Radio Days

by Pam

[audio:Wilco – JesusEtc.mp3|titles=Wilco: Jesus Etc.]
I douse myself in my favorite perfume, Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, in an attempt to remind some part of my brain that there is another world out there…somewhere, though right now it seems very far off. After having been here four months, I’m hitting that place where I really can’t really imagine another eight months of this hellish surrealism.

“I want to go home,” I say to Phil, who is still in bed at 2 p.m. on this Saturday afternoon.

Sleeping is part of his new regimen for quitting smoking. Actually, it’s the whole thing: staying in bed, sleeping it off. Any of the triggers that would normally cause him to chain smoke three cigarettes now cause him to fall asleep. He’s been narcoleptic for the past six days, twelve hours and twenty-seven minutes. I’ve been an official non-smoker for two weeks now and my new vice is complaining.

“Home just for a couple of weeks,” I clarify. “Just to push the reset button.”

“I don’t know,” he says, skeptically, “It sounds a bit like cheating. We said we’d be here a year.”

“I didn’t know it was a contest.”

“Honey, you can do as you like, you’re not my prisoner in India,” he says, as he rolls over and continues to Not Smoke.

His reaction, of course, infuriates me, and makes me want to smoke. I’ll never understand why men can find communicating so difficult, and by communicating, I mean: quietly listening to me complain, then saying in a gentle loving tone, “I’m sorry you feel bad sweetheart. Come here, let me give you a hug.”

Depression is an all too familiar state for me, and one that I’ve learned to push up against in different ways. Today my plan of action is to lie on the rooftop in a bikini and listen to my iPod like I’m fifteen.

I listen to a playlist from my first radio show, “Sad Guys with Guitars,” from back when the radio station was still in the closet of the Dark Room Theater. It has been years since I’ve heard a lot of these songs, and the memories come flooding back. The first thrill of pumping my favorite music out over the airwaves. My wavering voice, leaving the mic on at inopportune times and playing a whole set on mute. Deconstructing every show after the fact and learning to be better. I learned to speak, and not to giggle, to not get too close to the mic, and to act as if I’m talking to just one listener on a lonely midnight road trip.

Radio is addictive. After Sad Guys with Guitars, I started Pixie’s Bordello, which ran for two years, then came two years of Thursday and Friday morning smartassery with Suspect Advice with Pixie and Maggie. After a short-lived attempt to walk away from the radio station, Maggie and I started doing Charm School on Friday nights, which quickly turned into a great excuse to ruin everyone’s weekend by staying out till 4 a.m. I can’t believe that something so deep in my blood is now just a part of my past. I miss radio. I miss burritos. I miss Maggie, and my family. I miss the smell of ocean in the air. I miss soymilk and Brazilian dance. I miss San Francisco. I miss home.

I stare at the blue sky and feel like I could be anywhere, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Bangalore, Santa Cruz. I close my eyes and see an animated movie of myself in bold flat colors. A cartoon bikini-me floating, being stretched in several directions until I split into five small versions of me amidst a frenzy of squiggly lines and wobbly hearts that pulsate getting larger then smaller in heartbeat time. “Jesus Etc.,” by Wilco, becomes the soundtrack to my private movie.

An obscure song by Aidan Hawken, an obscure San Francisco musician, comes on and I open my eyes. There are two spectacular dragonflies dancing in the air three feet above me. Beyond the dragonflies there are eagles. Two beautiful brown eagles with five-foot wingspans carving giant arcs in the blue sky. Damn, I love this song, I love all these songs. It’s been ages since I’ve taken the time to listen to my music. I watch the creatures flying and the palm trees moving in the wind and my fresh laundry drying in the sun, and I think that I’ll stay right here and listen to my three-thousand, four-hundred and seventy-two reasons to stay in India.

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7 Responses to “Radio Days”

  1. Irenie Beanie says:

    oh pammy… it’s important to get away. My sister and her husband made a point of getting out of India every now and then to save their sanity. Even Tobias gets out of Cambodia every few months… otherwise you go mental.

    Phil, give Pammy a hug now and you two take off to Europe for as long as you can afford. it’s closer, she still gets to confirm the existence of the first world and you not feel like you’re cheating.

  2. lauralee says:

    Quitting smoking is hard enough without the emotional rigors associated with India. I salute you both! And I’ll think good thoughts for you, too.

  3. Phil says:

    Irene, Laura…

    Great advice. And I will consider it – as long as I don’t have to “communicate” – ;)

  4. Dwayne says:

    It’s definitely tough – India can be such a liberating experience and a completely wretched one at the same time. I’ve never lived there for any longer than a few weeks, but even toward the end of those trips it was drugs keeping my mind off stuff, or the approaching date to head home. I salute you both for sticking it out….I think its admirable and a worthwhile experience even though 8 months must seem like an eternity.

  5. scott says:

    Dear one,

    Go to Sai Baba, he will take away your anguish, if you give him your worries he will give you something wonderful in return. Trust me, Just try. When you are at your wits end (India will turn you upside down and around similar to being inside a washing machine), call on him, he will not let you down, if you sincerely call. What have you got to lose? You must go to India with a strong purpose otherwise you will lose your way and come apart.

    just try, I guarantee the moment you let go and offer all the pain to Him, you will feel His love.


  6. John Feld says:

    A few days in Stockholm or Copenhagen will do the trick. Go beyond the touristy centers of Rome or Athens. London is good for the language.
    Vist a supermarket, go out to eat, listen to the symphony, take a walk in the park with NO beggars, and LEAVE all your Indian clothes behind.
    For me the Osho commune in Pune was like a visit to the West, but I would not recommend an ashram to anyone. You have to want to go …
    And I love Aiden Hawken.
    A short getaway is very refreshing. Even if only to smell clean air again.

  7. Pamela says:

    Thank for all your ideas people, much appreciated. The feeling to flee has passed for the moment, but I’m looking forward to a change of scenery at some point.