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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Redemption...26 Years On...

I think I've had one of those epiphanies...or a moment where you spell a form of that word correctly.  

I'm coming down from one long night and morning; for those who don't know, I have become the backup host for the local version of "Morning Edition" on WITF 89.5 in Harrisburg.  I've been getting a fair amount of training/air time, as a new host finishes his prior commitments and comes in.

I was passed over for the job, due to this fellow's wider breadth of experience.  There is always someone much more experienced than you out there, remember that.  

Anyway, getting up at 230 in the am every day I think would kill me.  In any case, it's been nerve-wracking as hell getting up to speed on the program, because you have to work to a clock, and to what the NPR hosts do.

My hands have been on the levers a lot more of late.  Well, I was pretty sure that my boss Tim Lambert was gonna let me run the whole program this morning; four hours of madness.

I didn't sleep much; I never can when I have to change my sleep patterns to fit to this very early morning thing.  I was so unable I actually wrote my sports script at home before trying to sleep again late last night.

Now the past few weeks of training have enabled me to get down the quirks of NPR, and also most of the tricks to the studios, the computer system and the other bits.  The pre-production is the killer.

You may not realize just how much work goes on before you open the mic.  There's a lot.  

And of course the weather had to play havoc with everything.  Badass weather; tornado warnings, severe thunderstorm and flood watches and warnings all across the region.

The Emergency Alert System or EAS machine had spat out a long roll of warnings.  That's that annoying sound and/or screen you get in the middle of your programming, that lets you know something's going down.  Well, one of the few FCC regulations left is the one where you have to log and document all of these...every one of them.

Also rewriting wire copy, writing this, writing that, trying to get everything correct, and getting the computer screens up.  Screens for the traffic cameras, the weather screens, the Twitter feed page (yes, we use it), and the traffic information screen, and this, and that...

Just after I arrived at the station, about 3:15 am, the storm hit!  Same one that caused all that damage down in Alabama; Tim rolled in, and said he couldn't see the road!  It monsooned out there quite a bit, and I admit I've not seen a storm that bad since that one we had through here in like '02 or '03...can't remember when that was, but it was a bad one.

Lot of storm-related information to get out there, school closings, cancellations.  Thankfully Tim was there, because what we did was a two-man job.  I was not the only one on the air, and we both knew what had to happen.

A few little bugs for me, here and there, but I learned a great deal more, and that progress is necessary.  It actually went pretty well.

Now...Redemption...what's that all about, you ask?

Well, 26 years ago, I started fooling about with weekend grunt jobs because I knew radio was what I wanted to do in life.  I don't feel my family was all that supportive; I think most of them saw this as a hobby or a passing fancy, and that I'd get serious and either do something more worthwhile with my college years or come back to the farm in Vermont.

I do know that once my parents heard me, they realized I loved what I was doing, and didn't think I was half-bad.  They just wondered why the hell it took so damn long to get anywhere.

That's called paying your dues.  It took me 20 years to get to Sirius/XM, and a living wage.  I didn't think I'd do radio again after I was let go in '09, because I'd done it.  Did everything I wanted to do and planned to do in the business, so it was time to get on with my writing career and whatever else came my way.

Back in it I was last summer.  Being the weekend sports guy for Radio PA and KYW, and jobbing about at Clear Channel and places like that.  

On the other end of the cubicles, I got an interview for Morning Edition, but as I said, another guy has the chops and the skills, more so than I.

"I Want It All" by Queen just came on my Walkman.  Hmmm...that's a sign, innit?

I have honestly not done much on-air work in years.  I had not done any news since 2004, and anchoring can be a different thing.  Public Radio is something I never thought I could do.  Then again, I once thought the same thing about satellite radio...

This morning was the acid test; we didn't know how bad the weather would be, and did we get hit with it.  The pressure level in the studio and the building went straight up.  I wasn't perfect, but I know I did all right.

Here's how:

1.  During the 7 am hour, the studio phone beeps.  Now people call that if they're from schools to give us school stuff, and sometimes WITF people call on it.

Another Commandment of the Radio Business, and it concerns bosses, program directors, GM's and especially owners:  YOU NEVER CALL SOMEONE DURING THEIR SHIFT TO GIVE THEM SHIT.  EVER.

My first thought when I heard the lady on the other line was, "Oh shit!"  But then, Mitzi is the PD, and really a very nice person.  In fact, she is one of the most upbeat people I've ever known, though we've not yet met.

She very honestly told me I was doing a very good and was very kind.  That's one hell of an endorsement.  She also got off right away.  

2.  Tim tells me about a phone call he received from the President of WITF...the whole thing.  Never met her, but a most particular type of lady she is, I'm told.

She asks Tim the open-ended question of, "What's going on?"  Tim asks what she means, weatherwise or what?

She answers no, but who is that guy on the air?  Tim explains I'm the backup to the new guy.

"We have a backup?" She asks, honestly not knowing.  Tim says we do now.

"Oh..."  To paraphrase, she apparently said to Tim something along the lines of:  "Well, he's highly acceptable."

Redemption...there it is.

To go 26 years without being known, and then getting the chance to show you do know what the fuck you're doing and then deliver what you need to's nice.

Don't think it's going to my head, it's not!  I gotta do it again tomorrow!


I feel a sense of peace.

"Love the World" by Jimmie Vaughan followed Queen on the Walkman, and I do feel it, but it's not just this.

"Mary," by Pete Townshend is next...a Lifehouse Chronicles demo.  I'm pretty sure the Who did not record this one.  If so, I don't know where I'd find it.

Yes, I do feel it.  You get into a zone or something.  Of late I have been placed in one, and it is not just because of how my "old" career has gotten a little bit of a restart.  I'm still not full-time, and probably will not be, but at least I'm back in the game, and showing my skill.


There is another reason for peace...I got hit by a train the other day, and her name is Alice.  We met and had a long talk the other day...three hours long.

This is the listener who on my first morning wrote an email to tell the bosses of ITF that I was a good one.  After thanking her, we corresponded, and we finally saw each other.  I think we both like what we see.

I'll see how it goes...I have not felt like this in years, it's very interesting.


Now...I'm going to enjoy all this for a while, before I get my shit together and get ready for tomorrow.'s not just for religion anymore.

1 comment:

  1. That just made me smile, man. You've earned this.