Yard Tales podcast

Yard Tales

Icy Grape

We tell tales of the train and bus yard, the tenement yard and the prison yard. We detail close calls and chase stories. We dig into larger conversations about crossing boundaries, the other side of the tracks, borders, and forbidden space. Whether to make big life changes, to forward the artistic or professional practice, to escape peril—or just for the sheer thrill of it. With first-person storytellers including trans-disciplinary artist Lupe Maravilla, musician/producer Scott Harding ("Scotty Hard"), drug-user activist and award-winning radio documentarian Garth Mullins (from the Crackdown podcast), graffiti artist and fashion designer Claudia Gold ("Claw Money"), pioneering painter and graffiti artist Chris "Freedom" Pape, and many more.

13 Episodes

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    Ryan McMahon: John Wayne Is Dead


    Ryan McMahon; groundbreaking Anishinaabe comedian, writer, producer, and creator of compelling media confronts the borders he has faced throughout his entire career. Borders that he was able to kick down in an effort to create a new space for a new narrative about Indigenous presence in today's popular culture as we know it.
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    Airto Morales: Behind The Wall


    Multigenerational trauma and a life of violence led to many of Airto Morales' early years being incarcerated, ultimately landing him with a long prison sentence. But even after getting out from behind the wall, Airto never did leave the prison system. Airto is now an advocate and consultant at the Haywood Burns Institute in Oakland, where he continues to work with community to abolish carceral systems across the nation, targeting structural racism and supplanting it with structural wellbeing."I had another nightmare last night that I was back in captivity. The longer I have been in the community, the more it hurts as I can feel the roots being torn and reassessed from a captives perspective each time I have this nightmare. This time the panic was heavy. It hurt for my soul to feel that heaviness again. Even more so, I thought of how my family and little ones would have to renegotiate space without me.The nightmare that I usually have is that I am stuck in prison with a date for release that keeps getting forgotten and no one has answers. So I'm stuck in a perpetual hell of not knowing if I am, or can get out. A fate meted out to thousands of sisters and brothers behind the wall every day in determining sentences with a term to life.This time, the nightmare shifted a bit though. I've managed to escape from the pressure cooker, but I was now a fugitive on the run. Another sort of treacherous feeling that still leaves one disconnected and with high blood pressure. I felt the stress within a nightmare of being chased and hunted down and of the threat of potentially being killed because in prison, there are no warning shots fired.These feelings are meted out every day to sisters and brothers in the killing field we know as the urban cities, across A-night-merica, a death sentence prior to trial at the hands of police or minute men or insane people who just feel that they have the right to take a life because of the color of a person's skin.As this nightmare was ending, I sat in the darkness on a mountain behind the prison, wrapped in a prison blanket, overlooking the escape route. I could hear dogs barking and sniffing for my scent, and I could hear the voices of my captors getting closer as I was thinking of my next move. I loved the idea of the freedom that I had, but I had to reckon with the fact that as long as the place called prison or jail exists in our world, my nightmare could be your reality one day. Or the reality of our children, and that hurt.The fact that places like these even exist, almost certainly justifies the logic and thusly the laws to fill them up by any means necessary, and this logic is meted out as a threat and a coercion to every human being on the planet. As the default, I think we can conceive of a better world, but until then I think the nightmare and the reality are eerily one of the same.What's our escape route?"
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    Chris Pape: Freedom Tunnel


    First generation NYC graffiti writer, author, documentarian, archivist, and historian Chris Pape, AKA FREEDOM, tells his own surreptitious stories around the Upper West Side Manhattan train tunnel that was ultimately named after him. His decision to live on the streets and paint in the "Freedom" tunnel propelled him toward a career that he never could have imagined."So, what we did was we kind of herded along some of the tougher guys on our block. We had a lower income housing thing next to right next to where we lived and we got those guys and we went down there, we went into the bathroom and sure enough, just as it was told, there was a plank of wood there and there was a blown out hole in it.And you slide down to this embankment that, you know, it's just dirt and rats and stuff like that. And then you'd have like a six foot drop down to the train tracks eventually. And then there, they were five tracks across and freight trains and stuff like that. It was exhilarating. So we did that. We bought spray paint with us cause we were just getting into our graffiti thing.And this was a much, it just seemed like a much safer place to write than actually going to a real train yard where real kids could rob you and stuff like that.We actually did try and open some of the freights and there was nothing in them. They were just empty. One time we open them and there were some boxes and we're all, “Boxes! We've got boxes!”  You know, this is so great and there were cans of Carnation instant milk, aluminum cans of Carnation milk, kind of like soup cans.And so we had a battle of those. We would throw them at each other because that's, which weren’t the swiftest bunch, and they would hit the wall though and crack open and just go, “Plssssh!” This white powder everywhere.Then the next time we went down in there, somebody fired a shot at us. So there was a track security guy who had a salt gun, and we had been warned of this, and he fired it at us. I fell, I hurt my knee, and then that kind of turned into the story that I got shot with a salt gun, which wasn't really true. But it was a great story, you know, when you're 14, so yeah, I got shot.You know, but yeah, they dragged me out. We got home, cleaned the whole thing up, and then we never went down there again."
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    Claw Money: Key To The City


    World renowned graffiti writer, fashion designer, and cultural icon Claw Money recounts the many borders she had to cross in order to land in the space that she calls Claw & Co. When life puts a fence in your way, you climb it. When it puts a second one, you rip your pants.
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    Bennington: Ghost Stories


    Bennington alumni spanning four generations come together to share first person paranormal experiences and encounters they had on the small campus in Southern Vermont. As the stories unfold, striking parallels are drawn that prompt deep questions about space, who owns it, and who is not welcome to occupy it.Alex Pintair:When we first got to Bennington, it seemed like there was a bit of an indoctrination that would happen between the upperclassmen and the new kids where they would sort of say, all right, so this is where you are now. This is our space, you know, there's a ghost in Jennings and there's catacombs under VAPA.And there's all this stuff happening around here and, you know, welcome.Kate:Oh, well. It's crazy here because it's the place where the Four Winds meet.Melinda Castriatta Avellino:The end of the world was the Native American burial ground where the Four Winds met. They buried Native Americans that had mental issues that where the Four Winds met that was sort of like the story that went around.Kate:Oh, you know, when you're a first-year student there and you start hearing these stories, you're like, oh, well, that makes sense.Maddy Wood:But I have heard about the Four Winds. It was one of those things where I heard about it so much that I could swear that I was like experiencing it once when it was like standing in the middle of the lawn when it was really windy freshman year. I definitely believed that.Kate:And the place where the Four Winds meet, of course, we have this collective insanity, this collective mood that strikes us.Lisa Sciandra:But that may have just been a story people told to make it seem scarier.Raven:Yeah. I'd be interested to know actually the whole history of what happened. The Native Americans in that area, I mean, was Bennington really built on top of a burial ground? Is that real or is that just like white people, like, you know, making stories? Luz Fleming:Yeah, I always assumed those were campfire stories and I wasn't able to dig up much credible information one way or another on that one.I've recently been in touch with Vermont folklorist and Bennington alum, Andy Kolovos, and he wrote, “It is very much a white colonial kind of narrative. One that combines things like guilt with romanticism to generate a narrative that explains why things happen to white people. So I have not done any real inquiry into those stories about Bennington College. I treat them more like Bennington College, folklore tradition, rather than anything tied to the history of the land, or even the broader folklore of Vermont. This is not to invalidate the notion of an insular folklore among students at the college. That's real and cool.”Okay. So it may or may not be true, but there is absolutely no question that the Bennington campus possesses some extremely intense energy and I'm not here to prove or disprove any of the lore.I just want to hear people's firsthand experiences, and so let's hear from someone who swears he saw a being named Goat Boy, who has always been associated with the Four Winds and the Native American burial ground.Alex Pintair:My name's Alex Pintair. I started at Bennington in 1992. The first time I saw Goat Boy was probably mid September. And there was some sort of a party. It might have actually have been a birthday party for me. I think my mom sent down a cake or something and we're all hanging out. And at some point a friend of mine and I just decided to step outside, get some air. We had walked towards the center green and we were just sort of talking and kind of walking slowly along and then we were just standing there. And it was one of those fall nights where it was cloudy and a little bit chilly and there was, breeze, there was always breezes going through there. And as we're standing there, it almost seemed like if you can imagine fog that just sort of gets a little bit more solid.And over across the green up against one of the other dorms, it was almost like a patch of fog started to coalesce and get a little bit more solid. As it happened I nudge my friend and was like, “Are you seeing that?” And he thought he could, but he wasn't sure. And my dad had taught me when I was a kid that when it's nighttime and it's dark out, you can always see things better if you look just to the side of them.Something about the rods and cones in your eyes, get tired during the day, so at night, your peripheral vision can be a little stronger. And so I told my friend to do that and then he could see it. And as we're kind of watching this thing it sort of slowly sort of forms that were looking at this skinny pale white body of what you would think of as a ten-year-old boy, essentially.And then the head was the skull of a goat. These big black cavernous eyes, you know, this pale skinny boy body, it was kind of hopping from one foot to the other back and forth, but in a way where it was so slow, it like stayed up in the air longer than would be humanly possible.And he had something, holding something in each hand sort of stick shape, but I don't, I don't know what it was. And we stood there and just watched this happening for a minute or so, and in shock and silence. And then I remember I said something like, “Are you seeing this?” And he's like, “Yeah!” And then I broke eye contact essentially, when we looked back it was gone.So, of course, you know, we start walking across the green to like, see what's going on and we get closer and closer to it. There's nothing there. And we're just standing there sort of in the center of the green and looking around. And then I see something moving down at the edge of the green down where the edge of the world is there.And it's, it's the same thing. It's like this fog just becomes a little bit more dense and suddenly there he was, and he's just slowly dancing back and forth. And my friend sees it as well. And we start walking again, down the green now towards the edge of the world and the closer we get, it just goes away and it's not like I saw it disappear.It's just like, maybe I looked away, maybe I blinked. I don’t know, it was just gone. So then we get to the edge of the world. And if you remember that there was like a little Stonewall and it stopped being flat and it dipped down downhill and there was these fields and over on the left was this grove of pine trees.And again, same thing and there is, and these sort of slowly dancing back and forth. And that's when I kind of got shivers. It had seemed all almost exciting when we had seen them the first time. And then the thought crossed my mind, you know, it's, it's leading us somewhere and I don't think I want to go where it's leading us.Right where he was dancing down by those pine trees there's actually an old graveyard down there. So I was like, “Yeah, we should, we got to stop. We're not going down there.” And he's like, “Yeah, I agree.” And we went back, you know, back to the party. And we're a little bit freaked out. And I remember talking to, I think his name was Jason, who was the upperclassmen, and we told them what we saw and he's like, oh, you saw Goat Boy.And we're like, “What is up with that?” And he said, “Well, the story goes that back when this was when the land that Bennington College now sat on was Native American land, they said that the Four Winds met right in the commons area. And they said that because of that, the land was cursed. And so whenever there was someone in the tribe who, you know, had gone insane or had killed someone or had done something evil, they would bury them there on the cursed land.”And so apparently Goat Boy was the specter or the ghost of someone that had been buried there.
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    Scotty Hard: The Hard Way


    Sometimes we cross a line that we never ask to cross. Join us as luminary musician, producer, and mixing engineer Scotty Hard details an evening that changed his life permanently. "When I was mixing the show and I was like, dubbing out all the vocals and doing all this stuff and I'm moving back and forth and I'm in the music and I'm like, I completely at that point forgot that I had been in an accident, I was in a wheelchair and that's the sort of power of music and that's why I keep doing it.And that's why I do do it because, you know, I was, I don't believe I was given a gift or anything like that cause I worked my ass off to learn how to do this shit, but it's my passion. And it's something that means something to me and that's what I do. I work with people and I make music and I can't do it as many hours of the day as I used to.But I mean, when you used to work 80 hours a week in the studio, battering your ears and liver, it's not a bad idea to slow down a bit. And I've had to learn how to do things a lot faster. I've developed a lot of techniques and just a lot of work habits to allow me to continue to work and, and, and not have to work those hours.Plus, you know, digital recording and stuff makes it a lot easier and more streamlined to do things. It can also be a fucking albatross, but in general, it's been a, I think, a good development and for me as a disabled person and not having to work behind a 72 input console makes life a lot easier as well.Yep. Continue to work, continue to do it. I got to, man. That's my legacy. My, my passion is what I bring to the world. So if I wasn't doing that and I guess I'd be just be drinking beer at three o'clock every day of the week, instead of just today."
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    Bonus: Presenting "Crackdown"


    A special bonus episode in your Yard Tales feed. Last week we were lucky enough to hear Garth Mullins tell his incredibly personal tales of having to navigate forbidden space. We heard about his trajectory towards activism, reporting, and radio documentary work. We also got to hear about the birth of his podcast, "Crackdown."So today I'm bringing you Episode 1 of "Crackdown." It's such a well-made and important show that I wanted to give Yard Tales listeners a chance to hear it. The combination of first-person storytelling and in-depth reporting make for an extremely compelling show. My own prospective on drug use, addiction, and policy has shifted significantly from listening to "Crackdown."When you're done listening, make sure and search for Crackdown wherever you listen to podcasts and follow the show in its own feed. So please enjoy Episode 1 of "Crackdown."
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    Garth Mullins: A Ghost In My Own Life


    Garth Mullins is a journalist and radio documentary producer who focuses on the decriminalization of drugs, issues of race, class, environment, capitalism, colonialism, and oppression. Garth has written for the Vancouver Sun, Georgia Straight, and Vice. His documentaries have appeared on CBC Radio One, he has spoken publicly at countless schools, protests, conferences, and media outlets, and holds multiple awards for his work. Garth is a drug use activist who has worked with organizers to campaign for a safe and legal drug supply, which in turn could completely eliminate the overdose crisis as we know it."You know, I scored and used drugs on the downtown east side, when there was really strong, dope, and there was lots of overdoses and people were dying. And they, even the health board here declared it an emergency in the city, like, so I've lived through an overdose emergency before, and I saw these posts and I heard these two guys that I kind of knew of who used to hang around there and both died off the same batch."And there was a siren somewhere and I got this feeling like in my stomach and in my feet, like this really deep sense of déjà vu, you know, it's like in the matrix where the black cat walks past you and you know the program's glitching and I'm like, “This is going to happen again. This is happening again.There's an overdose crisis. There's a, this whole thing is going to happen again.” And I, and then I thought I can't sit out.You know, I want to be with the people who are pushing back, the people at the Vancouver area network of drug users. This is a union for drug users that people organized in the late 90s or starting then anyway.And there's the people there that I've learned so much from and work with, like Laura Shaver, she's a, you know, a methadone activist, but also a really, for decriminalization and a safe supply of drugs and all that. And me and her have worked on a bunch of campaigns now, and lost friends together.But then, back then I went to VANDU and just met her and, Laura is the person who taught me really how to talk about being a drug user. How to say this stuff and not be ashamed, you know, to look people in the eye and just say, this is who I am and just deal with it. I really learned a lot of that from her and, yeah, I felt like I couldn't sit out of this one, you know, because it's not right. It’s not right to sit out."Produced, directed, reported, edited, and sound designed by Luz Fleming. Production Assistant: Davis Lloyd. Executive Producer: Jacob Bronstein. Music by Luz Fleming, Garth Mullins, and James Ash. Theme Music: Andy Cotton & Luz Fleming. Art & Design: Andy Outis.Find more information on this episode including related images visit: yardtales.live/home/garthmullins© 2021 Icy Grape. Questions, comments, yard tales? Email: [email protected]
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    Susan Tran: Canada Is Racist


    Susan Tran is a Vietnamese Canadian who was kidnapped from her mother in Vietnam at the age of two. But she never knew that she even had a mother because her abductor was her own father, intent on keeping her abduction a secret. After immigrating to Canada, Susan discovered that her mother’s strength and resilience was the foundation for her own self empowerment. Which now allows her to fully embrace her own family and culture, and also empowers her to confront Canada’s special brand of deep seated racism head on without reservation.FROM THE EPISODE:  During that time my dad actually tried to escape Vietnam twice without us and he was going to leave us behind. And he got caught twice and got sent back. The third time, this is when my mom kind of had it, right, and she had taken me back and my dad being the proud Vietnamese man he was was just not going to have it. So he, uh, I was playing in the backyard and he kidnapped me from the backyard.I was two and a half. My dad really wanted to stick it to my mom and that’s the reason why he kidnapped me. Because he could not fathom a woman telling him what he could do. I absolutely remember none of it and I have a pretty good memory. I can remember as far back vividly as age 5, but anything before that. sometimes I have to wonder if it was so traumatic that I somehow locked that away. And my mom has all these wonderful memories of me when I was a child and I can’t remember a thing.I actually came here with nine of my uncles. It was eight of my uncles and two friends, but we’re Vietnamese. Everyone is your uncle. Everyone is your aunt. I am pretty sure that they had couriers during this time to bring people along, you know, agents who’d say, “Hey I got a way to get you out of Vietnam, right, you just have to pay me this and I’ll get you across” but you know everyone knows that’s a gamble.I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the scene where there’s a helicopter coming down on the embassy and everyone is trying to get on that plane? That was it. That was the last time, right, anything after you’re on your own.And we had to crawl through, like, open sewers and the jungle, and like this is all things that my dad had told me and it was not a short short trip. You’re eating bugs, trying to stay alive, trying to escape, trying to get to the water. Where we got on a boat and we floated with a bunch of other people. Really not knowing where you’re floating. And you know, these aren’t boats that are modern by any sense. Sometimes they’re rafts, right and there is, you know, a hundred people on them and there’s no food cause we can’t carry any food hardly with us. So you’ve got people that are dying around you and they’re sick, right, there’s not much. You have to make some hard decisions.And thankfully we got to Thailand and we’re admitted to a refugee camp there. I believe that was in July of 1981 and we were there for two months and anybody who’s ever been in a refugee camp can tell you it’s the worst place possible. It’s not even roughing it, there’s nothing, and there’s nothing to go around because there’s so many people there.What you do in the refugee camps is they go around, they say ok where would you like to go and my dad said he would really like to go to Japan but Japan was I think something like six months away and that’s a maybe if they’re going to take you. But they’re like we have a plane that’s leaving in two weeks and it’s going to Canada.They gave my dad two choices: Prince Rupert or Vancouver, and I’m very thankful he chose Vancouver. I think my life would be completely different otherwise.  [END EPISODE TRANSCRIPT]Produced, directed, reported, edited, and sound designed by Luz Fleming. Production Assistant: Davis Lloyd. Executive Producer: Jacob Bronstein. Music by Luz Fleming and James Ash. Theme Music: Andy Cotton & Luz Fleming. Art & Design: Andy Outis.Find more information on this episode including related images visit: yardtales.live/home/susan© 2021 Icy Grape. Questions, comments, yard tales? Email: [email protected]
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    Lupe Maravilla: Tripa Chuca


    Renowned transdisciplinary artist Guadalupe Maravilla was among the first wave of undocumented immigrants to enter the US from Central America when he immigrated alone from El Salvador at the age of 8. In this audio narrative, Maravilla sensitively recounts harrowing tales of traumas experienced during the events leading up to and including his border crossings and how they later evolved into an illness he uncovered through experimentation with “ancient medicines” — eventually getting diagnosed with and then overcoming stage 3B colon cancer. Maravilla has seemingly spent his life crossing borders and entering forbidden spaces of different kinds and in this episode, he incisively recounts the tale of a dramatic journey traveled with intent and intensity.FROM THE EPISODE: There's a man that claims to be some sort of curandero, which is like a shaman figure. And he has ayahuasca and I said, okay, I'll try it...So I take the ayahuasca. 40 minutes passed by. Nothing happens to me.The guy next to me is vomiting, the other person next to me is crying. Someone else looks like they're levitating. And I'm just like, fuck, I don't feel anything. I had done so much research about this that I was like, "I'm one of those people that is not meant to see anything today because I'm not ready. I'm not spiritually connected and not spiritually ready for what it's offering me. I'm just one of these people." ...And I have a sense of anxiety because I'm not seeing anything. Everyone's having an experience. But then I was like, "Oh, my stomach hurts." So I go to the bathroom, I pull my pants down, I sit on the toilet and I'm like, "Well, I gotta take a shit."Wait, I'm not taking a shit. I'm sitting in the toilet. And I look through my legs and I see so much light. It feels like when you're on the highway and someone's blasting their headlights. These giant lights and it's coming out of the toilet and I'm like, "What is this light coming out of the toilet? It's coming out of my ass."And then I started to have like 10,000 orgasms. I fall off the toilet, my pants are rolled down, belt's unbuckled, and light is streaming across the floor horizontally because I'm laying on the floor and I try to get up. And it's just like this light and orgasms.The curandera, who was this shaman, he's knocking on the door, "Are you OK in there? Are you OK?""I'm more than OK, leave me alone. I'm having 10,000 orgasms." Water's coming out of my eyes, water's coming out of my mouth, my ears, everywhere. I'm just kind of exploding, having this gigantic orgasm...So afterwards I was like, what happened to me in the bathroom? ...[The shaman] said to me, "That's the first time you did ayahuasca and the ayahuasca was trying to cleanse your stomach because you have a problem in your stomach."I went to Woodhall Hospital and got a colonoscopy done, and they found that I had stage three B colon cancer. And if it was a couple months away, it would have gone to stage four, which is terminal. So that is how I found that had cancer...It was obviously clear that the cancer came because of my trauma. And the trauma that I had of being separated from my parents and the war, and crossing in Tijuana, and that girl that was raped and seeing all of this...all that trauma was all there. And I held it in my stomach for so long and eventually it developed into a tumor that almost killed me. [END EPISODE TRANSCRIPT]Maravilla is raising individual donations for undocumented families who have been denied federal stimulus funds. Donate directly through Venmo: @Lupe-Maravilla. Learn more at guadalupemaravilla.com.Produced, directed, reported, edited, and sound designed by Luz Fleming. Production Assistant: Davis Lloyd. Executive Producer: Jacob Bronstein. Music by Luz Fleming and James Ash. Theme Music: Andy Cotton & Luz Fleming. Art & Design: Andy Outis.Find more information on this episode including related images visit: yardtales.live/episodes/tripa-chuca© 2021 Icy Grape. Questions, comments, yard tales? Email: [email protected]

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