Thursday, September 17, 2015

Public radio and I are BFFs, FYI.

I love to work, and nothing prepares you for the first surprise of realizing you love your job. You no longer see it as a thing that you do between fun times, but as an enriching, engaging important thing in your life. I had the pleasure of that at Oklahoma Gazette -- a haven for free-thinking liberal minded people. We affectionately call it "the blue bubble", and it's packed to the gills with NPR listening, local-food eating rational, (I admit, some days I refer to them as "sane". I realize the implications.) loving people who love their state, their neighbors and wow, do they love their NPR. I suspect a lot of it is so we don't feel quite as alone. And then there's the local personalities, who have actual personalities and thankfully have nothing to do with their distant cousins in the wild, with their attempts at blue material during prime broadcast time and whose idea of "challenging and insightful" include finding new ways to shame the newest ingenue pop star who might have different ideas about her body than a OKC morning radio deejay.
KGOU/KOSU have been a dramatically important part of my life since I was about 17 when I was flipping through the dial in my 1987 Honda Civic and realized that this "talk radio" as I always called it when my parents had it on, was actually interesting. Here were these lucky people whose job it was to get on the mic and tell people about what was going on out there on this green and blue ball we share. And They did it in the most engaging, authoritative and welcoming way. Here was a chance for me to be alone and tune into a learning experience that felt tailored to me. None of that stuffy lecture-hall stuff. This was in turns funny, insightful and relevant.  
Then one day not long after, that summer, I was up in Stillwater, Oklahoma doing a "nerd camp" at Oklahoma State University -- this one was Biophysics. There were these exceptionally cool ladies and dudes and they were so cool and mature and possessed of this incredible nonchalance. Smoking their cigarettes and helping me (ME! Awkward, gawky, bespectacled me!) get a rebellious new haircut and dye it a shocking color (mom was cool, Dad was less than thrilled but not over the moon). We did it all while listening to, you guessed it: NPR. If this is what the cool, smart kids were loving, maybe my parents were right for once.
Fast-forward a few years and I was coasting along with my best friend, visiting her adopted hometown of Los Angeles. It was a perfect early summer day and we were cruising with the top down along the Pacific Coast Highway. We were ridiculously young and had all the answers. Ira Glass and his new-ish show was on and I was introduced not only to Ira, (whom after 20 years of keeping each other company on weekend mornings, are on a first-name-basis), but to David Sedaris, who my stepmother was especially fond of. During this broadcast I found out why -- his charming and self-deprecating manner combined with a razor-sharp, innate cleverness made us instant friends. It was a perfect day, gone too soon and well-preserved in that romantic haze that makes all memories like that sweet. I have countless examples when Public Radio has played a part in one of those, and I treasure every one. 
I am a journalist, and as I have grown and matured in my life and in my work, NPR has always been my home. While I was living in China and feeling desperately homesick, I would jump online and listen to streaming broadcast from Oklahoma. Since falling into journalism, I have learned a lot about what makes it truly unique. Listening to it in whatever location I find myself, and learning the particulars of a new station is as natural as unpacking your things and finding that perfect spot for that special knick-knack that you have carried with you on every move, even though you know that it's a minor detail. It's what makes a house a home.