True confession: I once hated CBC Radio with a passion. It seems almost un-Canadian to say that, I know. My dislike of our national broadcaster began when I was a kid on long car trips at night across British Columbia. Why, I wondered, would anyone want to listen to talking on the radio instead of the latest music? Booooring.
When I became a creative writing student at the University of Victoria, I thought I should give the lofty CBC another try because so many of the writers I admired swore by it. I tried for years. My dislike was sealed again when a CBC commentator (maybe Peter Gzowski) visited a chicken barn on the prairies and recorded the sounds of chickens being slaughtered so we city folks could appreciate where our meat comes from. I abandoned CBC for years after that.
My business partner Maggie looooves CBC. On a car trip up the coast of Vancouver Island she convinced me to give it another try. “It’s got better. Really it has,” she told me. I found CBC on the radio and tuned in to someone playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a teacup somewhere in the Maritimes.
I turned and gave Maggie a dead stare. “Oh, dear,” she said and pursed her lips.
But last year, something changed for me. As my mom was dying of cancer, I spent many hours on the road in my car, driving from the Tsawwassen ferry terminal to the ironically named town of Hope, often in the dark and the pouring rain. Listening to most music just made me cry, so I turned to CBC.
The voices were comforting as I drove, week after week, through the winter rain to the hospice, counting telephone poles jutting out of the farming landscape like monstrous crosses. I listened to Barbara Budd and Mary Lou Finlay. Their voices felt like the voices of friends, very smart friends.
I began to appreciate radio documentaries and how sound is so powerful to story — someone clearing their throat, rainfall, heels on the pavement, a barking dog, a breath. Depending on the time of day I would often tune into The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti (I can’t live without it now!), Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald and, well, almost everything. I hate to admit it, but I even listen at work. When some old guy is on the radio banging on a heritage fiddle, I listen.
“Ah, Canadian heritage,” I think to myself, secretly wondering what the hell is happening to me. Sometimes I change the station for a while and check out Kings of Leon on The Zone just to prove it isn’t an “age thing”.
At first, I wouldn’t admit to anyone that I listened to CBC Radio. After all, I’d spent so many years dissing it. So I began to play a game. When all the CBC-lovers would gather to talk over the morning’s edition of The Current, I’d chime in with my secret knowledge.
“Oh, I just heard it somewhere,” I’d say with a grin. People thought my IQ had gone up. It was nice.
Finally, after many months of playing my secret game, I confessed my new love. It was liberating. I had joined an exclusive club of people who loved the opening music for the CBC newscast and The Current.
These days, I no longer make fun of radio freaks. I’ve stopped yawning when someone mentions CBC and I sometimes find myself saying, “Hey, did you hear…?” Oh, I still have my slag-CBC moments. Some things are just too hard to take, usually if they involve a didgeridoo or banjo. But all in all, I’m a convert.
I’m sure I make my friends gag when I now extol the virtues of CBC Radio One, but so far only one of them has said, “See, I told you so. You act like you discovered it!”
And it’s true, I do act like CBC Radio is my discovery. In a way, it is.
“keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel” Dawn Ashley @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Pole Perspective” etohaholic @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Editor’s Choice”, CBC.ca
Previously Published by www.blackdotdiary.com, September 30, 2009. With Permission.