"Harley Momma" began
as a newspaper column, something
of a quickie, I must admit, as newspaper
tend to be. By the time it was published, after I'd half forgotten
it, a stanger turned to me in the frozen food aisle and
growled, "HARLEYYY!" Since
I live in a university town where most residents a) are supereducated;
and, b) talk to themselves on a regular basis, I thought little
of it, kept moving. Then it happened again. A banker peered over
and said, "Honey, your Mother is a kill." The
guy at the fish market, after being asked about the day's trout,
said, unprompted: "I've
got a Harley. I'll ride it until I die." Nothing I've written
before or since has gotten this type of response.
And so, adopting the dim logic of Hollywood,
I turned "Harley Momma" into a radio essay, thinking, "What
the hell, if they liked the print version, they'll love it on radio.
. ." "Harley
Momma" translated easily to the medium, it turned out, exactly because
it was so hastily
written. I'd used simple, straightforward language and edited very
little. As a text, I suppose, it came off less compressed, less precise,
insightful than it might have been. But as a spoken word performance,
the looser language felt right for the occasion. Most of us don't speak
the way we write, thank god, and if we did, we'd be hanging clauses
all over town, strangling listeners. My goal was to sound as though
speaking my mind, not reading a text.
A note on production: I produced "Harley Momma"
on my three year-old Apple Powerbook with something called an Mbox,
a snazzy audio interface made
by Digidesign (which the aspiring radio essayist can nab off eBay for
around 300 bucks). I also used a good quality Audio-Technica condenser
mic and a so-so pair of studio headphones.