Let’s Play 19 Questions with David Benedetto


In case you don’t know who (Louis) David Benedetto is, I’ll give you some clues. 

While receiving your reading assignment, have you heard  a melodic humming or a perfectly on-pitch verse of an unidentifiable song coming from the back table? That singer was David.  Have you found yourself puzzling over the meaning of the design on an indie band T-shirt, worn by a lanky guy with curly red hair?  Those cryptic shirts (and the auburn locks) belong to David.  Have you noticed a serious, (and seriously freckled) fellow sipping coffee and wearing headphones while he concentrates on his laptop screen?   Yep, that’s he.  Have you caught Behind The Mic, the new series of interviews with some of WRBH’s favorite readers, and marveled at the intelligence, ease, and friendliness of the interviewer?  Once again, David.  And lastly, have you tuned in to Writers’ Forum and heard authors like Chang Rae Lee, David Armand, Laura Lane McNeal, JoJo Moyes and Michael Pitre talking with an earnest host who asks interesting, encouraging questions?  That’s also David…and Sherry Alexander, actually.  As co-hosts, they both excel at this interview business, but only one of them boasted the nickname “Dirty Dave” in college.  More on that later.

David has been a wonderful addition to the station–with his quick laugh, easygoing nature and expansive knowledge of books, he’s had no problem fitting in with the staff and the readers.  An additional asset: he’s also a wine and beer connoisseur, and can give excellent advice on which wines to choose if you’re planning a dinner party anytime soon. In order to learn even more about this enigmatic young man, I took his usual role of interviewer and asked him 19 questions.

Why 19, you ask?  Well, he’s a bit shy, so I figured I’d ask a bit shy of 20.

1. Where did you grow up? 

I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, the Garden District to be exact.

2. What’s your favorite childhood memory? 

My house is on the route for the annual Baton Rouge St. Patrick’s Day parade (the only parade Baton Rouge really does well.)  My parents usually had an open house party where neighbors, friends and family would all show up.  My mom would cook a huge batch of red beans, we’d ask people to bring dessert and drinks, and the kids would play an all-day basketball game outside.  it was and is the best thing.

3. Where did you go to school and what was your major?
I went to LSU and was an English Creative Writing Major. ( I was almost a German minor as well,  but I was missing a credit or two.)
4. Do you have any nicknames? 
I go by Dave, Dave-O, Dirty Dave (from my days at KLSU Radio).  Some people have tried “Davey” on me, but I’m not a huge fan of it.
5. Was there a class you really hated? Which class did you really love? 
Despite being interested in all the concepts, I’ve never been the biggest Math fan.  I hated Algebra ll the most, I think.  I really enjoyed my American and English AP classes in high school, and in college I loved my Short Fiction Writing and the History of Sex and Violence in Film classes.  I also took a great class in Germany called Post 9/11 Literature which was amazing.
6. Where did you work before WRBH? What job was most interesting? 
I worked at another radio station in Baton Rouge called KLSU for 3 years.  I did everything under the sun there, but my favorite job was Music Director.
7. If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
  I would love to be a music producer, CIA agent, touring guitarist, photo-journalist, or brewer of excellent beer.
8. What kind of music do you like?
  Anything that can make me feel something, whether it’s Beyonce’s “XO” or Chopin’s Nocturnes or Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso” or Feist’s “Undiscovered First”.  Being a musician and songwriter myself, I’m a huge fan of those artists that understand the context of their music and what came before and who attempt to introduce new ideas or subvert old ones.  My Dad was a choir director, so I grew up with a variety of church music and I’m a big fan of choral music as well.
9. What are your favorite foods?
Greek and Lebanese (chicken Shwarma and gyros salad with a side of tzatziki and hummus.)  Eggplant Parmesan from Mandina’s. A medium rare burger with arugula, cheddar, and tomato.  Crystal hot sauce.  Filipino adobo.  An everything bagel with cream cheese.  A good chicken Caesar salad.  Most kinds of soup, and also blueberries.
10. What is your definition of a perfect weekend?
One where you don’t feel rushed, where you wake up early enough so that you feel like you didn’t waste the day, when you can take your time with a couple cups of coffee and decide whether you want to make the day an adventure or whether you want to spend some time by yourself.
11. What are you reading right now? Name a few favorite books/authors.
I am reading UNDERWORLD by Don DeLillo, THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH, (I’m a history buff) QUEEN SUGAR by Natalie Baszile (which I am loving so far).  My favorite authors are Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aimee Bender, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Todd VanDerWeff (a TV critic) and Jerika Marchan (she’ll hate that I put her on my list, ha ha!)
12. Do you have any pet peeves?
I dislike it when people try incredibly hard to be “cool” or be the most interesting person in the room.  Fake people annoy me.
13. What do you most dislike in other people? 
See above answer.
14. What is your favorite joke?
“Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?  It was dead.”
15. How would you describe yourself in three words?
Overly Optimistic Skeptic
16. If you could only take three things to a desert island, what would they be?
My dad’s acoustic guitar, a tent, and something to read (probably 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE). Maybe by the time I’m rescued I’ll have figured out how to write like Marquez.
17. Picture yourself in ten years.  Where are you and what are you doing? 
Having a glass of bourbon at bar with new and old friends, telling old stories and exchanging new ones.  Laughing.  I hope to do that every year, actually.
18. You have a magic wand that can change one thing about yourself.  What do you change?
I’d use it to install a super- extrovert button  I’m quite personable, but a lot of social interaction for a prolonged period of time drains me.  The super-extrovert button could be switched on at any time and I’d never feel drained when it’s in operation.
19. Now, can you tell us something we don’t know about you? 
Since the age of five, I’ve managed to go to somewhere between 300 and 500 concerts/music festivals/ performances in a variety of cities in the United States and four other countries.  However, I will never live down my very first concert (not counting church or JazzFest): the Backstreet Boys Live in New Orleans (the next one I went to was Bruce Springsteen, so I feel a bit redeemed at this point.  Or at least I tell myself that.)
Now that you know a little bit more about David, feel free to tell him hello when you see him working on his laptop at the back table or hear him humming a song.  But… just be aware that the song is Bruce Springsteen’s BORN TO RUN, and not the Backstreet Boys’ I WANT IT THAT WAY.


Some Things I (May) Know For Sure In Saying Farewell to Rachel



As most of our monthly magazine readers know, OPRAH has a feature in which Ms. Winfrey offers us her views and opinions on things that are important in her world, a sort of public service announcement of all she deems worthy of her attention and therefore, ours.  This column is called “Things I Know For Sure”, and every time I program the magazine I always marvel that she is bold enough to make a long list twelve times a year that fills us in on what she believes are irrefutable truths.  Granted, some of the things she knows for sure are things that just about everyone knows and even take for granted, such as, “We all want to feel like we matter to somebody.”  Um, yes, Oprah, obviously that is quite true. But what if Oprah actually told us some things she knows for sure that are more specific, instead of generalizations that pertain to everyone?  For instance, if she revealed information that we might not find out otherwise, like “Gayle likes to eat frozen circus peanuts as a snack” or “Sometimes Steadman tries on my shoes”?   I’d look forward to reading her column a lot more every month if she told me something a little more interesting than the equivalent of “All you need is love.”   So, in the spirit of compiling lists and sharing truths, I’m taking on Oprah’s column in this blog and revealing ten things I know for (pretty) sure about Rachel Stickney:

1. She has great hair, and it grows really fast.  Also, her eyes are a remarkably vivid shade of blue

2. She is very close to her family, particularly her mother and father.

3. Three years ago, when she first became the event coordinator at WRBH, she could not cook.  Now she creates fabulous French meals with friends and even won the coveted Porkpourri award at this year’s Hogs for the Cause, for her adorably delicious Piggy Macarons.

4. Rachel is terrific at all things technological, and is rarely without her phone.

5. A few of the many things she loves are the Saints, Talbot’s, Paris, fashion, JazzFest, babies, riding in Muses, and vanilla more than chocolate.

6. She has an envy-inducing collection of purses, including a colorful Tory Burch tote and an elegant Valentino Red bag.

7. She hates cilantro.  Green onions, too.  Bad weather, especially loud thunderstorms with too-close flashes of lightning, scare her.

8. When she was a child and her parents took her to Blockbuster to rent movies, she always picked “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”.  Okay, I’m not COMPLETELY certain that is the correct title, but I do know it was about princesses, and it was always the same movie.

9. She is organized, efficient, neat, and capable, and every day when she left WRBH at noon she headed out to her second job at the family shop, Pralines by Jean and Cupcakes Too. And lastly…

10.  She is leaving WRBH to accept a job at Tulane, and we will miss her.

I also asked Rachel a few questions for the blog, in order to get HER “What I Know For Sure”
answers, and here they are:

1. How long have you been at WRBH?  I have worked here for nearly 3 years. August would be my 3 year anniversary at WRBH.

2. What has been your favorite part of the job? My favorite part of the job has been the opportunity to help bring about A Blind Taste, our new, wonderful fundraiser to WRBH. It was such a success last year and I really enjoyed working on that inaugural event. I am so excited to see how it continues to grow over time.
3. Tell me one of your best memories of working here.  I think one of my best memories working here was when Wendell Pierce came in to read “The Gift of the Magi” for our Holiday Story program. I had corresponded with his manager for several weeks to set up a time and date that worked for him, and he was on kind of a tight schedule when he was coming. He ended up enjoying it so much that he asked us to find “The Birds for Christmas” so he could read that as well. I think he stayed about an hour over his scheduled time. He was so gracious and kind and it was just a really fun day. His two stories are some of my favorites out of a wonderful collection of Holiday stories that we have.

4.  What will you miss the most? I will miss the people the most. I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with so many lovely people in my time here. It is a great office staff and amazing volunteers. I have also been incredibly blessed to work with great event committees over the years. I feel like I have made some great friends here and I will sincerely miss all of the people that I’ve met.
5. Describe your new job. I will be a Senior Program Coordinator in Annual Giving, working specifically with the Director of the Tulane Fund Gift Clubs.

6. Any parting advice for your replacement?

My biggest advice for my replacement is to have fun, be organized, and be adaptable. This is a really fun position and you have the opportunity to work with a lot of great people. Enjoy it, but be organized! People might look at you like you are a bit crazy sometimes, but you have to be super organized to make sure all of your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed. There are so many elements at play in our events that if you aren’t organized, it will show. My final bit of advice is to be adaptable. Things won’t always go exactly as you planned (trust me, I know this–we had rain the day of the golf tournament every year I was here!) but you have to be able to adapt when that happens. It can be hard when you put so much into planning something and it doesn’t go exactly as you’d like it to, but you have to be okay with that!
Everyone who knows Rachel knows that she will be successful in her new position, and that if there are any Saints fans in her department at Tulane there will be a lot of lively discussions happening in the fall.  We all wish her the best, and fondly bid her farewell.  I also want to pass this last bit of advice on to her from Oprah herself, from her “Top Twenty Things I Know for Sure” list.  Here is number 2:   “You define your own life.  Don’t let other people write your script.”  and number 14: “Find a way to get paid for doing what you love.  Then every paycheck will be a bonus.”
Actually, I think she already knows both of them…for sure.

Be a Fairy Godmother, and Grant Us Three Wishes


WISH NUMBER 1:  Ever imagined you had a magic wand and could just close your eyes, wave it around, and suddenly everything is made more beautiful?  Wouldn’t you love to be able to turn less into more and convert pumpkins into carriages, mice into footmen, and rags into ballgowns? Well, on this special day, you can (figuratively) do something magical.  Today you have the power to be a fairy godmother, and WRBH would be honored to be your Cinderella    Today, May 6th, is the day you’ve been hearing about for weeks: GiveNola Day, where any donation you make over $10 dollars to WRBH receives an extra bit of matching money.  If you’ve ever thought about donating, but didn’t know how far your money would go, now is the perfect time to pull out that credit card because your money has more weight today.  You have until midnight tonight to use your special powers to do good works and transform your money into something more, and just like Cinderella, WRBH would be so grateful to get a chance to go to the ball.  Here’s how:



 WISH NUMBER 2:  Want that wonderful feeling to last?  There’s a way to keep it going throughout the year, and this is as easy as pie, as easy as one two three, as easy as buying on Amazon (which for me, unfortunately is a bit TOO easy.)  I’ll let David Benedetto tell you how you can continue to be a fairy godmother for WRBH:




Greetings Subscribers!


WRBH Reading Radio has just become a member on AmazonSmile providing our listeners a way to support the station with only the click of a button. 

What is AmazonSmile?

AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. 

How do I shop at AmazonSmile?

To shop at AmazonSmile simply go to smile.amazon.com from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You may also want to add a bookmark to AmazonSmile to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.

How do I select WRBH when shopping on AmazonSmile?

On your first visit to AmazonSmile, you need to search for and select WRBH’s profile to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. We will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make on AmazonSmile will result in a donation.

Miscellaneous Information:  

For each eligible purchase you make on AmazonSmile, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the total cost to WRBH. Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages. You can also use the same account on Amazon.com and AmazonSmile. Your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are also the same. For more information, visit this link: 


Signing up for AmazonSmile will only take five minutes of your time and help to fund WRBH’s continued presence on the New Orleans airwaves. Remember, every little bit counts. If you have any questions, please send an email to David@wrbh.org                                                          
WISH NUMBER 3:  And finally,  The Pat Browne Jr. Golf Tournament is on Friday, May 9th at the Audubon Golf Course, and we would for you to take some time out of your busy schedules and support us.  Registration and lunch begins at 12:30 p.m., with the shotgun start commencing at 1:30 pm.  It’s going to be a wonderful day (believe me, we’ve been watching the weather reports and praying that we won’t experience monsoon season in one day like last year…and the year before that) and with the prospect of sunshine and clear skies we’re really anticipating a delightful event.  There’s still time to enter to play in the tournament, sponsorships are still available, and this year offers some different and delightful incentives to participate, such as a sandwich lunch from Subway and the Mellow Mushroom, ice cold beer from NolaBrew, delectable pralines, and to cool off, frosty sno-balls  There will also be a crawfish boil and raw oyster bar at the completion of play.  Our prizes are pretty spectacular, too: 3rd place gets Perlis gift certificates, 2nd prize is tasting room passes for Tales of the Cocktail, and 1st place receives golf and a one night stay at the Grand Bear in Biloxi.  What makes this tournament so special, though, is the great man who inspired it all–Pat Browne, who in 1966, after being a stellar all-around athlete and gifted golfer, lost his sight in an automobile accident but never stopped achieving the goals he had set for himself throughout his life– becoming a trial lawyer, the chairman of a local homestead association, and then  winning the U.S. Blind Golf Association National Championship 23 times.  His son, Pat Browne Jr., is the tournament chair this year, and we are so proud that he is keeping his family tradition going and honoring his father in this way. 
If you are interested in participating in our tournament, please call Natalia Gonzalez at 504-899-1144 or contact her via email at natalia@wrbh.org   Our fax number is 504-899-1165.

The Scuttleblog: A Local Publication



   Along with the comprehensive daily schedule that Rachel posts every day on our Facebook wall, we also have a generic paper schedule listing the times and names of all of our programs.  It doesn’t state which midday short story or monthly magazine is being aired on any particular day, it only states that one will be broadcast at the time listed.  This is usually sent to the listeners who call the station to ask for a hard copy or don’t have a computer handy (or perhaps just don’t particularly like looking things up on Facebook.)  In addition, we keep a stack of them at the front desk for the occasional curious visitors who drop by, along with an explanation about the work we do and how we fulfill our mission statement.  It also comes in handy when a guest is interviewed for either Writers’ Forum, Public Affairs, or The Chef Show; I usually write the dates down for them along with the website address so they can easily see when they will be on the air, and so they can tell out of town listeners when to tune in to catch their interviews,

     Occasionally the name of one particular program catches the eye of someone perusing the schedule–listed at 12 noon on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is the Local Pub.  “Pub” is short for publication, much to the disappointment of many inquiring minds, who hope that perhaps we carry a show extolling the virtues and vices of some of New Orleans’ best bars and dives (which may actually be a pretty good idea, now that I think about it.)  Usually the lineup for the Local Publication program follows a pattern–on Mondays, our audience can hear stories from The Lens, an online news source with breaking political and community interest stories; on Wednesdays, GAMBIT, the free news and special interest tabloid found throughout New Orleans in coffee shops and grocery stores is aired; and on Thursdays, you can hear City Business, which as it’s name suggests, informs our listeners on what’s happening throughout the city on the business, law, tourism and service industry side of things.  The Tuesday version of the Local Pub is potluck (or Russian roulette?) because a wide variety of interesting and dissimilar materials are read: on any given Tuesday you might hear Offbeat, the New Orleans music magazine; Where Y’at? filled with reviews, interviews, and aimed at a “funky hipster” audience; Preservation in Print, the carefully researched and well written architecture and building history magazine; NOLA Baby and Child, a magazine aimed at parents in New Orleans, or Louisiana Health and Fitness, which focuses on keeping active and healthy in a place where every occasion is celebrated with lots and lots of good things to eat. The list is rounded out by a few others, such as Natural Awakenings, Breakthru Media, Art + Design, Amelie G., and New Orleans Living.  Of course, now that baseball season is in full swing, Local Pub has gone through a few minor adjustments.  We now broadcast the Coach’s show from Desi Vega’s Steakhouse every Monday at noon, so the Lens has been moved to Tuesday, making it the permanent publication for that day until we go back to our rotating schedule.

     Today I’m going to be borrowing an idea from our Wednesday Local Publication selection, the Gambit–the Scuttlebut column.  Written as a series of quick news briefs, the Scuttlebut offers tidbits of interesting information from around the city (and City Hall.)  We’ve had a few interesting things happen the past two weeks at WRBH (with more to come) so without further ado, I present:



As part of the Swine Krewe team, WRBH event planner Rachel Stickney took home the prestigious Porkpourri award at Hogs for the Cause, winning for her airy and delicious Piggy Macarons.  Although her mother, Jean Stickney, is the owner and confection creator at Pralines by Jean…and Cupcakes Too, and Rachel works part time at the shop, she is not a professional baker by any means.  In fact, she first made macarons (a French cookie made with almond meal and egg whites, not the heavy coconut macaroon associated with Passover) when she and her friend Jean Angelico decided to make a French meal on a whim.   By adding bacon and Steen’s syrup to her entry, she transformed the delicate cookie into something spectacular–and adorable, since each macaron sported a sweet smiling porcine grin, courtesy of a pastry pen.  You can find the recipe and more of the story here:  



Last week was a little different for our listening audience: instead of a midday short story on Tuesday and the poetry half hour on Wednesday, they were treated to an ethereal rendition of Under Milk Wood, performed by the Cripple Creek Theatre company, under the direction of former WRBH reader Emilie Whelan.  Mystical and mystifying, the 63 characters voiced in the radio play by Dylan Thomas took us on an amazing journey into the heart of the sad little sea town of Llareggub (read it backwards).  If you missed  last week’s beautifully produced work, you’re in luck, because it will re-air on Wednesday, April 16th at 11 pm.  There will even be a listening party at the Saturn bar on St. Claude Avenue, starting at 10:30 pm.  It’s open to the public, and food and drink will be provided.  RSVP to their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/264566547047542/

Additionally, Under Milk Wood will be broadcast on Easter Sunday, April 20th, at 7:30 pm. 


We’ve got a new book off the shelf beginning on April 14th: ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRET OF THE UNIVERSE written by Benjamin Alire Saenz and read beautifully by Crystal Hinds. You can listen to this uniquely inventive work by a terrific young-adult author at 2:00 pm and again at 8:30 pm on weekdays.  At once controversial and poignant, the novel tells the story of  two teenage boys who share a special friendship that changes their lives forever.

That’s all the Scuttleblog for now–I’ll be filling you all in on the upcoming Golf Tournament next time.







Losing All Sorts of Saints

    Since the last blog entry was all about change and how we are affected by it, in both good ways and in bad, I thought I’d explore the topic of change a little further and examine the subject of loss.  “Loss” was one of the topics given to the KIPP Renaissance students last year for their poetry project at WRBH, and it was fascinating and certainly heartbreaking to read about the different kinds of loss they had suffered in their young lives.  Some poems dealt with the pain of a breakup or an estranged friendship; many more told the story of losing of a loved one through violence.  A few shared the ache of losing an adored grandparent who had been a wise, steadying influence in their lives.  Included in the mix were poems that told of a different, good kind of loss: of breaking free from the people and things that hold you back, from bad influences, from those with cruel intentions.  These writings all had a small seed of hope tucked within, a glimpse that the loss might be a gateway to a better place.  I think we all wish that when something is lost, something new will arrive to fill the hole and make things right again.
  I was reminded again, in a much lighter way, of change and loss during this season of transition before the new football season begins.  There’s been a lot of speculation and discussion around the office lately about the upheaval and dissemination of the almost sacred team we knew as the Saints in 2013.  This isn’t an unusual occurrence at the station; after all, two thirds of the employees are rabid fans of the boys in black and gold, and some of the livelier discussions can even be misconstrued as  “heated” or even “argumentative”, depending on your outlook, opinion, and whether or not you are wearing earplugs. With each online announcement of which player has been let go and which has been retained, who will get paid an astronomical salary and who will be selling used cars in Slidell in a few years, the tone of the discussions range from hushed and sad to disappointed, upset, and astonished (who wouldn’t feel upset to read Lance Moore’s Twitter response to signing with the Steelers: “Excited to be a part of #steelernation. Couldn’t ask for a better organization to continue my career with!”)  Sigh.  I’m really going to miss watching him do his little “Lance Dance” after touchdowns.  There are other players I’ll miss too– I was particularly disgruntled to see wonderful Darren Sproles go, especially since last Christmas my gift from my son and daughter in law was a #43 jersey that I was really crazy about.  (Luckily for Natalia, her Marques Colston #12 will still be quite in fashion for the 2014 -2015 season, and of course anyone with a Drew Brees #9 can pat themselves on the back for making a classic, never-goes-out-of-style choice.)  So far my awesome Jimmy Graham earrings (another Christmas gift, this one from my daughter) seem to be pretty safe bets for our “dress in team colors Fridays” during the playing season.  As Tim keeps reminding me, this is the BUSINESS  part of the Saints, where we all get a peek at how the institution runs and how, on the business side of the game, all sentimentality and fondness for the team goes out the window when hard decisions have to be made. At WRBH, we see our readers as our “team” and even regard some of them as “saints”.  Luckily for us, there’s no salary cap at the station since all the readers are volunteers, and we never need to cut our favorite readers because they may be getting older.  We cherish our readers, and we like to keep our team intact.  That’s not to say our roster doesn’t change periodically–career moves to other states, new babies, and added responsibilities in already hectic lives have all taken their toll. Admittedly, sometimes the business end does have to play a part in cutting a reader who refuses to play by the rules or ignores the guidelines we all have to follow, and that’s okay– part of being a team is BEING A TEAM.  However,  when we lose a reader who has played a major role at the station and has been very well loved by our listeners for many years, it leaves us all, staff and listeners alike, with a void that seems impossible to fill.
 A few weeks ago,  WRBH suffered a loss–we said goodbye to one of our most beloved and recognizable readers.  Although Nick Krieger had not been in the station to read for some time, his deep, glorious voice had been mesmerizing  listeners for at least 20 years before he was confined to Covenant Home.  He was a terrific actor, with many credits to his name, including a wonderful part as the farmer who identifies the pie plate as a UFO in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.  Nick always seemed like a larger than life character from a Tennessee Williams play: a consummate gentleman, extremely Southern, polite and well mannered, humble in spirit but also self assured when it came to his great gift as an interpreter of the spoken word.  He was a contradiction of sorts–he would wear ancient, rumpled, sometimes grimy clothes, and yet in the studio, he sounded as refined and elegant as if he was wearing a tuxedo.  He didn’t have much money, yet he was always studying the stocks and bonds in the Wall Street Journal and made several good trades (and once treated the staff of WRBH to a paella dinner after a particularly wise investment.) He was gracious, thoughtful, generous to a fault, and intelligent, with a charming sense of humor.  Nick possessed a confidence and grace that had nothing to do with his outward, often shambling appearance–he believed in himself, and he trusted others to treat him with the respect he deserved.  At his funeral service, there were two fine oil portraits on display of Nick from when he did part-time work as an artist’s model at Academy Gallery.  Nick had a very large head (and body, for that matter) and because he was so expressive, he was an ideal subject.   Both paintings focus on his face.  In one of the paintings, Nick’s eyes shine and he wears a hint of a smile, as if he is recalling an amusing story or a fond memory of a dear friend.  He seems happy, content, a man at ease with himself. In the other, Nick’s expression is pensive and serious, and his face has a lovely nobility, shining with a soft light.    The student artists showed two distinct sides of Nick, and they are both true.

Just as we remember him.

Be Not Afraid










“Hello, my name is Jackie, and I used to be afraid of the iPad.”

If a twelve step program existed for people who are addicted to the familiar, I’d be attending meetings every night.   Along with my gray hair and reading glasses, I’ve come to realize that what gives away my advancing age most of all is my attitude of avoidance when I have to quickly learn something new.  I’m generally not known as someone who eagerly accepts change, and I like to stick to methods and means that are in my comfort zone.  I embrace the familiar.  I worry about failing.  I don’t like to feel stupid.  It embarrasses me when I have to ask for the same instructions I just learned the day before to be repeated, since they seemed to have vanished into a pit of short term memory loss.  I know I’m not alone in this–in fact, it’s a pretty common trait among people of my generation.    My biggest challenge to date was when WRBH made the change to incorporate using iPads to read a lot of the materials used as programming for the station.  The electronic leap made perfect sense–they create less waste and save more trees by reducing paper, it’s easy to download all the news and articles found in magazines and journals, and nowadays everything and everyone is online anyway.  My problem was that I had no idea how to operate one. The first time I tried, I quickly realized something: iPads tend to make me feel old.  Not grown up old, not sophisticated old, not “now I can wear red lipstick whenever I damn well feel like it” old, but the crazy, cranky, doddering kind of old found on countless sitcoms where the ninety-something geriatric character keeps shouting, “In my day, we had books with pages that you turned, not some sort of fancy little flat TV machine that glows in the dark!  And dagnabit, you kids stay out of my yard, or I’ll hit you with my cane!”  Who wants to be that person?  As unfamiliar and off putting as this little device was, I knew I had to get used to it and even embrace it if I was going to conquer my usual fear of change.  So I practiced and practiced on the station’s little flotilla of ships into the future, and eventually even grew to love using the iPads enough to eventually buy one for myself.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t empathize with those who are still a little leery of them.

It’s a well known fact that in this era of computers, social media, and electronic devices, the younger the user, the more adept and fearless they are about experimenting with new technology.  Baby Boomers like myself remember when appliances used to come with a book of directions, and part of the ritual of acquiring something new was the installation period: things didn’t just get plugged in and enjoyed, there was a distinct learning curve involved.  The small how-to instruction booklet became a Bible of sorts, and only after extended study and practice was it put away in a safe spot for future reference, along with the receipt and warranty.  In this brave new world, directions are passe–we are supposed to learn by simply doing it.  By using it.  By leaping headlong into the deep end of the technology pool, without the comforting life preserver of a step-by-step book of instructions.  It’s sink or swim without floaties, and sometimes I feel like I’m dog paddling while everyone else is swimming like Ryan Lochte or Michael Phelps.

I’ll give you an example: years ago, we had two eighth graders from Trinity Episcopal School spend some time with us as part of a Career Day program.  One of them was a smart, funny kid named James Pfeiffer, and we all had a wonderful time being big radio hotshots by showing him around the station, letting him meet and greet the volunteers, instructing him on simple editing, and finally recording him doing a station ID (“…this is WRBH…New Orleans”).   We figured that for a 12 year old, a radio station would be considered a much cooler place to visit than a law firm or a clothing store, so we congratulated young Mr. Pfeiffer on his excellent taste in career choices.    And then, amidst all the pats on the back and acknowledgements of our coolness, the automation computer that controls the daily log and broadcasts our signal out to the world went suddenly haywire.  It was disastrous!  None of the usual fixes were working, we were broadcasting nothing but dead air, we had calls out to tech support and had speed dialed the city’s chief radio engineer Ernie Kain at least ten times in a panic.  James observed us turning into the most hysterical, uncool people on the planet and then calmly took charge.  Within minutes, he pulled a chair up to the bridge like a young Sulu or Chekhov, and got the starship Enterprise back on course while Kirk and Spock and Bones were running around in circles like decapitated chickens.  He was the youngest person in the room, and certainly the savviest when it came to technology.  And of course, the most fearless.  To James, the computer wasn’t a frightening thing that was out of control–it was just a machine that needed a little tweaking, and he wasn’t afraid to push a few mysterious buttons and try some previously untried remedy to get it working again.  After he got it up and running, he reassured us by saying, ‘Don’t worry, you can’t break anything.  You can always go back to where you were before.”  I’ve never felt so grateful, or so humbled.

I’m reminded of this whenever the iPad inspires trepidation in a volunteer who is much more comfortable reading a regular magazine or book.  Just like for me, there comes a time in every reader’s life when Tim suddenly hands them this sleek, intimidating device and says, “Today you’re going to be doing something a little different…” and they begin to quake in their shoes at just the THOUGHT of being alone in a studio with this seemingly delicate, difficult, breakable little machine.  My heart goes out to them: after all, there isn’t an instruction booklet to refer to; there are simply a few quick directions on swiping your finger across the screen to turn the page, touching the center and top left corner to find the index and table of contents, and not getting freaked out if you suddenly lose your bearings and the iPad takes you to a place you didn’t want to go.  Remember, there isn’t any shame in asking for help once, twice, or ten times–you can always come out of the studio to ask a question and no one will judge you.  It’s not going to feel comfortable at first, but I promise that after the first successful reading on the iPad you’ll suddenly feel a little smarter, a little more confident, and even a little younger than before.  And don’t we all want to be THAT person?


The Impartial Messenger


It’s ten pm, the dinner dishes are done, and you’ve just settled down with a bowl of ice cream to watch the evening news.  Angela Hill looks radiant wearing her rose blouse behind the desk (stay with me here–yes, I know she has retired, but don’t you WISH you could still have her to read the news to you while you dig into some Haagen Daas  French vanilla?) and she begins to relay a human interest story on a set of quintuplets born at Touro hospital earlier in the day.  The video shows five tiny, wailing little bundles all in a row, with their happy (and exhausted) parents looking proud but overwhelmed.  As Angela’s sweet voice describes the length of the labor, the weight of each infant, and the names the parents have chosen, you settle into a comfortable lull of contentment as you spoon up the silky ice cream from the bowl.  The video ends, and as the camera returns to Angela and Mike Hoss at the anchor desk, you suddenly sputter and choke on your chocolate sauce, because you just heard Ms. Hill turn to Mike and say, ” Wow, those sure were five ugly babies!”  In response, Mike snorts and says, “And what stupid names they gave those kids!”  Then they both laugh heartily and agree that the name “Brianna” should certainly be the last choice of any new parent on the planet, particularly when the infant is as homely as that one.

Now, we all know this would never happen on WWL (and it especially would never have come out of the wonderful and professional Mike Hoss or Angela Hill’s mouths.)   It’s inappropriate, it’s uncalled for,  it’s unpleasant to hear, and such mean spirited remarks would surely have the public calling for the quick firing of the newscasters responsible for them. Yet, over the years we’ve actually had to ask a few volunteers to leave because they’ve broken the golden rule of our readers: don’t editorialize.

In the last blog post, we talked about how expression, warmth, fluency (and the ability to pronounce words correctly) were vital assets when auditioning to be a reader for WRBH.  This post deals with the second part of the audition: what NEVER  to do.   There are two pages to the application form potential volunteers fill out when auditioning at the station– the top sheet collects the basic information we need to know about the future reader, like email, address, phone number and availability, and the second sheet is a waiver that states a warning and a promise that possible volunteers must adhere to.  The warning reminds readers that our mission is an altruistic one, to make sure the blind members of our community (or those who cannot read for whatever reason) can be every bit as well informed as their sighted peers, and that WRBH is not a talent agency or stepping stone to a career in voice over work.  The promise asks that readers do their best to read material that they may strongly disagree with in an impartial and objective way, and that they will not attempt to interject, through voice expression or editorializing, their own views on the listener.  The warning is pretty straightforward and easy to understand, and tends to disappoint applicants who were hoping to use WRBH to pad a resume or acquire a few audio CDs of their readings and then disappear (the station is a lot like that old fashioned girl who wants a meaningful commitment and a declaration of love before she offers too much of herself–who wants to be used and then dumped like the proverbial cow who gave the milk for free?) and if they balk at signing because of the warning we know they weren’t really going to be reading for the blind but to benefit themselves.  The promise, on the other hand, sometimes flummoxes well meaning potential volunteers who think we are asking that they read like robots, with no expression or warmth in their voices.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We want warm, we want expressive, we don’t want inappropriate.

Let me clarify what that means: it’s okay to feel (and sound) sad when you’re reading a tragic news story or book.  It’s hard to conceal the joy and amusement in your voice when you’re reading a terrifically funny piece of writing.  Where trouble occurs is when anger or disgust is apparent in your reading, because you personally disagree with the sincere opinion or viewpoint of the material you’ve been assigned.  Now, if you are actually reading an editorial that is expressing the author’s disgust or anger, you’ll know it and you’ll be doing the right thing.  However, anytime a reader decides to add sentences that convey their own opinions because they just can’t help sharing what they REALLY think is a cardinal sin–after all, we, the volunteers, are asked to serve an important and sacred duty: to be the eyes of the blind.  Not their brains.  Their brains work very well, and they are perfectly able to decide on their own how they feel about what you are reading to them.

So spread the joy in the joyful, the sadness in the tragedy, but keep your own opinions to yourself.  That includes sarcasm, sighs of annoyance, snorts of aggravation, and anything you decide to share that isn’t on the page.  It’s your duty to the ones who are listening, and they’re counting on you.