On Thursday night, I went to another “Listening Room” hosted by Third Coast International Audio festival at the Logan Theater in Logan Square. This was a special Listening Room since it was a conversation with Nate DiMeo of the memory palace. I’ve only heard Memory Palace once or twice before on 99% Invisible. Basically, it’s a podcast about true stories in history. But it’s really more than that. Nate DiMeo creates an entire world with each piece that you become part of. And it doesn’t matter what it’s about. He’s just that good of a storyteller.
The first story “Distance” that they played was about a young artist in the early 19th century. He receives a commission to paint Lafayette in DC so he left his pregnant wife. After several days of travel, he sits waiting for this important person, when he gets a knock at the door. When he answers, he finds an exhausted messenager who has a short message: “Your wife is convalescent.” The artist immediately gets on his horse, rides non-stop for several days. He arrives to find that not only has his wife passed away, she was buried during his time of travel. Heartbroken, he decides to invent something to prevent these things from happening again. So he invents the telegraph. This was Samuel Morse.
Another piece they played was “Picture a Box”. It’s one of the host’s favorite pieces on radio. It’s the incredible story of a slave who mailed himself to freedom. Go check it out because you have to listen to the story to do it justice. It’s not the story you think it is. It’s about the true meaning of freedom in a way that few think about it.
When the host asked about how much embellishment Nate DiMeo adds, he explained that he tried to stay away from playing fast and loose with the facts. He explained that his background as a journalist makes him want to focus only on what is known. And if he does take liberties, he bases it on fact so that he can defend the choice.
In addition to the memory palace, Nate DiMeo has been working on the miniseries about astronaut wives. So since he was spending a lot of time on the subject of space, he recently did a piece called “The Glowing Orbs.” It’s about John Glenn’s experience with glowing orbs as he orbited the earth. Out of nowhere, he finds himself surrounded by these beautiful orbs that reaffirms his faith in God. The piece is a beautiful meditation on belief. In the Q&A, Nate DiMeo explained that he’s more of an atheist but you had to think about other people’s beliefs seriously. However, he thinks that the beauty of the moment is even heightened when you do find out what the glowing orbs turn out to be.
My favorite piece of the evening was “Dreamland.” It’s about a Coney Island amusement park by the same name. Nate DiMeo creates this beautiful image of the park, describing all of the wonders it contained. You felt like you were there for a few minutes. Such powerful radio. He told us that his five year old daughter loves this piece and would go to sleep to it for awhile. It’s made her understand what her father does even for a moment.
And he apparently wrote some episodes and the book for Parks and Recreation. That’s just icing on the cake.
So I have a new podcast to check out. Huzzah! I love Listening Rooms.
That’s all for now!