"For the life of me, what are you doing?" would be a comment my mother would yell up the stairs directed at me for sure. It was either my Philco portable radio blaring too loudly to the rock 'n roll of Little Richard, or I had decided to practice some baton twirling moves that weren't proving too successful.
My bedroom was not only for sleeping, but it became my ballroom dance floor on Saturday nights from live shows aired from resort stages throughout the metropolitan New York City area. It was magical to "look" into the radio situated on my maple desk and have such a wonderful opportunity to be with hundreds of strangers for a few brief dances. Although I was in my usual outfit of a short-sleeved shirt and rolled up jeans with my penny loafers, it didn't bother me that the crowd in the ballroom were dressed in sleeveless dresses and high heels.
Often in the afternoons I would tune in to WNBC and pick up the Top 10 of the day, or if I wanted the clearest reception I would go to WRIV, the local station, where I later took one of my first paying jobs as a "Girl Friday." That turned out to be a lesson in life for me trying to satisfy phone callers to the station, and balancing writing news from the wire in time for the next broadcast to hand to the dj at thirty seconds left on the clock. It was never done the same way twice, and there was no pleasing everyone. More than once I unluckily heard a bleary-eyed dj yell out from the broadcast booth, "for the life of me, you've handed me the wrong record again!" Then five minutes later all was forgotten when I was pressed into service to run downstairs to the deli to get a ham sandwich on rye with black coffee to go.
"For the life of me, " as a phrase is carried in my subconscious to this day, and often it will crop up and out in my writing essays, poems and stories.