Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Bellyflop into the Deep End of the Blog


I've been writing about my experiences as host of a nationally syndicated radio show for a couple of weeks. But I haven't shown it to anyone. I might get in trouble.

But I've decided not to worry about it. I spoke with Judith O'Reilly, whose blog "Wife in the North" has become a sensation in the UK and I've decided to put it all out here in the intergalactic netweb, as my Handsome Significant Other refers to it with appropriate Bush-ian sincerity. If anyone at my place of employment is offended, it's because they don't have a sense of humor. And I don't care for people who can't laugh at themselves. I laugh at myself. Constantly.

So here I will write my ongoing experiences as regional bureau chief for a sprawling-signalled radio station. I will confess my need to be the most amazing worker on the planet which would explain the ease with which I accepted the additional duties of host and producer of a weekly half hour issues show. I will admit that I am powerless to stop trying to be Superwoman. No one else may care. That's alright. I'll just put it out there. If you're reading, welcome aboard.

July 1, 2008

What the hell have I agreed to do? It sounded like fun at first.

“The current host is leaving to get married and go back to school,” the Boss told me, his nasally voice clearly certain he was offering me the opportunity of a lifetime. “We’ve got a replacement for her on the afternoon show…you did say you didn’t want to drive upstate to do that, right?”

That is true. It is an hour drive, gas has recently topped four dollars a gallon and the upstate office is a boiling stress tank.

“I’ve got to tell you…” his voice lowered. Perhaps some more forward member of the staff was standing outside his office door, ear tight to the plywood, whispering to the other desperate souls gathered there. He said…

“I think it was time for an overhaul. I’d like you to take over The Show With Issues." That is what I have begun calling the women’s show our public radio station carried as part of its national programming. “There are tough times coming. There are going to be cutbacks. And although you’re doing a wonderful job for us there in the boondocks bureau, you’re not essential. If you do this, you’ll be essential.”

“So you want me to do both?”

“Yup. It’s only a half hour show once a week…how much can it take?”

And with that attitude my new career as the host of a show heard around the world began.

I had no idea what I was getting into. It’s been a month since that phone call. My first show aired this week. And my stomach has been in constant knots as I fight tears sitting alone in my cozy office in a small upstate New York city.

I’ve been at this station for just over a year. In that time, I’ve moved back to the Catskills, where I grew up. I’ve bought a house I can’t afford. I’m living with a wonderful man who is, unfortunately, an amazingly talented musician. That means he’s usually broke. We’ve put more money than I can think about without being ill into a studio as the economy begins its roaring descent to the bottom of the roller coaster. I won three awards for journalistic excellence. I make less money than my daughter probably will at her new restaurant job. And I just turned fifty one.

The ironic thing is that as I was offered The Show, I was working on developing a show of my own. And it’s now on hold as I try to mold this existing program into something I can be proud of. I have no time for my own idea.

It’s fun. It is. Sometimes. I threw together the first three shows without breathing hard…I used material I already had on adoption for the first two shows…amazing interviews…one with a woman who surrendered her son, found him sixteen years later and became an activist for adoption reform, another with twin sisters who discovered after thirty years that they’d been separated and adopted out as part of a scientific study. I started to put my stamp on the show, adding music, creating profiles of interesting artistic women.

Now the heat is on – the show is airing, I’m not three shows ahead anymore and I’m still doing two stories a day with my reporter hat on. To say I am overwhelmed would not be an exaggeration. To say I’m ready to grab my sweetie, disappear into the night without a forwarding address and start fresh in another country would be spot on.

There are good things about producing and hosting this show. I don’t have a co-host…so there’s no one to coordinate things with. I love to write. I have plenty of ideas. What’s lacking is time. I could do this job full time and make it something I’m really proud of. But instead I get one day a week and an occasional afternoon. I’m fast, but I’m not sure I’m that fast. My Superpowers may not include "writing as fast as a speeding bullet."

My supervisor, the smart young news manager, is a godsend. She’s happy with my work, we like each other, and she understands that I’m absolutely freaking out. She and the dour veteran host of another program are handling the shuffling of papers and filing of reports for me. My responsibilities are the fun things – dreaming up shows, doing interviews, editing the program into an mp3 format. I have no room to complain. But I am. I’m scared. And I’m solely responsible for filling half an hour of air time at 147 radio stations around the country and Armed Forces Radio. I’m in trouble.

July 12, 2008

A Saturday morning, waiting for Handsome Significant Other to pull himself together (his hair takes longer to do than mine!) and shlep down to Brooklyn to move Daughter out of her third floor walkup and into a funky little house ten minutes away from us.

She’s a gem, that girl, and what, to others, might look like aimless wandering reminds me of my own confusion at age 19. She’s handling it far better than I did. She graduated high school, didn’t get into her college of choice and enrolled in a film school in Manhattan. Moved down there all alone into a dismal little box in the Bronx separated from the landlady's apartment by a curtain. She’d never lived outside our small town in Connecticut.

She quickly discovered that proximity to the subway was vital and she was the only blonde, blue-eyed girl in miles. I went down to see her the first weekend and immediately begged her to move. After a few months staying with a friend of HSO’s in Soho, she got an apartment in Brooklyn. She shared it with a sweet and completely unreliable gay boy friend who sometimes paid his share of the rent and sometimes didn’t while she worked for less than minimum wage at a trendy shop. It got old fast.

We rented a van and drove it two hours to the city. Double parked, opened the side doors and were almost immediately sideswiped by a junker car driven by a guy who didn’t mind if he put another dent in his vehicle. In fact, he couldn't figure out which one was the new one. He looked, shook his head and drove off.

We packed her up and drove north.

Her new place is adorable: a funky little house in the country she’ll be sharing with two other girls she met through me.

“I got stung by a bee,” she told me as she carried in another box. “I’m ready to go back to Brooklyn.”

Mother’s guilt begins, and kicks into high gear the next day as she tells me her roommates are non-stop socializers.

“People are coming and going constantly. I don’t want to be the bad guy, but this is my home. I don’t want strangers in and out of here all the time.”

I hear her roommates introducing her to someone new as she’s talking to me on the phone.

“Yeah. Hi.”

“You can tell them to tone it down,” I suggest. “You’re paying rent, too. You’re allowed.”

She sighs. “If it keeps going, I will.”

I hang up the phone and tell HSO.

“She’s not going to like it there,” he says.

I sigh. It's back to work for me tomorrow.

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