Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Signing Off the Radio Show

(Above, the talented and reflective Fred Newman, sound effects wizard for "A Prairie Home Companion"  made my final edition of "Hometown Anchorage" a pleasure to do)

Today I did my final "Hometown Alaska" broadcast. The show will go on, there are three other hosts to continue the weekly schedule, and I assume they will replace me with a fourth.

This was my decision, and it was a tough one. The folks at KSKA were supportive and dedicated to high-quality journalism. I also got good feedback from  people I ran into around town. So given all that, why am I bailing?

Live radio, when done right looks easy enough. Doing it right however is not simple. You must be aware of the time, the callers on your first screen, the emailers on your second screen, meanwhile absorbing what your guest has to say and preparing your next question. Not to mention cuing and taking cues from the engineer. At the same time you want to avoid silence or "dead air". You also must  avoid live air that involves any of George Carlin's seven words that are forbidden to broadcasters. All this is a mighty load of multitasking for a person whose ability to concentrate on more than one thing, and whose ability to even speak, has been significantly eroded by Parkinson's Disease.

There were off-air considerations as well. Rounding up guests was touch and go. Trying to give the person reasonable time to call back while sweating the possibility of having to put together something on quick turn around as an alternative was a fingernail biting exercise for me.

Was it ever fun? Are you kidding? How great is it to be able to sit and chat with NPR's BJ Liederman or Alaska  novelist Andromeda Romano-Lax? It's stimulating and exciting. Which made the various mistakes and technical errors that much more painful. In the end, I was not improving fast enough to meet my own standard of what I would like to hear on the radio. The staff and the listeners deserve someone who is fired up and grateful for a tremendous opportunity. I am certainly grateful, but more toasted than fired up.

 So is this a victory for Parkinson's Disease? Has it stolen something from me again? You can be the judge of that. But I will call it a draw, or maybe a tactical retreat. A victory for PD would have been to never try, to allow the disease to foreclose options without really testing to see whether they were viable or not. Instead I got  to learn a few new things. One of which is I'm not cut out to host Hometown. I plan to advance on other fronts.

Thanks to Pat Yack, Kristin Spack, Bede Trantina and the other terrific folks at who all did their best to make a broadcaster out of me.  They came pretty close, which, given what they were working with, is commendable. The final show, with the terrific Fred Newman is now posted here. It was nice to go out on a high note. Fred? (TWEWEEEEENNNGGGG!)


Adele said...


Having Parkinson's has made me have to make a lot of choices about what I can do and what is worth my energy. There are times when decisions about what to keep doing and what to stop doing are difficult, but when the decision is easy, I know it is right. When the relief from letting go is greater than the joy from doing the job, you know it is time to make a change.

I am sorry you've left something you cared about but glad you will have more time and energy for the things that are calling you now. Most of all, I congratulate you for listening to yourself.

Adele Hensley
Clinton, Mississippi

Jeanne Miller said...

Hey Peter,
I appreciate your blogs very much because I am drawn to insightful writing by people dealing with the struggles of being human. None of us know what challenges we will face. I always hope to learn from others so that I can be stronger in my own journey through life. Also, you are an entertaining writer.

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Hi Adele, the skill of listening to oneself has been on my mind quite a bit lately. To be part of the choir you have to be able to hear yourself well enough that you can tell if you are singing in tune I' m becoming more cognizant of what I do with my time. It feels selfish, but I find I am now available only in limited quantities.

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Hello Jeanne, I'm glad you enjoy the work. Since one of the things I intend to put more energy into is the blogs, your comment is much appreciated.



Adele said...

Realistic is not the same as selfish. It felt that way to me, too. Then I started noticing how much less of the load I could actually carry. Then I began to notice that I was becoming part of the load other people had to carry, especially when I over-committed myself. That is when I began to learn to listen to myself.

Parkinson's doesn't change a person's essential nature, but it does change how much of it there is to share (especially if you also need to take a shower and get dressed).

I look forward to reading about what you will focus on next.

Steve said...

Peter, you did an incredible job at Hometown Alaska. And yes, there were a few times when I could hear the PD interfering. I didn't get to listen to all the shows, so I don't know if you ever talked about the PD on air. I think a show interviewing Peter would have made a great final show.

Tony Allen said...

Hello Peter,
I haven't "spoken" with you for a while, but have continued to monitor new posts on the Rag. I think you display a very healthy mixture of realism and optimism, which I think is a good model for all of us. My very best wishes to you.
Tony Allen, Saskatoon Saskatchewan Canada, diagnosed 2.5 yr ago, still playing the upright bass and dobro.... though maybe not as well as I had dreamed.. d:)

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Thanks Steve. The fabulous Kathleen McCoy interviewed me on Hometown a year ago, which I suspect is what got them interested in the first place. The relief I feel right now over not having to line up topics and guests for further shows makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing.

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Hi Tony, good to hear from you. Just had a bracing evening of Canadian music from the Francophone side of your country via the group Grande Derangement, a very musical band.

Just to be quarrelsome, I'll nitpick your opposition of "optimism" and "realism". I don't think these two are necessarily in tension. With PD I think it is realistic to be guardedly optimistic. But I do think we need skepticism, which I would use where you used "realism". Skepticism tempers optimism, and makes it more hardy in the long run.

Dobros rule!