Wednesday, August 8, 2007

autumn descending

The end of every summer breaks my heart. From the summer I fell in love at art camp (I was eleven, but I swear it was the real thing) to last year, when I left my internship a day early so I wouldn't have to watch all of my friends leave before me, the transition from care-free summer to the darkening days of autumn has never been easy.

Standing on third street promenade yesterday, the imminence of ending dawned upon me. As my friends and I walked past carts and book shops discussing future plans, I began realizing I wouldn't be a part of them--their lives and plans would quickly fill in the hole in our social circle that I would be leaving behind. It is the same way at work--not that I'm getting pushed out, but as I start giving my contacts and notes to other bookers and producers, as I begin wrapping up bookings and not receiving new assignments, it's like I can almost catch the scent of autumn in the office. Hosts begin talking about air dates that are several weeks after I leave, and already I have had to say goodbye to close friends at the office who are leaving this week for vacation. We can't believe I'm leaving for good.

As the show discusses stories for its "back to school" edition at noon in the Angeles Room, I sit silently, trying to grasp that this is the beginning of the ending of my summer here. I can't quite picture what it will be like to tune in to Day to Day without knowing the rundown beforehand, without eagerly awaiting the interview I have already heard, without the smug satisfaction of knowing that at the end of the week, the host will read my name along with a list of people I have grown to really care about.

I know that it won't take long for that list to change, for the new, unrecognized names of fall interns to be added. And I also know that I will forget the layout of NPR West, the taste of the coffee here, the names of the streets I take to get to Santa Monica, even Katerina's extension (well maybe not, I've dialed it so many times I think it's hardwired into my brain), and all the little things that make up daily life here.

This September, I will drive my Subaru from Boston to my new internship in Chicago. And of course, I will be listening. I am almost looking forward to the oblivion; there’s something oddly appealing about going back to being just a listener. Everyday I will greet the show with rapt attention and curiosity, innocent to what awaits on today’s show, unaware of the close calls and the pains taken to make the stories sound seamless and the voices crisp and clean on my radio. I really do look forward to it, to staying connected through ears and radiowaves, just distant enough to really see the full effect of all the elements coming together.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Music to my ears

It has been a rough summer. Until yesterday, I had spent the past three months missing hundreds of songs I had (gasp) bought on iTunes. After calling the Apple help desk several times, and receiving, well, no help, I didn’t have the strength to wait on hold any longer.

“I’ll just get music from the people I work with,” I thought. I did, but I needed something more.

I wasn’t always getting entire albums. Instead, I was getting playlists. And while they were truly wonderful, well-executed, perfectly-timed playlists, the songs on them kept reminding me of the songs I’d been missing. In fact, they were the songs I was missing, only these were free and sans the full-length album.

What’s this? Sondre Lerche? I used to have his cd, until someone tried to break into my iTunes account! Camera Obscura? I could have really used all of you this summer, not just one song!

It may not be the worst feeling in the world, but it certainly isn’t fun to have the music you’ve paid for at your fingertips, only to find out that, when you press play, your account has been disabled for security reasons. It’s such an evil trick! I should have known that flirting with the Mac Genius to get a new logic board for free would bring bad karma my way. But who can resist!?

What I needed, though, wasn’t my music; it was piece of mind. Most of my friends download music for free and (il)legally, but for some reason iTunes has me hooked. It’s like I have monopoly money and can buy whatever I want, and the only reality check is when the account receipt forwards to my inbox…or when I’ve bought hundreds of dollars in music only to have it locked up before my very eyes.


Yesterday morning my spirits were revived by the iTunes support center. While there is no call-help line, one of my countless e-mails was finally answered, and, thanks to Michelle at iTunes, I now have a freshly authorized computer and about 500 of my best friends—truly alive and kicking.

To be honest, it hasn’t been that difficult to get through this summer without them, but everything sounds better when they’re around. And after all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pants and Counter-pants

Patrick, I decided to respond to your post about pants. See, I'm also afflicted by a pants wardrobe with limited applicability beyond a particular region.

In high school, I never really gave much thought to my pants. They fit. They looked fine. They're pants. How complicated could it be? My beloved home of Cincinnati is a city best classified as part Midwestern, part Southern. From the Midwest, we inherited practicality and a lack of curiosity. From the South, we inherited all of the redneck but none of the charm (thanks a lot, Kentucky). That's how I can best explain my pants wardrobe in high school: practical and complacent, but not particularly charming.

North Carolina, where I attend college, is a land of bow ties, pastels, ribbon belts, seersucker, and boat shoes. I was coming from a land of flat-front khakis, Birkenstocks, and nicely pressed shirts. No longer would pants be such a straightforward matter.

As I outgrew my clothes from high school, my wardrobe gradually changed. Content in my Southern haven, I hardly even noticed. But every so often, I was offered subtle reminders. Whether on a trip home to Cincinnati or a semester abroad in London, I learned that there are many places in this world where a man wearing Nantucket red is not taken seriously. Trust me.

I have pairs of pants--pants that I've grown attached to--that I'm unable to wear every time I leave the South. From white linen to green seersucker, I left a chunk of my wardrobe behind this summer when I moved to DC. Patrick, if you think that men in light-colored pants are funny, then my closet would be a Mitch Hedberg stand-up act.

Someday, I might take a job in a city that chews up and spits out men who dare to wear pants with a little bit of color. When I'm old and wise and thirty, it might not seem like such a big deal. But right now, it's a notion that I'm having a hard time accepting.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Telecommunications Act

Day in and day out, I am constantly reminded of the one remaining goal I have yet to achieve at NPR.

Every morning, I walk to my perfectly-situated corner cubicle, sit down at my desk, turn on my computer, and within 30 minutes, I am inevitably made aware, once again, that I have unfinished business at this company. I prepare myself to concentrate on my various pressing labors, yet without fail, just as I have focused on a task, the heavens interrupt my attempt to ignore my, uh, calling:

“Doug Mitchell, please dial extension 3644.”

I pause, direct my eyes upward, and survey the room. A ponderous silence.

“Doug Mitchell,” it reiterates, “3644."

Curs├Ęd speaker box! Why will you not bid me my peace? Do you not know how I wish to occupy, to possess you, to abuse you for my own secret mirth? Are you so unaware of my sordid wishes that you must taunt me with your unceasing proclamations, imperatives, and fiats?

“Michel Martin, you have a guest in the lobby.”

No longer do I care that you, the reader, condone or pity my madness. Verily, I only ask that I may describe it, that you may begin to comprehend my squalid predicament.

Freely, I admit! My quest is thus: to say something funny on the intercom system. Ideally, it would be uproarious and side-splitting for at least a select few; more likely, it would be mildly amusing and easily forgettable. (It may involve a pun.) But laughs will ring out! For one moment, I will be the purveyor of merriment to an organization which, like all similar building-bound organizations, ought to be reminded once in a while of the fundamentally absurd posture of the office environment and its multiform communication technologies. Once I have delivered my simple, elegant stanza, instant gratification will commence for all! My heroism will be anonymous, courageous, and life-affirming.

Of course, the necessity or comedic inspiration has never arisen. But! I am imbued with the demented passion and resolve of a protagonist in a Russian novel: one day, it will happen. From Olympian heights, Renee Montagne will smile in my general direction, the opportunity will be granted me, and I will shine.

“Someone from All Things Considered please call 2110.”

O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and recite its piece through the fiber optic network! For the love of Robert Siegel and everything else that is holy in this non-profit corporate entity, I know of my depravity! But the flame in me burns magnetic, incessant, undeterred!

Furtively, I continue to plot my machinations as I fill out Excel spreadsheets and deftly manipulate the URL Dictionary feature in the Content Management System. Yes, one day, one glorious, resplendent day! I shall reach for the receiver, trembling, and breathe deeply; when the moment has come, my nerves will still, and calmly, deeply (but not too deeply), professionally, I will declare my joyful memorandum for the entire company to hear. I shall, I shall! [Ascending bugle fanfare.] And at least two people in Newscast will chortle, mildly distracted!

(Should the opportunity never come to pass, I will settle for a brief, witty all-staff ISO e-mail.)