Category Archives: Point A to Point B

A to B 14: Allie and Maddie

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Music in this show:
1. Architecture in Helsinki, “The owls go”
2. Gaby Kerpel, “Se que no vas a volver”
3. Zap Mama, “Zap bébés”
4. Yppah, “Blue Schwinn”
5. Raymond Scott, “The toy trumpet”
6. Human Skab, “Bein’ bad”
7. Regina Spektor, “Consequence of sounds”
8. Amanda, “Incantation”
9. Gotye, “Smoke and mirrors”
10. Mucca Pazza, “The centennial”
11. Architecture in Helsinki, “The owls go”
12. Gaby Kerpel, “Gabytok”
13. Breathe Owl Breathe, “Lions jaw”
14. Raymond Scott, “Lady Gaylord”

Transcript:

This show, Point A to Point B, is a way to examine how people got from A to B in their lives, often to reach a point where they are successful and comfortable. This show is a search for wise words and lessons learned, which you and I can apply to maybe steer away from bad decisions or toward smoother roads.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 3 months. I hopped in my motor home (the turtle), and suddenly I had the time to pursue projects like this show…and other things I’ve postponed, like saving my backlog of favorite voicemails as digital files.

I don’t know about you, but my voicemail regularly fills up, and I get complaints. Maybe you’re the type who doesn’t listen to messages at all; if you’re like me, though, you just can’t erase some of the gems. I tend to keep the ones that make me laugh, and I’ve got messages in my voicemailbox from years ago. When I finally saved my favorites to the computer, I found birthday messages from my little nieces, which were recorded a year apart. It tickled me how different they sounded. It felt like opening a treasure chest of cute. It was almost like hearing them grow.

So let’s say there’s the point A of being a kid and the point B of adulthood. And of course, there are all the landmarks along the way. To record and remember the growth of their kids, parents take fancy family portraits every couple years. School photos memorialize a kid’s cowlick on picture day, or gigantic glasses, or missing teeth. Older parents used to coat with bronze their kids’ first shoes; remember that? The shoe-bronzing tradition seems like it’s gone out of style, but in any case, these items are visually striking ways to note the progress of a child through development and life. It’s less common for us to hear the sound of a growing child. And hearing children grow is much different from seeing the timeline in pictures.

So it struck me that I had a record of children growing in the form of annual birthday voicemails, and I wonder why audio records of the growth of children are so rare. It’s a thrill for parents to hear their kids’ first words, which is why it’s surprising that so few record the sound of their kids early in life.

Maybe pictures are just easier to store and display.

Could be that something about seeing a person develop is easier to understand.

Or maybe it’s rare that a compelling story–with all the ingredients of plot, tension, and drama–comes together in a kid’s sound bites.

Maybe pictures reflect parents more than audio would. Maybe pictures allow parents to see themselves in their children in a way that’s very different, or even nonexistent, via audio.

In some way, a kid can create using audio, rather than being depicted. Being photographed largely is a passive process, so maybe audio gives a kid more power than photography does.

And it occurred to me–
Non-rhetorical question of the week:
What if the prevalence of pictures and the lack of audio is evidence indicating that children most often are expected to be seen and not heard?

Listening to a kid is a powerful way to hear how ideas develop. It’s important to listen to what they say, and it’s helpful for everybody. Plus, it’s cute and hilarious a lot of the time.

There’s this cliché in storytelling that the end actually brings the characters and the audience back to the beginning. Thinking about going from point A to point B in terms of childhood to adulthood, I kind of hope that the cliché turns out to be true–that you can get to point B without ever leaving point A, in a sense. That you can reach adulthood without abandoning childhood.

— — — — —

This is the last episode of Point A to Point B, at least in its once-a-week incarnation. Archives (and new, albeit sporadic, episodes) will be available online, now and forever, in the same spot on the interweb!

The A to B series serves as a record of how these people I bumped into across the country conceive of the roads they’ve chosen through the years. It’s a timeline that you can revisit, hopefully with new insights each time you listen. And the show also is a sort of record of my adventure in the turtle, in terms of places, people, ideas, and communicating all that stuff.

Thanks for listening. I hope you get to where you’re going.

AND stay tuned in the coming weeks for a show called “hugabug”, where we hug bugs instead of squishing them (unless they’re toxic or aggressive). It’ll be about the weirdness of animals!

— — — — —

Other related enjoyable things around the internet:
(be sure to see the links in the music list above, too)

The Scared is scared of things you like.

Dutch people speaking their age from 1 to 100

The best video on the internet of a drunk baby trashing a bar, guaranteed.

“Death of a Turtle” is a fantastic recording by Tony Schwartz.

Eyeball Skeleton

This American Life, “How to Talk to Kids”
This American Life, “Kid Logic”

aww. From TAL’s web site: When Aric Knuth was a little kid, his dad would leave for six months at a time. He was a merchant marine. And Aric would record cassettes of himself and send them. He’d leave one side blank, for his father to record a response. But he never did, even though Aric asked him to on every tape. Aric talks to host Ira Glass about what it was like to finally ask his dad why.

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A to B episode 13: Rick

In early December, a 20-degree cold snap chased me through the southern states. We all know that the desert gets cold at night, but THAT cold? Well below freezing?? Surprise to me. Unfortunately, the turtle’s water pipes are liable to burst if they’re exposed to freezing temperatures. Consequently, we sped the 1,000 miles from Amarillo, Texas to Southern California. On the way, I met a gun-totin, elk- and quail-huntin, RV-park-ownin, extroverted man named Rick. You can hear him talk about how playing baseball in the minor league was a thrill off the field, why he left baseball to become a plant manager for a Fortune 500 company, and the biggest selling point for the RV campground that he and his family came to own in New Mexico–

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Music in this show:
1. Novos Baianos, “Globo Da Morte”
2. Rilo Kiley, “My Slumbering Heart”
3. Breathe Owl Breathe, “Lions Jaw”
4. Rilo Kiley, “Capturing Moods”
5. Little Cow, “What Will Be”
6. Dosh, “Country Road X”
7. Eels, “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues”

The RV park is walking distance to a historic town called Mesilla, where Billy the Kid was tried and hanged, and where the oldest brick building in New Mexico still stands. In those days, the bricks were fired in the oven of a man who was later killed by robbers in the very house he’d built. I got my fill of colorful contemporary stories from Rick, his employee Michael, and a retired man from out east named Jack.

Although I didn’t get to see them, Rick told me that roadrunners live at the RV park alongside the motor homers; the birds most often roost in heaps of leaves on the ground. The morning I left, my passage out of the park was blocked by–I counted them–208 bicyclists pedaling en masse toward Las Cruces. It being early December, some bikers wore Santa hats or reindeer antlers on their helmets; some rode recumbents; some shared tandems. A good omen, I thought, as I drove off toward a border checkpoint. No matter where you’re headed from Las Cruces, you’ll run into a checkpoint.

Hey, checkpoint it out–bonus tracks!

BONUS: Ode to Youth
Rick is a farm boy originally from Indiana. Here, he relates some stories from back in the day, when he was up to no good.

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Music in the Ode to Youth:
1. Hot Chip, “The warning”
2. West Side Story soundtrack, “Prologue”
3. Thao & Mirah, “How dare you”

Bonus bonus: Homage to Jane
Rick’s wife passed away 8 months ago. Jane and Rick were high school sweethearts, together for over 20 years before she died. Here, Rick tells a story about what happened one time when they took out a canoe.

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Music in the Homage to Jane:
1. Laura Veirs, “Ocean night song”
2. M83, “Train to Pluton”
3. Breathe Owl Breathe, “Across the loch”
4. Jonathan Richman, “When she kisses me”

A to B episode 12: John Wayne

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Music in this show:
1. Arnold McCuller, “All good”
2. Bela Karoli, “Metal body”
3. Blair, “Chrysler”
4. Chancha Via Circuito, “Prima”
5. ??? (John Wayne’s cell phone ring tone)
6. Django Reinhardt, “Minor swing” (played by klemjc)

You may recall that the turtle hit a serious snag in the road, early on in our trip. The motor home and I ended up at the front door of John Wayne’s Auto Clinic, on the recommendation of Reggie the wrecker driver (a hero among men in his own right). When I walked into the shop, a John Wayne film was playing in the waiting room, a John Wayne clock hung on the wall, and John Wayne figurines and memorabilia decorated the entire space.

The phones in John Wayne’s shop ring off the hook. People are always in and out of the place–wrecker drivers (towing is an arm of the business, along with the auto shop), unfortunate owners of broken cars, kids selling peanut brittle–many of them wearing snakeskin cowboy boots. Through it all, John Wayne keeps a surprisingly cheerful countenance, which he claims is due to the Choctaw in his blood. His wife takes care of the books at the shop, and everyone made me feel right at home, offering to pick me up food for dinner and driving me where I needed to be.

It would have been difficult for me to choose a more interesting place for the turtle to break down than McAlester, Oklahoma. A Mason himself, John Wayne took me on a tour of the biggest Masonic temple in Oklahoma, which also happens to be the most beautiful building in McAlester. The temple houses a theater with a custom-built organ, priceless backdrops, and wigs and costumes to match (you can find Charlton Heston’s garb from The Ten Commandments on display there). Lining the walls of the temple are framed pictures of past Masons, all of which are askew, due to the regular bomb tests that go on at the nearby army ammunition plant. On our tour of the city, John Wayne and I drove past the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, a maximum-security prison that executes death-row inmates, holds about 900 prisoners (who are known for their riots), was referenced in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and hosts an annual rodeo competition for inmates throughout the state. In addition, Reba McEntire happens to be from McAlester, and John Wayne has fixed her car a number of times.

Little did I know that John Wayne Clagg was less than thrilled about taking on the job of fixing the turtle’s broken engine. That fact is just one of the things I learned by having a chat with the best auto mechanic in Oklahoma after all was said and done, along with other lessons about what starting a business is really like. If you want to get to know the man a little better yourself, all you have to do is listen to this show.

— — — — —

An extra little tangent, if I may: One day, John Wayne and other folks at the shop were perplexed by a particular car that had come in–they were having some trouble starting the engine. Thing was, the car was connected to a breathalizer. The driver had gotten a DUI, and the attached breathalizer was mandated by the court. The car couldn’t be started unless a sober driver breathed into the device. According to one of the mechanics, every once in a while, when the car is in motion, the device beeps, indicating that you’d better reach over quick and blow into it, otherwise the car will stop dead in its tracks.

A to B episode 11: Sam

I stepped into Sam’s vintage shop, searching for a backgammon board. Lo and behold! …He had just sold his last one. The search continues.

Anyhow, B4 is Sam’s thrift store, which is nestled in a neighborhood of Dallas called Deep Ellum. Luckily, although Sam reluctantly said he had only 5 minutes to talk, we ended up spending 30 minutes exploring the hodgepodge of post-consumer objects, with Sam narrating. His occupation (well, his preoccupation) with discarded objects is his way of investigating changes in society over time. Sam’s shop, with all its curated odds and ends, chronicles disappeared years. He’s got an insider’s view of how we as a species–as human beings–get from the Point A of making flutes out of clay to the Point B of building the electric quadrichord.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “What in Sam Hill is an electric quadrichord?”
Youse gots to listen to the show to figure that out!

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Music in this show:
1. Optiganally Yours, “Stop touching me”
2. Mott the Hoople, “All the young dudes”
3. Dawes, “When my time comes”
4. Mumford & Sons, “Lover of the light”
5. T. Rex, “Bang on a gong (Get it on)”
6. The Fray, “How to save a life”

Thanks to Sam, who was game for this out-of-the-blue interview and for enduring my questions longer than we planned.

Also, I can’t take credit for selecting the music in this episode (except for the Optiginally Yours track [Rob Crow is a genius]). Given that this was an impromptu interview, I was not about to ask Sam to turn off his radio, which was tuned to the venerable KXT 91.7, the sounds of which bled into our recorded conversation.

I am fully aware that radio is magic. Nonetheless, I marveled at the uncanny thematic synchrony between that KXT DJ‘s playlist and Sam’s thoughts.

Magic never gets old. Nor does music. Nor does radio.

A to B episode 10: Roy

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Music in this show:
1. Ken Nordine, “My Baby”
2. Evelyn Evelyn, “Elephant Elephant”
3. Bang On A Can All Stars feat. Kyaw Kyaw Naing, “Hsaing Kyaik De Maung”

I’d been riding Becky’s blue cruiser around a seemingly up-and-coming arts district of Dallas, Texas, called Deep Ellum, looking for a place to get a beer. First, I tried the Deep Ellum Brewing Company, but they apparently don’t sell to the public except on Thursdays. I rode down Commerce–the bars on the sunny side of the road blasted banal music, and a promising Cajun bar looked sad and chilly in the shadows across the street. I biked down Elm–a bunch of people sat outside in the sunshine, smoking and drinking. Obviously, that was the place I wanted to be.

I came across Roy, who was tending bar at this place called July Alley. Actually, I could never really find him…when I first came in, someone had to point out the bartender–Roy and his long white beard were hidden behind the screen of a video game. When I returned for a second beer, Roy was concealed within a group of people who were talking in a booth–a “staff meeting”, he said.

The bar smelled like vomit, but the women’s restroom was magnificently clean. A little skirted figure without a head was affixed to the restroom door, and a double-headed figure indicated the men’s room. Art lined the brick walls.

The first thing Roy told me was a story. We later made a deal that I’d buy a third round if he’d let me interview him. When we hunkered down, Roy recommended a book about Eastern philosophy. He also told me about meeting “Cat Man”, who buried aircraft fuel in front of his trailer home and kept wild cats caged on his property. Roy’s rough outline of his own Point A to Point B demonstrated that any effort to demarcate the intermediate steps in advance actually may be a waste of time.

BONUS
Roy mentioned his wife a few times during the course of our conversation. For 14 years, she’s suffered from dementia; for 6 years, she’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Here’s just the trace of a description of Roy’s marriage–

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Music in the BONUS:
1. Jana Hunter, “Palms”
2. Davina and The Vagabonds, “Sugar Moon”

As it turns out, by the way, Roy joins my growing list of people whose first marriage did not work out. He happens to be describing his second marriage, which is great news for those of you who have been discouraged by romance, right?

Jim & Sarah: UPDATE

Episode 2 of Point A to Point B featured Jim and Sarah, whose current goal was to visit 7 continents in 12 months.

A high bar for anyone, let alone that intrepid couple!

Well, they’ve done it! They achieved their goal upon setting foot in South Africa this month. As Jim says: “Seven down; zero to go.”

Congratulations to the ever-inspiring Jim and Sarah.

A to B episode 9: Mick

We’re going close to home with this one. WCBN DJ, musician, artist, family man, water polo enthusiast–Mick does it all. This week’s Point A to Point B includes the story of how Mick became a veteran DJ and elder statesman at WCBN-FM Ann Arbor. Hear it from the man himself, right here–

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Music in this show:
1. Ponytail, “Music tunes”
2. Azimuth, “Periscopio”
3. Bill Evans Trio, “Nardis”
4. Cecil Taylor, “African violets”
5. Drums & Tuba, “Dr. Small”
6. Electric Birds, “Pitch patterns”
7. Black Mountain, “Druganaut”

(g’ahead, click a pic.)

Mick produced all the paintings above; you can view more at his web site.

I recommend checking out Mick’s artist statement about his Music Series, a group of oil paintings he created in 2005.

aaand putcher headphones in for this mini BONUS feature with DJ Papa Skullz:
Mick placed our little recorder on a spinning turntable, resulting in the above clip. Literally made me dizzy on first listen.

This episode of Point A to Point B was a very special collaboration between St. James and me (not to mention Mick). As a fellow DJ, St. James serves your musical Prescription on Friday nights at 10 to midnight when you visit the WCBN-FM pharmacy. He used to be a Music Director at WCBN. Does it surprise you that St. James steered the ship when it came to music selections in this episode?

Long ago, we had big plans of interviewing all the old-schoolers at WCBN and featuring their stories. For one reason or another (mostly due to time/schedules/etc) Mick became our one and only star. Star he is, and star he does! James and I worked together via cellular telephone and the internet (he in Ann Arbor, me traveling through Oklahoma) to bring you this here show. We hope you like it.

Incidentally, lovely listener, you can sample the inane ramblings of St. James by following his twitter.