Since I was old enough to know what public radio was, Rebecca Bain has been a fixture there.
This morning, WPLN announced that Bain had died in hospice care at 58 years old. I have to admit: Hal and I were a bit overcome.
When both of us were still very new to, and nervous about, our venture into public radio, she always welcomed us with big, sincere smiles and hellos, as if we actually belonged in the WPLN building. She’d want to know what we were working on; she’d show interest, as if these weren’t merely the absurd ditherings of tender newbies; and she’d freely offer some karat of wisdom, earned and honed over nearly three decades of making radio. And she always offered it on level ground, from colleague to colleague, instead of as tablets delivered from on high.
I remember struggling one day to record my voice tracks for a story about guys who race souped-up riding lawnmowers. This should theoretically have been a funny story. I’d worked very hard to write it funny. But my writing was a little ahead of my delivery in those days.
When I did the read, the piece fell flat and limp, my uncertain voice going all singsongy and stilted. Rebecca sat in the booth with me that day and read the script the way she would do it. The story came alive. I did my best to find the same life in my own voice that always animated hers. I’m still working on that, but it’s gotten lots better. Thanks, Rebecca.
I haven’t seen her in several years now. When I last visited her, she had left WPLN and was living in a beautiful old condo in a converted warehouse. Hardwood floors, tall, gorgeous windows with light streaming in; but what I remember most are the books. Rows and rows of bookshelves filled with hundreds, maybe thousands, of novels, memoirs, histories. I like to think about her spending many a perfect hour stretched out on some cozy sofa, sunlight falling just so, as she pores through page after page of something perfect, maybe by an author she’s interviewed and particularly enjoyed. In fact, that’s how I’m picturing her right now.
Farewell, my friend.
Related post: Jim Ridley’s tribute to RB in The Scene