Behind the Curtain at TMM

An Adventurous Start in NYC

TMM in Brooklyn, NY

hide caption TMM producer Monika Evstatieva (left) records as Michel Martin (middle) interviews her childhood friend Leslie Groves (right) on Berriman St. in Brooklyn, NY.

Aaron Showalter
TMM and Lin-Manuel Miranda

hide caption Michel Martin looks on as Tony Award-winning playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda plays a video game at his Upper West Side apartment in New York.

Jennifer Longmire, NPR

There's a stranger in the house. It's Marie Nelson, here, also known as the Wizard of TMM. I typically like to stay behind the scenes, but today I am responding to our web producer's desperate plea for an "on the road" blog entry.

We are broadcasting this week from the Big Apple in honor of TMM's launch on WNYC, the NPR member station in New York. We arrived in the city over the weekend, just in time for the gay pride parade and a series of flash rain storms. Let me tell you, this is a producer's worst nightmare. Our car couldn't make its way through the parade route to pick us up and as we waited outside the skies opened up, sending us running for cover into a friendly retail establishment. Quite frankly, I would have loved the opportunity for an authentic New York shop op but was shamed into action by TMM producer Monika Evstatieva, who braved the storm to track down our car.

We suffered through the deadly combination of wet sticky clothing and overly efficient air conditioning as we slowly made our way to Brooklyn for our first field taping.

Did I mention the driver with an off sense of direction, who ended every other sentence with "thanks be to God"?

And then our fortunes changed. Michel's visit to her old neighborhood in East New York was truly special. It was both a homecoming and a reunion with her childhood friend Leslie Groves. A driveway moment if I say so myself, and I do.

We followed up the trip to the BK (that's Brooklyn if you're in the know ... lol) with a stop back in Manhattan to talk with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the Broadway hit musical In the Heights. Miranda, who had just returned from a matinee performance, greeted us at the door in his crew socks, and played video games while we set up for the interview. He's a great talent who seems unaffected by his success. He was kind enough to show us the presentation envelope he got for his recent Tony win (he's still waiting for the real deal to arrive from the engravers). It's another great conversation if for no other reason than it's awesome to hear someone who talks as fast as Michel.

Finally, we took a quick trip to the balmy New York bureau (that's code for no air conditioning) to file tape, edit scripts, put out calls for Desmond Tutu (we want to talk to him about the situation in Zimbabwe), write a commentary ... and so on. Life on the road is certainly not glamorous — it is often fraught with peril — but it just goes to show how much we love what we do.

Besides, you know what they say. If I can make it there; I'll make it anywhere.

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Congrats on getting picked up by WNYC!

When today's episode ended, I was thinking about the song "Neighborhood" from the music review Smokey Joe's Cafe. In it the singers think back to their childhoods and wonder what has happened to the kids they grew up with. Even though I saw this about four years ago when I was still in college at BYU, this song still has a powerful effect on me since I sometimes think about what the kids whom I knew are up to.

Interestingly, I can track many of my friends through Facebook. Unfortunately, I'm not in contact with many of my friends in Salt Lake City whom I knew up until 5th grade. However, I'm in touch with some from that time through 10th grade who were Houston with me and even more of those who I knew in Philly through my freshman year at Penn State . Clearly, I'm "friends" with many of my BYU buddies on Facebook since the site really took off shortly after I graduated. This makes me wonder if the song "Neighborhood" will affect kids who have grown up with sites like Facebook as much as it does for me.

Have fun up there in The Big Apple!

Sent by Steve Petersen | 6:44 PM | 6-30-2008

I am really far behind on my NPR listening... so instead of just adding all stories, I had to pick and choose. I almost didn't choose your story about going back to Brooklyn.

I am so glad that I thought better of it and added it to my player.

Your conversation with your friend about going away from home and your tenuous tethers back was fantastic!

Thank you for always digging deep and being willing to share it with us, your faithful listeners.

Sent by Anna | 2:36 PM | 7-1-2008

WNYC finally did the right thing. Basically it's the Starbucks of public radio--you're glad for all the coffee and everything, but you feel vaguely uneasy in that McDonald's sort of way.

The show Monday was very special--I think TMM is really coming into its own.

Sent by Steve Thompson | 12:25 PM | 7-2-2008

I loved the program. I also grew up in a three family with relatives living on each floor in New Jersey. My parents were also immigrants from the South. In my case South Carolina. Our radio was also set to WNEW by my mother and listening to William B. Williams.

Love your show, it is a breath of fresh air.

Sent by Brenda J | 10:53 PM | 7-7-2008

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