Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Open Line

The art of public radio has receded into the background throughout much of the radio world. In most of the country, those under the age of 30 might not even know how to find their public radio station. This, however, is not the case in Alaska, particularly rural Alaska.
Public radio is a lifeline, a source of news and entertainment, a constant in your daily life. In Dillingham it is KDLG. KDLG is how I learned Sarah Palin was a vice presidential candidate while we were at the cabin on 2nd Lake (Lake Nerka for those of you with maps). We even acquired our first dog from a fundraising contest on KDLG.
Music mixes include all genres and talk shows cover any topic you can imagine. Cell phones have only recently become available, satellite phones are reserved for emergencies and VHF has a limited range, in Southwest Alaska so KDLG fills the gap with a weekday program called Open Line. Monday through Friday, 11 am – noon, Open Line becomes the most informative, amusing and embarrassing entertainment you’ve ever heard. There’s no five-second delay, it’s just a guy answering the phone talking to whoever might be on the other end about whatever they might want to say.
It goes something like this…
“Hello, you’re on Open Line.”
“Hi, yeah I’m calling to wish Bossy a happy birthday (We’ll discuss nicknames another time). Bossy we love you and we want to sing happy birthday to you. (Away from the phone) Kids! Come wish Bossy a happy birthday on Open Line! (Lengthy pause) Kids! Come on! I’m on the radio and you need to come wish Bossy a happy birthday right now! (Muffled objections heard in the background) Get over here right now and sing to Bossy! (Reluctant children arrive at the phone and launch into the slowest, least excited version of Happy Birthday you’ve ever heard) Happy birthday, Bossy! (Click)
“Hello you’re on Open Line.”
“Yeah, I have a snow go I need to sell. Yeah it’s a 2000 Polaris 600 RMK. I want $3500 for it. Call Mike at 842-….” (Click)
“Hello you’re on Open Line.”
“Yes, hi, I want to tell Joey he needs to get himself home! Joey! You’re in big trouble and you need to get yourself home right now! I’m not kidding! If you don’t come home right now…Just get home!” (Click)
“Ok Joey you better get home. Hello you’re on Open Line.”
“I want to wish Tracy a happy birthday. Kids...!”
On and on it goes passing on useful, embarrassing, happy, and always amusing news to KDLG’s listeners. Story after story, you smile, you ponder, you laugh out loud at what you hear emanating from your radio; and then a familiar voice makes an appearance.
“Hello, you’re on Open Line.”
“Hello, this is Jimmy (a man says in an endearing native drawl). I want to wish everyone a happy birthday and happy anniversary. Bossy, Tracy…”
Jimmy has been calling everyday for as long as anyone can remember. I’m sure he’s missed some days but no one remembers them. He has a long list of people whose birthdays and anniversaries he’s collected throughout the years and every day he lists them. His sweet voice warms my heart and makes me smile.
Jimmy used to sing happy birthday in Yupik each day. KDLG finally recorded it for posterity – and propriety I’m sure – so now they just play it.
“Angneq anguteq elpenun…”
KDLG and Open Line is just one of those things that are a wonderful constant. I remember laughing hysterically at it my first couple of summers in Dillingham. I used to work in radio and I couldn’t believe they would just let people call in and say whatever they wanted! And who were these people calling in? I would never…!
And then, July 14, 1999, right at the peak of the commercial fishing season, with no way to reach my in-laws because they were out on the boat, Gary and I found ourselves waiting…
“Hello you’re on Open Line.”
“Hi, yes, we wanted to let Joe and Molly Chythlook know they are Grandparents! His name is Colton Charles and he was born at 9 am! Congratulations Ana and Uppa!” (Click)

NOTE: You can tune in to Open Line each weekday from 11 am-noon Alaska Time (noon -1 pm Pacific) at KDLG.org.

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