Recently, in speaking with my friend- we are finding that we are craving the quiet, early days of COVID. Of course, we know how heavy of a phrase that is. Especially with my life being in the theatre and hers in public health. The overall devastation isn’t lost on us.
That doesn’t change the fact that we found ourselves reflecting that at the time - we wanted life to get going again, and now find ourselves hundreds of miles apart. Wanting the same thing we can’t have. The comfort of a time out of time.
Solace. Leisure. Comfort away from the bustle of the 21st century.
Of course, when we think of these things road trips aren’t what comes to mind, and it wasn’t always leisure for everyone. Maybe train rides, but of course, we find the American train experience lacking. Leisure drives aren’t a part of our lives anymore. It is no longer a time outside of time.
They once were, especially in the West. Once upon a time, a familiar, catchy name rang out as the ultimate, American Leisure ride. Route 66.
Season one of Evan Stern’s Vanishing Postcards wove its way through the state of Texas, dipping in and out of places that are dipping in and out of time. Season two takes us on a journey down Route 66.
Beginning at the beginning episode one gives us a small history of the route, as it originally (and still) begins farther East than our minds remember. Route 66 starts now in St Louis, Missouri, and ends in Las Vegas. Once it started in Chicago and ended in Santa Monica California. We are joined by the voice of Sherriff from the Pixar franchise Cars, the great writer Michael Wallis. The deep, gravelly tones, with tones dipping slightly into a familiar southern, begin to paint us this great, American picture. We are given an audio picture of a people, and the cradle of a place whispering into fly-over territory wind. American in a postcard way, but no less real.
What I love about Vanishing Postcards is that it faces the postcard nature of this space head-on. The whole point of the podcast is to cradle and remember history, but it does it in a way that embraces the dark corners too. We have sideshow sites of quirk, and solemn patches of memory being clung to by an awakening nation or a single person. Vanishing Postcards finds comedy, comfort, wisdom, and beauty through a single line across a corner of this country.
It is eye-opening in a way that isn’t shaming because this podcast isn’t here to shame. It is here to coax these places out of the dark and the dust, for those that came from these places, and those of us that have never been. This podcast has the potential to reach ears like mine. The farthest West I’ve been is St Louis, and that was for a matter of hours before heading back to the comfort of the East coast.
I had no need in my comfortable northeastern upbringing to know about The Green Book and to know only the Tulsa Race Massacre in wide, abstract brushstrokes. I had no idea that there were British soldiers buried in American Earth. I only knew of American names on tombstones overseas. Then there are places, tucked away in the corners of the desert, that wrapped up hearts in quieter ways than a military cemetery- and are fighting to keep their place in the memory of places being left behind.
All of this is given to us in 13 (so far) episodes that barely touch 30 minutes. These. episodes left me breathless in their quiet poignancy- giving voice to people who feel forgotten. They are crisp episodes, recorded with an ambient delight that doesn’t feel polished like you may want but works incredibly well. Also, if I’m not mistaken, our host brings more of his Texan accent into this season than his last. In this, he is rounding out an image of a neighbor coming home to show off rather than someone dropping in from afar. Or, I’m just noticing more Texas in a season that dips in and out of the state, rather than sits in it.
Overall, the Route 66 Season of Vanishing Postcards holds up to its first season incredibly well. Evan Stern brings us parts of this country that we are letting vanish, and I hope the project explores more dusty, quiet corners of this country’s history in the future. It’s well worth the listen, and well worth the heart.
Podlink for Vanishing Postcards Here
If you like this review, please consider reading the review of season one here. Also, subscribing to my website gives you access to The Monthly Magpie where you get once-a-month overviews of what I'm doing over here. I'm on most social media at IAmKeelinIt.
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