Miles has the wrong body. He was born a woman, Megan. After 15 years of serious depression and confusion about his place in the world, at age 28, he decided to make a change. He chose the name Miles and began his slow, difficult transition into manhood. All along the way, he carried an audio recorder with him. This is his story. Produced for Transom (available at PRX); edited by Jay Allison.
For most of his high school career, Louis robbed people: for money, and for thrills. He never got caught. Then, in his senior year, he decided to stop. Louis talks to friends and family, and to himself, about why he was a criminal, and why he needs to change. Produced for Transom (also at PRX) and the 826NYC writing center.
Public Historian Joey Plaster spent a year gathering 70+ interviews from people experiencing Polk Street’s transition from a working class queer neighborhood to an upscale entertainment district. Polk Street’s scene predates the modern gay rights movement. It was a world unto itself, ten blocks of low rent hotels, bars and liquor stores, all sandwiched in between the gritty Tenderloin, City Hall, and the ritzy Nob Hill: a home invented by people who had no other home.
For decades, the street had been a national destination for queer youth and transgender women, many of them fleeing abusive or unwelcoming homes. But by the mid-1990s, the last of the working class bars that formed the backbone of the Polk community were being replaced by a new bloc of mid-income businesses and residents.
Long-term Polk residents were incredibly emotional about these changes. Many considered the neighborhood to be their first real home. Now they saw their family’s gathering places evaporating. The conflict was sometimes dramatic: owners of one gay bar claimed that the new business association forced them off the street. A gay activist group made national news when they plastered the street with “wanted” posters featuring a photo of the new association’s president.
These intense reactions suggested a rich history, but I found that it had not been recorded. I feared it would be lost with the scene. I had prior experience as an oral historian. This was my first effort to find overlap with radio, which I’ve long felt is the best medium for broadcasting intimate, personal stories from “marginal” populations. —Joey Plaster
Pasquale Spensieri spends his days driving around Brooklyn looking for dull blades. When he rings the bell on his truck, the owners of upholstery shops, restaurants and pizza parlors come out with knives and scissors to sharpen. Pasquale’s father first started sharpening knives during the Depression, with a pedal-operated grinding machine strapped to his back. At that time, there were hundreds of door-to-door grinders in New York. Today, at the age of 71, Pasquale is one of the last. Produced by Joe Richman and Emily Botein (WNYC) for their series New York Works.
Since the 1880s, Mohawk Indian ironworkers have been known for their ability to work high steel. From the Empire State Building to the the World Trade Center, generations of Mohawks have helped shape New York City’s skyline. Each week, they commute to Manhattan from their reservation in Canada, framing the city’s skyscrapers and bridges. In September 2001, after the fall of the Trade Center Towers, the sons and nephews of these men returned to the site to dismantle what their elders had helped to build.
A century ago the six Crow Reservation Districts came together for a cultural gathering with other Great Plains tribes. Every third weekend of August the Crow Fair honors that tradition in a “giant family reunion under the Big Sky.” Five days of celebration in southeastern Montana, with a parade, Pow Wow, rodeo, and traditional and fancy dancing.
In 1977 a team of NPR producers and recordists spent a week collecting sounds and interviewing people at this annual event. This early ambient sound-portrait breathes with the arts and activities of the Crow people: the Apsaalooke Nation.
Voices from all sides of adoption. Stories about living with questions and searching for answers. We hear from birth families (mothers, siblings and a father), adoptees (both kids and adults), and various adoptive families including open adoption and international adoption (China).
For many years, Transom.org editor, Sydney Lewis, worked side by side with Studs on his radio show and his books. For this remembrance, a blend of documentary and reminiscence, she brings together a crew of Stud’s co-workers. They share great stories and wonderful previously-unheard tape of Studs himself. Sydney Lewis co-authored Studs’ book Touch and Go: A Memoir.
This time alone living in the luxury of Martha’s house has helped me relax enough to see myself and my circumstances a little more clearly.
I’m sick of Mexico. Sick of living in fear, of poverty, of the (mostly) assholes I know there and most of all sick of loneliness.
So tonight I’ve decided to head out into the night with my digital recorder and start doing a story on loneliness. You know, loneliness is probably the hardest thing to admit and for sure the hardest thing to bear.
I was inspired last weekend by a singer songwriter named Steve, who is sadly, dead.
#1 Bar Noise at a place called Buttons.
So here I am again alone in a bar waiting for this Dave Millsap to come on stage and sing the songs of Steve Bruton whose life was loosely depicted in Crazy Heart, the movie with Jeff Bridges.
I actually cried when I saw his beat up old truck drive down one of these breath-taking New Mexico highways because God Damn It that’s me driving up from the Matehuala Desert towards Saltillo, Coahuila in my beat-up Jeep and whatever it is that’s sent me down those lonely Mexican and New Mexican roads, I’m pretty sure it has something to do with movies like this.
The difference is that I’m a woman and don’t play the guitar or paint or anything except live and write about being alienated and sad and, yes, lonely. More…
Just imagine, if you can being an old (and you know I don’t feel all that old) woman with less than a hundred dollars to her name driving north on Hwy 57 between San Luis Potosi and Matehuala as the sun goes down.
A motel costs 400 pesos. So does a tank of gas.
Children stand by the side of the road holding out live rattle snakes for sale or a wild eagle dangled by its feet.
It’s getting dark.
The empty light comes on the dash board. There are no gas stations anywhere.
Food is out of the question till you get to the border; and when you do get there it’ll be another six hours to your friend’s house where you can sleep for a couple of nights.
I thought—in that hazy hopeful time right after graduation and before my foolish marriage that I could be a bohemian, a colorful avant-garde part of the late 1960s and then (I’m not sure when I thought it would actually be) I expected to have a house, go to graduate school and eventually teach at some small liberal arts college somewhere.
I guess I got a lot of these notions from biographies and magazine articles that fell into my hands from my mother’s casual (and probably mundane) choice of reading material.
She herself had fancied a similar life and she too found the shock of turning middle aged without it too much to bear.
Chief Mountain Hotshots, Nicole Meeso and Aldon Wells, Powell Campground ID — Getting ready for a day’s work in the Clearwater Forest with the Blackfeet wildland firefighters, known as some of the best in the world.
Sister Carol Ann and the Bendictine Sisters, St. Gertrude Monastery, Cottonwood ID — Land stewardship is a matter of faith in these sisters’ rural Catholic perspective. We walk thru the woods of the monastery; 800 acres which the sisters have had to learn how to manage.
Lois & Betty, Patterson Restaurant, Patterson WA — Sipping coffee and surveying farm life from the breakfast tables of a small town cafe.
Louis Butler and family, Walla Walla River WA — Four Generations Fishing: A retiree from Hanford Nuclear Reservation goes catfishing with his daughter, grand-daughter and great-grandsons.
Ken Karzmiski, Archeologist, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, The Dalles WA — Looking for lost Lewis & Clark legacy, and the artifacts and languages of native cultures drowned by the Columbia River dams.
USCG Duty Surfman Kyle Betts, now Chief Boatswain’s Mate and Executive Petty Officer, Cape Disappointment U.S. Coast Guard Station WA — The USCG Search and Rescue team pulls boats and people out of treacherous West coast waters along the Columbia River bar, where the river meets the ocean: “the graveyard of the Pacific.”
An earlier pedal over the same route, from the Rocky Mountains, down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, interviewing whoever crosses our path: wind surfers, church organists, forest service employees, and “we’ve been talking to as many loggers as we can, to try and find out if they don’t see bicyclists, or they just hate us.”
The first movement in From the Journals of Lewis and Clark, a symphonic work for orchestra and choir based on the expedition’s journals. Montana’s Great Falls Symphony commissioned University of Idaho music professor Dan Bukvitch as the composer. The text is President Jeffersons’s instructions to Captain Lewis in 1803.
Biking & Mic-ing the Modern Lewis & Clark Trail; part one of two, up the Missouri River into the Rocky Mountains. Barrett Golding and Josef Verbanac, a radio producer and an English professor, a Jew and a Souix, bicycle from Missouri to Montana, enduring floods, war, worms, mud, and myriad Lewis & Clark festivals:
Prep: Cross-country preparations, then and now, from Penis syringes and Indian presents, to AAA and GPS. “Your observations are to be taken with great pains and accuracy, for others as well as yourself” –Jefferson’s Instructions to Lewis, 1803.
Flood: Missouri floodwaterss, a frog symphony, a million worms, bowfishing a beanfield, and in Marthasville MI little league it’s Lemke Trenching and Excavating vs. Miller Funeral Homes. Don Sherman, a retired Chrysler worker, who now volunteers his time taking care of the city park in the flood-prone landmark rural town — which, in Lewis & Clark’s time, was the last outpost of white society. And we go bow-fishing for in a bean field.
Rendezvous: Biking and mic-ing the Missouri River. Captain Lewis’ Aria, surveyor-stalking cougars, black powder bursts, cave wall Manitous, and Edens lost. Explorers express emotions and the Expedition breaks into song, in “Corps of Discovery: An Opera in Three Acts” produced by music professor Eric Dillner and the University of Missouri’s Show-Me Opera. Geographer James Harlan maps the Two Missouris, the Missouri Territory now and two centuries ago, using an 1815 Land Office survey and Clark’s field-notes. James Denny, Historic Interpreter, for Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources, points out where pictografs on a cliff were a landmark of the Lower Missouri, until the railroad blew ’em up; we tour through the tunnel of the ex-Manitous.
Wars: No Home on the Range, Chief Joseph’s Race Track, and Brothers Buddha and Brahma. Farrell Adkins, Campground Host at Arrow Rock MO sings the little known second verse of “Home on the Range.” Matt Nowak, Natural Resources Director at Fort Leavenworth Army Base KA describes this places part in the death and desctrution of the Nez Perce people.
Indian County: Daily pow-wows, casino economies, and Lewis’ birthday gloom. Neil Phillips, Penobscot tribal member and former canoe racer paddles from Maine to Montana, experiencing life on the river, a little-seen view of America. Joe Verbancec Sr. tours us thru the Standing Rock reservation.
The Strenuous Life: Bruce Kaye, Chief Naturalist at Theodore Roosevelt National Park recounts Teddy Roosevelt’s time in North Dakota. His ideas about conservation developed in the badlands, then get expressed in the acts of the President of the United States and the start of the National Park system.
Re-enaction: At Coal Banks Landing, on Missouri River “Breaks” in Montana, we encounters the re-reactors, traveling up-river using the boats, clothes, food, guns and knifes of the Lewis & Clark era.
Camp: Lewis and Clark made 600 campsites on their expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific and back. So far, the exact location of only one has been identified. For 13 years, archaeologist Ken Karsmizki has been digging at Lower Portage camp of the Great Falls, on the Missouri River in Central Montana, and finding fire pits, butchered bones, wooden stakes and other artifacts, all dating to Lewis and Clark’s time.
Orchestration: “From the Journals of Lewis and Clark” is a symphonic work for orchestra and choir based on the expedition’s journals. Montana’s Great Falls Symphony commissioned University of Idaho music professor Daniel Bukvich as the composer, whose job was to make Art imitate History.
Offbeat retreats and obscure tours thru the heart of Americana:
“Losing It at Universal Studios” (4:37) Mark Allen
Temporarily insanity during a tour of Universal Studios in southern California. So many cool things to see, to do, to tour. The writer is overwhelmed by the magnificence of it all, and pretty much loses his mind. Based an Mark Allen’s web essay “I Suffered Stendhal Syndrome At Universal Studios Hollywood!.”
Boonville is a small community in Northwest California, founded in 1862, a few hundred feet in elevation, with few hundred residents. And… the town has it’s own language, Boontling. We go sharkin’ and harpin’ thru Boonville with Charles C. Adams, author of Boontling: An American Lingo.
“David Lynch goes into clean neighborhoods and finds the germs and bugs beneath; I go into dirty neighborhoods and find the life.” That’s how filmmaker Tony Buba describes his twelve documentaries about his hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Buba is the son of Italian immigrants, part of the wave of Europeans who came to America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to work in the steel mills of Braddock and other towns around Pittsburgh. Now the steel industry is almost dead, and Braddock is the prototypical post-industrial “‘rust belt” town, a town where a person either lives by his or her wits or lives in poverty. Buba tours through the streets of Braddock, past the old Croatian and Slovak social clubs and through streets, now empty, that once bristled with activity.
Bruce Davidson has been a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team since 1971. He’s a world class rider, trainer and breeder. NPR visited Chesterlands Farm, in Unionville, Pennsylvania, when Bruce Davidson and his horse JJ Babu were training for the 1984 L.A. Olympics (they won a Team Gold). David Molpus is now with Ideastream in Cleveland. The producer Carolyn Chadwick’s latest project is Conservation Sound.
Summer Bird, Rags to Riches, Empire Maker, Lemon Drop Kid, Colonial Affair, Thunder Gulch, those are some of the winners at the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. In 1979, an army of NPR sound-recordists showed up trackside at Belmont Park, Long Island to document Spectacular Bid’s attempt to match Secretariat’s legend. Writer/Produced: Josh Darsa. Technical Director: Skip Pizzi, with Field Engineers: Paul Blackmore and Ceil Muller. Technical Assistance: John Widoff and Dave Glasser. Editorial Assistance: Neal Conan.
Surveying the sonic spectrum of musicians warming up for a performance. We hear old-time singer Abigail Washburn, concert pianist Lang Lang, Brazilian singer Flora Purim, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, Tuvan rocker Albert Kuvezin, singer songwriters Gillian Welch and Dar Williams, bel canto tenor Lawrence Brownlee, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Montage by David Schulman
Recently, as part of the US draw-down in Iraq, the US base in Tikrit, “JCC” or Joint Coordination Center, was handed back to the Iraqis. Sergeant First Class George Havel, a soldier with 232 Regiment spent four months in Tikrit, helping to coordinate emergency services. Sargeant Havel gave journalist Jake Warga a tour of Mahmoon Palace, originally built to celebrate Saddam Hussein’s birthdays. US forces had been occupying the palace up until the recent hand-over, living in its marbled halls under golden chandeliers.
“Weegee interview” (3:04 excerpt) Mary Margaret McBride
An archival interview with 1950s NYC crime scene photographer, Arthur Fellig (1899-1968), aka, Weegee. SoundPortraits has more of this July 1945 interview by nationally-syndicated talk show host Mary Margaret McBride (WEAF-New York City). (Music: “Angel of Solitude” by Alias.)
Casey (no first name ever revealed) was crime photographer for the fictional Morning Express newspaper. He and reporter Ann Williams snapped shots, tracked criminals, and solved crimes. This excerpt from episode 330 (of a total 431) of the popular half-hour mystery-adventure series aired 1950-03-02.
The first of our Soldier’s Soundtrack series: Embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division, US Army, Baghdad, the producer plugged into the soldier’s iPods, asking them what they were listening to, why they liked the song, and what their lives were like. To Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Major James Lockridge tells us, “The United States Army can go anywhere at anytime or anyplace. I learned that during the first war. I wouldn’t want to be anybody that had to face the United States.”
Hitchhiking was once common, These days it’s aquired an aura of danger and desperation. Who wants to take the risk — especially after all those gruesome stories about rapists and serial killers? But occasionally you can still spot some guy stranded on the side of a road, sign out, thumb up, hoping that your car will be his salvation. Is he dangerous? Insane? Or just plain dirty? Maybe we should stop and find out. (PRX)