Fear for the lives of pigeons

October 25, 2006

A couple of weeks back, Frida reminded me how utterly awesome the NPR program This American Life is. Normally I catch about the last twenty minutes of it on my way to church on Sunday morning, except when I am running really late and then it’s about five. In any case, I am often astounded, moved, and made to laugh out loud by what I hear. It was somewhat gratifying to hear someone outside of my family circle agree, so it got me thinking that I should get serious about taking advantage of this gem of American radio culture while it is still free online. Plus, I’ve got this internship rotation where I spend large amounts of time doing mindless things with my hands in a room all by myself. So bookmarked this page, the complete TAL archive. You can stream anything for free, download the most recent episode, and pay 99 cents an old episode if you find something you really need.

I’ve been exploring episodes pretty much randomly, clicking on the titles that seem interesting and reading the synopsis to see if I want to commit to the full episode. Pretty much everything I’ve listened to is wonderful, but a couple of things have really stood out.

First is this piece (part of the episode “Say Anything”) in which “Michael Bernard Loggins, a developmentally disabled man in his forties, tried to battle his fears by listing them, and came up with a list 183 items long.” The piece is an actor reading directly from the list Michael Loggins came up with, which he eventually published in book form and then wrote another list, which also became a book. This piece stopped me in my tracks. First of all, I thought Mr. Worry was the only man who really understood me. I was wrong, because he might have well have been reading from my head. Just substitute “Friday Night Lights” for “Rugrats” as you listen and you will pretty much have a good idea of the things I worry about. Especially the part about the pigeons. And not only what he wrote hit home, but how he wrote it. His mangled grammar expressed the primal workings of fear better than anything most of us could come up with. I listened to it twice on Monday afternoon, and that night, as I got into the car to drive home, guess what was on the radio? A special pledge drive episode of TAL that included this very piece. Synchronicity much? Probably not actually, just proof that I am not the only one who has been affected by it deeply.

On Tuesday, I stumbled across the pet episode titled “In Dog We Trust.” It starts out with a David Sedaris piece recorded live that will make you roll on the floor. It ends with a story that I remember hearing in the car one winter afternoon in Michigan. It is in the top 3 most wrenching pieces I have ever listened to, and it isn’t even true. It’s a short story. But it will still get you. Otis the armadillo will make you feel something.

So those are my recommendations, at the moment. I realize that it is a little weird to listen to a couple of shows a day of a program that is meant to be consumed at the rate of one a week, with good reason. The lives of ordinary people get intense from time to time. I might be a little overdosed on the deep meaning of human experience. I still think that deep down inside, we all fear for the lives of pigeons, and it can helps to realize that as kooky and private as most of us are, there are little flecks of things we’ve lived and thought floating through others’ lives and minds as well .


One Response to “Fear for the lives of pigeons”

  1. Frida Says:

    i think this is the episode that got me hooked.
    act 4 episode 198 from 11/02/2001
    what it’s like to date lois lane when she’s on the rebound from superman. not life changing but very funny

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