Cenizo Journal Fall 2022 - Page 21

eat what I find on the top shelf in the fridge . Impossible to bend over . At this hour I tend not to make wise food choices and am unable to make difficult decisions .
Because I know how useless I am in the pre-dawn hours , I did my radio preparation while drinking a box of wine Sunday evening . The documents and laptop are placed at the foot of the front door ; impossible to depart without them .
I live in Alpine Central , AKA the middle of nowhere , and must drive the 26 miles to the edge of nowhere … Marfa , the location of KRTS 93.5 FM , West Texas ’ new public radio station . Traffic is light as I am on the road before “ rush hour .” Truck aimed with precision as the law is out there . Other obstacles include creatures large and small that wander the blacktop .
Descending into Marfa I see no sign of life until I reach the Stripes gas station . Stripes is the pulse of travelers on their way east , west , and especially headed south to our neighbor country , Mexico .
Take a right at the flashing light and I arrive at the radio station . ( In those days it was downtown , in what is now the location of The Hotel St . George .) No competition for parking on most days , though occasionally there are a few cars out front which sets my imagination in gear . What circumstances would lead someone to abandon their car at a Public Radio Station ? Perhaps people dropped their vehicle there to donate it ? Tom Michael ’ s radio ad soliciting car donations is compelling .
I keep my station key on a lanyard tied to the handle of my laptop case so as not to forget it . That would be a disaster . Whoops , I forgot my laptop case . It ’ s fine . My early life as a Chicago punk prepared me to bypass any locked door . Oh , the night DJ didn ’ t lock it . Once inside , I listen carefully for rattles and squeaks of occupancy . Spooky in the station . Lights flash eerily and someone is talking in the other room . Is it the NPR satellite broadcast , or is it the Sunday overnight disc jockey still hanging around ? Two switches by the front door . One illuminates the reception area , the other brightens the long corridor . I prefer not to walk down that corridor except that the coffee pot is in the kitchen at the end of the hall . Caffeine trumps Announcer ’ s fears .
While the fresh pot brews I fire up the station computer and begin my on-site prep . ( Good thing I emailed my last night ’ s prep documents as a backup ). Inbox labeled Jorge is stuffed with PSAs ( Public Service Announcements ) and paid ads . Each announcement must be timed so I can fit them seamlessly into the breaks scheduled by NPR . Sounds easy , and after a while I got pretty good at it . Very unprofessional to cut off the last few words of the NPR news and read an ad for quilts on display at a Marfa gift shop . Also , a major blunder to choose a fifteen second ad to read during a 30 second break . “ Dead air ,” as it is called in the profession , is uncool . Nowadays I would read it twice .
Occasionally I break the rules . One memorable situation was when a group of curious ranch goats wandered in front of the radio station . It was 25 minutes until my NPR break . I wisely made the decision

Each announcement must be timed so I can fit them seamlessly into the breaks scheduled by NPR . Sounds easy , and after a while I got pretty good at it . Very unprofessional to cut off the last few words of the NPR news and read an ad for quilts on display at a Marfa gift shop .

“ to cut the NPR feed and made a local announcement to report the herd watching the flashing lights in my booth . That showed a Chicago big city boy had his priorities in order . Livestock is always a priority .

My Monday morning gig is for two hours . I like saying gig . It ’ s the show called Morning Edition . I sit in a very cool chair that rocks and rolls so I can control the knobs and switches like a pro . People look in at me and wave , always smiling . When I wave back , I give the chair a spin for color . My voice gets recognized from time to time . “ Hey , aren ’ t you the guy on the radio ?” I reply , “ Yup . That ’ s me .” I pause , giving them time to ask for an autograph . Not once did that happen . I regret not giving them more time .
Marfa NPR grew , gaining recognition . Young professionals were hired . As I worked in the wee hours Monday mornings I was gone before most of the crew came in for the Monday Morning meeting . A few did investigate the broadcast booth as they passed but most slid on by . The meeting was happening behind closed doors when I finished my “ gig .”
It was time for a change . I could feel it . The Board decided that it was time for change . The same voice for Morning Edition every day . So … was I laid off ? Fired ? Re-purposed ?
I held this volunteer job for two years . Had a good time and grew as a person . The best part was that occasionally a local MPR listener said to me , “ I sure liked knowing it was you talking to me .”
And the very , very best part of the experience was the morning when the NPR feed went dead for an hour . Nothing . Nada . Dead air . After spinning a few dials and messing with the flashing lights I realized I could still transmit . Yup , my own talk show . Bob Edwards , the NPR morning guy , could have learned a few tricks . I was ready for the big time . �

Cenizo Fall 202221