The American Heathen Goes to Washington Pt. 2
(The following post is Part 2 of a multi-part series on RJ Evans’ visit to Washington, DC as part of the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition efforts to lobby for the Internet Radio Fairness Act. The bill will be re-introduced in this year’s 113th Congress.)
I think we’ll get along great!
My tattoos and wardrobe choice for the evening made me stand out like a festering pustule on the face of a Kardashian. However, one of my big pet peeves is putting on clothes that aren’t comfortable and a part of my personal character. A suit and tie on me would’ve created a much more intimidating appearance than the muscle polo and leather vest I was wearing. I’d end up looking more like a mafia henchman than a businessman. So any “OMG! Who the fuck is this guy?” was the least of my worries. My inner voice laughed and said ‘Fuck’em if they can’t deal with it.’ Yeah, I looked like I was out on work release, but at least I was comfortable and didn’t feel like I had compromised my principle of being true to who I am.
As my colleagues and I exchanged small talk about Internet radio, a gentleman had walked up to join our circle of discussion. He introduced himself as a representative for christian Internet radio broadcasters. He’d overheard a brief comment of mine about being an atheist broadcaster, and about my now defunct American Heathen radio show. I smiled and introduced myself, he smiled, and then we shook hands. He made some comment about how well we would get along together because he was “spiritual” as opposed to a christian. I told him it really didn’t matter to me what he was, as long as he was happy with it, and didn’t expect others to tow his particular religious line. A few nervous laughs echoed through the small group. My laugh was genuine, and surprisingly the christian broadcaster’s laugh was genuine. We shook hands again as he replied with “No problem.” As we continued to shake hands I told him that that was what America is all about and ended with, “You know… I think we’ll get along great! Freedom and liberty for all. Right?” Everyone nodded in agreement.
Liberals, Conservatives and everyone else – United we were standing as one
Harvey and his assistants, along with his boss and a few others, began to call the meeting to order. We were told to look for our names on tags placed at settings on the finely appointed dinner tables. I strolled around the four tables looking for my name, eventually finding it on the right side of a table closest to the podium set at the center front of the room. Harvey sat next to me on my right. Apparently Harvey wanted me close to him just in case. I chuckled to myself. One of Harvey’s colleagues asked us to introduce ourselves to the coalition, starting with our table. Everyone gave their name and their station call or station name. Once the introductions were over dinner was served and general conversation resumed. After a fine meal (grilled chicken breast, carrots mixed with red peppers and some form of asparagus) the official part of the meeting got underway. Most of it covered the dos and don’t s while walking the halls of Congress. Some of our instructions were pointed. Be courteous, keep your personal politics out of the discussion, focus on the talking points in the handout, and stay away from discussion about terrestrial radio. Focus on digital radio delivery methods and leveling that particular playing field. Satellite and cable radio pay less than Internet radio when it comes to performance royalties, so bringing Internet radio rates down to those levels was the primary message.
As I looked around the room, I noted the wide variety of people who had gathered. Liberals, Conservatives, and everyone else. Some were religious, some not, some really didn’t care one way or the other. My conversations, before the meeting was called to order, had given me a glimpse into the diversity of Internet radio. Big companies like Pandora, Clear Channel, DIMA (Digital Media Association)… Small stations like PeaRadio, ShockNet Radio, Girls Rock Radio… all covering a vast expanse of experience and knowledge, race, creed, age, and sex… all gathered together for a common cause. The cause was fairness. Individual motivation wasn’t important. Some folks wanted to break even, some wanted to make a profit. Some just wanted to survive the massive changes taking place in the digital music broadcasting arena. And, for the first time ever, the larger companies actually insisted that the smaller companies and stations be a part of the fight for fairness. After 12 years of piecemeal legislation and two congressional hearings to save Internet radio from the death grip of the recording industry, everyone affected by the inequality of the current system stood together as one. And, what really surprised me most was the fact that every single person I spoke with during the entire trip insisted that our system of government was broken. Failed. Polarized. Dysfunctional. No one blamed liberals exclusively. In fact, the conservatives in the group were more embarrassed by their own party than I would have expected. But, politics aside, at least for a couple of days, our unity prevailed. We were working together. We were working as one in the spirit of our national motto, “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of many, one. United we were standing as one.
The Best $9 We Ever Spend Together
The meeting adjourned just before the start of the State of the Union address by President Obama. Most of the attendees wanted to watch the address, but a few of us wanted to resume our discussions on the state of Internet radio, opting to hammer our grievances out on the carpet of the hallway outside of the meeting room. We spent over an hour talking about everything from royalty rates, to musical styles, to the history of music and its impact on people’s lives. With some voices growing tired, it was time to say goodnight. I suggested to a few of my colleagues that we continue our talk in the hotel bar. I was restless. Some folks declined, but two gentleman said they’d be happy to join me. After dropping off our meeting folders in our rooms, the three of us met at the bar and found a table. The bar was relatively quiet, sans the President delivering the State of the Union address on the television, and a few patrons scattered about the tables talking amongst themselves. I called the waitress over and told her that the beer was on my tab. She smiled and took our orders. We picked up our conversation where we’d left off in the hallway. More music business talk. More radio talk. A swig of beer or two. More talk and a few laughs.
About an hour into our discussion a couple of big, beautiful, drunk black women walked over to our table. The tallest of the two started rambling on about my tattoos as she started to stroke my arm, then my neck. Then she was distracted by my colleague sitting to my left. He was a young guy, mid 30′s, very tall and handsome. He had a little boy face that had caught the woman’s attention. The second woman was much shorter, but just as pretty. She knelt down next to me on my right and started to stroke my arms while looking intently at my tattoos. My compadre s and I just looked at each other in dismay, trying to suppress our laughter. “Baby, I love your sleeves! Say, what would it take to get you to pay this nine dollar bar tab?” That was all it took. All three of us broke out in gut wrenching laughter. I told the woman that she’d have to go home with me, but she’d also have to sleep with my wife. She started laughing with us. Then, without warning, she stood partway up, planted her partially covered, ample breasts, hard against my face and started jiggling. I couldn’t move because she’d grabbed the back of my head firmly, pushing it into her cleavage. After about thirty seconds of boob bobbling she stood up. The grin on my face gave away my satisfaction. My glasses were skin oil fogged. I looked over at my friends and said, “You know…That might be worth nine bucks! What do you guys think?” Well, before I had finished the sentence, both of my colleagues faces were being accosted by the woman’s boobs, their faces firmly planted involuntarily in between two pairs of large black breasts. My friend across from me was black, so his reaction to our impromptu delinquency was especially interesting to me. Normally one would think that a blush on a black face would be difficult to see. But, my friend actually showed a bright red hue on his cheeks in the dim light of the bar. The women stood up and asked if our experience was worth paying their nine dollar bar tab. The three of us looked at each other, shit eating grins as wide as our faces. “Gentleman! I say we each pony up three bucks. That will be the best nine bucks we ever spend together. A unifying experience!” I declared. Our wallets came out, we grabbed the check. The women said thank you and then said goodbye.
It was late by the time we had stopped laughing. A beer for each of my friends, two for me, and a pair of boobs for each of us, had been sufficient entertainment for the night. The clock on my iPhone read 12:15am. We shook hands, said goodbye to one another, then walked back to our rooms for the night. Our schedule of meetings in the halls of Congress the next day would be a brutal one. 10 meetings over 8 hours. Plus a flight back home with a change of planes still lay ahead. Adding lost hours of sleep, and boob rash to our level of difficulty for the following day was unplanned. But, fortunately that would be the least of my worries. Insomnia would plague me, and by mid-morning the next day my head would never forgive me.