Intro from Jay Allison: This piece comes from the Transom Story Workshop Spring 2014. The students came from all over to spend two months with us on Cape Cod. Rob Rosenthal and Audrey Quinn led the class and were joined by all of us at Transom, plus Robert Krulwich, Nancy Updike, and a lot of other great producers who happened by. Check out their work. If these are beginners, look out.
About “Leaving Los Angeles”
I came to this topic for my final piece because I wanted to do something on a topic I related to and that built upon work I was already doing — in this case some essays I was writing, plus my podcast “Not Living the Dream” where I tell stories of my life in Hollywood trying to get a career off the ground…and failing. I figured it would have a lot of heart; I’d talk to people around the Cape who were struggling to get by, dealing with unemployment, doing whatever they can to make money, etc. There could be room for some comical stories, and people doing odd jobs. I’ve had some strange gigs and figured I’d find others in the same situation.
I was lucky enough to find three great characters. I spent about 10 hours with these welcoming and open people, interviewing them and accompanying them to work. Eland refurbished a wooden sign for a couple who just sold their buffalo ranch. Jan-Renee was handing out Starbucks coffee samples at the Mashpee Stop & Shop, and Eddie showed me around Captain Al’s, a tiki bar and restaurant on the water in Onset. They were all incredibly different in their positions, job aspirations, attitudes and backgrounds. And yet similar to each other and to me, in our bad luck, hardships and hard work to get our lives on track.
I really enjoyed the active part of this process. It was great to go exploring, to get in someone’s car going God-Knows-Where and wind up meeting ex-buffalo ranchers who took me inside to see the head of their first kill hanging on the wall. Or grabbing a beer at the bar while Ed told me story after story of his fishing trips, his work one day in the Marlins’ locker room, and his two dogs, named after Fox News anchors. Jan-Renee provided wine and cheese for her evening interview, always the gracious host. Then she gave me her resume when I left. I still have it, but I’m not sure why.
I had a few occasions where I was asked to turn off my mic — when Eland was negotiating his rate with the buffalo rancher, for instance, and I was asked by Jan-Renee not to use her last name. I had to wonder if granting them a certain amount of privacy helped my story, because it got them to trust and respect me, or did that hurt it, because I let important details or scenes fall away? I can’t be sure, but in this case I honored their wishes in all cases. Maybe when I’m more experienced/legit, I’ll push for more access in similar situations. We’ll see.
With help, I came to realize that I was the thread for the story, so I began incorporating myself in a big way. Soon enough, when I’d bring a script or new cut into class, we’d wind up talking more about me than about the people I interviewed, and little by little their stories came out and more of mine came in! At first, I was really uncomfortable with this — I came to Transom to tell other people’s stories! But it also felt good to share my own. I really enjoy writing personal essays and telling stories, so, now that I was producing radio, it actually made sense to combine all of these passions in one piece.
Transom is all passion.
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Alison’s Sonic ID
I met Ernie Johnston walking down Main Street in Falmouth as I recorded my Vox Pop and asked strangers, “What is there to do on Cape Cod in the spring?” Well, he told me. For five minutes straight. Then he stopped me again as he was driving out of town to give me a few more tips from his car. Such a friendly guy, I really enjoyed talking to him and am glad to share him with a larger audience!