Written by Sarah Holtz
For our new podcast segment, “WRBH Volunteer of the Month,” I sat down with Geoff Worden, to talk with him about his experiences as a beloved on-air reader, proud father, and wine wayfarer.
- How long have you been reading for WRBH?
I have been volunteering at WRBH for about two years. I know I’ve gone through two seasons of doing the promos for Tulane Women’s Basketball and the Tulane baseball program and I was here a little while before that so maybe it’s coming up on three in the fall.
- What are some of the most interesting things you’ve read on air?
Well, the promos were sort of the most fun because it’s a different experience, but lately I read one book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and I’m in the middle of recording Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. I’m really enjoying the books because you can get into them a little deeper than reading news or Time, where there’s not so much of a personality involved in presenting it. One of the things that appeals to me most about what I do at WRBH…forced sounds like it’s traumatic, but I get put into a spot where I’m reading stories I might not otherwise read. So yes, I enjoy books that are new and different and that I might not pluck off the shelf when I’m wandering past it. That was certainly the case with The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
- Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in New York City proper but moved immediately to the suburbs of northern New Jersey and then grew up outside of Philadelphia.
- What brought you down to New Orleans?
A whim. I got out of college and hit the road for three months with some friends of mine, camping and doing that post-college “we think we’re hippies exploring the planet” thing. A good friend of mine and I were doing this partly to figure out a place to go. We didn’t really want to stay at home, didn’t want to stay in the same area we’d grown up. We wanted to get out and explore some more and so we narrowed it down to Boulder, Colorado and New Orleans, and he managed to talk me into nine months without snow. That was the fall of ’91.
- Do you have any favorite memories from that road trip?
There are dozens of them, I suppose. I think the one that I can conjure up in my head was doing an overnight hike in Glacier National Park and being run off of a trail by mountain goats. The trail was sort of sloped and slanted and there was nowhere to go, and the mountain goat was on the trail and clearly giving no ground so we scrambled up above and hung on to some rocks while the mountain goat passed.
- Recently you recorded a promo for us about the Laissez Boys for Mardi Gras. What was the inspiration behind your Laissez Boys promo?
I’ve heard that it’s been a bit of a discussion around here. I saw both of the Laissez Boys’ runs during Tucks and Muses, and I was sort of waiting and listening to see if that promo would run while they were going by. We sat in the studio and Tim had given me some thoughts about how it should sound, Shaun had chimed in as well, and I got in there and did them a few times that way, and then asked if I could do one that feels right to me, and it seemed to work pretty well.
- Why did you start volunteering on WRBH and what do you enjoy most about it?
I left the wine business a few years ago and had some time on my hands while I was developing some other ideas, playing around with the stock market, and had some free time. As long as I can remember, people have heard me say hello, talked to them for a couple of minutes, and they’ve said, “You ought to be on the radio.” Post-Katrina I moved to New York for a year and studied voiceover work up there and never really made a professional go of it but had some fun with it, and this seemed like a great spot to be able to come and be a little selfish about having fun with the microphone while potentially brightening somebody’s day.
- How do you feel about being chosen as our Volunteer of the Month?
Well, it’s a fantastic honor. I’m flattered. I love coming over here and I enjoy being tapped to do sort of — “hey, can you come back and do this for us?” – it’s all fun for me. It’s great to fit it in to my schedule and it’s just a fantastic honor.
- What’s your favorite book?
Wow, I guess I’d have to say lately the thing I’ve been reading most, and part of it is my daughter, I introduced the book to her and she fell in love with it. My girlfriend reached out to the author’s wife and we were supposed to have lunch last summer with Norton Juster, who wrote The Phantom Tollbooth. So we’ve got this kind of story surrounding it and she sent up the annotated, full-extended anniversary edition and got that autographed. We went on a little hunt around New York and saw the apartment where Norton lived when he wrote the book, so beyond being a book that I really enjoyed as a kid, now my daughter’s really excited about it, and it means a lot more to me.
- What do you like to do in your free time?
I think you could pretty much tick off a list of what other people would say: good food, good wine, traveling…I don’t have a lot of family here so I spend as much time as I can getting out and around visiting family. I love to play golf, although I’ve been so bad lately — I don’t get out as much as I used to.
- Do you have any memorable experiences with wine in the places where you’ve traveled?
My favorite wine trip ever was South Africa. My brother and brother-in-law were down there filming a documentary and it seemed like a perfect excuse to go see them in an unusual place that I wouldn’t otherwise have gone to. So I left a job in Oregon to move back here after Katrina, and I spent a week doing the wine thing with my brother there, and then – whiplash time – we went from posh hotels and people pampering us out into KwaZulu-Natal, in the sticks, where routinely when you opened their front door there would be cattle wandering around the yard and the accompanying leavings of said cattle on the front door step. There’s some pretty impressive wine down there. You don’t hear much about it. You’re starting to, but you didn’t hear much about it for a long time, because apartheid kept the wines from being available in the United States. It also kept them from getting proper clones and proper wine making training, so it’s been a long process of replanting and education to get those wines to be salable. Now, they’re beyond that, they’re really some of the greatest values around, but they’re still hard to find.
- Are there any other places that are still on your travel bucket list?
Oh yeah. From strictly a wine standpoint, Germany and Austria are way up there. I love a good Riesling and Austria makes some fantastic reds, but the topography is so wild in Germany. You’ve got these brutal slopes that are hard to walk on, much less farm. It’s all got to be done by hand. That would be a highlight for me.
- What’s something in your life that you’re particularly proud of?
Wow, I guess I would say it’s a little early to put a cap on it, but how do you not tout your fantastic ten year old? I’m a pretty proud father. So I think anything else that I put up next to that would pale in comparison.
- What’s something you can’t live without?
I don’t think I could live without travel. I’m very much a routine kind of guy – I like to have my routine – but if I only have my routine, I’m not happy. I get stir crazy. So yes, travel and family. That sounds trite, but I have to travel to get to family, so maybe travel comes first.
- What’s something you could live without?
Construction on streets in New Orleans. I live in the Irish Channel, and the mess is slowly creeping into my neighborhood. And trash. If I had a couple of Bewitched nose twitch moments where I could just wrinkle my nose and make stuff happen I would get rid of all the trash and have people actually learn not to do that anymore.
- Describe your perfect weekend.
I guess I got pretty close this last weekend. I had my girlfriend in from Indiana and I had my daughter there and we went out to dinner Friday night and spent most of the day at the racetrack on Saturday. It was a beautiful sunny day and the Louisiana Derby was wrapping up at the fairgrounds. We went to a play on Saturday night, went out to dinner, and spent all day Sunday wandering around the Quarter at the Road Food Festival having a couple of beers and eating some good food. It was pretty perfect. We didn’t go swimming — that would be about the only that was missing.
- What’s the best piece of advice someone’s given you?
There are lots of them. If I had to pick one, and this wasn’t given to me directly being that it came from a movie, but I find myself saying this one more than any quote or piece of advice or anything else. And that’s a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry quote: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I think we spend a lot of time with our kids saying you can do anything, because you want to make sure they explore everything, but we all know we can’t do anything you want to do. You can try, but at some point you ought to figure that maybe that’s not your gig. Steer yourself in the right direction, and know that jumping off that three-story building probably isn’t the right choice. Dirty Harry probably doesn’t have a lot of good advice, but that’s a pretty good one.
Check out a full recording of the interview below on our Soundcloud page and stay tuned for our next Volunteer of the Month feature!