The radio station stood on Mexican soil on a desolate road in the center of the approaching Sorjave Desert. It was renamed when the Mojave and Sonora deserts merged into one large barren landscape and swallowed up parts of southwestern Arizona, and most of southern California to 100 miles south of Los Angeles. The desert sands even filled in the gulf of Cortez and one could walk across from Mazatlan to Cabo. The area was so barren and inhospitable that illegal American aliens coming down into Mexico did not dare walk into this desert of death. But it was a perfect place for the last rock and roll radio station. Wolfman Jack broadcasted not too far from here a hundred years ago.
The small clapboard building was made of wood, a rare construction material. Blinking in one window was a red neon light with the letters KRZY Radio. Behind the station, far out into the desert, forsaken buildings stood like half submerged reefs in a sea of brown sand and rock. Parked in front the radio station was an old red hover craft fueled by soya. The license plate read: RNR4EVER.
Inside the small studio the DJ stood behind the microphone and waved his arms around as he spoke. “Hello listeners, this is Emperor Norton coming at you from a clan….destine location. I’m the last man standing in this marathon of rock-n-roll music! And we’re not going down without one last….” He hit a red button on the console and the sound effect of a big explosion boomed over the air. “As you may or may not know, station KRZY…” He hit another button and a man babbled incoherently. “…is going off the air and with it rock-n-roll dies. So old rockers, turn up your hearing aids, roll a dobby, give yourself more oxygen, and listen to the greatest music of all time!” He hit another button and it was the sound of Muhammad Ali shouting, “The greatest of all time!”
“The next selection is a classic song by the poet laureate of rock-n-roll, Bobby Dylan.”
Once upon a time, dressed so fine, through bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you? People called, said beware, bound to fall, you thought that they were all kidding you.
The last DJ for rock-n-roll was Pepe Amedaus, or his radio name, Emperor Norton. He was a fourth generation DJ. His great grandfather played the first psychedelic music in San Francisco in the 1960’s. Next to the control console was a faded picture of his great grandfather as a young man with shoulder-length hair, wire-rim glasses and a strange goatee. He wore bulky headphones and with his long hair and sly smile he looked like a demented praying mantis.
Emperor Norton was bald, a by-product of his generation’s recreational use of dirty bombs in the United States around 2030. Atomic material was everywhere and any school boy could make a bomb. Instructions were on the Internet.
Emperor Norton switched on the microphone. “So little time and so much music to play for the center of the universe called L.A.” A needle dropped on a scratchy vinyl record. “Hey, that’s right. I’m playing records, real records that haven’t been heard in sixty years!”
As the music boomed over the speakers in the small studio, Emperor Norton took a crumpled marijuana joint from his shirt pocket. He still rolled his own instead of buying them in churches. With his flameless lighter he fired it up, inhaled deeply, and then let the smoke seep out his nose. He stared out the window at the barren desert and knew his music was dead. Nobody listened to rock-n-roll except for cliché songs like, The Monster Mash every Halloween. Even the standard, Dust in the Wind played at all funerals was heard less and less. Today’s hip youth now listened to old Broadway show tunes from Guys and Dolls or The Sound of Music. My God, he hated that kind of music.
The song was just about to end and he put the smoking joint on the edge of the console table. The edge was a neat row of black and brown burnt marks.
“Grab you surf board! Surf’s up! This is by the Beach Boys around 1960 something. That’s when we had a beach.”
If everybody had an ocean, across the USA, then everybody be surfing, like Californ-i-a. You’d see them wearing their baggies, huarache sandals too. Bushy, bushy blond hairdo, surfing USA.
He knew since the oceans had risen twenty feet in the last forty years and there weren’t any waves. The scientific explanation was global warming had made the Pacific Ocean calmer. Plus, when the surf was up, it was too dangerous surfing between the buildings in the half submerged cities of Long Beach, Malibu and San Pedro.
With the joint burning in his mouth, the music blaring, he walked out to his parked hover craft and lugged in two cardboard boxes. Inside one box was his collection of rare vinyl records. Inside the other box was a remnant of his youth.
Emperor Norton sat down and worried what he was going to play for the very last song of rock-n-roll. The station had run a contest, but some far-out, nut spammer rigged the results and the song voted last one played was, Yummy, Yummy I Got Love in my Tummy. It was an obscure minor hit in the 1960s and, as the last guardian of the music, he would not go out with that sugary love snivel. Rock-n-roll deserved to end better than that.
He took another deep hit on the joint and danced around the radio station. His dancing style was a cross between calisthenics and a man on fire. When the song was over he was out of breath.
“That was a song by the Beach Boys. The next song will smash your atoms.” Emperor Norton glanced up at the clock and sucked in the last of the marijuana. The setting sun was turning the clouds soft pink and the twilight was almost upon him and the end of the music. The marijuana roared into his brain and all his senses buzzed. He yelled into the microphone, “We’re just about finished here!” He reached down in his box and pulled out another record. His hand slapped the record on the turntable and swung the arm to just the right groove. Scratching sounds and then…
There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief. There must too much confusion, I can’t get no relief. So let’s not talk falsely now, for the hour is getting late.
Again he danced and played air guitar, like he did long ago as a boy, to the Jimi Hendrix song.
All along the watchtower, princes kept their view. While all outside in the cold silence a wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching and the wind begin to howl.
At the end he dropped to his knees and played air guitar until the last musical note faded. Out of breath again, he slowly stood and staggered to the microphone. In his calmest radio voice he said, “The end of rock-n-roll.” He reached down and randomly pulled out the black vinyl record from the one cardboard box, looked at it and laughed. “We’re going out flaming high into the desert. Turn those radios up. Higher! Higher!”
He reached over and twisted the broadcast volume knob to max, the console hummed and sparked with intense electrical current. The monitor needles twittered on top of the red line. Every radio speaker tuned to the station crackled, ready to explode into pieces. Screaming at the top of lungs, “Rock-n-roll forever!” The needle dropped, scratching sounds and then . . .
“You know that it would be untrue. You know I would be a liar, if I was said to you, girl we couldn’t get much higher. Come on baby light my fire. Try to set the night on fire!”
With the music blaring, he lifted the other box from his youth onto the consol, blew off the dust and ripped it open. He knew some day it would come to this.
“The time to hesitate is through. No time to while away the mire. Try and we can only lose. Our love become a funeral pyre. Come on baby light my fire Try to set the night on fire!!!”
He looked down into the box. He could see the strange devise. He reached down and touched the green wire to the red wire. He felt heat and then nothing.
* * *
Next day in the Center of the Universe television studio in L.A. a news cast was in progress.
“Welcome back from the break.” The male newscaster smiled and his white teeth sparkled. In the control booth the technical director toned down the white balance on the console. “Now we turn to Sonya, our gal meteorologist.”
A woman with perfect hair, perfect skin and focused smile stood before a green screen and said. “It’s going to be a hot one in the center of the universe today. 114 degrees in Pasadena, Oxnard and Rancho Cucamonga. Radiation level will be high so take those PMX-12 tablets for sunburn. I miss the ozone layer don’t you? Oh, and one other thing, we should have a terrific sunset tomorrow. The minor atomic explosion out in the desert last night kicked up a ton of sand and the dust cloud has drifted into the atmosphere.
“What blew up?” A newscaster asked setting her up for the joke.
Sonya looked straight into the camera and sang. “The world is alive with the sound of music.”
“Oh you’re so cool, Sonya.”
The newscaster gave a big smile to the camera. The white balance in the control booth went crazy.