The First Time … and why you should care.

It’s funny.  I’m always caught between being a voyeur and an exhibitionist. You wouldn’t know it from the Tweeting and the Facebooking and nearly 8 years of blogging I’ve done here at the old Smussyolay, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to be looked at. I don’t want to be critiqued or analyzed or noticed, or god forbid, praised.  So, it’s always striking to me when people actually remember stuff about me — stuff I’ve told them or stuff I’m interested in or stuff that defines me.

At some level, it pleases me. I want people to know me. I want people to love me and find me attractive — in more ways than one. I want people to understand me and I want people to want to be near me — in more ways than one. And so that’s probably the part that continues to share things regardless of the fact that it could actually turn people off. It’s a double edged sword, actually.  On one hand, I share in the hopes it will actually make people interested in me. On the other, I think I share everything, in the hopes it will actually make people run away. Wow, getting deep here.

Not to mention getting deep on this post, which wasn’t supposed to be about this. Point BEING, that 3.5 years ago, I started working with CHIRP Radio. And I started talking about it, I guess. I didn’t really remember talking about it, but I guess I did.  Because after a little bit, people started to ask me “How’s the radio thing going?” Sometimes, they now remember to ask “How’s CHIRP?”

I was talking about it because I was excited, because I couldn’t believe that I was going to get to be part of a radio station again. Working at WONC in college was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and led me to some of the greatest friendships and memories I’ve ever had. So, to be able to have even one-fourth of that experience was going to be great. It had to be.

I was not let down. Being back on the air again was fantastic. 1/17/12 marked our second anniversary, and we’re still working diligently in the background to get our low-power FM license as well.  You can listen to us at, 21/7, and we were named Best Radio Station by the Chicago Reader’s poll last year and Chicago Magazine named us Best Internet Station. Awesome. What honors.

In 2010, I created a reading series to benefit CHIRP. It’s called “The First Time.” People write 5-7 minute original pieces around a First Time theme (first sex, first job, first car, first record) and then they pick a song to accompany their piece. Immediately following their reading, we have a live band, “The First Time,” play their song live, in a stripped-down, acoustic setting.

We’ve had Jim DeRogatis, Susan Messing, Josh Caterer, Robbie Fulks, Scott Smith, Whet Moser, Megan Stielstra, Matt Spiegel and Dag Juhlin … just to name a FEW of the readers. And I’m so blessed to have the band be made up of Steve Frisbie, Liam Davis and Gerald Dowd.  They’ve taken on The Misfits, Huey Lewis, Cypress Hill, Extreme, Van Morrison, Concrete Blonde, Sinead O’Connor, Uncle Tupelo and The Rolling Stones.

So. I’d love it if you’d help CHIRP out.  Today is the second day of a membership drive. We’re listener supported and volunteer run, and you can help out by going to If you do it, tell them I sent you. If you know my real name, put it down. Otherwise, put smussyolay, and I’ll tell them to count it for me.  We’ve got a friendly competition going, so every little bit helps.

The other way you can help is by coming out to see The First Time: First Digs if you live anywhere near Chicago. It’s April 18th, 8:30 pm at Beat Kitchen. It’s going to be amazing. They’re always so much fun. Help me help you have a great time and have a great radio station — and that you don’t even have to be in Chicago to listen to. I’ve gotten requests from Paris before.

Smooches and rock and roll,



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