Friday, October 19, 2012

How I Missed the Chance to Be on the Radio

While spending the afternoon on a clothing-optional beach, I missed the chance to be interviewed on a radio program about public nudity.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

In San Francisco, our summer weather usually arrives in mid-late September and sometimes lasts as long as early November. Nick and I had noticed that the middle of this week looked ideal for playing hooky from work and going to our favorite beach, the ever-elusive and, yes, clothing-optional Gray Whale Cove. I say 'ever elusive' because too often, we've ventured down Highway 1 from San Francisco on a warm, sunny day only to discover the beach had disappeared beneath an impenetrably gray, chilly fog.

This is why I call Gray Whale Cove 'the Brigadoon of beaches.'And on Wednesday, it materialized out of the mist to deliver a spectacular, warm, sunny beach day. Nick and I settled in for the afternoon. My beach bag bulged with an iPad, a Kindle, an iPhone, the day's New York Times, a notepad, and other stuff I'd planned to get to. There was this blog to update, some research to do, email to answer, stories to read about the previous night's presidential debate.

Before long, Nick and I became absorbed by the spectacle of waves smashing against distant rocks, exploding into what looked like fireworks. I felt the coarse, golden, warm sand against my bare feet.

Gray Whale Cove, as seen from the hill above the beach
The beauty of our surroundings led to a discussion of spirituality. Nick told me of the time when, as a boy, he'd endured another long, drunken argument between his parents and had felt completely alone in the world, until he looked out the living room window into the clear night sky and saw one particularly bright star. I was reminded that I don't currently have any particular spiritual beliefs or strong disbeliefs, and maybe now would be a good time to start figuring things out. Religious and spiritual practices have always felt too dogmatic for me. But it occurred to me I might approach them the way a seasoned cook follows a new recipe: Read the steps, line up the ingredients, but follow your instincts and make it your own.

Periodically throughout the afternoon, a tension crept into my body. Since it was midweek, there must be email that needed my immediate attention. And yet, here we were, taking much-needed time away from work on a beautiful beach, a place where one day long in the future, I would like some of my ashes scattered. The iPhone stayed in my backpack along with everything else I'd brought until about 5 p.m., when we were packing to leave.

That's when I saw it: an email from a producer at KQED, a highly respected public radio station in San Francisco. She wanted to know if, as the author of a recently produced play that addresses San Francisco's public nudity controversy, I'd care to speak on that topic during the next day's Forum program. Hurriedly, I tried to respond to the email, but the signal on the beach was too weak. Clearly, my response would have to wait until we climbed the many steps that led back up to the road and the parking lot. Over three hours had passed since the producer had emailed me; wouldn't they have found someone else by now?, I wondered.

Before I even started up those steps, however, something amazing (for me) happened. I was grateful I hadn't checked my email until then. Being on KQED the next morning would have consumed my thoughts the rest of that afternoon: What wise or funny things could I say? Who else might be on the program? How could I get a digital copy? The radio show would have drowned out the crashing waves, and it would most likely have derailed the spirituality discussion.

As I expected, when I was able to reach her, the KQED producer informed me she had made other plans. She encouraged me to listen the next morning and if I felt inclined, to call in. I did as she suggested, but the lines were jammed.

The road to talking about my play on a popular radio show had been sealed off, just as the fragile Highway 1 that leads to Gray Whale Cove often is after a strong winter storm. But that afternoon on the beach, another path started to materialize out of the fog. I move toward it, grateful.

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  1. Having spent my entire adult life working inside the radio business it's a real joy to be reminded about the excitement, the nerves, and the self-consciousness that overwhelms a non-radio person at the very thought of appearing on a show. What a delightful reminder of what otherwise to me seems all so mundane.

    How easy to forget that one can't read the label from inside the jar!

    1. Steve, I love that last line in your comment in particular! Hope you're doing well.

  2. Without a doubt,things happen for a reason. I can't help but feel that in the long run, that time spent away from the phone will matter more than if you had been available to answer?

    Now, the real question: did you go nakey on the beach?

    1. Leave it to JuJu to ask that question! (I love it.) No, I didn't go native, so to speak, but only because I have a tanline to maintain...

  3. I truly believe everything happens for a reason at the right time. Good for you for seeing that too. By the way, Paul and I will be in town the week after Thanksgiving. Would love to have dinner with you and Nick. Will you have any free time that week? Beautiful post!

    1. Bill, thanks for the comment and yes, yes, yes to dinner with you and Paul. We will be here that week. Send me an email with a date and we'll make it happen!