Fm (no static at all)

[ef em (noh stat-ik at awl: Walter Becker and Donald Fagen wrote this song for the 1978 movie FM, which takes place at a radio station and was the precursor to the television series WKRP in Cincinnati. Becker and Fagen performed the song in the movie, which came at a time when FM Radio was relatively new and catching up to AM in popularity. As the song points out, FM has a lot less static than AM, but at the time, a big selling point of FM radio stations was their ability to take chances by playing lesser-known bands and album cuts.

Big steps little steps was my first memory. We used to play it at the house on Tulasora street in El Paso, Texas. There were two sets of steps in the front yard. I walked up and down the little steps and he walked up the big ones. I remember laughing and feeling like the world was the most perfect place on Earth.

My father fought hard for these moments. He had to convince a judge that I was better off with him then with my mother. A woman over a man.  My blood was what they were fighting over until my mother gave up.

He raised me. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents when he was at work, but after work, we would be at home or at his friends Jack and Debbies house. She would make us dinner and I would play with their daughter that was a year younger.

It was at their house I saw MTV for the first time the first of October 1981. It changed my life forever.

My father could not be alone and always had a girlfriend. One of them ruined Christmas for me when I was five. While building my Barbie dream house she said: “Do we really have to do this for that little brat?” He told me the next day it was from Santa, but then I learned it was from him. I pretended a few years after because I did not want to hurt his feelings. Her name was Leslie. Which would have been funny if she married my dad, just because of the name thing.

He worked at Sears (a department store) from the very bottom to almost the top. I remember the bottom part. A man named Mr Bill who would always lift me up when I came into the store. Three times in the air, as though I was as light as a feather.

He met my stepmother and I was there. Watching it as I got a haircut from Debbie. I was bothered he stared at her when he was supposed to be looking at me. He asked her out. She said yes, and the first time I saw them was out looking for Christmas lights. Two weeks later they were engaged.

They told me in the bedroom. No talk explaining anything. Just that they were getting married. At the beginning of February they got married. I had lost my father to a woman he barely knew.

He made me call her mom. Something that tore me apart because he never knew or understood how that caused my mothers family to tear me in half. I was six years old, and had to make such decisions. It was hard to make everyone happy. Especially because you do not understand why.

She had a son that was six months old when my father met my stepmother. He knew nothing else, but my father. I, however, knew my mother was there. Nothing was simple at the time for me.

It became a lot that I was his and my brother was theirs. My father was strict with me. My brother got away with more.

“I know we have had two different childhoods,” he said to me once. “I know I had it better than you did.”

When I was small my father would hit me. He would give the neighbours permission to hit me if I “acted up” at their house. Until he discovered that yelling at me was much more effective.

“I used to hit her, but it did nothing, but yelling at her worked better.” he would tell people as it was the most normal thing in the world. Sure, back then it was normal to hit your kids…but still.

His yelling sessions were not short, and as the older I got, the longer they were. I had a lot of problems as a child. Sitting in the hallway and scratching myself until I started bleeding, punching myself in the face, and slapping myself across my face.

All when he yelled at me. It drove me so crazy that I would hurt myself.

Once as about a twelve year old, I was so proud. I was taking my brother alone to the movies for the first time. As I sat there in the theatre as I watched the movie a man sat next to me and started molesting me. I sat there and took it because I did not want to ruin the film for my brother. When we got home I never said a word about it.

I was afraid I was going to get yelled at.

Cocaine laid out on mirrors and plastic straws up noses, the smell of marijuana that still brings back so many memories. 

Once he started growing marijuana in the back yard when we had moved to New Mexico. I told my mother and then told my father that I told her. I still remember how sticky the plants were as he made me pull them up and put them in black trash bags. 

My stepmother has a miscarriage and I was the only one who was not sad. I knew I would be more of an outsider if there was another baby in the picture.

You see, standards were always higher for me. Second place is the first loser. Get good grades. Take harder classes. If you want money, get a job.

Nothing like this for all three of my brothers. The funny thing is that they are more successful or more educated than I am. Life is ironic.  

When I was fifteen my father took the door off my room because I did not clean it. He robbed a teenager of the most precious asset they have, privacy.

When I got older, they moved into their bedroom. We did not eat dinner together. They went as far as to have a refrigerator in their bedroom. They never left there. They never came out to ask how we were doing or what was going on with school. They just lived in the same house.

At that same house, it was dark. Dishes piled up on the countertop, floors not scrubbed and the swimming pool green like a swamp.

I stayed away as much as I could. Sports, school you name it. I was on my way out of there as soon as I could. I could not live like that.

When I went to my university to apply for a job as a journalist for the newspaper, my father drove with me. It was one of the best memories I had with him as a teenager. It was just him and I and he was very supportive of me.

I know my father saved every article I ever wrote. That he kept things in his safe that was important, I just wish he would have shown it more to me.

I too like with my mother did not speak to him for years. Then I realized that just like with her you have to accept people and forget about the past. You cannot change people, they have to want to change themselves. My father has gotten older now, he askes me how I am doing, he asks how my daughter is doing and sometimes he sends me texts just to show he cares.

This is the man I want to remember when I think of my father, but somethings stick to you like glue even though you may not want them to. The only thing you can do is live in the present, remember the past, but look to the future.

When I hear this song I think of him, in the car with the smell of marijuana in the air. He always said it was one of his favourites, besides The Beatles of course.

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