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, something to read, and something to listen to. Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
This is my wife and pandemic pal, Keri. She’s wearing her dashing young Joe Biden shirt. Does she think Biden’s the perfect revolutionary we’ve been waiting for? No, she does not. Did she cram her Biden/Harris ballot into a ballot box last weekend with the fervor of 65,844,954* Americans whose votes were invalidated by the Electoral College four years ago? You bet she did. Seattle, October 2020.
SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO
I recently had a Zoom date with my 93-year-old grandma. We talk on the phone regularly, but I haven’t been able to see her for our usual lunch dates and book swaps since the pandemic swooped in and locked her down. When her screen flashed on, I felt terrible about my Seattle Chill quarantine lewk—she had curled her hair and put on a cashmere sweater and tied on a bright striped scarf. You can see us here.
In this 12-minute feature that just won a 2020 Third Coast Award, Centenarians in Lockdown, we hear the absolute best testimonial from 100-year-old Anita Sampson for teaching the wisest among us how to Zoom.
Anita was disappointed when her karaoke party for her 100th birthday had to be moved to a screen because of Covid-19. We’re lucky though, because instead of giving it her all at Don’t Stop Believing, she marked her big day by sitting down with her 107-year-old fiancé and a well-sanitized NPR recorder. We hear the lovebirds talk about everything from the 1918 flu, to mortality, to how having the right pandemic pal makes it worth it to stick around a little longer. Make sure the tissues are close by before you press play.
SOMETHING TO READ
KUOW Public Radio’s Seattle Story Project is back in action and I am so excited to be working on this series. Here’s one of my favorite essays from the project by Krysta Walia: I thought I was a Mexican chola girl — then I met my dad.
Walia opens with a courtroom scene. She had just “incited a riot” for telling her vice principal what she thought of his racist bullshit. From there, Walia gives us a tour of her rampage through teenagehood as restless half-Mexican girl in the white rural town of Sedro-Woolley, Washington.
And as the headline suggests, it turns out she’s not actually Latina, but there’s so much more to this story than that. There’s Walia’s Virginia Slims-puffing grandma named Trixie. There’s a Christmas incident involving the C-word. There’s Waila herself, the unexpectedly charming and foul-mouthed president of her high school’s Spanish club who is obsessed with Tupac and getting out. Spoiler: she gets out.
Maybe you have a surprising story to tell too? Submission are open. Accepted writers earn $450. You don’t have to be based in Seattle. Send me your best—here’s how.
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
We all feel weird right now. We keep checking Twitter despite that it’s cursed there. We move from the couch to the dining table and think, it feels the same here. We eat Sour Patch Kids until our mouths are shredded just to remind ourselves that we’re human people inside human bodies. It’s okay. This is all totally normal. In fact, this is not even new or specific to these 2020 Uncertain Times.
Apparently the Greek already had this figured out in the early 5th century when they defined this exact “yawning hunger” as acedia.
Sitting precisely at the intersection of isolation, restlessness, and an infuriating but unspecific sense of rage, acedia is like depression’s scatterbrained cousin. Wooo hoooo! Does naming it make it better? Probably not. But the fact that this unsettling space we’re all suspended in right now has a name means we’re not here alone.
WE’RE ALMOST THERE
That’s a wrap for lucky issue #13. Hang in there, friends. And get those ballots in ASAP and send me your Seattle Story Project essays. We’re a week and a half out from Election Day. Nothing’s going to be boring or uncertain for long.
See you next Thursday.
* From CNN: “More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than any other losing presidential candidate in US history.”