When I was a little girl, few things comforted me more than the theme music for “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio. I heard this over and over, in my parents’ car, on the way to school and on the way back home, but the time it was most comforting was when I climbed into the car mid-day, going home sick from school. Just being in a car around 2:00 pm on a weekday, with the afternoon sun streaming in, fills me with nostalgia. Even more so when NPR is on the radio.
Throughout most of my driving life I didn’t listen to the radio, rather playing and re-playing stacks of mix CDs. But upon breaking with Z, I changed my pace. Too many songs we’d put together for road trips, too many instances of his angular handwriting and oddly elongated, now falsified hearts. I switched to oldies radio, was dismayed to discover how often the same 10 songs are replayed (I thought that was a top 40 phenomenon, not a facet of all commercial radio), and recently opted to go all NPR, all the time.
It’s had an interesting effect. I know a lot more about what’s going on in the world, which is good, and because of my early experiences, I still find listening to it comforting. I can put more pieces together, and I get odd middle-of-the-day stories about dreaming and amnesia and this amazing 85 year old bird photographer who explains that his late-life aviaphilia is his way of preparing for death – by continuing to enjoy life.
I’m listening with particular care because radio has become a major part of another area of my life – unsurprisingly, on the Internet. For nearly 3 months now May and I have been working on the revival of an idea he had years ago: long form talk radio about sex, sexuality politics, and bad ideas involving fruit called Kink On Tap. Although I’ve done my fair share of public and semi-public speaking, I’ve never broadcasted my voice live before, nor have I ever taken the time to edit the recorded product, smooth it out and tighten it up and make it better for the world to hear (to be fair, May does most of that now, too). I did have a brief and abortive love affair with radio upon my arrival at college. A friend of mine and I were going to put together a show on the student run station, playing largely anime and video game music. We went to a few meetings, but the show never made it into existence.
I am still very much working on how these two new places that radio holds in my life relate to each other. What can I learn from the smooth, controlled, and yet still comfortable interviews and conversations held by NPR broadcasters? What parts of their technique are applicable? To what degree is Kink On Tap something that we do for fun, to what degree is its current form merely an infrastructure for Super Secret Projects yet to come, to what degree is it a serious, and perhaps even important, venture into opinion broadcasting, news, and sexuality education?
Are people listening to me and taking what I say into account? Am I on my way to becoming a sexuality pundit, a kinky talking head?
There is a question of responsibility. The simple truth is that if I want this show to be worthwhile, something that grows and continues, that has an ever increasing audience, that becomes financially self-sustaining, something that I take pride in for years to come – I have to take it seriously, and treat it as a responsibility, starting now. Starting, in fact, 3 months ago. It’s not going to work to get big and then realize we should have been more responsible with what we said and how we said it.
Luckily, I realized this early. I have not been perfect – the workload is not shared out fairly, my participation has become spotty when I am tired or emotionally drained … it is a Big Commitment, and one that is hard to make when I try and fail, again, to take stock of my life, to sort long past from recent past from present and see how they will tie into a future. As I have said so many times before, the things I counted upon are gone, replaced in incredibly short order by new things, untested by time. I am not on very solid ground to make Big Commitments.
Again, however, I am lucky: I am already committed. I care about sexuality and about education and about spreading information to as many people as possible. This commitment has been growing in me from long past through recent past and into the present, and it will continue on into the future. A weekly radio show that keeps me in touch with what’s happening, that forces me to pay attention and to learn to consider what I say carefully, but also quickly, to speak out and also to think on my feet, that is a good thing. A commitment I can make.
But don’t think for a second I’m not taking it seriously.