My last installment of this podcast time capsule series is a snapshot of how much time I’ve spent in my life listening to podcasts since 2014. These are estimates because I’m only eyeballing the average episode duration and multiplying it by how many episodes I’ve listened to (as of 11/9/17). But it’s pretty darn accurate! Here’s the crazy stat: according to my calculations, I’ve listened to about a total of 2,400 hours of podcasts which is about 40 full days of content. Over a little less than three years!!!
First Graph: total number of hours I’ve listened to a podcast. The top four are the oldest podcasts I’ve been listening to, and The Read in particular has very long episodes which is why it ended up at #1. The numbers represent how many episodes I’d listened to as of 11/9/17 (I now realize this was a dumb label to set)
Second Graph: Ok I only made this because I love playing around with Tableau (I couldn’t even upload my visualization because it seemed unwise to upload these graphs onto my Tableau work account). Anyway, this shows the same thing as above, just in a different way. I think the size of the dot represents how many episodes there are. Example: I’ve listened to a ton of Planet Money episodes, but since they’re (thankfully) kept to 20-25 minutes, I haven’t invested as much total time as compared to the sometimes 2 hour long episodes of The Read.
The next installment of my podcast blog series (HA) is going to be about podcasts that have come and gone, and podcasts I’ve just never gotten into. I’ve mentioned before two podcasts that I really enjoyed but are no longer in production – What’s the Point and Surprisingly Awesome. They only had 75 and 22 episodes, respectively, and in both cases, the hosts went on to do different podcasts. Once again, I must say What’s the Point is one of my favorite podcasts of all time!
Another one worth mentioning is Making Oprah, which was always meant to be a short series. Over three episodes and three shorter, bonus episodes, the show looks at how the Oprah Winfrey show came into development and the work that went into producing the show. And yes, there are interviews with Oprah herself!
I also got swept into S-Town, which I mainly listened to during a red eye flight to NY that I wasn’t able to fall asleep on. S-Town, the first season of Serial and Missing Richard Simmons falls in the “trendy podcasts that didn’t impact my life in any meaningful way” category.
Here’s what I have tried and didn’t love
This American Life: I gave this podcast several tries but I eventually realized I didn’t love any of the stories I had listened to. Which is why I don’t usually listen to storytelling podcasts like this or the Moth – it just seems like such a gamble that you’ll have any interest in what someone has to say for 45 minutes. Also, I don’t love starting podcasts that have been in production for a very long time but don’t keep a (free) catalog of prior episodes. I feel incomplete if I haven’t gone through the entire archive of a thing I love.
Candidate Confessional: Every episode is an interview with a political candidate (or someone who worked on the campaign) who lost. I listened to a few, really liked some, but generally couldn’t get invested in most of the interviews. For one, I know so little about politics prior to 2016 so a lot of things are like “who? what?” and for another, I hate listening to interviews with politicians, business executives, or well-established celebrities because you’re basically just listening to a long winded sales pitch. Other examples of this: How I Built This and David Axelrod’s the Axe Files.
The Room Where It’s Happening: OK I certainly played the Hamilton soundtrack non-stop and I did listen to a ton of episodes of this Hamilton podcast, but after a certain point, I can’t listen to this much dissection on any one topic. This did introduce me to Travon Free, the host of this podcast, who also works on The Daily Show. Most importantly, by following him on Twitter, I was able to get a small peek into Black Twitter which everyone knows is the best part of Twitter.
Radio Lab: I have discovered with Radio Lab the one thing I really can’t stand in podcasts and that’s the overuse of kooky sound effects. I guess part of the supposed appeal of Radio Lab is that it’s an “unconventional approach to the medium and message of radio” (per NY Times) but I find sound effects generally unnecessary and distracting. Sometimes I just stop listening because I hate a long-winded, overly produced intro. This and Ted Talks are good examples of podcasts with introductions that immediately turn me off.
The Champs: I do not listen to any podcasts that are only hosted by solely straight white men. I didn’t plan this, but only realized this after I was like ten podcast subscriptions in. For some reason I kept hearing “podcasting is dominated by straight white men” and then I looked at everything I listened to and was like “how can this possibly be true?” So this is the podcast where I finally listened to the silenced minority of our nation, the straight white man. The first episode was recorded in 2011 and they went all the way to early 2016 before calling it quits. I found this while trying to find any interview I could of Tiffany Haddish (star of Girls Trip). It was a great, very personal interview (that I think was the basis for many future interviews/magazine articles that would feature her two years later). The podcast has a Howard Stern vibe, meaning they ask pretty outlandish and personal questions but for whatever reason, the interviewee answers. Just from this one podcast and from the Howard Stern interviews I’ve listened to, I am going to generalize all men and say they have an obnoxious habit of playing the most random, unnecessary sound effects. Sometimes they don’t even have ANYTHING to do with the conversation. I think it’s because men have short attention spans and need BEEP BEEPS and BOOP BOOPS to keep them entertained. Anyway, I would recommend taking a look at their archive and listen to any episode with a name you recognize, because they definitely have interviewed SOMEONE you know.
50 Things That Made the Modern Economy: a BBC podcast with 10 minute episodes that tell the history of things like plastic, tax havens, clocks, and the shipping container, and their impact on the modern day. In theory, I’d love this. In practice, this is the type of podcast where you really have to focus for the entire episode because it’s so condensed, and I discovered it’s harder to concentrate 100% for 10 minutes as opposed to listening at 75% for 30 minutes. I’d constantly miss something and a ten minute episode would take thirty minutes to get through. It eventually started to feel like a drag to have all the episodes piling up so I deleted it. Sorry, British man with a very soothing voice.
Anna Faris is Unqualified: This is consistently at the top of comedy podcasts and I was really excited to listen to this because I used to LOVE Anna Faris (The House Bunny is one of my favorite movies of all time!). Listening to an episode completely derailed my love for her, AND it also made me not like Chris Pratt. I listened to one with Jenny Slate and Chris Evans and they did an advice column section and at the end of it, I found myself agreeing with CHRIS EVANS of all people. She gives horrible, cringeworthy advice, the kind that’s like “I believe the best in everyone and everyone is probably good inside!” as opposed to the straightforward “you’re being an idiot, stop doing this” advice of Dan Savage.
Serial: I wouldn’t say I disliked the podcast, it was more that I couldn’t hear it while I was commuting, and at a certain point I had no idea who was who. I have found that I generally don’t like these serialized mystery podcasts. So I never finished the first season and I never bothered with the second. By choosing not to listen to any murder mystery podcasts, I’ve cut out a significant chunk of the podcast population!
I don’t remember when I first started listening to podcasts but the first one must have been the Fernando & Greg’s Sideshow, which I was introduced to through Jessica in 2014. F&G are two radio DJs in the bay area, and they have a somewhat unknown, unadvertised weekly show that they record after their live morning radio program concludes. I have no idea how their side show got its start – at the time I started listening, it was pretty raunchy, definitely too raunchy to be put on the live station. I started listening to their episodes not even through iTunes, but through the radio website! It was an AWFUL site, and I actually had to play the episodes through REALPLAYER, that’s how janky their site was! The webpage would constantly crash mid-episode and take down all of my tabs, or ads on the website would slow down my CPU. The show wasn’t well archived and there wasn’t a good way to navigate through the episodes. You just had to keep pressing next page… next page… The archive didn’t even show every episode since the beginning! (I hate when that happens). Despite all these technical issues, I listened to every available episode until I reached the end of the archives. I STILL listen to this podcast, so it’s the oldest podcast I have in my rotation. It’s much more tame now, almost boring, and I probably would’ve stopped listening to it by now, except it’s perfect for work because I only have to give it about 20% of my attention. In the past, they’d share sex stories, Greg would read out loud gay porn narratives he found on the web, and they’d call up some of Greg’s friends, my favorite of which was Patty. There was a time when they’d call up Greg’s friend Rudy, who I LOATHED. When I first started, there were episodes twice a week. At some point, there was even the possibility of it coming on 3x a week! Now it’s just once a week, it runs exactly for 1 hour and will cut out at the hour mark. The lesson from this podcast is: sometimes, setting a strict time limit to a podcast series is detrimental to the flow of conversation.
The SECOND podcast I started listening to was The Read. Jessica also introduced me to this one (though I don’t think she listens to this regularly). She liked F&G so much, she wanted to find more comedy podcasts, and she saw that The Read was consistently #1 in Comedy for podcasts. What had hooked her was an episode that referenced this moment from Iyanla. I thought I’d give this podcast a whirl and I’ve stuck to it ever since. I like it because it’s good to work to. I always tell people that I don’t know their pop culture references 40% of the time, and I used to vehemently disagree with the advice they gave. Their podcast duration has gone from one hour to consistently 2+ hours. Because of this, the fact that I have listened to it from Episode 1, and because they seemingly NEVER take a break from recording weekly, I’ve done the math and this is the podcast I’ve spent THE MOST time on. This podcast is often credited for paving the way for many other black podcasts.
The THIRD podcast I ever listened to was Savage Lovecast, which I stumbled upon while looking for relationship advice. I must have found a really good written column by Dan Savage, which then directed me to his podcast. As of today, he’s done 575 episodes, one a week, and I think I started listening around #450 or so, in 2015. He’s been doing this podcast thing way before podcasts were a thing (and his written column for EVEN LONGER). I went to his website and started listening from episode one. Then, about two years ago, a friend shared with me a relationship problem. I said “omg Dan Savage had this EXACT QUESTION before!” but when I tried to recount his advice, I became kind of distraught that I couldn’t recall his advice word for word. I then made the decision to start tracking every question and answer, and the obsessive in me decided this meant I would have to go back and document the ~250 episodes I’d already heard. My progress was significantly stymied by the 20+ other podcasts I got into in the past two years, but I’m getting there! Anyway, I generally agree with 98% of his advice. I ADORE him and find him to be incredibly eloquent and precise in his language, particularly since he seems to do everything on the fly. I’ve seen him live twice, and while he does cover a rotation of repeating topics, you never tire of it. Also, the advice columns are gossipy fun!
I was pretty content with just this rotation of three for a while. But then at some point in 2015, I thought I’d look for podcasts with a data science slant and I ended up listening to What’s the Point, the podcast that probably ignited my exponential obsession in discovering podcasts.
What’s the Point is probably one of my top fave podcasts of all time – its shtick was every week, it’d do a deep dive into a number/data and the issues surrounding it. Topics would range from privacy, Pixar, politics, movies… This was my first foray into the “learn something” podcast genre. It’s produced through FiveThirtyEight, which introduced me to the 538 Significant Digits newsletter, and Nate Silver, who I followed throughout the 2016 election and immediately unfollowed on November 9th. This was a SUPER informative podcast, and would peel apart a lot of interesting subjects that aren’t often touched on. Unfortunately, they ended the podcast, and the host, Jody Avirgan, went on to do some sports podcast. This was the first podcast I listened to that ever got cancelled, which made me feel very old to have seen a podcast come and go. Even though it’s since been cancelled, I’d highly recommend going through their entire archive.
From here, WTP inspired me to search out informative, interesting podcasts on society, culture, etc. Naturally, this led me to NPR. First was Planet Money. Then came NPR Politics. Then all the other NPR podcasts (see my NPR podcasts post!) I think my podcast obsession just coincided with the general proliferation of podcasting and my waning interest in indie and EDM music. I always say 2010-2014 was the height of EDM, and indie bands became really indistinguishable because everything is just run through a synthesizer. (Here’s the proof!) Save for the Hamilton soundtrack, music just didn’t interest me anymore, so I cancelled my Spotify subscription and began to obsessively collect new podcasts to subscribe to and marathon through at every moment.
So of course, NPR is not the only provider of informative podcasts. I also had StarTalk, which I think I may have found because Neil DeGrasse Tyson was on the first episode of What’s the Point, and Dan Savage was on an episode of StarTalk (cross promotion is fairly popular in the podcasting world, I’ve noticed). Startalk is now in its eigth season and I only recently finished ALL the archived episodes (there are a LOT of episodes per season). I love this podcast because I really do learn so much and Neil DeGrasse Tyson is just so masterful at teaching, communicating, and answering each question in a unique, thoughtful way. I love the format of always pairing a scientific expert with a comedian – it makes a HUGE difference. However, I have noticed that the show’s format changed slightly since its early years. The segments have gotten shorter, and Neil himself is not always in the episode or the segment, so it almost feels like a variety show rather than the typical sit down interview. They’ve also created two spinoff shows, which I decided not to listen to because that’s just TOO much knowledge.
Other “let’s learn something!” podcasts that I got into during this podcast bubble were Linear Digressions and Raw Data (two podcasts about data/data science), Surprisingly Awesome (a Gimlet podcast which has since been cancelled) and the Bowery Boys (a podcast about NYC history, my current “project” which involves listening to ~85 podcasts in the archive). As you can see, a TON of informational podcasts, which gets to be a bit much. So I started to branch into more conversational podcasts like Another Round, Katie Couric and Bitch Sesh.
I’m currently subscribed to TWENTY SEVEN podcasts which might be over doing it. But I’m still constantly on the search for more! It’s crazy but fun. Maybe one day I’ll read this and think “haha what an outdated form of communication!” or “my god I wasted so much of my life listening to information that I never retained!” or else “ah yes, the voice of my old friends.”
I need to give these other randos their time to shine!
Another Round: this is an interview/conversational podcast that I will only listen to if I can concentrate fully on it, because it’s just SO enjoyable. What I love is that I only know the guests about 20% of the time, which makes it that much more obvious that the interviewers, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton, are really top notch. They have such vibrant personalities, and they come up with the most random but often amazing interview questions. They have interviews primarily with influential black people, usually writers, activists, artists or media figures. Of course, when I try to explain the podcast I always add “they have also interviewed HILLARY CLINTON!” Even better than their interviews though, are the other podcast segments. Totally random but amazing things like What Had Happened Was (where they recap a childhood experience), Tracy’s Joke Time (literally telling a longform joke) and Y’alls Parents Were Nasty (where they play obscure oldies that have dirty lyrics). The most surprising thing is that Buzzfeed produces this! Buzzfeed actually produces several podcasts which I NEVER see advertised on their app. Poor marketing, but this is a hidden gem. (in a small whisper: I find this superior the much more popular Call Your Girlfriend, but one shouldn’t compare)
Suggested Episode: #79 Pour One Out For Elmo (with Joy Reid)
The Daily: Whenever I talk to someone else who enjoys listening to podcasts, this seems to be the only podcast that everyone is listening to. I think it is currently the top downloaded on iTunes. NPR has a similar concept with Up First, and the only reason I listen to this one and not the other is because The Daily came out first. The first episode was released on 2/1/2017, and it discussed the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. I think this podcast integrates well with NYT reporting, as they are able to bring on their subject experts to discuss with the host, Michael Barbaro. Michael was once on a late night talk show and I watched the interview and was immediately crushed to find out he was NOTHING like what I envisioned in my mind. Honestly, I have never once seen a picture of a podcast host and thought “yes, that’s what I had in my head!” I am always taken aback. It seems like the original concept of the show was to occasionally do deep dives into things that weren’t front page news, but with the Trump administration, that can’t be the case. There have been a handful of episodes on slower news days that dealt with one-off topics like assisted suicide and incarceration of mentally ill murderers – real sunny stuff. Anyway, the show is excellent, and I actually keep an Excel workbook that tracks the subject of each episode so one day, years from now, I can go “OMG I forgot this happened!” There’s one thing I can’t stand though – they love to add in sound effects like a clock ticking or leave in the sounds of setting up the interview, like Michael dialing a contact, the ring ring as he waits for someone to pick up … I’m like JESUS REALLY? DO WE NEED THIS?
Suggested Episode: 9/19/17 where they talk to the reporter who broke this story and discuss the Mueller investigation
Still Processing: This is a NYT podcast that doesn’t feel like it’s put out by a news organization at all. I think the premise of the podcast is that they talk about culture and technology, but there’s a heavy lean toward culture. I started listening to this as a recommendation from LaineyGossip, regarding an episode they did on Whitney Houston. After listening, I couldn’t stop playing When You Believe for weeks, which drove Robyn batty. By the end of each episode, I find that they often shape my perspective in a more meaningful way – my views generally align with theirs but they just speak much more thoughtfully about it. It’s also refreshing that they don’t have guests on the show. The hosts, Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, live in NYC and the way they talk about the city actually makes me feel like I’m living there with them sometimes! An example of why I love this podcast: on the week of the Bodega uproar when everyone was falling over themselves trying to save their local bodega, Jenna Wortham was the only one who was willing to say “you know what, no one ACTUALLY LOVES their bodega.”
Suggested Episode: We Grieve Charlottesville
Ear Hustle: This is a podcast created in part by Earlonne Woods, a prisoner at San Quentin, and it gives you an inside look at life in a men’s prison. Each episode takes on a different aspect of life, like roommates (cellies), keeping in touch with people outside of prison, or dealing with life sentences. It is very humanizing, thoughtfully produced, and can occasionally make you laugh or cry. The episodes are relatively short, so they’re easily consumable.
Suggested Episode: Unwritten
Nancy: I wish there were more Asian or LGBT podcasts out there for me to listen to, but instead it seems like I’ve fallen into a black podcast feedback loop. I sifted through WNYC’s podcasts and came upon this gem – it’s an LGBT podcast hosted by two Asians! So a perfect center piece in my venn diagram of podcast wants. The hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu, are about my age, so the topics and their experiences are more easily relatable to me. I fell in love from the first episode, because they speak to the mother of one of the hosts, and it felt like I was listening to my mom talking.
Suggested Episode: #1 Hello, Hello
The Bowery Boys: Ok this one is not an easy one to convince people to listen to. Every episode goes through a history lesson on New York, topics like Central Park, the Subway, Times Square. Sometimes topics like The Crash of ’29, NY and the Golden Age of Television, or The Lower East Side: A Culinary History. In the beginning, episodes were only 20-30 minutes long, and now they’re at an hour mark, which I find a little too daunting for newcomers. I generally hate learning history, but I’m fascinated when they link events to the way things are now. For instance, DID YOU KNOW the NYC grid has wider avenues closer to the water, because this was where most commerce occurred back in the 1800s, since at the time, the main mode of transit was ships. Or DID YOU KNOW that the builders of the first NY apartment building purposely and carefully selected their tenants to be interesting and stable, so the idea of living in an apartment would be an appealing idea for the wealthy. The most impressive thing is that it seems the two hosts, Tom Meyers and Greg Young, research separately and come together, and somehow they never overlap or talk over each other when they record. It’s like a well-orchestrated dance of facts!
Suggested Episode: #135: The High Line
Show Your Work: I am a HUGE fan of celebrity gossip, and in my college and audit years, I would legitimately spend two-three hours a night going through celebrity gossip sites. ONTD, in particular, is a huge time suck. Finally I realized, maybe this isn’t the most productive use of my life … and now I only look at Vulture and LaineyGossip.com. Lainey, or Elaine Lui, is a gossip writer and has been writing since 2004. The reason her site is far superior to anything else is because she’s selective about what she writes about, and she considers the social/cultural significance, pulling back the superficial layers of what’s presented in mainstream media. She will share an insider’s view of Hollywood, and I’ve definitely learned a lot that I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. For this podcast, she and her co-host Duana approach gossip from the perspective of work: what’s the hidden strategy/effort behind a bit of news? What’s the potential impact on a celebrity’s career? How are people shaping their image through their actions and words? And always, how does all of that reflect us as a society? It’s really intriguing, activates that gossipy part of your brain while remaining intellectual.
Suggested Episode: Paparazzi and Morning TV
Katie Couric: This is a weekly interview-style podcast, with a pretty diverse range of guests. I’m sure anyone who watched the Today show knew this decades before I did, but she has a warm, thoughtful interviewing style, and her cohost, Brian Goldsmith, is a great supplement by being very policy-driven. They also have the most effective use of podcast advertising because they always semi-ad lib it and make it fun to listen to. And because of the Katie Couric name, they get pretty big name people onto the show. I was also stunned to find out Katie Couric is SIXTY YEARS OLD.
Suggested Episode: David Fahrenthold: Investigating Trump
I’ve decided to write a FIVE PART series on the current love of my life, podcasts! I’ve been meaning to write a post, as a way to snapshot this moment in my podcasting experience. My first draft post ended up being super long and a little disorganized, so I’ve decided to break it apart. This first post is going to be about my favorite NPR podcasts. I listen to so many NPR podcasts that I’m going to do those separately, and have separate posts on non-NPR podcasts.
Apple groups podcasts into categories like business, comedy, technology, news & politics, music, health, etc. Spotify decided to mix it up a little and groups podcasts into categories like society & culture, storytellers, news, comedy, science & nature, learn something, etc. Cue discussion of how no podcast can be just one thing, but the Spotify categories are way less clear and distinct, in my opinion. My personal tastes are apparently pretty narrow, because I categorize mine in a binary:
News, Politics, Education
My favorite NPR podcasts:
NPR Politics: this was the podcast that kicked off my interest in politics. Before listening to this podcast, I honestly knew VERY LITTLE about politics or current events. Sometimes I think life might have been easier then. And I certainly got through life without knowing anything about anything. Now I know TOO MUCH! Take me out! I was subscribed from the first episode on November 13th, 2015 which seems so long ago. I sincerely remember a time when I thought, after Hillary gets elected president, are they even going to have that much to talk about?! I do think the team dynamic has changed a bit since it first started, which seems to pinpoint back to when Sam Sanders and Asma Khalid left the podcast. Before then, it felt like conversation flowed more spontaneously, and it seems like Sam Sanders was the one to really bring out everyone’s individual personalities. Somehow they were able to toe the line of maintaining a fair perspective while allowing listeners to hear the reporters’ personalities emerge. I like to listen to this podcast while doing house errands like cleaning, cooking or watering my lawn.
Suggested Episode: Inside HBO’s Confirmation: When NPR Broke the Anita Hill Story
Planet Money: this was the first NPR podcast I listened to, and is an excellent example of the power of cross promotion. The only reason I listened to any other NPR podcasts is because of advertisements preceding the Planet Money episodes, and at a certain point, I thought, sure, why not! And NOW LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT ALL THE NPR PODCASTS I SUBSCRIBE TO. I once spent a very long time trying to figure out what was the very first episode of Planet Money and have concluded that their numbering system was very wonky and was only corrected after what is called episode 377. One day, I’d like to take the time to listen through their archives – the earliest episode I’ve listened to is #454 which dates back to April 2013. Their archive starts in September 2008 and evidently this podcast was formed to make sense of the collapse of the global economy, starting with Lehman Brothers. I once clicked through every page of their archives and logged every episode title into an Excel worksheet … and I end up with 177 more episodes than their numbering system claims to have made. MYSTERY.
Suggested Episode: #654 When The Boats Arrive
Code Switch: one of my FAVESSS. This focuses on race and culture, often looking at things through the eyes of a minority. They are fast to respond to current events, but also have in depth takes on issues that you just might not have been aware of. There are a handful of conversational podcasts I specifically only listen to if I can fully concentrate on the entire episode, and this is one of them. The reporting is as robust as any other NPR program, but the correspondents seem to have more leeway in expressing their opinions, usually in the form of an exasperated sigh.
Suggested Episode: Apocalypse or Racial Kumbaya?
It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders: Sam Sanders used to be on NPR Politics and must’ve shown such an incredibly dynamic personality that NPR granted him his own show. One day, I’d like to have an episode that details how that all went down. For a while, I thought he might’ve gotten fired from NPR and that was why he was leaving NPR Politics. His new show has episodes twice a week – on Tuesdays it’s a solo interview with a pretty diverse range of characters (has ranged from musicians to writers to journalists), and on Fridays it’s a weekly roundup with a rotating cast, always comprising of two journalist friends. It’s a great way to see the news through the eyes of journalists, and more so than any other NPR podcast, it is more living room conversational. I generally end up listening to this while driving home, so it feels like someone is talking to me in the car.
Suggested Episode: Friday Wrap: Sir and Rumi
Hidden Brain: an educational podcast that focuses on the unconscious happenings in our brain. I always learn something new from every episode. I do feel like they’re playing with the format in recent months. I hated the original format (which included stopwatch science), loved the format they had previously (where they limited episode length to about 25 minutes), and am mixed about the latest format, where episodes are creeping up to an hour. Generally the guests that come on just happen to have books that they’re shilling. A good number of books I’ve read this year have come as a result of listening to this podcast, and they’ve always been pretty interesting reads.
Suggested Episode: The Deep Story
Pop Culture Happy Hour: I haven’t listened to EVERY episode, but I’m all right with that! I forget how I started listening to this, but it must’ve been around January 2017. This podcast has been around for so long that at this point, I’ll listen to every new episode, but I’ve only gone back to listen to episodes that interested me, and haven’t bothered to see if there are any “hidden gems.” I prefer their old format where they’d pick a theme like “Celebrity Apologies” or “Use of Dramatic License in Historical Dramas” and just go down the line and talk about it, everyone bringing up their own examples, versus now where it’s like “Blade Runner 2049” and “Outlander.” I can see why they changed it though, I guess it is more attention grabbing and better SEO to have episodes centered on a specific work of culture. I have found MANY a podcast through their “What’s Making Us Happy” segment. This is a great podcast to listen to at work.
Suggested Episode: The MTV VMAs and Taylor Swift
Embedded: this podcast is more season-centric than the rest, meaning that rather than having weekly updates, they’ll focus on a particular theme for a few episodes, then break, and then come back several months later with a new subject matter. Last season was police shootings (and I was expecting more episodes so it felt like I had been on the receiving end of an abrupt breakup when I realized there were no new episodes) and this season it’s the Trump administration. This works well for binge-listening, is educational and cuts in original audio clips very well.
Suggested Episode: Police Videos: Flagstaff
If you can catch the two podcasts that AREN’T here that most people listen to, kudos to you. The ones I don’t listen to, that most people listen to, are Fresh Air and Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me. I have long said, I cannot stand Terry Gross’ interviewing style. I hate it when it sounds like people are just reading off a list of questions and not engaging with the conversation. It is so press junket-y. I don’t have a reason to not listening to Wait Wait because I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an episode before (but I HAVE been to a live taping of an episode with Dan Savage!). Other than that it’s 50 minutes long and I don’t like the title of the podcast.
All right, the last two days in Portland I can just pump out quickly because Robyn and I had both been to Portland before, so we didn’t have to do anything too touristy. I remember it being CRAZY HOT at the time like upper 90s. Which feels awful in Portland. Now that it’s 2017, I believe both Portland and Seattle have gotten even hotter this summer.
Anyway, on Tuesday, May 31, Robyn and I did a little jaunt about town of all the things we liked to eat. It says on my Google Calendar that I went to the gym but I have very little memory of this. We hit up Stumptown and Blue Star Donuts (though my current favorite donut place is actually Dough in Manhattan). I got an acai bowl at some random yuppie looking place because it was so hot and I needed some semblance of a fruit in my body. We then killed quite a lot of time just roaming around Powell’s before heading out to eat again. We hung out at the Portland Test Garden which was my pick (there were flowers in bloom but it was a bit too hot and with the direct sunlight, photos weren’t as great) and then hung out in a very divey bar until it was late enough to drive over to Connie’s where we spent the night. I also ended up buying Nike shoes at FULL PRICE at the Nike store. They are pretty, but I think they might actually be too small because my toes hurt if I go on the elliptical. Too late to return now.
Connie and Tyler were very nice hosts and did a backyard BBQ for us. We were served gluten free hot dog buns which were disgusting. To make it worse, they had been previously frozen LOL I only say this because Connie admitted herself how gross the buns were. Robyn then had an early morning flight and left SUPPPPEEERRR early the next day to go back to work. I got to spend the day in Portland with Connie and flew out to socal that night.
So Wednesday kicked off with brunch and Salt & Straw in the morning then a cider place before my flight out. The cider place was right next to a pizza place called Sizzle Pie which we were able to eat at the cider place! I remember getting really red faced because the cider I chose was pretty high in alcohol content. And that’s the end of my Oregon trip! I flew out … went home … relaxed … and then a year and 3 months later, here I am!
Total Miles Traveled: 750mi one way
Miles by the Day: (437mi, 177mi, 145mi)
I woke up early on the third day and did a solo walk around the area of Newport. The hotel we were staying at was right along the beach, so it was nice to venture out. There was an RV area, where tons of trailers were parked and people could just do RV beach camping. There was a lighthouse you could walk up to. I just remember listening to podcasts before turning back to the hotel. I vaguely remember making a ton of waffles at the hotel and taking them back to our luxurious room to eat on our balcony.
At this point, Robyn decided to take her shoes and bang the sand out of it … and with the sand went her expensive orthodic. It fell down our balcony and into some vegetation growing along the cliffs of the beach. Cue massive cursing and anguish. There was a lot of drama involving a very unhelpful front desk person, but luckily, a very calm worker got a pool net and was able to wrangle the orthodic from the bushes. Eventful morning!
We headed to the Yaquina Lighthouse – I thinkkkk around there were tidepools that we explored, though I can’t exactly remember if this was the same stop or if they were a little separate from one another. In any case, we weren’t able to enter the Yaquina Lighthouse, but it looked pretty cool because it sat on a cliff. The tidepools were REALLY cool and I could’ve spent forever there. We saw starfish and tons of urchin and sea anemones which would curl up if you poked at them.
Then we set off for the Three Capes tour. There’s Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares. I still don’t know what the definition of a Cape is. I also don’t really remember which cape is which as I look at my pictures…
Ok after some yelping and googling, I’ve figured out. This is Cape Kiwanda, recognizable from the giant rock. Cape Kiwanda seemed like it had a lot more people, I think because it’s more beach-y whereas the other two capes are farther and more hiking. There’s also way more hotels right by Cape Kiwanda, some of which looked like some pretty awesome luxurious stays. Most notably there was a restaurant called Pelican Pub & Brewery that was right at the beach and a TON of people were waiting for seats. I can’t remember if we ended up eating here or not, but I have a feeling that we didn’t. The cool part of Cape Kiwanda was that there were a ton of cars just parked along the beach, and then closer to the giant rock, people would climb up this giant sand dunes hill and then sled down.
The whole Cape Tour was only about two hours from Newport, and the three capes are within 45 minutes of one another. Next up was Cape Lookout, which was probably the least interesting of the three. We basically just stopped along the road and took a picture from above (which I didn’t really love so here’s another one from Instagram).
Last up was Cape Meares, which was maybe my favorite, but mainly because there’s more hiking involved. You can walk to see the lighthouse, along the way, you get a great view of Cape Meares which is a lot more stunning in person, and then another attraction is the Octopus Tree which is a weird tree with tons of trunks that was probably forced into this shape by indigenous people.
With our outdoor part of our trip over, now starts the food tour! We made it to Tillamook Cheese Factory, which was about a 30 minute drive away. It’s a huge factory with the highlights being the ice cream shop and cheese samples. There is a cafeteria with surprisingly horrible food. Like, we got mac and cheese and pasta and it was some of the worst stuff I’ve ever eaten. It was so bad I thought I’d never order mac and cheese again. The cheese samples were good though (my fave was eating the cheese curds because you could really hear the squeak!). And ice cream was fun, but I didn’t really like it. The scoops were way too huge, and there was very little time for you to choose what scoops to get (and no samples, I think). A ton of people were funneling in and out of the factory though, looking back, it is kind of amazing how many visitors they get at this cheese factory.
Then we headed into Portland, where we had a night stay at a Kimpton. The following night, we’d be staying at Connie’s house, which was nice to be able to stay with a friend for a night. Tonight was date night though! We had reservations at Little Bird Bistro, which I think is a sister restaurant to Le Pigeon, which is possibly the BEST expensive restaurant I’ve ever had in my life (I went with Kathy years ago and the way they cooked salmon blew me away). After this dinner, we walked around our hotel area which included hanging out at Bailey’s Taproom. What I love about Portland is that they have the cutest little beer glasses, smaller than a pint, which is PERFECT for me. I wish everywhere had this.
I really liked our room, though I do remember paying a bit for parking. It was a pretty central location, importantly walking distance to Blue Star Donuts!
Onward! The second day of the drive had a TON of stuff! We left our place in Gold Beach fairly early in the morning and our first stop was Prehistoric Gardens which was a VERY COOL roadside attraction involving DINOSAURS!!! There are about 20+ lifesize dinosaurs put in a very lush, green park. Park might be an exaggeration actually, because it probably isn’t that large but the way the pathway curves in and out through the landscaping gives you the impression that it’s much larger than it actually is. The gardens are pretty well kept, and you walk along a wooden footbridge, and you get a map that marks the location of each dinosaur (though they’re kind of hard to miss). This is like an instagram bonanaza! This has to be my favorite roadside stop of all time as it combines two of my favorite things, greenery and dinosaurs!!! It is $12 per person, but well worth the price haha
We set off for Bandon, which was another hour’s drive. At some point, we stopped to get coffee at a fairly cute little random town (Port Orford). We ended up exploring this impromptu stop and found a really cool beachside park that had tidepools!!!
After that, we arrived at Bandon about an hour later. There’s a few more shops here, and we did quite a bit of shopping at a large store called Cranberry Sweets, which had a huge selection of popcorn and tons of samples. Great gift stop! Bandon is a pretty cute, small town to look through, and another big store here is the Face Rock Creamery where we took quite a few samples of cheese and briefly debated getting an ice cream cone until we saw the size of it and decided it was a bit too early for that amount of sugar.
Another half hour drive later, we made a lunch stop in Coos Bay, at a restaurant called 7 Devils Brewing Co. I liked it for the outdoor seating, and it was perfect weather that day – sunny but not too hot and not too windy. Our next stop was the Oregon Sand Dunes which is basically a huge recreational area. I think there were a few hike options, and people sometimes go ATV’ing, but there was tons more to do the rest of the day, so we just went to the dunes briefly. We probably should have planned to bring something to slide down the hill, like a plastic sled or something. We used a pizza box to zero success. Oh well! Compared to White Sands, this was not as beautiful, but still a fun, quick stop with good panoramic camera potential.
Onward to Yachats, the major stop being Cape Perpetua, which has Thor’s Well, a major photographer’s destination. There are way cooler videos online than the one I took, but Thor’s Well is a natural sinkhole on the beach that creates a really cool water suction effect during high tide. We conveniently arrived in time for sunset, and there were tons of photographers lined up and setting up their shots. Since it’s westward facing, you probably have to have better equipment to really get a good picture during sunset.
Cape Perpetua itself has a few hiking options, so we did a few quick trails that took us really high up to views of the coastline. It was kind of late in the day, so the trails were completely empty, but the trailhead and parking lot had the feel of a typically very crowded stop, so it felt a little like a ghost town. We hiked up a significant climb, got a great view, and then headed back down. Then we crossed through a tunnel that took us toward the ocean where Thor’s Well is located.
Then we drove the last leg of our day, a 30 minute drive to Newport, which was a relatively larger town. We ate at a really good Thai place (one of just a few places still open at this hour) and one of my biggest bummers was not turning the car around to take this great picture of the bridge leading into Newport, right when the sun was setting. The image is still floating around my memory, and I guess here’s a picture on Instagram that is a close approximation to it.
Our stay that night was in Elizabeth Inn, which was a REALLY nice place to stay, in that the room felt huge and luxurious. There was a fireplace, a HUGE bed … it honestly felt like a suite! Good on you Newport for having an awesome hotel! There were also cookies when we checked in, and our receptionist was really nice though Robyn said she had “meth mouth.” There was a pretty large dvd selection but we were so tired from the drive, we didn’t end up borrowing any. Our room also had a nice balcony that we got to relax on the following morning. Anyway, great second day to the trip!
So… back over Memorial Day weekend of 2016 (note, today is now August 2017), I had a five day road trip driving up the Oregon Coast with Robyn (and then we flew down to LA for three days, mainly to watch The Little Mermaid at the Hollywood Bowl). It’s long been on my to do list to post a blog entry about this vacation. At this point, I don’t think anyone reads this blog (I say this every time, but there is NO WAY anyone’s reading this right?!), but I’ve found my entries occasionally useful years after I’ve gone on a vacation to rejigger my memory, so I still find them worthwhile to write. And mainly, it’s kind of nice to have the pictures here with more words than an IG caption would have. Actually come to think of it, if Soundcloud has taught me anything, it’s that I shouldn’t trust anything to the cloud/private enterprise and one day WordPress will go out of business and all these hours, probably cumulatively DAYS, will have gone to waste. Hm. Now I’m seriously rethinking this commitment to writing a blog post. Isn’t the next best thing to just do this on a Microsoft Word document and copy and paste my pictures and then print them out? LOL Oh well. I’ve committed already. It’s 10:45am on a Saturday (technically my alarm went off at 6:45am but I was too lazy to go to the gym and other than an extra hour of sleep, I think I spent the rest of my time watching youtube videos of crappy but still very addicting clips of Wynonna Earp) SO I GUESS I CAN FINALLY CHECK THIS OFF MY LIST. I’m giving myself until noon to complete this … GO!
The background for this trip is that I was supposed to go with Kathy, but a few days before, she backed out and I already had hotels booked so I asked Robyn (rather unconvincingly at first, I suppose it’s not very persuasive to tell someone ‘want to go on this vacation with me? my other friend cancelled. but you better tell me soon otherwise I’m just going to invite my mom’). Thankfully she agreed although she was very reluctant at first, as driving from one place to another really conflicts with her preferred vacation style of going to lounging on a beach. She was actually just about to book a solo trip to Maui before I was like “hey how about Hawaii … we DRIVE FOR FIVE DAYS?” Spoiler alert: she ended up LOVING IT despite the fact that I essentially made her drive 85% of the trip.
So we headed out on Saturday May 28th. Of course any time I head north beyond San Francisco, there is my obligatory stop at my favorite restaurant in the Bay Area, SOL FOOD!!! I got a bistec sandwich (I don’t have insanely good memory, there is a picture of it in my archives) and I remember Robyn getting a vanilla latte and it was WAYYY more delicious than I expected it to be. Anyway, onward ho, after our obligatory breakfast stop! Usually I only eat Sol Food after a long hike but having it early morn was a bit odd (restaurant opens at 9 and I definitely dictated our out the door time to coincide with this restaurant’s operations.
DANGGG I have amazing memory!!! My Google Calendar says our next stop was a coffee shop called Steep Coffee. I couldn’t remember the town’s name but after staring at the Google Maps, my first guess was right – Ukiah! (Ok technically I guess it’s Hopland, but Yelp still found the coffee store so I consider that a success). This was a tiny little town that looked like all of its 10 establishments were running along the 101 which at this point, was more like a quiet two lane road. Steep was REALLY cute and had a honey latte drink that was great. Importantly, there was an insanely adorable dog sitting outside.
We walked back to our car and there was a little house that offered medical marijuana licenses, by appt only. Robyn knocked on the door, no answer. As we turned away, the owner of the office walked up the path and was like “oh did you have an appointment?” and we very abashedly rushed off going “no! thanks though! we’ll drop by again if we are ever in the area!”
At this point we were 130 miles from my house (2.5hrs). Onward we went, past the Avenue of the Giants (I think we stopped for a single picture but then continued on). We had stopped at Confusion Hill, in Piercy, which I normally would not have stopped at but I think we both needed to pee. This was your typical kind of very random roadside attraction and it’s classified as an amusement park on yelp. We didn’t enter any of it, and just took pictures of random stuff in the parking lot, which involved a shoe house and a giant totem pole. Along this route, you start getting a lot of roadside attractions involving giant cut down redwood trees that have been painted and carved into huge wooden statues. At this point, we were 250 miles or 4.5hrs away from home.
We arrived in Eureka probably around 2pm, our lunch stop for the day. Eureka seemed to be the largest city to stop in on our first day, though there wasn’t thatttt much to do. It’s near the water, so you can walk along the small pier. There was a small town square, I vaguely remember a few homeless looking people, and the square being pretty quiet, but we did venture into a chocolate store and picked up a few small truffles and a chocolate banana slug as a gift for Connie, who would be hosting us in Portland at the end of our trip.
We ate at a restaurant called Sixth & E which was a decently good burger joint and a very refreshingly cool AC system. I remember there being bar table style seating, which I enjoyed as it allowed me to stretch out my legs after the long drive (which was only halfway through!). Then we stopped by the Carson Mansion, which is a historical building that inspired McScrooge’s mansion in Duck Tales. Pretty cool! I think it’s now like a private club.
We continued on, and the next thing we stopped at was the Trees of Mystery in Klamath, which is about 375mi from home. This is another roadside attraction, way cooler than Confusion Hill. It just has a TON of redwood statues around, the most impressive one being Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox, Babe! I’ve included one photo of me under Paul Bunyan’s foot to give a better representation of its huge size
The main thing I really wanted to see was Samuel H Boardman State Park, which was another 50 miles away and just a little past the Oregon state border. However, a huge theme throughout this vacation was that I had wayyyy overestimated our ability to drive and explore, so by the time we arrived at a place, we’d already be several hours past schedule. At this stop, the first picture I could take was the sun setting into the ocean. Robyn got a little frustrated because I wouldn’t tell her anything about the places we were headed, so when we’d arrive somewhere, I’d be like “ok and now we’re supposed to do a 2 hour hike! Except … hmm there’s still four hours of driving left … and it’s 4pm … but I don’t know why we’re here if we aren’t going to hike!” I’m pretty terrible.
What I learned about this park is that it’s not really just a park, at least not what I envision as a park. It’s more like there’s several roadside stops along the freeway, and you better be pretty quick with the wheel to make it into the parking lot. Luckily there was barely anyone on the road at this hour and Robyn was driving. There are a few hikes that can take you down to the beach, but since the sun was setting and there was still TONS TO SEE in the park, we had to keep moving! Also, it seemed pretty steep to walk down, and we hadn’t brought hiking shoes. I was a little bummed that we had to be the kind of travelers that just park and take pictures and leave, but we had had a very fulfilling first day, and if we had left any earlier in the day, I wouldn’t have been able to eat Sol Food! In the end, I’m happy with what we did but would definitely do the roadtrip again (with more emphasis on the hiking).
Samuel H Boardman Park was still fun even though we didn’t spend as long as I would’ve liked. There are some crazy cool pictures I’ve seen on IG from down the shore like this one (sorry I have no idea how to embed). We got some great photos of the huge rocks on the beach that are so iconic of the Oregon Coast. I liked how it turned out, and due to the timing of the sunset, I really only have the one picture and not like 50 taken in incremental seconds. We headed on, stopped at the only restaurant that was open in town (a decent pizza place) and took home a box of pizza to eat in our hotel! Motel?
Our stay for the night was in a town called Gold Beach (I forget where, but other towns people stay in are Brookings further south or else Bandon further up). Our place of lodging was called the Inn of the Beachcomber but I have no memory of the room, and the photos on Yelp are pretty atrocious, it seems like a collection of every guest’s past grievances. There was a photo of a hot tub, which reminded me that we had bought pizza and I got the thrill of eating PIZZA in a HOT TUB! A questionably clean hot tub … but oh well … this was PURE LUXURY. A year later I did read an article (OMG I FOUND IT – I’m kind of amazed throughout the writing of this post how relatively it easy it was to google what my memory failed to remember) on Vulture that said “I couldn’t stop thinking about how gross it would be to eat a slice (of pizza) that’s covered in the spray of a hot tub” and when I read that, I thought “is that not a symbol of luxury?”
So that was the first day! I originally thought I’d just put the entire trip into a single blog entry but given how long this one already is … I guess … I should split it up! It’s 12:20! AHHH I was supposed to be done by noon! OF ALL FIVE DAYS! I’ve only done the one day!!!
Oh dear. Now I’m sitting at the Vancouver airport!!! Totally failed to write down my thoughts in Canada as they happened.
On the last day, we woke up on Victoria in the Chateau Victoria. My dad’s knee seems to have essentially blown out during our four hour tour of the Butchart Gardens, so he sat in the hotel room in the morning while my brother slept and my mom and I went out to see Beacon Hill Park around 8am. This was my pick for the walk, and I’m really thrilled that I ended up doing this. I have no interest in parliament buildings or harbors, which seems to be the main attraction in Victoria.
Beacon Hill is essentially their massive city park – when I think of city parks, I usually just think boring fields of grass, and a couple of trees. But this one was REALLY nice. There’s several different walking trails, if you go all the way to the northwest end, there’s even a coastal trail that gives you a view of the water and distant mountains. There’s a little rose garden area, several patches of beautiful flowers throughout, a children’s farm which has goats, a pig, a sheep, and chickens … there’s even peacocks roaming around and I saw a heron nesting area. Near the coastal trail, there’s “the world’s tallest totem pole” (it did look quite tall) and it was near here that we saw a deer. So, TONS of wildlife!!!
The slight negative is that there aren’t thatttt many restrooms and with my mom in tow, that sort of limited us to a certain radius. But we still got to see a LOT. There’s biking and walking paths, and there’s a few ways cars can drive through the park, though of course it’s much nicer to walk through it. Reading through the yelp reviews, I don’t think most people have the time to go through the entire park (it took us over two hours, and while I think we saw all the important bits, I’m sure there’s little gems we missed). Overall, an amazing park!
We even had time to walk down to the harbor and take a few pictures with the building. The plus side is that the hotel I got was pretty central to all of this. We got back to the room around 10am, finished up our packing, and then checked out. Because my dad couldn’t walk in the morning, I drove everyone around to see everything again via car. He got out to look at the ocean view and the farm (he loves taking the worst, most blurry photos of birds – I don’t know why). Then we set off for our 1pm ferry back to Vancouver.
This time, the ferry experience was less thrilling for everyone, as my dad couldn’t walk around and my mom is now sick (it turns out, from bronchitis!). I fell asleep in a chairfor what must have been about half an hour or more. It’s more scenic near Victoria than it is near Vancouver, because the ferry passes through a few islands as it heads into Victoria. The ferry was much less crowded today.
We headed to Costco mainly to get poutine, though I wish we had had time to shop around. I kept mistakenly thinking my parents and brother’s flight was an hour later though, so I was in the mindset that we had all the time in the world, and meanwhile, I think everyone else was silently freaking the fuck out. We got our Costco food court food, which I must say, was DELICIOUS. We shared fries with poutine (YUM, I think they’re quite generous with the cheese portioning, and their fries are a perfect amount of crisp and thickness), chicken wings (personally my favorite because they were surprisingly very moist – and I normally HATE wings), two hot dogs, and chicken strips with fries. Pretty darn good meal! Thinking about it, I don’t think they sold smoothies or chicken bakes.
I dropped my parents off at the airport then circled around to get gas at the airport gas station, before returning the car. My flight is two hours after theirs, so I wasn’t in a rush at all. In fact, part of me debated driving out to explore more, though I probably saved myself a massive stress attack by just sitting it out and writing my blog posts in the airport. Now, here I am!
In summary, I found a list I made on my last day of the cruise. If it had a title, it would be “a revised packing list.”
Alaska was generally much warmer than I had anticipated. Certainly there were a few cold moments on the ship, but I suspect it was because of the wind and maybe not exactly because of the air temperature. So, stuff I brought that wasted precious luggage space that I wish I hadn’t brought:
My down jacket, which was the largest piece of clothing I brought. Thank goodness I didn’t bring my even larger down jacket though, which is the type of jacket you would see New Yorkers wear in the dead of winter
Thermals, which admittedly did not take up that much space, but STILL!
Umbrella, which I could have maybe used in Ketchikan but it wasn’t raining that hard and my waterproof jacket sufficed
Book, as I may have referenced before, I didn’t open my Anna Kendrick memoir a single time
Scarf, I don’t even know why I brought this
Stuff I WISH I had brought though, and will need to keep this in mind if I ever go on another cruise:
Air freshener, I thought it would have been nice if we just brought a plug in. Since we had an interior room, the air really does get a bit stale
Lotion and soap, while the ship provides it, I think I could have bumped up the luxury by just bringing my own toiletries