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When I was young back in Houston in the ’60s, summer was endless and sometimes dangerous. Boredom hadn’t been invented yet. We didn’t have devices to store thousands of songs and regurgitate them with all the clarity of a gramophone. We didn’t have cell phones that took really, really bad pictures. Yet somehow our lives were still worth living.

One afternoon when my father was at work and my mother had taken to bed with strict instructions that we not wake her unless we were pretty damn sure that Jesus Christ himself was returning robed in clouds of glory, I got an idea. I made up my mind to wire some old radios together — rectangular, white-and-brown clock radios with knobs and clock hands that would be total anachronisms now. Today’s high-tech whizzes wouldn’t be able to turn one on, let alone use it to tell time.

Being an “imaginative” child, which meant that I’d already spun a huge number of tall tales to get me out or, more often, into all sorts of jams, I thought maybe if I could wire the radios together I could listen in on a conversation between Secret Service agents, their pockets brimming with Man from U.N.C.L.E. gadgets, or perhaps contact some green-skinned, antenna-ed Martians who were orbiting above, searching in vain for leaders to be taken to.

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