Talk Radio

CB seems like a relic from another time, another place. Perhaps that’s why it is alive and well on New York’s highways.

(Originally published as a New York Times “The City” section cover story, 7/1/2001, by Jeffrey Stanley).

CHICKENBOY: Hey, who’s that out there? You got the Chickenboy over here.

Frank Puma, an engineer at NBC in Manhattan, talks on his CB radio while driving to work. “Its a community,” he says of the CB world.

193: (laughs) Chickenboy? Yeah, come on.

CHICKENBOY: I’m in Williamsburg. Metro and Graham. Where are you?

193: Yeah, roger. You got 193 on the Lower East. Roger?

(loud static interference)

CHICKENBOY: 193, come back with that. What’s your 20?

193: Yeah, man. Come on.

L-TRAIN: Yeah, talk to me, man. I’m right here. I’m L-Train, man. I’m L-Train.

The voices on the CB radio waves in New York are not those of lost truckers from Montana on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. They are the multicultural shouts of a thriving subculture: two men threatening to kill each other on Channel 6; angry complaints about livery drivers on 22; a heated debate on 27 about the shooting of Amadou Diallo, months after the event has disappeared from the front pages; an endless cackle of off-color remarks on 12; and on every channel, lots of ephemera, like that involving Chickenboy, 193 and L-Train.

CB has an image as a rural phenomenon. But in the big city, it functions as a way to build community, an urban version of the gathering on the porch of FULL NEW YORK TIMES STORY CONT’D HERE>>