34 minutes | Mar 16, 2018
Episode 18 - Possibly the Complications
Before he ever saw the ICE Warrant ordering his removal from the United State, Victor Herrera describes this one point in his life as an immigrant in the United States like this, "I feel like I’m in a bucket full of shit, and I’m drowning in it. His story is the messy reality of immigration and deportation. It begs us to have a grown-up discussion about these immigration stories. It asks us all kinds of questions. The biggest? Can we - or even should we - summon compassion for someone once we see them completely; once we know their whole story? And how does the answer to that affect every question we have afterwards?
50 minutes | Feb 14, 2018
Episode 17 - The Book I Read
When I was in fourth grade, there was this box in the back of our classroom. It was filled with multi-colored tabs with stories and questions printed on each. Our teacher was Ms. Evans, yes, she was my mom — and that box was the SRA reading lab. Dr. Don Parker created the SRA reading lab in 1950 for 32 seventh graders in a cash-strapped rural Florida school. Parker wrote that he created the SRA lab to overcome what he called, “the normal curve of individual differences.” Last Summer Mayor Sly James told me about Turn The Page KC, a nonprofit organization working to increase the number of Kansas City students reading at grade level by 3rd grade. When I started this story, I thought I’d learn why schools fail kids and how a small group of people are filling the gap. I learned something many of our policy makers haven’t — that literacy has so much to do with what happens outside the school building; what infants and toddlers hear from their parents, their proximity to stress and trauma, their attendance, and something called the Thirty Million Word Gap. This’s important because literacy is about a lot more than a school building or a talking point. It’s a function of what the SRA’s creator, Dr. Parker, found almost 70 years ago; meet kids where they are, help families lay out a series of stepping stones and help kids move along as they get closer and closer to the developmental milestone of third grade. Today’s thing, is the SRA Reading Box. And this episode is “The Book I Read: fixing third grade literacy.
33 minutes | Oct 13, 2017
Episode 16 - Looking through windows: a 4,000 mile walk to say I love you. Then 8,000 miles more
This is the story of how Unbound, one of the midwest's largest non-profits, was formed from the vision of a man with a very different take on charity and giving. In November of 1981, Kansas City Missouri, Bob Hentzen and 3 of his 14 siblings, along with their friend Jerry Tolle, founded an organization known today as Unbound. Bob and his friend Jerry were former missionaries. They used the family Christmas card list to connect families in America with families in Latin America to connect someone who wanted to give help with someone who needed it. Fifteen years later, the 60-year-old Hentzen walked four thousand miles from Kansas City to San Lucas Toliman Guatemala. Then, in 2009, at age 73, he walked eight thousand miles from Guatemala to Chile, traversing the Atacama desert. The boots he wore. These brown, Nike, nylon and leather. The toes have been cut away, giant hole near the heel on one side. Today’s thing is this pair of once hiking boots and today’s episode is “looking through windows; a 4000 mile walk to say I love you. Then 8000 miles more.”
35 minutes | Sep 19, 2017
Episode 15 - Washington Bullets: The Martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother
On September 23rd Father Stan Rother will be the first American born martyr beatified by the Catholic church. Though it’s the story of Father Stan Rother, this one doesn’t end in death. Stan Rother was one casualty of the decades long Guatemalan Civil War. A war sparked in the halls of the US congress; fueled in part by our fear of communism and antipathy for any threat to American capitalism abroad. While the killers were Guatemalan, the deaths of Stan Rother and thousands more flicked blood on to American hands. But this is not a murder story. Or even a political story. It’s . . . kind of a love story. The love this Oklahoman had for the people of Santiago Atitlan, and the love they returned. Today’s thing, is this Church at Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. And this episode is “Washington Bullets: The Martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother”
25 minutes | Sep 7, 2017
Episode 14 All of God's Money - A Sofa, A Mass, and The 27th Out
This is the first time I’ve uttered out loud these words: my lady has cancer.
35 minutes | Aug 5, 2017
Episode 13 - I'll Be You; The Autistic, The Abolitionist, and The English Paper
In 1917 a german man named Charles Huffman was making fabric dye in five gallon enamel pots in a vacant store in Chicago. He named his product RIT dye in honor of his friend, Louis Rittenhouse, a vice president his Sunbeam Chemical Company. Their slogan was, “Never say Dye, say RIT.” When he was a kid, RIT dye fascinated 25 year old Phillip. This is the story of of Phillip and Paul, a 25 year old with autism and the father he lives with. After a childhood of having his world shaped and controlled by others, Phillip was allowed to take risks — big, unsettling risks — and make mistakes. This is the story of how those mistakes transformed him and helped define his way of being in the world. To the point of finding even a little success from the stuff he’s obsessed over since he was a little kid. Today’s thing, is RIT dye. And this episode is, “I’ll be You.”
30 minutes | Jul 16, 2017
Episode 12 - An Interview with Mayor Sly James
If you want to know what it’s like to sit behind Mayor Sly James’ desk, best not ask him; he’d have to find about 20 minutes in his schedule to clear the space to sit there. There’s two-feet of work stacked on the chair and another couple feet stacked on the desk. Then there’s work strewn across the meeting desk in the middle of his office on the 29th floor of city hall. If you haven’t yet, listen to the previous two episodes of the podcast on the DIY skate park in Columbus Park called Harrison Street DIY download them and check them out. After that story aired, the Mayor’s office arranged some time for us to clear some space on his meeting table and talk about how the skate park can be a model for other civic engagement projects. We also talked about KC’s gut-wrenching homicide rate and the Mayor shared some of the things that frustrate city leaders most when they’re just trying to make a city safe place to live… _insert clip on ideological arguements_ We also talked about Turn the Page KC - a program charged with achieving reading proficiency among KC’s 3rd graders that earned KC All American City honors in June from the National Civic League. And we talked about KCNOVA, the KC No Violence Alliance — it’s a collaboration between law enforcement, data scientists and community aid groups aimed at reducing crime by re-directing offenders to social services or bear the legal consequences. Mayor James also clued me in on what he’s learned about how to solve real problems in our current political climate. So, here is my interview with Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Missouri. Today’s thing is this mayor’s very crowded desk, and this episode is Time Waits for No One.
29 minutes | Jun 28, 2017
Episode 11 - Breaking Rocks in the Hot Sun Part 2
To look at the future of Harrison Street DIY Skatepark, I need to be explicit about a few things: First, they did build on land they have permission to build on, but no real agreement. They choose a little strip of abandoned land with all kinds of forces tugging at it from different directions. Governing everything is a court order. Second, the Harrison Street crew didn’t just build a skate park, they built a model to solve a problem; cash-strapped communities who want a public amenity often have a hard time paying for and building it. Finally, the skaters and their guerrilla take over of unused land created a model for civic engagement. One where a group of volunteers forges an open, meaningful relationship with their neighbors, and that sort of rebel alliance builds a community asset together. And that last one? It’s something political leaders and developers had better take note of.
32 minutes | Jun 12, 2017
Episode 10 - Breaking Rocks in the Hot Sun, Part 1
For 30 months, a crew of volunteers have been building the Harrison Street DIY skate park in an abandoned cul de sac in Kansas City’s Columbus Park Neighborhood, at 4th and Harrison. What started out as a few bags of Quickcrete, mixed with shovels and formed into ramps on a few jersey barriers turned into yard after yard of truck-delivered commercial ready-mix concrete. These guys built ramps, a pool, quarter pipe and at least a half-dozen other custom-designed skatepark features. All the labor was volunteer. Not just the labor to build the park either. The neighborhood pitched in by advocating for them, helping work with the city and media, and eventually getting approval for this space. The story of how this skate spot got to this point is the story of how the skaters and the neighborhood banded together. How took up our elected leaders on decades-old challenge to cooperate and build the community they want to live in. It’s also the story of how this privately-funded, volunteer-built, amenity has earned the social capital to affect development plans for Columbus Park and lay down the marker for other neighborhoods in Kansas City to affect development in their own community. Today’s thing is the Harrison Street DIY Skatepark, and this episode is “Breakin’ Rocks in the Hot Sun.”
35 minutes | May 29, 2017
Episode 9 - Run Baby Run
Since 2011 I've run a few thousand miles along the Indian Creek and Blue River Trail. I run this trail because it's safer here than running on the surrounding roads. As much as I think about my own safety when I run, the threats for me aren't as bad as they are for the female runners around here. A few months ago Runners World Magazine released a study that found 43% of women report experiencing some kind of harassment on their run. For men, that number was 4%. I wanted to learn more about those experiences. Not just to retrace the steps, but to learn how women respond to them, what they do about about it. To learn as best I can, what this all feels like. So, I reached out to friends who run, their friends, and random strangers. I asked them to tell me about their runs. Their stories follow a pattern of escalation and resignation that is as defeating as it is chilling. Today's thing is this Indian Creek Trail. This episode is Run Baby Run.
35 minutes | May 12, 2017
Episode 8 - The Silver Screen and All the Magazines
The first Chapter of Lipstick traces is called "The Last Sex Pistols Concert." That show was on January 14th, 1978 at the Winterland in San Francisco. The opening band was this San Francisco punk rock group called The Nuns. In that chapter and his book, Marcus explains how people and events crashed together to tell the secret history of the 20th century. The book got me thinking about the music writers I’ve admired in my life and the moments that shaped their work and the way they illuminate this art form. To find out, I asked Tim Finn of the Kansas City Star, and Danny Alexander of Rock and Rap Confidential to tell me the stories of the moments that shaped their writing. Today’s thing is Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus and this episode is titled “The Silver Screen and all the magazines.”
31 minutes | Apr 19, 2017
Episode 7 - Horizons Get Hazy
Throughout human history, structures like the Lighthouse of Alexandria served as a welcoming beacon for the traveller, eaching out to guide them through the perils of a place they may have never seen, or one they may not recognize. In America - home of more lighthouses than any other country - though lighthouses aren’t used much anymore, they still dot our coastlines and shorelines from the Great Lakes to both oceans. Few of them project a beam for visitors anymore though. But, as author Jeff Vandermeer, wrote, “Even a ruined lighthouse defines the landscape that surrounds it, serving as a daymark by which passing ships can orient themselves on a map.” And, maybe more valuable, a lighthouse serves as a constant instrument by which those of us on land can orient ourselves; making sure we’re never quite lost in our own familiar spaces. This episode is about the friendship of two religious leaders; a Muslim — born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt and a Christian who was born and raised in Minneapolis Minnesota. It’s a story of hospitality and putting faith in human connection. Not just the midwestern kind, but the version of hospitality taught in every culture throughout history. It’s the story of how those two men became a beacon for one another, and - by extension - their communities. Teaching us all to welcome the visitor and to orient ourselves to openness from within our own land. Today’s thing is the Lighthouse of Alexandria. And this episode is “Horizons Get Hazy.”
29 minutes | Apr 4, 2017
Episode 6 - The Distance Between You and Me, Part 2
This second episode looking at refugee musicians in the US is the story of a Kurdish family. A musician father, his wife children and the story they share with one another — whether they realize it or not. They left Syria as refugees and continue the Kurdish tradition to define a home in the United States. Today’s thing is Kurdistan and this episode is The Distance Between You and Me Part Two.
33 minutes | Mar 20, 2017
Episode 5 -The Distance Between You and Me Part 1
This is the first episode telling the stories of some musicians who’ve come to America as refugees. It’s a creation odyssey. The creation of Kuomba Ministries. Like any odyssey, this one involves death, new life, near-death, and some inexplicable, supernatural forces inserting themselves in human events from one side of the planet to another. Today’s thing is this building, the Wesley Heights Methodist Church in Northeast Kansas City. This episode is “The Distance Between You and Me. Part 1”
36 minutes | Mar 5, 2017
Episode 4 - Emotional Rescue #VeryImportantPicco
If you’ve never had your heart broken and want to see what it’s like, get a dog. Picco and I have run over 5,000 miles together. We’ve touched two oceans. He’s been with me at shows in bars across the midwest, down the Eastern seaboard and Southeast. We’ve fought bigger dogs together - he won. Through all of it I’ve wondered; who rescued who? What can we learn about our humanity from our relationships with animals? This episode is about rescues. Rescues as nouns. Rescues as verbs. And rescues as metaphors. Today’s thing is this shaggy mutt, Picco. This episode is titled “Emotional Rescue.”
44 minutes | Feb 19, 2017
Episode 3 - Everywhere At Once
Over the past month, we’ve had a lot of activity around immigration and refugees and I've been thinking a lot about Presidents. So I started reading what past American presidents have said about it. What guidance is there for us in the past? While this episode is told through the words of some of the Presidents of our history, it’s really a story about leadership. Not the kind of leadership you read about on those inspirational posters in the meeting room at work. It’s about the dogged tenacity of people doing the ordinary. Signing the forms and staffing the offices, getting kids into schools and making sure the vans run on time every day. These are people who persist in the delivery of human kindness in order to work our new American neighbors into the fabric of our communities. Today’s thing, is President’s Day. This episode is titled “Everywhere at Once.”
37 minutes | Feb 2, 2017
Episode 2 - AmericanGuitars
What can electric guitars teach us about the American economy? Big Box retail may have spurred some innovative manufacturing techniques. Automation, robotics, CNC carving; all of it means we can make guitars — or anything — to tighter tolerances and faster and cheaper than a human can. But automation and robotics at the big Guitar Makers mean fewer hands building guitars. Private Equity and financial manipulation are not sustainable substitutes for innovation. On one level this is the story of two independent electric guitar builders; Seuf Electric Guitars and Swope Guitars. But it’s also a story of the American economy and how big box retail, structured finance, and some of the most iconic companies in America forgot about their customers, took a dump in their own tour bus, and broke up the band.
30 minutes | Jan 3, 2017
Episode 1 - Houses of Concrete and Wood
Our first Thing is Blue Dawn Manor, the neighborhood I grew up in. I used to play baseball in the Healys’ back yard. It was the infield which made my back yard dead center field and the Smith’s pool in Left Field the water spectacular. I knew all the neighbors, the Johnson’s. the Belfontees, the Smalls, Hutchisons, Hupps, Cernich’s, the Saladinos, the other Saladino’s and the Domsch’s. We had dirt clod fights and I split my head open playing hide and seek the night Thriller debuted on MTV. In the summer my friends and I would meet up at this power pole under the Johnson’s mulberry trees. I’d wrap my purple hands around the grips of my black and gold BMX and race down this hill to a ramp we built at the bottom on the playground at this little school where I’m standing right now. Today, two Syrian brothers brothers go to this school. Their names are Faras and Amar and the story of how these two boys and their family got here, and brought together a neighborhood of people not far from this spot in the middle of Independence Missouri is Episode One of Iconoclast of Things: it’s titled Houses of Concrete and Houses of Wood.