Thursday, December 15, 2005

Notes from the spin cycle

Another hectic week in Public Radioland. Our local Morning Edition host is on vacation, and as usual, I’m first off the bench when it comes to filling in. Translated, that means waking up at 4:45, then at 4:54, then at 5:03, and so on, until my snooze bar builds up such a static electricity charge that it threatens to electrocute me if I don’t actually get out of bed.

Translated further, that means trying to get to bed early enough to sleep longer than three hours. This is especially key tonight, since tomorrow features one of my semi-annual appearances at the university commencement, at which I’ll be reading the names of the lucky graduates. And the university intelligencia generally asks me not to fall asleep in the middle of the master’s degree recipients.

So I’m going to try to wrap up the blog before I move the laundry to the dryer. Trust me, Woodward and Bernstein worked under the same deadline when they broke the Watergate story.

But on a week that has dealt me little sleep, tonight’s trip to Target inadvertently reminded me why the public radio thing is a good gig. The trip didn’t initally shape up that way – in fact, it had all the trippings of Disaster Trip 2005, as my 18-month old daughter chose this evening to have an Explosive Diaper Incident. And like any standard-style dad, I hadn’t actually checked the mini diaper bag (No, it is not a purse, thank you very much.) to see whether the packet of wipes was still serviceable. Hey, as a standard-style dad, it was pretty amazing that I remembered the diaper bag. Thankfully, my quick-thinking wife pointed out that we were in Target, which meant if nothing else, at least we could replace Sylvi’s pants with a new pair. And you wondered why I had to do laundry tonight…

Anyway, while my wife was changing Sylvi in the bathroom, I was paying for the rest of the shopping trip at the cash registers – at which point the woman who was next in line recognized me by voice. It’s a public radio kind of town. Moreover, she remembered an interview I had conducted with a landscape artist (which aired this week), and told me how much she liked it.

And that reminded me what I like best about showing up for work, even more than volunteers who bring in Krispy Kreme doughnuts for the staff. There’s something entertaining about becoming an expert on something – for a day. My knowledge of abstract landscape paintings is pretty minimal. In fact, my knowledge of artwork in general is pretty minimal.

I grew up in Washington, D.C., and every year, our elementary school would troop us down to the Hirshhorn Museum or the National Gallery of Art, and try to get us interested in art. But they never could satisfactorily explain why we, as 10-year olds, should be interested in the school of painting Dave Barry once described as “Enormous Naked Women Eating Fruit”. And so we’d feign interest (badly, I’m sure) in the art for a while, and then go back to bugging our teachers to take us to the Air and Space Museum.

So I had to do some prep work before I could conduct this interview. And I was ready with what I hoped were some prescient questions. And then, something remarkable happened. My interviewee explained what makes a good painting:

“It’s pretty,” she said, in just about those words.

I finally understand art.

But the spin cycle is about to end, and so tonight’s self-imposed deadline looms.

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