Saturday, August 28, 2010


When I was growing up, public radio was a lifeline to a world beyond the confines of my little town. When the NPR correspondents were in NYC or California, I was there, too, not stuck in my room worrying about cruel high school hallways. It helped diminish my adolescent loneliness.

So it pains me to admit that I've hardly listened to NPR for the last six months. That's because we bought a new car and got a gratis subscription to XM (which we extended for three months). It wasn't only free XM that hastened my temporary departure from NPR. My local NPR stations in D.C. are mostly either talk (i.e., politics) or classical music during the week.

But I crave narrative, not just people talking about the present moment or the current political scene.

And I got that on XM (ironically, of course, on their public radio stations, particularly PRX). Each drive offered me a delicious torrent of voices describing lives full of beauty and confusion and fear and joy, with stories so compelling I often wished for heavy traffic to delay my arrival. I especially enjoyed being surprised by shows I wouldn't have known to seek out otherwise—like Nate DiMeo's Radio Palace (particularly his The Brothers Booth).

Now, alas, my trial is up. Being the frugal person I am, I can't justify spending $160/year for radio when we have four public radio stations in the area. But the real reason I let the subscription expire is...Radio Disney. When my tween-aged daughter was in the car, that's all she wanted to listen to—an experience I have described as "purgatory on wheels."

If I can get my act together, I'll start downloading some of the things I learned to love onto my MP3 player, and plug it into my car speaker. If you're interested in obtaining a similar radio experience, I'll list the web sites/podcast sites below for my favorite shows:

Postscript: I wanted to add more series to this list, but I couldn't find them—that was the problem with getting in the car and turning on the radio mid-broadcast. I heard many stories without knowing who was speaking, or where the show originated.

One of the most compelling stories I heard was the first-person account of a woman who met a gorgeous massage therapist in Hawaii and wanted to get pregnant by him (I never heard the conclusion since I was late for an appointment). I tried to find the broadcast/show on Google just now by various search terms, including (Hawaii massage therapist pregnant), but the search results window listed stories like "Pregnant women and H1N1" or "Marine convicted in pregnant woman's death" or "Unplanned pregnancy warning to women over 35."

Is it any wonder, then, that I craved escaping to an audio-world that described people living regular lives full of grace and humor, rather than just narrow accounts of victims or news makers?

1 comment:

Rick Henderson said...

Beth, I subscribed to XM for six years (for entirely different reasons). I got it initially because Las Vegas, where I lived at the time, was a radio wasteland, and I dug the blues, bluegrass, and Americana programming. Plus the ACC sports (a connection to home).

I stuck with it because I found myself taking lengthy roadtrips and appreciated the regular surprises on the music channels. (Guest DJs including Dave Alvin, the Rev. Horton Heat, and Webb Wilder were delights to hear.)

By the time I moved to Denver, Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour and Tom Petty's Buried Treasure had joined the lineup, so I couldn't cancel.

But just before we moved to N.C., the XM/Sirius merger occurred, and the music programming went south quickly. Less variety, fewer guest hosts, much shorter playlists.

I had no trouble letting the subscription lapse. Now I listen to CDs and my MP3 player. Sad, in a way.