The radio station at Bowdoin College (WBOR, still going) wasn’t much when I was in attendance there. Upstairs, two-room studio in the student union, packed with saggy, bulging shelves full of vinyl, mostly (I’m old), a couple of turntables, a few newfangled CD players. I wanted to get a show and eventually did, despite my clear-to-everyone lack of musical depth and knowledge. Honestly, most of my shows ended up with me scrambling to fill my few hours.
I habitually came with a small stack of my own records and rooted out some others from the shelves, but always found myself feverishly looking through the recommendations and reviews others had scribbled in ball-point on the record-jackets. I still have the occasional nightmare of watching the needle on the record player working toward the end of the song and staring in panic at the shelves of vinyl, looming high and identical and unreadable, to the ceiling.
I knew I was a poser. I was attracted to the idea of being a DJ more from a desire to stretch myself and not sink into the cosy anonymity that still maintains its allure, some 25+ years later. I wanted to break the shell growing around myself, and to take a stand against the destiny I suspected was my due.
One night there was a blizzard, nothing uncommon in Maine, and I was in the station alone. I had, at the time, the final show on Friday night, ending at midnight or 1 a.m., I can’t remember. Running the scenario through my ever-processing mental filters, I warred between thinking the end-of-week nighttime slot was cool, and that it was where they stuck people who indicated that they had nothing else to do on a Friday night. (Which I most definitely didn’t, as a rule.)
It was even more quiet and peaceful than usual with the heavy snow blanketing the campus, everyone staying indoors for the most part, except for the occasional drunken whoop from some hardy fratboys on the quad. But by the time the show was reaching the end (I always had to call security to let them know I was leaving after the S.U. was shut down), I’d run through my records, and the records I’d scavenged—apart from one last song I’d pulled.
The other reason I put myself out there at the radio station was to make myself more educated, more interesting. I came to college with a pitifully provincial knowledge of “cool college music.” (I hooked onto They Might Be Giants, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, and a few others like a dope being sucked into a whirlpool.) Sometimes I heard a song on WBOR, sometimes I found a jotted “awesome!” on a dust jacket and agreed— I don’t remember what prompted this song. But, with the snow falling in those thick, wet, blaps and the world turning white and featureless, and me watching out the one window and imagining the long, lonely night ahead, I put this on. I may have made some attempt at tying the song to the snowstorm raging silently outside (I patterned myself, secretly, after Venus Flytrap—I am old), but then let it play, watched the snow, then—after calling security like a good boy—trudged to my off-campus apartment, the strange words and music echoing in my ears.