Destruction Came from Above

“Hey Bill, do you want a volunteer?” Charles asked, sticking his head into the shop, where I sat, lighting a cigarette with the tip of a soldering gun. “Sure”, I said, “does he know anything about electronics?”. “It’s a chick”, said Charles. “I’ll send her back”.

Carlotta sat politely with me in the shop. She tried not to look at a large fruit cake can on the desk, filled with old screws, nuts and bolts. She was about twenty, five-three and a hundred and twenty, very neatly dressed in a tan mid length skirt and conservative black blouse, with black high heels. Her dark hair was pulled back into a bun. She held her bag in her lap. She was a business student at Bentley College and a terrific fan of Charles. If she was disappointed at not being made one of his volunteers, she was too polite to show it. Perhaps she realized that she would not fit in with that adoring cohort of paisley-clad, bra-less pot heads. “I’ll do anything you ask me to do,” she said.

Problem was I couldn’t think of anything for her to do, or anything to do with her. There were certainly things that needed to be done – eighty empty nitrogen cylinders had to be removed from the old transmitter room, for example – but I could not see perfectly groomed Carlotta working on anything meaningful in my dirty, dangerous area. Further, she didn’t drink or use drugs, so there was no way I was going to get it on with her. For lack of something better,
we went to visit the new transmitter, up in the Pru. We walked down Stuart Street near the ascending John Hancock Tower, or “Plywood Palace”, as they had begun to call it, since the new tower’s window’s came crashing out as fast as they could be installed, and were replaced by panes of plywood. Although they tried to keep the sidewalks clean there were pieces of glass, tar paper and miscellaneous debris all around the base of the building.
Plywood Palace, 1971, courtesy of Architecture Week

On the fifty-second floor of the Pru I proudly showed Carlotta the new transmitter installation, and picked up the clip board to take some meter readings. I wrote down the plate voltage and current, and the output power, and since I hadn’t been there the day before, or the day before that, filled in some values for those days, as well, and entered my initials for all three days. “How interesting,” commented Carlotta as we went down the elevator, “I know I can learn a lot just from watching you. Do you have to take those meter readings every day?” “Yeah,” I replied,”but sometimes I miss a day. Nobody really cares. The FCC is going to change that rule soon, anyway, to once a week”.

We emerged into the cold winds around the base of the Pru, and went down the escalator to Boylston Street. “OK”, I said, “come in when you can”. “I’ll see you,” she said. I walked with her as far as the subway in Copley Square. It was four o’clock and the shadows were getting very long. I decided to go back to the studio via Boylston Street. I didn’t want to go too close to the ugly, growing, huge decayed tooth of the John Hancock Tower. I shivered. Even at that distance the unnatural, cold winds generated by the Hancock could be felt.

The next time Carlotta came I was in the studio with Maxanne Sartori, getting ready to change a Stanton cartridge on one of the tone arms. Max said it would be OK if Carlotta sat in the studio and watched her at work. Max was in a good mood and was all over the studio cleaning and talking. When a record cut neared its end she would quickly slip back into the announcer’s chair and fluidly seque into the next cut, quickly cue up a record, then bounce back up to her can of Dust-Off.

“Do you like Rocky and Bullwinkle?” Max cheerfully asked Carlotta. “What?” replied Carlotta, from the corner. “Rocky and Bullwinkle – you know, the flying squirrel and the bull moose. I just think they’re really, really cool,” said Max. “Yeah, sure!” Carlotta replied.

I didn’t see Carlotta for a couple of weeks. Then Charles came into the shop. “Hey, Bill, did you hear about Carlotta?” he asked. “She was coming into the station last week and got hit in the eye with a piece of glass or something when she was going past the John Hancock. It’s really bad”.

The next day Carlotta showed up. She had a large black patch over one eye. She sat quietly next to me in the shop for about a half hour, then got up and left. I never saw her again.

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