By Emily Erickson
There are some instances in which I’m forced to stare at my “Millennial-ness” in the face: the avocado toast-, nitro cold brew-loving monster living inside of me sporadically breaking out of her cage and running rampant in the world. One instance of confronting my Millennial identity comes when impulsively injecting the following sentence into random conversations: “Oh, wow! I just learned about that [obscure topic] while listening to [random] podcast.”
I love learning, but more than that, I love being forced into the all-consuming thought and contemplation that effective storytelling affords. Podcasts are vessels for such learning and, when done well, present knowledge in completely unique and absorbing ways. Because they’re mobile, a good podcast can transform a 30-minute car ride into a classroom led by a teacher who dedicated her entire life to uncovering the history of colored textiles or spent a year walking alone across the Alaska wilderness.
By way of living up to my column’s tagline — “a column by and about Millennials” — and to appease the Millennial monster inside of me, I have to tell you about one of my new favorite podcasts (cue contented purs from my monster’s cage). It’s “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” by John Green and it’s magic.
A New York Times bestselling author responsible for such titles as, “A Fault in Our Stars” and “Looking for Alaska,” Green brings his novelist experience to bear in his spoken word work. In addition to transcendent eloquence, his subject matter in “The Anthropocene Reviewed” is funny, engaging and different than anything I’ve ever heard. He takes various facets of the human-centered planet, as in the episode “Scratch ’n’ Sniff Stickers and the Indianapolis 500,” and rates them on a 5-star scale, à la Yelp.
Rather than simply transcribing one of his masterpieces, I’ll do my best impression of “The Anthropocene Reviewed” and evaluate two parts of the human-centered planet as they relate to my life in Sandpoint, Idaho. I’ll call this episode, “Yard Work and the Stoplight at the Intersection of Highway 2 and Church Street.”
Yard work is an ambiguous set of tasks that encompass everything from operating heavy machinery to hand-plucking rogue blades of grass to absentmindedly shearing hedges between gulps of beer. Additionally, people approach yard work with varying levels of intensity, dutifully manicuring lawns with obsessive detail or passive affection, like raking up the fallen leaves once a year in the fall.
Yard work, and my response to it, has always been circumstantial. I will never be somebody who cares if the space between the grass and the tree is edged in a perfect line, so tedious, aesthetic-driven yard work elicits my disdain. I can’t help but roll my eyes at tasks like shrub pruning or mulch weeding. On the other hand, I love the opportunity to take an overrun, uninhabitable space, and through physical labor and creativity make it somewhere enjoyable to be.
Give me a sunny day, a yard full of fallen sticks, an arsenal of saws, a pair of good work gloves and a sturdy metal rake, and watch me come alive. I give Yard Work 3.5 stars.
Next up for review is the Stoplight at the Intersection of Highway 2 and Church Street. You know the one: south of the Pie Hut and necessary to navigate if you’re heading west from the post office to Evans Brothers Coffee. This stoplight is the middle-school crush of traffic control, rarely living up to our expectations for its behavior. As if out of spite, it prompts cars to pile up in the behind the red light on Church while the green light on Highway 2 stretches minutes into days. It changes colors with seeming intentionality — acting out when you’re in a hurry and in desperate need of coffee or, if there is literally no traffic at all, merely flaunting its power because it can.
But like Jordan, my acne-covered middle-school crush, when the stoplight’s behavior works suddenly in your favor, lighting up green just as your tires touch the highway or only flashing yellow once you’re already in the intersection, it’s nearly euphoric. It’s like the stars have aligned, just for your commute.
Because of this starvation-based reward system, I give the Highway 2 and Church Street Stoplight a 2-star rating.
Finally, to the Sandpoint Reader and the community that allows me to air my silly thoughts, obscure musings and big ideas on a bi-weekly basis, I give you 5 grateful stars.
Emily Erickson is a freelance writer and bartender originally from Wisconsin, with a degree in sociology and an affinity for playing in the mountains.
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