Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Long-Drive Radio

Driving through the molasses that was Austin traffic, weird radio kept me company (see June 28). The radio similarly dovetailed with the landscape only a few other times in the course of 3,000± miles last month.

On Tennessee 128 between Clifton and Linden, a winding, lush, depopulated road, I spent some time listening to a remarkably erudite radio preacher discuss Zipporah, Moses' little-regarded wife, and the odd passage in Exodus that involves her circumcising their son. Somehow, that discussion seemed to fit the road going by, besides being as interesting as a lecture by my Old Testament professor, who knew a thing or two about smiting and knowing maidservants and other colorful Biblical activities. ("They call it sodomy for a reason," he once said.)

As I headed north on the main road (the Trace) through the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky, I found a station that promised, and played, "All bluegrass, all the time." That fit too.

On the whole, I listened to all kinds of radio. I brought recorded music, but I got tired of messing with it. It was easier to move up and down the dial.

A lot of chaff, some wheat. The most annoying format? "We play anything." BOB or JACK or whatever you call yourself, you don't "play anything." Where's your jazz? Your old-time mountain music? The King of Skiffle? What about "California Über Alles" or other classic Dead Kennedys? Just examples. I could go on. "We play anything in a certain narrow band of pop/rock from a few more decades than most formats" is more like it. Bogus variety, bah.

On long drives, I listen to a lot more talk radio than usual, too. Mostly for just a few minutes at a time, but enough to get a sense of things. A whole lot of later-day Father Coughlins seem to be worried about socialized medicine these days. Maybe they're afraid they'll be put on a waiting list to get that particular burr removed from their butts, or that we'll all end up as sickly and dying as the Canadians.

In Jackson, Mississippi, I heard part of a nature program that included a discussion of the mites that live in human hair follicles. A former high school biology teacher talked about these mites, and while he pointed out that they're harmless and invisible, he obviously enjoyed trying to gross out the show's host, as he probably did countless former students.

Too bad about the death of a certain famous pop star late last month. Speaking as someone who's 48, it's usually too bad to hear about someone dying at 50. But I am glad he passed after I got home. I don't think I could have stood the wall-to-wall news coverage of a story so slender that it could be summed up as, "Flash! He's Still Dead!"



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