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Hope you brought your own tunes.

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Is there really a place in America where you can’t use a microwave oven?

Wikipedia would have me believe so.

It would also have me believe that terrestrial radio options are pretty limited there as well. (Which leads me to think: If you can’t get “Barracuda” on the car radio, and you can’t make popcorn without firing up the stove, then what’s the damn point?)

I happened to be well down a Wiki wormhole involving the state of Maryland when I learned about the National Radio Quiet Zone.

Assuming what I read is correct (the usual Wiki disclaimer applies), it’s a region of West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland where radio transmissions are heavily limited to avoid interference with government and military operations.

This doesn’t mean there’s no radio at all. In fact, Wiki would also have me believe there’s a network of stations serving the region that maybe do some interesting, free-form things.

Still, it sounds like an area where people who like lots of choices on their car radio might maybe be out of luck.

Being a pop geek, I managed to spot a potentially interesting confluence of events in my Wiki surfing:

One of the communities in the National Radio Quiet Zone is Buckhannon, West Virginia. That’s the town James Pankow of Chicago had in mind when he wrote Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon, the suite of songs that takes up most of Side 2 of Chicago II.

(You’ve heard at least part of the “ballet,” whether you’re a Chicago fan or not. The hits “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World” both began life as part of this song cycle.)

The placement of Buckhannon in the National Radio Quiet Zone made me wonder:

Assuming she stayed where she was, how often has the titular girl in Buc(k)hannon actually heard the songs about her on the radio? Does she have the poor fortune to live in a  rare corner of America where terrestrial radio limitations keep her more or less blacked out?

(The ARSA database of local radio airplay charts does not contain any from any station based in Buckhannon, for what little that’s worth.)

The good news is this: Since the girl in Buckhannon doesn’t live near the epicenter of the National Radio Quiet Zone, she can theoretically at least use her microwave to soften her butter before she makes chocolate chip cookies for her grandkids.

On that note, here’s a short portion of the “ballet” you might enjoy. It always struck me as reheated Uncle Meat, but in that it is not charmless.

(For those who don’t know Chicago II, the next note after the end of “West Virginia Fantasies” is the piano arpeggio that opens “Colour My World.”)


2 responses »

  1. “Washingtonian” had an article about the area a while ago. It seems to attract “electrosensitives” who annoy the locals –


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