||There wus a tottle at school today! There wus a tottle! Its name was Daisy! It was gween, and black, and yewwow, and I got to touch its wock.
All the kids came bursting from the classroom with the same incredible news! A turtle! Wow! I found Gnat’s enthusiasm heartening, because heretofore the turtles she has known have been animated bipeds with opposable claws capable of complex social relationships, embedded in nuclear family structures, dealing the issues that gift lift and loft to the magical childhood years. She meets the real thing, and it’s the highlight of her day, not a stunning disappointment. Take that, Television! Take that, gentle children’s books with soft yet solid moral lessons! You lose to a slimy thing on a rock!
Lord, it’s cold. It’s just mean out there. Forty below with the wind chill. I walk Jasper, he licks his snout, his tongue sticks to his nose. It’s pointlessly cold, and that makes Minnesotans of a certain stripe just say yeah, whatever, I get the point. The fourth day of a bitter bad cold snap is like the point in a rock concert drum solo where the audience trickles out to whiz or get a beer. Point made, and it’s boring. After I picked up Gnat we went home and had a party with her 98435 stuffed animals, then did a puzzle. Then she asked a frightening question:
I want Boohbah on Mommy’s computer.
They forget nothing, these little creatures. She wandered into my room when I showing my wife the horrors of Boohbah a while ago, and she recognized in a trice the graphic style of a show she’d seen once. If you’ve not seen it, well, it’s hard to describe. Boohbah is from the same Britons who made Teletubbies. And it makes Teletubbies look like Noel Coward. The Boohbahs are even more amorphous than the Teletubbies. They run around and run into each other like the Teletubbies, but they exude a strange alien intelligence; in each episode (I’ve seen three now) they fly into the sky, join hands, croon a chord in five-part harmony, and enter this website. There’s a narrator now and then, and he speaks in a flat declamatory upper-class voice that expresses contempt and dismissal for anyone who wasn’t in his class at Eton. It’s all horrible.
So I put Boohbah on Mommy’s computer. Is this a game?
No, it’s the Internet.
The Intanet? Was dat?
It’s a really big computer you can’t see because it’s invisible, but it talks to our little computers.
Talk to them?
It whispers, really. And we can’t hear that either.
Oh. Okay. The Intanet.
I checked on her five minutes later, and she had killed out the Boombah page, somehow started another browser window, and was staring with dismay at the Yahoo! Search portal.
I don like the intanet, Daddy.
Oh but you will! It has turtles.
It does? Weah?
I thought: if I type in turtles.com, who knows what will show up? Hot shell-on-shell action!
I’ll show you later. Let’s do a puzzle.
I should have been doing show prep, since I was doing a radio show in two hours. A NATIONAL radio show. Alone. But I didn’t do any show prep. Well, I had a Post-It note that said “Moon, NEA, Kay report.” Yes, you can get three hours of radio out of that, right? I mean, Space! “We’re going to open the lines now, and you can call in and tell me what you think about the Moon. Too close? Not bright enough? Give us a call.” I figured that too much show prep would be worthless, because these shows just lurch off in areas you can’t predict. The Diner taught me that. But of course this wasn’t the Diner; this was a three-hour national politically-oriented talk show. This time wouldn’t be like the last time. Back at the end of summer I hosted the show, but that was quite different – I was crammed in a booth with the producer and sound guy, the whole meaty parade of the fair passing by. Good radio was impossible under those circumstances. You just try to make it through three hours. This was different.
Thanks to my New Atkins Man persona, I had no jitters heading to the station, and I always regarded that drive as a boatride to the Isle of the Dead. Please let me not screw up right out of the gate and lose my place. (That’s my new term for an old malady – you’re on the air or on the dais, and you’re talking, but your mind gets slightly ahead of your mouth, and then your mind just stands there, observing. You’ve lost your place. It’s deadly. I lost my place once on the air, in the late 80s, I believe. Never forgot it, because it truly and deeply sucks. But! This would be fine. Right?
Showed up at the studio; I thought I’d be in the same booth with the producer, Duane, but I was off in my own booth. A reminder, Mr. Idiot Who Has Done No Prep, that this was pretty much on my own shoulders. Ah well; no turning back. I went outside to nip at a cigar before the show began, and I found myself filled with vim & cheer – hey, this was going to be fun! I can’t wait! Let me at ‘em! Back in the studio. The producer is frantically stabbing a cell phone. “Peter’s bailed,” he said.
The first guest was supposed to be the editor of the New Republic; that was how the show was going to start. But now he was gone. Um. Oh. We’re on in ninety seconds. Oh. Well. Adapt, adopt, improve. Theme music, intro, and hello America.
Do you know how odd it is to hear the theme music to a show you listen to all the time, and then you’re doing that show? If you’re, say, a Dr. Phil fan, imagine you’re sitting on the stage, listening to the Dr. Phil theme, and then hello! You’re on! I haven’t done this sort of thing by myself for, well, almost four years. And I’m glad to say I feel the same way about my work now as I did then: it is a source of excruciating shame. The calls not taken, the points not made, the subject not brought up – at the end of every show I always feel as though I’d had an extra limb sewed on, only to be amputated – and now I have phantom limb pain.
But it was fun. When you’re doing it, and you’re in the groove (note: being in the groove doesn’t mean you’re doing a fabulous job; it could simply mean that adrenalin, caffeine and self-delusion have formed an Entente Cordiale) it’s like you have electricity sluicing in your veins. Time moves at a pace not previously experienced; makes Mercury look like Marley trailing chains and cash boxes. When you’re in the groove you can’t wait for the break to end. That was my second hour.
At the start of my third hour I suddenly recalled that I had not eaten for seven hours. Save for some pemmican. I don’t feel well when I don’t eat. I get light headed. I lose my place, if you will. As the hour began we cleared the board of calls (I hate doing that; it’s so nice of them to call, it’s the least I can do to talk to them. And I didn’t hang up on anyone, if you heard the show – I had no control. I always feel the need to say goodbye to callers, just to be civil) and I was going to reset the show with two new topics. So I did. And I found myself doing something I used to love to do in my radio days: put my feet up, turn away from the window and the controls, pull the microphone close, and just embark. Aside from taking calls, I have two modes of operation in talk radio: extemporaneous concentration on minutiae that results in a point of infinitesimal size expressed with immoderate emotion, and the ol’ cracker-barrel let’s-do-us-a-spell-o-whittlin’-while-I-tells-the-world-what-it-oughts ta-do. The latter can really, really stink if you’re a minute into your peroration and you realize you’re going to have to fake it, because you’ve already bored yourself.
Anyway, it was great fun, and it got some of the rust out of the pipes. I might be better next time. And at least I’ll remember to get to the real issue of the day.
Tottle at school today! Tottle at school!