Wednesday, February 13, 2008

AverageBro Does NPR

So, today was the big day. Step One in AverageBro's Master Plan For Absolute Media Domination began with my virgin appearance on NPR's News and Notes with Farai Chideya. As I told you folks the other day, it's in my nature to be a bit nervous about this kinda stuff. Although I always seem to end up just fine, whether it's public speaking, Day Job presentations, etc. I always tend to get a case of the Bubbleguts anyway. This morning was no exception.

Note to Self: Lay off the spare ribs.

Anyways, I was a little concerned about the weather, and whether or not this might effect my ability to get out of the cul de sac and journey to NPR's Chinatown studios. Yesterday looked like something out of one of this "end of the world" movies. My car was iced over, the roads looked like a hockey rink. Thankfully, the precip turned to pure rain, and by noon I was on my way downtown. Crisis diverted.

Since I'm trying to make a good impression, of course I leave the crib with plenty of time to spare (I'm working a half-day, from home). But wouldn't you know it, Murphy's Law kicks in, and since the ice is still pretty bad most rooftop spots are closed, and my usual Metro parking deck is full, leaving only the 2 Hour slots available. By now, it's getting dangerously late, and I'm getting jive nervous. Showing up late for your first time on a show is a really good way of ensuring there will be no second time.

I traverse the parking deck twice before it finally clicks that I'm not gonna find a spot, and leaving the car in two hour parking is a guaranteed $50 ticket. So, I leave the car running, and step out to try and finesse one of the parking attendants into letting me slide. With my medium complexion and occasionally wild hair, I can pass for Ethiopian in a pinch (I've done it before), so I try and win favor with the guy, whose nametag is an odd and unpronouncable combination of lots of consonants.

"C'mon man! Let me slide. I prolly won't be any more than 2 1/2 hours tops."

"Sorry, Two Hours. Anything more is a ticket."

So much for diasporic relations.

After one final pass through the lot, it's really really getting late, and the prospect that I might could actually miss the show has me really panicking. I finally bite the bullet, leaving the inexpensive Metro lot to valet park in another office building. On the way out, I mean mug Mr. Too Many Consonants as I drive by the admin office. He grills me back.

Marcus Garvey would be proud.

After leaving my car with the valet attendants (a whopping $12!), I hop the train and hope for the best timewise. I start fidding with my BlackBerry to take my mind off my inpending demise. My sportstalk mailing list at work is buzzing about this Roger Clemens nonsense, and it looks like Jason Kidd is about to be traded. It's great to know my co-workers are able to chime in on such important subjects while billing clueless saps $350/hour. I'm sure our CEO is somewhere smiling about that one.

Alas, my Red Line commute to Gallery Place/Chinatown is quicker than expected, which leaves me time to grab a Grande Mocha Choco-Latte Iced Chai Green Tea with Soy and Vanilla from you-know-where. The walk to the angular NPR building (pictured above) is short and uneventful from there. When I arrive in the lobby, the security folks just happen to be on the phone with my local contact (Farai's show is done live from NPR West in Culver City, CA), which I take as a good thing. They instruct me to cop a squat in the lobby and that my contact will be out to escort me up shortly.

"How long?" I ask.

"About 35 minutes. You're really early."

35 Minutes!?!? I thought I was late! Argghhh!

So, I lay low in the cushy leather chairs in NPR's main lobby for the next half hour, watching a pretty entertaining montage of photos of show hosts that is being projected on a wall. It's pretty slick stuff, and reminds me just how many hosts and shows are on NPR. There's Kojo Nmadi. And Michele Martin. And Farai, smiling like she has the greatest job in the world. There are literally hundreds of these things. In the interest of full disclosure: I don't listen to NPR much at all. Maybe I should.

Anyways, as I'm perusing my crib sheet for the 128th time, I finally hear myself called.

"Jay Andrews?" says an affable Anthony Anderson looking dude from behind the security door. Since I'm the only one waiting, I assume that's me, mangled last name and all. I follow the dude upstairs, into the studio, and suddenly it hits me. I need a bio break.

Darn that Grande Mocha Choco-Latte Iced Chai Green Tea with Soy and Vanilla!

After getting that out of the way, I settle into the soundbooth, and am immediately greeted by the voice of the NPR producer who recruited me for the show booming through my headset.

"Greetings, Jay. Tell us how the weather in DC is today."

"Uhhh, it's still pretty icy, and blah blah blah..." I say, prattling on and about for a few seconds until I realize this is nothing more than a sound check. Next thing I know, there's some crunk/hyphy music cued, and the Blogger's Rountable segment, which closes the show, begins. Farai goes through some basic setup, running through the list of hot topics (politricks, Nas, black bloggers on the come up) that I'd cribbed the night before. I have my written list of "zingers" rared and ready. Then she throws the first softball to me and catches me completely off guard.

I expected a question about the Democratic race, specifically something about the Potomac Primary, but Farai asks me a question about how the possibilty of Obama winning is becoming realer for many voters now. Without really thinking, I launch into a nonspecific rant about how many black weren't checking for Obama until the Clintons started acting up, and how the momentum from Iowa, SC, and Super Tuesday is now convincing many to get on board. It's technically a good answer, but midway through talking, I realize that Farai intentionally set me up, based on having read my Politricks of Dreaming post last week. Instead of knocking it out the park on my first at bat, it's a sacrifice fly to center field. Rats.

The convo shifts to my co-guests, Carmen from AllAboutRace and DJ Black Adam over the next few minutes. They cover the prediscussed items about Obama's momentum, whether or not attacking family members of candidates is off limits, and how urban colloquialisms like "Pimpin'" and "Bling Bling" have jumped the shark into MSM. This goes on for like 4-5 minutes, as Farai goes back and forth between Carmen and DJ Adam repeatedly. I'm beginning to wonder if she just might could have forgotten I was on the phone. When the topic turns to Nas, and she cues Adam for another blurb, I'm really convinced I've been ethered on air. That lazy, unthoughtful and unsightful first answer has pretty much ruined my radio career before it starts. I try to laugh extra loud after one of Adam's quips, and contemplate just plain butting in to reassert myself. The ship be sinkin'.

Then, suddenly, like the consumate pro she is, Farai (who clearly knows what she's doing and is in total control of the guests and clock at all times) kicks the Nas question over to me. This is my opportunity to regain my footing.

I go with my prewritten quips...

"Nas hasn't made a good album since the Clinton Administration." I get some giggles on the other line. Base hit.

"When your album titles are more exciting than your actual albums, you've really got a problem." More giggles. Double.

"We can't expect anything thought provoking from a guy who bases his political opinions off forwarded chain emails." Outright laughter. Triple.

"What's he gonna rap about next? Getting a check from Bill Gates for forwarding that email to everyone in his address book?" Crickets. Chirp. Strikeout.

Thankfully, Farai keeps the ball rolling by kicking it back to Carmen, who provides some more insight, and before I know it, our segment is wrapping up. Time was apparently short, so we didn't cover the Black Bloggers in MSM angle, which is good cause I didn't really have anything to say there.

Overall, I walked down Mass Avenue afterwards thinking my maiden voyage on National Public Radio was pretty good. Yeah, I had a hiccup or two, but with a brilliant host and two guests who carried my dead weight, I think the net result was still pretty good radio. Looking forward to the next time, assuming they invite me back.

Let's all cross our fingers.

Question: After listening to the show, do you think AB will be invited back?

Peep the Audio from NPR's News and Notes with Farai Chideya's Blogger's Roundtable: February 13th, 2008 []

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