Kat has dedicated a good chunk of her free time to digitizing our collection of cassette tapes. We’ve uncovered some old airchecks from Ithaca but I was surprised to find one even earlier than that, predating college. I’d made a friend, Joe Venanzi, at nearby Rider College. Rider had its own free-form college radio station; the format changed every two hours whether you wanted it to or not. Joe knew I was a radio wannabe and he wanted to look cool to someone younger than himself, so he let me sit in on his shows in early 1989. Once or twice he was unavailable so he asked me to fill in, and for some reason I still have a tape of two of those solo broadcasts.
Now, I had absolutely no experience, no permission, and really, no right to be behind a microphone at a broadcasting station. I remember at one point the station manager came in and I thought sure I was going to get arrested right then and there–I had no student ID, I had no idea whether I was doing things correctly, and I had no idea what I would say if she asked me who I was. But she didn’t ask, so I made the first move. “Hi, Joe’s sick, I’m filling in.” She nodded and went about her business. I nearly shit myself.
Listening to these tapes is funny because my voice is noticably higher than it is now (yes, it’s possible) and, unbeknownst to me, I had a slight New Jersey accent that I have since shed. I also left the microphone on through the entirety of Billy Joel’s “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” then lied at the next talkset, blaming it on “needing to make a technical adjustment.” I pop my P’s and say “um” a lot. In the background you can hear the phone ringing, because the request line was just an old phone sitting next to the turntables, and apparently the station couldn’t afford a proper silent ringer, like the flashing light real stations use. So maybe my level of quality matched perfectly.
Still, I made my mistakes early and was one of the first freshmen from my class to get on the air at Ithaca six months later, so it definitely helped me. But it’s still funny.