(One of the posts I wrote on my Swell 24.7 blog in my previous life as a gift store owner in the busy tourist town of Provincetown on Cape Cod; posts that are grouped here under the category What Else Is Swell?, and are generally about life in Provincetown, life as a retailer, our fabulous dog Jack who sat outside the store for well over a decade, and other random things that grabbed me at the time.)
This American Life is my absolute favorite radio show. Unexpected topics covered from unexpected angles, stories you just don't hear anywhere else. I really enjoy Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Political Junkie, On The Media, The Splendid Table and many other shows on public radio; but I LOVE This American Life. And a few weeks ago I heard that Ira Glass (host, creator, producer, interviewer and probably a bunch of other things on TAL) was going to be talking about the radio show and storytelling in general in Wood's Hole. Like, on Cape Cod. No one interesting ever comes to Cape Cod, except for a vacation. But I had a previous engagement, as they say, so I couldn't go. However, miraculous snowstorm in Iowa or Indiana or wherever Ira Glass was on the day he was supposed to be in Wood's Hole, and just like that it was postponed a week to a date I could go. Lucky me. Of course all the tickets were sold out by then but I heard that they would be live streaming the event into a room next door for the overflow crowd so I would at least see that; but, you know, the drive, and the hassle, and if I couldn't see the real thing then did I really want to trek down there? So I ummed and ahhed about it for days and days; that is my usual decision making process after all. And then Nick, whose decision making process generally involves thinking quietly for 5 minutes maximum and then committing one way or the other, said I should go because stuff I want to do hardly ever happens in our area, unlike the several rock concerts he ends up going to each year because the Pogues, or Chrissie Hynde, or Bruce Springsteen always seem to be touring.
So I went.
And it was not unlike when Nick goes to concerts. Like him listening to Springsteen albums on the drive to a gig, I entertained myself with TAL podcasts all the way down there to get in the spirit of the event. Like him arriving just before the show starts because he is always late for everything, I arrived with just 10 mins to spare because it's a myth that if something is on Cape Cod it's going to take less time to get to than Boston; especially if you are going from Provincetown to Wood's Hole down all those windy roads and through all those quaint towns. Like him getting into concerts easily because he is by himself and there is always someone selling a ticket, I walked up to the building and spotted a guy who had just that moment heard that a friend couldn't come. Ta da, ticket for me. So 5 mins after I arrived ticketless I was in the auditorium where the show was just about to start, sitting next to a woman who was the first in line to get in because she had arrived hours earlier. I felt bad about that.
And I was just thinking about how the whole experience was like when Nick goes to concerts when the lights went out and Ira Glass came on stage, in the dark, and started to do his thing. Just like Springsteen does. And he, just like Springsteen, is very good at his thing; and they both know it. Not in a Superior Show Off way, just in an I've Found What I'm Good At So I'm Going To Keep Doing It way. And an I Love What I Do And I'm Very Grateful You Want To See Me Do It way.
Ira Glass orchestrated the whole 2+ hour event with an iPad, playing it like Bruce Springsteen plays his guitar, like it was part of him. And he talked, and told stories, and entertained us and I felt like I was inside an episode of This American Life (which is kind of my Happy Place so that's a good thing). And I was moved, and thrilled and didn't want it to end. Just like when Nick goes to a Springsteen concert.
Of course there are a few differences between them. Rock concerts start at 7 or 8pm so there is no getting home from Boston until the wee hours of the morning; but NPR radio people start at the far more civilized time of 4pm so, home in time for dinner. And Ira Glass did a Q&A which I'm pretty sure isn't a traditional part of a Bruce Springsteen show. And unlike rock concerts which can cost many many dollars to see, the ticket was only $25 ($20 for me because the guy selling his didn't have change for $40 and was actually just thrilled to get anything for it 5 mins before the show started). And, obviously, being an NPR crowd, everyone stayed seated until the very end, and there was no dancing. There was, however, plenty of thunderous applause and a standing ovation. But, despite my bestowing rock star status on him, I did resist the temptation to put my fist in the air and yell Iraaaaaaaaaaa at the top of my voice. That's just not how we public radio people react, on the outside at least.