Ep.22 Darrin Warrilow’s Before And After

Darrin had been an electrician for fifteen years before one day that changed his life.

Listen to Open Conversation episodes also every other Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST. Subscribe and listen to Open Conversation through a podcast channel of your choice: we’re on Stitcher, iTunes, TuneIn, Podbean, and Google Play.

Note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the story to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements. 

Darrin: “May 4th of ’98, I’ll never forget it. We were on our lunch break, I walked over towards our park’s trailer. The crop dusting plane was spraying cotton fields and he flew over top of me and I just got soaked with the stuff. I didn’t think nothing of it, I just washed off my face and walked back to work and gradually throughout the next ten days I started getting this white dot in the center of my vision. I just thought it would be like a flew and I will get over it eventually. Within ten days after that I was blind. I couldn’t see anything at all.”

Later – much later – he got involved with Business Enterprise Program that give legally blind people an opportunity to run their own businesses. Today he has fifteen vending machines and he runs a coffee shop but it’s been a long journey.

Darrin: “I’m two different people. There’s Darrin before and then there’s the Darrin after I lost my eyesight.  I had to re-identify myself as a blind person and learn how to live as a blind person. Took me ten years to get all the rehab, independent living skills, finding out what I was capable of doing for employment. I didn’t want to be stereotyped into typical job of a blind person doing call centers and answering phones and stuff like that. I’m totally independent, I live alone. I can do anything that any sighted person can do and I can do it in the dark.

“Personally I don’t feel like I fit in the blind community and I don’t really fit in into the sighted community because I wasn’t born blind. For the first five or ten years I still had pictures I could still see in my head of what things looked like and as time goes by those pictures in my head are fading away of what things look like. You know, just missing somebody smiling at you or a sunset or a moon in the sky or… Those are the things that I took for granted when I did have sight. I always said I was going to visit the Grand Canyon. I can do that tomorrow, you know. And that day kinda… I never did get to see the Grand Canyon.

“It’s going on nineteen – almost twenty years of being blind. Over the years I’ve been taken advantage of. You know, I’ve slowly built up walls around me and closed doors just because I don’t want to be hurt anymore, taken advantage of, things being stolen from me. But I can’t just turn my back a hundred percent because there’s a lot of earthbound angels, I’d like to say that in the past twenty years have come in to my life, some for longer periods than others, helped me through difficult times without me even knowing that they were helping me if you understand what I mean by that.

“Couple of years down the road those people are not involved in your life but when you look back you’re like wow, I could not have made it without that person, you know, being involved in my life at that particular time.”

produced by Regina Revazova

Ep.21 What’s Kink?

Leora and Ophelia made it clear from the get go: we use gender neutral pronounce because one of them, Ophelia, does not consider themselves neither male nor female.

Listen to Open Conversation episodes also every other Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST. Subscribe and listen to Open Conversation through a podcast channel of your choice: we’re on Stitcher, iTunes, TuneIn, Podbean, and Google Play.

Note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the story to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements. 

OPHELIA: “I never really felt girly or masculine. I went through a lot of different phases: I used to try to wear binders so that you couldn’t see that I have breasts but I just sort of came to the realization that it didn’t feel right when someone called me a boy and it didn’t feel right if someone called me a girl.”

Both of them a part of Kink community which is about unconventional sexual practices involving things like submission, dominance, bondage, ownership, and so on and so forth. So you might say it’s how you love your partner.

OPHELIA: “We go to this coffee, it’s called The Gap, it’s for people that are likeminded in the community. I just noticed her standing over there, she came up and she looked so adorable…”

LEORA: “Stop.”

OPHELIA: “No.”

LEORA: “I have a wide range of sexual proclivities. I had a master. I was someone else’s…”

OPHELIA: “I still think it might be illegal.”

LEORA: “It’s not illegal.”

OPHELIA: “Dude, you’re black.”

LEORA: “Oh my god.”

OPHELIA: “I think it’s illegal.”

LEORA: “We had it in writing. I was literally owned by another human being and I was submissive like…”

OPHELIA: “This isn’t what Lincoln died for…”

LEORA: “He didn’t even, he was only mediocrely into…”

OPHELIA: “I know but you know what, no one cares about that, let me have my joke.”

LEORA: “Oh my god. Whatever.”

OPHELIA: “I was bullied very badly. I’m not a skinny person. I’m chubby, or you could say fat. You can get picked on for that. It’s really bad, too. I got picked on because I was fat, and I was nerdy, and I was pretty gay even when I didn’t know I was gay and it’s very hard to figure out what you are because you just want to be normal.”

LEORA: “She’s my best friend. I do love her very deeply.”

OPHELIA: “We’re awkwardly not dating each other. We do everything that includes dating but we’re not.”

LEORA: “Yeah. “Dating now is literally like hey, what’s up, I’m fucked up, I got this disorder, what you got? Girl, you got OCD? Mmm, I’m into that. That’s what dating is now.”

OPHELIA: “When you actually find neurotypical person.”

LEORA: “It’s weird, it’s like you don’t have anything?”

OPHELIA: “What?! You mean you can go out and do stuff?”

LEORA: I mean when I was eighteen part of why I left my family so soon is because  I was just on this desperate hunt to find someone who loved me for who I actually am, what I actually like. She knows I had really bad panic attacks, and I dissociate and I would literally forget where I am and my name. That I like to get beat by baseball bat, and that’s my sexual thing, and I like blood, and I write poetry and I’m weird. She still loves me to death. She loves me because of those things that a lot of people would deem me a freak. It’s so funny kind of a lot of people will be listening and thinking oh yeah, everyone does that, you’re fucking nineteen it’s normal. For me what happened was…”

OPHELIA: “It shouldn’t be normal.”

LEORA: “It shouldn’t be. That’s the problem.”

OPHELIA: “That’s the problem.”

LEORA: “People would be like oh, you’re just being melodramatic because you can’t…”

OPHELIA: “It’s because you’re a teenager, it’s because you’re angsty. Maybe if teenagers are angsty we need to figure out why they are.”

 

produced by Regina Revazova

Ep.20 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Professor Carlos Farias

Carlos Farias a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and an ultra heavyweight competitor with numerous medals.

Listen to Open Conversation episodes also every other Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST. Subscribe and listen to Open Conversation through a podcast channel of your choice: we’re on Stitcher, iTunes, TuneIn, Podbean, and Google Play.

Note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the story to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements. 

CARLOS: “I started Kung Fu when I was eleven years old. After six years I started the UFC, the Jiu Jitsu where the little guy can beat the big guy and I couldn’t believe my eyes. One friend of mine, who’s little, said hey, do you wanna try? Use your Kung Fu and I use my Jiu Jitsu. He got me on the ground and he chocked me. I said I don’t believe it, let’s do it again and he chocked me again. I said Okay, now I believe, show me how I can learn this.”

ROB: “Here is the guy who eats, sleeps, breathes the sport. He competes at the highest levels. Last year he was number six in the world, number one in the United States. The first five are Brazilian. Now, he’s the United States citizen, he competes in the United States, he is American.” 

CARLOS: “I told my daddy: ‘Daddy, I’m gonna go to the United States and I’m gonna live my life in the United States.’ He said: ‘Okay, I’m gonna wait for you here.’ ‘No, daddy, you don’t understand, I already bought my ticket and I already have the date.’ ‘But why? What did I do wrong?’ ‘No, you did nothing wrong.’”

ROB: “When you first start, you’re in very tight spaces. People are on top of you, squeezing you and it’s very easy to get claustrophobic. And over time you overcome that and there’s mental toughness you develop. Your pain tolerance goes up, tremendously. But when you first start everything is uncomfortable.”

CARLOS: “I left my country, I left everything I have, everything I know in 2005. I came to the United States on tourism visa. I had to stop training for a little while, I had to find a job that could pay the rent. And always be happy, no complain about how bad the job is. Just believe. You can do it.”

ROB: “It’s almost an addiction and then it literally consumes everything you do.”

CARLOS: “I’m already here, I already lost my job, I have no money for one week. Some friend of mine said hey, Carlos, what’s going on? Are you sick? Yes, I’m sick because I didn’t have anything to eat all day. He said let’s go to Walmart and I will buy some food for you. I said I don’t know how I’m going to pay, I said, but when I have a job I am going to pay you back.”

ROB: “He is a very intimidating guy to have a conversation with, if you ever meet him. I mean he is six-foot giant, maybe six four, six five. He weights anywhere between two hundred and eighty and three hundred pounds and he’s solid muscle. He was intimidating to talk to.”

CARLOS: “I tried to work at a restaurant – I didn’t like it, I tried to deliver pizza – I didn’t like it. Someone looked me up on the news and said looks like you’re really good, I said I’m Okay. The guy said I can offer you my home to live for free and you gonna train. I worked with him for two years and lost my job, again. Someone else said hey, I need help training in Phoenix, Arizona. I said Okay, I have nothing to lose, I started working but the owner wasn’t treating me very well and I decided to quit my job and find another job. Next one was East West MMA, two years later that one closed, I found another job but soon after the guy started giving me bad checks, not answering my calls. One day he did call and said we’re closing the gym, Carlos, you have to find another place.”

ROB: “We felt like he’s being taken advantage of. Whether it was language barrier, whether he’s a “foreigner.” People were taking advantage of him, and he was bringing business in and they were siphoning off. A small group of us got together and we sat down and we brainstormed and then we all got in our cars and we drove around Mesa, Arizona looking for spot that we were gonna plan our flag and call our own. And we spent probably a week talking to landlords and looking at prices and looking at the physical structure whether we could work for what we wanted and we finally hit on the old Iowa caffe. It was run down, it was moldy, the roof was sagging, it was not ideal but it was cheap. We went in and gutted the place. I mean just floor to sealing we knocked everything out, it was just big open floor plan. But we all sort of pitched in and did it together and we did it almost for nothing. Everybody just pitched in their time. So this man really attracts the loyalty. It’s a tribute to him as the man.”

CARLOS: “All my students came to me and said Carlos, we gonna open the gym for you. I said I’m gonna pay you back. No, you don’t have to pay back. What you give to us is better than what you can pay. I was little lost. Everyone gave some piece. One gave the floor, another gave the mats, one guy gave five hundred dollars, another guy two thousand dollars, another one hundred dollars. One week later I was opening my own gym, my dream came true.”   

ROB: “When he teaches you something he knows what he’s talking about and so you don’t want to disappoint the guy like that. He’s very quiet, he doesn’t yell, he laughs a lot. He is a big teddy bear. He is very soft, very kind, he has very little ego but still the toughest guy I know, easily.” 

CARLOS: “I don’t believe anything is coming easy. If it comes easy, it goes easy. You have to go work and don’t expect anything. Just work and try to reach your goal. Never be satisfied with where you are. You always can go up. In Jiu Jitsu we learn this. We’re never happy on one tournament. Always try to improve yourself. Don’t compare to other people, always compare to you yesterday.”

ROB: “What could I tell you about the coach that would embarrass him? The guy loves milk and cookies. And ice cream.”

Ep.19 Spreading Wings: Carrie’s Story

Listen to Open Conversation episodes also every other Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST.

Note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the story to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements.

RR: “Remember that song about spreading your wings and learning how to fly? I thought of it while listening to Carrie.”

Carrie: “You know I’m still that sassy girl but I own who I am for good and bad where I think I used to try to hide the bad so people would like you. I’m like no, I own it, this is who I am, love me or hate me.”

RR: “Her life journey begins in a farming community surrounded by wheat, pea, and lentil fields.”

Carrie: “I was born in small town called Moscow, Idaho. My parents owned an automotive shop. So I grew up in a big house on a street that has two dead ends. Big yards, I think our yard was three quarter of an acre, a lot of grass, free area to play, gardens. The main street with all of the mom and pop owned shops. There’s no way you’d go anywhere without seeing somebody that you didn’t know. It’s just small town America.

“When I think about my childhood I think about walking to school every day and you take absolutely as much time as possible to get over to the school. You know, I remember walking home one day in the winter and as things would get cold enough and the ice would build thick enough is when you could start to walk on the pond. And one of my friends went out, and stood on the ice, and I was like: ‘Oh, jump! Jump! You have to jump!’ And of course she jumped and went right through the edge, soaked everything. I had that very kind of quintessential American traditional childhood.

“I think I was twelve when my parents got a divorce. So that was when I kind of started to see the not so amazing side of the town. I watched the town kind of start to divide.  Half of them took mom’s side and half of them took dad’s side. Everybody knew everybody’s business. You had no privacy. You start to see some of those ugly pieces of a small town and that’s when I started to realize that I wanted out of that. And I just wanted to be that city girl, you know, I didn’t want to be that country girl anymore.”

RR: “And she got out. First to college to Eugene and later to LA. Finding friends and becoming a part of the new system wasn’t easy at all, she recollects.”

Carrie: “I remember calling my mom and saying: ‘I don’t have friends! I don’t have anything to do. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I don’t know why I made this decision. I think at the time I really regretted it. And she said: ‘Well, come home.’ I said: ‘Well, I can’t come home, I can’t quit.”

RR: “She pushed herself to try all sorts of new things. It makes you understand others better, Carrie says, and you gradually become a better person yourself.”

Carrie: “My dad was actually the one who helped me to move down and my dad, again, grew up in small town in Idaho. Was not a city person and here he is, driving this truck, towing the car down the freeways of LA, and you could tell he’s so uncomfortable. And I remember driving up one of the hills and the transmission goes out on his truck. The tow truck comes and they’re loading my dad’s truck on a tow truck  and the accident happens on the street right in front of us. The car hits this intermedium and rolls and we literally had to run away from getting hit. And I just remember standing there, thinking, what the hell did I get myself into?

“There are all these run down studio apartments. No parking. I didn’t feel that you could stop somebody on the street and ask them where something was. And I just remember my dad looking at me and being like: ‘Well, it’s definitely a different standard of living.'”

RR: “She gradually carved a space in the new environment for herself and is glad she’d stepped out of her comfortable bubble into the unknown years ago. I asked her, do you go back often? How is it there now for you?”

Carrie: “I don’t visit very often. I visit on Christmas. It’s not this magical, majestic place it was to me when I was sixteen. I walked by all of my old houses. You know I looked at the yard my mom spent so much time in maintaining and now has beer bottles on the steps and overgrown shrubs, you know, and I’m just like, oh… It’s just kind of that visual representation that the life goes on without you.”

recorded, produced by Regina Revazova

Ep.18 Living In The Shadows For Twenty One Years

Listen to Open Conversation episodes also every other Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST.

Note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the story to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements.

RR: “I’ve been to the Citizenship Oath Ceremony. As many others I volunteered to tell my story on that day. It’s an emotional moment, a milestone for many; a culmination of life-changing events and hard decisions that preceded that day. Mario vaguely remembers the trip to the border.”

Mario: “The way that I remember is we went by land, we went by sea and then we went by land all the way through Mexico.”

RR: “Although he says one detail from the journey stands out.”

Mario: “Being with my mom underneath a bus, where they put the luggage and stuff. There’s no windows, but there was a red light. All I remember seeing was the red light for like the longest time.”

RR: “They applied for asylum followed by years of waiting.”

Mario: “When I was signing my papers, because they make you sign, ‘you gotta sign really good right here, the President is gonna see this.’ I’m like a little kid, I have the worst handwriting. Like I have a lot of pressure to sign a piece of paper.”

RR: “And at the end was denial. The family was granted a ‘voluntary departure,’ which means one has to be out of the United States within a certain timeframe.”

Mario: “We’ve never went back. It was not the nicest area where we lived, it was pretty rough, so one of the outlets that we had was actually going to karate classes.”

RR: “He and his sister ended up representing the USA at the Junior Olympics. Both of them won gold.”

Mario: “But then it got back that you get picked to go and we couldn’t go because we didn’t have papers.”

RR: “And the thread of working hard for something and at the end not being able to enjoy the outcomes – it kept persisting. Like the time when he excelled at the high school exit exam, was granted a scholarship from Governor to go to college.”

Mario: “And I remember typing in, you know, my information and trying to get the scholarship and it just kept saying denied. I sat there, I got really scared, I started looking around because I don’t know if somebody else saw it. And I was worried maybe it was going to call somebody to come get me. I kind of felt embarrassed at some point because having to tell people all the time, well, I’m not here legally. You kind of do live in the shadows a little bit.”

RR: “You face obstacles at every turn, Mario says. But I get it, he adds, and I learned to live with it.”

Mario: “I just, I said we can’t keep doing this. We have to go and revisit our case. So we appealed it, I remember going in front of the judge and the judge is like, oh, this case has been around since like the early nineties. You know what, from this day forward you guys are legal residents of the United States and that was such a relief. The first thing I do is going to apply for FAFSA and apply to ASU again and I got in again.

“I graduated school in 2013. It took years and years, you know, a degree that should have taken four years to do, took me almost eight. Like you want to be at a certain level and you have so many obstacles. And finally getting there. It’s really good, it’s a good feeling. it wasn’t until about October of last year that I finally qualified for the five years as a resident to apply for citizenship. And as soon as, the date to the date that it hit I put my application in right away, I’m like here you go. And I got my interview, I went there. The gentleman, he said: ‘Did you have time to study?’ and my response was: ‘All my life.’ I studied all my life… As of two months ago I became a US citizen.”

RR: “Can you tell me more about the day of the ceremony?”

Mario: “That’s… that’s a good one. That morning actually I went to work with my dad. I remember I was like, man, on the day of my citizenship here I am, cleaning carpets and sweating. So we got done. We’re sitting in that room. The judge comes in, and they’re like: ‘We’d like to ask volunteers to go up here and give their story. As soon as I get up to the podium, the first person I see is my dad. And that just hit me, and I started to choke up and I was telling people: ‘Even on the day of the citizenship I was working with my dad. Early in the morning, my brother is ten years old, he was working with us. And they always said hard work. Hard work and we put in a lot of hard work.

“After I spoke the judge had a few words and he pointed out my speech and said: ‘You know, this is why this country is so great.’

“Sometimes I don’t feel that I can say I’m Guatemalan because I never grew up there. When people ask me: ‘Where are you from?’ I say I am from the United States. And that’s something really, really powerful for me and something that I really cherish, that I can call this country my home.”

music by Dana Boule, Circus Marcus

recorded, produced by Regina Revazova

Ep.17 Life Of A Soprano

Listen to Open Conversation episodes also every other Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST.

Note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the story to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements.

“Hello. My name is Candice Ibanez, I am Soprano, born and raised here in Phoenix, Arizona, I’m a native. One of my jobs is I roll a gondola boat and sing Italian arias out on the water like in Venice. We’re the Venice of the west, and people are like, ‘There’s water in Arizona? What?’

“My day job is I’m a professional limo driver and I drive 35-foot black limo bus. But I love it because it gives me the flexibility to, when I have an audition, or a gig or something I can go away and still have work when I come back.

“Gosh, I’ve been through a lot. I put my life on hold for ten years for my ex-husband. Just as he got his citizenship and social security he asked for a divorce, so I was used for U.S. citizenship. Also, my dad who is very close to, he was a Vietnam veteran, he has a Bronze Star, suffered from PTSD. Even though he never drink he died of liver cancer. I took care of him. I was just gonna do the Phoenix Opera Vocal Competition but my daddy got sick. Even though he had three girlfriends they were nowhere to be found when he got ill.

“It’s always been an obstacle. So it’s just like, okay, when will my life begin? I want to get married again, but I’m not settling again. I have to make sure he’s supportive of my singing and my career, loves my son and that’s hard because men are selfish.

“I’ve always been a big girl, I’ve never be like a size two skinny twig. Luckily, plus size modeling is becoming the fashion and I’m like ‘Yes!’ I mean I realize I’m built to be an opera singer because I’m tall, I’m broad-shouldered, I’m statuesque. I always felt the reason I didn’t make an audition because I was too big, or too tall, or too fat, or… Now they want you to look like a, what’s that Russian girl named? Anna Netrebko. She got roles because she was gorgeous and that’s what I’ve been told by different people in the industry: not only you have to be the best but competing with other Sopranos you have to be an eye candy. Even to work on the cruises, I’m the right height but the biggest size they take is the size ten. Gosh, I’d be smoking hot as a size ten.

“I just got keep singing because when I’m happy then I’m not hungry and then I lose weight because I’m not eating because I’m singing.”

Listen to Casta Diva, by Candice Ibanez 

Ep.16 Two Men, One Mural

Drivers do get lost time to time. Either apps freeze, or street address gets confusing…That’s how I ended up on a narrow street with large cracks downtown Phoenix. Then I saw a big and bright mural, two men working on it, dark blue tarp protecting them from a hundred seventeen degree heat. Aren’t you hot out there? 

ANDRES

“We could have just said, ‘hey, look, it’s too hot now, we’ll pick it up when it’s cooler’ but we decided well, let’s tough it out and lets get this thing done. So we were doing it at two o’clock in the afternoon till six when the sun went over the building. But my God, you’re like in an oven. Even though you’re in the shade but you’re in the oven.”  

These are two artists, Jose Andres Giron and Roman P. Reyes. Both veterans, both are behind dozens of otehrmurals in Phoenix and other parts of the world. I canceled the trip, turned off the driving apps and turned on the mic. 

ANDRES

“I’m native, he’s from Mexico but he’s a citizen. Hey, show me your papers, man.”

ROMAN

“I was born in Durango, Mexico. My dad was a minister. The only people that he was able to minister were farm workers. So we traveled throughout the Southwest working in fields, picking up cotton, beets. When I was working in the fields I would find out where the clay was and I’d take it home and sculpt little things and people in the community would tell me: ‘Don’t be an artist, you gonna starve to death.’”

ANDRES

“I’m a purple heart veteran, because I went through a lot of stuff in Vietnam. Because you can’t help it, it’s that PTSD that you get when you’re a combat veteran, but art helped me through all that and it still does. Back then we weren’t treated very well when we got back from Vietnam, and it really sucks and hurts.”

ROMAN

“As soon as you got to the airport, got off the plane you run in change clothes right away so you don’t have to wear a uniform.”

ANDRES

“And that’s a shame because I was a decorated veteran and everybody had long hair and here I am with my little short hair, just got back from Vietnam. Immediately tried to grow my hair and assimilate and tried to forget about Vietnam but I couldn’t, I can never forget about Vietnam. I’d wake up and think that I was back there again. Every once in a while I still dream about that.”

ANDRES

“As we get older we don’t even realize, hey man, your life is almost over, you’ve done a lot and we don’t feel that way, we feel we’re just beginning! So how much longer we’re gonna keep creating art work? Well, we don’t know. Until we can’t no more.”

ROMAN

“Ask my daughters, they give me stuff for Father’s Day or for Christmas, and they’ll give me kitchen things you know, and I get them and I use them for my art, like a mixer, I go:  ‘Oh, now I can mix my chemicals,’ or they’ll give me a slicer, ‘Oh, I can slice my clay now.’ They laugh and say everything I do is for art.”

ANDRES

“Art for us is like a mistress. My wife is so jealous. I mean she knows that I have to do my art. She’d like me to stay with her all the time and she accepts that and I appreciate it otherwise we’d have been divorced long time ago.”



listen to Open Conversation episodes also every other Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST.

music by Blue Dot Sessions
recorded, produced by Regina Revazova

note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the podcast to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements.

Ep.15 My Random Life With Music

My life is random. I don’t really have anything consistent to tell you besides the music that I play. This is one of the first things I heard from Alexander. But aren’t most of our lives just bunch of these accidental, at first glance, experiences, except maybe that one thing we do more or less consistently? I feel like mine is.

Alexander’s stage name is Drunkn Indian. And here’s his random, as he thinks, story.

“Honestly, I was the last person, so anti government and just one day – I have a thing, anything I am in direct conflict with I completely through myself into it randomly sometimes. I don’t understand why. So on a whim with a friend I signed up to join the military. That started seven year long road.

“In my mind there’s at least some sense of pride when it comes to serving your country. And if I was going to die at least I’d do it doing something I can be proud of instead of just getting shot down the street or something.

“My first duty station was in South Korea. That’s really when I first started getting back to music. It was in the school training, my aunt just randomly shipped my guitar back up to me and I’d make songs for the people in the barrack rooms that were sad. I tried to make funny songs but for some reason sad stuff always comes out and I ended up making them cry more than laugh most of the time.

“I never had any disillusions of what the military was outside of the people. I’ve been in one-sided relationships. The military is definitely the most one-sided relationship you’ll ever be in. You can give it a hundred and fifty percent and maybe you’ll get back twenty or thirty.

“They gave me sixteen thousand dollars bonus. I’m twenty one, in a foreign country with sixteen thousand dollars. What is the first thing I did? I went out and bought Movado watch that was nine-hundred-dollar watch. I think flat screens were like an absurd amount – maybe three or four thousand dollars for thirty-two-inch screen – I did that. I blew all that. Do I regret it? No I don’t.

“If you get far enough from the military base you know you’re something they’ve never seen there before. Being as big as I was in general, if I got away far enough from the base, they’ve never seen anything other than Korean. So they, ‘Come inside! Bring your guitar! Play some music, have a drink!’ and then I tell them I’m Native American and they’re like ‘Oh My God, that’s even crazier! We’ve never seen anything like you.’

“Having to shop for clothes  there – their extra large was like small on me. I had to order clothes online. So I was obviously three or four times bigger than the average person there. I remember I was in the subway and got off and this older lady they call them ‘Ajummas,’  she came up to me and she just started grabbing my forearms  and was in ‘Ah’ and started calling her husband, ‘Come here! Come here! Look at this guy!’ It was crazy!

“I’m just glad I had a music the entire time. I’ve always kept it. There are not too many things that I’ve done in my life where I feel like I’ve gotten back what I put into it and I don’t think there’s ever been a time that I sang or played and somebody didn’t come up to me and tell me ‘That was awesome’ or ‘You were really good.’

listen to Open Conversation episodes also every Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST.

music by Loopstache, Drunkn Indian
recorded, produced by Regina Revazova

note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the podcast to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements.

Ep.14 When Curiosity Prevails Fear

Tae-Eun came to the United States to study differences between people. She is well-traveled anthropologist and over time has gotten used to a life of a foreigner. She remembers time when her hometown in South Korea first encountered workers from Cambodia and Vietnam. These workers looked different and the residents of her hometown felt rather intimidated but Tae-Eun had a little bit different approach to these differences.

“When my hometown started having immigrant workers in 1990s, I was a young child at that time,” Tae-Eun says. “I noticed that people were afraid or just little bit cautious about interacting with those people who have different skin color and they don’t speak Korean obviously. But my farther was one of – or I think he could have been the only person who always tried to say ‘Hello’ to them with Korean or sometimes with his broken English. And that really affected me I think. I just thought, oh, when I meet these different people, I don’t really feel afraid I really feel friendly and I am just really curious.

“I actually talk to a lot of homeless people when I’m on light rail. I think sometimes they notice that I am from another country and they want to talk to me about my country. There was this one homeless gentleman. Somehow we had a conversation for fifteen minutes and later he followed me to say ‘Miss, I really appreciate the conversation I had with you. Thank you for talking to me. Not many people really talk to me.’ That was something I want to remember.

“The other day what happened to me, I was at a light rail station standing with a refugee mother and she, of course, didn’t know how to take light rail or busses. So I was helping her out with those things. And there was a very-very old gentleman next to us, standing. He approached us and I was a little bit worried but his face was full of smile and he started asking whether she is treated well here. He said he’s worried for people because right now we don’t have very nice political landscape anymore for these people. That was really something I really wasn’t expecting to hear in that kind of random place.

“You cannot underestimate the differences because there are differences, really. But I think the point here is the differences should not stop you from talking to that person or understanding the person from the positive perspective because you never know actually what you’d learn from that person and you never know what that person also gets from interaction with you. Because the small thing that happens in your everyday ordinary situation is actually related to those big things happening in the world, although you might not notice right now.

“One by one, you start one, other people start ten, and the other people will start like twenty. And that’s going to make a better society definitely. Although it will take a long time!”

listen to Open Conversation episodes also every Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST.

music by Loopstache, Julie Maxwell
recorded, produced by Regina Revazova

note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the podcast to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements.