Out of The Blocks | WYPR

Out of The Blocks

Stories hidden in plain sight

Out of the Blocks is an immersive listening experience built from a mosaic of voices and soundscapes on the streets of Baltimore.  A custom-tailored score embroiders this tapestry of stories hidden in plain sight.

You can get the Out of the Blocks podcast at Apple Podcasts or Google Play

Contact Aaron Henkin

Out of the Blocks is supported by PRX and produced with grant funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cohen Opportunity Fund, The Hoffberger Foundation, Patricia and Mark Joseph, Shelter Foundation, Inc, The Kenneth S Battye Charitable Trust, The Sana and Andy Brooks Family Fund, The Muse Web Foundation, and the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, creator of the Baker Artist Portfolios

This program is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council (msac.org).

700 Fallsway: Masterpiece in the Mire

Mar 12, 2019
all photos by Wendel Patrick

One man spent more than half his life in prison. Another fled his country to avoid religious persecution and ended up on the street. One was left to live alone at age 12. One relapsed after 18 years clean. And one carries the burden of a lost sister. These men live together in a long-term residential program called Christopher Place Employment Academy on the 700 block of Fallsway, one block south of the Baltimore Jail. In this episode, we listen to their stories, and we meet the staff supporting them as they attempt to redefine their lives.

If you heard the last episode of the podcast, you’ll remember we spent some time on the block where the release door of the Baltimore Jail lets out onto the street. We met some guys who’d been locked up in the jail multiple times, we talked a lot about the jail, but we didn’t talk with anyone who actually works in there. Well, that’s what this episode is about: Conversations about work and life with the warden, two correctional officers, and the commissioner of pretrial detention and services at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The release door of the Baltimore City Jail opens out onto this otherwise abandoned block, empty except for the presence of a mobile medical office that posts up there 5 days a week. The PCARE Van, as it’s known, is operated by the non-profit Behavioral Health Leadership Institute, and it’s there to prescribe the opioid addiction medication Buprenorphine (Suboxone) for those in need. Oftentimes, people will walk directly out of the jail and directly onto the van. In this episode, we meet the staff of the van and the clients they serve.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

Our collaboration with Arlo Iron Cloud & KILI Radio continues this episode, as we travel through the Pine Ridge Reservation and visit with an Oglala Sioux Tribal Vice President, an historian at Oglala Lakota College, a pair of Pine Ridge Highway Safety Officers, a man who reflects on the trauma of the Wounded Knee Occupation, and an embittered son who returned to the reservation to reconcile with his father. We also get to spend some time hanging out with Arlo’s family: his dad, Richard, his wife, Lisa, and his son, LeRoy.

Pine Ridge Reservation, part 1: Meeting a Prayer Halfway

Jan 14, 2019
all photos by Wendel Patrick

We team up with Arlo Iron Cloud of KILI Radio, Voice of the Lakota Nation, for this listening tour of The Pine Ridge Reservation, a 50 by 100 mile stretch of land in South Dakota that's home to the Oglala Lakota people. In this episode, we meet a radio producer, a hip hop artist, a medicine man, a home builder, a tribal government leader, a powwow organizer, a painter, and a philosopher who’s chosen to live alone in a house with no electricity and no running water.

In its prime, Pennsylvania Avenue was the black entertainment hub of Baltimore, but there’s a whole generation that doesn’t know about that heyday. The Jubilee Arts program aims to bridge the gap. We meet Jade Davis of Jubilee Arts, who teaches a children’s ballet class on the corner of Pennsylvania Ave and Presstman Street, and we get a historical perspective from community organizers Todd Marcus and Amelia Harris of Intersection of Change. We also get two takes on opiate addiction, one from a pharmacy that has to watch out for counterfeit prescriptions, and one from a former drug counselor who’s currently battling his own addiction.

Pennsylvania Avenue, part 2: Born in a Tornado

Dec 18, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

In this episode, businesses survive against the economic odds on the 1800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, where local entrepreneurs have established their niches with fashion boutiques, discount variety stores, jewelry shops, hair salons, and carry-out restaurants. These are the places where money changes hands and meaningful relationships are nurtured every day. In the words of Sache Jones of No Boundaries Coalition: We do not give up on each other in this neighborhood, even if it feels like outsiders have given up on us

Pennsylvania Avenue, part 1: Resurrection Intersection

Dec 4, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

In 2015, circling helicopter footage showed West Baltimore in chaos. In the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, buildings burned, protesters and looters alike filled the streets, and entire neighborhoods were cordoned off by armored police and the National Guard. Today, the riot police are gone, and so is the media frenzy, but the neighborhood remains, scarred by the story of what happened.  Local activist Ray Kelly says, “To be frank, the unrest started long before the riots, and the unrest is still happening today.” In this episode, we meet Mr. Kelly, along with his neighbors on a two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue where the community is determined to redefine itself in the aftermath of a narrative shaped by outsiders.

Love Stories

Nov 19, 2018

A man returns from prison to renew his vows with his wife. Young fiancés try to convince immigration that their marriage plans are legit. Old acquaintances cross paths and get flirty. A woman pines for her ex, even though he leaves her fearing for her life. Two women fall in love and raise a son. A hairstylist shares advice for women whose men aren’t doing right. A couple falls in love on the dance floor and opens a restaurant called, El Merengue. A Japanese woman and her Caucasian husband celebrate ‘hapa’ culture. And two men share what it meant for them to get their marriage license.

Faith

Nov 5, 2018

A street preacher pleads with passersby to heed the word of God, a Pentecostal pastor struggles with her calling, a Muslim father and son confront anti-Islamic sentiment, a man behind bars reinvents himself through Islam, an Orthodox Jew flees religious oppression in Iran, a Mennonite couple opens an urban school, and a Native American man decolonizes his spiritual self.  

Stories about hope, sacrifice, home, and what happens when you come to America, as told by immigrants from Egypt, Nepal, Korea, Eritrea, Vietnam, El Salvador, Afghanistan, China, and Jordan.

Fast Friends

Oct 8, 2018

Two childhood friends go in on a shared dream and open up a beauty salon. At a tire shop, a tall guy and a short guy know how to make each other laugh. A crew of octogenarian pigeon racers trade tall tales. Two cousins move in and learn how to be roommates. An isolated shopkeeper finds trust and compassion in one of his regular customers. Two immigrants manage the multicultural staff at American Wings & Pizza. An unlikely friendship blossoms between a pair of residents at a halfway house. And two exes-turned-business-partners manage to stay friends through it all. 

Stories about surprising second acts, from the owner of a pinball museum, a Kashmiri journalist exiled to a snack counter, a washer repairman with a checkered past, a funeral director who stumbled into the job after he married into the business, a former gang member who now runs a religious radio station, a guy who turned his rock n roll music studio into a corporate voiceover business, a woman who left an abusive man and found herself in the process, and a handyman who moonlights as a standup comic.

Strong Women

Sep 10, 2018

Stories from a mixed-martial-arts fighter, the manager of a diner, a trainer of Doberman Pinschers, a child-abuse survivor, a fashion entrepreneur, a recovering drug addict, a performance artist, a mom who avoided suicide, and the woman who convinced Baltimore to build a skate park.

Odd Jobs

Aug 27, 2018

Conversations about work, with a fishmonger, a repo man, a fortune cookie maker, a cobbler, a spiritualist, a tag & title bureaucrat, a master clock-maker, a safe cracker, a day laborer, a man who polishes headlights, and a guy who sells loose cigarettes.

Atlanta, West End, Part 2: The Crossroads

Aug 14, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

This episode begins on the historic spot where two dirt roads intersected and consequently gave rise to the city of Atlanta. Today, that crossroads is a busy intersection, and it anchors a residential neighborhood that’s since experienced chapters of segregation, integration, devaluation, and gentrification. Hear more stories from the locals who make Atlanta’s West End what it is today.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

There’s a room hidden behind a curtain at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center and Bookstore that houses shackles and hand-written slave documents.  Down the block is the historical home of Joel Chandler Harris, who gained fame and fortune as the publisher of the tales of Uncle Remus.  Across the street is a funeral director with a bridge named in his honor and a fleet of custom limousines.  We visit these sites and talk with residents new and old in an Atlanta neighborhood that’s been around longer than Atlanta itself.

Curious about how the original seed got planted for Out of the Blocks? This week marks the ten-year anniversary of Aaron Henkin & Wendel Patrick’s audio bro-mance, and on this episode the two friends unearth archival audio from when they first crossed paths. They originally met in 2008, when Wendel was Aaron’s musical guest on WYPR’s old radio show, The Signal. Aaron liked Wendel’s music, Wendel liked Aaron’s interviewing style, they hit it off, and the rest is history. Plus: Did you know that ‘Wendel Patrick’ isn’t Wendel Patrick’s real name? Take a trip down memory lane with the guys and enjoy the back-story!

Funny thing about making a podcast:  You never know who’s listening.  Turns out, Baltimore’s mayor, Catherine Pugh, is a fan of Out of the Blocks, and she invited producer Aaron Henkin to join her in front of a live audience for a conversation about the show.  (Aaron got to ask her some questions, too.)  This episode is a recording of the event, which happened Monday evening, June 25th, at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s theater in downtown Baltimore.  

all photos by Wendel Patrick

In this episode, we meet the founder of the Detroit Artists’ Test Lab, the head of an African American podcast network called Audiowave, neighborhood activists young and old, a closet poet, and the woman who taught The Slide to a generation of skaters at Royal Skateland roller rink.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

On the east side of Detroit, the streets of MorningSide are lined with stately, brick Tudor-style houses.  But today, one in four of those houses is abandoned, boarded up, gutted, or burned out.  The foreclosure crisis of 2008 hit MorningSide like a tidal wave, and the neighborhood is struggling to sprout again from the rubble. There’s a lot of buzz about a new Renaissance in downtown Detroit, but the locals in this corner of town are wondering when – and if – the revival is going to make its way to them.  In the meantime, they’re holding their own and looking out for each other.  In this special episode, Out of the Blocks teams up with Michigan Radio’s MorningSide 48224 podcast to share voices from MorningSide.

Ever build one of those snap-together model kits when you were a kid? Think of this episode as a sort of snap-together podcast kit. It includes a demo of a fully mixed and produced Out of the Blocks audio feature, followed by the original interview it was cut from, the accompanying musical score, and lots of bonus interviewing tips.  This episode is a fun tool for anyone who’s interested in learning about podcast production techniques. Listen along, then take apart this episode to build your own version! 

Special thanks to our interviewee, Nate Couser, of The Artist Exchange Radio Show, and check out this story-making toolkit at The Peale Center.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The owner of a falafel stand gives a lesson in gratitude, a minimalist overcomes cerebral palsy by sheer force of will, a female boss takes the helm at a men’s barbershop, an apparel entrepreneur reflects on a family tragedy with a silver lining, and a friendly neighborhood barista whips up chai lattes and plays experimental doom metal.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The bartender at The Drinkery tells the history of 'the gayborhood,’ a handyman-turned-comedian reflects on comedy as a flashlight in the dark, a pizza-maker from Pakistan shares words from the Koran about living with good intentions, a master clock-maker ponders the passage of time, and two shop owners share an address and a mutual admiration.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The 200 block of W Read Street was Baltimore’s ground zero for hippies, head shops, gay nightlife, and wild fashion.  In this episode, we explore the past and present of the neighborhood with a vintage clothier, a husband-and-husband duo that runs a hair salon, a father and son who operate a 70-year-old key shop, and a guy who loves to smoke a good cigar.

Chinatown ID, Seattle, part 2

Mar 26, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

Devotion to family.  That’s the overarching theme in this episode, as we return to Seattle’s Chinatown International District once more to visit with sons and daughters who are committed to honoring and preserving their families’ legacies. 

all photos by Wendel Patrick

Seattle’s Chinatown International District is a bustling, pan-Asian neighborhood of immigrants from China, Japan, Vietnam, and The Philippines.  It’s also a mix of generations, where Americanized children navigate a complex family dynamic with their non-English speaking elders.  Tradition is in a tug-of-war with modernity on the streets of Chinatown ID, where multi-generational family businesses stand side-by-side with the startups of young, artistic entrepreneurs. It all amounts to a beautiful, mutable monument to the American Dream.  This episode was produced in collaboration with KUOW and made possible by a generous grant from The National Endowment for the Arts.

Wendel Patrick is the composer, producer and performer of the musical score for every episode of Out of the Blocks. In this special installment, he talks about some of his favorite compositions from the show and delves into how (and why) he makes the music.  Wendel can span musical genres from classical to hip hop with compositions that take the listener on an emotional journey full of surprises:  A cell-phone ringtone symphony? Check. A hair-clipper fugue? Check.  This is a must-listen for aspiring music producers or anyone who wants to hear extended music cuts from Out of the Blocks.

100 S Broadway, part 3

Feb 12, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

If we’re truthful about it, most of us will admit it:  There’s a gap between who we are and who we yearn to be.  In this episode, people confront the sting of getting honest with themselves.  In the end, some find redemption, and some just stare into the abyss.  There’s darkness in this episode, yes, but rays of hope have a way of shining in through the cracks.  As you’ll hear Francesca say, “Life is too short, the world is too cruel. Just love one another.”

100 S Broadway, part 2

Jan 29, 2018

This episode begins with a recovering addict who’s found peace, purpose, and a modest income folding paper flowers and peddling them to passersby on the street corner.  The episode ends with a Salvadorian immigrant who spends 50 hours a week on an assembly line in a chicken processing plant.  In between are more stories of entrepreneurs and day-laborers, people trying to make a living and trying to live life along the way.

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