Remembering “The Professor:” Michael Pool, radio zealot and host of WFMU’s Audio Kitchen

Michael Pool, aka, “The Professor,” circa 1985. The photo was taken at a record shop where, he wrote, ”I really began my journey in music.”

Regretfully, I’ve had to bid farewell to few radio friends in the past few months.  But until very recently I never dreamed I’d be saying goodbye to my great friend and radio arts mentor Michael Pool, known to the radio world as “The Professor.”

Michael was an interesting individual, to say the least.  His curiosity in humanity had no bounds:  he could find the interesting in the so-called mundane. Moreover, he was brilliant, his mind a quirky work of art as well as complex and intricate repository for a broad spectrum of facts, particularly of the radio-related. This was, no doubt, the source of his professorial “title.”

Moreover, Michael’s lifelong interest in radio, and indeed all the radio arts––especially AM broadcasting––led to his becoming an audio and radio archivist; over the years he assembled a vast collection of off-air recordings, band scans, and air checks, a curated collection of audio which he loved sharing with the world. Besides broadcasting, Michael was passionate about music; he could guide you into the depths of almost any genre, but he was especially fond of soul and R&B.  I know my own interest in these genres was enhanced by his knowledge of them.

Much like his vintage radio receivers, Michael seemed to have no filter. If he thought it, he said it. And perhaps, partly as a result of his combination of astute observation and frank speech, Michael was also a published poet.

Michael, who was feeling great throughout most of December, admitted himself to the hospital in the latter part of the month when he began noticing that his breathing was labored. Doctors soon found that fluid was building up in his lungs.

When Michael called to tell me he was ill, he broke the news indirectly and thus gently. He had been in the hospital for a week or so already; in his typical lighthearted delivery, he told me how he’d learned to finagle an extra cup of coffee from the nurses, how he managed to save his sleeping pill until he actually wanted to sleep, and how no one there really understood the “spaceship” aspect of his bedside table set up, which included a computer, hard drives, radios, and speakers. He called it his “on-site HQ.” If anything happened to him, it was clear he intended to go out with his boots on.

On the phone, Michael had me laughing pretty hard for a good twenty minutes before I was able to ask, “So what did you have…pneumonia?” He replied, quite casually, “Turns out I have stage four pancreatic cancer.”

I sat in shocked silence, groping for words.  Noting my silence, he took up my part of the exchange almost cheerfully. “You know,” he continued lightly, saying what I was unable to voice, “I’m not sure it could be a worse diagnosis.”

Michael was in and out of the hospital for the next few weeks, but somehow remained positive, setting up his HQ wherever he was, writing poetry and long humorous emails to friends. Even when he finally entered a hospice center, he remained positive, somehow at peace with this very unexpected turn of events.

I’ve struggled to pull together this post about Michael.

Like his other friends and his family, I’m still in a bit of shock. There’s no way I can summarize his life. But I can say that my life was richer and more interesting because Michael was in it.

I’m going to miss him.

Michael and I shared a love of archiving off-air radio recordings and he has entrusted me with his collection. I’ll make sure these recordings are curated, archived, and shared online.

Some readers may know Michael as a radio host on WFMU: his show was The Audio Kitchen, in which he featured “an hour of homemade recordings freshly liberated from thrift stores and junk shops, as well as some amateur audio spirited away from the closets and computers of their creators.”

If you want a flavor of what it was like to hang with The Professor, I encourage you to listen to some of the archived shows on WFMU.  They’re definitely worth a listen:

https://wfmu.org/playlists/AK

Michael was also a regular contributor here on the SWLing Post, and for many years, hosted his own websites called, appropriately, “The Radio Kitchen” and “The Audio Kitchen.” I have some of his articles in an archive, as well, and plan to post them here over time.

I had planned to visit Michael when I fly to Philly next week. Still, on Saturday morning, I sat down to compose a long newsy email to him, musing on dreaming in other languages and various other audio experiences, among other things.  I had just finished writing it and hit “send;” when my inbox refreshed, I found a message from a family friend that Michael had died the previous night.

Michael Pool skipped the light fandango and departed this world on Friday, February 15, 2019. All too soon…But be at peace, my friend.

A post script.  In one of Michael’s recent emails, not long after he received his devastating diagnosis, he sent the following poem he’d written.  Hopefully, he will not mind my sharing it with you here, because fortunately for me in this moment, it says what I cannot:


A Brief Winter Examination

The future is so hard to find. It’s not yours
And it’s not here. Of course you could go for a walk
And not come back, but the mindless highway has no predictions.
That seeker? That’s me with a measurement problem, almost looking ahead.
The other day as old folks made their way to their bus seats, I realized
they are
Already in the future. Although a decrepit body Is a poor outfit for a
time traveler, it fits.

For me, these days are going somewhere,
But I just have less to say about it. Yesterday I performed
A test. I opened my eyes and noted the time, Not long after
I took another look at the clock. The readout of minutes had increased.
Why I did I think it might be any other way? I had to do the math to be
sure
I wasn’t going back in time. But give me the opportunity and I just
might do just that.

Tonight I’m all Ellington with my orange cat.
I opened the door a few minutes ago, to see the rest of it.
About an inch of snow. I had no idea. But I’m out to enjoy this era
Of surprise. I don’t know or guess or ponder as I have, I let the facts
come to me.
Call me primitive. Or just call me if you get this message. Our
conversation isn’t over.
It never will be, but I’d like to do some more work on it. The
meandering is the best part.


 

 

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13 thoughts on “Remembering “The Professor:” Michael Pool, radio zealot and host of WFMU’s Audio Kitchen

  1. Michael Antczak

    I was lucky enough to be Michael Pool’s friend. We knew each other in Tampa between 1991 and 1997/8 when he moved to NY. We met when we both were doing a temp job,found out I was a musician then he quizzed me about my band and said “you’d know my girlfriend”. I indeed knew her as she had just days before said “You should meet my boyfriend”, odd enough I lived only a half block from him at the time.
    We shared a love of music together and I was in awe of his vinyl collection. He was always quizzing me, whether I knew this record or that artist. We spent many hours drinking cheap beer and talking into the wee hours, album after album. Michael and I DJ’d “lounge music” together in Ybor City, I was one of his musical guests (always supportive of my music) at his Poetry Slam that he ran for a number of years.
    He often shared his poetry with me and valued my opinion which I was always honored to read his inner thoughts.
    I was saddened to hear of his passing and we’ve definitely lost a unique and quirky mind. I always will think fondly of laughing with him,the years we spent hanging out together. He was 35 when I met him and even then he had a tremendous depth and a truthful unfiltered way of speaking. Thank you for putting this out and thigh it saddened me to hear of his death, it made me smile remembering how great it was having him as a friend.

    Reply
  2. Paul K7PJP

    RIP Michael. I didn’t even know his real name, but I revisited his blog so many times over the years. The entry on Trucking Radio, WWL, and John Parker is one of my favorite things on the Internet.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: R.I.P. Radio Adventurer ‘The Professor’ - Radio Survivor

  4. Missing you...

    Missing you is sometimes so painful. Thanks for being all that you were to me. You were such an amazing person Michael..so so darn amazing.

    Reply
  5. Ed Cummings

    I was privileged to know Michael from hanging out and chatting with him at the SWLfest over the years. He was an interesting and knowledgeable character; never without some intriguing, thoughful observations. And he really loved radio. At last year’s SWLfest he told me he was looking for a new place to live that was decent and more affordable than Brooklyn. So I suggested Philadelphia, saying, “It’s not New York, but it doesn’t suck!” And he seriously researched it. When he said he was ready to move to Philly, I helped him find him a nice, affordable apartment that he really loved. The day he came to see it in person, a thunderstorm had just cleared and there was an amazing double rainbow over Philly. We agreed it was a good omen and he signed the lease. It was the first place he’d had all to himself for many years, and he arranged quite a nice radio nest for himself. Michael thanked me many times, repeating my quip, “It’s not New York, but it doesn’t suck!” which he really took to heart. It saddens me that just after Michael got his new home all set up just as he liked and was getting acclimated to it, he learned of his illness–which gave him far too little time to spread his wings and enjoy his new home. Rest in peace, Michael. We’ll miss you.

    Reply
  6. Mark Fahey

    The Professor was such a joy to drink with. I have been lucky to have spent many, many, many beer-fueled hours long into the night inside the SWLWinterFest Hospitality Room, or outside it when it shut for the night. The dude had such incredible wit and sense of humor, and he would get so passionate and angry about any injustice that he saw.

    The last time we drank together I realized who he reminded me of so much – Lois Black (the angry comedian). I was trying to convince him to come to Australia (my home), and he could do shows in pubs. He was puzzled, “err like what would I have do” – my reply, nothing, simply come down sit on a stool on the stage, be a New Yorker and tell people everything that’s pissing you off! Seriously he would have sold shows out!

    I was really serious – if he came done here he most likely would have ended up with a late-night TV chat show!

    Reply
  7. Taiyo la Paix

    I wish I could have met this wonderful man. I feel like I have. Maybe in Michael I recognize that positive, accepting spirit I so wish I could maintain. I’m just so sorry. He would probably tell me not to be, and tell me all the lovely reasons which I fail to see on my own. Thank you for sharing, Thomas. I’m so sorry for your loss of a beautiful friend.

    Reply
  8. Amber Pool

    My name is Amber and I was his niece. Thank you for writing such a touching tribute. This has meant a lot to all of our family who have read it, thus far. My Uncle Michael, “The Professor”, was an incredible man and such an inspiration in my life. I will never forget the beautiful evenings spending time with him. Under the stars, taking photographs of the night sky, listening to shortwave radio (or whatever music he felt was right for the moment), and talking about life. What I would give for one more night. One more conversation. One more crazy story about his adventures. The world lost a beautiful human last Friday. Thank you for capturing his essence and complexities in this tribute. It was perfect and I will read this over and over again. Thank you for sharing his bittersweet words of poetry. I am deeply saddened that his story has come to an end, in a way. May we all live and die with that same spirit that he held onto until his last days.

    Reply

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