EDITOR'S NOTE: Revolution 21's Blog for the People continues an occasional series of dispatches recorded some years ago in the trenches of Catholic radio . . . Pope FM, if you will. The names aren't real, nor are the places, but the stories are -- and it's a snapshot picture of what happens when "Their zeal consumes them" meets "Sinners sacrifice for the institution, not vice versa."
In other words, there has to be a better way.
I think, someday, this diary may turn into a book. The only roadblock to my turning the continuing saga of Pope FM into the next great American comedic novel is that A Confederacy of Dunces already has been written.
And, either fortuitously or tragically, I seem to have wandered into the real-life sequel, which is centered upon an exceedingly bizarre little Catholic radio station. Picture Pope FM this way: Hunter S. Thompson finds Jesus, joins the Catholic Church, buys WKRP and turns it into a religious station.
But he never kicks the pills and the booze.
This is the kind of surreal, whacked-out chaos that swirls about me, here in the great Midwest, as I huddle in my broken-down production room in a ramshackle little radio station. Apart from Jesus Christ, my salvation is the limoncello our secretary keeps in the break-room freezer.
If we were a Baptist radio station, I'd be sooooo screwed right now. . . .
WELL, IT'S BEEN an eventful couple of weeks since my last entry. Work has gotten so bizarre as to defy description.
"The Triumvirate" has entered into an unbreakable feedback loop, and Manic Don -- the program director, as well as the catalyst for the troika -- has just released an organizational plan in which all roads lead to himself. In the staff meeting where all this was unveiled, I found that, as production director, I don't even have the power to decide what I'm working on during any given day.
I told them not to insult me by letting me keep a meaningless title if I have that little control over what I do. The past two weeks, I have surprised even myself with the level of bluntness I've developed.
Don and the development guy kept saying that "station business" (i.e. underwriting and promos) had to take precedence over creating programming during business hours. I told them that evangelization was the station's business, and that Pope FM was not a commercial enterprise.
As was the case with Jimmy Swaggart, I am becoming increasingly and utterly convinced it's all about money, and it's all about us . . . not suffering souls in need of Jesus.
I swear to you, Catholics are the craziest bastards this side of the West Bank (of the Jordan, not the Mississippi).
THERE'S GOING TO BE a spectacular meltdown and/or explosion. I just can't decide whether I'm being called to view it from close up -- and perhaps be around to help pick up the pieces if I don't go up in the mushroom cloud -- or to view it from a safe distance.
Meanwhile, I had a voice mail the other day from a Baptist guy wanting to talk to a priest about possibly converting -- even though his wife is violently opposed to the Catholic Church. I forwarded his info to our secretary, asked about procedures for referrals and made a couple of suggestions about priests to put him in touch with.
Well, tonight after hours, I pick up the phone . . . and it's the same guy, asking about good reference books.
"You're the guy who left the voice mail, right?" I asked. He said that he was.
Had anyone from the station put him in contact with a priest or someone else?
So I suggested Father Hardon's Pocket Catechism as beginning reading, and I gave him the name and phone number of the priest who confirmed my wife and me. I also suggested that he just patiently answer his wife's questions or objections, but not to argue with her about it.
I figure God really wants this guy to be Catholic. Sometimes I wonder why, but that's not my call. Fortunately.
On another front, Manic Don of the Holy Humvee tried to dump building playback logs for the automation program on my already overloaded plate. Trouble is, that's not my yob, man. Not in my job description.
I told him my plate already was full and that automation programming wasn't in my job description but was in his. By the end of the day, I was handed a new job description.
Guess what it included?
It also included reclassifying me as "occupational/non-exempt" from "professional/ exempt." When I pointed that out to Don and Ken, the general manager, (in writing, for documentation purposes) and mentioned "overtime" (which would substantially increase my salary), let's just say an abrupt correction was made.
THE IMPROBABLE, unbelievable saga of My Life at Pope FM just keeps getting better and better. This translates to more and more incredible . . . in the sense of "You won't believe this s***!"
Once again, I remind myself -- and the world -- that, yes, it really happened. Likewise, I note that I'm about to be guilty of "burying the lede," but what am I gonna do? It's a diary, Diary.
Today at Levy Pants -- if I inhabit the sequel to A Confederacy of Dunces, this must be the Levy Pants factory -- I was tasked to clean up a Pope FM Update done by Don and Ken. The copy, written by . . . oh, you know who the hell wrote it, had the general manager introducing the Messiah -- um, Don -- as "part mad scientist, part creative genius and just plain sinner like the rest of us."
It's all very frat boy, you know. Well, that is if frat boys went around spouting phrases like "just plain sinner like the rest of us."
I could have tried -- futilely -- to naysay against such juvenile things going over the air. But what's the fun in that? I prefer to imagine certain board members hearing that through the static on their FM radios.
And in a Pledge-a-Thon promo I just finished tonight for the Lord of the Hummer, he took a "Star Wars" tack on fund raising. I looked and looked and looked for the voiceover for one part of the spot, but it wasn't there, so I just voiced the part myself.
I did, however, do some editing. Can you imagine how it might sound, through the static of our weak signal, if I had read the line as written, which began "The Lord is our Master Vader . . . ."
Listen to that in your mind's ear. Imagine someone paying scant attention to our staticky broadcast.
"The Lord is our Master Vader . . . ."
I CAN SEE IT NOW. I drop dead, and somehow -- probably through a clerical error -- I end up in Heaven Itself, right in the middle of the Beatific Vision, and there He is.
Right there in front of me.
Coming out of an adult bookstore.
I . . . don't . . . think . . . so.
But that's the less-than-beatific vision our listeners came thiiiiiis close to having as they listened to Pope FM over their morning bowl of Froot Loops.
Something tells me that the Froot Loops aren't just in our listeners' cereal bowls.