Created with Sketch.
72 minutes | Aug 1, 2021
S4E13 – UNRELATED: A Series of Unrelated Thoughts
Meeting one's biological relatives after years of costly struggle is, to be frank, a privileged position. That I succeeded, that I haven't died along the way, that I somehow found the funds to travel across the country once I did locate them, and that my encounters with my relatives has gone as well as it has–all of this is a blessing, and such a strange sequence of events in retrospect that I find myself stunned at how it played out, reflecting specifically on my memories of visiting Twin Falls, Idaho, where I was born. There isn’t yet a central theme to my life, there’s no grand thread to pull at, other than this–the worst that could have happened never did, and the strangest situations have all resolved themselves. All I did was ask the right questions for a long enough period of time, and I have had more than my share of luck along the way. I’m deeply grateful to everyone I’ve named, and thankful that you, as an audience and readership, have taken the time to listen and share my story.
41 minutes | Jul 31, 2021
S4E12 – UNRELATED: Okay, Okay Already!
Recovering from being an adoptee isn't possible–it's a legal designation, and I can't undo it, or ignore it. Recovering means showing up, engaging, looking up. Forced, relentless optimism, in the face of the absurdity of life. Now, I'm no longer convinced I was under constant surveillance. I realize that much of what I felt was displaced rage, an unending scream, buried behind my silent, infant mask I assumed at birth. As an adoptee, I feel I have always had a life-long infection, a buried, festering sore, at the breaking point where identity and the self in relation to the world index, the nexus where I meet others. Bridging that chasm means having a vision of what is possible. The bridge must be precise, but the chasm is itself un-chart-able. Adoptees are all left, more or less, with this bridge to construct, on their own, from their side of the canyon. I feel as if I achieved an impossible task, bridged an impossible abyss, I've solved a riddle that had been at the back of my brain, occupying all of my subconscious processes, for decades. Now I've begun clearing out that space, using it to do more, be more aware, more centered around my friends and family. I don't feel rushed, or as if my time is misspent, that I could be doing more, somehow, to answer these questions. Adoptees are never 'the good adoptee' all the time, we are all afflicted with some residue from our pasts. I am no expert on what families are healthy and which are troubled. All I know is my own experience and the layers of pain I've navigated to understand what affected me most directly. More importantly, the roles I see played out in fiction, that I'm tagging in these films, are never the totality of one's life.
63 minutes | Jul 30, 2021
S4E11 – UNRELATED: Fatherhood
Becoming a father deepened my understanding of myself. I learned what I was capable of doing, I learned how to wake up and walk through the house before even becoming fully conscious when I heard my son cry out in the night. I learned how to change a diaper and clean a crib, give a baby a bath and install a car seat. All of these lessons changed me for the better. They made me human. There is a phrase that I first encountered in Betty Jean Lifton's book Journey of the Adopted Self, the terms 'genetic bewilderment' and 'cumulative adoption trauma.' Becoming a father, meeting someone, finally, who looked like me, even if it took a few years to really become apparent, was a kind of anchor. It landed me alongside the rest of the mortal world. I felt, weirdly, that I had been born alongside him in some way. As for the cumulative adoption trauma, this moment of becoming a father presaged a new era in my life as a recoveree. I became aware of memories that were liminal, memories that I could recall because I could see the universality of experience in my son.
29 minutes | Jul 29, 2021
S4E10 – UNRELATED: Warlock III (1999)
You probably have not seen Warlock III: The End of Innocence (1999). Not a lot of people have. It was an outlier to a franchise that had marginal popularity in the 1980s and – to be clear – it was direct to video. It neither fits with the previous films from the Warlock franchise, nor is it particularly remarkable as a stand-alone horror film. It is, one might say, a 'deep cut.' Unless you were looking for it, you likely have not seen this direct-to-video horror film written by Bruce David Eisen and Eric Freiser and also directed by Freiser. Yet, as an adoptee film, Warlock III does some remarkable things. So, while it remains relatively obscure, I'm going to ask you to hear me out. Its lack of popularity means that the film did not have a deep effect on society, but at the same time, it seems to be almost like an accidental birth. It is horror, based around the journey of the adoptee and their search for truth. In turn, the 1999 film turns the fear of the searcher into a cathartic experience, a meat-grinder of a nightmare that succeeds in banishing the demonic, malign possibilities that are in attendance during the adoptee's search for significance.
56 minutes | Jul 28, 2021
S4E09 – UNRELATED: Co-Sign
I do not think that I am an experiment, like the adoptee triplets Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman who were literally experimented on in the seventies and eighties, or that there has been a preponderance of surveillance of me... more than any other person in today's society. But a life-long anxiety about my place in the world was made worse, not better, by the circumstances of my closed adoption. I saw that by embracing the growing aggressive tendencies I encountered within evangelicals that the logical endpoint of that mindset was the justification of political violence. If I had remained in Idaho, and had never questioned my life path, I would have been radicalized into a violent supporter of evangelical ideology, perhaps filled with self-loathing. My adoptive parents wanted me to attend a private religious college in Kansas and become a teacher or preacher, or leave the country and serve in the military overseas. Moving to Kansas had reset my expectations about what I could do after high school, but while other students were visiting colleges, I was locked up and being dosed with what was a new class of medications, fresh on the psychiatric market. Still on these drugs after senior year and I'd graduated, I did not have the option to go to college after high school. My adoptive parents refused to sign the paperwork for student loans, and said they had spent all of the money they'd set aside for me to use for college. They said I could live at home as long as worked forty hours a week and paid them rent, which is what I did after high school. They suggested that I go into the military and go to college that way, rather than co-sign a student loan. I did not mention that the Marines had turned me down because I'd been on Prozac, at that time an experimental medication.
60 minutes | Jul 27, 2021
S4E08 – UNRELATED: The Paper Chase
I crossed paths unwittingly for the first fourteen years of my life with uncles and aunts and cousins and sisters and brothers, visiting Boise and Sun Valley and Twin Falls and Stanley. Idaho is not a large state, and there's only so many people in it. I don't think the state is run by heartless automatons, and there's a (traditionalist) reason for these laws. But it's absurd to deny me access to a document that only proves what I already know... my biological parentage is provably different from what they keep on file. My birth name was Harper. That was my last name. I do not know if my first name would have been Eliot, but I have always believed that was my real name. Eliot Harper became the name of a character in a novel I started writing as a way to control my own narrative–a response to that suicidal moment–to imagine a world where I was never split from my mother–lighter, engaged in the politics of the moment as protestors, mother and son. My ghost kingdom never included a father, oddly. My mother and I would take on the different war protests over the years, perhaps move from protest to protest while she made a living as painter, writer and performance artist. That was the world I imagined I would fit into, a nomadic, baudy, politically infused scene where change and power could be brought to the oppressed and could overturn the greedy. I've yet to finish the novel, but it lurks there, ever-present in half-finished form in the office I share with the cat's litter box.
63 minutes | Jul 26, 2021
S4E07 – UNRELATED: Private and Occulted Pains
The experiences I had as a child were damaging, and happened at the hands of specific individuals, but the construct of abuse that I experienced came about through institutional forces and ideological pressures that we were all constrained by... I was raised in a world that no longer exists, only the ghosts and bones of it remain. I attended tenth through twelfth grade in Goddard High School, where years earlier a student had brought a gun to school, killing long ahead of the nationwide trend. I learned of this killing from friends in the school, as if being let in on a secret, something the teachers clearly wouldn't discuss. I was treated with underlying suspicion by nearly all of my teachers for reasons that I understood only much later when I learned the details of James Alan Kearby's actions in 1985, and how the students internalized the murders. I had grown up traumatized, and in adolescence was developing behaviors that were the result of this trauma, but I was also embedded with a graduating class that had also been traumatized, that was dealing with a collective breakdown of safety and security.
60 minutes | Jul 25, 2021
S4E06 – UNRELATED: Personal Conspiracy Theories
I feel as though I've always known I was adopted. I remember different moments of coming into awareness of being adopted, but the sense of me-ing displaced, of being from somewhere else, has always been with me. To their credit, my adoptive parents were always honest about my adoption. My early memories are connected to discussions about being adopted. The year leading up to my sister's adoption was filled with direct discussion and overheard conversations about the process, including visits from state social workers. I recall being interviewed alone by a woman, or perhaps a man who came with a grad student who did the interview, although I do not recall what was asked of me, if indeed this did happen. I learned much later that none of this process of interview and oversight had been followed prior to my private adoption... my sister's adoption was through the state of Idaho, or a 'public adoption,' as I understood it as a child. My private adoption was, in contrast, a sloppier (and apparently cheaper) process. Throughout my search I would give up for months, convinced that there was nothing more for me to discover. But what I've learned directly from my biological mother and biological father did help anchor me into my own narrative, I found the threads of my own story. Before I came into contact with them, I was left pondering a series of unconnected and yet interrelated facts, struggling to see if there might be meaning within those bits of data. And in wrestling with these fragments of narrative I find a unique, almost absurdist void of meaning that challenges my very notion of selfhood.
61 minutes | Jul 24, 2021
S4E05 – UNRELATED: Twin Falls Memories
I've returned to Twin Falls in 2019, and the town has grown into becoming a nerve center in the area, with bustling shopping and dense traffic late in the day. When I was young, the town was slower, dustier, strewn with tumbleweeds in empty lots, bike trails with handmade ramps. The Magic Valley landscape is broken apart by canyons and fences. The land around the town is a harsh, disrupted space, fueled by an agricultural boom generated from irrigation and lack of oversight in genetically modified organisms, pesticide usage, experimental fertilizers, and likely countless other environmentally unsound practices encouraged by the state of Idaho. My identity within that community never fully gelled, and I can remember when I first curdled, when I became unruly. The reality is that articulating the injury, explaining the damage, that adoption causes is nearly impossible for me, as with others adopted in infancy. Pointing out specifics becomes a process of tallying up countless moments of insensitivity and bias, all of which are micro-aggressions that weigh down upon an adoptee while appearing from an un-adopted perspective as unrelated, over-exaggerated incidents. Worse still, an adoptee may become reactive, triggering overwhelming emotional responses to seemingly insignificant stimuli... going through daily routines only to be left anxious and overcome by emotion when an instance where adoption is brought up is exhausting, something I can attest to myself. Grieving and exploring the emotionality of being adopted creates rifts in the interpersonal relationships with one's very caregivers. When I first thought about finding my biological family, it was a secret desire, something I kept to myself, like masturbation, or the Stephen King and Clive Barker novels I borrowed from my friends. This episode explores how all of that congealed in my mind, during those last few years I lived in Twin Falls.
60 minutes | Jul 23, 2021
S4E04 – UNRELATED: The Magic Valley
Unrelated Thoughts on Being an Unruly Adoptee - Part 4 of 13 The first fourteen or so years of my life were spent in the Magic Valley, living in south-central Idaho. My memories of the earliest years of my life are necessarily blurred. But the stories I've been able to piece together through a combination of research, memory, and conversation are jarring… so I push myself constantly to remember more, earlier, younger memories. There is a sense that if only I could recall something, my world would be changed for the better, that I would better understand who I was supposed to have become–that my failure to remember is a kind of moral failing or mental defect. Yet, like most of us, my mind will not provide a coherent memory of my earliest days. I have flashes, discontinuous frames of punishments. What does come through, in waves, are instances anchored in the memory of a place, and what I experienced there, in Twin Falls.
54 minutes | Jul 22, 2021
S4E03 – UNRELATED: The Ten Commandments (1956)
This was not the first film that Cecil B. DeMille titled "The Ten Commandments." An earlier version in 1923 was purely a morality play. While we know on paper in the 1956 version who the 'good' and 'bad' guys are, the specifics become more ambivalent. In this episode I take a deep dive into DeMille's 1956 film, particularly how it influenced me both as a child and later as an adult. I see in the film a desire to propagandize the importance of the adoptive mother. On reflection I find this a strange choice, given that the Egyptians were, in every sense of the word, the villain of the original text.
55 minutes | Jul 21, 2021
S4E02 – UNRELATED: Adoptee Identity Trauma
We adoptees are compartmentalized by those around us, compartmentalized by the legal status of our identity-washing, compartmentalized by religious and cultural traditions, and ultimately we are internally compartmentalized, taught (unintentionally) to mask our differences, to mimic, to mock, to maintain and participate ‘as if’ we are identical to biological offspring. We are commodities that aren’t meant to be noticed except as an act of charity, or civic obligation… or perhaps penance. Please know that to understand why oneself is adopted is likely never enough for that adoptee… the reason why one was ‘put up for adoption’–and how that came about–that is the nugget around which one’s internal psychic landscape accretes. I ‘came out of the fog,’ which is to say, I started deeply questioning the value and intention of my adoption. I found myself in opposition on nearly every political and religious perspective imposed by my adoptive parents. The lives of my peers who aren’t adopted, as opposed to those who I have known who are adopted, were so clearly divergent that I have become convinced that there is a traumatic core to the adoptee experience that is shared by all of the adoptees I’ve met and known. (I refer to this as identity trauma throughout this podcast.)
69 minutes | Jul 21, 2021
S4E01 – UNRELATED: Introductions
My current name is Wes Unruh, but I was born Boy Harper in 1974, in Twin Falls, Idaho, at the Magic Valley Regional Medical Center, and I spent most of my life trying to learn that fact. I'm grateful that for this season of Deep Americana, Ray Carney has stepped aside as host to let me serialize my story. If you have to know it all right away, it's available in full at my site wesunruh.com/unrelated
58 minutes | Nov 21, 2020
S03E15: Tim and Dane talk marriage and politics
Pour a nice cold beverage and take an hour to catch a breath and hear a beautiful love story on our last episode of this season.
56 minutes | Nov 10, 2020
S03E14: Printmaker Tom Huck on art as business
Ray interviews master printmaker Tom Huck on art, politics, satire, prints, and business. This is a raw interview presented because sometimes the conversation is more important than the quality of the audio.
46 minutes | Oct 20, 2020
S03E013: Ray interviews Oren Lomena of The Whole Hard Truth podcast
Oren Lomena of the podcast The Whole Hard Truth talks through the events of this summer with Ray. This podcast explores political and social issues, as well as creativity, performance, and using podcasting as a way to spread empathy in diverse communities.
49 minutes | Oct 20, 2020
S03E012: Josh and Stu discuss sports and the pandemic
In this laid-back conversation, Josh and Stu discuss American Football, the 2026 World Cup, global politics, and the importance of live music events.
58 minutes | Oct 7, 2020
S03E11: Vermin Supreme on playful protest, running for POTUS, and free ponies
This interview explores Vermin Supreme's direct action playful protest style, real world branding tactics he's developed, and how he's deployed responsive performances of his political persona as an art form.
35 minutes | Sep 11, 2020
S03E10: Willie Cole on art, creativity, and the zeitgeist (2/2)
This is the second half of our interview with renowned artist, ecological mechanic, transformer Willie Cole.
36 minutes | Sep 11, 2020
S03E09: Willie Cole on art, creativity, and the zeitgeist (1/2)
This is the first half of our interview with contemporary American sculptor, printer, and perceptual engineer Willie Cole.
Terms of Service
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
© Stitcher 2021