I blame Mercury Retrograde for the day I shut down Hot 97. Some folks are nonbelievers. They liken the retrograde phenomenon to a funky load of BS. But as a sexy Scorpio to the core, with a creative Pisces moon, I believe in God, astrology, psychics, some horoscopes, and overall that the positions of the moon, sun and planets can affect attitudes and personal circumstances.
This second week of May saw the end of a retrograde period that lasted from April 18 to May 11. It undoubtedly encompassed a slew of retrograde specific issues. Did you experience any technological breakdowns during this time? Did you have misunderstandings or beefs with loved ones, friends, or coworkers? I had it all – especially the mechanical mishaps. My refrigerator broke down and defrosted every fine meat in my freezer. My Audi car engine light kept popping on and off like Christmas lights. Power-outages brought darkness to my home, twice. The TV and DVR seemed possessed. Verizon messed up my home phone and internet line. And several friends of mine had cell phone issues.
At times like this, I often contact my good friend, psychic Kim Allen. She’s a beautiful astrology expert I worked with during my radio days at Kiss FM. I met Kim years ago, during her weekly readings on Miss Jones’ Hot 97 morning show, and she explained the drama. “As the planet of communication, Mercury Retrograde tends to breed a certain level of confusion,” she says. “Minor breaks in the mechanical aspects of communication can actually reconnect us to other means of communication, such as when there’s a power outage and we’re forced off the computer and television, finding different and often satisfying ways to entertain ourselves.”
I’m pretty sure folks found another station to entertain themselves with the day I took Hot 97 off air. It happened on a typical Sunday when I was hosting my weekly afternoon shift. I casually pressed buttons and clicked on whatever the latest Jay Z, Lil Wayne or Rick Ross single was in rotation. Most radio music systems are set up on huge computers. They’re like juke boxes activated by clicking screen figures to play songs. It’s a fairly simple task powered by a mouse and a pad. So on this particular weekend, I went through my robotic motions of pointing the cursor, clicking, and heading back to the table to finish reading the Daily News in search of something informative to share with my listeners. But during one particular retrograde period, the worst happened — the computer stalled. I could hear the record’s volume decreasing as I slid the mouse and aimed to activate the next track. But the screen froze. There was silence. Everything went black, flickered, and then popped back on to its frozen state.
Hot 97’s studio filled with my screams and colorful profanity flavored phrases. After about 20 seconds of trying to click buttons, praying out loud, and hoping something would work, I picked up the engineering bat phone, and frantically dialed the tech specialists who knew how to fix this problem. But I got voicemail.
My stomach did somersaults. Gas began to build up in my intestines. And then the phone rang from the special line that only one person called, Ebro. At the time, Ebro Darden was the music director in charge of picking and loading the music that played on Hot 97. “What’s goin’ on, Raq?” He was calm and laid back in his typical California raised style. I was on that New York Mobb Deep tip — shook. “Um…” My voice quivered, so I cleared my throat. “I didn’t do anything.” I felt like a 12 year old trying to avoid a parental smackfest. “The computer broke down, the screen went black, and the backup computer is down. I didn’t do anything. It’s not my fault.” He snickered and sounded a bit like he caught himself. “You fuckin up. I’ma be there in a few minutes.” Damn!
I prided myself on having flawless, tight, radio board operation. Management often complimented me on it, because I rarely gave dead air (those awkward musical silences you here when listening to some radio stations) space in my shift. That wasn’t professional. This is New York City, the number one radio market, shaky board work won’t do.
After nearly 10 uncomfortable minutes (which is like a month in radioland) the engineering specialist rushed through the studio door, asked about the situation, and fell to his knees, checking the wiring under the computer. Seconds later, Ebro walked in. Built like a light skinned football player, his pants purposely sagged below sea level. The valid point: saggy pants don’t equal idiot. “You fuckin up, Raq?” There was a tiny smirk on his face. I tried to read it as anger or sarcasm, but couldn’t move the meter. “It wasn’t my fault,” I said, beginning to smile as he slightly broke into one. “The computer crashed and the backup went black and my key to the master control room isn’t working…” He cut me off. “Nah, Mercury is retrograde,” he said, trying to move the stiff curser. “Some people have certain energies that cause electrical things to breakdown.”
I exhaled a sigh of relief and thanked God that Ebro, a Pisces, was a well-read believer. I didn’t know about the electrical energy part, but was happy he knew of the four week phenomenon that normally sees technology crash. My boss was familiar with things falling to pieces during Mercury Retrograde. And in a flash that lasted 1200 seconds, the engineer popped up from under the computer, the screen rebooted, and the place where hip hop lives was back on air.
“There is a positive side to Mercury Retrograde,” Kim Allen says. “This period is best used for re-organizing and reflecting. Mercury retrograde periods can be times of heightened inner awareness when meditation, keeping a journal, reworking old plans, and reviewing past work are favored.”
During the recent few weeks of retrograde, I reviewed my past work in radio, Hot 97, and the day I took them off-air for 20 minutes. I can only think and feel comfort in knowing one thing — it wasn’t my fault.
Next Mercury Retrograde period is August 21 – September 12, 2010.
Kim Allen can be reached on Facebook under “Astrologer Kim Allen” or at her website KimAllen.com.