I’ve made a couple of comments over the past few days about last week’s episode of the Saturday Six Pack having been bad. In truth, it wasn’t all that bad. I’m re-listening to it now, while folding clothes… which, by the way, is the best way to enjoy the Saturday Six Pack… and there’s actually a lot to like about this episode. Sure, I was a sniffling, coughing mess. And, yes, our first guest was kind of a no-show. And my chair did collapse beneath me at one point. But there were also some really wonderful moments… Here are my brief notes on what transpired, for those of you who don’t fold your clothes.
While it’s true that our first guest, investigative reporter Curt Guyette, apparently forgot that he’d agreed to talk with us, and didn’t pick up his phone the first few times that we called his cell phone, we were eventually able to get through to him and fire off a couple of quick questions about the situation in Flint, which he’s been covering since the beginning, the current state of journalism in America today, and how he manages to walk the line between journalist and activist.
A few people have asked me since the show aired last Saturday if I was angry with Guyette for essentially saying that he didn’t have time to talk with us, even though we’d agreed to it in advance. The answer is no. I admire the hell out of the work he’s been doing in Flint, and I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of pressure that he’s been under since this story first broke through to a national audience. Guyette has been everywhere these past few weeks, talking about the public health crisis in Flint, and I think it speaks to his character that he agreed to talk with me, on a little AM radio station in Ypsilanti, even if he did later forget having done so. He clearly wants to talk with everyone who has an interest, but there just isn’t enough time in the day. It’s inevitable, in cases like this, that some things fall through the cracks, and it just so happens that, this time, we were one of those things. And I totally understand that.
To give you a sense of the demands on Guyette. The day after we spoke, he had a feature run on the Daily Beast. [My guess is that he was trying to finish it the night that we spoke.] And, the day after that, he was on television with Rachel Maddow. And, the day after that, he was receiving an award for being Michigan’s Journalist of the Year. And, all the while, he was doing countless interviews with people around the globe.
And, in spite of all of this, when we finally got through to him, he still gave us ten minutes. And, what’s more, he wrote to me a few days after the show, apologizing for having forgotten our interview… He’s a total class act.
With all of that said, though, I am disappointed by the interview. Maybe it’s because I was sick, or maybe it was just because I got the sense that he didn’t want to talk with me when I finally got though to him, but I got rattled. Hopefully it’s the kind of thing that I get better with over time, but my questions to him were just terrible. I think I’m a pretty good interviewer when people want to talk with me, and we have time to see how things unfold naturally, but, when put on the spot, I don’t do my best work. So, yeah, I’m not happy about this segment, but it has nothing to do with Guyette.
Here I am, telling Guyette that we’re live on-the-air, and reminding him that he’d agreed to talk with us.
[During this first segment, when killing time between calls to Guyette, AM 1700 staff photographer Kate de Fuccio came out from behind her camera to chat with me, which was very much appreciated. Together, we counted her nieces and nephews, and discussed Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Had I been left alone to flounder, there would have been a lot of painful silence. Kate kept that from happening… So, if I ever get stuck again, don’t be surprised if you hear me say, “Kate, let’s count your nieces and nephews.]
Things got better with our second guest, Andrew Epstein, the new owner of Ypsilanti’s infamous dive bar, the Elbow Room. He told us about his memories of the old bar, where his band once played years ago, and his plans for the future. Epstein, who grew up in Ann Arbor, told us about the time he’d spent in Los Angeles, and how he’d come to decide that he wanted to open a bar that focusing on Mezcal drinks, with a limited food menu relying heavily on recipes from his wife’s family in Mexico.
We talked about how he learned the industry, working eight restaurant jobs in 2013, and how much work he’d put into brining the long-neglected building back to code. We talked about things he’d discovered when working the building, like swastikas on the walls, beneath several layers of old wallpaper, and an old letter concerning the mental institution that used to be just outside of town… Here’s Epstein telling us that he’ll have the old Elbow Room space back open by this summer, and how he’d like to like to have live music.
Then our friend Jean Henry dropped by with a bag full of treasures for our second annual on-air swap meet. She surprised me by putting way too much thought into the items that she brought along, all of which she’d carefully selected to represent different facets of my life. Whereas someone more well adjusted than myself would have accepted it in the spirt in which it was intended, I chose to respond by becoming painfully introverted. [It’s hard to explain, as I’m very public in some ways, but, when it comes right down to it, I’m painfully shy.] While we were still able to converse about the individual pieces that she’d brought, I just couldn’t talk about how each related to me and my work, and I still feel bad about that… Judging from the photos, though, Jean had a good time despite my issues.
Here are a few of the items Jean brought with her. One of them was snagged by Patti Smith, who called in and worked out a trade. The rest are still in my possession, and Jean has left it up to me to do with them what I like… If we have time, I may give them away next week. So be sure to tune in in you want a little wooden doll with my face on it.
And, at 1:10, musician Gregory McIntosh came by with a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and we just sat, talked, and ate for about an hour. We talked about anxiety, our various bands, and our love of just wandering aimlessly around Ypsilanti. We talked about mutual friends and their fetishes. We chewed. We whispered. McIntosh played three and a half songs… Here’s the delicious meatloaf, which Greg, I’m pretty sure, had smuggled out of Beezy’s in his pants, before we devoured it.
Oh, and there was a weird call toward the end of the show from someone claiming to be Pete Townshend, saying that he’d been in contact, through a medium, with the ghost of Ann Landers… Here’s McIntosh trying to make sense of it.
Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show, Kate de Fuccio for documenting everything with her camera, and Brian Robb for running the board, making sure the bills paid, and insuring that the toilet paper and bleach stays stocked. [All photos above come courtesy of Kate.]
If you like this episode, check out our archive of past shows at iTunes. And do please leave a review if you have the time, OK? It’s nice to know that people are listening, and, unless you call in, that’s pretty much the only way we know.
Now, if you haven’t already, please listen for yourself, and experience the magic firsthand.