Producer Alex Blumberg tells the story of an ex-con-turned-actor named Richie Castellano. After a bit role in the movie Analyze This, he moved to a small town and got dozens of people to invest money and time in a movie that never premiered.
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Lawrence Otis Graham reads from an account of how he left his job as a $105,000-a-year Manhattan attorney to enter the exclusive Greenwich Country Club the only way they'd allow a black man like him: as a busboy. He discovers just how invisible he can become once he gives up his seat at the table and starts clearing the dishes instead—so invisible that people make racist remarks right in front of him.
In this act we hear from the rowdier, drunker late-night patrons of the Golden Apple. A guy walks in with two young women, hoping to go home with one of them.
In this act we hear several stories that happened during the daylight hours of the diner's operation. The first is from Nancy Updike, who talks with several early morning customers, including one guy who comes in mornings to play his accordion, and another who at the age of 8 was the youngest butcher in Illinois.
Producer Blue Chevigny tells more of the story from Bristol County, where the immigration law of 1996 has a community of non-political people reluctantly going to protests, attending meetings at night, talking to politicians, and doing all sorts of other things most of us would do anything to avoid.
What happens if the immigration service wants to deport you, but the country you came from won't take you back? Under current law, usually, you stay in jail...indefinitely. Writer Alex Kotlowitz tells the story of one legal alien from Vietnam, Trung Tran, and the unusually close and friendly relationships he and his fellow deportees have with their captors in a jail in Victoria, Texas.
Finding happiness is serious business. At least, for most us, it requires an act of will.
What happens when you want your dad to change—and he wants to change, too—but there's literally nothing that can be done to change him. Jon Sarkin was a chiropractor with workaholic tendencies.
Forensic Criminologist Enrico Togneri in Nevada explains exactly what can be learned from evidence on a crime scene: What can be learned from the shape of a blood stain or a piece of cheese.
Reporter Nancy Updike spends two days with Neal Smither, who cleans up crime scenes for a living, and comes away wanting to open his Los Angeles franchise, despite the gore—or maybe because of it.
Monica Childs joined the Detroit police force because she hated cops, and wanted to change the system from the inside. She wanted to be an honest cop.
Monica Childs's story continues. She tells the story of how she was asked by her boss to do something illegal...and how she refused...and the repercussions she suffered.
A small-town mayor tries to keep a developer from building in his town...and it results in the kind of snowballing fiasco by the end of which the town literally doesn't exist anymore. Alix Spiegel tells that story, which she produced with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Ben Schrank describes what it's like to work as a professional mover. He says that people often go sort of nuts when they see all their worldly possessions—all the stuff that defines them as people—packed into a van.
Producer Blue Chevigny used to have a job that was all about Moving Day—and people who didn't want to move. She worked for an agency in New York called Project Reachout, part of Goddard Riverside Community Center, that moved homeless, mentally ill people into their own homes.
Linnel Peterson drives the Number 66 bus in Chicago, on Chicago Avenue. She grew up just blocks from the route, still lives near the route, and says it's strange whenever she drives her car on Chicago Avenue these days.
An '88 Grand Marquis that Senator Conrad Burns inherited from his mother; a New York taxicab whose driver, Jeff Perkins, tape-records his passengers to help pass the time; a 1980s-era BMW 5 series in which film producer Rob Levine had his first job as driver and assistant to movie producer Edgar Sherrick.
There is an entire class of consultant who does nothing but help people and companies that are under public attack. Eric Dezenhall is one of them.
Host Ira Glass stands at the corner of Diversey and Broadway in Chicago and describes all the people who are out at 3:00 on a weekday.
All those people you see in the middle of the workday, in coffee shops and bookstores? Who are they? Why aren't they at work? Reporter George Gurley tackled these tough questions. On four separate days, he interviewed these loafers in New York.
At one grain elevator on the outskirts of Lincoln, Nebraska, during the slow months, the five burly men who load corn, soybeans, wheat and milo onto trains spend their work hours watching soap operas.
A postman explains how it is that he can be so much a part of the scenery that people commit crimes in front of him, on quiet daytime streets, as if he's not there. This American Life producer Alex Blumberg spent a day with postman on Chicago's west side, to find out what he sees...and who sees him...and who doesn't see him, even though he's right there.
Writer Mona Simpson reads from her forthcoming novel My Hollywood. This excerpt is about the daytime life of Filipino nannies, during the hours in which they run the lovely homes of certain Los Angeles neighborhoods.
Host Ira Glass talks about the human urge to turn something inanimate into something that's alive, about the moment Pinocchio stops being a concoction of wood and string and becomes a real boy. He chats with Ronn Lucas, a ventriloquist, about moments when his dummies have seemed alive enough to surprise him.