I think I witnessed a radio station being vandalized on Sunday morning. It was 7:32 a.m., and I had been listening to one of my favorite programs on FM radio, which is a weekly show called StoryCorps. This is a pre-recorded show where actors and other celebrities read very excellent short stories to the listeners for one hour. It starts at 7 a.m. It’s pre-recorded. The stories are actually read before a live audience at Symphony Space on Manhattan’s west side. Usually there are two or three of them during the hour. There’s often laughter and lots of applause.
Just before 7:32 a.m., a reader had completed the first story, which was about the goings on in the mind of a high-priced Manhattan dog walker as he takes Sir Henry and Blackie on their appointed rounds on the Upper East Side. Sir Henry is a dachshund. Blackie is a poodle. They encounter a woman who hates dogs. They encounter an old man in a wheelchair. After the applause, the moderator began interviewing the author of this story, Lydia Millet, who had been at Symphony Space to hear her story being read. Had she known someone who had a dog named Sir Henry? Did she have a dog herself? At that moment, before the author could answer, the program suddenly was something else, and now, without any introduction, we were listening to the story of a love affair, as told by two actors, one the man and the other a woman, who were Tweeting each other in anticipation of meeting somewhere. You don’t seem a Sagittarius. Laughter.
This, of course, was very disconcerting. What happened to the dog lady? And then, quite suddenly, the station went off the air. It stayed that way for about 15 seconds, at which time another bit of StoryCorps came on, this time another bit of an interview with an author whose story had just apparently been read, who was now defending himself to the moderator about something she had just asked him.
“Why did I move to Ireland? Well, it was because the libraries in America banned my books, not only the erotic ones, but also my children’s books. I couldn’t have that. What was the point?”
“I can understand that,” the narrator said. And then, once again, the station signal went out. This time, it stayed out for more than a minute. I had been listening, beginning at 7 a.m., in bed. So after the minute, figuring that was it, I got up and went into the bathroom and started brushing my teeth. And then the radio station came back on. It said only two words, “…voluptuous body…” and then it was back off the air again. And it stayed off. Anybody who was trying to tune to 89.9 FM at that time got nothing. It was as if the station was not there.
I should mention at this point that 89.9 is a station that broadcasts from Fairfield, Connecticut. As you know, most FM radio signals are only good for about 50 miles, so here in the Hamptons, we don’t get any FM from New York City. We get three public stations, two of which are from Connecticut, so we get all the interesting news of that state. If you are a regular Hamptons FM radio listener like me, then you know that Jodi Rell was a really good governor of Connecticut for the one-and-a-half terms she served. She was a little-know lieutenant governor and she got appointed when John Roland resigned during a corruption investigation. I wished she had run for a second full term of her own, but I guess she had had enough.
There is a third station. This is Peconic Public Radio at 88.9 FM, an independent station based in Southampton. I sometimes listen to that, too. But they don’t get StoryCorps. And they don’t get Jodi Rell, either.
Anyway, my wife slept through all of this. She’s a heavy sleeper and I listen to StoryCorps with the radio on soft. It ends at 8 a.m. She stirs. Ten minutes later, we start our day.
Anyway, at this point, in the bathroom, I now washed my face and shaved and tried to consider what was going on in the 89.9 studio in Fairfield, Connecticut. Here’s what I finally decided happened:
Broadcasting a pre-recorded show at 7 a.m. is a not very satisfying job. When I was in college, I worked at a radio station. Being there at 7 a.m. Sunday morning is awful. At that hour, you only need one person there, someone to press the button to go from one recording to another. There’s not even anybody else there to talk to at that hour.
In my imagination, this person had, on the prior Friday when the boss was in asked, considering the odd weekend hours he had to work, for a raise. The boss turned him down. He—in my mind, it was a he—wasn’t making much anyway. And this is the “thank you” they give me for what I do, he thought.
As the interview started with the lady whose dog walker story had just been read, he had enough. He’d been listening. Who cared about a goddamn dog walker?
He took it off the air in the middle, and replaced it with some other StoryCorps thing. It was about the Tweeting love affair people. That was good for just 20 seconds. The hell with them. He turned it off. Now he got up and went searching around for something else to put on, returning with the middle of an interview with some guy who wrote porn. Well, la de da. At this point, I believe, some uniformed security people, having been telephoned by a horrified radio station manager, burst in, turned THAT off, wrestled this disgruntled employee to the ground and then bodily carried him out of the studio and into the street to release him in the general direction of his car parked there, which I believe was a 2007 Hyundai Sonata. And that was the end of that.
It was now 10 minutes to eight; 89.9 was still off the air. Well, what do the security people know about how to turn things back on? Undoubtedly, help was on the way. They’d have it straightened out soon.
Thus is life in Connecticut and the Hamptons.
In case you were not aware of it, Dan’s Papers sponsors a $6,000 prize for short nonfiction essays judged in an annual competition. The gates opened for the 2013 competition in April. The contest ended on July 30. Essays were between 600 and 1,500 words, had to be about the East End in a meaningful way, and were submitted online at literaryprize.danspapers.com, where you can read about last year’s contest, watch a video of the 2012 awards ceremony, and learn everything you want to know about the contest. The awards ceremony and the awarding of the 2013 prize will take place on August 26 at 8 p.m. in the John Drew Theater in East Hampton. Keynote speaker is E. L. Doctorow. Pia Lindstrom will read the winning entry to the audience, a la “StoryCorps.” Come to see if you won.