Saturday, March 4, 2017

My "Ode" to Radio

Life without television has not been a problem for me. I enjoy multi-tasking while listening to the radio (via the internet here). I grew up in an era when we only had three television choices, so I often resorted to listening to the radio. This began in my youth but has continued throughout my life. We lived far enough away from town when I was growing up that it was hard to get the radio stations from our nearest town—back then many stations reduced their broadcast power after sundown. So I grew up listening to high-power, 50,000 watt stations from around the nation.

Atmospheric conditions would vary causing different stations to come in crystal clear on some nights, yet too static-filled on other nights, but there was always something interesting to listen to. Examples would include WCFL Chicago and WOWO Fort Wayne for music; news talk radio from stations such as WBZ Boston, WRVA Richmond, WBT Charlotte, and KMOX St. Louis; and Pete Franklin's Sportsline call-in show on WWWE Cleveland. I got a great sense of American geography and diversity by listening to the radio in my bedroom.

One of the reasons why I enjoy listening to radio stations goes back to my formative years. Growing up in the Cold War made me a bit paranoid about wanting to know if the Russians had launched their nukes. The ominous Emergency Broadcast System tested more often back then, and it had a lasting impact from my childhood. Plus, the jarring interruptions of radio and television for emergency bulletins to announce the assassination of JFK, MLK, RFK, and other scary events made me want to be “connected” to always know what is happening, because I had learned that anything can happen at any time. I'd much prefer to listen to a live radio broadcast than a podcast that is detached from any potential live interruption for the latest bulletin. [By the way, I understand some of my childhood memories were selected to be featured in a new book entitled "Growing Up in a Land Called Honalee: The Sixties in the Lives of American Children."]

I brought a transistor radio with me, but with my village hugging the coastline while surrounded by mountains, it means that radio reception here is poor. I can't get any Dominican stations on my radio—the only station I was able to get was a French speaking station from the nearby island of Guadeloupe. It wasn't very useful for me.

At first, I didn't have internet at my house. I read a lot more books and downloaded podcasts when I only had limited internet access at school or my host family's house. About six months into my service, another company started providing internet services in my village at a cheaper rate, so I've been online ever since then. The price started at about $67 per month, but this month raised to $85 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($1 US dollar = $2.70 EC dollars). It is worth it to me, just to hear radio at my convenience.

I downloaded an app called “TuneIn” which provides me with a wealth of listening options. [By the way, I like the name of this app, because it reminds me of the “Tune Inn” on Capitol Hill in Washington. As a young intern working on Capitol Hill, that “red neck” bar (which was owned and operated by a family from West Virginia) was an important link to home for a country kid living in the big city.]

TuneIn lets me hear local Dominican stations such as DBS and Kairi-FM, which I regularly listen to for their local newscasts. I can listen to West Virginia Public Radio and WOUB, Ohio University's public radio station (I always enjoyed WOUB because it had a lot of public radio shows that West Virginia Public Radio didn't carry, plus their music was much better in my mind). WAMU, which was my favorite public radio station when I lived in Washington, DC, is also on my TuneIn list of favorites.

However, with TuneIn, I can listen to public radio stations from across the nation. If I don't get home in time to hear All Things Considered, I can catch it on public radio stations located in time zones further west. When I miss Weekend Edition to go to church from 8:00 to 10:00 on Sunday mornings, I can still hear Will Shortz's “Sunday puzzle” on KQED San Francisco (or other west coast stations). The ability to “time shift” using different time zones is very handy.

I can also see the programs that public radio stations are currently airing, so I can pick up any of my favorites such as Science Friday, On Being, Living on Earth, Le Show, The Takeaway, TED Radio Hour, On the Media, and To the Best of our Knowledge. If none are currently airing, I can also listen to their pre-recorded podcasts via TuneIn.

I don't just listen to public radio. I also listen to sports, such as the WVU sports network and the two main auto racing networks (MRN and PRN). There is an Indianapolis station that I listen to for Indy racing news. I have WCHS Charleston as one of my favorites, so that I can listen to the West Virginia Statewide Sportsline (or the Hoppy Kercheval show). When Stanley Cup playoffs begin, I may also listen to some hockey games as I did last spring.

Other stations in my favorites include WTOP, a news station in Washington, DC. I also enjoy listening to astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson on his StarTalk Radio 24/7. Plus, I sometimes indulge in the overnight craziness on Coast to Coast AM (I'm skeptical of some of their topics, but still enjoy listening to the wide variety ranging from UFOs to Nostradamus to assassination conspiracies and more).

When it comes to music, there is a syndicated program I've always enjoyed called “Time Warp” with Bill St. James. It includes not just music, but snippets from newscasts and TV shows to relive a particular time period. Because it is played at different times on different stations, I often listen to it on a variety of stations such as one from Montana and one from Colorado. It is neat to hear the local commercials and imagine life in those locations.

On rare occasions, I will listen overnight to a Charleston station known as V100 that carries the John Tesh show. I can still remember from my undergraduate days at the University of Charleston the huge controversy when V100 changed their format.

If I want to go to sleep listening to music, more often than not I will listen to WCFL Chicago, which I mentioned at the beginning of this story. The 50,000 watt WCFL radio station that I listened to as a youngster is no more, but it has been revived as an Internet radio station that anyone can listen to on the web. There is no broadcast tower, but some fans and former employees have re-created what they think the station would be like today if it had survived. They have lots of the original WCFL promotional tapes that make it seem like I'm listening in my adolescent bedroom again.

To me, it is one of the wonders of the internet that historic WCFL still lives on. But I never dreamed I would be listening to it about 50 years later while living on a beautiful tropical island!

No comments:

Post a Comment