Thursday, October 01, 2009

“Radio Rendezvous”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Like much of TAL, what follows here is not completely true. Please take this slice of ‘alternate reality’ with the same grain of salt you would use for a good fishing tale. Thank you.

It was a beautiful September morning in northeastern Ohio.

I had been asked to appear on a radio program featuring local journalists. The invitation seemed intriguing, because several years ago, the same outpost had broadcast a lively conversation between myself and Val ‘The Polka Gal’ Pawlowski. This on-the-air exchange provided genuine entertainment for listeners.

Yet the experiment produced no lasting results. Our idea vanished with a twist of the dial… until now.

My drive from Thompson offered time for coffee, and roadgoing reflection. As multicolored leaves spilled across the windshield, I began to ponder this new assignment more carefully. Stan Pronski, who was News Director for the station, intended to create a series of interviews that would connect newspaper writers with their electronic counterparts.

Our conversation would be the first. It was an offer no professional wordsmith could decline.

I arrived at the WKTX studios just before seven o’clock. Greta Hueber was finishing the first hour of her program, offering recipes, traditional European tunes, and folksy witticisms:

“Yooooou’re listening to Grandma Greta in the morning on radio 830… next here on your station in the country, we have the Ben Knapik Trio performing their unique rendition of ‘Edelweiss.’ But first, a word from Parkman IGA…”

Stan met me at the station’s courtesy desk. His linen shirt was already rumpled. “Rod! I’m glad you could make it. Sit tight in our ‘Green Room’ and I’ll get to you right after the news…”

I re-filled my coffee mug at their complimentary breakfast nook. Above the bagels and cream cheese, a framed portrait of Frankie Yankovic seemed to wink for attention.

Suddenly, a familiar figure burst into the room.

“Rodney, what are you doing here??” he shouted.

It was my longtime cohort, Ezekiel Byler-Gregg from The Burton Daily Bugle. He wore a classic bow tie that looked out of place with his Carhartt overalls.

“Zeke!” I cheered. “How are you?”

“I’m perturbed,” he said with irritation. There was an unruly bead of sweat on his forehead. “One of us has to come back!”

“What?” I exclaimed. “But, why?”

“WKTX asked you and I to appear in the same time slot!” he growled.

“Oh,” I mused, shrugging my shoulders.

Stan reappeared, looking decidedly unhappy. His shirttails were pulled out. “This blasted station can’t keep track of its own invites! I am sorry, gentlemen.”

Ezekiel muttered to himself. “Oh well. Flip a coin already…”

“This was supposed to be a one guest program,” the radio newsman complained. “But now they’ve fouled it up…”

I thought silently for a moment. “Well, why can’t we just appear together?”

The air turned stale. My proposition was so obvious that neither fellow had given it consideration.

“Umm… would that be okay?” Stan wondered aloud.

“Call it a two-person Writer’s Roundtable,” I suggested. “Who’ll know the difference? Wing it!”

Ezekiel agreed, with a laugh. “Of course. You and I can share the golden microphone!”
Hurriedly, we were ushered into the main studio.

While I took my seat, the broadcast segment began:

“The time is eight minutes after seven o’clock, and you are listening to “Issues At Hand’ on WKTX. This is News Director Stan Pronski. Today, we have two distinguished guests from Geauga County. Maple Leaf columnist Rod Ice, and Daily Bugle editor Ezekiel Byler-Gregg. Good morning, gentlemen!”

We both nodded.

“You have to speak for the audience to know you’re here,” Stan whispered.

“Ahem!” I said with embarrassment. “Good morning sir! Great to be here!”

“Greater than great!” Ezekiel echoed.

Our host tried hard not to grin.

“On this program, we look at current events from a journalist’s perspective,” he continued. “So… let’s begin. First question – in your county, expansion is changing the region’s character. A new ‘Sheetz’ is under construction in Chardon, for example. How do you feel about this kind of development?”

I cleared my throat. “There are many benefits for our citizens to be had by bringing new businesses into the area…”

Ezekiel was less diplomatic. “I think their company logo should be painted on the water tower in my city. Imagine the extra revenue!”

Stan half-covered his mouth. “What did you say?”

“Then we could add their logo to our Sheriff’s Department cars,” he added. “Call them ‘Sheetz on the Beatz!’”

I coughed uncontrollably.

“You have got to be kidding!” the newsman pleaded.

“Of course I am,” he said. “Find a proper balance between commerce and community spirit… and you’ll truly be serving the needs of our people.”

With relief, our host leaned back in his chair. “Right! Here’s the second question - who do you like in Ohio’s upcoming gubernatorial race?”

“Well,” I replied. “That’s a choice to be made after careful consideration…”

“My vote will go to Carrie Hamglaze,” Ezekiel interrupted.

Stan was obviously befuddled. “Who?”

“Hamglaze!” my compatriot repeated. “She’s the best thing in Geauga County right now! An honest servant of the people.”

My face reddened. “I didn’t know she was running…”

“She isn’t,” Ezekiel huffed. “Well, not for a job in Columbus, anyway. Just to be re-elected to her City Council post. But I’ll put her down as a write-in. Trust me. The woman has political fortitude! And she looks good in a hat!”

Our host raised his eyebrows. “Okay, third question, on the national stage – what was your reaction to South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson shouting ‘You lie!’ during a speech on healthcare reform by President Obama?”

I squirmed in my seat. “Well of course, in retrospect, one might observe that his opinion could’ve been expressed with a tad more diplomatic flair…”

Ezekiel pointed his finger in the air. “I thought it demonstrated the true character of America!”

Stan gasped with surprise. “Really? You think so?”

“Yes,” my compadre said, forcefully. “In how many countries around the globe could you openly make such a remark to your leader… and hope to avoid execution? Even in many nations that we call allies, or with whom we do business… such conduct would invite imprisonment, and death. But here… we can allow such raw opinions to be expressed without bloodshed. That gives evidence to the value we place in liberty above all else…”

I bowed my head. There was nothing else to say.

“Okay! My thanks for both of you for visiting with us this morning,” our host said with gratitude. “For ‘Issues At Hand’ this is Stan Pronski saying goodbye and good luck!”

From across the studio, their festive music programming resumed:

“Yooooou’re listening to Grandma Greta in the morning on radio 830… next here on your station in the country, we have the sounds of Dirk and Dale Pzenka. This is their most popular recording, ‘The Two-Quarter Shoeshine Polka.’ If you’re at home or at work right now, turn up your radio and dance!”

During my homeward trek, leaves continued to fall against the azure sky. But my spirit had been uplifted by this exercise in populist broadcasting.

Now, it was time to go back to work.

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