[We’re “listening” to a Shep broadcast dated 12/30/59, in which he is making references to incense and silly college courses. He is having some sort of problem with his engineer who is doing things wrong. We are hearing it all–at least Shep’s side of it, as he integrates his annoyance at the broadcast situation with the stream-of-conscience style he is pursuing. Is he been over-the-top crotchety?]
….Just–just cling as hard as you can, to that water wing. That water wing. The one that’s taking in water–fast. That hasn’t done much flying. But nevertheless, is there waiting. So come on, daddy-o, let’s do it, you know?
I know how you’ve gone wrong! You have come to the right man–for the first time in your life. I–know–where–you– Yes. I know, you have done it again. You are wrong again. You are wrong again. STOP!
[Music stops.That damn engineer from Part I is still making mistakes! Why can’t they give Shep engineers who know their jobs? Love to know just how the guy is fouling up.]
Now look. Now look–we’re gonna level, we’re gonna level here. Just for one minute. And you don’t think that I’m here just–night after night just to entertain you, do you?
[It really does feel as though he’s talking to me, the listener, but he’s really talking eye-to-eye to that klutz of an engineer, right? Or he’s talking to both of us, right?? He is here night after night to entertain the finer parts of our minds and sensibilities, right? He is the only friend I have–as a new college graduate–who talks to me and tickles (entertains) the better parts of my mind. He is my soul-mate pal, my mentor–and forty years from then I’d realize how important he’d been and I’d begin writing a book about him begun soon after he died in 10/99 and finally published 3/2005.]
And furthermore, I’m going to tell you another thing. We’re gonna have to–this is a moment now, since its almost time to quit. Almost time to quit. We might as well shell it out. I’m not here to play it for laughs. I’m not here to entertain you, really, you know? I’m here for a much more devious purpose than that. To begin with, many people here at this very radio station do not even know I am here. they just see it on the log–“The Jean Shepherd Show.” They’re all home–they’re watching television. Doesn’t make any difference. They don’t know.
But I’ll tell you what I’m here for. I am here, and am an extension of–your conscience itself. I am here because I know where you went wrong. I know where you went wrong. The reason I know where you went wrong is because I know where I went wrong. I know darn well where you went wrong! So don’t give me any of that jazz! Do you hear me? Any of you! You have fouled up too! You are caught in the same thing. All of you. So don’t–give–me–any–of–your–lip. That’s what I’m here for.
[Music starts again. But he is entertaining me, at least! Take that last paragraph–please! He is simultaneously humorous and deadly serious. He is deadly serious. Deadly serious. That is what he is here for–to make us think, to make us feel, to make us laugh while seriously examining ourselves. I’m reminded of–regarding the clever twist of laughing and serious thinking–the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, in which we see bombers erotically refueling and then a bomber pilot in closeup, very serious expression on his face–we are proud and confident in our security from all dangers–especially war. Then we see what he is concentrating on–not safety-from-war but sex–it is an open copy of Playboy.]
Major “King” Kong Concentrating on Business
So play it cool and easy. I know. You know we should be honest for the first time. You are not fooling me and I am not fooling you. The thing to remember most of all is that you’re not fooling me. Just because I come out of that crummy little plastic box on the top of your refrigerator does not mean you can push me around. It is quite the opposite, you know. You have come to the wrong spot–if you think you’re gonna get off the hook, Mac. Baby. The wrong spot! The wrong spot! Yes, by the short ones.
[“The short ones.” A rare sexual reference from Shep?]
So, you know–in the end you’re just gonna have to rely on style. Because you got no content! So don’t try to get by with a message–you ain’t got it. Just learn technique-that’s all. And don’t come around here telling me, “Shepherd, I know you’re going wrong, you’re gettin’ commercial.” Ha! I’m getting commercial! Have you ever looked at the lining of your necktie, Mac? [Laughs.] Oh! Come Kerouac me no Kerouacs, Mac. I’ll take none of your lip. None of your lip. I am not here to play those old familiar melodies that all of you whistle in your sleep. Not a bit of it. Not a bit of it. I am not here to mouth those old familiar platitudes that fall like autumn leaves from the bottom of bank calendars. Oh no. I know where you fouled up. Because I know where I fouled up. And I know where we’ve all done it. Just like everything else you’ve done in your miserable, sneaking, crawling life, you’ve come to the wrong spot again.
This not your friendly station when I’m here. [Did the wrongdoer comment to Shep that he should be as friendly as their station claims to be? WOR during one period claimed to be “the friendly station,” and “the family station,” and Shepherd, from time to time would claim that WOR was hypocritical when it said it was friendly and like a family behind the scenes.] Oh no. Not bit of it–any friendlier than you are! Look at your own reflection again. You are not friendly–so why should we be friendly? Give me one answer to that–that makes any kind of sense and I will concede, I will toss in and we will deal them again. And we will play your game this time. Personally I’m a pinochle man.
[We are listening to our intellectual/artistic hero who, at the moment,
is being over-the-top-crochety.
Is he using the engineer’s error as a jumping off point?
Is he just really focused on we listeners and the life-lessons
he sometimes imparts about the fallibilities of all of us—
especially as we face the insistent finger-pointing of our revered mentor,
who knows none of us individually,
but who “knows” intuitively, our collective imperfections?
How far is this going to go?
Will he totally self-destruct in Part III ?]