Love stinks

13 Feb

They don’t call radio the “intimate medium” for nothing. 

Unlike television or movies or even (gasp!) social media, listening to the radio provides the most personal gratification of any other form of entertainment. (If you don’t believe me just look it up. Study after study has reached the same conclusion.)

There’s a downside to this intimacy, of course. Just ask the thousands of people who have come to know and genuinely love a man named Kenneth Green of Kearny, New Jersey. Radio intimates often refer to him by his “professional” name, X.Ray Burns.

That’s him in the holiday photograph above, in the Santa Clown outfit he was so fond of wearing and in the loving embrace of his lifelong friend and devoted companion Glen Jones, also a son of Kearny. For the better part of 30 years the pair has hosted a three-hour Sunday afternoon radio show on the excellent non-commercial WFMU-FM out of Jersey City, New Jersey. The show is titled, aptly, The Glen Jones Radio Programme Featuring X.Ray Burns

Or so it has been.

Last Sunday, during the pair’s regular weekly air slot as fate would have it, Kenneth Green died in a hospice facility not 30 miles from the WFMU studios, as his friend hosted their show alone. He was just 57 years old.

I used to live in Jersey City. It’s where I became aware of these enormously talented radio men. Since moving to Maine in the mid-1990s the Internet has allowed me to keep up with their weekly show. I religiously download each and every one of the three-hour broadcasts and listen to them during my morning walks. I have hundreds of their shows stored away in MP3 files. I suspect it will be some time before I can summon the courage to listen to any of them again.

Several years back, and through a series of unlikely and somewhat mysterious encounters, X.Ray and I became friends. The friendship started, as many modern ones do, on Facebook, but very quickly moved beyond that. A proud Scot (he once schooled me on where and how to purchase a kilt), X.Ray was too a great lover of Italian food and often peppered me with questions about my recipes and the foods that I love best. Ever sensitive and intelligent, the man devoured my stories about family and traditions, never missing an opportunity to respond to me in some way—and almost always sharing my writings with his thousands of listeners.

I can honestly—and very proudly—say that no other individual has been a greater champion of this personal blog than Kenneth Green of Kearny, New Jersey. 

And that includes me.

Back in November it became apparent that something might be terribly wrong. More and more often Glen hosted the show without his friend. Over time the music he played, always themed to his mood or circumstances surrounding us all, grew darker and more brooding, yearning even. When Ken and I exchanged our usual Thanksgiving greeting, it was loving, yes, but all too brief. Then somewhere around Christmastime he’d stopped communicating at all.

As is my custom, I was not listening to last Sunday’s broadcast live and so I did not hear Glen announce to the brotherhood of WFMU listeners that his best and dearest friend had slipped away. The MP3 file of the show now sits in my iPhone. I see it but cannot click and press play. 

I don’t know that I ever will.

Godspeed my beautiful friend. 

You were—and are—loved by many. 

The loss of you won’t soon be overcome.

5 Responses to “Love stinks”

  1. Scott Schnipper February 13, 2019 at 11:34 pm #

    Beautifully expressed and wonderfully written. Thank you. We may well never meet, but I appreciate — and I bet hundreds if not thousands of others agree — that Ken introduced us to \”Mister Meatball.\”

  2. Mister Meatball February 14, 2019 at 1:22 am #

    Thank you Scott, those are kind words indeed. Be well. And hope to see you around sometime.

  3. Unknown February 15, 2019 at 3:41 am #

    I found you through Ken. And I am grateful for the connection.I had been busy this winter, and had not tuned in from CT until last Sunday. Fate! Learned the day before that Ken was gravely ill. Glen pulled off a masterful show. I don’t know how he did it. It is a study in professionalism, friendship, and superb musical selection. Spanky and Our Gang sang it best: Sundays will never be the same.

  4. Preshie February 15, 2019 at 4:35 am #

    Bless you for loving my friend Kenny. He's already missed by many, and I'm certain he'll long be remembered.RIP Mr Burns ❤

  5. Dave Blakney February 15, 2019 at 4:18 pm #

    i found you via x-ray. i was listening live last sunday when glen jones dropped the news, and it was gutting. i hope you will listen to that show sometime as it is as beautiful a tribute as it is an amazing testiment to glen jones' talent, dedication to listenership and \”the-show-must-go-on-ism\”. the archive (20 years!)

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