31 August 2012

The end of summer

The end of summer

For years, my summer Sunday evening routine involved sitting on the front porch, with a book and maybe some wine, watching the neighborhood kids being kids, and listening to the radio.  Until recently, Buffalo was blessed with two NPR stations.  With those stations, I had choices for my listening pleasure.  I could listen to This American Life, Living on Earth, Tech Nation, To the Best of Our Knowledge, and other intelligent programs.  They were a nice way to relax, but also to learn something. The Sunday evening before Labor Day became my "end of summer" ritual. The upcoming Sunday evenings will be spent grading papers, revising lessons, and the other chores of a typical teacher. The radio might be on, but I can't always listen as intently as I can during the summer. So I would experience a mindshift when I turned off the radio that final summer Sunday, when the quickening twilight reminded me that the days are shorter, that the routine of the school year was ahead.  It was an evening that I both dreaded and looked forward to.

This year, things changed. The two stations merged into one, with weekend programming becoming blues music. Those programs I like are no longer available at those times.  And listening to podcasts is not the same. There is a lose of immediacy, the feeling that if I don't listen now, I might miss something good. The current segment playing on the radio might not be too interesting, but the next one might be. For example, looking at the podcasts available for This American Life, I probably would think the episode with this description, "For Father's Day, stories about fathers going out of their way to protect their kids, and kids going out of their way to protect their fathers",would not be of interest to me, and I probably would not download it. However, since I had listened to that show live, I got to hear the tale of a single father trying to save his pre-teen daughter from disappointment. Even though she did not say it, I got the impression the daughter, in between her sighs, really appreciated her father showing how much he cared, a story best told via radio. It was tales like that that made my summer Sunday evenings a delight of discovery.

 So this year, as I sit on the porch, I will be listening not to the radio, but to a podcast, to programs that I have chosen. The shows will be just as enjoyable, but I will miss that feeling of child-like eagerness anticipating something completely unexpected coming from the radio.

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