“Because everything’s political nowadays, you know? Like, everyone. You gotta have your answers about where you stand on every issue just, at the ready. So I’d want to know.”
Dania stirred her tea slowly, considering Eleanor’s answer. “But why her?”
“Why not her?”
“I’m not saying she wouldn’t have an answer,” Dania continued, guardedly. “But of all the people to ask, it seems an odd choice.”
“I mean, don’t you want to know what Miley Cyrus thinks about cultural appropriation?”
“I’m certain she’s had enough people complain about her taking part in it,” Gwen warned. “She’s wouldn’t get caught off-guard by the topic.”
“Probably not,” Eleanor agreed. “But if that’s the scenario – ‘who do I want to have dinner with’ – I’m assuming it’s not as a reporter. Like, her thoughts would be off the record in our hypothetical dinner convo.”
“So I want to know,” Eleanor said. “We would eat fried foods and discuss race relations. That’s my answer.”
“You’re weird,” Dania smirked. “I’m meeting with Mark Zuckerberg’s wife, I’m talking about what she would do as First Lady when he becomes president.”
Gwen inhaled, evenly. “What would you eat?”
“I’d probably suggest some expensive place in wherever she lives,” Dania said, lost in thought. “Is she paying for it?”
“Let’s say yes.”
“The most expensive restaurant wherever she lives.”
“Don’t you think she gets a lot of questions about Mark’s ambitions?” Eleanor pressed. “Wouldn’t you want to discuss something new?”
“Well, I want to know what she thinks about it. Everyone keeps floating his name.” Dania sat up straighter. “If my husband was thinking about running for President, I’d damn well have some thoughts.”
“Maybe,” Eleanor said, slouching. “I just think it’s interesting to hear famous people talk about things that they’re not known for. I mean, they all think it. Have y’all ever listened to What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito?”
“What’s that?” Dania asked. “Who are they?”
“Aren’t they the hip-hop radio guys from the 80s?” Gwen asked.
“90s,” corrected Eleanor. “They have this new show on NPR, where they interview famous people about, I don’t know, everything? And they ask good questions and get really good answers. Often questions that those people don’t get asked a lot.”
“Hm,” Gwen murmured. She hadn’t noticed the podcast before, though she was an avid NPR fan. Had it slipped under the radar? “It’s new?”
“New as of the summer, I think?” Eleanor wondered. “It wrapped Season One in November, so it’s available to binge. Sixteen episodes.”
“Who’s on it?” Dania asked. “Like, people we know, or…”
“Chance the Rapper has an episode,” Eleanor began, and caught Dania raising an eyebrow. “Dave Chappelle, Stevie Wonder, that female Republican that people seem to like…”
“Ana Navarro?” Gwen said, perking up.
“Yeah, her,” Eleanor confirmed. “She talks about loving peanut butter and her childhood as an immigrant in New York.”
“I didn’t realize she was an immigrant,” Gwen mused, before looking up. “And she’s a Republican?”
“You’ll have to listen to it, she’s much better at describing it than I am,” Eleanor said. “They mention on the show that they don’t always agree with their guests, but ‘always hear them out,’ which is nice. I mean, they don’t always get into deep political conversations on the air, they stay to the periphery as much as they can. And, you know, sometimes they can’t.”
“I’ll have to look it up,” Gwen said. “Interviews aren’t really my style, but if you think it’d be good…”
“I think you’d really like it, Gwen,” Eleanor suggested. “You particularly. It feels like it fits you.”
“Well, then,” Gwen said, taking the mental note.
“Okay, next question,” Dania said, sitting forward. “If you could lose one of your senses – y’know, taste, smell, whatever – which one would you pick?”
– – – – –
Two weeks had passed when Eleanor received a text from Gwen:
Stretch/Bobbito are fantastic; José Parla is my favorite episode, close second is Chance.
Eleanor laughed – partly to hear that her suggestion hadn’t been for nought, but more out of the complete non-surprise that Gwen used a semicolon in a casual text.
“What’s funny?” Dania asked, trying to see the screen. “Show, show.”
“Gwen listened to the podcast,” Eleanor said, handing over the phone. “What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito.”
“Ah, gotcha,” Dania said. The phone buzzed again.
A moment passed, and Dania handed the phone back. “She’s not done.”
They ask such probing questions. It’s a great testament to how culture/music permeate the lives of people, even when they don’t directly interact with them.
“What does she mean?” Dania asked, as Eleanor pocketed the phone. “‘Even when they don’t directly interact with them?’ Like, where are the people who don’t directly interact with culture or music. People who grow up in basements?”
“I think she means people who don’t actively investigate their relationship with culture like she does,” Eleanor posited. “Like, music and culture have a strong influence on the way we’re raised, no matter what field we go into. Music or politics or cuisine or tattoo art or otherwise.”
“I guess,” Dania said. “I mean, you might as well say, ‘isn’t it interesting that famous people also do normal human things, too?'”
“I get where she’s coming from,” Eleanor said. Her phone buzzed a final time.
“There she is.”
“It’s like I was saying the other night about wanting to get dinner with Miley Cyrus and talk about anything besides music or Disney,” she continued. “There’s a level of transparency that you can’t really provide when you’re famous, it’s interesting to get this kind of insight.”
She checked the text:
They should bring in more female guests, but I appreciate that everyone is a P.O.C. Many good immigrant-to-riches stories here.
“What does she say now?” Dania asked.
“…she wants there to be more female guests in the next season,” Eleanor said, closing the phone.
“I’ll agree to that. It’s like, three? Maybe four?”
“Did you listen to it?”
“Some of them,” Dania admitted. “Just the people I was already interested in – Chance, Franchesca Ramsey, Run The Jewels, Stevie Wonder. Basically all the musicians plus Franchesca.”
“It’s good,” Dania began.
“What’s Good?” Eleanor said, leaping on the opportunity. She was met with a cold stare from Dania.
“Cease. She’s right, they ask good questions. And they let people talk forever there. Especially with Stevie Wonder, they just never shut him up.”
“Could you tell Stevie Wonder to stop talking?” Eleanor asked. “Why would you?”
“I don’t know, because they get way off-topic sometimes?” Dania continued. “Not a problem, mostly. But it feels kinda open, unpolished. Maybe that’s how their radio show was in the 80s.”
“I mean, you’re not wrong,” Eleanor said. “I think with any show that focuses on interviews, you’re gonna get a variety of how interesting the guests are. I can’t remember much from the Eddie Huang episode – not that he’s bad, I just remember less of it. But when they get a guest who knows how to talk well, it’s lit. Chance the Rapper is good at that. Linda Sarsour is concise – listen to her episode, there’s no dead weight.”
“What’s she do?”
“Activist. I think that’s her job description. She’s also an educator, but I forget if they mentioned where.”
“Everyone’s an activist today,” Dania mused.
“Sign of the times, I suppose,” Eleanor shrugged.
Dania remained silent, and crossed her legs. The two were sitting on the porch outside their apartment building, the weather providing a brief respite from the biting January chill. Quietly, Dania awaited the coming summer, when the three of them could sit on the porch and watch the sun go down – just a cigarette and an indie folk song short of being in a YA novel, she thought.
“Y’know, I’ve been thinking about what you said,” Dania spoke up. “About not knowing what celebs think about every issue.”
“Yeah?” Eleanor said.
Another pause faded into the air.
“I’ve just been thinking about it, that’s all,” Dania shuttered.
Eleanor glanced at her friend. “Okay, but what have you been thinking about it?”
“I don’t know, it’s like…” Dania began. She stared out, thinking of the right words. “Gwen would be better at phrasing.”
Eleanor exhaled a laugh. “I don’t know.”
“Well, you know, we’ve got Twitter, right?” Dania continued. “So you do kinda get a glimpse into everyone’s life. Like, we know they’re human now. Even if we don’t know everything about them.”
“Yeah?” Eleanor said, encouragingly.
“It’s sorta like ––”
Dania trailed off, trying to figure out what she meant. Something in the podcast had stuck with her, and she’d been trying to identify what it was. Something in the declarative way each guest listed their opinions, alongside Bobbito and Stretch’s interjections to clarify but generally agree with them. It certainly wasn’t attempting to pander to any larger audience, seemingly confident in the niche overlap of NPR and 90s hip-hop enthusiasts.
“I suppose it’s not ‘for me,’ whatever that means,” Dania wondered. “But, like, I wouldn’t know who it’s for, specifically.”
“People who like podcasts,” Eleanor suggested. “Are you a podcast person?”
“I’m a hip-hop person,” Dania said. “I like the half where they listen to old records, a lot.”
“I do, too. You get to see a lot of personality then.”
That’s it, thought Dania. Personality was the draw. So perhaps, what stuck was the similarity of the personalities on display. Navarro, as the conservative voice, was probably the outlier – though Dania had listened to her episode too, and found little but the peanut butter story that stood out.
“I wonder if they’d ever interview Miley Cyrus on the show,” Dania suddenly voiced. She looked to Eleanor. “So you could get your dinner conversation in a way.”
“Huh,” Eleanor said, pleased that Dania had remembered. “What would they talk about?”
“Whatever they asked her questions about, probably.”
“But what would they ask?” Eleanor wondered. “Her time at Disney? Her upcoming projects? That naked photoshoot she did?”
Dania looked at the horizon, trying to picture the sun falling behind it. “Hopefully all of that,” she finally responded.
“She’s white, though.”
Image Credit: NPR