And then there's "microphone therapy," according to June.

That occurs on those days when Smith still feels well enough to be on the WBAL airwaves between 9 a.m. and noon weekdays. He appeared twice last week — once with Marta Mossburg and once with Jimmy Mathis, who were co-hosting his show from WBAL's studios on Television Hill in Baltimore.

Smith is connected via the Internet, thanks to a small desk unit installed in his home by WBAL. It sits next to a computer in an office on the second floor that has become a remote studio for the station when Smith is on the air.

"It's his highest calling," June says of the role that being on the radio continues to play in Smith's life. "It's where his heart is. He loves his family and his friends, but he truly loves his microphone and his audience."

Smith simply says: "It's what I do. It's who I am. It's my creative expression. Look, that's not going to continue for a whole long time, obviously. But as long as I can do it a few days a week, I will. First of all, the audience appreciates it. I appreciate it. I'm not ready to give it up yet — though I will be, I'm sure."

Despite his newfound perspective on the nonessential nature of politics, Smith spent much of the interview reflecting on how his opposition to the war in Iraq cost him "30 to 40 percent" of his audience, how closed the presidency of Barack Obama is to "voices of dissent," and the way America is now "cleft" between those who see the nation in decline and those who see it moving toward a "progressive utopia." But he mainly shared those thoughts in answers to questions posed — not by his own selection.

When asked if there was anything he'd like to say, Smith did hesitate and close his eyes while considering his thoughts.

"Yeah," he finally said, "it's a funny thing that Baltimore would be the place where I would settle and do my most important work. I never would have thought of that — it just happened. People would say, 'Why aren't you syndicated? Why aren't you national?' I never had a burning ambition to be a real big shot. I just wanted to do my thing. And they let me do it here without interference.

"I mean, I can't imagine what would have happened if I'd have been in places where they tried to manage me day to day, topic to topic. It would have strangled me. It would have suffocated me. So I knew enough to be content with what I had here. And it's all worked out wonderfully well — except for this little glitch at the end."

david.zurawik@baltsun.com



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