A round of late winter El Niño rains slowed traffic on the Bay Bridge, giving me time to think about the evening ahead and how I might eventually recount it here. My story would have to begin with the line I’ve waited years to use: “It was a dark and stormy night.” In the driving rain, our windshield wipers seemed to be timed to match my pulse. What had we agreed to?
According to Google Maps, we would reach 350 Townsend in about 23 minutes. That left plenty of time for me to run through my checklist of anxieties. Would my nerves get the better of me and render every sentence a series of ums and uhhs? Had I prepared well enough to talk about the evening’s topics? Is my speaking voice better suited to print than broadcast? My internal voice was telling me, “It’ll be fine. It’ll be fun.”
Nancy and I had been invited to join SK Morton as guests on his Lousy San Francisco Podcast and talk about San Francisco chocolate and CBTB. A week earlier it had sounded like a fun idea and another chance to spread the word about the local chocolate scene. Listening to a couple of episodes of the podcast, we learned that the format is built loosely around a weekly theme and leaps humorously from topic to tangent as the show progresses.
The world of SK Morton’s Lousy San Francisco Podcast is populated by characters with names like Coco Bear and Squidge, who I imagine are real people. Show regulars include Pete & Lizzie, Suzy L, Michelle Thomas, SK’s wife, Babette, and a small but enthusiastic studio audience known as the Throng. In the context of the podcast, nothing seems out of place from the Muppet Show and Bullwinkle sound clips to the casual plugs for SK Morton’s Lousy San Francisco Tours, Bridal Fitness or The Amazon button (visit skmorton.com, click the button on the home page, and shop Amazon as you usually would. For each purchase you make, Amazon will give a little bit to help keep the podcast going). The episodes we listened to sounded like friends and guests hanging out in the living room for an hour (or two). Nothing too formal, we told ourselves. It should be fine. It should be fun.
When we arrived at our destination, the rain was falling harder. We called up to let our host know we’d made it and watched as another car pulled into a parking spot in front of the building. A woman got out of the car; we commented on the weather as she waited with us at the door. Seconds later, SK appeared. A natural host with a resonant voice, an affable manner and an air of mischief, he welcomed us, and we followed him inside through a maze of corridors. He introduced us to Suzy L, the woman who’d joined us at the front gate.
In one hallway, a golf bag and a well-loved love seat marked the way to the Bomb Shelter, the small studio/office where the Lousy SF Podcast happens. There was a rounded L-shaped desk with four microphones positioned around it, a sound mixing board, computer monitor, chairs, bookshelves, a full-sized drafting table and a random collection of papers, photographs and objects that echoed the format of the podcast.
Mesmerizing patterns bounced around the computer screen while an eclectic music playlist (Rogers and Hammerstein, Elton John, and music from Disneyland rides…) helped fill the short interval as we settled in and the Throng arrived for the start of the podcast.
A rectangular basket was conspicuously turned face-down on the desk. “I’ve got a surprise for later,” SK explained. “We’re going to do a blind taste test.” He shifted the basket toward the middle of the table, and I caught a sharp whiff of milk chocolate. I announced that I smelled a Hershey’s bar. A subtle change in his expression told me I had just spoiled at least part of the surprise. I hoped I hadn’t ruined the evening.
Is this thing on?
The scheduled fill-in co-host, Michelle called to say that her Über ride was running late, so SK asked Suzy if she would mind doing the intro. Suzy took a seat at the microphone, held the script in front of her, and SK played the intro theme. We were OFF (… or ON. I’m not sure which describes it better). She delivered a lively intro that promised guests Robert DeNiro, David Bowie, George Lucas and Robin Thicke. From that point, the details of the evening begin to blur in my memory. I recall that Nancy and I were introduced as chocolate experts. SK kept us laughing and on our toes. I remember that Michelle did arrive and take over as co-host, steering the discussion to chocolate, sharing some questions from listeners and showing a pretty impressive knowledge of chocolate to boot. I remember that there was a lot of laughing. I remember that Nancy was sharp and funny as we chatted for about an hour and a half. Did I mention the laughing? I even vaguely remember being invited back to talk chocolate again at a later date.
And that’s our show
If you’re curious about the details, head over to skmorton.com/lousypodcast (you don’t have to type the www). Look for Episode 35: Chunks of things. The show description begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.” (Yeah, he beat me to it.) You might want to settle into your comfy chair because it’s an 80-minute show. And be sure to have a bit of your favorite local chocolate with you because it takes a while to get around to the chocolate portion of the podcast. (and don’t forget to look for the Amazon button on the Home page).
Back outside, the rain hadn’t eased. As we drove home across the bridge that evening, we tried to assess how the whole thing had gone. Had we actually said anything useful? Was it entertaining? We told ourselves that with some editing, it’d fine. It had been fun.
I’ll end here in the tradition of the Bullwinkle and Rocky Show with two alternative titles for the episode: “I lost my point in San Francisco,” or “Are you sure there’s chocolate in this?” Thank you, SK Morton and crew, for a very entertaining evening.