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"Shorts, Outtakes and Rants"

Most weeks I write a column for my paper; occasionally my daughter writes one. Usually they're focused at local issues, but every now and then I come up with one that I think Spearfish Lake Tales readers would find interesting, so I post them on the Spearfish Lake Tales Message Board. Since I've been neglecting "Shorts, Outtakes and Rants" recently, I decided to repost a few of them here, like this one. I hope you enjoy it! -- Wes

Better Than Robert

August 4, 2013

It's after Midnight, it's been a long day and there's a good reason I have to be up for another hour. (It involves towels in the dryer, if you must know.)

This evening my wife and I drove up to a small speedway we particularly enjoy going to on nice warm summer Saturday evenings. Though the fields in the various heats and features were mostly on the smallish side, only one race was a real yawner. I took a camera with me, and for a while the light was just fantastic, so I got some good photos. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

Usually when my wife and I go somewhere we take her car. Now, she's one of those people who has to have the radio going before they start the vehicle. I'm not; driving time is thinking time for me, and I find most radio rather distracting at best. I can stand a little light background music so long as there are no words in English to bother me, so my car radio will go months between being turned on.

Unfortunately, my wife likes to listen to public radio, and not the kind of public radio stations that play a lot of classical music, either. Sometimes the news feature stories are mildly interesting but I'd rather not hear them. But we made it to the track not much the worse for wear. Also unfortunately, we got to the track just before "Prairie Home Companion" came on. That show is an exception to my rule, but my wife detests it. Go figure.

The races went a little late, and it was just before eleven when we got heading home, to a particularly stupid comedy cut coming over the speaker. We couldn't have been more than a couple miles from the track when the next show came on: a rebroadcast of today's BBC World Program, which even my English son-in-law refers to as being "normally a bit dry" in true British understatement. The announcer started out, "In this hour we will examine the effects that the re-election of Robert Mugabe will have in Rhodesia . . ."

Now, I'm sure that somewhere in the listening range of the radio station there must have been someone who would be mildly interested in that topic, but I'd bet good money that wouldn't include anyone driving home from a rather good short-track race in rural Michigan. There are limits, and Robert Mugabe is well beyond them. I started fiddling with the radio, and finally found the "seek" button. The first good station I came to had some pretty good music on it, although I find it difficult to describe. Light, but with a good beat, and somehow interesting; the singing was odd but totally unintelligible.

"What's this?" my wife asked.

"Beats me," I said. "But it beats hell out of Robert Mugabe." We listened to the next couple cuts, one of which wasn't bad, sort of putting me in mind of old-time British Invasion music, and one that had an obnoxious, heavy beat and someone of indeterminate sex yowling like a cat in heat. Finally, the station identifier came on, a whispered "Alternative" with lots of reverb. That was it: an alternative rock station. I didn't even know we had one of them around here.

Now, this wouldn't be my normal listening choice, but I was tired and a little light classical, if I could have found it, would probably have put me to sleep. It turned out that maybe one out of five cuts was pretty interesting, if not something I would listen to on a regular basis. Most of the rest were really not my cup of tea. Every now and then there would be something so obnoxious that I would have been tempted to hit the "seek" button again, except that every time I started to consider it, the words "Robert Mugabe" came to mind and I would decide to endure to the next tune.

But the neat thing was there was only about one two-minute block of commercials in the hour drive home, and believe me, radio commercials can send my finger to the "seek" button just about more quickly than anything else. (And, for those not familiar with Public Radio, the "non-commercials" they have are often worse than the regular kind.) These commercials, well, they were hard to even tell they were commercials at first.

So, all in all an interesting experience, and the right music to keep me awake on a long drive. Besides, once in a while it's probably good to get out of our comfort zones and see what else might be out there. I might even tune into the station again sometime, perhaps on another trip home from a race. After all, it's a safe bet that the words "Robert Mugabe" will never be mentioned . . .

The dryer ought to be done by now and there's a pillow calling me.

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