I AM A DJ, I AM WHAT I PLAY

There is a really cool radio station based in Seattle called KEXP. I started listening to it soon after moving here in 1996 and immediately got a crush on the morning DJ, John Richards, or John in the Morning. I would listen to him while I got ready for work each morning and his pleasant and kind demeanor, not to mention the kick-ass tunes he played, always helped to start my day off in a good way.

One day John announced to his listeners that his birthday was on that Friday and he was going to be at the Nitelite bar downtown if anyone wanted to come down and buy him a shot. I do not know what I was thinking, but when Friday night came along, I headed on down to the Nitelite by myself. I had no idea what John looked like, but when I got there I saw a group of about 8 people that looked like they could have been there for a birthday celebration, so I sat in a table across from them. After a few minutes, I recognized John’s tell-tale DJ voice and knew it was him.

My favorite drink at the time was vodka sours and the Nitelite sold them for just $3 a piece back then, so I methodically drank about 5 in a row while watching John’s table like a complete loner reject. After the fifth drink I finally got up the nerve to approach his table. I did not know what I was doing, it was all very weird. Yes, I had a crush on him, but it was more a fan appreciation crush; I knew he had a girlfriend and it was not about that. I kind of crouched down next to him while all eyes at the table were on me and, I swear to god, I whispered in his ear: “I am a listener”. The idea makes me laugh so hard now. When he turned to look at me, I could tell I waited too long to say hello, because he had already drank 4 too many birthday shots and I am sure I was just a blur. I mumbled my appreciation for bringing good music to my mornings and then I scampered on out of there to find the next bus home.

A little while later I heard that John’s Dad had died and that he had worked a Saturday night at the station playing music in his Dad’s honor. I was sad for his loss and regretted that I missed that show. I did not think about it again until my own mother died of lung cancer a few years later. I ended up writing John an email and asked if he had a recording of that show, because I thought the songs he played for his father might help me in my grief in some way. He wrote me an incredibly heartfelt response wishing me condolences and his regrets that he did not have a recording of that night. It was before the station started archiving everything and I hoped I did not cause him any distress, because he said listening to it now might have helped him, too.

Unbelievably, a short time later, John lost his own Mother to lung cancer. It was like a punch in the stomach to hear what he was going through. I wrote him one final email extending my sympathies and reminded him that he helped me through my own maternal loss. He wrote me back a two word email where he said simply: Thank you.

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5 Comments on “I AM A DJ, I AM WHAT I PLAY”

  1. webmiss Says:

    You have this wicked way of writing that makes me as a reader feel like I was there with you. I’m really rather shy in person, so I could never have approached him the way you did. Have to say, I’m jealous!

  2. lauren Says:

    you are my hero! i also found john (back then it was kcmu) when i first moved here in 96 and immediately had a listener crush on him too! i guess to hear john is to love john. (i also wish they had archives back then – i have wanted to listen to his 9/11 broadcast again. sigh.) i had thought of doing what you did many times at different events or whatever and always chickened out. the closest i got was hanging next to him at the croc for a listener night, smiling meaningfully at him like a big ol’ goober. didn’t even manage a whisper. hehe. loved reading this – you rock girlfriend 🙂

  3. madwag Says:

    thank God I am not the only one who does random things like that… like you going there by yourself and sitting there… I swear that is something that would only be all to familiar to my weird life.

  4. Pamella Avey-Alyosha Says:

    T.S.I.F.I./Cloudy~ your website is lovely; your way with language is much as I remember it from so long ago, but you’ve obviously developed that gift quite a bit. That takes work, and I am impressed.
    Also, your son is a sparkler. I’m disinclined to blow smoke up someone’s ass in regard to the appealing qualities of their offspring…plenty of babies and children are dough-faced little trolls, in which case I say nothing. So that’s a compliment you can take seriously.
    This being a public space, there’s not much else I can say here…I’d love to hear from you though, so we can catch up. Love, Pammie

  5. aimee Says:

    like webmiss, I thought I was there. I guess I was only in spirit.


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