Everything there is to know!

Let us go then, you and I,
while the stars are blotted out from the night sky
from all the light pollution that destroys natural beauty;
Let us fight our way through rush-hour streets,
Dodging stuttering aesthetes
As they cream their jeans over the latest Marina Abramovic stunt
“Did you see her shoot that horse? It was brilliant.”
A schizophrenic in tedious self-argument
His money spent
He asks the overwhelming question
“Can I have a dollar?”
If enough people say yes, he’ll soon be a baller.

In the room everyone sweats and glows
A/C’s busted, not enough airflow.

The smell of hot garbage that rubs its back upon windowpanes
The yellow smoke that contrasts with bloodstains.
Realtors lick their lips, turn up the corners of their mouths
Jacking up the rent on a pre-war townhouse.
Their religion the short con to part you from your deposit
The perpetual subtext of “Sign this lease or shove it.
Time is money and the rent’s five grand.
Pay up on time or we’ll cut off your hands.”

And indeed there will be time
For hot garbage stink to invade your home
To the point that you hallucinate garden gnomes
Baking trash cookies in your kitchen.
Loneliness becomes you, so you go on a date.
You’re right on time, she’s 20 minutes late.
She’s a cliché, you’re emotionally encumbered
She’s “spiritual” with an om tattoo.
You got her number.

Doomsday sidewalk preachers, nightwalking street creatures,
“Make you feel good for twenty dollas.”
No, thank you, ma’am. My morality forbids.
“Ah, come on, son. How else I gon’ feed my kids?”
Atomic-volume music in jam-packed night clubs
Drinking alone on a holiday
Excuse me, but I’m quite tired out.
Is this what passes as fun nowadays?

And indeed there will be time
To sleep in in the city that never sleeps,
Rest is a gift that’s heaven-sent
Just don’t forget to pony up the rent.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I wrote a personally informed BI post about ham radio — what it is, how it works. Ham radio is “my new favorite social network“, proclaims my brassy headline.

Ham radio operators chat it up regardless of if they know each other or not, are overwhelmingly positive/helpful to each other, and (I would argue) still feel a degree of reverence for the sacred act of personal communication at a distance. I’ve only ever had excellent conversations with hams.

The temptation to romanticize a largely forgotten, outdated means of recreationally interacting with people is strong. I am guilty of this. Oh, for the days when people would gather around “the wireless” to hear what they could hear. What a nostalgia-laced bum I am for a time I can’t rightly claim as my own. Cue a cigarette-smoking college sophomore to elaborate on how past and future are illusion and all there is is now, man.

If only there were a contemporary “response” to ham radio. You know, something that can be used for talking to friends as easily as strangers. It’d probably have to be internet-connected, no?

Twitter undoubtedly fills this niche. I will go so faux-scholarly as to say that a tweet is a unit of complex thought — it tops off at 140 characters, so you’re generally good for a maximum of two sentences per tweet. This allows enough room for conveying everything from sarcasm to sincerity to confusion (to a picture of your cat). What is an automatically scrolling Tweetdeck column if not a 21st century radio station where people take turns playing thought deejay? Tweets, just like certain ham wavelengths, can travel around the world!

This analogy between Twitter and ham radio fails to address the disparity in attitude between the two mediums. Ham radio is probably one of the last bastions of polite, public sincerity. People default to niceness without motive. While Twitter can claim *some* of this for itself, the signal is lost to the noise way too readily. You don’t have to look too long before coming to the conclusion that Twitter is alternately riddled with misspelled hate and snap judgments (plenty of it from me) and political-career-ending photos of people’s sex organs.

Meanwhile, I made a ham-quaintance last night who told me all about how to make ice cream.

The difference must be that ham radio requires you to pass a test and earn a license, while any yahoo with an email address can register a Twitter account in less time than it takes to defecate. But it doesn’t need to be this way, Twitter. You’ve begun to present yourself to me in a manner as appealing as “internet ham radio.”1 Surely there’s a common sense way to boil down ham radio’s relatively extensive rules of conduct so that they fit inside your concise paradigm. In fact, I have a suggestion. Ready? Here it is.

Don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t say to your mom’s face. This is a pretty awesome guideline that allows you to feel and express the full range of human emotion while only asking that you be mindful of how you convey it. The sole potential flaw here is that I’m assuming you have a healthy relationship with your mother. If you don’t understand what I’m getting at here, maybe that’s because I just love and respect my mom more than you do yours.

Now that I’ve paid tribute to a major social network that was founded eight years ago and has been a publicly traded company for the last eight months, does this mean I’ll be using it ceaselessly, refreshing my endless tweet stream like a rat pushing the button for his cocaine pellet? Certainly not.

Just like the folks in that timeless yesteryear that I seem to long for — I’m estimate it’s 1967 — I’m going to do other stuff too.

1. Angry ham nerds: yes, I know about EchoLink.

I wrote up an abridged telling of the worst job interview I ever had for this story on Business Insider, which was (wisely) edited down. Here’s the original.

I was on a get-a-job reality show for MTV when things were especially hand-to-mouth in 2010 (don’t bother Googling the show, it never aired). At the bottom of my resume is a “miscellaneous” section where I brag about offbeat skills. One of these is sleight of hand magic.

If you’ve ever participated in some sort of professional TV operation, you know there’s a lot going on. Lights punch your eyes, camera people try to maneuver both quickly and silently. The cliched type-A producer whisper-barks orders into her headset and the whole placed buzzed with anxious energy.

I sat down at the job interview desk, squared off against an especially white-toothed guy in broadcast makeup while I did my best impression of someone who has it totally together. White-Toothed Guy rattles off the worst interview questions you’d expect, but in a totally over-the-top manner, hamming it up for the folks at home: “So, Dylan…What’s your ***biggest*** ***weakness***?”

Save for the fact that I was participating in a reality show where the winner got a job stocking shelves at a raw vegan grocery store, I get through the interview mostly unscathed, dignity largely intact. Then White Teeth took it from me.

“Your resume mentions magic! How about a card trick?!”

I didn’t have cards on me (my mistake, as a standard deck is my go-to magic prop), but I did have some loose change in my pocket. I produced a quarter, made it disappear, and to my great embarrassment, literally said “Tah-dah!”

White Teeth calls my bluff: “You just put it in your other hand. I know that one, that’s called a French Drop. That’s one of the first magic tricks a kid learns!” He chuckles (pretty sure at me rather than with me), which is enough to get Type-A Producer to emit a “Pfffffttt!” This sets off the rest of the production team, and now a room full of television professionals is laughing at me.

I took the 2 train home.

John Hartford is a total golden treasure of a guy. When he was alive, he seemingly had two big loves: music and the Mississippi River. The latter would see him on long riverboat trips and the former saw playing banjo and violin all over the world.

He came to town when I was much younger and played on the steps of the Loudoun County Courthouse in Leesburg, Virginia. Dad’s a sucker for bluegrass, so he took the family to see the show. I estimate this was 1992, making me six years old.

After the show, Hartford proved to be the kind of guy up for hanging out and meeting people. I remember approaching him on the grass in front of the courthouse with a sheet of dot matrix printer paper, asking him for his signature. He was happy to provide it and to my delight, instead of some hasty scribble, he wrote out a gorgeous capital-A Autograph, the likes of which are only seen in archived letters from the Civil War.

That piece of paper got lost almost immediately, and then a bunch of life happened — John Hartford put out a few more albums before dying, my sister got married and moved to Oregon, I graduated college and wound up in New York, and somewhere in there I developed a love for playing banjo myself.

Out of nowhere just a few weeks ago, Mom found John Hartford’s autograph while sorting through old piles of who-knows-what, some 20 years after we had lost it. I am a dreadful gift-giver and blatant opportunist, so it seemed a pretty obviously great idea to give the long-lost autograph to Dad this Father’s Day (my normal gift-giving strategy is to thoughtlessly troll Amazon and buy the first book that reminds me of someone). Mom was kind enough to be an agent for me, getting it framed and even honoring my request to leave the holey strips attached to the paper.

So happy Father’s Day to a guy who has miles of patience, a two-ton heart, and an unquenchable thirst for jangly banjo music.

John Hartford under glass.