Left of the Dial

Day Eleven of #Fortnight of Flash, where I will write fourteen different flash pieces, some fiction, some non-fiction, a few poems and one tweet.

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There is a place, I return to, in dreams, mostly,  it has a microphone, the best my voice ever sounded was through that microphone. I’d tune down the EQ on my vocals, so I’d have more baritone in my register. So I’d sound more manly I guess. Too much nervous energy can be a nightmare behind the microphone, but there was something in me trying to hard that was sort of endearing.

College radio was something I always wanted to do, from the first time I ever heard it. As a high school teenager, I was absolutely desperate and foaming at the mouth to hear anything besides what the radio was playing. There was something so cool about College Radio to me then. That you could be yourself and still be on the air, that you could have an audience, no matter how weird you sounded, that whatever filter that was applied to professional media was waived, for how long no one knew, so it was time to grab hold of this gift before the loophole was closed.

My first tryout tape was pretty embarrassing  but it was enough to pass the test, and I guessed I played all the station IDs at the right time, and was trying enough to put on a good show. So over the four and a half years I was on the air, I got to be pretty good, established a loyal following, even got the coveted 3-6 drive time slot. And throughout that time I  managed to put just enough of my true self out there, my passion for music, my heart-on-my-sleeve ethos I tend to bring to anything I genuinely care about.And just like teaching high school, I had no idea just how much of an impact I was making until the end . It was December of the last year I was there when dozens of people who’d been listening to me for years, without my knowledge all said they’d miss me very much.

There, in that time, the early 1990s that place, South Carolina, with all the political hoopla, the confederate flag, all that heritage and hate, I never felt it, not once by any of my listener callers. We were in a little bubble, too weird for most people, but for just the right amount of strange person, we were exactly what the doctor ordered.

It was the place I went when I had no place else to go. I was a comedian on the sly, haunting the comedy club for an opening slot, just a place to let my voice out, to talk to someone when my mind just could not take being alone one second longer. And there was always someone listening, even at 3:45AM, even at 4:45AM, someone would call, and even the slighest request, no matter what sort of dilapidated,drug-induced state they were in, it was, in some sad, strange way company, and who was I to judge anyone?  What was I doing but wanting someone to talk to? I just happened to choose the venue I always wanted,  I played music and talked to  thousands of people, with one voice.

That last show, there’s a song I’m sure I played, by the Replacements, that sort of sums up all the reasons why I love college radio.

And if I don’t see you again, for a long, long while. I’ll try to find you, left of the dial.

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