by Joe Tyburczy

"Must-See TV" was one, long yawn. I couldn't stomach another blockbuster movie. 187 channels of cable, yet there was nothing worth watching. So I did what any self-respecting radio nut did. I dragged out my scanner.

An all-band, all-mode scanner is a fun toy, especially in the Hollywood Hills. Oh sure, you can tune into the cops, the studios, the airport, and the fire brigade. But the most fascinating stuff I ever heard came from my neighbors on their cordless phones.

The gay blade two doors down calling a 900 line to hook up with hot dudes...the cute babe from across the street ordering lacy bras from Victorias Secret...some hotshot down the block arguing with his agent about the ignominy of directing second-unit shoots for a slasher picture. It was an endless pageant of kooky characters and wild situations.

And the range of this thing was astounding. In densely-packed Beechwood canyon, I could pick up cordless phone conversations for over a half mile in all directions. Of course, I augmented the antenna with every piece of metal I had on hand at the time.


I was rewarded by hearing this rather interesting exchange one night. It was close. Probably within 3 blocks:

WOMAN: "I need some new pictures. Something really different than the last ones"

MAN: "I could chain you up"

WOMAN: "Like Bettie Page"

MAN: "Exactly"

WOMAN: "My place has those big exposed beams. That could be a really hot scene"

MAN: "Hell, I'll come over there with my Makita and put eye bolts right into the beams if you like"


Another intercepted conversation from somewhere in the neighborhood involved two women. They say that lesbians never have sex because when you get two women together all they want to do is talk. It was true. Listening to these two made me drowsy.

1: Oh, Huggsie, I miss yoo.

2: Whyn'cha come over, Poopie Doopie?

1: Little Doopie is tired.

2: Ohhh. I can come over then.

1: Will you rub my feet, doopie?

2: Of course, Hugsie.

1: And we can cuddle?

2: Under the quilt. Like two bunnies.

1: (sigh) Like bunnies.

I monitored these gals for weeks, hoping to hear something more sexually explicit than this. But instead, their relationship seemed to evolve into a sibling kind of argumentative rivalry. They accused each other of being immature...of being emotionally unstable...or of borrowing clothes and not returning them.


More conventional couples were no better. Take the typical boy/girl love-spat call. This was a more-or-less standard listening feature of my neighborhood. Here's a sample:

GIRL: Don't call me "baby", I *know* what's been going on.

BOY: What, baby, what?

GIRL: Don't act so innocent. You think I'm stupid? Ashley told me.

BOY: What does Ashley know? I don't understand?

GIRL: She *saw* you at the club, mister. She said that tramp was practically giving you head at the table!

BOY: Oh come on. She's makin stuff up. She's just jealous of you, you said that yourself.

GIRL: Ashley wouldn't lie to me! She's my best friend! Which is more than I can say for you, you bastard!


Yet the bulk of what I heard provided a more meaningful insight into human nature. Any day of the week I could hear people calling a friend or relative to air some kind of complaint, such as....

VOICE: I just feel really discouraged you know. I missed my class for the last three weeks in a row. The other night I went to Marla's showcase and they were like all, you know, "we've got agents after tonight" and all. I just..I don't know...I just don't feel that things are coming together for me here.


Soon, I realized that my newfound diversion had graduated from casual listening to a devoted obsession. I would walk around in the neighborhood and notice people ---slick guys and gals, tattooed and sunglassed ---and I'd wonder which of them I'd heard on the phone making a drug deal or pleading with their parents for one more loan. I would look forward to savoring the latest chapter of these real-life dramas with my morning coffee. The newspaper paled in comparision to the latest emotional disaster from the sea of humanity that surrounded me.

It was just too much. I had to force myself to stop. I removed the battery pack from the scanner and let it run down. I went, in effect, cold turkey. I can't say it wasn't rough. It took a lot of meditation, a set of wind chimes, and some over the counter pain-relievers, but a week later I was watching network TV like everybody else -- and actually liking it.