THE POSSIBLE DREAM
Of course the “quest” never ends. By persistence, luck, and bumbling happenstance, little grail-ettes have appeared during my searches. Yet he who quests, sometime must recognize that, as for his personal dream of the grail and his being able to listen and contemplate those overnight Jean Shepherd programs of early 1956, the search, for him at least, must end, and the grail, in his imagined future, will surely emerge from somewhere, sometime.
Proposed covers for a boxed set.
Someday this may be more than an impossible dream.
Surely, somewhere, tapes must still exist, the ultimate missing link between Shepherd’s tadpole days in radio and his glorious years on WOR Radio from 1960 onward. Maybe the “Jazzman,” as I call him, who claimed to have tapes of those one-to five-thirty nightly jazz-like performances in words and other sounds, will deliver the goods he’s been neglecting all these years. Maybe the tape hasn’t yet gone to dust—damn you, jazzman! Or maybe some other recording angels will remember their stash of grails and come forth, giving gold to the world of audio art.
With each word I write and publish about Shepherd’s career, I’ve hoped that the grail would appear as in a dream, in time to be written about and published in a book and audios. It has not happened. And I doubt that significantly more new material about Shepherd’s career will emerge that could be formed into another book that would include such a grail. So the permanent and easily accessible format for disseminating information and interpretation about it will probably never happen.
Yet I can imagine that loads of tapes will someday appear, enough to provide reams of transcripts and analysis sufficient for some sort of publication. But who would publish it and who would read it? Maybe a combo—CDs of broadcast excerpts with some written discussion of their content? Only some few supremely dedicated fanatics (Shep-cuckoos such as myself) might buy such a treasure, although the content would surely be such that would entertain, enthrall, and enlighten hordes of listeners.
Should audios appear, and recognizing that they were spoken by Shepherd in a manner to be heard in the late, night-people hours when life is mostly tuned down to an attitude meant for gentle and improvised allurement, I suggest they be listened to, most appropriately, as late at night as the listener can stay awake.
Maybe someone will self-publish and store in dusty closets, boxes of these CDs with text, waiting for sales. That may be my only reasonable hope, but how reasonable is that? Beyond that, maybe Shepherd has the last word regarding what we insignificant humans get so excited about:
“Can you imagine 4,000 years passing, and you’re not even a memory? Think about it, friends. It’s not just a possibility. It is a certainty.”
–Jean Shepherd, 1975