Rolling into Middle Age

one year of ROCK PAPER RADIO, many decades for this misfit dispatch writer

ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to (that’s the ‘rock’), something to read (that’s the ‘paper‘), and something to listen to (you guessed it, that’s the ‘radio’). Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
I spent my birthday surrounded by extraordinary humans from my past and current lives: teaching, public-radioing, HIGH SCHOOL. My Man of Honor from my wedding who I’ve known since I was 16 made sure to walk my dog over to piles of popcorn so she could eat them off the ground. And, of course, these fine ladies, my Lesbian Book Club, who are frequently featured in this newsletter. Counterclockwise from our selfie photographer: Yosh, Mellina, Mariya, Jen, Paula, Karen, Danielle, Moffett, Keri, and me with Radley in the middle feeling all the love. Keri made semi-frightening stickers with my face on them and everyone wore them on their shirts and it was the best.


There’s a fine line between being a quirky iconoclast and a nutty old lady when you’re rolling into your fourth decade on shoes with wheels. Lucky for us, UK-based producer Laura Irving doesn’t care about our judgements and was bold enough to share her furtive nighttime adventures in teaching herself how to roller-skate with the listeners of the Third Coast International Audio Festival.

Here’s her gorgeously sound-rich, 5-minute journey through intrusive thoughts on how ladies are supposed to age, to a tennis court-turned-roller rink, to freedom: Quiet Revolution.

This piece deservedly won Third Coast’s Best New Artist award in 2017. If you’re feeling inspired after listening, let me know if you want to meet on a Seattle playground this summer to see what old bodies are still capable of.



I was never a gymnast, but I was a nationally competitive swimmer until I quit in a glorious and freeing teenage rage at 14. It was in honor of my younger self’s angsty self-care that I devoured every word of Rebecca Liu’s essay for The Guardian on her childhood as a champion twirler: ‘A lesson in loss, humility and absurdity’: how rhythmic gymnastics took over my childhood.

This beautifully written piece is as much about the ridiculousness of putting pre-teen girls in lipstick and leotards and demanding they dazzle adults, as it is about Liu’s life as a Chinese immigrant and woman reckoning with her aging body and glorious past.


Last Sunday, Keri Ironwoman Zierler killed it at her first triathlon, and then the very next day a media boat at the Tokyo Olympics thwarted the start of the men’s triathlon when it opted to try to get the Big Opening Shot, instead of, you know, getting out of the way of the race. Half of the athletes dove in and started swimming their guts out. The other half remained on land, looking at the huge boat blocking their dreams like, what the hell?

How are these two things related? I’m not sure, but after cheering Keri on last weekend and seeing the 15-mile bike portion of the race which was unfathomably plotted around a gigantic hill, if I were on a starting block getting ready for one of these races with the whole world watching, I would be hoping with all of my swim team-quitting heart that a boat would get in my way too.

Here’s the video of the debacle from NBC, via NPR: Media Boat Blocks Triathlon Racers, Forcing An Unusual Restart In Tokyo. If one more big ship gets itself into trouble by blocking an important path, let’s officially say 2021 is the year of The Bad Boat.


That’s a wrap on issue 51, friends. Thanks for listening, reading, holding on.

It’s officially been one year of ROCK PAPER RADIO! And…just before I recently found myself on the other side of my next decade, this happened, SO, celebrations and so many big thanks are in order.

I’m all about noting anniversaries/making New Year resolutions/wishing on birthday candles—but mostly it all comes down to the pause that I love. So with that, I just want to take a sec to say to all 200+ of you who’ve become part of ROCK PAPER RADIO’s crew over the last twelve months, that you all are a part of what makes me feel like a normal-ish human in a world that, it turns out, is actually filled with a lot of us who feel weird a lot of the time.

When I launched this dispatch in the middle of Pandemic Summer I, I didn’t know if there were many misfits and unlikely optimists out there who wanted a random collection of stories that catch my eye and ear in their inboxes every week, but here you are. A big awkward virtual hug to all of you for joining me on this ride, and here’s to the next year of stories to remind us all we’re a little less alone in the world.

See you next Thursday.


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