The beautiful Regina Spektor song was ringing through my head last night as I pulled up to the NPR station KPCC in Pasadena. I became a member a few weeks ago, and in my comments section, just gushed about the radio. I got a lovely email soon after from a production manager asking if I could come in to record a testimonial.
I walked in, and immediately, I felt something I had never felt before: some kind of star-struck quiver of excitement. I saw the KPCC sign, offices of the staff, and then the lovely production manager came out to greet me. We’d exchanged so many emails, and my job being unpredictable, I’d had to cancel twice, so we hugged when we saw each other. She then took me into the studio, and a smile brushed on my face that stayed stuck there for the next hour.
I got to see Shirley Jahad editing news clips, I got to hang out (briefly) in the tech room where things that looked like giant servers were humming. Above was a large digital clock counting in hours, minutes and seconds from what looked like the beginning of time.
The tour of the offices just got me more excited, I got to see the work areas of Larry Mantle and Steven Cuevas, I saw all these familiar names on the wall, for awards won over the years and all the names of the radio personalities I spend so much time with in my cocooned car, sheltered from the traffic in the intimacy of what feels like a living room to me, at times. Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, Kitty Felde, Steve Julian, Hettie Lynne Hurtes…
Finally we secured a small soundproof booth and we started talking. We talked for a good ten minutes, and I just shared my relationship with KPCC and NPR, my history of radio listening, my excitement about the medium. I plugged membership with no qualms and gave a number of fun 10-40 second soundbites which they might use in their upcoming membership drive.
As I was recording the soundbites I went back into my childhood. Growing up in Kinshasa and Brazzaville, the sounds of “RFI: Radio France Internationale” and the “BBC World Service” were always in the background. With as many power-outages as we had, the battery-powered radios would often hum in the dark, unelectrified and otherwise silent nights. Later, when I was in high school, in Brazzaville, I remembered that my friend’s dad, at dusk, after a long day of stable work and a refreshing shower, would head out for long, slow walks around the neighborhood, resting his battery-powered radio on his left shoulder, nestled to his ear.
Later, even, when I was traveling in Africa, I remember once I was in Madagascar…in Fianarantsoa, I think. It was raining, damp, and dark, and I rested my radio on my belly. Something I now realize I’ve taken from my dad, who always does this. I closed my eyes, warm in my sleeping bag, and listened to the most beautiful story on RFI. It was an architectural tour of chapels in the north of France, and the whispers and vivid descriptions were such a comfort to me.
I was in Israel once, when I caught a BBC article, a Nigerian woman on the streets of Lagos, biting into a strawberry and the sounds of traffic and insanity all around her, in her joyful and hectic sign-off from West Africa.
Last year, I was driving to work, on the corner of Del Mar and Marengo when I heard on Morning Edition, the story of a US Sheriff, who, having passed a stopped flashing school bus (one of the biggest no-nos in American road rules) pulled himself over, and wrote himself a ticket. I remember laughing out loud! People from as far away as Poland (or was it Ukraine) had written in to help him pay the ticket, inspired by his gesture of integrity.
Now that I’ve been a part of this, talked about my love for radio into the microphone, I can’t wait for my Saturday morning ritual. Making a pot of coffee, drinking it on my porch, listening to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!!” and then calling Beth and laughing about what we just heard, as an introduction into our conversation and catching up.