200 Visits to a Nice World

Hello there. Come in, come in..

Welcome to my blog piece, in which I will discuss, as the title suggests, the 200th episode of my radio show, It’s a Nice World to Visit. Also, it seems fair to warn you here at the outset of this piece, that this is a self-congratulatory bit of prose — and I can barely get my fingers on the keyboard, after having metaphorically broken my arms in six places, patting myself on the back.

If you would like to adjust your goggles for the long view, you are welcome to do so… but I am only going to cover that ground ever so briefly here, as it has been well documented in prior blog pieces (feel free to check those earlier blog posts here). But out of kindness to us all, if you are going to leave now, exit the room quickly, so that the open door does not give us all light blindness — the period of adjustment for my pupils is getting longer every day. Now then, briefly: Freeform Portland began broadcasting in April of 2016, I was among the first group of people selected to be a deejay on the station. My show is a weekly broadcast, and seeing as how it is now 2020, simple math suggests we are now on the tea cup lip of my 200th episode.

Let me say to those of you reading this piece, that if you have been listening for a long time now: thank you! It may not be self-evident, but my show is a cooperative effort. I am the noise and you are the ears. I am the tree that fell in the forest, and you are on the other end of that vibration wave. When I am in the midst of broadcasting my show, one of the tricks I use is to imagine a person listening and focus my intent upon that imagined person. If, on the other hand, you have only recently discovered my show, I hope you are enjoying it. The show is intended to be musically entertaining, slightly informative and certainly distracting. No matter what the current circumstance, in which you find yourself, I hope the music I play will cause you to forget it all for a moment. Music should be a balm for the human condition, the busy inner voice that self-judges and pre-supposes our own decisions and choices. It should quell that voice so we can see straight — and get on with the things that make life worth living

I would also like to point out that my 200th episode will be the first episode since March that will in fact be broadcast at the regularly scheduled time. I am chuffed and visibly excited (too bad you can’t see me shaking in my seat right now) to have my show and all of the other shows on Freeform Portland back on schedule, for the first time since operations changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to the schedule is due to the hard work behind the scenes by a few people here at Freeform, who in addition to doing radio shows, volunteer their time and knowledge to ensure that the station runs. Sure, maybe not as precise and correct as an atomic clock, no. The station runs as well as a wristwatch, providing you remember to keep it wound. It requires a little bit of work and a lot of love to bring you all of the fine radio programs on Freeform Portland. I hope you will join me in a round of applause for all the hard work, past, present and future. 

(pause while the applause begins, builds, reverberates round the room, and grows quieter to silence as all return to their seats)

Circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the shuttering of our broadcasting studio inside the Baker Building in North Portland for the safety of all of the deejays. Since that day in March, Freeform Portland has been broadcasting a selection of pre-recorded mixes, put together by a number of our deejays, both past and present. The trick with these mixes was, although we did have the technology to broadcast them for public consumption, we could only do so randomly. Like many of my fellow deejays, I did not let that fact deter me and I continued to produce my weekly episodes, comforted in the fact that they would be broadcast over the air — and perhaps due the random aspect, hook in a few new listeners to my show. Considering the time passed since the shutdown, I must have made a dozen episodes from home; along with a handful of extra mixes to be broadcast as well, to keep the radio waves filled with music.

Working from home and producing mixes presented a new set of challenges for me, as I am sure it did for my fellow deejays. I had to figure out some program that would allow me to put songs together, which in truth, was easier than I would have thought. Working with the program, however, took a bit of adjustment. The flow of doing a radio show live was interrupted by doing a show at home. Live, the songs would play from start to finish, and the beat, the rhythm, of the song would often select the next track. But working from home, I found that I would select a track and hear only the first few seconds of the track, before selecting the next one, and the next one, and so on. It took me weeks to discover I could listen to the selected songs with the program I was using to meld them from single songs into a mix. Once I figured that out, the flow of song-to-song got better, if I can be so unhumble.

One of the oddest things for me was a means by which to record my voice, to do station IDs and mic breaks, to let listeners know what songs that they had just heard. Being a bit of a luddite, I had never used the microphone or camera that came with my laptop. Using the microphone, though, proved problematic, as it resulted in too much ambient noise (the running of the washing machine in the background…). I settled instead on an app for my cell phone, and used it to record myself speaking, then emailing that sound file to myself and placing it in the proper place in the mix, just as I would a song.

These processes have all become second nature to me now, with practice becoming routine of sorts. Although I long for the day that we can return to the studio, and do live broadcasting. What really helped me, though, while I adjusted to this new way of doing things, was my fellow deejays. Using Zoom, we all began to communicate with each other, to offer help and suggestions how to do this or how to do that. We picked each other up and carried our weight together. The fact that Freeform Portland has been broadcasting 24/7, regardless of the pandemic, is due to everyone who volunteers their time and energy to the station. And if you have been tuning in, I bet you will have noticed that during these past few months, the station has offered some of the best programming in its short, but incredible, history.

If you tuned in on a Friday, you must have heard some of that top notch programming I just mentioned. One of our deejays, Tock The Watchdog, who hosts the show, Slow Poison In Your Champagne, Thursdays at 4 PM, had the brilliant idea of making Friday an event day. She suggested that the deejays make special half hour mixes based on a theme that would change weekly. These mixes and the day soon became some of the most fun bits of radio I had the privilege to hear. The deejay response became so overwhelming that the event programming took up the day of broadcasting, and the shows were repeated the next day, giving listeners a chance to catch all of the shows, should they wish to do so. Thus, it basically encompassed the weekend of programming for Freeform Portland. And behind the scenes, while the music was playing, the station invited the deejays to an informal Zoom meeting, where we could greet each other, laugh with one another, discuss music or movies, etc. I did not know it until I attended one such meeting, but I sorely missed all of these people. 

My 200th episode (remember now, this blog piece was supposed to be about this episode of my show…) will be broadcast on Friday July 3rd, starting at Noon PST, which is the tail end of the return of scheduled programming for the station, which began on June 29th. It has taken a while, but we now have the functioning technology in place to play shows at their given time, as noted on the schedule.  As it is a special episode of sorts, I am working on a theme for the episode. I will be featuring duos, rock n’ roll groups that feature two members. Bands such as Suicide, The Vacant Lots, The White Stripes, or Moon Duo spring to mind, but I will be perfectly fine including the likes Nancy & Lee, Dean & Britta, or Fripp & Eno. I am looking forward to it. Hope you will join me.

Thanks for reading this piece. Thanks for listening. Thanks for supporting Freeform Portland. I know, as you listen, the station may seem to be an anonymous voice, but trust me: we are your friends, we are your neighbors, and together we can all move forward, to make the world in which we live a better and safer place.

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