A recent revelation among the various NPR shows I never miss these days has been “Here and Now,” a show that I believe is distributed by American Public Media, and which is not among the best-known or best-loved NPR shows. That’s truly your loss, because “Here and Now” is not the stodgy old curmudgeon of a talker that you may assume it is. It is many things to many different people, and, according to its website, reaches five million listeners a week on 450 radio stations. To me, it is a fount of “information porn” that tickles me as I drive to and from the gym or deliver food for Postmates while I attempt to eke out a meager existence in the surprisingly hardscrabble realm that is Midtown Nashville.
When I was a book publicist, it was part of my job to book my authors onto programs like “Here and Now,” but I rarely actually listened to the shows myself. I rarely consumed any media at all, other than my own moldering iPhone playlist, only recently rejuvenated with—wait for it—cuts by Sufjan Stevens and the Noisettes, among other artists who I really should have heard of ten years ago. No, I never watched “TODAY” or “Ellen” or “Meet the Press.” Once I pitched a book that contained newly discovered slave narratives to noted battleaxe Jackie Levin at the “TODAY” show for Al Roker’s book club, only to have her respond, “Really, Gregory? For Al Roker’s Book Club FOR KIDS???” I was mortified by that error on my part, but who cares in the end? Eventually, Al Roker and Jackie Levin will be just a bunch of dust, like Madonna’s mother in “Truth or Dare”—as will we all.
But I am alive today. And “Here and Now” makes me feel young! Young again! Because surely I am younger than host Robin Young—who has been around the block, as they say—if not her younger co-host Jeremy Hobson. But also because sometimes—and I hesitate to even say this—it awakens the part of myself that I thought time had safely encased in amber. Encased, even, in reinforced amber, and of course the part of myself that I am referring to is my libido. Yes, sometimes when I am listening to “Here and Now,” it’s not just my brain that’s the active participant in the equation. Sometimes, a horridly familiar frisson of longing will coil itself up languorously from my groin, travel up my scoliotic spine, and end up in my mouth, expressing itself in a dripping rictus of desire.
Take today. After leaving the gym, I unsuspectingly turned on “Here and Now” after leaving the gym, only to hear an interview with one Mr. Pat Flanagan, who apparently likes butterflies so much he has become an expert on same, out west there in San Diego. In case you didn’t know it, butterflies are currently swarming through California on some sort of mysterious migration, the purpose of which only they themselves are privy to. From what I can gather, it has become a veritable butterfly reckoning in California, with innocent San Diegoans accidentally breathing the clouds of creatures in and choking to death, or people slipping on butterfly wings and falling to their deaths into Swan Canyon, or butterflies swooping down and stealing the beauty of Sacramento’s flora, which is rightfully humans’ to enjoy! Or whatever they’re doing.
Anyway, Pat Flanagan’s voice immediately awoke in me a great, terrifying desire. To say that he has a sexy voice would be a grave understatement, and I hope you would have empathized with me as Mr. Flanagan discussed “painted ladies,” and “inches of rain” on Valentine’s Day, and “wet weather,” amongst other things, and my body, well, responded. I was taken back to Los Angeles itself on the day last July that I started driving to Nashville, and a voice came on the air on “AirTalk With Larry Mantle” that made me want to check into a hotel and “enjoy myself” immediately. It was some expert on some topic—I don’t even remember what, now. And I know, I know, if I were to have googled the face that the voice belonged to, my desire would have immediately been quashed. But that is the secret behind NPR’s vise grip on my fantasy life. It is only a fantasy, and no one on the radio is good-looking in real life. Except in a lopsided-facial-features kind of way like Ari Shapiro, who will always be forever “filling in” for someone, ad infinitum, forever.
Today, after much meaningless banter, young Jeremy Hobson stopped trying to impress listeners with his lazily thought-out lines of questioning, and finally thanked the great Pat Flanagan for joining the show. There was a great, pregnant pause—you could almost picture listeners licking their lips in anticipation—after which Flanagan, ever the inveigler, responded in a dry, sultry voice: “THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.”
Listen for yourself, if you don’t believe me: