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
Thruout the hour, we hear excerpts from the tracks “Zhangmu: Crossing A Landslide Area” (2300 meters above sea level), “Palung: A Yak Caravan is Coming (5400m), “Cho Oyo Basecamp: Morning” (5700m), “Jobo Rabzang: A 6666 metre peak in the Cho Oyu Himal”, “Camp 3: Neighbours On Oxygen” (7500m), “Summit: Only slight breeze on the summit at 8201m.” Also this piece “sampled and processed from a cassette of Tibetan music.”
For twenty years, Reverend Robert Shields, of Dayton, Washington, kept a written record of absolutely everything that happened to him, day and night. For four hours each day, Shields holes himself up in the small office in his home, turns on his stereo, and types. His diary, at 35 million words, is believed the world’s longest. A Sound Portraits production, on the CD Holding On: Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics And Other American Heroes (and companion book)
“Nick in SLC: Home School to High School” (1999 / 16:39) Radio Diaries
For RD’s Teenage Diaries project, they gave “tape recorders to young people around the country to report on their own lives. They conduct interviews, keep an audio journal and record the sounds of daily life — usually collecting more than 40 hours of raw tape over the course of a year. Nick Epperson of Salt Lake City began his audio diary when he was 13. The talented singer/cellist music, but has a hard time making friends.
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.
Megan Taylor grew up feeling she was living in the wrong body. In her 20s, she decided to do something about it. First, she changed her name to Miles. Miles began taking testosterone, scheduled a double mastectomy — part of sex reassignment surgery — and began changing his body into one that felt right. The hardest part was telling his parents. Through it all, he kept an audio diary.
A Vermont family changes as their mother’s dementia progresses. What happens to love when there is no memory? An evolution of relationships reveal themselves in these conversation between Gregory Sharrow, his mother Marjorie, and Greg’s husband Bob Hooker.
HV and Transom just finished collaborating on getting an edited version of Eric Winick’s “How Are You Who You Are?” on NPR ATC. Our next co-project was just posted: “Transom Show: After The Forgetting” by Erica Heilman (who has a resume item you don’t see often: “an independent radio producer and private investigator”).
Th story documents a Vermont family’s changes as their mother’s dementia progresses. What happens to love when there is no memory? An evolution of relationships reveal themselves in these conversations between Gregory Sharrow, his mother Marjorie, and Greg’s husband Bob Hooker. (Produced for The Vermont Folklife Center with music by Karinne Keithley.)
The Nadeaus had a secret: the husband liked to wear women’s clothes. Then Doug Nadeau got sick, and after surgery became less inhibited and more public in his crossdressing. His wife learned to understand his habits.