Sunday, July 28, 2013

More Blogging...

Most of the blogs featured here can be found alongside the musings of my fellow KNOM volunteers. To see them in a much better formatted version than I was able to provide here, visit this link.

A new blog is on it's way as my Alaskan adventures come to a close.

Goodspeed Josh!

Final Currents.

Now my life is sweet like cinnamon
Like a dream I’m living in
Baby love me cause I’m playing on the radio
How do you like me now?
Radio – Lana Del Rey

I have already written this blog one hundred times over in my mind. Many nights have been spent crafting what it was that I wanted to say when it came time to deal out my farewells. Not unlike the student who stayed up all night to cram before the next day’s exam, though I have diligently prepared, I feel overwhelmed now that the test is in front of me.
JoshAll of my wit and stories fail me, as so far into this blog as all I have written is a summary of my current goodbye angst and some Lana Del Rey lyrics. Well that’s something at least.  If I can’t find the right words to sum up how I feel, then perhaps as Music Director it only makes sense to utilize the words of artists I have followed closely during my volunteer year. Radio by Lana, (yeah, we’re on a first-name basis,) was a song that I listened to on repeat time and time again as I prepared to leave for Nome. It tells the story of someone who is leaving a life behind to achieve a dream; someone who desires so much to use the magic of radio as a conduit for the love and passion inside of them.

I guess you could say that I relate to its content.
When I was a kid I used to have pretend DJ shifts in my room. As the other neighborhood children were outside riding their bikes, I was compiling liner notes and developing playlists for the benefit of an invisible audience. When I reached 16, I used to drive home as many friends as I could fit into my car just so I could play my newest mix cds for them.  Something about sharing music with people has always made me feel full inside.

I have been told, in one way or another, that my interest in music was trivial and that without an academic background in the subject,  I would be unable to find my place in that professional niche. I have also been told that my collegiate background would likely place me in a fairly rigid career track with little professional deviation. Three years after graduating from college, I’ve worn more hats than I can count. In three years I’ve attained more dreams than I could have ever though possible. I’m a wildland firefighter, musician, construction worker, DJ, producer, videographer, environmental technician, photographer, graphic designer, blogger, social media guru, counselor, volunteer coordinator, music critic, actor, costumier, teacher – and the list goes on.
Even I can't believe that I ever wore fire gear.
Everything I’ve done and every little dream I’ve captured in my glass mason jar of life has been thanks to service. Three years ago I was a young person who had no idea what he wanted to do with his life and felt hopeless. Three years later I’m a young person who has no idea what he wants to do with his life who couldn’t be happier.  Service isn’t about an end. It isn’t about landing a job with a non-profit or building your resume. Service is about the journey. It’s about those you help along the way: those that say thank you, those that don’t, and those that you didn’t even realize benefited from the work you’ve done. It’s about trying scary new things in which you mind screams, “This isn’t right for you!” and then finding out that it is. It’s about throwing your hands in the air and accepting the beautiful fact that you are more than one person. You are more than the sum of your fears and hopes. You are a conduit that has the capability to send your love across the community in which you live and the world around it like energy through a phone line.

If my time spent in AmeriCorps and KNOM Radio Mission are the best things I ever do with my life…then I’m okay with that, though I know many more adventures await me. Service will always be a chemical component in my bones, and these last three years will always be something I behold as being more than special.
It's impossible to say farewell to amazing people like these.My time as a KNOM volunteer has been six years in the making. I first came across a description of the work done here when I was a freshman in college. For years I placed the dream that had sprouted in my head by simply reading a small paragraph of information on the highest shelf until I felt ready. To this day I feel amazed that it would become a dream come true. KNOM spoke to me and here I am. Words can’t do this part of my service journey enough justice. I don’t know how to say thank you to Western Alaska. I don’t know how go about counting my lucky stars for making this happen.
Part of my heart remains.
Soon I will play my last song and my selection will travel across Western Alaska one last time. I must have played thousands of songs in my time here, yet it never stops feeling magical. I just hope the music that I am leaving behind can speak of all the gratitude I can’t seem to shake off my lips.

American dreams came true somehow
I swore I’d chase them until I was dead
I heard the streets were paved with gold
That’s what my father said
Now my life is sweet like cinnamon
Like a  dream I’m living in
Baby love me cause I’m playing on the radio
How do you like me now?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dear Cher - It's Me, Josh.

Sometimes when you can’t get your thoughts together and you’re walking a hazy emotional path it can do you a world of good to reach out to a close friend.  On this blog I share with you a transcript of a letter that I recently sent to my dear friend, Cher.  Who better to be my guiding light in times of transition?  She’s transitioned more than anyone else I know.  If she can make it from bell-bottoms, to disco, to the modern day club scene, I can make it from KNOM volunteer hopeful to KNOM volunteer alum without too much strife.
Dear Cher,
Before I get started, let’s get real for a second.  By the time you receive this letter I will be just one month away from completing my time as a KNOM Volunteer.  One year in Nome! A year of DJing, music selection, Iditadogs, unfamiliar weather patterns, new friends, and so much more! It seems like it was just yesterday that I was writing you about my time spent learning how to input new music into the system and accurately “time-down” and hour of programming.  My how far I have come!
Don’t worry, we still have plenty of your old stuff too.

Before I get too self-absorbed in my ramblings, how are you doing?! I saw you on the finale of The Voice the other week.  You were really fantastic.  I am so glad that you are back with new music.  What’s it been? Twelve years? Craziness.  I must say that adding your new single into KNOM’s current musical rotation was more than awesome.  If I had a highlight reel of my Music Director experiences, me ripping a brand new Cher song into the catalog would be prominently featured.  Maybe even with some slow motion action as I popped the cd into it’s tray as the footage immediately star-swipes into a close-up of a smile forming on my lips.  I can almost see it!
It always thrills me when music veterans such as yourself not only come out with new music, but do so while maintaining such music that sounds so contemporary and relevant to today’s popular music scene.  Just a few weeks ago I was adding new tunes from Petula Clark.  You may remember her from the 1964 hit song, Downtown.    Well she is back on the scene with a lead single that weaves her crystal clear voice with electronica elements and even a touch of auto-tune! I can only hope that I am so vibrant and hip when I am eighty-one years old.
Oh, and guess who dropped his twenty-first studio album?  None other than the legendary Eric Clapton.  Reggae, rock, folk – his new music has it all.  He and Petula aren’t the only ones rocking it after retirement age either.  Yoko Ono had a #1 Billboard Dance hit just a couple of months ago that I really enjoyed playing on my show at KNOM.  I feel so lucky to be able to play such a wide variety of great music!
I must admit that sometimes I get a little sad when thoughts of me no longer being in the DJ booth cross my mind.  Sure, I can always carve a path for myself dealing professionally in airwaves and mp3s, but no one does it quite like KNOM.  Where else can you hear Prince back-to-back with the Savoonga Drum and Dance?  Loretta Lynn handing it over to New Order?  Madonna making way for an up-and-coming indie folk act?
Sorry, I know I shouldn’t mention Madonna.  I know that makes you angry.  My bad.  I do wish you two would try harder to get along.  But I digress.
I don’t really know what to do with myself as the weeks count down.  I find myself going about my day to day life as if I’ll never leave Nome.  I know that sooner or later I will have to pull the band-aid off in one quick yank.  Until then I know I still have plenty of great music to seek out for Western Alaska.  Until then, please take care of yourself and take the time to write me back.  I worry about you traveling around so much.  Be sure to drink plenty of water and rest when you can.    And don’t you worry about me.  I’ll be just fine.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Do You Hair What I Hair?

I have this idea that your hair says a lot about you.
Some people in this life read tea leaves or the stars. I read hairstyles. Granted, this gift isn’t particularly useful for deciphering your future. But your hairstyle says a lot about where you are right now. Perhaps you’re reading this and saying, “Josh! You charlatan! I have no hair you see and thus cannot be manipulated by your abilities!” Touche my friend. Touche. But even the subtle ways in which you wear no hair can say so much! How ever you wear it, I am sure you look swell. Bald heads are like blue jeans – super durable and always in fashion.
“Just get to the point Josh.”
Eva is a brave soul.
The Force is strong with this one.
Fine, fine. I just want you to know that I’ve been keeping a keen eye on haircuts within my KNOM volunteer year. I started my time here as a merely a casual observer noting the hairstyles of my fellow volunteers. As the year progressed, I gained their trust and moved in closer.
“Haircuts are so expensive in Nome!” – words that I would hear so often. Seeing weakness in my friends’ armor, now was the time to attack and truly get closer to their craniums. I, you see, offer hair cutting services at no cost. This was their chance to liberate themselves from a scalp-residing weariness and my shot to know them on a deeper level through the medium of my hair-reading abilities.
Would they go for a drastic change? Perhaps they are looking to make a big change in their day to day. Going super short? Maybe we’re feeling more confident. A flapper-girl era doo? “The Great Gatsby” must have finally made it to the big screen in Nome.
I must admit that not all of the roomies have taken me up on haircuts. Lucus, like myself, is a self-made man just like me when it comes to his hair. We are lone wolves who would rather take our clippers on a solo journey than have someone else mold our hair-laden images. And Margaret? We like to call her Maiden Curly Crown. I don’t do curly hair. Margaret coming to me for a haircut is like sending your BMW to get fixed up at a Honda shop. We can take care of some issues but eventually we will have to order out for specialty parts.
So what do the haircuts I’ve given have to say? Well I don’t want to give all of my precious insight away but I can give you an overarching theme that I’ve seen. Confidence. All of the haircuts I’ve seen this year say out loud, “My confidence in myself and the work I do is ever-evolving and I am proud of the work I’ve done.”
Can you hear it? Can you hear our hair saying that? Listen and look closely.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

CreAKtive Moments.


If you had asked me to list out a few adjectives concerning my traits before I embarked on my journey of service, the word “creative” would not have been on the list. Almost three years later and I feel that this characteristic is not only my most marketable skill but also the one that I am most proud of.
True fact: I've wanted to be a DJ for as far back as I can remember.
True fact: I’ve wanted to be a DJ for as far back as I can remember.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been drawn towards creative things. In school I thrived in subjects such as writing and theater while shying away from curriculum that required me to work closely with the left side of my brain. However, when it came time to develop a pathway to my collegiate future, I went for a more rigid business based path because I wasn’t sure how to take the subjects I loved such as music, acting, writing, video, and communication and turn them into a job. Afterall I was no artist – I loved music but had never committed to learning how to play an instrument.  While I found acting and writing to bring a lot of joy into my life, I couldn’t see myself moving to New York City to make a lifestyle out of a meager hobby.
The things I truly enjoyed seemed out of place in the future I was carving out for myself.
This is where service comes in. While the left side of my brain remembers that the service opportunities I have taken have allowed me to develop my resume and work towards some concrete life goals, the more playful hemisphere remembers that in the last three years I have composed music about Iditarod mushers, produced rap battles about benthic macroinvertebrates, directed educational pieces on topics such as recycling, worked as a dinosaur to promote environmental education, spent countless hours acting as a superstar DJ for Western Alaska, acted as my own paparazzi here on the KNOM blog, and so, so much more.
Making Eva look even more awesome that normal is also part of my freetime.
Making Eva look even more awesome that normal is also part of my freetime.
When it comes to developing my talents, each year of service has worked as matryoshka stacking doll. My first year taught me the importance of finding play amongst hard physical labor. My second year allowed me to spread my wings with my interest in writing, music, and content production.  And my time at KNOM? I’d like to think that I’m leaving the cocoon as  a butterfly or at least a compelling-looking moth. Everyday I get to write spots and shows for air.  Everyday I get to analyze and select music for our listeners. Everyday I get to spend time with Western Alaska and use my voice to help inspire. Everyday is a welcome challenge to use my creative abilities.
Not that long ago I would have been an unbeliever that I could do a job like this. I simply did not feel confident in my abilities. Still to this day I find myself asking if the content I’ve produced is up to par, or if my time on air is interesting and worth attention. Luckily I’ve had wonderful people backing me up and helping me find my way when I don’t know where to go next. If this text happens to reach the eyes of someone who is interested in pursuing a service opportunity, specifically that which is available at KNOM, don’t let the responsibility scare you. Maybe you don’t consider yourself creative at all. Perhaps the word outgoing is last on your list of adjectives used to label yourself. Whatever your hesitation might be, I believe that a journey in service can teach you as much about yourself and the adaptability inside of you, as it can about the communities you serve. Take a risk.
There's always a photo op in Nome.
There’s always a photo op in Nome.
Another note about this particular service experience – it is a great way to develop your interests in your freetime as well and integrate them into your work. Western Alaska is a vast and open place which allows your heart and mind to mirror those free and unbound characteristics. Perhaps you’ll use your free time to meditate on a mountaintop overlooking the frozen ocean?  Maybe you’ll finally get around to writing that novel you told your friends about. Whatever it is, I know that all of us current KNOM volunteers have found the time to dive into our hobbies and passions while serving here.  Speaking for myself, my free time meant finally developing my dabbling in music production to solidifying myself as an amateur musician. I’m not the next David Guetta or Calvin Harris, but I have enjoyed my many weekends spent composing and producing music. The challenge and the time was ever present and I will leave here knowing that I made something of it.
What will service bring out in you?

Friday, May 10, 2013

From Marble City To A Gold Rush Town.

When my friend Jason traveled from Knoxville to Nome the other week, he seemed to bring a few suitcases full of that warm Southeastern sunshine with him. The evening he arrived was the first of about a week of snow melting, come-out-and-play kind of weather. And what does one do after spending an Alaskan winter indoors? Well, you make the most of the new playground that has been defrosted.
Maybe it was simply the excitement of having a good friend from home by my side for a few days. Maybe it was the excitement of seeing all the flora and fauna that I haven’t even thought about since winter began. Maybe it was the realization that my time in Nome is beginning to come to a close. Whatever the contributing factors may have been, I think I lived more of Alaska in those couple of days than I have in the entirety of my stay here.
I sometimes get nervous about playing the part of tour guide. After months of living the day-to-day in Nome, I have forgotten how exciting this place is from an outside perspective. As much as I don’t like to admit it, I take so much of the novelty and beauty of Nome for granted by just looking at it from my bedroom window. As silly as it may sound, I get so comfortable with my work and home routine that I forget we are living in the aptly named Last Frontier.
Luckily my friend Jason can be described as “adventure ready.” In his short stay, we went snowshoeing, explored an abandoned dredge, tracked down the largest herd of muskox I had ever seen, all while introducing him to the ins and outs of Nome daily life as well as that of the KNOM community house. In some respects, it is the latter that I enjoy showing off the most. I won’t paint a picture that our humble home is always brimming with energy, harmony, and laughter – but when our paths do lead towards those things, it is something else to experience. Dance parties, family dinners, movies, and just time spent standing in the kitchen talking – we have gotten comments from all of our visitors about the quality of our family time and our ability to easily open our hearts to hospitality.
*All photos are by my wonderfully talented photographer friend, Jason R. Scott.

Knoxville, in a sense, is my spiritual home; where I will return when my time as a KNOM Volunteer is over. Having someone from there, who was part of my life before I set off on this adventure, and who simultaneously fills the role of being an individual who will be part of my life when all is said and done here, put me in the kind of mindset I really needed. It reminded me a lot of why I wanted this to be my next stepping stone in life; why I wanted so badly to be a part of KNOM’s mission. As I look back on my time here, I am, of course, so grateful for the time I have gotten to spend with my fellow Nomeites, but when it came to opening my eyes to view the wonders that reside around me, I really have to thank all of those who have come to visit us during our time in Nome and all of you who are visiting us through the content of this blog.
Thank you for sharing this adventure with us. You help make it even more worthwhile.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Parental Advisory.

My parents don’t travel very much so when they told me just a few short months ago that they were coming to visit me in Nome, I was pretty blown away.  In my past three years of service my mom and dad have only had a couple of opportunities to peek inside my day to day work life.  While I know that they are proud of what I am doing with my life right now, it means a lot for them to be able to see the ins and outs of service that I’m dedicating myself to during this time.
After you’ve lived in Nome for a couple of months and the initial novelty begins to sit on the back burner, you find yourself a bit nervous about keeping busy.  When it comes time to have visitors you might worry about how to keep them occupied in this small town when many of the roads are still dwelling under feet of snow, the ocean is less of a summertime beach experience and more so a lunar landscape, and hikes are limited only to those with snowshoes willing to brave the chill awaiting them at the apex.  All of my roommates have heard me express my angst at keeping my folks busy and entertained during their visit and each of them assured me that they would have plenty of fodder in which to make an adventure out of.
They were so right.
My father out dog mushing!
Dad out dog mushing!
In just a week’s time my parents have become versed in dog mushing, walks on the frozen ocean, negative temperatures (not a commonality with our home of North Carolina), native clothing, on-air radio time, and many other Western Alaskan gifts.  In all honesty, I don’t think I ever realized how adventurous good ol’ Ma and Pa were until I found myself waiting for them to return home from hours of cross-tundra mushing.  It’s funny how the roles reversed in my life for a few days.  Instead of my parents worrying about me during my Alaskan adventure, here I was wondering when my parents would return to me from their very own.
After having spent so much time away from home post-college, it was so wonderful to have home come and visit me for a bit.  The older I get the more I realize that the same fear I had when Mom and Dad would drop me off at school for me to embark on a solo journey is still ever present.  I am grateful to have very supportive parents who, even if they don’t entirely understand why I feel I need to fly across the world to be on the radio, give me the courage to embark on this adventure just as they did in my days of grade school.
Should you ever have the opportunity to visit Nome, don’t worry about planning around events and weather.  I say you might as well just dive right in.  Though we do live in a small community, there is always something to do, interesting people to meet, and places to explore.