I don’t usually buy anything at our son’s school silent auction fundraisers. But when I saw the auction item, “Behind-the-scenes Studio Visit and Coffee with Madeleine Brand at KPCC,” I grabbed a pen and bid right away. I stood by the bidding sheet and make sure I won that prize, something I don’t think I’ve ever done for an object. Even though Madeleine’s 9am program had replaced my beloved BBC news on KPCC (one of our local NPR radio stations), I had quickly been won over by her smart and sassy style and the wonderful assortment of expert guests who she invited to join her each week. I listened to her every day while I walked along the lake, and because she had become a vital part of my mornings, I couldn’t wait to meet her in person. By the time I did, someone had told me she was actually a mother at our son’s school (hence the offering at the auction) so somehow that made her more human and less intimidating. When I showed up at her studio to meet her, I was impressed, as I had expected to be, by her warmth and wit as she moved seamlessly from news to sports to parenting stories. But when I talked with her over coffee afterwards, she surprised me by being incredibly open and friendly and interested in my world too.
We became friends after that meeting, and have enjoyed occasional walks along the lake and coffees together. When I asked her advice once about what I might be able to do in the local media with my Asian art skills and interests, she immediately put me in touch with her friend and colleague at the tv station KCET and thanks to her, I have been writing articles for their arts and culture website, Artbound for the last 3 years, something I love doing. Sadly, shortly after she introduced me to KCET, her station had forced her to co-host her morning program with a presenter who was funded by a hefty grant. This move effectively put an end to the program she had lovingly nurtured for the past few years, and although she was hurt by it, she resigned gracefully. Soon the rival NPR radio station, KCRW snapped her up and she has another terrific program with them, which I now try to catch as often as I can. Even if I hadn’t got to know her personally and discover what a thoughtful, funny and generous woman she is, I would have been outraged that KPCC let her go. I am still furious that my local radio station deprived me of a strong, smart female voice discussing news and culture every morning. I can barely stand the replacement program and, in a passive-aggressive protest/hissy fit that has now lasted several years, I have been refusing to send the station money any more.
Today was the first day of summer break for Los Angeles’ public schools, and it occurred to me that Madeleine and I are no longer parents together at the same school. That thought made me sad, because although I can still hear her sane and savvy analysis of news, culture and social issues on the radio, I know that because of the way our lives are, our paths won’t cross nearly as often. Over the years, I have learned from personal experience that women don’t always help each other professionally. But Madeleine helped me find another outlet through which I can share my knowledge and interest in Asian art and artists here in Southern California. Today, I gave her a colorful scarf from India in thanks for sharing her intelligence on the radio, her kindness and support in person, and for showing such an interest in my world.