My Radio Adventures

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It began as a 3-way chat on Messenger. It was a couple of weeks before my trip to visit Joe and Sylvia in Asheville, NC, and we were discussing plans for my stay. Sylvia and I were making decisions about places to visit and things to do. Then Joe jumped in.

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Wait. A set of questions about the novel I wrote?? I took a deep breath and typed:

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Yes, it turned out, that was exactly what he had in mind.

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What ensued was the biggest adventure I’ve had recently.

 

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Before we step into Studio A at 103.3 Asheville FM, here’s some background. Joe has had an interest in radio, and in being on the air, for quite a while. He also has an extensive knowledge of all kinds of music and an impressively large collection of it. Soon after moving to Asheville, he became involved with Asheville FM, which is a volunteer-based, listener-supported, grassroots community radio station. One thing led to another, until he found himself hosting his own show, Life Out of Tunes, using the DJ name of Joey Books.

If you are interested in knowing more about how Joe became a DJ, follow the link below to a post on his blog, Life Out of Tunes: Chasing a DJ Diploma.

And a little more background. The book in question is Teaching Mysteries 201: The Strike, a mystery set in 1972 that I wrote and published last year.

•••••••

 

I had 20 days before the show. Plenty of time to prepare. Except that I didn’t prepare, other than sending Joe the interview questions, along with a list of the songs I mentioned in the novel. Why did I need to prepare? I had spoken to a number of groups about the book. I had reread it over the summer. And I would be answering questions that I had made up myself.

I arrived in Asheville a few days before the show. Once there, I was busy sightseeing, walking around the West Asheville neighborhood, drinking wine with Joe and Sylvia, and getting reacquainted with Bandit, their dog.

Suddenly it was Monday. I woke up in a panic, realizing that in a few hours I would be on the radio. I dug out a copy of the questions and skimmed it. “I don’t know the answers to any of these,” I said to Bandit, who had jumped on my bed. He gave me a quizzical, head-tilted look. Why hadn’t the retired teacher done her homework?

When we arrived at the station, Joe gave me a tour and introduced me to other staff members who happened to be there. Fortunately, we were able to get settled in the studio a few minutes before air time. I had my headphones on and had passed a quick sound check. I got out my scribbled notes and was as ready as I would ever be.

The next thing I knew, Joey was saying into his mic: “It’s 2 p.m., and you are listening to Asheville FM…” He finished his intro, then Willie Nelson was singing Vote ‘Em Out. Off the air, Joey told me he would be spinning several tunes from the early ’70s before I would be on.

So I relaxed a bit and began noticing things. Like how much Joe was doing while music was playing. He was adjusting levers and pushing buttons, looking at his detailed notes for the show, marking off items with a highlighter, locating the copy for the announcements he had to read. Sometimes he spoke briefly between songs. After they played, he gave explanations and details that most listeners wouldn’t know.

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Then Sarah McLachlan began singing Building a Mystery, which Joey had (appropriately) chosen to lead into my interview. While it played, he asked me, Are you ready? I said I was, and hoped that was true.

His plan was to ask me two or three questions, then play two or three songs from the book; then we would talk more, followed by more songs. It was a great plan because it gave me breaks to collect my thoughts and to just enjoy the music.

Looking back, the only thing I clearly remember talking about is how I chose the music in the book. I needed songs to fit the story and my setting. So I had called Joe because he knew so much about music. I asked him to suggest songs that might have been playing on a jukebox in a rustic bar during the fall of 1972. He got back to me very quickly with a number of choices. They all ended up in the book.

Here’s what surprised me the most about the experience. It was the complete relaxation I felt while “my” music was playing. I could easily imagine I was with my character, Andrea, in the bar after parent-teacher conferences, while Saturday in the Park, You’re So Vain, and The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A blasted from the juke box. Joey and I could take off our headsets and talk with each other and with Sylvia, who was there for moral support and to take the pictures in this post.

Joe and me

But that wasn’t my only surprise. When I sent Joe the list of songs in my book, there was one I really, really hoped to hear, though I honestly didn’t think that I would or could. Like Andrea, I had had a ritual to lift my spirits when I was feeling down. I would darken the room, light vanilla-scented candles, and play sentimental music by Rod McKuen. I hadn’t heard him since those long ago nights in my dorm room. So I assumed his recordings might not even be available anymore.

I should have known, though, that Joey would come through. When he played The Sea, and I heard it for the first time in nearly 50 years, I may have shed a nostalgic tear. And here’s another surprise. By the time the song finished playing, my nervousness had disappeared.

At that point, time sped up. Joey and I chatted some more. He played three more songs from my book—Cherish, The Sounds of Silence, and Here Comes the Sun. With that, my segment of the show was finished.

I was relieved, happy, proud, and maybe a little sad that it was over. But I can relive the experience whenever I want to. All I have to do is pop in the CD of the show that Joe made for me.

If you would like to hear the show, you can too. Simply click here. This link will take you to mixcloud.com, where all of Joey Book’s shows are available to listen to.

•••••••

To visit Joey Books’ page at ashevillefm.org, click here.

To visit the station’s website, follow this link.

Finally, my novel, Teaching Mysteries 201: The Strike, is available at Read Between the Lynes (for local folks) or here.

 

The Bee in the Rose at the Biltmore

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Hi, readers…

Long time, no see. Long time, no write. The ugly truth is that I haven’t blogged since July. Honestly, I don’t have a good reason for my absence. I’m not sure why I couldn’t get motivated to write. What I do know is that I’m back now. And it feels good.

 

A few days ago, I returned from a delightful week visiting friends in Asheville, NC. Joe, Sylvia, and Bandit were my neighbors in the Maples until they moved to Asheville. Here they are, posing for a picture by a lovely waterfall not too far out of town.

 

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I couldn’t begin to describe everything that we saw and did and experienced. So I’m narrowing my focus to one site—Asheville’s most famous and popular tourism spot—the Biltmore estate. If you are not familiar with it, Biltmore House was built by George Vanderbilt in 1895 as his family’s home. Of the seven days I was in town, we spent parts of four of them at or near the Biltmore.

 

Friday evening found us at the Antler Hill Village and Winery. As the sun set, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll, sipped a glass of wine, and listened to live jazz outdoors. It was a great introduction to the beautiful sights, sounds, and tastes to be found on the estate.

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[A reader interrupts: Wait. What does your title mean?  Me: Don’t worry, gentle reader. I’m getting to it.]

 

The next day we were back at the Biltmore for a harvest event in their vineyard. This was not open to the public. But I was lucky to have the right connections to score a ticket. And wow! It included a large appetizer buffet and an opportunity to walk into the vineyard. Oh, and of course, wine. Several delicious wines to choose from.

 

[Reader: What does it mean? A bee in the rose?  Me: Please be patient. I’m getting there.]

 

On to our third consecutive day of Biltmore adventure. This time, we didn’t technically set foot on the estate. But we did attend Sunday services at The Cathedral of All Souls, which was built by George Vanderbilt as the parish church for the village adjacent to the Biltmore estate.

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[THE BEE? IN THE ROSE?   I know. Almost there.]

 

Our fourth and final visit to the Biltmore estate was where most tourists begin their experience—with a tour of Biltmore House, which was built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt as his family’s home. The first view is impressive.

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The mansion, sometimes described as the largest home in America, is as fascinating as it is grand. I highly recommend taking the audio tour to learn as you go. After more than two hours in the mansion, I’m sure I could go back next week and find a lot that I missed the first time. It was so overwhelming that I chose not to take photos, but just to try to absorb as much as possible.

The views outside the mansion show just how lovely the setting is. Then it was time to walk through the adjacent gardens.

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All of this touring and sight-seeing can wear a person out. So our last day at the Biltmore ended with a picnic in a shady spot in one of the gardens.

On our way to the parking lot, we pass the rose garden. It is late in the season, but there are still flowers blooming. I decide to take a couple more pictures, including the obligatory close-up of a rose.

[And there’s a BEE in the rose??????   Yes, yes, there is, dear reader! There is a bee in the rose at the Biltmore.]

 

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Maples Friends Are the Best

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Neighbors / Social Life

I was working in my unofficial role of homeowner-sales assistant when I asked a question of a couple here on a first visit. It was a typical question that received an atypical answer.

I asked when they might be buying their new home and moving.

The wife answered: When I find what I’m looking for.

I asked: What is important to you?, expecting to hear about square footage, number of bedrooms, price, or other popular concerns.

Instead, she answered: We will be moving here knowing no one. I want to live where I can make friends and take part in social activities.

I’m sure a big smile spread across my face. I knew I could deliver what she wanted… and more. Our vibrant social life is one of our strongest points as a community.

On our way out to the models, I talked about our book club, monthly neighborhood coffees, potlucks, games club, and outings to nearby restaurants and attractions. A neighbor called a hello to me from her patio as we walked by. A car drove past and the driver waved at us.

I would like to say that the couple bought on the spot. But that didn’t happen. They liked the models and picked out a favorite. They asked to talk with Kelly, our “real” sales person. My job was done.

•••••

After they left, I went home and checked my email. There I found a message from a neighbor thanking me for thanking her and her husband for volunteering to take on a job in the community. She ended her message with these words:

“We are all so fortunate to have found our homes and friends here!”

I couldn’t agree more. As I reflected on our unique friendliness and volunteer spirit, I began looking through photos that reflect our social ties. Here are a few that I found:

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Book club Christmas party

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fish boil in Genoa City, WI

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walking group cooling off after a hot walk

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Maples friends at my book signing

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impromptu gathering at the garden

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working together to put up Christmas lights

 

I can’t end this post without thanking the Maples social committee, both present and past members. This hard-working group plans and runs our events. Without them, our social lives would not be nearly as full as they are.

Thank you from your neighbors!

Perfectionism

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Mostly Musings

Hello, Perfectionism. My old nemesis. My worst enemy. My jailor. We meet again, though you have actually never been away.

You lurk within my mind and taint my feelings. You judge me, then convince me that I will never be good enough. Then to make it worse, you subvert my best efforts to forgive myself.

I don’t remember when you clawed your way into my psyche. I was probably too young to remember. And though I have tried to ignore you, override you, expel you, I never could. You roared back as soon as I had a weak moment.

I weep when I think of the opportunities I have passed up because of your lies. I look back at my life, and what do I see? Things I could have done and been, except that I let you convince me they were out of my reach. Why try at all if I wouldn’t be able to do something perfectly? And so, I didn’t try.

Yet, Perfectionism, you haven’t been perfectly successful yourself. Despite your sabotage, I have known love and friendship; I have accomplished things that make me proud. Best of all, I’m still alive, now armed with insights that can only come with aging.

Perfectionism, consider yourself kicked to the curb. From now on, I pledge to fill my heart with inspiration like this:

 

 

‘Thank You For Serving Our Country’

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Holidays / Mostly Musings

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via Photo Challenge: Twisted

The twisted object I choose to share today is a simple one—yet one that carries a timely message. It is a handmade, braided bracelet stapled to a card by a child named Audrey. The words, Hears A Bracelet, in her printing, tell me that she is quite young.

Note the date—Valentine’s Day. The card is a love note to a veteran whom she has never met, and most likely never will. I was with the veteran who received Audrey’s card. I watched him smile as he read her message through teary eyes. “Look,” he said to me, “she has a dog. Please hold on to this for me.” I did. He still has it.

Audrey’s card, and many others, were delivered to her veteran on a plane flying home from Washington, D.C. It was an Honor Flight. The veterans on this trip spoke frequently of their comrades who did not return home, of those who never had a chance to grow old while enjoying the freedom they had fought for. It is those men and women whom we honor on this Memorial Day weekend.

Seeing this card again makes me happy. It reminds me that as long as we have people like Audrey, our soldiers, both living and dead, will not be forgotten.