Buffalo Turkey Tail

Intro from Jay Allison: Andy Raskin left his CEO job at his dotcom, and now he's taking a chance on telling some radio stories. This is his first. It's about his friendship with Hollister, a street person who introduces Andy to the conceptual delicacy, Turkey Tail, and other lessons.

This piece is matched, under the heading "Two Encounters," with Paul McCarthy's "Conversation on Duke Street."

Listen to “Buffalo Turkey Tail”

Notes From Andy Raskin

This is the first audio piece I’ve produced. I almost did not produce it for fear it would be seen as exploiting my subject, a man who panhandles on my street in San Francisco. Then I heard Carol Wasserman’s “Love Letter” on Transom. By the time I got to the words “There is nothing wrong with you at all, except that you had not yet told your stories,” I was crying. And I decided to go ahead, because I realized I was in love with this story and wanted to tell it, and I’d leave the judging about exploitation to others.

Hollister in front of the magazine store on Polk St. where I first met him
Hollister in front of the magazine store on Polk St. where I first met him.
Photo: Andy Raskin

When I played this piece for my grandfather, he told me that one of my great uncles had a Jewish deli in Brooklyn and that their specialty was turkey tail. “People would line up around the block,” my grandfather says. “He barbecued it, on a skewer. We used to call it ‘the part that goes over the fence last.'” Fences, henhouses. Anyway, it turns out I’ve got turkey tail in my blood…



My equipment was a portable Sony MD recorder (MZ-R70) and a Sony ECM-MS907 mic. I recorded the narration in my closet, and uploaded the audio to ProTools Free. My computer is an older Pentium II, so memory gets screwy every 5-10 edits and I have to close and re-open the program, but I’m down to about only one system crash an hour. Living in San Francisco is nice because I was able to pick up a Sony PCM R500 DAT deck and better mic cheap when an audio dot-com (Redband) went out of business. I’ll be using those in the future.

Additional Support for this work provided by
Open Studio Project

with funding from the

Corporation for Public Broadcasting

The National Endowment for the Arts


Andy Raskin

Andy Raskin

I am 37 years old, grew up in Brooklyn, New York and Long Island, and currently live in San Francisco. In 1994, I got an MBA from the Wharton School and landed a job as a management consultant. I had lived in Japan in my mid-20s, studying Japanese and then producing whacky Japanese TV game shows, so my consulting firm sent me to Japan a lot, and on the side I would write stories for US business magazines. In 1999, I founded a software company in San Francisco, and I was CEO until the day before the events in "Buffalo Turkey Butt" began. These days I write a lot for Inc Magazine and also Business 2.0 Magazine, and play trombone in a 15-piece funk band called Stymie and the Pimp Jones Luv Orchestra. Like many folks who have gotten into audio production recently, I was hooked by This American Life. In fact, I submitted an early version of "Buffalo Turkey Tail" (no music, a different narration) there, and it was rejected. I was disappointed and didn't produce anything for months, until I heard Benjamen Walker's stuff on Transom. This was something so totally different from TAL, and made me realize there isn't one "right" way. I produced two pieces after that -- "Fancy Food" and "Chained Melodies" (at my Web site -- www.andyraskin.com ) -- where I experimented with different styles. Now when I listen to "Buffalo Turkey Tail" and even some of my other stuff, I cringe a little because I hear my rather feeble attempt to mimic the TAL style. Well, as a musician I know you spend years imitating people who are much better than you, and then you find your own voice, so maybe it's not such a bad thing. I'm not really sure where these pieces will lead me -- all I know is that when I'm working on one I get so totally absorbed in it that I can't imagine doing anything else.


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  • Jay Allison



    Andy Raskin left his CEO job at his dotcom, and now he’s taking a chance on telling some radio stories. This is his first. It’s about his friendship with Hollister, a street person who introduces Andy to the conceptual delicacy, Turkey Tail, and other lessons.

    This piece is matched, under the heading "Two Encounters," with Paul McCarthy’s "Conversation on Duke Street."

  • Susan Jenkins


    What’s Your Story meets persistence

    just caught both of these before heading out tonite so I’ll need another listen, but first thought was of Tony’s project late last summer "What’s Your Story" sorta turned inside out.

    I can understand why they aren’t TAL material since they don’t have the major-turning-point/moral-of-the-story moment. More "slice-of-life" where listener has to make decisions about how this matters to them rather than having it pointed out.

    more later….thanks for sharing these.

  • Andy Raskin


    Re: What’s Your Story

    Susan, is "What’s Your Story" online?

  • Rich Alcott


    a great mystery story

    The more distance you can create between what you are doing in sound and what This American Life is doing in sound, the better, I say. Ira’s approach works great for his show, but it certainly isn’t the only approach.

    Find your own voice.

    I loved Buffalo Turkey Tail because it’s a great start in the right direction. It’s a piece of something, what I’m starting to think of as a radio imitation of life.

    I don’t think there are any rules established for what makes a successful radio piece, which is what makes radio such a wide-open art form.

    Get crazy! Don’t be afraid to just start cold and let the piece determine its own shape.

    First of all, Hollister’s voice is a fabulous gift.

    The piece is a great mystery story and the turkey tail dish is the Hitchcockian maguffin.

    I love it when you get into the VW with Hollister and go off in search of the dish.

    I listened to this piece again and again.

    It’s almost surreal, Andy.

  • chelsea merz


    Turkey Tail

    Hi Andrew,

    I love Turkey Tail. I’ve listened to it a lot and it’s one of those stories that my mind returns to throughout the day.

    I love how your relationship with Hollister reveals that other universe that exists outside the 9 to 5 workday. And it leaves one wondering which universe is the surreal one.

    I really like that you didn’t include how Turkey Tail runs in your family. It keeps the focus on you and Hollister and preserves this elusive quest for Turkey Tail. It’s a lovely coincidence though and one that I suspect This American Life would have played-up: I can almost hear Ira Glass interviewing you and your grandfather about the Turkey Tail legacy, etc….Did you consider re-editing your story to include this element?

    Turkey Tail is so visual. I listened to it before I saw the photos on Transom and it’s exactly how I envisioned it. You mention having producued television, did you ever consider making this a video or film? If so, why did you decide on radio? Or, did this immediately strike you as a radio piece and if so why?

    As Rich Alcott mentions above Hollister’s voice is a gift and I also loved the scene when you get into the VW.

    I think the following link will get you to Tony Khan’s "What’s Your Story?" though I have to disagreee with Susan on this comparison:


  • Susan Jenkins


    Andy-Re: What’s Your Story

    it’s under Special Features here on Transom:


    I’m not sure what Tony’s doing with this now…

  • Viki Merrick


    Tail Tale

    I enjoyed this immensely. I listened to it when it first arrived and just plain liked it. I just listened again when it went up on the Transom – I was in a bad mood. I was totally lifted up post listen. It was a joyful moment in life – however trite that may sound – it simply renewed a feeling of great faith in me. A substantial meal of humanity. I mostly appreciated how it didn’t try to be something beyond what it is . It evolved in a natural way, we were privy to your wandering and wondering and there was no gussying up the story – we weren’t sure where you weren’t – and the honesty of that made it all the more acceptable. There was an honest dose of you and Hollister. You went along for the ride, and so did we.
    I want to eat a story like that every morning instead of vitamins, yogurt wheat germ and calcium .

    The only bummer is: how many Hollister’s can you find in a life time. So what, you obviously have a sense of what’s a story worth telling. So maybe, don’t take up another day job.

    Btw, the whole tail thing is less mysterious to me – I think it was called " the Pope’s nose" in our house and although there were a lot of us, only one sibling cherished it – and was ceremoniously served it every turkey time. Always looked gross to me, but what do I know.

  • helen woodward


    The Parson’s Nose….

    That’s what we used to call it, but I hadn’t made the connection till you mentioned the pope vik!, and my stepmom used to eat it…….
    but I loved this piece. apologies for brevity, more later…

  • Andrew Raskin


    Some responses…

    Rich… thanks so much for the encouragement. And I’m glad that you and others feel, as I do, that Hollister’s voice is a gift. It’s not only his voice — he engages with everyone he meets (I just saw him a few minutes ago at his spot by the mag store) in a way that’s very special — and I’m glad that comes through.

    Chelsea… yes, I did do a version along the way in which I talked about the family connection. Not only that — one day when I was thinking about producing the piece, I started telling the story to the Italian oyster shuckers at Swan Oyster Depot, also in the neighborhood. They know Hollister well, and when I told them the story about 5 of them just stopped shucking and stood there frozen, the oyster juice dripping onto the floor. And then they began reminiscing about how they used to fight over the "pope’s nose" (yes, I’ve also met some people who say "parson’s nose") at Thanksgiving. But as you say, I felt it was going too far adrift of the relationship between me and Hollister, so I took all that stuff out.

    As for why I felt this would be better as audio than video — I think both Hollister and I were able to be ourselves with the microphone in a way that we would not have with a camera pointed at us (or worse, me pointing one at him). Also, I like picturing the turkey tail in my mind as he describes it, without any other image getting in the way.

  • helen woodward


    As I was saying….

    this piece made an impression as soon as it arrived in the office, and not just because it was called buffalo turkey butt; it is just so unassuming, and choc full of humanity, just what life is made up of, unplanned meetings that take you places you didn’t expect to go but are often glad you did.
    Hollister comes across as a man with much wisdom, despite his situation, and the opening line about YOU seeming down and out made me stop and think about perspectives and judging people. In short he provides much food for thought, (in addition to or in the absence of the elusive turkey dish) and you painted a touching portrait of him and your tentative steps to bridge the gap between you.

    Corey Flintoff’s discussions talks about getting the hell out of your traditional environment and what you are used to, and it sounds like you did just that when you met Hollister and you didn’t have to travel to mongolia to do it. Also I heard a piece of yours on ATC (I think) the other day, it sounds like you’ve got the hell IN to something else, so congrats on your new job!

  • Andrew Raskin


    ATC piece

    Helen, thanks so much for the feedback. Yes, a short piece I did ran on ATC last Thursday 🙂 , though I am currently on vacation and out of the country so didn’t get to hear it 🙁 It’s a commentary about those CDs you can buy at Pottery Barn, Banana Republic (even Jiffy Lube!) and it’s also online at


    This is actually an excerpt from a longer written piece in Business 2.0 magazine (June ’02 issue). It was really a dream come true to hear that it aired, and I’m looking forward to doing more.

  • cw


    liked the story but

    didn’t like the music. it was too In My Face.

    also if you’re going to put yrself in as a character, i think you need to put yrself in as a character more– as in put some out loud thought into what it means to be a dot busted looking for that authentic turkey butt.

    not to be harsh. but this story falls in the milleu of white (or uppermiddle class) guy seeks Authentic experience by hanging with the down and out. It has elements of it that aren’t that at all. I think you should play those elements up. Not like you have so much in common with the guy and should go on and on about that.

    But the elephant in the volkeswagon btwn you is your power and privilege

  • Corey Flintoff


    Turkey Story Butt

    Hi Andy,
    I disagree with cw. Maybe if we’d heard more about the "real" Hollister and his history, this would have qualified as Authentic Experience anthropology, but most of this piece was occupied with the guy as you met him. I liked the fact that you didn’t describe him and let his voice and his words represent him. The whole piece, after all, is about taking people for what they present themselves to be, and then following through on that. The follow through is what takes this out of the realm of uppermiddleclass anthropology and makes you an active character, rather than a passive recipient of wisdom. Nobody in chance encounters ever really expects you to follow through. I think that’s why Hollister had to take you somewhere, even to a closed Lebanese restaurant, to prove, if not his veracity, at least his good will. I think that’s why you stayed on his mind, and why he hopes to surprise you when you finally say ‘forget about it.’
    You could probably make a career out of taking people as they present themselves, then making stories out of what happens when you follow through. But then, I heard the CDs story on All Things Considered, and I really liked that, too.

  • Andy Raskin


    Re: Turkey Story Butt

    CW and Corey thanks so much for your feedback. Corey, I like the idea of a career as a "follow-through" journalist. Actually, even that CD piece had that element in it, because in the full piece I wrote for Business 2.0, I hear the CDs in my friend’s car and then track down the guy who chooses the songs (turns out one guy chooses them for all the different stores). If you’re interested, that’s online at

    Also, some news about Buffalo Turkey Tail: the piece will air on KQED’s Hot Soup program (SF Bay area) on July 7, 2002, at 4:30p and midnight. I re-recorded the narration with producer Michael Johnson at KQED because their union rules prohibit using the version I produced in my closet. It was a blast to record in a real studio and then have engineer Danny Ringer whip everything together so quickly (about 20x faster than I was able to do it on my crash-prone PC at home). The result is pretty faithful to the original, only a few minor changes. Michael helped me get a more friendly style that I like.

  • Robert Wright


    Nice work

    I kind of liked the fact that the elephant in the VW wasn’t mentioned. Anyways, after a couple of minutes, the elephant took a back seat.

    I think this is excellent radio. I was very pleased to listen to it today.

  • John Nichols



    I loved this story. I just heard your story at 4:30 am laying in bed listening to PRX Remix where they play pieces from many different public radio shows. I listened to this piece 16 years after you made it. The voice and BS caught my attention. I know Hollister from Polk St. Lol! I used to live 2 blocks from that magazine store on Polk around the same time you produced this piece. I spent many hours sitting outside the coffee shop across from where Hollister hung out and could hear him in the distance BSing people walking by. That dude talked to everybody like he’s known you for years. Best bullshitter I’ve ever met! I’ve had him in my car too. I wish I heard this story before. Love the story. Great work! Thank you so much for the memories and laughs I had with the Turkey Butt himself. He was a character.

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