Lehe: By showering, learn community happenings, rap songs

By Lewis Lehe

I am trying to find the words to describe my shower radio without being disrespectful.

If you didn’t catch that, I just made a very timely pop culture reference. In Akon’s new song, he croons that he’s “tryna find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful.” Apparently, he didn’t find the words, because the song is titled “Sexy B*tch.”

I am able to make cutting-edge references because I have a shower radio. Today, I endorse shower radios. A shower radio is the best way to connect to the popular culture of the United States as well as the local goings-on of Pittsburgh.

I used to feel inferior when other people made pop music references. The people who were the life of the party always seemed to be getting all excited when songs I’d never heard came blaring out of the speakers. These kids would sing the words and do special dance moves. As for me, I just hung my head in shame, convinced I was an ignoramus. “How do people know about all this pop stuff?” I wondered while sobbing into my pillow every night.

It used to be that I learned everything I knew about celebrities from reading US Weekly in the grocery store line at Giant Eagle. But the line is only so long, and I wasn’t familiar with half of the celebrities’ output — so even the most sordid affairs just didn’t resonate. Nor does US Weekly help you sing lyrics out loud at a party.

Then I moved into a room on the third floor of a 100-year-old house in South Oakland. During the winter, the temperature on my floor drops to 50 degrees, so I started taking longer showers — procrastinating the frosty and depressing moment when I would exit the shower’s steamy womb. And as luck would have it, the first time I stepped into said shower there was a little shower radio waiting for me on the floor. Here, bundled up in the most unlikely of places, was my salvation from a life lived without pop music savvy.

With just 20 minutes of listening per day, I soon became an expert on the latest and greatest from Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Sean Kingston, Jay Z and, of course, Mr. Akon himself. It marked a turning point in my life. I am a new man now — a man whose tastes are similar to those of a 12-year-old girl.

Knowing the lyrics made me personally invested in the astrology of the stars of pop music. Thanks to the shower radio, I felt honestly appalled that Chris Brown beat up the girl who sang “Disturbia” and “Please Don’t Stop the Music,” instead of mildly interested that this really young guy beat up the girl from the makeup commercial.

I’m going through the trouble of telling you about the shower radio today, though, not just because I like talking about myself and because I have to write something every week. I’m telling you about the shower radio, because I want you to get ahead in the world.

Long ago, before VH1, people used to get by through quoting Shakespeare and talking about the latest Dostoevsky translation. Book knowledge provided your ticket to swanky parties, good jobs and beautiful women, unless you were a beautiful woman, in which case it was your ticket to feeling extremely constrained as a housewife. The way of the world was that people gave and received props for the kinds of things people who don’t go to college imagine that people who do go to college learn at college.

In the year 2009, you’ll still get some props for knowing about good writing, but those props will pale in comparison with the props due to anyone who can rap the verses of “Empire State of Mind.” Of course, listening to the shower radio won’t equip you to rap whole verses, but, after repeated exposure, you will gain the ability to move your mouth in such a way that, if the song is playing loudly, it will plausibly look like you are rapping the real words.

The shower radio isn’t just a lifeline to the national consciousness, though. It’s also a great way to find out what is happening in your community. And as I’ve discovered, one of the main things happening in your community is a hilarious morning show called the 96.1 KISS Morning Freak Show with Mikey and Big Bob. Many a day I find myself with wrinkled hands because I stayed in the shower extra long to hear more of Mikey and Big Bob’s antics on the airwaves. A real couple of cut-ups, if you ask me!

On Friday, I went to Monroeville and left a Barbie doll in an empty school bus. It wasn’t as creepy as it sounds, because Mikey and Big Bob were sponsoring an event called “Stuff a Bus,” where KISS helps fill school buses with toys for children without advantages like Nerf crossbows and Bratz dolls. I never would have helped those needy children if it hadn’t been for Mikey and Big Bob broadcasting live from the Miracle Mile shopping center.

Driving back from Monroeville, I thought of all those toys for the tots … how happy the tots would be on Christmas morning. And I realized that I could make people I knew, who weren’t even tots, just as happy with a simple inexpensive gift. This Christmas, I’m giving shower radios. It’s the perfect way to say whatever I’m trying to find the words to say.

E-mail Lewis at [email protected].