Over the course of a couple of days, I challenged myself to start up this podcast; the idea has been with me for some time. So, I came up with a name, purchased hosting services, built a website, and created social media accounts. Much to my surprise, it only took a day or two before friends started following the show.
“Busted.” I thought to myself, “Now I really have to move on this.”
It’s May long weekend, Victoria Day, a federal holiday in Canada, my plan for the day is to go out and find my first story. But, here I am, in my home listening to a podcast. A podcast on how to make a podcast. Yes, you might have guessed it, what I’m actually doing is avoiding getting out to make the podcast.
As I listen to a clip of America’s national radio broadcast of the Hindenburg crash back in 1937, I slowly tune in to a repetitive sound of a man shouting; it’s coming from outside. I listen for a minute or two, then I fire up my sound recorder.
He speaks a foreign language, uses a megaphone, shouts in a consistent rhythm for three or four minutes, plays music for a while, then shouts again.
This isn’t that unusual around here because there is a park around the corner. Cultural festivals and other events often take place there, and a little further up the street is the provincial legislature where protests routinely happen by the front steps.
The shouting goes on for about ten minutes before I decide that there might be a story to uncover. I think to myself that this could be the way to get this podcast rolling.
“Go talk to the guy,” I tell myself. “Accomplish your goal for the day.”
I get the rest of my sound kit together and make a plan, but I promptly drop everything and have a shower instead. I tell myself, “If the shouting is still going on after my shower, then I’ll go check it out.”
Subtle feelings of regret creep in and I think that if I was truly motivated, I would have gone out before taking a shower. But, I choose to ease my way into this situation. I am resisting. Let me explain why.
While the idea of creating this podcast excites me, it mostly terrifies me. I’ve always been a guy who blends into the scenery. When I go places, I avoid drawing attention to myself. Yes, it’s partly anxiety, but also the result of my experience working as a documentary cameraman where my job is to blend into the scenery. People lose track of you when you’re quiet and undisruptive; this strategy helps you capture real life moments to tape.
I’ve done this for close to thirty years and consequently, I have become a good listener and less of a talker. I usually feel a little self-conscious when I interact with people. While I do have the ability to uphold a conversation, I often ask the questions so the other person talks. I generally don’t have much to say about myself.
So, the thought of being front and centre, using this medium to tell stories, using my voice; it’s a daunting prospect for me. My hope is that the fear will subside over time. It wouldn’t be wrong for anyone to think that this podcast is a form of therapy for me. In fact, you’d be 100% correct to say that.
I touch up my poor job of shaving and listen to the man in the park, he is still shouting, so I push myself to leave the apartment.
As I head toward the exit I make a mental list of questions for the shouting man but given I have no idea what I’m in for, I only come up with one, “What’s happening here?”
I get to the corner of Osborne and York and look toward the park across the street. I listen carefully for the shouting man…but I hear nothing. I look around for signs of a gathering… there isn’t one. The crossing signal changes and I move closer.
Outside, it’s a beautiful day, warm sun, clear sky. A shifting breeze neutralizes the sun’s gentle heat on my face. It feels like the first day of decent weather this spring. May long weekend commonly signals the start of summer up here, so the warm air is welcome.
I peer into the distance toward the legislature; all is quiet. I venture further into the park. A half dozen sunbathers soak in the heat, their exposed skin is ivory white from a long winter covered in parkas. I unintentionally walk toward two sunbathers where my appearance causes a topless woman to sit up and cover herself.
I ignore the two and slip past them holding my sound recorder in front of me, capturing the ambience of a city where most people are in the suburbs enjoying the day off work. The downtown is pretty much shut down, except for a few cafes and restaurants.
I cut across the field foolishly hoping the shouting man will magically appear.
“Who was this guy?” I think to myself. “What was he shouting about?”
Unfortunately, I’ll never know. It’s clear to me now, I missed my opportunity.
I’m a little discouraged and wander down the sidewalk. In my head, I’m challenging the core premise of this podcast. “Is this going to work? Am I ready for this? Who really cares if I talk to people. Maybe interviewing random strangers sounds more interesting than the reality of it. Is there really a story to be found on a street corner?”
In an attempt to counter my perceived failure, I consider talking to people in the park to see if they heard or saw the shouting man, but I don’t even try. Talking to strangers is a challenge for me. I have interviewed people over the course of my television career but those meetings were set up with formal arrangements. Randomly approaching unknown people on the street to ask odd questions is a bit intimidating. However, the truth is, if I’m going to give this podcast an honest attempt, I will have to get over myself.
I reach the perimeter of the park, still recording. As I stand at the corner of Osborne and Broadway, I see a man panhandling from the median, asking drivers for change. I watch for a few minutes. He’s wearing a black ball cap and a thick hoodie that seems too heavy for the mild weather. He holds a sign that is unreadable from my position. The traffic sneaks past him, no one helps his situation.
“There’s a story,” I say to myself.
Another guy in a light t-shirt, wearing a backpack, head down, sitting on a bench by the bus stop, appears to be looking at a social media feed on his smartphone. Unattentive to his surroundings, his thumb slides continuously up and down the screen, he doesn’t stop scrolling or appear to be reading anything.
“There’s another story.”
Stories are everywhere,” I convince myself.
I turn off my recorder and conclude that it might take a few tries before I have the courage to talk to someone. In the meantime, I give myself permission to fail, I also give myself permission try again, and hopefully, to succeed.
I consider this the first official story of The Corner Tapes. My hope is that you will follow along where in each episode I visit a city street corner to uncover a story. Sometimes the story will take place right at the corner and other times the intersection will be the starting point for a story that is deeper in the surrounding community.
This project is a past time for me and I am mostly doing this solo for now, so please forgive me if the episodes are a little inconsistent in their delivery schedule.
If you decide to subscribe, that would be fantastic. I hope you enjoy listening to this audio adventure of mine.
I wish you all the best and thanks for listening.
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