My Life as a College DJ

Image by Michi S from Pixabay

Spinning the black circles. Finding those up and coming bands. Flipping through 30+ years of vinyl to find those forgotten secrets.

I did all of that during my brief time as a DJ at 91.1 WREK at Georgia Tech my freshman year.

The thing is, it’s not like it was even on my radar. That wasn’t something a random college student would do. While I was finding new bands to like/love and music was a passion of sorts, it wasn’t something I’d ever given any thought to. In fact, had my roommate and another friend not found out about the open sign-ups, I would have never had the chance to even bother.

The actual radio station back then (and I’m assuming now, but I don’t know) was right beside the Basketball arena, which meant it was about a ten-minute walk from my dorms. I’m not sure what a college radio station was supposed to look like, but this one didn’t disappoint. A couch that likely was considered used in the late 70s adorned the common area. A beat-up soda machine sat off to the side. Rumor had it if you pressed two of the very worn buttons at the same time when you were making your selection, a can of beer would instead descend from inside. Inside the actual booth where we played music was big enough for a couple of people to sit, with a large desk-like apparatus that held the cd player, the record player, and assorted other buttons and dials. Just behind that was a larger room filled from top to bottom with all the vinyl you could possibly want.

 

From https://www.wrek.org/gallery/historic-wrek-gallery/

So the deal was (I think this is right) 2 or 3-hour shifts where you marked which CDs or vinyl you’d played during your session (think of an old-school notecard inside your library books and it was the same thing). They divided the newer bands they wanted you to play at least once a day. In addition, for an hour you had to play one reggae song and one rap song. Finally, once an hour you could play anything you wanted from the back.

Now here’s the thing about college radio music – a lot of it SUCKS. I legitimately played songs that sounded as if people didn’t have drums but instead had pots and pans they were playing on. And I’m being completely serious. So what happened was you’d find a handful of bands that you liked enough to play during one of your sets, and you just prayed the person working before you hadn’t already played them (because then they were off-limits for the rest of the day). The other thing you discovered were the longer songs. Something maybe 7 to 8 minutes in case you needed to run over to the restroom.

Finally, during your sessions, you’d peruse the back area where there were tons of bands that no one has ever heard of. Oh, they had some things you would know… they had Faith No More’s Epic and The Police Synchronicity, but you had to be very careful with which track you chose.

***

Since I’m a big Police fan, when I found the album sitting back there I decided that I’d delve into one of the more obscure tracks to play. I put it on as my “song of choice” for the hour and within thirty seconds the phone rang and someone growled – “turn that off!” I was so nervous that I’d broken some unwritten rule that I did stop the song in mid-chorus and swapped it with some garage band’s terrible pot banging. The next day when I went to look for that album (thinking that I just chose the wrong song)… it had magically disappeared.

If you worked at the radio station there was an opportunity to sign up to be on the guest lists for various clubs around the city and nearby towns. Which was extremely cool considering I didn’t have a ton of disposable income, to begin with. The problem for a newbie like me was the sign-ups were in order of seniority. So I signed up for a few things here and there that an older DJ then sniped from me. In the 5 months of working there, I managed to get on 1 guest list: Helmet at the 40 Watt in Athens. Considering they were one of my favorite bands at the time, I was just praying no one would snipe my passes, but sure enough, I and a friend got to go.

https://www.wrek.org/gallery/historic-wrek-gallery/ I believe that’s the same couch from my memories.

***

One other thing the radio station did was broadcast the college baseball games. As spring approached, multiple afternoon shifts would butt up directly to the games. Normally, there was a DJ who would cover that shift which mostly meant making sure the initial setup worked and then being on hand for any issues during the game. Except on that one day when the end of my shift approached and the DJ still hadn’t shown up. The clock turned 5 and the baseball guys called in, saying they were ready for the hand-off… and me… the guy who was nervous about screwing something up in the first place, suddenly had to explain to them that the regular guy wasn’t there, and they’d need to walk me through things.

I don’t remember any specifics, but I know I had to go mess with the main “machine” (my brain fails me what it was called), something I didn’t interact with AT ALL. The clock was ticking, I’m cursing the DJ for being late, and I’m sure the broadcasters were wondering if the game was going to make the air.

It did. After about 1/2 an hour the late DJ showed up, thanked me, and then I left hoping to never have to do that again.

***

It is only now, looking back, that I wish I’d stuck with it for a little while longer. After summer, my friends kinda petered out on it, and since that was half the reason to do it… and I was going to be co-oping in the winter quarter anyway (which meant I wouldn’t have time to do it), I stopped signing up for shifts. Before too long it had become a weird thing that I’d done… something neat to put on my resume for a little while as “hobbies” or something interesting about me.

Mostly though, I wish I’d come up with my radio voice back then.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Sadly, There Is No Easy Button For You

Spam has taken on a new meaning for me ever since I decided to publish The Dark That Follows and start writing a weekly blog. Then again, spam has probably morphed over time regardless to what I’ve done. It just seems I’m paying attention to some of it more than I might have been in the past.

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“Click here to sell more books today!”

“Learn how to drive more traffic to your blog!”

“The only way to write 10k words in a minute!”

“Make her excited-” erm… OK, maybe not that one. But you get the point.

According to when and where I actually come across these potential articles/blog posts/click-bait/random something else all determines as to if I’ll actually click on them. Yes, many times I stumble across them while I’m in the midst of some other internet rabbit hole, but most of the time I search these damn things out.

Why?

I mean, I’m not dumb. I get what they are doing. However, I also am in this weird place whereby I want to learn the secrets they supposedly have to share. I keep thinking that while I might not be Shakespeare or Twain or insert your favorite author here in talent level, there are literally hundreds of authors who have figured all of this out while not… well, they try, but…

OK, let’s face it. A lot of them aren’t very good at actually stringing two words together. Ask them to put more than four or five in a row with punctuation? Well, that’s the end of that idea.

But they have it figured out. Right?

easy-button

They’ve found the magical EASY BUTTON! So I click on their link and read and try to find that nugget of information which will blow my mind. That knowledge where just prior to it I was only a monkey and now afterwards I am able to use tools and make a fire. This is the type of stuff I’m looking for.

It eludes me.

I do everything wrong. Or in the wrong order. Or I’m impatient. Or I’m too patient. I don’t have enough time to write. I have too much time to write. I goof off. I don’t goof off. I should reach out to more people. How do you reach out to more people? Get involved with a group. I did that, nothing’s changed.

My mind becomes a barren wasteland full of left over billboards which say the above… dotting the horizon with their mocking attempts to “HELP” me.

***

A side story – When I applied to go to Georgia Tech there was a little spot on the form where you could put a Major or you could put Undecided. Now when I filled this out, I was in the midst of thinking I wanted to be a computer programmer. As such, during my senior year in high school I took a Computer Programming class. I’m pretty sure I was doing well in the class (well enough), and the last thing I wanted to do was put Undecided. That might make it seem like I didn’t have my shit together (I was 18… of course I didn’t have my shit together). So I put Computer Science down.

Fast forward to my first quarter at Tech. I’ve long since given up the idea of going into computers. By the end of the year I just didn’t feel like I “got it”. It was hard to explain, but I figured out I wanted to go into Civil Engineering.

And that’s when I found out that because Civil Engineering was “Full” I couldn’t transfer in. However, I could have done so if I had been Undecided.

<Slaps head.>

So I went and talked to the head of the department during the Fall. He told me to come back during Winter Quarter. So I went during Winter Quarter… still no openings. Come Spring I was beginning to wonder if I needed to escalate this foolishness. Maybe reach out to someone else (not sure who I was going to reach out to, but something needed to be done!).

I knew the classes I needed to take. Nothing prevented me from taking them. As long as there was an opening in them, you could enroll in pretty much any class. When I went to talk to the new head of the department he gave me more of the same song and dance.

<I wonder if this was the same game the insurance companies do when they immediately deny anything you apply for thinking that most will stop there?>

At that point I’d had enough of the run around. I remember shaking his hand, thanking him for his time, and letting him know that I would see him that Summer to have the same conversation. Furthermore, I knew the classes I needed to take to become a Civil Engineer, and that was the path I was going to head down. So whether he let me in then or in a year I was going to get in.

He blinked. Asked me if I was telling the truth about my classes that quarter (I was). There was a pause, and then he asked to see my form to transfer into the School of Civil Engineering.

***

wall-crack

I wrote the above to remind myself that this writing gig is just the same.

I’m stubborn.

This is my gift. This is my curse.

I will bang my head against that wall until the wall collapses.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

40 Things You Might Not Know About Me

I passed by the magical/terrible 40 year mark this past weekend. The point in your life you are surely supposed to question all your decisions and really hold onto your regrets until they eat you up from the inside.

Right?

Oh, and buy a sports car, and go nuts in about 1 million other cliché ways.

Sadly, that sounds like a lot of work, and I don’t want to do all of that.

Instead I thought I’d provide some nuggets of information (whether you wanted it or not). A peering into some of the events, 40 of them, that put me in front of this computer typing at this exact moment on this exact night.

birthday-cake-380178_1280

1 – From around the age 7 to the age of 11 I was sick every year on my birthday. For a while there I dreaded the day.

2 – At some point growing up my Mom baked me a strawberry birthday cake. 30 some years later and my wife still wonders if I might want to have a different cake this year (the answer is always NO).

3 – By the time I was in the 8th grade, I’d moved 6 times that I was old enough to really remember. I thought this was a ton of times… and it probably was, but when the teacher asked the class who had moved the most I raised my hand and said 6 thinking I’d “win”. Sadly, there was another person in the class who’d moved over 10 times (I’m guessing it was some sort of military family). That actually bummed me out (losing, not that they’d moved so much).

4 – One of my biggest What If moments will always be not making the 8th grade basketball team. At the time I didn’t understand it, and if I’m being really honest, I still don’t understand it. I still don’t know how it happened as I know I was one of the top 12 or so players in my class. There was some kind of weird point system the coach used over the course of the week tryouts and on Thursday morning I was in 1st place, and by Friday I wasn’t in the top 14. Thursday afternoon’s tryouts went poorly IF you were only looking at points scored. If you looked at blocks and rebounds (I played center), then even if I slipped in the standings a little, it shouldn’t have been by so much. Not making the team crushed me. And I think that not making the team put me at a disadvantage going into high school tryouts the next year (if only by having the extra practice time/game time).

5 – My parents had me when they were 19 years old. They had my brother 11 years after me. In between they divorced and then remarried about 10 years later. It is because of this that I believe Love never truly dies between people. It can be lost, but it is always there… waiting to be rediscovered.

6 – I started reading comics almost 30 years ago. I now own just under 10,000 comics. I don’t think I had any clue of what stories lay ahead of me when I walked into that convenience store and bought those first copies.

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7 – The only reason I ever worked at Kroger was to get my parents off my back about getting an after-school job. It was literally the first and only place I went to. I had the interview that day and started the following week.

8 – Once I became a cashier at Kroger, I was often stuck on the Express Lane. And yes, I hated when people who had 50 items tried to check out through my lane (read the damn sign!).

9 – I met my wife while working at Kroger. Yes, we are high school sweethearts (awww).

10 – I was one of two baggers to win the bagging challenge at our Kroger and got paid to go participate in the district competition.

11 – I don’t drink alcohol (though I had a taste of some over the weekend… and by taste I literally mean 2 swallows). While some of my circle of friends did drink, my future wife couldn’t because of medicines she took, and other friends were effectively “Straight Edge” (and therefore didn’t do drugs or alcohol). So it really was a reverse sort of peer pressure that caused the decision.

12 – I had/have a Kermit the Frog hand puppet. Senior year of high school I brought it out in Computer Science class. The words “John, put the frog away.” might have been heard for the first time ever at Parkview High.

kermit

13 – In all of high school I only skipped class 1 time and only had detention 1 time. I was/am definitely a rule follower.

14 – I was a Jehovah’s Witness for much of my pre-college life. I have gone around at 9 in the morning on a Saturday and knocked on doors. I also didn’t want to be awake if that’s any consolation.

15 – When I started college I tried to keep my high school “after school job” at Kroger. However, they wouldn’t allow me to have 2 to 3 weeks off to get settled in. So I was “forced” to quit. Not really sure why I thought keeping that job was a good idea at the time since it would have required me driving back and forth from school.

16 – I was a DJ in college for my freshman year. But I don’t mean in the club. I worked a couple of shifts at the Ga Tech radio station where I learned that lots of the stuff we played was not very good. But the ones I liked, those got played every chance I could.

17 – I maintain I was screwed out of housing my senior year at Georgia Tech. When you co-op, you’re not taking classes and so are a little out of sorts with campus life. This is less noticeable during the winter months (I co-op’d Winter and Summer quarters), but during summer it truly hits home. In an attempt to be aware of the due dates for the various payments needed for classes and housing, I called at the beginning of summer to find out the due dates. Wrote them down in my planner. And when the time came, called up to pay for school… and was told I’d missed the deadline by a week or so. I wrote down what they’d told me. Tried to be responsible, and still got hosed.

18 – I have had the distinct pleasure of walking in on college roommates while they were… being intimate with their girlfriends… twice.

19 – My landlord (after the Georgia Tech housing SNAFU) actually became my boss about 1 1/2 years after I moved in. He was a civil engineer as well.

20 – I am not good with tools. And while I can follow instructions when putting things together, there was a long time that I didn’t know what a Phillips Head screwdriver was (why don’t they just call it “the not flat one”?).

21 – I know absolutely nothing about cars either. Another one of those “guy” things where I just have to smile and nod and hope no one sees through my half-hearted smile and asks me a question about it.

22 – However, I do love sports. I can bond with my fellow guys over football, baseball, or basketball. But never soccer.

23 – My one fear is probably heights. Luckily it is the one I don’t have to test all that often.

24 – I think I have a mild form of OCD. If I misplace something, I cannot focus on anything else until I find it. I can’t do anything else, and I certainly can’t go to sleep.

25 – The old saying that nothing good happens after midnight is wrong. I believe that nothing good happens before noon.

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26 – I saw Limp Bizkit open for Korn prior to their big breakthrough. I’m still unsure at what moment it became uncool to listen to them. It still feels like one week they were cool(ish) and the next everyone had sworn they’d never liked them in the first place.

27 – I like a myriad of different music. If you were to search my iPod you’d find Slayer, Bryan Adams, Pearl Jam, Boys II Men, and the Misfits among many others. Though if I had to pick the music I listen to the most would either be Grunge or Nu Metal.

28 – I love music for the lyrics more than the instruments. While everyone else is trying to figure out the beat or the chords or whatever, I’m trying to figure out what the meaning of the song is supposed to be conveying.

29 – I love stage magic. I love the idea that someone is trying to show you something which you know is not true and yet you want to be true. And I hate the fact that when you know how the trick is done, a piece of that hope is dashed.

30 – I’m not always the best friend I could be. I don’t always pick up the phone to call someone else, but instead wait for them to call me.

31 – However, I’d like to think that when the shit hits the fan, I’m the person you want beside you. At least, I hope that’s true.

32 – In the last year I have fallen back in love with watching wrestling. I blame my nephew.

33 – I started wearing glasses in the 3rd grade. However, in those first weeks I would forget them at home and my Step Father would have to bring them to me. After I finished writing “I will not forget my glasses at home any more.” about 500 times, I stopped leaving them behind.

34 – After my senior year of high school my parents moved to Richmond, Virginia. But since I was going to go to Georgia Tech and the house wasn’t sold, I effectively lived by myself for much of that summer.

35 – I am a Professional Engineer, which means that I have the ability to actually stamp plans saying they are good to be constructed. However, I have only stamped 1 set of plans so far (and I’ve had my stamp for about 10 years now).

36 – Before I started dating the girl who would eventually become my wife, I’d never been on a real date with a girl before.

37 – When I was in 4th and 5th grade I had a Rat Tail. I still maintain it made me cool.

38 – I am a sap. Give me a tear-jerker scene or anything with an animal dying and I will lose it (no, those aren’t tears, I just have dust in my eyes).

39 – I once saw The New Kids on the Block with a friend. No, we were not being ironic. He had an extra ticket, for some reason, and I said I’d go (must have hit my head). I remember the squealing of the teenage girls more than any of the music they played.

40 – My all-time favorite concert was Pearl Jam at the Fox Theater April 3, 1994 (the one they broadcast). Sadly, I didn’t get to see those whole show as we left when the house lights came on not realizing they were going to play one more song that way. Since then I stay a little longer than I probably should at shows to ensure such a thing never happens again.

41 – Turning 40 isn’t as scary as people make it out to be… so far.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.