I woke up at an ungodly hour this morning (4 a.m. east coast time) to fly to San Francisco (meaning I woke up at 1 a.m. for my target destination) for the next Retronauts recording weekend. We’ve talked about the recording process in oblique terms, but I don’t know that we’ve ever really laid down the full details of what goes into a Retronauts weekend. Well, here ya go.
When we first Kickstarted Retronauts — almost four years ago, frighteningly enough — Bob and Ray and I all lived here in the San Francisco bay area. Everything about the show was predicated on this fact, really. We were going to record some fun video features for the Kickstarter DVD, get together every couple of weeks to record podcast, and basically take it easy. This lasted about… two months from the debut episode, I think? We launched at the beginning of July 2013, and by the end of August I had been evicted from the apartment where my wife had been living in since 2005. San Francisco has very expensive housing and very good rent control, which means in 2013 we were paying barely more in rent than she had been paying in 2005. And to find a place anywhere close in size and quality to what we had been paying would have cost at least twice as much in 2013… so she and I moved across the country. It was a good life change, but one that was detrimental to Retronauts. Trying to lead a conversation with a room full of people from 2500 miles away on a laggy Skype connection does not make for good radio, as we discovered the hard way.
So, now I fly to SF every few months to record batches of podcasts with Bob and whomever we can coax into the studio for a few hours at a time. It’s a big request. The studio isn’t ventilated or air conditioned. People only join us out of the kindness of their hearts.
The recording process happens differently for me and for Bob, but it begins more or less the same for both of us: We figure out the topics we want to tackle, reach out to prospective guests, and begin assembling notes for everyone. These notes used to be cursory but now can run for several pages per episode and take many hours to compile. This is because Bob and I both have what you call “Type-A personalities.”
When it comes to the weekend itself, it always begins with me waking up well before sunrise to catch a flight to San Francisco. Usually this happens on the Friday before taping, but in this case… man, I don’t know what kind of chaos is going to grip the nation tomorrow. I figured I’d play it safe and fly the day before the inauguration… especially since I had a connection at Washington Dulles. There’s nothing particularly exciting about this aspect of the trip, really. I get on a plane, bleary-eyed and exhausted, spend six hours in the air half-asleep, and emerge in sunny San Francisco at the end of it. I trek out to my hotel, or else crash with a friend to save money, and proceed to spend the rest of the day working and putting together the last of my notes. I tend to stay in the North Beach area, which means lots of coffee and good pizza.
There’s a place called Golden Boy just down the block from where I’m staying — apparently no relation to the pervy anime Golden Boy! — that sells amazing Sicilian-style pies. It ain’t real pizza unless you can stick your finger into the crust up to the first knuckle. That sounds pervy, actually. Hmm.
Anyway, that… is how a recording weekend starts.