There’s a commonly-held notion that Radio Playwrights have it made. We whip off these hour-long dramatic commentaries on society in mere minutes because we don’t have to bother with blocking moves or imagine the costumes our characters are clad in. No one frets about whether the producer can find babes to cast, either male or female, as long as the actors sound like they could be babes. And for this, we are paid handsomely.
All true. But what people don’t see is the nasty politics of radio playwriting, the disingenuous promises that producer “friends” keep doling out, the industry structure that encourages back-stabbing. Even worse are the acid-tongued exchanges that drug-fueled radio playwright parties always end in, as writers use their craft for evils ends, sniping at each other and secretly making audio recordings of the tongue-lashing altercations instead of using their considerable writing skills to promote peace and harmony in the world.
Tell you a story: back in 2011, I gathered with some of the finest radio playwrights in the world at a resort in Davos, Switzerland. The fifteen of us (sorry, can’t name names) had come together to explore the astounding growth in our industry in the past decade, and to voice concerns that we had gotten too big and unwieldy, lacking the spryness of Radio Theater’s past and lurching awkwardly into the future without a game plan for “smart growth.” The week started just fine, as we worked hard during the daytime hours, wrestling with big industry problems, and then retired to our chambers in the late afternoon for a glass of sherry and quiet contemplation. By mid-week, though, it became difficult to keep all the egos in check. At dinner, everyone would trying to outdo everyone else with pithy little literary sketches, and soon enough some feelings got hurt. Ultimately, somebody (perhaps an emotionally-wounded colleague) alerted the press that we were there. Cue the circus. By the end of the week, I counted several black eyes among my colleagues, as well as one broken nose and two (or maybe three) chipped teeth, most of which was caught on film by paparazzi. It was ugly. It made me worry for our future.
So, while film and television writers might not enjoy the same splashy fame as us radio writers, they can at least claim to have a more refined sense of how to comport themselves among their peers. With any luck, we radio playwrights will dignify our positions of leadership with some better behavior, in both our public and private lives.
A winter’s day visit to Bretton Woods, which proclaims itself to be “New Hampshire’s Largest Ski Area," ought to result in lift-line chat with the kids and efforts to avoid out-of-control teens on snowboards. But temps in the 40s and wind-driven rain tends to dampen the spirits of many a skier, including my own offspring, who chose to stay in bed and construct objects with “Zoobs” rather than get soaked. Having spent money in January on a motel room and 2 days of mid-March skiing in the upper reaches of the White Mountains (not to mention dropping $500 on new ski equipment), I was not to be dissuaded. I bade farewell to the family at 9 in the morning, hoping there might be a break in the weather. Alas, the rain only came down harder.
Where the heck did everyone go?
To add to my misery, I left both pairs of ski gloves back in the motel, and was left to ski with a pair of cotton knit mittens that my wife had left in the car, which were cute and all, but soaked up water like a sponge. I got in 7 runs and left with my fingers tingling less than 2 hours after I started. The silver lining was that I was able to ski as fast and furiously as I wanted and encountered only 5 other skiers that morning. (Also, I didn’t lose control and end up in the woods without witnesses; if I had, I might still be there today.)
I’ve decided to rethink the image I’m portraying to the general public and tweak it a little. Oh, sure, the Patrick McVay you spend hours pondering late at night, in bed, with the lights turned way down, is fine and all, but I’m worried that people have gotten bored with me and I think it’s important to give my personality a facelift. Several options I’m considering:
Old Yeller: The scheme will be to enter a room and immediately overwhelm it with volume, causing people to laugh (nervously) or driving them right the hell out of the place. The biggest problem with this plan is that everyone will assume I’ve been drinking, even though I haven’t.
Strong, Silent Guy: In this case, even when I speak it will really just amount to breathlessly moving my jaw, the only noise being the quiet squishing of saliva sticking to all the mouthparts as I form the word “hello.” The main advantage is that people will assume that I’m assessing what others in the room are saying and quietly analyzing, as many smart people do. Also, I’m less likely to say something stupid, and when I do, no one will actually hear me.
Indoor Dark Sunglasses Wearer: based on the number of hits this website doesn’t get, it seems that I’m flying under the radar. However, I have dark, prescription sunglasses that I believe could make me seem famous if I wear them indoors all the time. Sometimes, you just have to create your own fame. Maybe I’ll get season tickets to the Celtics or Bruins and become one of those people who sits up close and is easily recognizable on TV for how ridiculous he looks.
I’m going to try these ideas out on my family this weekend and will decide which way to go based on the reactions I get.
Each year, my wife and I attempt to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life in chilly New England and jet off to some island in the Caribbean where warmth and rum drinks abound. This year it was Puerto Rico, which, unlike our Turks and Caicos visit last year, promised not only warm waters, but also the lush, forested geography of the central mountains. T&C has Grace Bay, the unparalleled beach of fine white sand on arrestingly turquoise waters, but inland, whatever isn’t irrigated by a hose turns to scrub.
Provo: Look Out!
In the San Juan area, we gave ourselves a few days to lie around and hide from the sun’s UV rays at the resort, then managed to put some energy into renting a car and heading inland to take in the “Ruta Panoramica” – the series of roads that wind across the center of the island from east to west. One always has high hopes for these sorts of quasi-foreign road trips, imagining the startling vistas that await the adventurous soul, despite the fact that all the books say don’t look at anything but the road in front of you and drive around 25 mph.
The first bit of trouble on our escapade came almost immediately: we had been advised by Enterprise Rent a Car to use the electronic lane whenever we came upon a toll booth, and every time we did red lights flashed and buzzers went off. Once off the highway and heading up into the hills, we found ourselves stuck behind a huge garbage truck for mile after mile. Soon, we encountered more trucks, and eventually road work in the middle of nowhere. Once past the construction, we took the first wrong turn we could find and ended up in the unremarkable southern town of Guayama. We made our way back to the highway and through more flashing and buzzing toll lanes, and finally reached our lunch destination, the town of Aibonito, which had worse traffic than downtown Boston. We dumped our car and sought out a lechonera on foot in order to get a plate of the legendary Puerto Rican suckling pig; failing that, we landed at a so-so lunch spot outside of town called Tio Pepe’s. By then, it was just about time to head back to Isla Verde lest we hit serious rush hour traffic in San Juan. Too late, as no matter which back road we took, we were confronted with more traffic, including this noisy fellow:
The laughter you hear is mild bemusement borne of fatigue and exasperation. Thankfully, we had one more day to lie around and read our books, which was the reason we’d gone on this trip in the first place.