Transcript

400:

Stories Pitched by Our Parents
Transcript

Originally aired 02.12.2010

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/400

Prologue.

Ira Glass

From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International. I'm Ira Glass.

[RINGTONE]

Dad

Hello?

Ira Glass

Hey, dad?

Dad

Hi. Let me pick this up on another phone. I can barely hear you.

Ira Glass

About a year ago, this thing happened to me when I took the train down to visit my dad in Baltimore. And when this thing happened, he said to me, you know, this could be a story on your show.

So this week, I called him up to have him and my stepmom tell the story.

Dad

You remember what happened with the business with the train and your suit? You left it on the train. It was in a hanging bag, and you left it on the compartment over your set by mistake. So I said, "Well, what are you going to do?" And you said, "Well--"

Ira Glass

I said, well, apparently you can go to Amtrak and they'll retrieve your luggage at the train's next stop and throw it onto the next Amtrak that's headed back to you.

But the problem was my dad had tickets to the Baltimore Symphony that night, and train that was hopefully going to arrive with my suit, that is, if everything went perfectly, perfectly, perfectly, that train would arrive--

Dad

I think 6:30, as I remember, or quarter of 7, and the symphony was at 8 o'clock.

Ira Glass

So of course, this was very, very worrisome.

And before I go any further in this story, I should say, this is the 400th episode one of our radio show. There are eight of us who make the show, working together really closely, finding stories and shaping them. And for years, as we made those 399 other episodes, all those years, family members have approached us at weddings, holidays, with all kinds of ideas for the show. Most of them never made it onto the air, because-- i'll be frank-- they were not so great.

And this week we thought, OK. It's our 400th show. We should do something we've never done before. Something so difficult we've never dared do it before. And we thought, you know, after tackling all the subjects we have over the years-- productions of Peter Pan gone awry, and investigations into Guantanamo, and trying to make the history of mortgage-backed securities into entertaining radio-- what would be the greatest challenge? What would be the greatest challenge that we could possibly attempt for our 400th show?

And the answer? Obviously, let's do all of those stories pitched to us by our parents. Stories where it's not even clear whether it's humanly possible to make them into listenable stories on the radio.

So hence this story with the suit. OK, you remember where we are? OK. We're worried about the train and the suit.

Dad

And we were mulling around about what to do about it, and meanwhile eating some late lunch.

Ira Glass

And it was at lunch that my stepmom, Sandy, got an idea. Let's buy a cheap suit at Marshalls just in case the train doesn't come in.

Sandy

Marshalls is nearby. I've seen a lot of suits there that were a really good price. Sometimes a hundred dollars. And you know, it could work.

Ira Glass

And your plan was, we're going to buy a suit. Let's try to get a suit for like a hundred bucks with the thought that if I don't wear it, you'll just return it the next day.

Sandy

That's right.

Ira Glass

We didn't have much time, so we hustled over to Marshalls, where we learned that Marshalls actually doesn't sell many suits. They literally have two suits in the store. Miraculously, one fits.

But another obstacle. The pants. The pants need hemming. Though if we hem them, of course, we wouldn't be able to return to suit. What to do? What do we do?

Sandy

And I said, uh, scotch tape. Scotch tape it.

Dad

So that was the plan.

Ira Glass

It went off like a great bank heist. Like The Sting. Like Ocean's 11. I got the suit at Marshalls. The train came in. It had my real suit. I change into the real student at the back of the train station. We go to the Baltimore Symphony, which was, by the way, fantastic. They got this new conductor. We went home, removed the scotch tape from the suit, and returned it on Monday.

Dad

Everything came out great. And it was just like a normal visit from you, Ira.

Ira Glass

What do you mean by that?

Dad

Well, you know, sometimes things like this happen.

Ira Glass

Wait, what do you mean? What kinds of things?

Dad

You know, it's always excitement when you come to Baltimore.

Ira Glass

Are you saying that this thing that happens every time I come is that there's some kind of unnecessary chaos?

Dad

I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say that.

Ira Glass

No?

Dad

No.

Ira Glass

Now, you know, usually, a story on the show, for it to work, it needs to kind of have some bigger idea, or some bigger universal thing that it drives towards. Do you think there is something like that with this story?

Dad

No, not at all.

Ira Glass

Well, at least he could tell.

Today, for our 400th show, each of us who work on the radio show went to our parents, got them to pitch the story-- or repitched one that they had pitched in the past-- and then the idea was, we each had to make the story they pitched.

But there is more. Musical transition, please?

So we're gathered here, not in our studio, which actually isn't big enough for all of us to fit, but in our office, in the room where we have our weekly story meetings. So it's nine of us sitting here with microphones and looking around the room. It's Robyn Semien--

Robyn Semien

Hi.

Ira Glass

Jane Feltes--

Jane Feltes

Hi.

Ira Glass

Alissa Shipp--

Alissa Shipp

Present.

Ira Glass

Seth Lind--

Seth Lind

Yeah.

Ira Glass

That's our production manager, Seth Lind. Sarah Koenig--

Sarah Koenig

Hello.

Ira Glass

Alex Blumberg--

Alex Blumberg

Hello.

Lisa Pollak

Hello.

Ira Glass

That would be Lisa Pollak, jumping the gun. And finally, our senior producer, Julie Snyder.

Julie Snyder

Hello.

Ira Glass

Nervous. One of our producers, Nancy Updike, was called away and isn't here.

But we're gathered here together today because not only are all of you attempting to execute some of the most difficult stories you ever have-- if that were not hard enough, we're going to make it a contest.

The ground rules are these. We're going to play each producer's story. We'll all listen together. And then at the end of the show, we're going to come back on the air together and decide which story was best. Not only will this determined once and for all who is the greatest producer in radio, there's a prize that we all decided on together at our real story meaning.

Jane Feltes

I forgot what the prize is.

Sarah Koenig

Is it that the winning parent gets a plane ticket to come visit their child producer?

Ira Glass

And that's how I refer to all of you, as child producers.

But we also acknowledge that maybe we have no perspective on these stories, because who has perspective on their own family and their ideas? And so we also want to turn to you, everybody listening over the radio. You will all hear these stories. At the end of the program, go to our website and vote for your favorite. And if you listeners vote for a different winter than we choose amongst ourselves, then a second parent will get a trip to see their kid.

Sarah Koenig

Wow.

Lisa Pollak

Oh, nice!

Ira Glass

All right. And so let the games begin. Our first story is from Lisa Pollak.

Act One. Lisa's Mom's Story.

Lisa Pollak

It's funny what your parents forget to tell you until you're recording them for national broadcast. Here's what my mom said when I asked her for a story idea.

Lisa's Mom

What if you get the story on planning your funerals before you die? Because that's what we're doing now.

Lisa Pollak

She explained that she and my dad had recently bought their cemetery plots. Apparently all their friends were making plans for eternity, and they got they should jump on the bandwagon, too. I wasn't really sure why she was laughing, but she seemed convinced there was a funny idea in here, somewhere.

Lisa's Mom

There's got to be funny stories about death, and they've never done that on your show.

Lisa Pollak

Yeah, we have. We have. What do you mean, a funny story about death?

Lisa's Mom

Yeah. Not death, but dying and, you know, the burial things.

Lisa Pollak

Well, have you been to any funny funerals?

Lisa's Mom

I went to one hysterical funeral. I started laughing. And dad was laughing. You know when you start to laugh and then you're trying to stifle it because you're at a funeral? I was busting a gut. I was laughing so hard. And dad too. What was so funny? What was so funny Mitch? It with the whole-- I don't know what. It was just fabulous! It was the best funeral I've ever been to.

Lisa Pollak

So this is the idea. Find funny stories about funerals. Stories kind of like my mom's, only actually explaining the funny parts.

I started looking, and the first thing I found was a New York Times story from January 1902. Clearly I wasn't the first reporter whose mother had this idea. The headline read, "Humors of Funerals: The Funny Side of a Gruesome Subject As Seen by Clergymen." Or, as I like to imagine a clergyman would say it in 1902--

Man

"The Funny Side of a Gruesome Subject, As Seen By Clergymen."

Lisa Pollak

The story was a collection of anonymous anecdotes, gets like this one.

Man

The first Sunday after I had been installed in my first church, I discovered there was to be a funeral, and was asked to officiate. On asking who was dead, I learned it was a child of seven days whose mother had died in the county poorhouse, and the accident of whose advent into the world was in defiance of at least one item of the decalogue. I thought, of course there would be no mourners.

Lisa Pollak

OK. So the setup's a little dark. But then, to the clergyman's surprise, a whole crowd of mourners show up. They bring food--

Man

And a real picnic scene outspread itself around the church. It was the sexton who, on seeing my surprise, explained in all seriousness, "You see, parson, there has been neither a lynching nor a wedding in this section for so long, that the people have to make the most they can out of a funeral."

Lisa Pollak

OK, that didn't work.

So I turned to a more contemporary source, a book called The Funny Side of Death, published in 2008. The author is a retired funeral home owner who says his sense of humor helped him cope with the job. On page 97, for example, he explains how dead people's hip replacements, which are metal and stay intact after cremation, can be, quote, "shined up and presented to friends as letter openers."

At this point, I started making phone calls, first to the National Funeral Director's Association. I told them what I was looking for, and they said they had the perfect person to help me. And next thing I knew, I was on hold, waiting to talk to a funeral director in Decatur, Illinois named Randy Earl.

You know, nothing puts me in the mood for a humorous anecdote like the stuff they play when on hold at the funeral home.

On Hold Message

At Brintlinger and Earl Funeral Homes, we wanted to let you know about pre-arrangement planning. It's an easy way for you to take the worry of your burial or cremation needs away from your loved ones during the very difficult time--

Randy Earl

Hello, this is Randy.

Lisa Pollak

Randy said he'd been expecting my call, and that he had a great story. It was about a man who came in one day to make prearrangements for his funeral. The man had his kids with him, and one of the things they all talked about was what music to play at the man's service.

Randy Earl

I said, what's your favorite song? And he said, well, "Silent Night." And the kids laughed. They sort of laughed at him. And even the daughter, she said, well, Dad, what is it with "Silent Night"? And he said, well, it was at the end of the war, and they had just declared the war over. And I was sitting in a foxhole. The first song I heard was "Silent Night," and that's my favorite song. And I said, well, Bob, we'll use that at your funeral service.

Lisa Pollak

As fate would have it, the man died in July. And at the church where the service was supposed to be, the whole "Silent Night" idea wasn't going over so well.

Randy Earl

The church organist calls me. And he said, that's not even in our liturgy. And he said, I'm not playing "Silent Night" when you're exiting a church. So I sat there for a minute and I said, well, I might have to get another organist. But I promised him that we're going to do this, and somehow, I am going to do this.

So we go to church. We have the funeral mass. And the priest told the story. Bob requested that this song be played, because it was his favorite song. And he was in a foxhole when he heard that the war was over, and this was the song he heard played right after that. And it's the middle of July. He played that very softly as we exited the church, and they started singing very quietly. And it was the most moving, powerful thing that I've experienced in a long, long time.

[MUSIC - "SILENT NIGHT"]

Lisa Pollak

But not a funny story?

Randy Earl

No, no! It's not a funny story. It's not a funny story. It's a real story.

If you're looking for funny, I'm probably not your guy. Because I'm not a funny guy with my work. Even if I did have something in my repertoire, I would not put it out on the radio. I just wouldn't do it.

Lisa Pollak

It turns out that in the funeral business, humor can be a touchy subject. As Ron Hast, publisher of Mortuary Management Magazine, told me--

Ron Hast

There's always people who are trying to make fun. Oh, I understood that everyone's dying to come to you. Ha, ha, ha. I've heard it 5,000 times, and they think it's so funny, and they laugh, and whatever. Well, it's just stupid, is what it is.

Lisa Pollak

It's not funny.

Ron Hast

It's not funny.

Lisa Pollak

Ron spent so much time warning me about the pitfalls of this story idea-- how funny things don't really happen that often in his business, how outsiders like me tend to exaggerate and embellish, that when he actually gave me exactly what I was looking for, I was afraid to react. Instead of laughing, I asked a dumb question that killed his whole punchline.

Ron Hast

There was a lady who was sitting at a funeral, and she had had her father's funeral in the same funeral home about a month before. And she happened to notice that the funeral director there, doing this funeral, that was another person, that he was wearing her father's tie. And what had happened was, she realized that when he went and shut the casket down, out of the view of the family, he liked the tie too, and took it off, and closed the lid, and kept it for himself. They went so far as to have the grave open to prove that he had taken it, and sued him.

Lisa Pollak

And he lost, I'm guessing?

Ron Hast

I don't know what the outcome is. But you know, you don't follow all that stuff through.

Lisa Pollak

At this point, I gave on funeral directors and called a Lutheran minister I know. His name is Duke Fries. Pastor Fries told me a story about the time he finished doing a funeral service and made this dignified exit in front of a room full of people, only to realize--

Duke Fries

That I had chosen the wrong door, that I was now in a closet. And I wasn't sure whether to step back out with all these people watching, or just stay in this closet until I heard them moving around, which is, in fact, what I did.

Lisa Pollak

Finally, I was getting somewhere. I kept at it, and before long, I had more stories than I knew what to do with. There was the overzealous mourner who fell into the grave during the funeral, a woman who wanted to be buried topless to show off her breast job, and a funeral home worker who lifted a woman out of her bed only realize that her husband, in the next bed over, was the dead one.

But I wasn't so sure any of these were what my mom was looking for. None of them were like that funeral she went to, where--

Lisa's Mom

I was busting a gut! I was laughing so hard.

Lisa Pollak

I was just about to give up looking when our intern, Brian Reed, told me I had to call his friend Rob. So I did. And after that, I made one last call.

[RINGTONE]

Lisa's Mom

Hello?

Lisa Pollak

Hi, mom.

Lisa's Mom

Hi, Li.

Lisa Pollak

So you know how I've been looking for funny funeral stories?

Lisa's Mom

Uh huh.

Lisa Pollak

I have one I want to play for you.

Lisa's Mom

OK.

Lisa Pollak

Um, what's that in the background?

Lisa's Mom

I'm taking something out of the oven.

Lisa Pollak

Oh.

So there's going to be two people telling the story. Their names are Rob and Andrea. They're married, the funeral is for Andrea's grandmother. It takes place in a Ukrainian church, and they don't totally know what's going on, because the priest is speaking Ukrainian.

Lisa's Mom

OK.

Andrea

And the first thing that got us silly was that the priest looks exactly like Bill Murray. Like, exactly.

Rob

Like Bill Murray circa Meatballs, with the hair sticking up and the-- so they started the service, and it's all in Ukrainian. I mean, they're not speaking any English whatsoever. So the priest decides he's going to start speaking in a little bit of English, and he's reading-- apparently it's custom in the Ukrainian church, if someone passes away, you give a donation to the church in that person's name. So he literally is listing off the people's names and how much they gave to the church. And it was a good amount, he kind of smiles, he's like, "Maister Zeslinsky, $50." He gives a little smile. And if it was like a low amount, he's like, you know, "The Zogrokskis, five dollar." And he gives like a disappointing look, like oh, not good, you know? And he's doing this whole list, over and over, he goes through this whole list of money, and you know, people are adding up the money in their head.

So then he decides he's going to do a little bit of a eulogy.

Andrea

Yeah. He does a eulogy in English, for us, because he knows that we really don't speak Ukrainian. So he comes right in front of us, and he says--

Rob

And Andrea's maiden name is Drobish, D R O B I S H.

Andrea

And that was my grandmother's name, was Barbara Drobish. So he comes right in front of us, and he says--

Rob

He says, "Barbara Drobish was a good lay! Dee!"

Andrea

And that just killed us!

Rob

"She tried so hard to be a good lay-- dee!" So then Andrea's sister and her, they start to laugh, and they're shaking when they're laughing, and they're trembling. And I think people, especially the people in the Ukrainian church, thought they were literally crying, like, weeping very hard. So the people from the Ukrainian church are now coming and surrounding them, and hugging them.

Andrea

"Oh, the poor grandchildren!" And they're crying, which is making us laugh.

Rob

Everyone is crying except us, who are laughing hysterically, and trying to hide the fact that we're laughing, and trying not to mock the Ukrainian church. So that's our--

Andrea

And that's the funny story.

Lisa's Mom

I like it!

Lisa Pollak

You like it?

Lisa's Mom

I think it's funny. It reminded me of a Seinfeld.

Lisa Pollak

So she didn't bust a gut. But maybe for my mom, that only happens at funerals.

Sarah Koenig

Really funny!

Julie Snyder

Wait, I don't get the final line.

Ira Glass

The last line was, she didn't bust a gut, but she only does that at funerals.

Jane Feltes

But she did bust a gut.

Lisa Pollak

No, she didn't bust a gut. That's the problem.

Jane Feltes

She laughed!

Ira Glass

I feel like you guys are dwelling on the last one. That was amazing.

Sarah Koenig

That was great.

Julie Snyder

I wasn't dwelling. I just, there was a moment I was confused.

Alex Blumberg

I'm nervous.

Lisa Pollak

Yeah, I know! Beat that.

Alex Blumberg

I know! You reported the crap out of it. That was what made it so amazing.

Lisa Pollak

I thought we were supposed to.

Alex Blumberg

No. I did some reporting, but I thought that was going to be my strong suit. I was like, well, my story sucks, but I did some reporting. But I didn't do as much reporting as you did.

Ira Glass

All right. Well, our next story is from Nancy Updike, who recorded this story, but couldn't be here with us.

Act Two. Nancy's Dad's Story.

Nancy Updike

I talked to my dad. He pitched me this idea a year ago, actually. Kind of caught me off-guard with this one. The Erie Canal.

Nancy Updike

What about the Erie Canal?

Nancy's Dad

Well, you know, it's a famous old waterway, dug with a lot of brutal labor, manual labor, a lot of it, and it was a tremendous feat of engineering, and generated lots of songs, and there was traffic that went along it, and things like that. But it didn't last very long. I mean, the railroads came, and then the trucks came, and water transport went out of fashion. You know. And the question is kind of, what's become of it?

Nancy Updike

And before I answer that question, I just want to quickly remind our listeners of everything they, of course, already know about the Canal. Longest canal in the U.S., when it was built. 363 miles. Linking Lake Erie and the rest of the Great Lakes to the Atlantic via the Hudson River, dug by hand, with travels and pre-industrial tools, before our country was even 50 years old. And it was our first big success in physically uniting the United States by connecting the built-up east coast with the midwest.

This is Craig Williams, curator at the New York State Museum.

Craig Williams

It must have been tremendously exciting. They were doing something unprecedented. They were building a canal to the moon. And it must've been tremendously confidence-building for a society that was still an incredibly young republic that they could pull something like this off.

Nancy Updike

So I did find out what became of the canal, and some things you just cannot express in words alone. The canal is too big, so I wrote a song with my friend, Dave Hill.

Dave Hill

[SINGING] Give it to me, woman.

Nancy Updike

Easy, easy!

Craig Williams

They were building a canal to the moon. A canal to the moon.

Nancy Updike

[SINGING] What do you do with a canal to the moon, when the railroad gets to there a lot more soon? You'd rather drive your car, anyway. And you don't want to go from Buffalo to Albany. But let's say you're a nuclear power plant, and you need massive concrete containers for your spent fuel rods. You could do a lot worse than shipping via the Erie Canal.

Dave Hill

It's still in use.

Nancy Updike

[SINGING] So you call up Rob Goldman at the New York Sate Marines Transportation Authority, because--

Rob Goldman

If you want to go from New York to Montreal, it could save you a thousand miles.

Nancy Updike

True.

Rob Goldman

It could save you a thousand miles.

Dave Hill

He already said that.

Nancy Updike

[SINGING] But what do you do with a canal to the moon when your town or your city has passed its industrial boom? No more million of tons of cargo floating by. [SPEAKING] More like thousands. Better than nothing, but still. How about this, though?

Man

You could hike, you could bike. The trail is now being completed across the state.

Nancy Updike

[SINGING] He's talking about a 360 mile trail alongside the canal system that's two-thirds complete. Quite a feat! And don't forget--

Man

In many places, the locks are parks, so you could just go and have a cookout. There are tables there. You could read a book, take a nap, go to a restaurant, bring your kids, feed the ducks.

Nancy Updike

Ducks? Everyone likes ducks.

Dave Hill

I like ducks.

Man

It just goes on and on.

Nancy Updike

[SINGING] And on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

What do you do with a canal to the moon when some people, maybe you, complain three, four times a year, in op-ed, up in Rochester, saying--

Man

Why are we spending all this money for rich people to take their yachts from Florida to Lake Erie?

Nancy Updike

[SINGING] But here's what you do with a canal to the moon. Put a canoe in it, or a tire, or a kayak--

Dave Hill

Or like a floaty lawn chair.

Nancy Updike

Go ice fishing. Play hockey. It's water.

Dave Hill

This one guy was telling me the canal was makeout city.

Nancy Updike

[SINGING] That's what you do with a canal to the moon.

[SPEAKING] It was the eighth wonder of the world when it was built. You're not just going to fill it with concrete.

Dave Hill

We nailed it.

Ira Glass

Well everybody, what do you think? Nancy Updike, with Dave Hill, by the way.

Jane Feltes

Yay!

Sarah Koenig

Very inventive.

Lisa Pollak

I think it's great.

Jane Feltes

I don't know, I mean, I know kind of a little more about the Erie Canal, but I still can't picture the--

Alex Blumberg

Yeah, I agree. I feel like I don't really know anything, actually, about the Erie Canal.

Lisa Pollak

I think you guys are missing the point of this story. That was kickass! She wrote a song! And performed it!

Ira Glass

All right. Well, our next story is from Alex Blumberg.

Act Three. Alex's Dad's Story.

Alex's Dad

My dad doesn't watch much TV. He hates sports. He's an atheist. His main pastime is reading. Books on Buddhism, philosophy. He loves William Blake and science books and left-leaning blogs. And his story ideas, they're generally big and abstract.

For example, when I called them for this project the other night, one idea he thought I should do a story about is the idea of coming out of the closet. This idea has been so key, he said, in advancing the cause of gay rights, and he wanted me to do a story about how other groups should adopt the tactics of coming out in order to seek mainstream acceptance. What other groups? Atheists. Also, people who don't like sports.

Alex Blumberg

His other idea, at least initially, seemed equally as unpromising.

Alex's Dad

The fact that law treats corporations as if they were people.

Alex Blumberg

He'd been thinking about the idea of corporate personhood for years, but it was especially on his mind during the conversation I had with him, which took place just a couple of days after that Supreme Court decision overturning large parts of campaign finance law. That decision, the Citizens United case, basically said there is no distinction between a corporation spending a lot of money on campaign ads and a regular person doing it. In the eyes of the law, the corporation can buy as many ads as it wants. To my dad, that seems crazy and dangerous.

Alex's Dad

We've kind of created these Goliaths, these Godzillas, parading around as if they were people. But in fact, they have a kind of power that no individual person could ever begin to amass.

Alex Blumberg

Right.

Alex's Dad

So there is this entity called Exxon Corporation, and you read newspaper stories about Exxon says, or Exxon was furious.

Alex Blumberg

You've never read a sentence that said "Exxon was furious." Have you?

Alex's Dad

Well, Exxon was upset.

Alex Blumberg

So who should I talk to, though?

Alex's Dad

Well, I think that's the story idea. Is who do you talk to? Who becomes the voice of Exxon?

Alex Blumberg

So the idea would be, I would call-- I would try-- it would be in search of Exxon.

Alex's Dad

In search of Exxon. Who is this? We treat them as a person. And who do they think they are? Who do you think you are!

Alex Blumberg

All right. I will try to do that. I'll try to find out who Exxon thinks they are.

I'm not going to lie. This didn't go well. I called Exxon, spoke to a media relations person there, told her about how my dad and I had this conversation, and I wanted to find out who Exxon thought it was. The lady was very nice, but she said she didn't see any reason Exxon would ever want to talk to me about this. In this way, Exxon is just like a lot of people. If they don't want to talk to the media, you can't really make them.

I called around to other multinational corporations. Same answer. Then I tried the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the trade group for most of American business. The guy there was a little bit more receptive, and he called me back with the name-- Eugene Volokh. He's the guy you should talk to. Although when I reached Eugene Volokh, he couldn't explain why the Chamber of Commerce sent me to him.

Eugene Volokh

You know, I am not sure. I think somebody at the Chamber of Commerce reads my blog.

Alex Blumberg

So Eugene Volokh turns out not to be a spokesman for corporate America in any way. He's a charming libertarian-leaning law professor at UCLA. He runs a popular blog called the Volokh Conspiracy, though he's written a lot about constitutional issues in the Citizens United case.

And the more we talked, the more I had to let go of my Michael Moore dreams-- asking stunty questions designed to expose the fallacy of corporate personhood, such as, what's Exxon's favorite color? Or what does Exxon want for Christmas? Or who's Exxon's favorite Beatle? That line of questioning, Eugene Volokh told me in so many words, is stupid.

Eugene Volokh

Corporations are generally seen as having many constitutional rights, but it's not because somehow they're metaphysically persons. It's because restricting corporations in various ways restricts the rights of persons. It restricts the rights of their owners, and it restricts, perhaps, the rights of others.

Alex Blumberg

Others being, for example, people who want to hear what the corporation has to say.

All right. I'm just going to stop here and say, by the time I got to this point in my conversation with Eugene Volokh, I already knew that the story my dad wanted me to do was in trouble. So Dad, if you don't mind, I took up a different question. The question I took up is this. How worried should he be about the Citizens United case?

OK. A little background on the idea of corporations as people. When it comes to property rights, corporations are basically the same as you and I. The government can't take away their property without due process. That's protected under the fourteenth amendment. But when it comes to something the fifth amendment, which says, you can't be forced to incriminate yourself in a court of law, corporations are not covered. All those TV dramas and congressional hearings where people plead the fifth? Exxon can't do that.

So corporations are legally like people in some respects, and unlike them in others. And it's in this context that the issue of corporate spending on campaigns comes up. The Supreme Court has dealt with this issue a handful of times over the last century--

Ira Glass

OK. Stop the tape. Stop the tape. OK. I'm just going to point out what's going on here. Paul, our engineer, with all due respect, briefly fell asleep. Alex, meanwhile, had to leave to go to a meeting for his other-- he works on Planet Money, and they had a big meeting, so he's not even here to defend himself.

Sarah Koenig

I just, I stopped-- yeah. I went somewhere else.

Lisa Pollak

Well, I know, no. And we did an edit on it the other day and I said, in this section, like, I didn't follow it at all. And then Ira said that that was because--

Robyn Semien

He said it was because we were girls.

Ira Glass

That was a joke!

Lisa Pollak

I just want to say that I really did like that he took his dad's idea and said it didn't work, I'm going to redirect, do my own idea. I thought that was a very clever-- I did think he's a good son to take it on. So.

Alissa Shipp

They should be proud that he just did such a boring--

Ira Glass

All right. So it's looking very, very bad for Alex in our competition. Coming up-- more stories pitched by our parents, who by the way, we all love very, very, very much. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International when our program continues.

Act Four. Robyn's Dad's Story.

Robyn Semien

When I asked my dad to think of an idea he'd like to pitch, he took it to mean one thing. A clear opportunity to tell his favorite story.

Robyn's Dad

Believe it or not, this is all the way back in 1950. That's right. 1950. So this is before--

Robyn Semien

It's like before the invention of fire, Dad. You're making this sound like--

This story usually takes him a little over an hour to tell. it's about how he souped up a car when he was 20. But before he tells you about that car, he always tells you about another car, his starter car, a 1953 Oldsmobile.

When he was growing up in Richmond, California, which is near Oakland, there was a fad among teens to take some chrome off a car and paint primer where the chrome used to be. My dad took the trend a step further. He took the door handles off his car-- that's right, the door handles-- and painted circles of gray primer where the handles used to be.

Robyn's Dad

That would have been cool. There wasn't a whole lot of people running around that had cars that didn't have door handles on them, and naturally, they'd want to know, how do you open the door?

Robyn Semien

You'd open the door, or my dad would open the door, by pressing the button he'd hidden in the chrome trim of the car. It was an electric button that triggered a solenoid which released the door latch. My dad was obsessed with electronics, and wondered what else in the car he could trick out. The radio, the lights.

Robyn's Dad

One day, I don't know why. It just came to me-- well, sure would be nice if there was only one switch. If I had one switch to control all of this. And just as fast, it came to me, now, how could you possibly have one switch to do everything? That's impossible. And so just as fast as the idea came up, the idea went way. Because I said, that's impossible. Don't make any sense.

Robyn Semien

After a while, my dad bought about another car-- a used '56 Lincoln Premiere convertible. And the attraction was that everything in the car was electric. Power seats, power windows, the convertible top. It was a perfect laboratory for my dad.

His job at the time was at a place where they were manufacturing parts for CB radios, and these particular CB radios had rotary dials on them, like on a telephone, connected to a switch inside. And it was at work one day, inspecting those rotary dials, when it hit him. He had his Thomas Edison moment.

Robyn's Dad

If you dial three to switch it, it moves three times. If you dial six [? digits, ?] it moves six times.

And I looked at that, and it just came back to me. I said, there's my switch. There is my switch.

Robyn Semien

For the next eight months, my dad locked himself in his room. His plan was this. He'd attach all of the car's power circuits to a metal box using hundreds of relays, all controlled by a rotary dial from an old Princess phone, the kind which had a little light behind it. This was the star of the show, and needed a prime location-- the center of the steering wheel.

Robyn's Dad

So I guess the reward for doing all of that was the day when it was finally finished, and I put it in the car. And I call your grandfather out, and he came out and sat in the car. And so he was sitting over on the passenger side, and he was leaning up, had his arm on the window. And I said, well, this is what I was doing. An he kind of looked at it like, what were you doing?

And my hand reached for the steering wheel, towards the princess dial, and he saw the light turn on as my hand reach for it. It was a cute little trick. I had a switch underneath my brake pedal, on the floor, that put power to the dial. I could not have power to the dial at all times. Anybody could play around with that switch and make all that stuff happen. They may not know what's going on.

So when I reached for it, the light turned on, which powered it. And I dial one, I dial twice, I dial three times. And when I dial the fourth time and the engine started-- and then I saw his eyes kind of-- no, that didn't just happen.

But before he had a chance to really recover from that, I dialed three more numbers real quick, and all of a sudden, the windows started coming up, moving his arm off the side of the door. And I dialed three more numbers, and the other window came up, and I dialed three more numbers, and the top started coming up.

And so I just kind of flooded. I kept dialing, dial after dial after dial, real fast, to make all these things operate, before he ever had a chance to think about it at all.

Robyn Semien

So you did it.

Robyn's Dad

I did it. One switch. And my daughters, they never knew about it. I didn't talk too much about it. They were around it all of their life, growing up.

Robyn Semien

That's my sister Shaun and me laughing in the background. My dad really thinks we don't know that story.

Robyn Semien

Shaun, how many times do you think you've heard the car story?

Shawn

Probably a couple of times a year for like, as long as I can remember. So I don't know. 30, 50, something like that.

Robyn Semien

I've heard the story at least as many times as my sister. My uncle Rocky, who was 16 when my dad built the Lincoln, probably heard it the most.

Rocky

Oh God! At least a hundred times.

Robyn Semien

My friends Ellen and Anya have both heard it, separately. My boyfriend Damien.

Damien

Yeah, I've heard it. In detail, probably twice. But loosely six or seven times.

Robyn Semien

In fact, the night my dad pitched me the car story, my niece Alexis, who is 15, was listening. Alexis also had a story idea, but we never got to it, because when my dad started on the car story, she couldn't outlast him.

Alexis

And I got like really tired, and I just knew that it probably was just going to keep going like that. So I decided that I should probably get some sleep.

The whole thing that got me was the-- and just as quickly as the idea came, it went away! Because I knew that can't be the end of the story. Obviously there's a whole other section.

Robyn Semien

Right. You know he's just, like, ramping up.

Alexis

Exactly.

Robyn Semien

My nephew Jamison, who's 11, also heard that story that same night. My dad says Jamison's the lucky grandchild who will inherit the box and dial. Jamison's take on the story?

Jamison

Um-- if I were, like, more patient, then it would have sounded like a good story.

Robyn Semien

When we were young, there was a lesson attached to this story-- that when you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. But when I asked my dad today why this is the story he tells over and over, what's the point of the story, he says he's just proud that he had an idea that nobody else did. I point out to my dad that his invention was completely impractical. It's way harder to dial a secret code than to just push the button that opens the window. He says that's not the point. It was cool. It made him stand out. And if anyone wanted the window down, or the radio on, they had to go through him.

Jane Feltes

Nice.

Julie Snyder

That was so nice.

Lisa Pollak

That was amazing.

Jane Feltes

I love your dad.

Alex Blumberg

Well, that worked so well, because it was about him. Like, it wasn't outside of him. But not just that, but you made it not the story, but about the fact of it-- yeah, that was cool.

Act Five. Alissa's Mom And Sarah's Mom.

Ira Glass

OK. So this is a good place to say that two of our producers put together stories that didn't work out so well. Alissa Shipp, one of our producers, called her mom, and got into this pretty heavy conversation. And the most air-able part of it was this one moment that they got talking about this moment with her grandmother in the hospital. And it's 16 seconds long.

Alissa's Mom

Bubbe on her deathbed, actually, last time I visited her, and she was kind of whispering something. And we bent down to listen to her, and she said, I'm bored.

Alissa Shipp

Does anyone else think that's funny?

Sarah Koenig

I think that's funny. I feel like it's like my nightmare. That's exactly how I imagine it being, too.

Ira Glass

And then our next story is from Sarah Koenig. Also a shortie.

Sarah Koenig

So my mom's story idea wasn't, strictly speaking, a story, or, strictly speaking, an idea. It was about a conversation she's had dozens of times with my daughter Ava, who's six.

Sarah's Mom

My granddaughter always me why I celebrate Christmas. Well, why do you do Christmas? You're Jewish. Well, I said, my parents did it, and it's a big tradition in our family, and we liked it, and I wanted to carry on the tradition. And she said, but you're Jewish! Why do you do it? She's never content with my answer.

Sarah Koenig

I figured maybe there was some cognitive reason for Ava's confusion, like that at her age, she simply could not compute the contradiction that somebody Jewish would do something not Jewish.

So I talked to a couple of child psychologists, and they told me I was right. That this question is taxing Ava's prefrontal cortex. That's the part of the brain where we store information about rule-governed behavior, like how we're supposed to act. And they said it might take a couple of years for Ava's prefrontal cortex to get it.

This is Karen Bierman. She's written books about child development.

Karen Bierman

Your daughter's right at that cusp. She's got a category, she's got a clear category of what it means to be Jewish, and her grandmother doesn't fit that category in any way that she can see. So that's a more challenging cognition.

Sarah Koenig

Anyhow, none of this felt very, um, gripping.

So to sum up, I wrote a little daddy about Ava's situation with her grandmother, who she calls Yaya. The tune is borrowed, by the way.

Ava

[SINGING] When your Yaya gets a tree, and you know that it shouldn't be, look her straight in the eye, ask why.

Sarah Koenig

[SINGING] Ask why--

Ava

Ask why--

Sarah Koenig

Ask why--

Ava

Ask why--

Sarah Koenig

Don't you eat that Christmas stew. You're a Jew. You're a Jew--

Ava

You're a Jew--

Sarah Koenig

You're a Jew--

Ava

You're a Jew--

Sarah Koenig

Me too--

Ava

Me too-- [GIGGLES]

Sarah Koenig

That's it.

More songs! I like it.

Ira Glass

I would have ended the song a little earlier. I had enough of the cuteness. I was ready for it to end, like, 20 seconds earlier.

Alex Blumberg

But the giggle? Give me a break.

Alissa Shipp

The giggle's pretty good. You just hate children and Jews.

Sarah Koenig

It's true. We never have any kids. We never have any Jews.

Act Six. Jane's Dad's Story.

Ira Glass

All right. Well, our last story today comes from Jane Feltes.

Jane Feltes

I called my dad, and obviously he was super stoked to help me with this project.

Jane's Dad

Here's the thing. It's pretty boring these days, and especially here in sunny Michigan. But if you want ideas, here's some stuff.

Jane Feltes

That was my dad's attempt at modesty. Turns out he's kind of a pitching machine. The stuff I could do stories about range from, Can you believe GM is bringing 800 jobs to Michigan, rather than moving them out? Or, why you guys follow up on that story you did a few years ago about some vigilante border patrol guys down on the Mexican border?

Jane's Dad

I want to know if they're still there, and if they finally got guns.

Jane Feltes

Then somehow we got on the topic of how to make solar energy efficient, which led to the wave particle duality of photons, and not led to--

Jane's Dad

So does the particle aspect come in regular intervals, brrrr, like a machine gun? Or if they go pop, like popcorn?

Jane Feltes

Right. And then naturally--

Jane's Dad

You know, like how big does a planet have to be to have a molten core?

Jane Feltes

And then finally--

Jane's Dad

I think Harry Brakeman is fascinating.

Jane Feltes

What?

Jane's Dad

You know Harry Brakeman?

Jane Feltes

At first I was like, who? But then I remembered that Harry Brakeman was the pastor at my Grandma Ruth's Methodist church a while back. Now he's retired, and he and his wife live in eastern Michigan, out in the country.

Jane's Dad

They live in this little tiny house over in Port Huron, like Ruth and Bill's house, like, you know, 1,200 square feet. They started this school down in Haiti, which is an American thing to do. We like to do that. Go out in the world and start schools to make people like us. And it turned into a university.

Jane Feltes

What?

Jane's Dad

Yeah. Brakeman University. Medical school, I think they're trying to put together. They've got a four year college with, I think they have some grad programs. Brakeman University, is what it's called. Methodist church--

Jane Feltes

I kind of doubted this story from the jump. Like, maybe he had a church there, and it's possible that they taught a Sunday School, but then someone was talking to somebody, and it turned into a game of telephone, and in the end, everyone in Michigan thinks Harry Brakeman's like running the Harvard of the Caribbean.

Jane's Dad

Their story fascinates me. And it was Harry's deal from the beginning to the end.

Jane Feltes

OK. So that phone call, that was a week before the earthquake in Haiti. So when the earthquake happened, then I found myself worried about this school that I didn't even know if it existed.

Harry Brakeman

I was born right here, almost where I'm sitting right now.

Jane Feltes

Ladies and gentlemen, Harry Brakeman, 87 years old, in his home in Clyde, Michigan. And Harry says it's true. There is a school.

Back in the '70s, a missionary visits Harry's church, and he's talking about some work he's doing in Haiti, and would Harry want to join and help. So in 1976, the Brakemans fly into Port-au-Prince for the first time.

Harry Brakeman

We got a truck to pick us up and took us to a church. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] says you're preaching here today. I was like, I'm what? He said, you're preaching! So [? Bells Head Farm ?] was the largest Protestant church in Port-au-Prince, and I never had such a experience in my life. But I was scared. My knees were almost shaking, knocking. And I said, Lord, you've got me in a mess, and you've got to get me out of here. But he did.

And I'm not an evangelist. I've never done that kind of work. I was just always a pastor. But when I got done with preaching, the people just flooded to the altar. In fact, the team called me another Billy Graham.

Jane Feltes

Now, I've heard Harry's sermons, and to tell you the truth, they sound pretty much like this conversation. He's not all filled with the spirit or anything. So you can see how special this was. He toured around the island and saw how people live.

Harry Brakeman

And that opened my eyes up a lot. I've never seen people so poor in my life. My heart was broken. My pocketbook was broken, too.

Jane Feltes

His missionary work took him to a small town called Petit Goave, or Ti Goave, about 40 miles west of Port-au-Prince on a two lane highway. It's a fishing town on the coast. Kind of a commercial center for all the tiny villages in the mountains that surround it. They were building churches, and Harry had the idea to build a school.

The work was hard, hauling construction supplies from Port-au-Prince and working crazy hours to avoid the midday sun.

What wasn't as difficult was finding volunteers. When Michigan construction jobs dried up every winter, Harry said they found plenty of people happy to spend a few months warming up in Haiti.

Harry Brakeman

We'd gone back, and then we started back in those villages. They'd have rice mats in their houses, and they'd let us sleep [? on those. ?] And we would sleep and work, work and sleep. I remember, I started singing a song-- Learn to lean, learn to lean, learn to lean on Jesus, finding more strength than I've ever dreamed, I've learned to lean on him. We would often start singing that when things got kind of rough, at first.

Jane Feltes

As the students grew, the classes grew, and so on and so forth, until they had 650 students and 42 teachers, all of them Haitian. They taught preschool through junior college, and then two years ago added university level courses. They were affiliated with a medical campus in Port-au-Prince. At least, that was the case up until a month ago.

Jane Feltes

So tell me about what's going on in Petit Goave now.

Harry Brakeman

As far as we know, the only damage to our school-- last year, they put a room on top of the auditorium to house computers in. We understand that's fallen down. But the rest of the school is still usable.

Jane Feltes

Three weeks after the earthquake, I asked a newspaper reporter from New Jersey, Meredith Mandell, who was traveling to Haiti to do her own story, if she would go, or at least try to go, to Petit Goave, and find the school, and if she found it, was it standing?

Meredith said that these helicopters were flying really low overhead the whole time she was there. Eventually, she found the school.

Meredith Mandell

Wow.

Luc Lespinas

Now you see this room fell down here, where we had, I thought, this is the college area Brakeman. The best school in Petit Goave. And everybody knows about that.

But as you see, for example, on the left side of the school, that all the walls fell down. That one you see here, we had the computers room that fell down here.

Jane Feltes

The guy she's talking to is Luc Lespenasse whom Harry put me in touch with. Luc's known the Brakemans for years. He met them when he was a teen, back when they first visited Petit Goave. In the '80s, he came to live with them in Michigan for a few years, and they put him through college. They call them their Haitian son.

The original classrooms were solidly constructed with rebar support, and all finished nicely. Kind of looks like it could be a high school in southern California And those buildings, they're still standing, though they do have that empty, frozen in time feeling. Like the date of the quake, January 12, is still written on one of the chalkboards in teacher's handwriting.

But a few recent additions to the school were thrown up with cinderblocks, and they've come down. The new computer lab is just piles of rubble. But overall, the school fared pretty well compared to the rest of Petit Goave, which was essentially leveled. Not only was it hit in the first quake, but that 5.9 magnitude aftershock that happened a week later? The epicenter was right beneath Petit Goave. So the school is kind of the last thing on anyone's mind.

I had a long talk with Luc on the phone, but without thinking, I made the mistake of starting with the standard non-emergency disasters on small talk.

Jane Feltes

Luc?

Luc Lespinas

Yes?

Jane Feltes

Hi! This is Jane.

Luc Lespinas

Oh, yes. How have you been?

Jane Feltes

I've been OK. How about you?

Luc Lespinas

Oh, just so-so. In a few words, I would say things are really bad. But where I am at in Petit Goave, there are so many houses that have been destroyed, also with a lot of people inside.

Jane Feltes

With people inside?

Luc Lespinas

Yes, yes.

Jane Feltes

For years, Luc's run an ad hoc orphanage out of his house, which is now uninhabitable. Altogether, since he started, he's taken in 172 kids. Right now he has 15 boys, seven of them he's legally adopted.

Jane Feltes

So what are you doing during the day, you know, most days?

Luc Lespinas

You mean right now, or in the past?

Jane Feltes

Right now, like this week. How are you spending your days?

Luc Lespinas

Oh, dear. Right now, I can say, if I ask you if it is right now or in the past, that's because right now, we have a new Haiti. This is-- I can say we are in another world. I'ts not the same in the past.

Jane Feltes

He said his boys were keeping themselves busy, playing dominoes, basketball. Help has been slow to arrive to Petit Goave. Medical teams didn't get here until a week after the quake. Stores are down, and even if they weren't, Luc can't access his money because the banks were destroyed. More kids show up every day asking for help. He says everyone is just waiting, but they're not even sure what they're waiting for.

Jane Feltes

Right. I feel embarrassed doing a story about trying to figure out what's happened to Harry's school when there are obviously so many other questions that are more important, you know?

Luc Lespinas

Yeah. I know what you mean. But anyway, you know that Harry-- many Haitian people consider Harry Brakeman as a Haitian or so.

Jane Feltes

Many people there count Harry as a Haitian, Luc says.

Luc Lespinas

A lot of things he's been doing for us. A lot of schools and a lot of church. His heart is really with us. So one of the reasons that we are glad to name the school after him, College Harry Brakeman.

Jane Feltes

I spoke to him the other day, and he seemed to think that school could continue, you know, somehow. But I don't think he understands how bad it is.

Luc Lespinas

No, I don't think so, I don't think so. Me, I talked to his wife on the phone. You know, for some reason, I did not tell them all I've been telling you. Because they so care for the people here. I felt it will embarrass just to tell them exactly what happened. For example, I can say in Petit Goave only, we have more than 1,000 people die.

Jane Feltes

Luc said it's a thousand. The official count, according to the mayor, is more like 1,100 so far. And that's in a town of roughly 12,000 people.

Luc Lespinas

And by the way, I would like to ask you also to help us in your prayers.

Jane Feltes

In our prayers?

Luc Lespinas

Yes, yes. So we hope that you won't forget us in your prayers.

Sarah Koenig

I like a lot about this story. I mean, I think you were so hampered by crummy-- two sets of crummy tape-- like most of your subjects are really hard to understand. You know what I mean? Like you really had a lot of work to do in this story as a narrator. And I think you did it. I mean, I think you take us through.

Lisa Pollak

I liked the moment of where you said that your dad had pitched this to you before the earthquake, and then the earthquake hit, and all of a sudden you found yourself wondering about this university that you weren't even sure actually really existed. And I thought that was my favorite part, was to come at the end, and like, now we care about a university in a town I've never heard of. I really liked that.

I feel like I'm on American Idol.

Ira Glass

OK. So it's time to vote. We've heard all the stories. Just to review on what those stories were one more time. It was my dad's story the suit on the train, Lisa's story about the funny funeral, Nancy's story about the Erie Canal, Alex's story about corporations as people, Robyn's story about her dad's rotary phone-controlled car, Alissa's story about her bubbe's deathbed boredom, Sarah's story about Christmas and her daughter and her mom, and Jane's story about the college in Haiti.

Robyn Semien

Are there criteria for voting?

Julie Snyder

Yeah, there's indefinitely criteria. And I think you should consider all of the criteria when, I think, thinking about-- well, there's just the, expertise, there's entertainment, level of difficulty--

Ira Glass

Yeah. How hard was the pitch from the parent?

Julie Snyder

Yeah. If you had to listen to one again, what would you listen to?

Sarah Koenig

That's a good way to think about it.

Ira Glass

Yeah, I know. And for me, that would narrow it down for me to Lisa and Robyn.

Sarah Koenig

That would narrow it down, to me, to Lisa and Nancy.

Ira Glass

Yeah. Lisa's story about the funny funeral, Nancy's story about the Erie Canal, for me it would be Lisa's story about the funny funerals and Robyn's story about the car.

Julie Snyder

Yeah. I'm going with Lisa.

Jane Feltes

I'm going with Lisa, too.

Alissa Shipp

I was going to say Robyn.

Alex Blumberg

I'm torn between Robyn and Jane.

Ira Glass

Robyn's story about the dad's car and Jane's story about Haiti, why? Why those two?

Alex Blumberg

Well, going into it, I was like, oh, it's Robyn. Because it just felt like such a solid story. It just, well--

Ira Glass

Not like that usual crap we put out here.

Alex Blumberg

Yeah. It was like, I mean, I'm not a fan of This American Life, so I don't, like, seek it out, but if I have to listen, like, that would have been pretty good, you know?

But then with Jane's, it's like, that is such a-- it goes in such an unexpected place, and it was hard.

Sarah Koenig

I'm going to make a little push for Nancy here as well. Just because Erie Canal. That is hard. That is really hard. And I feel like, contrary to some here, I feel like I did learn quite a lot about the Erie Canal.

Julie Snyder

I did too.

Sarah Koenig

And totally entertaining. So I feel like she really hit the three criteria.

Ira Glass

Yeah, but you remember the first like minute and a half of Nancy's piece, which is just like these incredibly boring pieces of factual information?

Sarah Koenig

I think it's all a red herring so the song hits you-- it's still in the service of the song. I appreciated the stagecraft of that.

Ira Glass

OK. So I'm just going to take a little score here. So I'm voting Lisa. Julie?

Julie Snyder

In an all-around, package, kind of best-in-show kind of way, I enjoyed Lisa's the most.

Ira Glass

OK. Lisa?

Lisa Pollak

I'm going to go for Robyn.

Ira Glass

Alissa?

Alissa

Robyn.

Ira Glass

Sarah?

Sarah Koenig

After pushing Nancy, really-- I'm really torn between Lisa and Nancy. Nancy.

Ira Glass

OK. Seth?

Seth Lind

Jane.

Ira Glass

Jane?

Jane Feltes

Lisa.

Ira Glass

OK. Robyn?

Robyn Semien

Lisa.

Ira Glass

OK. The final tally. Lisa, you have four votes. Nancy has one, Robin has two, and Jane, you have one.

Jane Feltes

Congratulations, Lisa.

Julie Snyder

Congratulations, Lisa!

Lisa Pollak

Thank you. Thanks.

Julie Snyder

Have fun with your parents.

Lisa Pollak

Yeah!

Julie Snyder

By the way, they have to say with you.

Ira Glass

Our program was produced today by Sarah Koenig and myself with the greatest documentary production staff in radio-- Alex Blumberg, Jane Feltes, Lisa Pollak, Robyn Semian, Alissa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Our senior producer is Julie Snyder Our intern, who is already making our stories better, is Brian Reed. Seth Lind is our production manager. Emily Condon is our office manager. Music consultant, Jessica Hopper. Audio engineering for today's shows by Paul [? Rues. ?]

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS]

Special thanks today to our parents, especially the ones who we interviewed who didn't make it into the show. Don't forget to go to our website and vote. We really are curious what the audience favorite is for today's show. We went your vote. The web address is www.thisamericanlife.org.

At our website, you can also listen to Alex Blumberg's complete story, the one that we cut off in the middle.

If you happen to be an iPhone user, there's also a link at that site to a new iPhone app that gives you all 400 of our episodes at your fingertips which is three bucks. The app also has amazing extras, like David Sedaris's first few radio stories, or I also interview Terry Gross and she interviews me, and there's a free behind-the-scenes video of our show, there's an amazing cartoon slide story done by Chris Ware.

This American Life is distributed by Public Radio International. WBEZ management oversight for our 400 episodes by our partner in all this, Mr. Torey Malatia, who does not understand why Lisa Pollak's funny funeral stories should win number one.

Lisa's Mom

What was so funny? What was so funny, Mitch?

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Rob

Barbara Drobish was a good lay-- dee.