For folks not in the podcast world, S Town from the makers of Serial dropped earlier this week.
For those who have been living under a rock, Serial season 1 made podcasts a household term. From Serial season 1 came many, many other spin offs. And podcasts about podcasts, like one of my FAVORITE podcasts, Crime Writers On.
I honestly tried to follow the Crime Writer guidelines – listen to episode one before Tuesday, then episodes 2-4 before Friday, then 5-7 before next Friday. But once I started listening, I could NOT STOP.
Super grateful for my work commute this week. That was my only way to justify binge listening to the entire series. So thanks to Girl Scouts NC Coastal Pines for not only reimbursing my mileage, but also giving me time to listen to this amazing story.
I finished the series with so many feelings, so many thoughts, and so many things to write about. I will try not to ramble too much. And full disclosure, do not read any further if you do not want spoilers.
The main character is John B. He wrote to a producer of This American Life asking him to come to his Alabama town to investigate crime and corruption. He calls where he lives Shit Town.
John B was a horologist (a person who repairs clocks) and there are so many clock references in the series. But John B was much, much more. He also suffered from depression. As the child of a mom who also suffered from depression, John B was so relatable. There are times early in the series when he seems manic. It is as if his words cannot keep up with his mind. There are also times when he seems so sad and defeated that it is hard to listen to him rant about his Shit Town.
So why the clocks? Besides the fact that John B was obviously a genius, I think the clocks served as a way of evaluating his life…. “the measure of time has something to do with me… time going by and never coming back.”
So why never leave Shit Town if he hated it so much? This is probably the hardest part of being in a relationship with someone with depression. You so badly want the person to move in a forward direction, make a change to make things better. But they are so stuck because of the depression that they cannot make that change.
I think John B reaching out to Brian Reed was his way of leaving his mark on the world. And in the end, I think he saw himself as a citizen of the world, not just a person from Shit Town.
Once I finished the series, I had a lingering thought. What if John B had left Shit Town. Would that have changed the outcome of his life and legacy? I don’t think so. Just like I do not believe his suicide was the result of mercury poisoning from his years of fire gilding. I think John B’s depression would have followed him wherever he went. His inability to connect in meaningful ways with others was such an ingrained part of him.
Whew, what an amazing story of a complicated person. I will finish from a quote from Jenny Lawson, author of Furiously Happy –
Ground zero is where the normal people live their lives, but not us. We live in the negatives so often that we begin to understand that life when the sun shines should be lived full throttle, soaring, The invisible tether that binds the normal people on their steady course doesn’t hold us in the same way. Sometimes we walk in sunlight with everyone else. Sometimes we live underwater and fight and grow. And sometimes…. we fly.
Thanks This American Life for a great podcast. Fingers crossed for more stories as interesting and thought provoking as this one!