Thursday, October 16, 2008

To the Left of the Dial

In my second year of college I joined the college radio station, KCPR – Home of the Burnt Dog. KCPR was many things for me and I ended up working there for the rest of my time in college, eventually becoming a music director for the station. It was easily the most fun I had in college.

But when I first started I had to endure what every new DJ had to endure. Once a week I was live on the air for a three hour graveyard shift.

The quarter that I had to work the graveyard shift coincided with the same quarter that I had to take a 7-9am Intermediate Macro-Economics class. Some how I came up with the idea that it would be wise to do my radio show from 4am to 7am and then go directly to class. I mean after all, I was already awake right?

The night before my show I would go for a run or go skateboarding or both in an attempt to tire myself out and thus go to sleep early. Usually I would be in bed by eleven. Then my alarm would go off at 3:30am. I would pull on a heavy sweater and ride my bike in the cool, dark night over to the campus. The DJ before me would just be finishing his 1am to 4am shift and usually looked like he was about to fall asleep on the board.

DJing the graveyard shift on a small college radio station on the central coast to a small population was a great way to learn. At any given time in the night I had essentially zero listeners and I could make all the mistakes in the world. If I needed to run downstairs to get a soda out of the machine or if I was really tired and needed a quick nap on the filthy, tattered sofa I could just put on a 20 minute Mogwai track and not worry about anyone calling in to complain.

I did get the occasional phone call from insomniacs or late night drunks, but for the most part things stayed quiet. (Some of the female DJs got regular fan mail from the inmates at the nearby California Men’s Colony. At that time it was where Suge Knight was incarcerated but no one was so lucky to receive mail from him.)

By the time the end of my shift rolled around I was usually feeling pretty good. The sun was up and I had usually consumed a couple of candy bars and a 20oz Mountain Dew Code Red. I would bound into my econ class, usually humming whatever song I had finished my set with. The rest of the bleary eyed students must have hated me.
The only problem was that all of the caffeine and sugar would wear off by the second hour of class. My stomach would burn from the soda; my head would throb from the music and lack of sleep.

Pedaling home in the rising morning sun was excruciating and I would immediately fall into bed the moment I set foot in my room. Inevitably I would wake hours later, positive that I had somehow slept through class only to realize that I had a binder full of notes and no recollection of how they got there.
I loved working at KCPR.

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