Podcasting, it’s still a thing, eh? Everyone is doing them, posting them in their substa– no not everyone. But to play my old man internet card, I was rambling Podcasting Schmodcasting back when the people who would spin out the bird site were deep into making Odeo. I was recording with that bubble gum pack sized iRiver mp3 recorder… editing in Audacity (still using it).

Yawn, enough olde time tech blather! But there’s more to do compelling audio than just recording a bunch of people rambling… there are those rarer shows that actually have an artful form. When I was interested in digital (and non digital) storytelling, in the ds106 glory years, nothing set the standard more for audio storytelling than This American Life and those fabulous videos by creator/host Ira Glass.

I got intrigued by those early listens when Glass spoke of growing up in Pikesville, Maryland and got his start in local public radio. Hold the bus, that was very near where I grew up. And it went one level farther when I looked up Ira Glass in Wikipedia, and smack me on my forehead– he graduated from Milford Mill High School in 1977. That’s my high school! I missed crossing paths with him by one year, as my freshman year there was the school year after he graduated.

I drove to Flagstaff in 2014 to hear Glass do a talk at Northern Arizona University…

Going to Hear Ira Glass
Going to Hear Ira Glass flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

During the Q&A I raise my hand (I forgot the question I asked) but opened with some kind of cheesy reference to being a fellow “Milford Miller”, with some kind of fantasy he would invite me to the dressing room for a visit or maybe we’d go out for coffee at Macy’s.


Let’s get back to the story here (who is the lousy script writer???) What is so inspiring enough, here in 2024 the consistency of the This American Life is they are still doing it so damn well. For me, its eminently listenable, not predictable, and hardly self promotional. It’s in my regular podcast listening rotation for the drives to and from town. Note the hook of the intro that is not just BLAH BLAH THIS IS MY PODCAST PLEASE RATE US ON SPOTIFY AND SUPPORTS US VIA PATREON.

It’s. Just. Good. Storytelling.

All of this leads to TAL Episode 835 Children of Dave which is a fabulous listen of family stories– but the hook that walloped me was Ira Glass’s prologue about 1119 Bayard Street in Baltimore. Ira Glass describes how “1119” was the pin number wireless code his Dad used, named for the Baltimore neighbourhood where his grandfather, Isadore ran a neighborhood store.

Hold the bus, again! My mom’s family grew up at 710 Aisquith Street in Baltimore, where her father was a shoemaker. She always claimed 710 was her lucky number, she won a few times on small lottery prizes. Could my family have been neighbor’s of Ira Glasses ancestors? Alas no, Google maps showed they were an hour’s walk apart.

But there’s more. Glass talks about how he was named after his great grandfather, Isadore.

I’m actually named for my great grandfather, Isadore Friedlander. My parents chose Ira instead of Isadore because Isadore Glass is a parsable English sentence– “Is a door glass?” My mom once told me that they picked Ira over the alternatives because it sounded less Jewish to them, which just goes to show how completely, utterly Jewish their entire world was back then.


Holy moly– I was named after my father’s father, Abraham, but my mom thought that was a little too old fashioned, and she updated it to Alan.

So I have just coincidental similarities to the host of the best radio show on the net. Shrug. But what is not shrug is the powerful means Glass describes this bit of scratching the old photos to hear the murmurs of the past, when his parents and visiting family would make their pilgrimage to 1119 Bayard Street.

I always found those trips disappointing. We’d take a picture and hang around there on the sidewalk. It’s not a store anymore. It’s just somebody’s house. It doesn’t look like anything. A rowhouse in a block of rowhouses. At some point a few years ago, somebody painted a cheerful Christian mural on one side of the building with a quote from the Book of Mark.

Every time I’ve gone to 1119 Bayard and stood on the sidewalk, I’ve tried to picture it, my family there long ago, Frieda in her 30s, at the cash register against her will, my dad as a little boy, opening boxes and putting stuff on shelves. I’m not great at that kind of thing. It’s like trying to summon ghosts with a Ouija board, and the little pointer refuses to budge.

We’ve all got these spots from our family’s past, and we go to them. And they’re like Civil War battlefields that have been washed of blood long ago. We pause there and look at the trees and the grassy fields. And we want– what? Some connection to something. I am who I am partly because of this place. But now it’s mute.

So we take a selfie and try to tune into the past, like a distant radio station whose signal we can just barely make out.


That’s me in trying to parse what bits I can find of old family and friends now gone stories, as those who knew them are gone. Yes, I want “some connection to something. I am who I am partly because of this place. But now it’s mute.”

I know exactly where to tune into This American Life, not at all a distant radio station signal. That’s something to grasp onto as the rest of the internet sinks into — oh stop me from ending this on a downer note. Try this photo I found at my sister’s house, it’s my namesake grandfather where all I know is by some handwriting of the name of a lake, and a year which tells me he was only 32.

Abe At Kauneonga Lake
Abe At Kauneonga Lake flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

I can just hear the crackly sounds of that distant radio station.

Featured image: Composite of two of my own photos– My Initials flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0) and Abraham Levine Styling flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0) so together they end up as (CC0)

An old gold pocket watch in the open palm of a hand, superimposed on the watch is a antique photo of a smiling man in a chair.
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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca

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