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P. L. Reiter - The Author's Biography

A native of Washington, P. L. Reiter has lived abroad and traveled extensively throughout North and South America as well as Europe. A fervent believer that global warming can be easily solved by winter, he and his wife Brenda Martin recently made an escape from the stress of Los Angeles to a small town high in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado.

They have two highly trained Belgian Malinois, Pixie and Solo, and with their help, he is prepared to defend himself and his family against attacks of rabid zombies or gangs of green-loving, politically correct nerds, whichever group attempts to assault the mountain first. Today, I'm interviewing P.L. Reiter, author of Five Days in Babylon, about some of his interests. Good evening, Mr. Reiter.

Reiter: Hi there. Fancy meeting you here. I do get around. Please tell the audience a bit of your history.

Reiter: Well, certainly. I have just changed careers again at age 57. I've given up so-called Information Systems consulting as a lost cause, and I am writing again. In fact, I've just completed a novel, Five Days in Babylon, and it is now being formatted at the publisher. You can find out about the book elsewhere on the website. What other careers have you had in the past?

Reiter: Probably my first attempt at making a living was playing guitar in a rock band. I started doing that with some kids up the street in 1965. I lived in Smyrna, GA back then. Man, was that a pit! When you first came into town, it looked like 1933 depression-era shantytown. I remember there was a shoe shine shop, GB's burger house, and a music store. That was about it.

My father was working for Lockheed at the time, on the C-5A cargo plane. I guess we were lucky he had the work, because that was a very uncertain time for aerospace engineers. Anyway, my brother and I put together this band, both of us playing Fender Mustangs. We used to practice in the living room, because we didn't have a garage, we had a carport. That was a rental house just off West Paces Ferry Road. What type of music did you play, and where?

Reiter: I think we were heavily influenced by The Rolling Stones and The Animals. Robert--my brother--and I used to play their 45's until the grooves wore down to nothing. Then I got the bright idea to melt some lead and pour it into the tone arm to increase the pressure. Our mom let us use her pot to do it. I think we melted butter for popcorn in it the next time I saw it. Guess what, I haven't died of lead poisoning yet.

We played at parties and the like, until we met the manager of the Georgia Drive-in. I believe it was the drummer, Tony H., who hooked up with him somehow. Tony was a year ahead of us in school, and certifiably crazy. He would work out all kinds of deals so that the band could get face time with the rest of the school. We played at school in talent contests and dances. Anyway, this guy who ran the GDI wanted to be our band manager. This was in about 1966, and he undoubtedly thought it was real cool to claim to manage a rock and roll band. Too bad he wouldn't or couldn't invest any dough into equipment.

We were always down at Smyrna Music trying to con Don, the owner, into renting some VOX or Fender amps for cheap. We needed a PA something fierce. I bought a couple of mics from Lafayette Radio that worked sort of okay. At the time, the British invasion was well under way, and one gig I recall was playing at the debut of the Herman's Hermits movie. We set up in the lobby. Later, we used to set up on top of the concession stand at the drive-in, and play during the intermission.

The problem was, we never made any money, we only got paid in free tickets, which turned out to be next to worthless. I did, however, manage to see a lot of Hammer productions, horror and sci-fi films for free. This contributed greatly to my knowledge of older movies. Before and after we played on the roof, we'd sit in our cars and make out with girls who were like teeny boppers. That was what groupies were called back then. Mainly we were interested in getting into their knickers.

The culmination of all our work was when we played "We gotta get outta this place" and dedicated it to the seniors at Campbell High. Man, that high school was more like Dachau than I care to mention! I was kicked out more times than I can remember, but the one time I recall vividly was when I was "distributing socialist literature" AND my hair touched my ears. That was like my death sentence. Socialist literature? Is that against the law or something?

Reiter: You have to remember, this was 1967 Georgia. We still saw the Ku Klux Klan now and then, in Smyrna, especially when the Gibson's discount mart tried to open up on a Sunday.

I routinely penned a newsletter called the Annual Aardvark, which came out weekly at school. I'd write it out longhand and somehow we would get it "Mimeographed" to make enough copies to sell to students. My English teacher was secretly delighted to have someone interested in writing instead of the football game, and I believe she had some hand in the paper's production.

Although I played in the band and was required to attend these rah-rah football games, I only considered them as a venue to pick up teeny-boppers. At the time, I played trumpet in marching season, and French horn in concert season. That is, in addition to playing guitar in the band.

However, my life was about to turn. I stumbled into selling Atlanta's only underground newspaper, The Great Speckled Bird. I spent my weekends at Lenox Square and on the streets of Buckhead peddling papers, until I was nearly arrested for unauthorized vending. Left with many unsold copies, I took them to school and either gave them away or sold them for a dime. That was the socialist papers they busted me for selling to the poor innocents at school.

The Buckhead Theater, just up the block from where I was nearly busted, was showing Easy Rider, with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, along with an unknown Jack Nicholson. I can clearly recall seeing that marquee day after day, and not having enough money to buy the buck-fifty ticket. I think eventually I used some of the GDI freebies to con the theater owner into one ticket for the movie. Hey, come to think of it, that's where I came up with your name! Gee, thanks, but that was before my time. What other pursuits did you have in those years?

Reiter: In 1964, my father had introduced me to a ham radio operator who worked with him at Lockheed. His name was Dutch L., callsign K4TBB, and he was teaching a class on radio theory. In those days, you had to pass an FCC test and learn Morse code to get a license, so I signed up. Dutch became my mentor, or in ham-lingo, my Elmer.

He and I built my first transmitter out of spare television parts, and I bought the Lafayette HA-230 receiver for $89. I threw up a dipole antenna, hooked up the coax and was on the air. My first contact as WN4AOQ was with the Bahamas, which I considered pretty far-out. What happened in 1968? Can you remember any details of that year?

Reiter: Of course, even though I've probably forgotten an equal amount! In that year, I was accepted at Oxford College, a division of Emory University, located near Covington, GA. Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton's father, Dallas Tarkenton, was the Dean. I had a full scholarship that was worth quite a bit of money, but Dallas and I had an issue about the length of my hair--he thought it was way too long, and I got kicked off the scholarship list.

The year 1968 was an extremely tumultuous time in American History. There were deaths of major political figures, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and idols such as Jim Morrison of the Doors, Janice Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. The Southeast Asian war was on everyone's mind, especially mine. I was fervently opposed to dying.

I decided to quit school and travel to Seattle in preparation to emigrating to Canada as a protest of the war. Hell, if Mohammad Ali could refuse induction, so could I. That was how I perceived it.

Although the Cobb County, GA. Draft board threatened me with all sorts of retribution, in the end they did not call me up. Nixon was president and the Draft had the lottery and I was smack in the middle at number 222. Luckily, they never called anyone with that high a number. Too late, though, I had left Oxford and was now stuck in Seattle, so I went back to playing in bands for a couple of years. Nothing much happened, and I ended up taking a real job in the paint manufacturing business. That lead to becoming a paint chemist, and later a job in sales. During this time, I drove for miles and miles, over the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Although I was successful, it was not a happy time for me.

In 1975, I had had enough paint on my hands and wanted to get into the new field of computers, so I talked my way into a job at King County (WA) data processing department. From there, I went on to work for Drayton McLane, H. Ross Perot and EDS, and IBM. For the next 32 years, I worked as a system programmer and consultant, in diverse places from Des Moines to Buenos Aires, and from Bogotá to Lisbon. In the end, I wound up in Los Angeles, the epitome of diversity. What other interests did you cultivate during this time?

Reiter: I've always had amateur radio to fall back on when I was bored. From 1972 on, I had a high interest in DXing and contesting. That's where you compete with fellow hams to obtain contacts with as many countries as possible. In contests, the period of time is usually 48 hours. Whoever works the most contacts in as many countries as possible in 48 hours, wins. I've also operated from OZ, Denmark and from V26 Antigua. My current callsign is WY7I.

I also consider myself a decent amateur photographer and astronomer. I own Canon cameras and a Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain 12" telescope. I've dabbled in printed circuits, high-end stereo, and I own a superlative Home Theater. See your other sections for information on these items, EZ. I sure will. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

Reiter: You are welcome. Go sell some books, Dude.