In the latest, greatest episode of our “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project, we swing through Western Pennsylvania to visit the famed steel city of Pittsburgh. There may be three rivers and hundreds of bridges, but I take you on a trip to the less obvious places in search of best and worst things: to a machine shop where Chinese students and high school girls are working together; to a Sunday morning church service; and to the “Yugoslav Room” with a local poet.
If you’ve never heard of the project before, catch the previous 11 episodes here. When you are ready to learn about the hardest part of designing a robot, click over to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download this latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 12: Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh had a reputation as a steel-producing city in Western Pennsylvania and now is known more for its robotics, technology, and medicine. It has a population of 300,000 and is defined by hills, rivers, and bridges. In our visit, we watch a high school team assemble robots with visiting Chinese students; attend a picnic in a park; and experience a Baptist church service. We also hear from a poet, a retired educator, a recently-returned young mother, and a “Girl of Steel.”
HUGE NEWS: this is our first international episode of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project! And the Canadians I talked to could not have been nicer: you’ll hear from senior citizens playing lawn bowling in the suburbs. You’ll sit on the sidewalk as a blues guitarist serenades us. And most climactic of all, you’ll observe a butter tart bake-off at a fancy hotel, listening to judges and pastry chefs alike. (I’ve been told that this is a HIGHLY Canadian thing to do.)
If you’ve never heard of the project before, check out the page here. When you are mentally prepared to discover who won the Great Canadian Butter Tart Battle, click to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 11: Toronto, Ontario
Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and one of the most multicultural places in the world. It was amalgamated in 1998 from several smaller cities and is crisscrossed by streetcars and subways–although those are often a target of Torontonians’ frustrations. We will learn about lawn bowling from a senior citizens’ league, sample the merchandise in a sex shop, and experience a play-by-play of the Great Canadian Butter Tart Battle. Along the way, we will hear from an immigrant, a city councilor, pastry chefs, a musician, and an educator.
This week, we air the newest episode of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project featuring a big-name city: Richmond, Virginia. I talked with many different residents about their favorite and least favorite things about Virginia’s capital. Many brought up the city’s ties to the Confederacy and the legacy of segregation. Others talked about the extensive collection of neighborhoods. You’ll come with me to a rally with the mayor, stroll along an island, and visit the pew where Jefferson Davis sat in church.
For an explanation of the project, check out the page here. If you are ready to learn which historical figure had turkey quills shoved up his nose, head to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Richmond is a city of 220,000 people and the capital of Virginia. It was also the capital of the Confederacy and that legacy still lingers. The James River provides recreational opportunities and the Amtrak station provides a connection to Washington, D.C. and beyond. During our visit, we stand in the middle of the water, attend a rally with the mayor, and visit a restaurant that will be gone in a year. We hear from a real estate agent, some college students, a teacher, a tour guide, people who have moved away and returned, and two political watchdogs.
It’s time for the newest installment of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project! You probably have not heard of Lake Forest, Illinois, but it is one of numerous Chicago suburbs along the North Shore of Lake Michigan. If you are a lover of trees, animals, or college towns, this is right up your alley. Oh, and the alleys in Lake Forest are beautiful also, by the way.
For an explanation of the project, check out the page here. If you are ready to pet some horses and reptiles with me, come on down to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 9: Lake Forest, Illinois
Photo source: Google Street View
Lake Forest is about 30 miles north of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. With a population of 20,000, Lake Forest is very affluent, very tree-lined, and the home of Lake Forest College, a private liberal arts school. We hear from a city councilwoman about the most important location in the city, go pet some reptiles at an animal house, plant trees with college students, and visit a horse-riding academy for kids with disabilities.
On this newest “Best Thing, Worst Thing” episode, you’ll experience more parts of Des Moines in an hour than most people do in a lifetime! Plus, you don’t have to go anywhere–you’ll listen to me do all the walking. I was surprised by what some people said (or didn’t say) about their home, and learned about how having big ideas in a small city can be a double-edged sword. (I was also surprised to end my night on the top of a parking garage, but you’ll have to listen to find out why.)
For an explanation of the project, check out the page here. If you’re ready to take a behind-the-scenes, after-hours peek at Iowa’s main metropolis, click over to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 8: Des Moines, Iowa
Photo source: City of Des Moines
Des Moines–population 210,000–is the capital of Iowa. We hear from several residents about how Des Moines is on fire culturally. First, we visit a free art museum and then talk to a worldly t-shirt mogul with a Trump connection. Afterward, we go behind the scenes at the state capitol. We head into the afternoon with the grand opening of a community center, and end up in a dive bar by nightfall. Plus, you’ll see which attraction in Des Moines completely fascinated me!
This episode of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project has it all: drama. Suspense. My wife’s grandmother. Not only do we visit this far southern city, but we walk down an empty Main Street, ride into the mountains, and catch ourselves running through the desert in a panic.
For an explanation of the project, check out the page here. If you’re ready to hear a group of folks talk about the best and worst things about where they live–and what adventures I got into along the way–head over to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 7: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Las Cruces is just one hour north of El Paso and the Mexican border in the hot desert of Doña Ana County, New Mexico. The population is 57 percent Latino. In this episode, we will watch a dust storm roll through the city, go on a nature hike in the Organ Mountains, and even get caught up in a medical emergency. We hear from a city councilor, a union president, a Belgian sailor, a classroom of college students, and my grandmother-in-law (who, by the way, makes a special request at the end of the episode).
This is an exciting new episode of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project. Usually, I storm into town, do some interviews, hear about the history, and package it together into a neat bundle for you. This time, we tag along with a few locals as they go about their day and get a more colorful listening experience.
For an explanation of the project, check out the page here. If you’re ready to hear a group of folks talk about the best thing about where they live and the worst thing about where they live, head over to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 6: Colby, Kansas
Photo source: Google Street View
Colby is technically a city of 5,400 people in the northwest corner of Kansas–but it’s tempting to call this a “small town.” Agriculture is important here, but Colby also has a community college and medical center. In this episode, we tag along to a Rotary Club meeting, participate in a tornado drill, and try not to get blown away by some fierce wind. We hear from a librarian, a hospital executive, a newspaper publisher, a principal, a tax preparer, and a retired city employee.
There is a lot of news to keep up with these days and it would be nice if someone explained what’s really important. Well, you’re in luck: there is a new episode of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project! For an explanation, check out the page here. Basically, you will be transported to a city or town where you (probably) have never been. You will hear from the locals about the things they like and the things they cannot stand.
So pack up your skis and put some hot chocolate in a thermos. Then head over to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 5: Vail, Colorado
Photo source: Town of Vail
Vail is about 100 miles west of Denver in Eagle County, Colorado. Most people know Vail as home to the most popular ski resort in the country. But there is actually a town of 5,300 people who work at, ski on, or vacation near the resort. The town is fairly new–only 51 years old. It is a fantastic place for people who love the outdoors. But it is fairly remote in the Rocky Mountains. And it is increasingly adversarial for people who work there to also live nearby. In this episode, we hear from a journalist, an events manager, a school board member, a house cleaner, and a rabbi.
It’s a tumultuous time, so it is important to get involved locally. We at the Chronicles are doing our part with the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project! For an explanation, check out the page here. If you like storytelling and municipal lore, I think you will enjoy hearing residents wrestle with the good and challenging parts of their city at the same time.
So get comfortable, imagine you’ve been teleported to the Midwest, and head over to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 4: Raymore, Missouri
Photo source: City of Raymore
Raymore is 25 miles south of Kansas City in Cass County, Missouri. The population is 20,000. It is largely a bedroom community for people working in the big city or in nearby Kansas. For a long time, Raymore was stagnant–hovering around 500 residents. But starting in the ’70s, the city grew up fast. It is largely white with a higher-than-average median income, and along the main highway are numerous retail and big box stores. Raymore also has had some interesting political twists and turns. In this episode, we hear from a librarian, a marketing analyst, a doctor, and a husband-and-wife pair that runs a newspaper.