Bay Area radio personality Nisker (If You Don’t Like the News, 1994, etc.) mixes engaging autobiography with philosophical musings.
His journey toward radical journalism and practicing Buddhism began, this amiable outsider declares, when he was a child in a modest Nebraska town with not a single other Jewish family. “My bar mitzvah lessons exemplified my early spiritual confusion,” he writes. “I was memorizing long passages of transliterated Hebrew script that made no sense to me in preparation for joining a Jewish community that in my hometown did not even exist.” To further his confusion, the author spent vacations at a Zionist summer camp in Wisconsin, where the Israeli flag was raised each day and the children sang the Israeli national anthem. At college Nisker discovered existentialist philosophy, Jack Kerouac, and mind-altering drugs. After convincing his local draft board to give him a 4F classification, he headed to California to attend the Monterey Pop Festival and was swept up in the counterculture, landing a job as a newscaster on San Francisco alternative radio station KSAN-FM. Here Nisker really shines, as he provides wonderful details about the station itself (each day the morning disc jockey would give a full astrology report), his own unique newscasts, and even the era’s characteristic commercials. (At one point, the station ran ads from 11 different waterbed companies.) In 1979, the station changed its format to “urban country,” and Nisker was out of a job. By 1983, as news director at KFOG-FM, he was receiving memos from his boss that read, “I think we should watch the tendency to sound too much like we’re doing news in 1969.” At this point Nisker turns away from autobiography to muse about seemingly every New Age practice of the 1960s and ’70s, contemplating the counterculture’s spiritual legacy.
Too bad, because the fun stuff is in his life: some astute editor should offer Nisker a contract to write a full-scale memoir.