It’s easier for me to write than speak.
Which is curious, because I speak for a living. And not very eloquently, mind you; it is in a decidedly casual tone and vernacular that I deliver, “We got more Who tickets comin’ up for ya next hour!” After all, my main job as a New York City rock radio evening DJ (Q104.3) demands that I relate to an audience that is collectively decompressing from another day’s adventures navigating the pitfalls and potholes of the Big Apple, and just wants to chill out, hang, and hear some tunes.
But some of my work has included writing; as a New York contributor/reporter for BBC local radio, as a former music correspondent for TV’s Entertainment Tonight, and the longtime host of the radio segment “Get the Led Out,” where I narrate a calendar of the daily musical achievements and misbehavings of Led Zeppelin, the universally acknowledged titans of rock. And of course I did some writing in undergraduate and law school.
So when I received a surprising and gracious invitation from HarperCollins/Ecco to maybe pen a memoir, I knew there was no way anyone else was going to write it but me.
It’s because I see words. As if they were seemingly shot out of a cyclotron, or maybe just the double barrels brandished by Sugar Pops Pete on the old cereal box. When summoned, the words, I imagine, swirl in a tornado above my head, until they slow, drop, and arrange themselves through my fingers in sentences on the page, waiting for examination. As a pre-med biology major, who took only the mandatory freshman English course in college, I have no scholarly credentials to evaluate the order in which they have arranged themselves. The words either look right to me, or they don’t.
As to speaking contemporaneously, I find it a struggle, sometimes, to verbally grasp the words, which elude me, as Led Zeppelin sings, “like feathers in the wind.” But why? Clearly, different parts of the brain must be in play in both of these circumstances. Perhaps a tomographic cranial scan would provide an answer.
I have a theory, which, when fleshed out with my cousin Ruth, seems to make sense: English was not the first language we heard, but the first we were taught to read and write. Both of us were initially brought up in Yiddish-speaking households, but from our infancy, when we were personally addressed by our parents, they would deliberately switch into English. Certainly, there are many other Americans who share our experience, in a host of languages.
Then, there’s the thing about the stories. I’ve always viewed daily incidents as self-contained narratives, in much the way Seinfeld episodes were constructed—“The Rye,” about the marble rye lady mugged by Jerry; “The Shower Head,” with its annoying low water pressure problem; the crazed auto mechanic who steals Jerry’s car because he thinks it is being neglected), and the infamous Soup Man (OK, I don’t like the other word.).
So putting the spinning words and my laundry list of life stories together to come up with Up All Night seemed pretty natural. And I’m flattered to be asked why I did it.
Now that I think of it, I’d like to try it more often.
Carol Miller is one of the longest-running New York radio personalities, currently heard on Clear Channel’s Q104.3/New York, Sirius/XM satellite radio, and nationwide through United Stations. Miller has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has hosted dozens of national and international radio shows. A native New Yorker, she holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and a juris doctorate from Hofstra University School of Law. Her memoir, Up All Night (Ecco), publishes this month.