You can usually tell how I’m doing by what kind of music I’m listening to. Did I sleep 12 hours, write 3,000 words of which 1,000 were funny, or wear the fiercest lip color to a meeting? Then it’s time for the Marika, You’re Killing It playlist: 13 songs that make me feel like the human equivalent of a hair flip. Did I do all of those things on the same day and wear heels for more than 10 minutes? That calls for the Bitch, You Are Basically Beyonce mix, a triumphant playlist of 33 songs guaranteed to make me feel like a boss. Point being, if I’m listening to Diana Ross, I’m pretty happy; if I’m listening to sad trombone noises, I probably got dumped by a clown.
Lately I’ve been having a blast at KEXP (90.3 in Seattle or kexp.org — GET SOME) as an assistant to the Friday Night show with DJ Michele Myers and, most recently, with DJ Reeves on the Monday-Tuesday overnight. The two shows are vastly different (dance music versus a late-night variety mix) but the value in it for me is I’m learning something new. Beyond books, I’m glued to the internet like everyone else, which hasn’t led to knowledge so much as GOP fatigue and heavily-filtered pictures of food. While I’ve been pushing myself with my writing – real meaty, scary shit that makes me want to vomit daily – I also wanted to experience the arts in a vastly different way; poke around another creative outlet, see what might turn up. Working at the radio station is like being immersed in a whole other world: different language, different sounds, new people, new music, and a very specific [inclusive-to-working on it] culture.
Learning for me is generally two parts: resisting it, then diving in. One must be willing to fail spectacularly if one wants to learn, and as a perfectionist with the strength of ten perfectionists, that mode is not my default. Lucky for me, I’m also terrible at perfectionism because I love the thrill of anxiety that happens in learning mode. So after resisting at first, I usually jump in with both feet. I hate not-understanding how to do things, so getting comfortable in the KEXP booth and library and even just learning people’s names — it took a year to know just a handful of people in the office before I realized there’s a whole other office — has been an interesting challenge. I wanted to push myself in different directions this year and I’ve definitely been enjoying this one.
One surprising side effect to starting this adventure is the Shazam app is now my constant companion. I’m always looking for music to share with DJ Michele, who runs a very open and inclusive booth for her 2-3 DJ assistants, always creating a team-like atmosphere and allowing us to contribute in meaningful ways. My thing is soundtracks since I’m a TV and movie frequent flyer, so I’m forever Shazaming every show I watch, and most of the records I own are soundtracks or Broadway musicals. Some of the songs Michele has played came from my favorite shows, and it’s so cool to hear them go out into the ears of the world at large.
I was in the booth once with OC Notes for Sunday Soul, and it was the most chill, pleasant three hours I’ve ever spent. Such a laid-back, vinyl vibe; such good music for the soul. A few times, I’ve worked with one of my favorite DJs and humans, Gabriel Teodros, and his sets always align with what my own Spotify looks like. The music he personally makes is also pretty amazing. My newest gig with DJ Reeves started around February and I think I’ve learned the most about the widest range of music from working with him. Post-rock, something I still don’t fully understand, is apparently a thing (ok, I knew it was a thing but couldn’t have told you what it sounded like), which often sounds like a confusing probe into lifelong depression. Experimental music for me is either cool or weird or bad, depending on the band and my current mood. I forgot how much I like metal, all kinds of metal — Reeves is a dyedinthewool rock-horns Satan stan with the beard and everything — and I listen to a wider range of music on his show, which should not come as a surprise since it’s called the “Variety Mix.” I have a lot of fun until about 5:00 a.m. when my body reminds me we’ve been up for way too long.
I don’t know where this road will take me but I’m just enjoying the ride. Working from the Gathering Space at La Marzocco Cafe during the day has also been fun, meeting with people to write and work and catch up over the Coffee Roaster of The Month. It feels like just yesterday I was in a writing funk that was teetering on the edge of a Life Funk but, going into summer, it’s definitely turned around. I credit all the creative people and things I’ve been able to be around and do this year for keeping me sane and focused on what’s important. That and the word NO: a glorious boundary, tool, assistant, advocate, action step, and radical self-care in its highest form. I even made a playlist called It’s A No From Me: 17 songs that make me feel like saying no is not just okay, but empowering and necessary for moving in the direction I want to go. If you need a green light to say no to someone today, write yourself a permission slip and fucking GO FOR IT.