance to ask “When did you leave Hopkinsville?” or even say “So long.”

But that’s OK. I was suddenly feeling better. My sense of deep gratitude for all the good things life offers had returned. I was ready to get back to work, take my dog for a walk and prepare dinner for my wife.

I’ve been asked about my little hobby of ham radio “What do you have to talk about?” I usually shrug and say “Oh, we talk about our radios, antennas – stuff like that.”

Now I can say “We cure the summertime blues.”

— Allen – – Call sign: AB4KY

Blessings Of The Rain

Here in Kentucky we are in the grip of a slow moving tropical system. Waves of showers have been sweeping through as the counterclockwise swirl does a slow waltz across the region.

There are many blessings that come with the rain. It’s quiet. There are no lawnmowers running. Flowers and newly seeded grass are thriving. Tree frogs strike up loud choruses on some mysterious froggy cue. One can take a guiltless siesta in a perfect sleeping environment or watch a pair of Eastern Phoebes build a nest in the eaves.

The sun returns Tuesday.


Not Meant For You

My wife and I caught a little bit of the movie “Woodstock” the other night. The nostalgia was almost enough to make me cry. (Not very hard these days.)

Watching the cats, freaks and hippies getting stoned, slogging through the mud, having sex in the bushes, closing the New York throughway and generally sticking it to the man now looks a little alien.

The country was divided along generational lines. Many of the elders called Woodstock rotten, illegal and even immoral. They hated the music. They hated the message. There was a lot of hate.

Here’s the thing: Woodstock was not MEANT for them. It was OURS.

This is no overnight epiphany, but I have come to accept that because something is not meant for you does not make it bad. Never heard of that celebrity? Not meant for you. Never watched that Netflix series that you can’t even pronounce? Not meant for you. Don’t like that girl’s green hair? Not meant for you.

I still have a boatload of stuff that IS meant for me. So I have resolved to stop getting bugged about things clearly not meant for me and revel in what I love.

Thinking about Woodstock with new perspective brought it closer and reminded me of the hook in the song “Turn It Around” by Lucius. “. . . looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Turn It around.! Turn it around!”

The band Lucius just happen to be playing in Louisville Saturday night. I love them. You don’t like them? Maybe not meant for you.