Despite my recent love affair with Portland, I still love New York City and I was especially moved when I heard Colson Whitehead’s tribute to her on Selected Shorts. One of my favorite podcasts, Selected Shorts featured Colson Whitehead’s “Lost and Found” read by Alec Baldwin in their episode memorializing the anniversary of September 11th. Paul and I listened to it last night and we were blown away. Now, I miss New York more than ever! Below is the recording from Selected Shorts as well as the original article from the New York Times Magazine.
The New York Times Magazine
The Way We Live Now: 11-11-01
Lost and Found
By Colson Whitehead
I’m here because I was born here and thus ruined for anywhere else, but I don’t know about you. Maybe you’re from here, too, and sooner or later it will come out that we used to live a block away from each other and didn’t even know it. Or maybe you moved here a couple years ago for a job; maybe you came here for school. Maybe you saw the brochure. The city has spent a considerable amount of time and money putting the brochure together, what with all the movies, TV shows and songs — the whole ”if you can make it there” business. The city also puts a lot of effort into making your hometown look really drab and tiny, just in case you were wondering why it’s such a drag to go back sometimes.
No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, ”That used to be Munsey’s” or ”That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge.” That before the Internet cafe plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now.
You start building your private New York the first time you lay eyes on it. Maybe you were in a cab leaving the airport when the skyline first roused itself into view. All your worldly possessions were in the trunk, and in your hand you held an address on a piece of paper. Look: there’s the Empire State Building, over there are the twin towers. Somewhere in that fantastic, glorious mess was the address on the piece of paper, your first home here. Maybe your parents dragged you here for a vacation when you were a kid and towed you up and down the gigantic avenues to shop for Christmas gifts. The only skyscrapers visible from your carriage were the legs of adults, but you got to know the ground pretty well and started to wonder why some sidewalks sparkle at certain angles. Maybe you came to visit your old buddy, the one who moved here last summer, and there was some mix-up as to where you were supposed to meet. You stepped out of Penn Station into the dizzying hustle of Eighth Avenue and fainted. Freeze it there: that instant is the first brick in your city.
I started building my New York on the uptown No. 1 train. My first city memory is of looking out a subway window as the train erupted from the tunnel on the way to 125th Street and palsied up onto the elevated tracks. It’s the early 70′s, so everything is filthy. Which means everything is still filthy, because that is my city and I’m sticking to it. I still call it the Pan Am Building, not out of affectation, but because that’s what it is. For that new transplant from Des Moines, who is starting her first week of work at a Park Avenue South insurance firm, that colossus squatting over Grand Central is the Met Life Building, and for her it always will be. She is wrong, of course — when I look up there, I clearly see the gigantic letters spelling out Pan Am, don’t I? And of course I am wrong, in the eyes of the old-timers who maintain the myth that there was a time before Pan Am.
History books and public television documentaries are always trying to tell you all sorts of ”facts” about New York. That Canal Street used to be a canal. That Bryant Park used to be a reservoir. It’s all hokum. I’ve been to Canal Street, and the only time I ever saw a river flow through it was during the last water-main explosion. Never listen to what people tell you about old New York, because if you didn’t witness it, it is not a part of your New York and might as well be Jersey. Although that bit about the Dutch buying Manhattan for 24 bucks might have something to it — there are and always will be braggarts who ”got in at the right time.”
There are eight million naked cities in this naked city — they dispute and disagree. The New York City you live in is not my New York City; how could it be? This place multiplies when you’re not looking. We move over here, we move over there. Over a lifetime, that adds up to a lot of neighborhoods, the motley construction material of your jerry-built metropolis. Your favorite newsstands, restaurants, movie theaters, subway stations and barbershops are replaced by your next neighborhood’s favorites. It gets to be quite a sum. Before you know it, you have your own personal skyline.
As I mentioned in an earlier post – I listen to the radio and to podcasts every single day. Here’s a round-up of the blogs and podcasts I’ve been consuming lately. Yum! Enjoy, Mari
Peace Corps Related
The world’s largest and the most updated online archive of first-hand peace corps stories told by over 10000 volunteers.
Follow Amanda, a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay.
Municipal Development volunteer Cara documents her Peace Corps Guatemala experience.
Peace Corps El Salvador volunteer Emily “Embo” shares her adventures.
3 Peace Corps Panama Blogs:
Friends’ Tumblr Pages
Enjoy the work of muralist, painter, arts administrator extraordinaire, **Katherine**!
A project by **Carrie** and **Moudy** documenting innovators and entrepreneurs.
I’ll miss **Tricia** while she embarks upon her Fulbright year in China but I know I can follow along here.
Follow the work of digital storyteller, media darling, and genuine sweetheart **Zadi**.
Arts & Culture
A meditation on the forces that shape the design of our world. Paul and I have recently started listening to this podcast. I appreciate exploring how design is a part of our daily lives.
Kurt Anderson hosts this WNYC radio program covering creativity, pop culture, and the arts. I love Kurt’s interviews the most and was once lucky enough to see him live at The Times Center.
One of my absolute favorite programs ever! Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, Radiolab is a radio show and podcast “weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries.” We just saw them record a live show at NYU’s Skirball Center and it was amazing!
Another outstanding series. In addition to TED conferences, events, and the TED Prize, this organization is dedicated to sharing “ideas worth spreading” through TED Talks in video and podcast formats. Enjoy on the website or on your digital music player. One day I hope to do something incredible enough to describe in a TED Talk.
I’ve been listening to TAL since I was in high school and have been an avid fan from the beginning. Ira Glass hosts this incredible compendium of stories. From the TAL website: “There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe.” Paul and I have both enjoyed their live shows across NYC and I even convinced my mom to come with me to one – she loved it.
I enjoy this compilation of, “Only the Best of the Truly Liberal Media” and appreciate a news outlet with a truly liberal bias!
Terry Gross hosts this daily mix of interviews and stories on one of NPR’s most popular shows. I am always impressed by Terry Gross’s interviewing prowess. She can interview ANYone about ANYthing from the creators of South Park to politicians with the same grace, good humor, and intelligence.
Bob Garfield hosts this behind-the-news show that is, of course, edited by Brooke Gladstone. From their website: “On the Media explores how the media ‘sausage’ is made, casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas, and examines threats to the freedom of information and expression in America and abroad.” This show is great because you can not only learn what is going on in current events but at the same time you can explore how these events are being covered by the media.
Peter Sagal hosts and Carl Kasell judges this news quiz from NPR. Is there anything better than listening to Wait Wait on the weekend with a cup of tea in a comfy chair? Listen to some of Carl Kasell’s answering machine messages for prize-winners HERE.
This quirky podcast by radio reporter Nate DiMeo, covers (and uncovers) interesting and often historical stories.
People telling true stories live without notes. Amazing. Listen either on NPR or through their podcast. If you’re lucky enough (or early enough) you can catch them in a live Story Slam in a city near you but be prepared. Paul and I once attempted to go to one of the live events but we were daunted by the line that spanned (literally) two full city blocks. New York City blocks. Seriously.
Mentioned in an earlier post, OTR is an incredible treasure trove of the early days of radio (and some TV) with 12,000 shows listed. I love to listen to old radio dramas, thrillers, and detective stories in particular but they have shows of all types.
Another storytelling series but this one features live and recorded stories by comedians, actors, and aspiring comedians & actors telling “true tales they never thought they’d dare to share.” Created and hosted by Kevin Allison of The State fame, RISK! is a mixed bag and told with notes. Paul and I had fun seeing this live at the 92Y Tribeca earlier in the year. What was even more fun was listening to the podcast of a story that was taped at our show and hearing our unique laughs in the background!
Another story series taped in NYC at Symphony Space. The short stories are usually published and often by well-known authors both contemporary and classic. The best part is hearing famous actors give dramatic readings focused on the show’s particular theme. Attending a taping is still on our “Things to do in NYC before we leave” list.
From their site: “Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our broadcasts on public radio and the web.” I’ve been a fan of StoryCorps since a friend in grad school interned there. I’ve seen but never been inside of the StoryCorps booths around NYC. Maybe we should add this to the list!
This weekly reading series from KQED in San Francisco highlights the work of published authors both known and un-known. The short pieces are terrific but so are the excerpts from books. It’s a great way to sample an author before purchasing their book and better yet, you get to hear the author read their own words and in their own voice.