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Chapter -Prologue - by Blaise Bohrs

Vacuum Tube Technology

It's 1939, and a boy on a farm without alternating current could have told you more about the world than a PhD student can now. He drank in the newsreels, he scoured the magazines left in the hotel lobby or the barbershop for knowledge, he pulled in the news from the air, from the antenna of his crystal radio hooked to his window screen. He heard the voices and saw the visions in his mind and fitted them into his bottomless thirst to reach out beyond the humdrum landscape visible from his window. The world was bigger in the 1930’s.

The world was bigger both in one's mind and outside it. There were more pieces to it and they didn’t need to fit together. There were quarter-mile grey dirigibles humming transatlantic routes across grey transoceanic skies to and from grey photographic skylines; there were champagne corks popping in tall business-dealing offices; there were farmers turning soil and driving home-modified Model T’s across brown acres, proud odd time-saving home-welded metal arms clawing dust inventively and effectively while horses and mules watched and twitched their ears; there were crystal radio antennas attached to window screens in a farm boy’s stuffy boxy upstairs room in Summertime, with cicadae hatching and humming in the acacia in the yawning purple-then-black world outside, and his younger brother’s already out like a light and snoring, but this boy at 13 or 14 is just beginning to realize that out there somewhere in the sweetening and cooling darkness is something precious he is missing, something his heart has a hole in it for, something he is yearning to find.

And always there were the silver signals, bounced by hucksters and amateurs alike across the invisible skies - the breath of angels, the news or dreams or bragging of a ham radio operator in Enid or Sydney or Sioux City or Cleveland or St. Louis, and the soap-sponsored radio crooners and the comedians with their guffawing but doubtless genteel audiences in some unseen New York auditorium, all laughing, the jokes like razor-thin silver signals a morse code of surrender and defiance in the blackness, leisure and desperation, a silver stab easy yet resolutely made at the thing closing in, a signal fading in and out while the boy hears the distracting noise of his brother's buzzing and the prowling of just-awakening cats in the field in the alley on the fire escape down on the porch getting into the garbage cans or the milk pails below, oh shut up just get to the punch line this time please and yes, the line then the laughter, crackling like tinfoil or popguns or static and the darkness pushed back for an instant, the link made with the people all of us laughing, and maybe out there one who laughs at a lot of things that he does, and maybe out there someone who wants to know him, before the sponsor's slogans send him off to fight for banks and brand names and freedom.

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