alan chartock

sunday 12 june 2011

Alan is yet another public radio voice/personality who was a very large part of my own now vanished life. I’m going to discuss something childish and, to me, offensive that Alan’s been doing for the last two days, but don’t let that give you a wrong impression. He has many qualities that I both respect and admire. Like Bob Paquette, Alan is a tireless and passionate champion for his radio station (WAMC in Albany). Also like Bob, Alan does a great deal in the community outside the station doors. But another truth about Alan is that he is definitely a type-A personality (like me), and unlike Bob, who seemed to be one of the calmest people on the planet. Bitter irony that Alan and I, the type-A-heart-attack types, are alive today, while Bob, the soul of calm, is dead now two weeks.

I’ve been listening to the WAMC fund drive this week, something I haven’t done since my life was stolen three years ago. And it’s precisely because of Bob’s death that I’m doing it. I deeply miss Bob’s voice on my radio every weekday morning, a voice that was both beautiful in itself, and also a means for me to travel in my heart back to my own life that’s gone. I decided that the Albany fund drive would be another vehicle to carry me back to what I grieve every day.

Alan has always taken occasional pot-shots at Bob’s station (WFCR in Amherst MA). The two stations are more and more in competition for territory, listeners and donations with every year that’s passed since about 2006. And to a degree, I take those pot-shots at WFCR too. In 2006 at least one person was hired to WFCR whom I loathe, and who, I believe, set out to intensify this competition between the two stations. And this person found in the upper-level management of the station a few people who are weak and were only too willing to be dictated to and pushed around by this newcomer. This handful of individuals have made some changes since 2006 that Alan and I both find heinous, things that no public radio station ought to do. So I understand and share some of his vitriol, which he has been spitting out periodically over the last two days.

But Alan tends to forget all of the others who work at WFCR — dedicated, hard-working people just like his own staff. They don’t get to make the big decisions, they just work loyally and hard, year after year, the way Bob did. Because Bob Paquette died only 9 or 10 days before Alan’s fund drive began, I am both offended and disgusted by Alan’s current jibes at WFCR. That entire staff has just lost a friend, their most important on-air voice, and a tireless worker who had other functions at the station besides on-air hosting. I would think Alan would have the compassion and decency to just keep his trap shut about WFCR at this time of their loss. Their own live fund drive begins, I think, tomorrow, and this is the first time they have to do it without Bob.

If I had the ambition to call Alan, I’d say: Look, the people who make the nasty decisions at WFCR are a very few, and I’ll gladly spit at them with you another time. But Bob wasn’t one of them, so far as I know. He was a decent, kind man who worked as hard for his station as your staff works for theirs. He was as loyal to WFCR as you are to WAMC. And he was too young, at 55, to die of a heart attack a mere two weeks ago. Show some respect.

But I don’t have the ambition to call Alan, so I write this instead. This I can do without the anxiety attack that would come from talking to people I don’t know well. And though I called many people at four different radio stations back in my own life, PTSD and anxiety are much worse now, and now I can’t do such things. But back in the day, some of the radio people also called me. And, to whip out the irony again, two of the radio people who telephoned me in the past were Alan Chartock and Bob Paquette.

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read…    The death of Bob Paquette…   Being toward death

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the death of bob paquette

monday 30 may 2011

A man named Bob Paquette died this weekend. Don’t know yet whether it was on Saturday or Sunday. Don’t know how. Presumably these details will be forthcoming from the radio station where he worked. Our local public radio station, WFCR in Amherst.

I didn’t know Bob Paquette, but he was nonetheless an important part of my life, especially my own life, the one that a herd of slavering humans took from me more than three years ago…

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Now it’s several hours later, and the radio station has just given out more details. Bob was fifty-five, a gay man who left behind a husband (gay marriage is permitted in Massachusetts), died of “an apparent heart attack,” and did many more things in the community with his presence and his voice and his name-recognition than I ever knew about when he was alive. They still haven’t told us whether he died on Saturday or Sunday, and maybe that’s a little oversight they haven’t even noticed. They are reporters, yes, and should give us all the details. But they’re also his colleagues and friends, and they’re very upset. Their loss is on a completely different plane from mine.

The station has also sent those of us on its email list a photo of Bob. Finally, eleven and a half years after first hearing his voice, I know what he looked like. But now he’s gone.

In November 1999 I became a public radio listener. I could no longer afford cable TV, so I had turned to radio for sound and company, and within a year was so converted by public radio that I remain grateful to this day that financial duress drove me to the old fashioned (I thought then) notion of listening to radio when I wasn’t in a car. Bob’s voice was the second one I met as a new listener. That voice was beautiful, to my ear at least. And since he was the local host of NPR’s longest and flagship show, Morning Edition, I heard more of his voice than of any other at the Amherst station.

Over these radio years I’ve heard dozens and dozens of listeners call in during fund drives and say that their local radio personnel are “members of the family,” “good friends,” and other such phrases that describe bonding. And if such a sense of bonding can occur among people who have family and friends who love them, among people who are not drastically isolated and alone, imagine how much more these radio personnel mean to a person who is devastatingly all alone. I had my animals until three years ago, and that was a tremendous companionship, but in the realm of human beings, I have been for the most part unconscionably left alone by people since 1995, even by people who have professed to care about me.

Into this very deep void came the radio, and most especially the staffs of the three public radio stations I ultimately ended up using: Albany, New York; Keene, New Hampshire; and Amherst, Mass. Bob’s beautiful speaking voice, his sense of humor and his constant presence, the stability of it, were a huge part of what public radio poured into the void for me. His voice was one of my six absolute favorites on all of public radio, both local and national (the others, still living as far as I know, were Susan Forbes Hanson, Priscilla Drucker, John Montanari, Lisa Simione, and Mary Darcy). His voice every weekday morning from 5-9, and in the afternoons on occasional news spots, and paired with a co-worker’s during fund drives, was like a friend talking to me every day, a friend I could count on. His voice was a part of my own life, the one now gone.

Of course I feel the sadness that any listener who never actually met Bob, never knew him in any way but the radio way, would have. Fifty-five is too soon to go. I wince these last two mornings not hearing him talk to me over the airwaves. I can empathize with the amplified grief his friends and loved ones feel. But for me there is an element of loss that is unique, and is also, I’m fully aware of this, selfish: Bob Paquette’s voice and personality coming to me over the radio were a large mosaic tile in the larger work that was my own life. Many, many tiles were stolen from that picture in 2008. So many that the picture no longer exists in any recognizable form. Bob was one of the tiles I had left, since Morning Edition is one of the few radio shows I can still listen to now that my animals are gone. My grief is for that as well: one piece of the very few that remained to me now taken, leaving even less of my own life for me to touch in this new, barren existence that is mine now. Made more barren by the loss of a radio friend, a companion and stable constant whom I never even truly met.

I miss you, Bob Paquette.

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read…   Alan shartock…   Being toward death

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