How I Met Steve Tupper


Steve Tupper

Among the many reasons Steve and I hit it off so well, is our common interest in airplanes, and our mutual interest in folk music. He plays a little guitar, and listens to folk radio. And so it was on Matt Watroba's "Folks Like Us" show on WDET, Detroit Public Radio sometime in the 1990s where Steve heard my recitation, The Ballad of the Sandman. For those of you not familiar with it, it's a recitation, a spoken-word piece in rhyme. It tells the story of a fictional radio DJ from the free-form radio days of the late '60s. When faced with management restrictions on what he can play on his show, he rebels on New Year's Eve of 1969, locks himself in the control room, and broadcasts a memorable marathon of brilliant and diverse radio programming, until they finally break down the door some hours later, and haul him away. The piece so moved him, that he took it unto himself to write his own recitation called Fingers In The Airport Fence Entwined.

The plot and structure of his work are very similar to those of "Sandman". The main character of both pieces is a master of his art: In the case of "Sandman", it's a Paul Sandman, a fictional radio DJ; in "Fingers", it's Jimmy Short, a self-taught private pilot who has mentored untold numbers of would-be pilots. In both cases the story is told in first person by the young protégé of the master. It's hard to believe that "Fingers" was Steve's first effort in the genre of recitation. It's well written, and a very touching story. It's chock full of pilot's jargon, which gives it color, and perhaps raises puzzlement amongst the aircraft-uninitiated. But the tech-nerd language never interferes with the narrative. And some years later, when the internet came into its own, Steve googled me, tracked me down, and introduced himself.

So the next time I performed in the Detroit area, we arranged to meet at the show. We got together at the home of the person with whom I was staying in the Detroit area, and performed our two recitations for each other, each of us bringing the other to tears. And that cemented our friendship.