I first wrote the following piece back in December, 2009, during a period in my life when I was struggling personally on a number of fronts.
I have been a fan of the internet talk radio podcast "Keith & The Girl" almost since it's inception. It is a talk show like no other, where no topic or conversation is off limits. It is delivered each weekday with an integrity, enthusiasm and commitment by both Keith Malley and Chemda Kahlili. So much so that I have the highest regard and affection for these two individuals. Their show has carried me through some of the most difficult times in my adult life - also some of the best times. I honestly believe that if it were not for their counsel, I would have been committed ages ago.
With the upcoming release of Keith Malley's autobiography "The Great American Novel" (which I pre-ordered the day the pre-orders opened), I thought it appropriate to revisit the following piece, simply entitled "Keith"
Whenever I think
of Pennsylvania in the United States, I have an image in my mind of
peaceful fields, an Amtrak bullet train rushing by, dairy cows grazing, a
languid breeze that caresses the top of the meadow creating gentle,
swirling patterns. Sometimes, I think of Amish people, farmers -
husbands, wives and children strolling across the fields in their quaint
clothing as depicted so beguilingly in one of my most favorite films of
all time "Witness". Sometimes, I think of Bill Cosby...but I'm spoiling
the mood here.
Pennsylvania is probably typical of this image I have, although I can't
be sure because, of course, I've never been there.
the 2000 census, Somerset County's population was listed as 6,762. One
of its claims to fame was that it was the stage for the Whiskey
Rebellion of 1794 - one of the most contentious historical occurrences
in U.S. history though I suspect that it's largely forgotten now. During
9/11, United Airlines Flight 93 - the only plane not to have wrought
unspeakable destruction - crashed in Shanksville, near Somerset, killing
all 45 persons on board. In 2002 nine coal miners were trapped
underground for 3 days at Que creek just outside of Somerset attracting
Somerset is also the childhood home of Keith...
Who is Keith?
that is a hard question to answer because, again, I have never met him.
But I hear him speak pretty much every day so in a sense I feel as
though I know him very well.
Keith is a
dichotomy. Which, I know is a curious description but Keith is perhaps
the most individual person I have ever encountered. I'll explain why in a
moment. Keith grew up in Somerset, the
son of god fearing folk who brought him up in the strict Christian
tenets of the faith. He railed against it, of course, as most kids did
back in the day. For all intents and purposes his early life could have
been the John Cougar Mellencamp song "Small Town"...except that Keith
His was a strict upbringing. It
was, perhaps, an unforgiving upbringing. But it was an upbringing that
gave Keith the tools to embark on his own life's' journey and it gave
him a strong foundation upon which to develop his own code - moral and
practical. He has freely admitted that he doesn’t consider himself a
Christian but this should not exclude him, or anyone for that matter,
from being regarded as a good human being. It is an irrelevant
Keith joined the Army,
a source for much pride within his parents. He then left the Army a
little while later...which was met with an equal amount of
disappointment as their previous pride.
got into some trouble a few years back. Though the crime risked no-one
and lives were not endangered, he knew the crime was egregious enough to
warrant custodial punishment and so he served time and repaid his debt
Keith went to New York
and worked as a waiter - a job that, he has indicated, he was not proud
of but it paid the bills. He also worked as a clown doing kids parties -
a job far removed from the khaki and mud of the military but one,
arguably, no less treacherous than a fire fight in enemy territory.
met Chemda, a vivacious and proud Israeli and a person who - I would
argue - ranks among the most beautiful people on the planet. They have
been together some seven years and they are very much in love. They live
in Queens and do an internet radio show together. They are extremely
popular and justifiably so.
nights a week, for anywhere up to two and a half hours Keith and Chemda
host this show whereby no topic you can conceivably think of remains
untouched. From politics to popular culture, to relationships and sex,
to friends and family and even justice (Keith's justice!) the minutiae
of life is picked apart like bad knitting, examined and then put back
together (knit 1, pearl 2, slip a stitch and...). It is then handed to
their loyal audience in such a way that if you are not rolling on the
floor laughing your arse off then you're not really trying.
is a collection of regular guests who take turns in contributing to the
hilarity, the agony and the ecstasy. There's Brother Love - a million
watt personality with a million watt shock of raven black hair who, when
he's not singing his lungs out to the most kick-arse soul tunes I've
heard in a long time, he's manning the
drums for an equally kick arse country rock out-fit called HER
& Kings County. Brother Love himself is worth an entire article
alone but I'll save that for another time. Suffice to say he is dearly
loved by Keith and Chemda.
Patrice, the gossip queen who rolls up on Thursdays to give the gang the
low down on Britney's latest melt-down, Lindsay's latest hoe-down and
Paris' latest go-down. Patrice
examines celebrity the way legendary boxing commentator Stu Nahan used
to examine a boxing bout. It is witty, it is intelligent, it is acerbic.
McNally, Keith's spiritual brother from
Canada. McNally's a kind of orator on life whose always entertaining
sometimes thought provoking and ever illuminating.
are others who deserve a mention here but this is about Keith so I will
keep it about Keith. The show has a compelling quality about it. They
fearlessly discuss their subject matter without compromise even if that
subject matter treads into personal territory.
life, the human beings I admire most are the ones who have run the
gamut of life's experience and have enhanced themselves because of it.
That is to say, they have experienced resounding success as well as
crushing failure. They have made choices that have yielded material and
emotional wealth and they have made significant mistakes that have
momentarily stopped them short.
they learn from these mistakes and have used the experience as a tool
for learning, for evolving. And, rather than profit from that
experience, individually, they choose to share it, perpetuating the
potential for that experience to resonate with others who might then choose to learn from it themselves.
This is Keith's contribution.
The time in my life where I feel the least sure about myself is the time that I reside in now.
20's were a breeze in most respects, homage to the conventional. Get a
job, meet a girl and get married, buy a house and settle down. Life was a
template based upon the experiences of my predecessors - my family and
But in an effort to live
up to the expectations of others I found myself constantly falling
short. This resulted in increasing sadness, a loss of identity, a loss
of self. Sadness led to frustration and depression. Depression led to
the dark places - places where most of us do not wish to go.
my 30's things kind of fell apart. My marriage ended, I was consumed by
depression and, despite receiving support people closest to me, there
came a point at which I had gone beyond the life experience of my
family. They couldn't help me emotionally anymore. This lead to a kind
of turning away from me, of sorts, by some. And there was conflict.
Conflict born out of misunderstanding.
The darkness didn’t last forever and coming out of a sort of exile, I met someone new, we fell in love and our child was born.
it was a happy time, I was still struggling with defining myself. Now I
was to be a father too - a new role to integrate into my evolving life
canvas. It was then that I realized that I hadn't fully stepped out of
the shadows of my parents. In fact I wasn't
sure that I had ever stepped out at all.
happened upon Keith, Chemda and their show in late 2005. Initially, I
could only wonder about it from afar because, for the longest time, I
only had dial-up internet and could never listen to it. I could only
visit the website. I then got ADSL and
Of the themes that
imbue Keith and Chemda's show with such soul, the recurring
conversations about relationships are the ones that provide the most
compelling radio I think I have ever heard. Keith's relationship with
his father in particular is guaranteed to have me dropping everything in
order to devote my full attention to.
father is some kind of minister, of what religion I am not quite
certain. Suffice to say it seems as though it is hard core. As I said
before Keith freely admits that he's not 'of the faith'.
And that's okay.
evolve differently as individuals from that of our predecessors and
make our own choices in life that will define us - none of the choices
are wrong. But not everyone sees it that way.
has talked extensively about the problems in his relationship with his
father as exemplified most recently when Keith's father 'disowned' him
because he dared share his communion bread with Chemda during church on a
recent family visit to Somerset, Pennsylvania.
Keith would dare to disrespect such a sacrament of the church was
unforgivable in his father's eyes. I think the reaction was a little
I saw it as
merely a gesture of love towards Chemda who, being Jewish, had not
experienced the communion and was open to the idea of experiencing it as
a naturally curious human being. To my mind it is something to be
lauded rather than derided. Sadly, such is the exclusivity of many
churches, that they are more successful at alienating rather than
But this issue was only
part of the problem. It would seem that Keith's father has a problem
with many of Keith's lifestyle choices including his show where many of
the frailties of both Keith's and his father's relationship are laid
bare to a wide audience.
Keith's father might see this as irresponsible and a betrayal of
confidence I think he underestimates the power and the import of Keith's
notoriety and his message.
experienced difficulties in my own relationship with my father and
though they fall into a different realm than Keith's experience there
are many common themes that I can identify in them. Sometimes those
difficulties have been deeply troubling, a cause of much anxiety.
Sometimes the difficulties have been so significant that I have not
known where to turn, who to talk to. It has been very isolating. At what
point in life do we emerge from the bosom of our parents and become own
individuals? Do we ever step out? Or do we merely step to the side and
continue our journey, not fully independent of them? These are the
questions I have wrestled with in the difficulties I have experienced.
author and mythologist, Joseph Campbell in his most celebrated work
"The Hero With A Thousand Faces" posed Seventeen Stages of the Mono-myth
(or the Hero's Journey) as a way of summarizing the common themes that
can be found in many examples of popular and classic literature.
of these - atonement with the father - states that the hero reconciles
the tyrant and merciful aspects of the father-like authority figure to
understand himself as well as this figure. Campbell also talks about the
hero as a teacher - an individual who experiences his journey and who
returns to share that experience with others so that they may benefit
from his wisdom.
Keith, whether he knows it or not, is a hero to many because of these very maxims.
discussion of the relationship with his father may well be a way of him
seeking to understand his father as well as himself. And in discussing
the difficulties he has experienced with his father he endears himself
to his audience because they can identify many similar, if not exacting,
themes within their own paternal relationships. I have found much
comfort and guidance from the discussion of Keith's father. When I have
felt that I have had nowhere to turn to, no answers to my questions
Keith offers up another conversation of his son/father dynamic and
everything feels less worrisome, I feel that everything - somehow - will
be alright...or maybe they won't...but I know that I am not alone.
Keith is a person I admire because of the personal story he has shared without fear or favor.
father, in remaining closed off to the achievements of his son, the
success of his show and the success of how Keith reaches people all over
the world - and helps them, underestimates the success that Keith has
attained through his own journey - a journey that continues.
This is Keith's contribution to the human good...
Keith Malley's "The Great American Novel" is available for pre-order now from Keith & The Girl's Store. If you're looking for a no hold's barred account of the most interesting kind, I highly recommend you purchase this book.