Dangerous Waves

Thirty minutes in the life of Denver radio.

How bad is Denver radio? For an answer, look no further than my middle finger--the one I use to button-push during my drive to and from work. Earlier this decade, I was able to leave the needle set on one frequency for minutes at a time, but over the past year, that's changed. Now I skip from station to station so often that major surgery on my overworked digit seems unavoidable.

What I don't do on most occasions, however, is randomly scan for alternatives; like most people, I limit my options to ten pre-set stations even though well over forty outlets can be heard in most parts of the Denver-Boulder area. So on Wednesday, February 18, between 8:26 a.m. and a few minutes short of nine, I decided to find out what I've been missing. Beginning at the bottom of the AM dial and continuing through the FM spectrum, I visited every station I could receive in numerical order during my approximately thirty-minute commute. The following is a diary of that frightening journey, complete with a description of the (generally dreadful) programming content at the 74 aural stops I made and a listing of the time I was able to stomach lingering in each place. Travel along if you dare, and when the going gets tough, remember: At least you're only reading about it, not listening to it.

KLZ-AM/560 (21 seconds):
An advertisement by a Christian insurance agent pitching his services to Christian clients. Atheists, apparently, can go to hell.

KIIX-AM/600 (52 seconds):
"Theme From A Summer Place"--the "Stairway to Heaven" of elevator music.

KHOW-AM/630 (45 seconds):
Peter Boyles, speaking to a female caller, accuses Governor Roy Romer of hypocrisy in regard to his long-term relationship with onetime aide B.J. Thornberry. I'd take his righteous indignation over the issue more seriously if he hadn't spent the previous week collecting juvenile limericks about it.

KNUS-AM/710 (49 seconds):
Host Claudia Lamb is in high dudgeon over "Governor Wah Romeo." Maybe she should call Boyles's show.

KTLK-AM/760 (13 seconds):
A commercial about custom cabinetry. Thanks, but I like the drawers I've got.

KLT-AM/800 (21 seconds):
A promo revealing that jobs at KLT are available. Operators are standing by.

KOA-AM/850 (17 seconds):
A station known for its high proliferation of commercials blares...a commercial (for medical insurance). What a shock.

KPOF-AM/910 (21 seconds):
An evangelist with an unctuous voice tells me that I'm a child of God. I wonder: Why doesn't He send me my allowance?

KKFN-AM/950 (21 seconds):
A link touting the Fabulous Sports Babe that's as long-winded as she is.

KRKS-AM/990 (25 seconds):
A preacher asks, "Don't you think we need flexible and yet strong people who live boldly for Jesus Christ?" I guess that means dudes should work for Promise Keepers but not get paid.

KLMO-AM/1060 (28 seconds):
A dry-voiced sort recites info about agricultural futures. As far as my radio goes, he's the one without a future.

KMXA-AM/1090 (24 seconds):
A Spanish-speaking DJ sings a song while his wacky comrades chortle in the background. If I spoke Spanish, I'll bet I would have found it hilarious.

KCUV-AM/1150 (21 seconds):
A DJ and a caller engage in happy talk--in Spanish. I think I recognized one word, but I'm not positive.

KBNO-AM/1220 (21 seconds):
Spanish stand-up comedy. Obviously, taking that German class in high school was a mistake.

KRRF-AM/1280 (34 seconds):
New York-based talker Don Imus discusses a "nauseating" photo in Time magazine in which someone named Jeffrey is hugging Al Gore. His flunkies cackle, pretending that his observations are funny.

KKYD-AM/1340 (56 seconds):
This used to be a children's radio station. Now, apparently, it specializes in playing goopy pop that no one wants to hear. Me included.

KJME-AM/1390 (14 seconds):
More happy talk in Spanish. I wish I'd grown up in a country where speaking a second language was deemed important.

KEZW-AM/1430 (30 seconds):
"I'd Do Anything," from the soundtrack to the musical Oliver! I narrowly avoid crashing into a median strip.

KBVI-AM/1490 (9 seconds):
A station so desperate for advertisements that it's running an advertisement begging people to advertise on it.

KDKO-AM/1510 (27 seconds):
A not-very-interesting R&B smooch song. It makes me feel unpuckered.

KYGO-AM/1600 (40 seconds):
An okay country ballad by, I think, Don Williams. I would stick around, but the FM band awaits.

KGNU-FM/88.5 (34 seconds):
On the closest thing to a left-wing station in the area, a former Reagan-administration insider waxes nostalgic about his boss, who these days can't even get nostalgic about what happened fifteen seconds ago.

KUVO-FM/89.3 (29 seconds):
Some extremely lite guitar jazz. Makes Joe Pass sound like Joe Satriani.

KCFR-FM/90.1 (24 seconds):
A story about Monica Lewinsky. Hearing about all these politicians scoring makes me feel like a eunuch.

KWBI-FM/91.1 (27 seconds):
A Christian fellow tells me that "good parenting starts with establishing your objectives." I bail out before he advises me to use corporal punishment but with love.

KJMN-FM/92.1 (21 seconds):
An astoundingly lachrymose Latin ballad. I look around the passenger compartment for some insulin.

KVOD-FM/92.5 (27 seconds):
An ultra-dull classical passage. It relaxes me so completely that my blood stops flowing.

KTCL-FM/93.3 (27 seconds):
A sticky Michael Penn song that every other station in the country stopped playing years ago.

KRKS-FM/94.7 (21 seconds):
A proud Christian boasts that he has "increased in the knowledge of God." Hope God isn't bothered by bragging.

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