Or, That’s What I Like: My Commute
For all the bitching and moaning I could do about my daily commute here in Los Angeles, I have to admit I kinda like it. I don’t have much time at home to watch television or read, so for me, the next best thing to doing nothing and getting something out of it is to sit in the car and get schooled in music, listen to morning DJs, “read” audiobooks or listen intently as some poor soul takes a ride on Howard Stern’s Sybian.
Mornings are an interesting time in LA. The weather is normally good, the traffic bad. For my sins, I spend between two and three hours a day “driving” and, honestly, my biggest worry is the gasoline bill. Looking for entertainment to bridge the gap between boredom and frustration, I take advantage of the merging technologies with me on the road every day.
FM radio, the first stop on the entertainment button, is usually Kevin and Bean on KROQ, with special attention paid to Ralph Garman’s showbiz report. If I miss it at the top of one hour, I catch it on the next. There is also the wonderfully funny Adam Corolla (who has lately been forced to co-opt the amazingly unfunny, uninteresting Danny Bonaduce — a man whose every sentence begins with the word “I”) with rants that are astounding in their accuracy while remaining hilarious.
Now, my journey starts to get interesting. When FM radio breaks down, as every “free” station takes a commercial break at the exact same time, I slip on some Sirius satellite radio. Of course, I only warm up with FM and dump it if my timing is off. With Sirius, the comfort zone starts to take over. Life is good.
Take it from me that Howard Stern, whatever else you may have heard, is worth the price of admission to the world of Sirius. Everything else you get with satellite is bonus: sports, music, political talk. The sports programming lacks Major League Baseball, sadly, and the music channels are wide ranging, but the sound is compressed; it’s not for audiophiles. If music is your sole reason to get Sirius, don’t. It’s for the on-air talent that you will see a return on your investment. Virtually every morning I sit in amusement as the FM DJs struggle to not say the wrong thing that could get their asses fined. On Howard and all the other satellite talk stations, it’s just a glorious free for all. Like if you had your best mates in a room and talked … normally.
The other bonu$ with Howard is the uncensored sex talk, on-air orgasms courtesy of the Sybian, and a general looseness about any and all topics. Sure, I can’t listen when my kid is in the car — we sometimes listen to Alt Nation, a Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco-heavy playlist that ain’t all that alternative — but I always manage at least 15 minutes once I’ve dropped him at school. Put it this way, by the time I get to work, I am awake!
Going home is another set of options altogether. I always have some new CDs to listen to, or my iPod is groaning under the weight of its musical ballast. So, like an in-car DJ, I dial between the FM dial, CD player, the iPod, and my other favorite Sirius station, Talk Left, where I can hear world put to rights by the wonderful leftie humorist Stephanie Miller and the acerbic Mike Malloy.
But wait, there’s more…
Lately I’ve become an apostle of sorts. Not in the religious sense (never!), but in the audiobook sense. Audible.com has got me hooked (thanks Kassia!) and I frequently download memoirs (i.e. Jay Mohr’s “Gasping for Airtime” and Julia Sweeney’s excellent “Letting Go of God”) or intelligent diatribes by the likes of Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. I’m not that interested in novels yet, but I’m sure that day will come.
My most recent conversion has been to the wonderful world of podcasting. The beauty of podcasting is that it makes it possible to never miss your favorite radio shows ever again. Unless you are lazy of course. Every day I get the free version of the Thom Hartmann Show, Stephanie Miller’s set pieces like Right Wing World and Tinsel Talk, and then weekly pieces such as KCRW’s Martini Shot and Left, Right and Center. There are also some great news shows from the BBC, like World Today. (Like millions of others, I started with the Ricky Gervais podcasts and discovered I really, really liked it.)
So, with time tight, commutes long and information and entertainment available for the asking, it makes sense to use one’s time wisely and get the most out of what’s out there. After all, I could be sitting in an old car with AM radio and be forced to listen to KFI or something else equally godawful. The main problem with AM radio is I defy anyone to randomly turn to a station in the morning and catch the on-air talent. There is, at most, 25 minutes of content per hour. Just imagine the circle of hell where you have 35 minutes of ads, news and traffic. The mind reels.