Transcript

554:

Not It!
Transcript

Originally aired 04.10.2015

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/554

Prologue.

Ira Glass

Adriana was talking to a homeless guy near her neighborhood in Chicago. And at some point, they started talking about, you know, his life on the street, why he was out there begging for money.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

He straight up told me, I do it to pay for my heroin addiction.

Ira Glass

Which, you know, not the typical answer. And then he tells her this story. He's from Puerto Rico, and he was flown to Chicago for rehab years ago. But then after three days, he quit rehab. And since then, he's been living on the streets. It's been five years.

Now, Adriana is the editor of a newspaper-- a bilingual newspaper called The Gate that comes out in a mostly Mexican neighborhood called Back of the Yards. And in her interviews, just going around the neighborhood, talking to people about what's going on, people started mentioning there are all these Puerto Rican drug addicts who come to the neighborhood for treatment, quit treatment, and then just stay, homeless. And then she realized, oh, wait a second. She knew these guys. She'd been seeing some of them for years selling lotions and socks on the sidewalk.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah they were walking back and forth on 47th Street all the time. And so I just started stopping people on the street.

Ira Glass

Any street person with a Puerto Rican accent. And she heard the same weird story over and over. They were flown here from Puerto Rico for rehab. They quit rehab and ended up on the street. She writes and edits so much about the neighborhood, but this was happening right under her nose all this time?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

And in a period of about four months I talked to at least 23 people, just kind of like approaching people on the street.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

Wait. So are you just running down the street here?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah, I was running after these two guys I saw on Ashland and 48th, hoping that they were Puerto Rican. And their names were Hector and Jonathan. And they were telling me that they came from Puerto Rico. They were told that they were going to find a great place here in Chicago with medicine, with treatment, doctors, even a pool. And when they got here, there was no detox. There was no medicine or anything. This is Hector.

Hector

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

And then this guy, Jonathan, he said that the municipal government in Puerto Rico had bought a one-way ticket for him to come to Chicago.

Ira Glass

Wait. The government itself?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah, the municipal government in Puerto Rico.

Jonathan

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

What?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

And here in Chicago--

Ira Glass

Wait, wait, wait. Basically, they're saying like, you need treatment, but we're not going to give it. We're just going to send you to Chicago.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah. I mean, I was shocked. I couldn't believe it. So I asked him again.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Did the municipality pay for your ticket?

Jonathan

Si. [SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

So the details of the story that Adriana kept hearing from these Puerto Rican drug users were crazy. Several guys told her that it was the police who drove them to the airport in Puerto Rico. It was the police who helped arrange for their one-way tickets.

Not just one, but lots of guys were told that there would be a swimming pool, that the facilities in the United States were going to be clean and beautiful with doctors and nurses. And then when they arrived in Chicago, they were taken to these places-- and there were a bunch of them-- that were basically just, like, flop houses, open 24 hours a day with group therapy going till late at night, sometimes 10 or 13 hours straight.

The therapy was really just basically, like, AA meetings led by former addicts who did very un-AA things, like yell at them and berate them. When the guys would go through detox, because there was no medicine or methadone or professional staff, they were sometimes given folk remedies, like an onion to bite on, or alcohol would be poured in their belly buttons. And after a while, they'd leave without much cash, no way to get home.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

When I was talking to Hector and Jonathan, they were saying, our families have no money. They can't afford a plane ticket. And sometimes, actually, from other people I heard that their families sometimes don't believe them, either. They really don't believe them, or they don't believe them anymore. I mean, we're talking about people that have addiction problems.

Ira Glass

So basically, they're stranded in Chicago. They don't speak English. They're in this place they've never been before. They're drug addicts. And then also they're from a tropical island and they're in the middle of winter in Chicago.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah. And that's something that also some of them told me. Like, they don't have the proper clothing. They don't know how to survive the winter.

Ira Glass

Adriana got curious about the rehab places that these men were talking about. She'd never noticed them before, but now she started seeing them everywhere, all over the city. Just asking people and driving around, she found 14. But when she searched city and state records and did Freedom of Information requests to see if these places got city funding or were registered or licensed in any way, just if there was any information on them at all, there's nothing. They were totally off the grid.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

The authorities have no idea that they are there. I talked to several city agencies with the Department of Buildings, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Support Services. And I mean, they just didn't even know what I was talking-- they didn't even want to comment because they had no idea that this was going on.

Ira Glass

In Illinois, treatment services for drug addiction have to be licensed by a state agency, especially if they're residential-- if people are living there. Adriana told the agency what she was finding.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

They said, we do not know what you're talking about. We don't know about these treatment houses.

Ira Glass

We don't know about people being flown here from Puerto Rico?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

They didn't know that, either.

Ira Glass

If the men Adriana was talking to on the street were telling the truth, this was very strange. It meant that government officials in Puerto Rico were sending addicts to Chicago for treatment, but the places they were sending them to cannot offer treatment under Illinois law because they're not licensed for it. Why would they be doing that? Did they know the places were unlicensed? Was somebody getting rich off this, there or here? Was it some kind of scam?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

For example, is anybody getting their IDs and selling them in the black market? That's one thing that a lot of guys kept telling me. They ask us to turn in our IDs. And when we walked out, they didn't give it back to us. Is anybody making money out of this?

Ira Glass

She talked to a case manager who works with injection drug users in Chicago. And then he went around and did his own informal survey and found 93 guys like this-- guys who were flown in from Puerto Rico with promises of rehab, who skipped rehab. Adriana also found a researcher in Puerto Rico name Rafael Torruella, who wrote a dissertation about drug users being flown off the island to unlicensed facilities. He told her it's not just happening in Chicago.

Rafael Torruella

Different municipalities ship, send, relocate, however we want to call it, drug users from Puerto Rico to different sides of the United States. We know that from Fajardo, they would send to Philadelphia. We know that from Barceloneta, Vega Baja, y Vega Alta, Dorado, they would send to New York City. But there's also New Jersey. There's Florida. There's South Carolina, Wisconsin, Boston. The more you ask, the more you see that this has been happening for a long time.

Ira Glass

From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, "Not It!" Stories where people are facing something difficult and they declare, no. Someone else can handle it. Let's just send this one elsewhere. This is not my problem, not right now.

We have three stories for you including, later in the show, a group of high school students dealing with the collateral damage from a joke-- yes, a joke, and not a joke that any of them told. It was a joke told on television 15 years before. Stay with us.

Act One. Como Se Dice "Not It"?

Ira Glass

We are continuing right now in Act One of our show. Act One, "Como Se Dice, 'Not It'?"

So most of the Puerto Rican addicts that Adriana Cordona-Maguigad met on the street have been sent to a treatment center called Segunda Vida, Second Life. She decided she had to visit and see it for herself. She had the address, 50th and Ashland. But when she went by, she couldn't see a sign or anything.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

All I saw was a little corner store, a cell phone shop, a parking lot, and then a gray brick building, until someone told me, just go, look up to the second floor. You'll see in the window-- in the top window, you'll see a sign. And I saw the sign. It is super small.

Ira Glass

There's a little green logo with two As for Alcoholics Anonymous. Adriana called AA, and they said they had nothing to do with this place. And in fact, they don't run any kind of residential treatment facilities at all. So she tried to get inside.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

At Segunda Vida, they wouldn't let me go past the top of the staircase. I called. I went back in person many times. And each time I went, I asked to speak with the person in charge, but they would always tell me to go back on a different day.

Ira Glass

Could you see inside?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah. At the top of the staircase, you find kind of like an open room. And there is a painting on the wall that says, Segunda Vida. And I saw just men walking back and forth, sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. And actually, I went to another group. I went to El Grito Desesperado, The Desperate Scream. And they have the phone number--

Ira Glass

Wait, wait, wait. They called their rehab group The Desperate Scream?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I was shocked, as well.

Ira Glass

It's like the name of a horror film or something.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah.

Ira Glass

Desperate Scream. And now coming out, Desperate Scream 2.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

There is a Desperate Scream 2. It's actually further east.

Ira Glass

Wait. No way. Really?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

So I went to El Grito Desesperado, The Desperate Scream, on a Saturday evening. And the cigarette smoke was overwhelming. And it was really dirty. It was, like, dusty. And someone was giving testimony really loud. And some people were kind of not paying attention. They were talking. People kept coming back and forth to buy cigarettes in, like, a small little counter in the back. It seemed very unorganized.

Ira Glass

Somebody gave a very personal testimony. A man who looked like he just came from the shower walked through the room, she says. His hair was wet. He had a towel over his shoulder. Another man was asleep in a cot on the side. There was a lot of cursing in the testimony, which surprised her, a lot of crude language, and berating themselves. Like she'd been told, it was not a normal AA meeting.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

When I was looking into these places, I was still meeting new people on the street. And one day I met this man, Manuel.

Ira Glass

Manuel is not his real name. He asked Adriana that she not use his real name here on the radio.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

He was squatting by the door of a local supermarket looking up. And he was asking customers for spare change. And when I asked him, like, how long have you been here, he'd just arrived from Puerto Rico two weeks ago.

Manuel

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

He seemed totally shocked and lost. The other men I've talked to, they've been here for months and years. But with Manuel, he was just starting out. He had no idea of what to do or where to go.

Manuel

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

So Manuel told me that he also came to Segunda Vida, but he walked out after a few days, and he really wants to go back to the island. But the problem is that the people at Segunda Vida kept his documents. So I told him, I'll go with him to get them.

[KNOCKING]

[WHISTLING]

Ira Glass

Where are you guys?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

So basically, we're right outside of Segunda Vida. This is last summer. So after knocking on the door several times, Manuel starts walking up the stairway saying that he left some documents there and that he's been talking to someone who keeps telling him, go back on a different day and then a different day.

Manuel

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

But he really needs his documents.

Ira Glass

So who's with you on this trip?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Well, I asked a couple of colleagues. One of them is a big, tall guy, just in case. I was coming in with my equipment to confront these people.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

There is a man from Segunda Vida, and he sees me coming in with a microphone. He immediately calls someone for help and says, someone is recording.

Man 1

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Man 2

Yeah, what's going on, guys?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

So Manuel keeps saying, I need my documents, but they keep telling us that we need to wait outside.

Man 1

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

I keep telling them that I want to talk to the head of the program.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

I need to speak with someone in charge.

Man 1

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

I need to speak with someone about the program.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

But again, they keep telling me to leave, to wait outside, that there is no one here, that there is no head of the program.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

But I need to speak with someone-- the person in charge of this program.

Man 1

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Why not?

Man 1

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

I felt like, no. You cannot just be telling me that no one is in charge when you just had these men here who just walked out. You're keeping his documents. I just felt like they were not making sense. I felt like everyone's giving me the run-around, like no one is responsible for anything.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

We'll be waiting outside for his documents.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah, so we all agreed to wait outside, but I ended up staying in. That's when someone kind of came, pushed through the crowd, and came with a white envelope and gave Manuel his documents.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

No, make sure those are your documents. [SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

So I looked through the envelope and I found Manuel's birth certificate, his ID, and his medical records, where I also found that he was HIV positive.

Ira Glass

Which he knew, right?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Oh, yeah. Yeah, he knew. But I was just really upset. Like, why would you send someone who has medical needs away from where he can find services? I mean, we're talking about someone who needs medicine, who needs treatment.

Ira Glass

Back in Puerto Rico, he was getting medicine to manage his HIV. Here in the States, at Segunda Vida, they weren't providing that. A week after forcing her way up the stairs to Segunda Vida, Adriana was surprised to get a call from a guy who said he was one of the founders of Segunda Vida. His name's Efren Moreno, and he agreed to come to her office for an interview.

He showed up in jeans and T-shirt with one of the guys who had actually tried to kick Adriana out of Segunda Vida the week before. They wouldn't let Adriana record, but she took notes. Efren Moreno told her that he is a former addict. In fact, he'd gone to a group in Milwaukee like Segunda Vida that was open 24 hours called El Ultimo Paso, The Last Step. Then he moved to Chicago and he started to Segunda Vida.

He said, sure, at Segunda Vida they do take the guys' IDs, and they usually keep them in somebody's house. But he said that's for safekeeping. In the past at Segunda Vida, he said, some have been stolen. He confirmed that yes, they have no doctors, no medicine, that when people go through detox, they basically use folk remedies, and he confirmed they are totally unlicensed.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

He said, the government doesn't know we're here. The government doesn't give us any help. And actually, they sound like they're proud of the fact that they're running this group on their own with donations, with their own efforts.

Ira Glass

Adriana, did you get any sense of if he was making a lot of money off this?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

You know, I looked into it, and it didn't really seem like he is a rich guy making tons of money. In fact, yeah, it didn't seem like he was actually benefiting or financially benefiting from this.

Ira Glass

By this point, Adriana had heard about how many of these groups make their money. She'd been told that in Chicago addicts live in these groups for free, with free room and board, for three months. Then after that, they have to pay $50 to $75 a week, which, you know, is cheap, considering that they're getting meals. Efren Moreno confirmed that that's how it works at Segunda Vida.

The scam-iest thing Adriana had heard about the finances of these groups was that some guys told her that they were taken to get Link cards, which is government assistance for food. And then they'd have to give the cards to the rehab place, which would use them to buy food for everybody who was living there. Moreno told her that he's against that, that he didn't want his participants to get any government assistance, that he wanted them to go out and earn money.

After having this conversation, Adriana wondered if these groups were some kind of evil ripoff of disadvantaged drug users and their families. Moreno told her that these 24-hour groups started in Mexico, and they spread north years ago with a mission that was idealistic.

Ira Glass

Did talking to him change how you saw the groups?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Not entirely. It made me realize that he seemed to be someone who wanted to be part of the solution, that he wanted to bring services to those who were not able to get rehab services out there.

Ira Glass

Like he seemed sincere?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah, that he seemed sincere. But at the same time-- and he even said-- each group has its own rules. And because there is no oversight, it's really hard to know what are those other groups doing.

Ira Glass

Did you ask him about these guys who get sent up from Puerto Rico and then end up out on the street?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah, and I also asked the other man that he brought with him.

Ira Glass

And what did they say about that?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Basically, they actually do outreach in Puerto Rico to try to get people to come to their place. They actively recruit people from Puerto Rico.

Ira Glass

The fact that they end up on the street, Efren Moreno told her, that's because they're weak. They don't really want to get clean. By this point, Adriana had figured out about as much as she could in Chicago. It was obvious what she needed to do next.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

I got on a plane.

Flight Attendant

Welcome to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the local time is 2:50.

Ira Glass

So what'd you find out in Puerto Rico?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Well, I talked to a lot of people. I talked to municipal authorities, local police in different municipalities. I even talked to the governor of Puerto Rico.

Ira Glass

Wow.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah. They all say, yes, we do this. They're completely open about sending users off the island.

Ira Glass

Wait. But do they know that these are unlicensed places? Or do they think they're sending people to legitimate rehab facilities?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

No, they don't know that these places are unlicensed. They assumed that they're licensed. I don't think they even questioned the fact that they could be unlicensed.

Ira Glass

The list of people who assumed that they were sending people to licensed facilities is long, and it includes four police officers in the municipality of Caguas, the mayor and police commissioner of Juncos, a police officer from Juncos, and another from Utuado, health department officials, and a few people involved in a program called De Vuelta a la Vida, Return to Life.

This is the biggest single program involved in flying drug users off the island. It's run by the state police. They help drug addicts get food, clothing, hygiene, and other services on the island. But also, they arrange for lots of them to fly off the island to these unlicensed programs in the United States. And they coordinate the activities of other organizations that do this.

Ira Glass

How in the world did you get the governor to talk to you about this subject?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah, so I was at a local event at a community in Old San Juan. And I noticed that there was a lot of security there. And I didn't know he was going to be there. And I just kind of like-- oh my god, I really have to interview him and ask him about De Vuelta a la Vida.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Alejandro Garcia Padilla

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

So what's his name?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

His name is Alejandro Garcia Padilla.

Ira Glass

And what'd he say?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

So I asked him if he knew about the program De Vuelta a la Vida, the state police program. And he said it was a very successful program, that it was a great opportunity for users in Puerto Rico who were hoping to get off drugs.

Ira Glass

Did you tell him that you kept meeting all these addicts from Puerto Rico who ended up in Chicago, and they were supposed to be going to these programs and they basically end up homeless? Did you tell him that?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah, I explained the situation. But he didn't seem really worried about it. He told me that he knew the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, and the governor of Illinois at the time, Pat Quinn, had a lot of services available, and that they, the users, should look for help and try to find services.

Ira Glass

From the state of Illinois.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

From the state of Illinois, yes.

Alejandro Garcia Padilla

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

And if they want to come back here to Puerto Rico, we have services for them, too. They're our brothers. We welcome them.

Ira Glass

Right. I like his whole attitude is like, well, you know, I'm sure they'll get services. It's going to be fine.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Yeah. He was pretty much kind of making it sound like, yeah, well, don't worry about it. We got you.

Ira Glass

Adriana also spoke with the woman who runs De Vuelta a la Vida. Her name's Loribi Doval Fernandez. No surprise, even though her organization is helping arrange for drug users from all over the island to fly to treatment in the United States, she said she had no idea she was referring people to unlicensed facilities.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

And the interesting thing is that she says it's up to the families of the users to check if these places are certified or licensed or not.

Ira Glass

Even though her agency is sending them to these places?

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

Well, that's the thing. When I interviewed her, then she was kind of like getting technical and saying, well, we're not referring them. We are pointing them to those places.

Loribi Doval Fernandez

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

We are showing those places to them. Like, we're giving them the information, and it's up to the family or the user himself to check if those places are certified or not.

Loribi Doval Fernandez

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

If they do end up leaving the island under the De Vuelta a la Vida program, they have to sign a liability waiver before they go pretty much saying that no government official is responsible for them once they leave and once they are out of the island.

Loribi Doval Fernandez

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

Ira Glass

The drug users in Chicago told Adriana they never got this message. They said no one told them that they or their families should check out the rehab places before flying to Chicago. Many wouldn't know how to check, she said. They don't have the internet. Some are not in touch with their families. If anything, they said, government officials were reassuring them that everything was going to be really great in Chicago.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

They pretty much trusted the government officials who were sending them here. Like Manuel, he totally trusted that he was coming to a place with all kinds of services.

Ira Glass

In the end, Adriana did find one official who seemed to really understand what was happening with these drug users once they got to the United States. His name is Dr. Angel Gonzalez, and he was with the Puerto Rican Department of Health, Anti-Addiction, and Mental Health Services until last year. About a year ago, while he was still with the agency, he went to a drug treatment conference in Philadelphia, and he heard about the unlicensed places from a reporter there.

Angel Gonzalez

We felt terrible. I mean, imagine somebody living in these conditions. So we became very alarmed with that.

Ira Glass

He started to alert other officials all over Puerto Rico to the problem. But he says nothing's changed. He told Adriana that the big issue is there are so many injection drug users on the island right now. Puerto Rico's become a big transit point for drugs traveling to the United States from South America. And the budget to treat these users is shrinking.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

And Dr. Gonzalez says he thinks most of the police or other officials sending users off the island for treatment think, well, it's either this or no treatment at all.

Ira Glass

So in other words, it's something's better than nothing.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

I guess.

Ira Glass

I guess. Because when you look at somebody like Manuel, he wasn't getting nothing in Puerto Rico. He got HIV meds and methadone. And after Puerto Rico said, not it, and sent him to Segunda Vida, and after he quit Segunda Vita, he tried to sign up for legitimate licensed drug treatment in Chicago, but he ended up on a long waiting list-- kind of a slow motion not it.

While he's been waiting, he got sick from eating garbage, ended up in the hospital, where they found other physical problems. He got arrested for stealing from a store, did a couple months in jail, where he finally stopped using, Adriana says. Then he got out of jail, and Adriana says he's now using again. He's also found a place to get methadone, and he gets that, too.

He still has no HIV medication. He still doesn't speak English. He still has to put up with the winter. Nine months after he arrived in the United States, Adriana says things seem worse for him-- or in any case, they're certainly no better than they were back in Puerto Rico. Though he does have friends.

Adriana Cardona-maguigad

There's a community of people like him-- addicts that came here with the illusion that they will get great services, and they're now in the streets. And they hang out at the McDonald's. They hang out at the corners. They all hang out all day.

Ira Glass

Because he has those guys, Adriana says, to her surprise, Manuel has stopped trying to get himself back to Puerto Rico.

Coming up, the joke that launched a second joke that launched a third joke that launched a not it. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today's program, "Not It," stories of people passing the buck, saying, not me, shedding responsibility, dropping the hot potato.

Act Two. Last But Not Least.

Ira Glass

We have arrived at Act Two of our program. Act Two, "Last But Not Least." This is a story about a city that years ago was given a title and is now saying not it to that title. They do not want the title anymore. Here's Brian Reed.

Brian Reed

Tim Keown is a junior in high school, and he was sitting in class one day last fall when he learned something about his hometown that shocked him. Tim's lived his whole life in a small city of about 30,000 people-- Kankakee, Illinois. It's about an hour's drive south of Chicago. And so his class was on laptops, researching local Kankakee history together.

Tim Keown

And they showed us this article and it said that, out of 354 cities, that we were ranked the worst city, worst in all the cities in America.

Brian Reed

Hate to break it to you, Tim, but all the cities in Canada, too. The article was from 1999, the year the ranking came out.

Tim Keown

It was ridiculous. I couldn't believe it. I grew up thinking our town was fantastic, and then all a sudden I hear, oh yeah, we were ranked the worst city in America. It was pretty hurtful to see that.

Brian Reed

The ranking had been published in a book called The Places Rated Almanac. They use nine criteria, like crime, job outlook, climate, and culture, to rate cities' livability. These lists come out all the time. They're a dime a dozen. So people outside of Kankakee probably would have barely noticed it if not for the other thing Tim and his classmates discovered during their research.

David Letterman

The category tonight-- top 10 slogans for Kankakee, Illinois. Here we go. Number 10.

Brian Reed

In 1999, David Letterman made Kankakee the butt of one of his top 10 lists on the Late Show.

David Letterman

You'll come for a pay phone. You'll stay because your car's been stolen. Number nine. Ask about our staggering unemployment rate. Number eight. We put the ill in Illinois. Number seven. We also put the annoy in Illinois.

Brian Reed

My favorite, by the way, number four-- Abe Lincoln slept here by accident. And you know, Kankakee might have even tiptoed past this without attracting too much attention. It was just a short bit. Except that a week and a half later on the Letterman Show, on November 16, 1999.

David Letterman

We have the mayor of Kankakee, Donald Green. And we're just going to see how he's doing. He may not be feeling so good, you know.

Brian Reed

Dave called Kankakee's mayor on the phone.

David Letterman

Kankakee, as you know, finished dead last.

Donald Green

Right.

David Letterman

Now, how did that make you feel?

Donald Green

Well, it sort of hurt. Because that's, in my opinion, not really a true statement of our community.

David Letterman

Mayor, I hate to interrupt you here, but a thought just crossed my mind. Do you think it has anything to do with the name itself?

Donald Green

No. Kankakee's a fine name.

David Letterman

What is it? Is it an Indian-- is it a Native American name, Kankakee?

Donald Green

It is an Indian name, right.

David Letterman

Do you know what it means?

Donald Green

It means middle class factory town.

[LAUGHING]

David Letterman

Pretty good.

Brian Reed

Letterman tells the mayor, I'm going to do you a little favor. He says he feels a connection with Kankakee because he's from Indiana, right next door.

David Letterman

So we thought long and hard and we came up with something to give to you to brighten the spirits of you and the community of Kankakee. Do we have it? Turn on the the satellite. Ladies and gentlemen, there it is.

Brian Reed

The show cuts to a shot of Kankakee's City Hall, where a trailer is parked out front with some kind of structure sitting on it that's about to be unveiled.

David Letterman

All right, go ahead. Tell them what it is, Alan.

Alan

It's a brand new gazebo! Yes, featuring rugged cedar construction and white-washed to withstand the harsh, inhospitable climate of Kankakee, this gazebo has--

Brian Reed

And if you thought the joke ended there, well, then you did not watch the Late Show two weeks later, December 1, 1999, when Dave called up the mayor of Kankakee yet again while the man was on vacation to tell him he didn't think the show had done quite enough to help the town.

David Letterman

We have something else, Mr. Mayor. Sit down. Get a hold of yourself.

Donald Green

OK.

David Letterman

In addition to the gazebo, Alan, tell them what we're giving them.

Alan

Dave, we're giving them another gazebo!

Brian Reed

Identical to the first one. Again, the show cuts to downtown Kankakee. Again, there's a gazebo, the second one, sitting on a trailer next to the first with a sign, Letterman's suggestion for a new tourism hook, "Kankakee-- the home of the twin gazebos."

Paul Shaffer

(SINGING) There it is. Kankakee's brand new gazebo. It makes everything OK. It's not a placebo. Gazebo. Gazebo.

Tim Keown

Gazebos were weird for me, because I didn't understand what a gazebo was. Because I hadn't asked my parents about, you know, like, what is this? Why is this here? And then they told me, oh, you know, it was from David Letterman. And that was the end of the story. There was no more talk about it.

Brian Reed

Tim Keown was one when Letterman gave Kankakee the gazebos. So for him growing up, they were just a part of the city that had always been there, like the courthouse or the old root beer stand.

Tim Keown

It was just, ah, they're from David Letterman. I was like, OK. It was just, there was no talk about it. None of the adults in our community ever really talked about it. They were ashamed of it, I guess.

Brian Reed

So now 15 years after Letterman gifted the gazebos, as Tim and his classmates were sitting there in school in disbelief, seeing that their hometown had been made into a laughingstock on national television, something clicked for them. Most of the students had lived in Kankakee their entire lives and thought it was fine. And it hit them. You know something? We don't get no respect. We don't get no respect at all. And they'd never understood why.

Student 1

We were thought as, like, the lowest of the low because we were from Kankakee.

Brian Reed

I visited Tim's class, and the students had so many memories of people from nearby towns sneering at Kankakee.

Brian Reed

What kind of stuff would people say?

Student 1

Rumors and stuff that we were all, like, drug dealers or--

Student 2

The most common was that we were ghetto and everyone was fighting in the hallways.

Student 3

I transferred to this high school my freshman year, and when I told people where I was transferring they would be like, oh, you're going to Kankakee? Well, good luck.

Brian Reed

Tim remembers when he was little playing with kids in neighboring towns. Their parents--

Tim Keown

They wouldn't even want to take me home. I always had to have my parents come pick me up. Like, you don't even want to go over there.

Brian Reed

There was the girl who interviewed to go on an academic exchange program in Spain. She was with students from other schools as she explained that she was on the honor roll, held leadership positions.

Student 4

And as soon as I said, I'm from Kankakee, this girl turned around and she looked at her friend, and she was like, well, that's not very educational. And I'm like, are they calling me stupid?

Brian Reed

There was the time this student went shopping for a prom tux.

Student 5

Of course they were asking you like, what school are you from? My mom's like, oh, we're from Kankakee. And the girl was like-- she goes to the other girl, you handle them. They're from Kankakee.

Brian Reed

And of course, there's the nicknames.

Student 6

Skankakee is on Urban Dictionary. Skankakee is on Urban Dictionary.

Brian Reed

There are actually several definitions of Kankakee on Urban Dictionary. One, a noun, when a manatee gets a canker sore. But also, quote, "a once thriving railroad town that has become overrun by gangsters and hood rats."

And you can't lay all the blame for that on Letterman. Just like happened to cities across the Midwest, in the early '80s, several huge employers left Kankakee or went under almost overnight, leaving thousands of people out of work. And like also happened to lots of other cities, white people fled Kankakee in droves. Meanwhile, white people stayed in the adjacent suburbs of Bradley and Bourbonnais. As a result, those towns and their joint high school are much whiter than Kankakee, which is about 40% black and 20% Latino. One of the teachers of the class I visited, Steve DiSanto, remembers when he was hired to come to Kankakee High a few years ago.

Steve Disanto

I immediately went online, because I didn't know about Kankakee. I discovered quickly a lot of people thought it was bad and poor. There was blogs about it. People would say, oh, it's Skankakee. It's the worst place ever. They make it like it's a jail yard or something.

Especially, there's a street here called Hobby. And everyone's like, you can't go out at night. You shouldn't even drive down it. Well, I drove down it when I came here, and what I saw was families. They were black families. So I was like, well, so this must mean something.

I've been out and they're like, I would never go to that side of the town. Well, why? Well, it's dark over there. What do you mean dark? You mean like dark at night? And they're like, no, you know, dark. You know.

Brian Reed

One student said she once overheard a white woman at the Walmart in Bourbonnais going on about a gang banger she claimed to have seen in Kankakee, and how he was probably going to rob her house. As the student was telling me about this, her classmate Darrylneshia chimed in.

Darrylneshia

I have been a lot of places in Kankakee. I've never seen a gang banger. I think what they see is African Americans that are dressed a certain type of way, Mexicans that are dressed a certain type of way. And they're in cliques, so they're like, OK, well, I was told Kankakee is a bad place. Those must be gang bangers.

So I'm going to go spread this word and say, I've seen gang bangers. No, baby, you've seen a clique of people hanging out just differently than you do. Just like you hang out at Starbucks, they're hanging out at parks and stuff. It doesn't make them gang bangers.

Brian Reed

That brings to mind a comment thread I saw on city-data.com titled, "Is Kankakee really dangerous for Caucasians?" in which a woman says she and her husband are looking to purchase a home in Kankakee but, quote, "some of our friends said that area is prominently black and Hispanic and that we would be shot or hurt if we moved into that area because we are white. Is this true?"

I spent time outside some big stores in the nearby towns, Bradley and Bourbonnais, asking people what they thought of Kankakee. And no one said anything I would call overtly racist-- at least to me standing there with a microphone. In fact, people were pretty low key in their feelings about Kankakee. Some had no problem with the place-- even liked it. And lots talked about it the way people everywhere talk about the part of town they don't go to. They'd heard it was unsafe. They avoided it, but they didn't give it much thought.

I think that kind of attitude exists all over. Most places have that city or neighborhood that people outside have written off as dangerous or rundown. I think most places have their own Kankakee.

So when the students at Kankakee High finally, after all those years, discovered the true history of their town, they decided enough was enough. Learning that they've been ridiculed on national television as the worst city in America, and then realizing that the symbols of that ridicule, the gazebos, were just sitting there on display in the heart of their city, oh, hell no.

Tim Keown

Every time we had to look at them after that point, it was like seeing something that was mocking us.

Brian Reed

Tim says that was the last straw.

Tim Keown

We were all like, why are these still here? It's been 15 years. Why are they even still here? We should get rid of them.

Brian Reed

They found out that they weren't the only ones who felt this way. They saw that Kankakee's economic director had said once in the Chicago Tribune that every year he tries to get the mayor to send the gazebos back to David Letterman, so the students joined that campaign. They met with the mayor and talked her into letting them tear down one of the gazebos. But Tim says just in case outsiders might see them as destructive hooligans--

Tim Keown

We were like, let's try to do it in a funny. Way put it into a rocking chair and send it back to David Letterman. You know, he was retiring, so we thought it would be funny if he got a rocking chair to go along with it.

Brian Reed

The class contacted David Letterman and persuaded him to receive a rocking chair made of repurposed gazebo wood-- a gift for his retirement, which is happening next month. Almost immediately, there was backlash to the idea. Someone formed a Facebook page with more than 400 likes called Save the Kankakee Gazebos, where people posted angry comments like this one. "Typical of Kankakee to let the gazebos fall into disrepair then tear them down and make a mockery of a very costly gift to the city. This community is just as much a mess as it ever was. How about using their carpentry skills to repair these boarded-up crack houses to make some much-needed, quality low-income housing?"

It's true there's more crime in Kankakee than in surrounding areas, including some gangs. There were six murders last year and 100 aggravated assaults in a city of about 30,000 people. And the unemployment rate is still high, almost 10%. But still, the people I talked to who live in Kankakee said they wouldn't want to move. They love it. When I asked them why, they listed the kind of stuff people often feel obliged to say when they answer that kind of question-- the great library, the farmer's market. Though what I'd say I heard the most praise for in Kankakee was its diversity. Standing in front of the class I visited, you could see it, and see that they're proud of it.

Alexis

I am biracial myself, which is a great thing.

Brian Reed

This is a student named Alexis.

Alexis

I am friends with a lot of Mexicans. Muy bien.

[LAUGHING]

And that's not racist because I'm in Spanish 3, so I know Spanish. And I'm friends with white people. This is my best friend. She's white.

Brian Reed

Can you confirm that?

Student 7

Yep. I'm her best friend.

[LAUGHING]

Brian Reed

And that you're white?

Student 7

Oh, yeah. And I'm white, too. I see how it is.

Alexis

So it's just a really good environment to be in.

Brian Reed

One student said she transferred to a private school, but she only stayed a few days. She missed the diversity of Kankakee High and having friends around that she could speak Spanish with. It made me wonder. Back in 1999, Kankakee was rated the worst place to live-- for who, exactly?

Alexis

Hello, Kankakee!

[CHEERING]

Brian Reed

On a snowy day in February, the students did it. They marched out to the gazebo next to the train station, crowbars and chainsaw in hand, and demolished it. The next month, Letterman sent a crew out to Kankakee to film a new segment for his show, the students presenting him with the rocking chair in front of a live audience at the Paramount, a beautiful old-timey theater downtown. Here's Alexis, the biracial student with the white best friend.

Alexis

We welcome you as we show America the greatest hidden treasure in the world, Kankakee. Other schools, employers, and people put us down every day because we live in Kankakee.

[CHEERING]

This is not right. We should not have to carry this stereotype our whole lives. The time to change is now.

[CHEERING]

[MARCHING BAND PLAYING]

Brian Reed

The school marching band filled the aisles, wearing brand new uniforms with red plumes on their hats that arrived just in time for the TV shoot. I know it sounds corny. And sure, there was some corn. But I don't think I've ever been to a high school pep rally where I sensed as much actual pride in the town as I did here.

[MARCHING BAND PLAYING]

Cheerleaders

Kankakee! Keeko can! Who can? We can! Kankakee can!

[CHEERING]

Brian Reed

Kankakee, Keeko can. Who can? We can. Kankakee can. Put that on your top 10 list, Dave.

[MARCHING BAND PLAYING]

Ira Glass

Brian Reed is a producer on our program.

[MUSIC - STEVIE WONDER "VILLAGE GHETTO LAND"]

Act Three. The Big Crapple.

Ira Glass

Act Three, "The Big Crapple."

So you've probably heard the acronym NIMBY, short for Not In My Backyard. And can I just say right now, please, Public Radio listeners, do not send me emails telling me how you have always thought that it should be NIMB because "backyard" is one word. I'm tired of hearing it. So just keep that thought to yourself.

Anyway, NIMBY is a community-- I think you know this-- yelling, we don't want your nuclear power plant or your prison or your whatever. Anyway, Zoe Chace has this story of perhaps misplaced NIMBY-ism.

Zoe Chace

A few months ago, I was going to a party with my friends. And we were getting ready together. And while we were putting on our dresses, I started doing this thing that I do a lot, which is comparing. Like, how do you put on your eyeliner so well, and that's such a nice bracelet that you're wearing.

And then I noticed, dude, you're armpits are so smooth. Like, that is what I want. How do you get them so perfectly hairless? And she was like, I laser. I laser off the hairs. My mind was blown, like, yeah, this is expensive upfront, but cheaper in the long run because the hair doesn't come back. And it looked so nice.

Sometimes I hear about the way somebody solves a problem, and I cannot get it out of my head. Like, why don't I do it that way? That just seems better. This is how I felt when I learned about the way they deal with garbage in Europe.

Compared to the United States, Europe-- well, Northern Europe-- seemed like a garbage utopia to me when I first heard about it. There are all these fancy incinerators. And they're incredibly efficient. They barely pollute. Like, the amount of hazardous chemicals that come out of these things is equivalent to a fireplace.

And on top of that, some of them are really pretty. This one in Denmark looks like a gay club with twinkly lights. This one in France is all covered with grass. And the whole point is they convert garbage into energy. They produce steam, which heats their homes and businesses.

We do not do this in the United States. We do not have these super efficient, beautiful garbage-to-energy incinerators, not that many of them, anyway. More than half of our garbage goes to landfills. And as you know, landfills are pretty much the worst. They release methane 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. To be fair, incinerators also pollute. They produce carbon dioxide and ash, just a lot less pollution than landfills. Germany, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, they landfill almost nothing. They recycle around half their waste. And they burn the rest of their garbage in these things that generate electricity and heat.

All right, so when I heard about this, I wondered, why do the Europeans have so many and we have so few? And the answer really boils down to this is not Europe. This is a big country. We have a lot of land. Landfilling is just so much cheaper here. And that was the answer to my question. Except there are a lot of places in the United States where there is not a lot of space, where land is super expensive, like New York City, where I live.

New York doesn't deal with any of its garbage itself. 80% goes to a landfill somewhere else. Trucks get on I-78 and drive hundreds of miles to Eastern Ohio to drop off my Chinese takeout containers. Sending our trash away costs $300 million a year. That's just for the transportation. New York kind of seems like the perfect place for a fancy new waste-to-energy incinerator. So why don't we have one here?

This actually comes up all the time in New York. It's been debated over and over. And it never happens. And I know exactly why.

So let's go back to pretty much the very first time a waste-to-energy incinerator was proposed, 1980s New York City. Back then, New York was stuffing all its trash into these towering landfills all over the city. Norman Steisel was the commissioner of New York City sanitation, and he remembers.

Norman Steisel

The trucks literally could not climb the hill. It was basically such a sharp peak that they couldn't get to the top to dispose any of the waste.

Zoe Chace

So they were driving up, basically, a volcano in the Bronx that was built on garbage.

Norman Steisel

Right it's all built out of garbage and dirt. And there were these vast underground fires, which took literally years to put out and get under control.

Zoe Chace

Not only were they scary, the landfills were almost full. So Steisel and the Koch administration decided to put these waste-to-energy incinerators, like the ones they had in Europe then-- one in every borough, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island.

But the problem in New York City is everywhere you go, someone is there, someone to say not it. In this case, the first incinerator would be built in the Brooklyn Navy Yard right near a community of Hasidic Jews. Like I said, any community in New York would have come up with a reason they should be not it. And the Hasids told Steisel one of theirs.

Norman Steisel

The waste-to-energy incinerator would remind them of the Holocaust experiences. And when I tried to explain to them that, as a son of a Holocaust survivor myself, I thought they were demeaning that whole experience. And there was one rabbi in particular who accused me rather publicly of being the young Dr. Mengele, experimenting with the lives of Jewish women and children.

Zoe Chace

Lots of people, for many reasons, did not trust the Steisel-Koch plan in New York. No neighborhood would take them.

But the plan lingered. The mayor still wanted to do this seemingly logical, energy generating, less polluting thing for New York City. But what sealed the fate of the New York incinerator was when New York's garbage became an international incident.

Tom Brokaw

This is the continuing saga of a homeless garbage barge. 3,000 tons of New York garbage floating from port to port, looking for a place to be dumped.

Zoe Chace

Here's Tom Brokaw in 1987. For weeks, night after night, he reported on the wandering Mobro garbage barge. You might have heard about this. It was a really big deal.

Here's what happened. A landfill in Long Island was full. A guy out there cut a deal to send it to North Carolina. Ship the garbage on a barge down south, and they'll put it in their landfill. Except once it got to North Carolina, someone said they saw a bedpan on the barge, medical waste. And they wouldn't take it.

So the garbage barge set off on this journey of rejection. Alabama, nope. Louisiana--

Man

While I would like to help them, we just don't have room for it. And we do not intend to allow them to bring it into Louisiana.

Zoe Chace

The barge tried to go to Mexico. But the Mexican Navy came out into the Gulf and fought them off.

Tom Brokaw

Speaking of geography, the tiny, poor Central American nation of Belize, well, it too says no to the garbage.

Zoe Chace

The barge led the world news at night. It led Johnny Carson.

Johnny Carson

Take your barge up into the Gulf of Persia. And there is Iran. Dump it right there.

Zoe Chace

Florida? Nope. The Bahamas, no. The barge was a tragic figure, a pariah. It went more than 5,000 miles back and forth in the ocean. And with nowhere to go, it finally returned to New York.

There were court battles around what to do with it. And environmentalists seized upon this moment. Eventually, the city figured out it was mostly paper and cardboard. And a bunch of Greenpeace people hung this banner across the garbage, saying, next time, try recycling.

You might have thought with all this anxiety about garbage and what to do with it, this would be the moment for European-style waste-to-energy incinerators to take off. But it turns out, the biggest opponent of waste-to-energy incinerators is the recyclers. Yeah, the recyclers.

Eric Goldstein

We believe that Americans don't want to burn their trash. They'd rather recycle it. And they'd rather produce less of it because they realize that there's a cost to trash.

Zoe Chace

This is Eric Goldstein, avid recycler in New York City. He's been with the National Resource Defense Council for more than 30 years. He is resolute against incinerators. He thinks that incinerators actually discourage recycling. They compete for the same stuff. And less recycling, that's worse for the environment. If you don't recycle, he says, then it's like you have to use natural resources to make a new thing every time. It's better to use the plastic from a plastic bottle as much as you possibly can, rather than drill for more oil in order to make brand new ones.

But it seemed weird to me that you'd have to choose. Like in Germany, they recycle more than 60% of their garbage and incinerate almost 40%. We went back and forth about this a lot.

Zoe Chace

In Germany, they do both. They do both.

Eric Goldstein

But that doesn't make it right.

Zoe Chace

But it's better.

Eric Goldstein

It would be better if Germany were to recycle more and compost more and reuse more and generate less waste.

Zoe Chace

But they're recycling so much more than we do.

Eric Goldstein

So that's why we need to focus on recycling.

Zoe Chace

But then why do we have to not burn trash while we focus on recycling?

Eric Goldstein

City officials only have so much time, energy, and resources to transform waste policy so that it places recycling and prevention and composting as the cornerstones. Requires a lot of work. It's not going to be easy. And it's probably going to take another decade or so before that transformation is complete in places like New York City.

Zoe Chace

While that's going on, he says, we can't let officials be distracted by incinerators. This has been the philosophy that rules New York to this day, focus on recycling.

The latest attempt at getting a European-style waste-to-energy facility in New York happened three years ago in 2012 under Mayor Bloomberg. And it did not go well. At the time, James Oddo was a councilman on Staten Island. And he remembers being at an event when a city government guy approached him. And he said this.

James Oddo

Just keep an open mind. Don't fly off the handle.

Zoe Chace

The guy knew the issue might be sensitive because when it comes to garbage, Staten Island has lost New York City's not it game for decades.

In 1948, Robert Moses built a landfill on Staten Island. Fresh Kills, it's old Dutch. Means "fresh stream." At the time, he promised it would only be around for three years. 50 years later, it's one of the biggest landfills in the world.

James Oddo

When you were a kid and you went to the Staten Island Mall on a hot summer day, you used to take a deep breath in the car and get out of the car and run to the mall because you didn't want to deal with the smell. This history for native Staten Islanders is something that we never forgive. And anytime an issue having to do with solid waste arises, Staten Island elected officials get their back-up.

Zoe Chace

So in 2012, the Bloomberg people called Staten Island to talk about this great new technology for dealing with waste. We're exploring lots of different places to put this facility, they said. Except when the city put out the official document calling for bids, they had only one suggestion for where to build it, Staten Island, on top of the Fresh Kills Landfill. James Oddo predictably flipped out. He said, no.

James Oddo

Now, our dance card was filled. And now it was time for some other boroughs to run point on this new technology. It wasn't going to be Staten Island.

Beryl Thurman

Manhattan, 42nd Street.

Zoe Chace

Times Square.

Beryl Thurman

Times Square. I want it right there on Times Square, where all the tourists are, where all the attractions are. Let it go in a place like that.

Zoe Chace

This is Beryl Thurman. She works on environmental justice issues. And she lives on Staten Island.

Beryl Thurman

Staten Island doesn't trust the City of New York in anything that has to do with garbage.

Zoe Chace

Even knowing all this, the Bloomberg administration moved ahead with their plan. In April 2012, they got in touch with the people who had bid on the proposal and organized a bus tour out to Fresh Kills to look at the proposed site.

Only something very weird happened right at the time the bus was supposed to show up. A nearby compost plant, which was mostly wood chips caught on fire. And it was actually a major fire. There was smoke blowing up over the interstate. You could see it from Manhattan. The bus tour was canceled. The smoke reminded Staten Island of what burning garbage might mean for them.

And the next day, when Bloomberg went out to thank the firefighters, he got an earful from the Staten Island politicians infuriated about the waste-to-energy proposal on Staten Island. In an hour-and-a-half after he left, Bloomberg's deputy mayor pulled the deal. No incinerator or gasification or heat turning trash into energy European-style nothing. Not in New York, where someone is always not it. And while I was researching this story, someone raised the point that the compost fire was awfully well timed. I asked Beryl about this.

Zoe Chace

Were there conspiracy theories about who started the fire?

Beryl Thurman

Well, you know, it was-- you always have that in the back of your mind. But you know.

Zoe Chace

It was fortuitous.

Beryl Thurman

It was, wasn't it? Wasn't that amazing how that worked out? What?

[CHUCKLING]

Zoe Chace

Are you saying what it sounds like you're saying?

Beryl Thurman

I am not saying anything, other than it was really kind of ironic. It's just one of those coincidences.

Zoe Chace

The official word from the fire department said the wood chips set themselves ablaze. I guess that happens.

Fresh Kills is closed. New York City's landfills are full. Now the plan is for New York to incinerate a lot more of its garbage, more than a third. But the catch is not in New York. New York will pay to haul our garbage to places like Niagara Falls and Delaware Valley to waste-to-energy incinerators that were built there 20 years ago. So those places will get the benefits-- some electricity and some heat from my Chinese takeout container. And you're welcome. Because New York certainly does not want that here.

Ira Glass

Zoe Chace is one of the producers of our program.

[MUSIC - "DON'T THROW YOUR LOVE IN THE GARBAGE CAN" BY VICKI ANDERSON]

Credits.

Ira Glass

Our program was produced today by Brian Reed with Zoe Chace, Sean Cole, Stephanie Foo, Chana Joffe-Walt, Miki Meek, Jonathan Menjivar, Robyn Semien, Alissa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Our senior producer is Julie Snyder. Editing help from Joel Lovell. Production help from Simon Adler.

Seth Lind is our operations director. Emily Condon is our production manager. Elise Bergerson is our office manager. Elna Baker scouts stories for our show. Research help today from Michelle Harris and Christopher Swetala. Music help from Damien Grey and from Rob Geddis.

Adriana Cardona-Maguigad did a lot of our investigation into Puerto Rican drug addicts as a fellow with the Social Justice News Nexus at Northwestern University. She went to Puerto Rico with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism. Bill Healy, Kari Lyderson, and the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico helped with reporting.

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS]

Our website, thisamericanlife.org. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks as always today to our program's co-founder, Mr. Tory Malatia. He's doing this new thing where whenever he walks out of a room, he says, hasta la vista, baby. And then he turns and says--

Alexis

That's not racist because I'm in Spanish 3, so I know Spanish.

Ira Glass

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

[MUSIC - "DON'T THROW YOUR LOVE IN THE GARBAGE CAN" BY VICKI ANDERSON]