Saturday, May 17, 2008

Kitten Confessions, Part Two

When I moved into my first apartment seven years ago, I did not have a TV for a while. Actually, I had a TV, but did not have cable service installed for a while. So I listened to a LOT of radio before I bit the bullet and got cable service. Even after I got cable, I listened to the radio a lot--if not, more often than I watch TV.

For me, the local radio stations are a great way to get to know a new area. You get to hear talk of local politics, local hangouts, even get to know the flavor of the personalities of the area. Are the people educated or isolated? Are they white collar or working class? What kind of music is popular in the area--top 40, hip hop, or country? You can really learn a lot about the demographics of an area just by listening to the radio.

I learned, for example, that at the time, not many people drove down to my area of the state, the southeastern portion of Connecticut, even though it boasted tourist attractions such as Mystic and the casinos. I was listening to the radio on the way to work one morning and did not hear a single traffic report all morning. In the Hartford area, one radio station at the time boasted "traffic reports every after every song between 7 and 9 AM". In southeastern Connecticut, there was no traffic report on any of the radio stations, in spite of I-95's presence weaving through our neck of the woods. Then again, I-95 was only two lanes from Old Saybrook to New London, where it widened to five lanes at the Gold Star Bridge, then narrowed to three lanes again once you crossed the Groton line.

I moved from southeastern Connecticut five years ago, and there was still no traffic report on any of the area radio stations when I departed.

A good friend of mine earned his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana. During his tenure there, my friend, a native Nutmegger, experienced quite a bit of midwestern culture shock. During his visits home he'd be ecstatic to listen to the local NPR station and not hear a single report on the price of grain. He now lives happily in New York City, where he introduced me to the joys of the NPR station there, WNYC, which I listen to via its webstream.

Speaking of NPR, I started listening to it when I moved out of my parents' house, and it became my station of choice to listen to when I drove into work. Until that point, I regarded NPR as a stodgy, old person's radio station. However, when I listened to NPR during that drive to work, it was one of the first times that I felt really grown up. My sister felt the same way when she was younger, but now we often talk about what we heard on NPR. Lots of people my age listen to NPR, and it's almost become hip among my generation. Almost.

NPR was where I discovered the joys of that Saturday night radio staple, A Prairie Home Companion. Now, I am a New Yorker by birth and a Nutmegger by relocation, but I just love listening to this Minnesota legend. There's something just so comforting about listening to the tales from Lake Woebegon, the adventures of Guy Noir, the musical Powdermilk Biscuit Breaks, the admonitions of the Catsup Advisory Board, and the praises of duct tape by the council which bears its name. I love listening to the stories of the Norwegian bachelor farmers and the travails of the Lutherans. And let's not forget Garrison's Keilor's turn of a phrase. I find his voice very soothing. I love listening to this old fashioned radio show more than I enjoy some of the shows on TV nowadays.

I think I was born in the wrong decade, because I love old fashioned radio shows. I discovered, just two weeks ago, another old fashioned radio show--the world's oldest. And later tonight, I will point my mouse in the direction of the website of 650 AM, WSM, Nashville's Legend, to listen to the 4,298th consecutive performance of the Grand Ole Opry. Then I'll hear the cry of, "Hoot Hester, let's hear that fiddle!", and with the sounds of the fiddle and the rhythm of the Opry Square Dancers' steps, I'll spend another Saturday night listening to some wonderful live performances of a wonderful genre of music--country music, of which I am only recently a fan. I'm already saving my pennies for a trip to Nashville to see the Opry in person.

Now why, do you ask, are these Kitten Confessions? Neither my friends nor my family know of my devotion to these shows, and I think they would laugh at me. You see, they know me as this intellectual, reading obsessed female with a deep appreciation for museums, travel, and classical music. My friends and family would be VERY surprised to know this about me. (Actually, my dad and my sister wouldn't be surprised about A Prairie Home Companion, since Dad introduced it to us in the first place).

I actually seem to be in a Midwest frame of mind right now, as I just finished The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and it got me really waxing nostalgic. However, that's another post. I've got to return to listening to A Prairie Home Companion. They're doing the shout-outs and hellos right now.

Links to topics discussed in this post:

Prairie Home Companion:

Grand Ole Opry:

WSM, Nashville's Legend:



1 comment:

Mark Pritchard said...

Coincidentally, when you were writing this post, I was writing a sort of story about Keillor and his monologues, and I read it that night at a literary reading. Enjoy: