Sock Puppets And Cupcakes

Mike Pesca was a reporter for Day to Day from the beginning. He covered sock puppets, cupcakes and the occasional piece of actual news. He's back with a quirky Pescian farewell to listeners and Day to Day staff.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen. And talk about a Day to Day original - Mike Pesca. He covered - well, he covered just about everything for this show, and he did with incredible flair. Pesca's back with these thoughts on wrapping things up.

MIKE PESCA: You ever notice how on "24," whenever Kiefer Sutherland tortures a guy, he gets usable intel? Yes, and Martha Little, my editor. Well, I was watching the program "The Shield," and the opposite happened. The torture didn't work. I think it was direct reaction to "24." That sounds interesting, says producer Chip Graybow. That phrase - that sounds interesting - was the unstated motto of Day to Day when I worked there. A reporter with an ill-defined beat - me - gets a notion, mentions it in a pitch meeting and is encouraged to follow through. The story makes air.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Shield")

Mr. MICHAEL CHICKLIS: (As Detective Vic Mackey) I'm going to get to the truth.

Unidentified Man #1: I didn't do it.

(Soundbite of Fresh Air with Terry Gross)

Unidentified Man #2: That's not the way torture actually works, and that method usually does not yield positive results.

PESCA: A few months later, I'm listening to Terry Gross on Fresh Air interview someone from a human rights group who is nominated that episode of "The Shield" for a media award. The human rights activist later tells me he heard the report - my report, our report - on Day to Day. Last week, a publicist called to offer an interview with the diet detective. I remember him, I say. We went undercover together to Crumbs Bakery to research cupcakes.

(Soundbite of report)

Charles Stuart Platkin (Founder, The Diet Detective): OK, we got blackout(ph), coconut Boston cream, wow. Do you have any whole wheat?

PESCA: No. To their credit, Crumbs does not have whole wheat. Because of that report on Day to Day, the publicist tells me, the diet detective got his own TV show. What I'm saying is that there is no better gauge of a radio show than the TV shows it inspires. OK, that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that for the five and three quarters years that Day to Day chased after that which was interesting, I was very happy to be the one dispatched to travel wherever the interesting took place - 26 states, by my count. The reporting was also far-flung conceptually. I opened 30 Pepsi bottles on air to prove the company had miscalculated contest odds. I interviewed a loaf of bread. I was encouraged to find unusual ways to examine the decline of the U.S. sock industry.

(Soundbite of interview)

Ms. SHARI LEWIS (Ventriloquist, Puppeteer): (As Lamb Chop) I'm not threatened.

PESCA: Lamb Chop is the world's most famous sock puppet.

Ms. LEWIS: (As Lamb Chop) I am quite confident in the ability of the U.S. sock to compete in the open market.

PESCA: This has been annus horribilis radiois(ph) for me. Many of my favorite radio programs, commercial and public, went away - from shows I worked on for awhile...

(Soundbite of the Bryant Park Project)

ALISON STEWART: This was the Bryant Park Project.

PESCA: To the program I grew up on as a sports-loving New Yorker.

(Soundbite of interview)

Unidentified Man: We've learned that "The Mike and The Mad Dog" program will be no more.

PESCA: The one Howard Stern replacement who was really hitting a stride was canceled.

(Soundbite of the Opie & Anthony radio program)

Unidentified Man: We're taking me off, and we're putting some Rihanna on and some Timberlake on and some Fergalicious on.

PESCA: Even this reassuring voice will be heard no more.

(Soundbite of radio show)

Mr. PAUL HARVEY (Syndicated Commentator): Paul Harvey. Good day.

PESCA: Of course, the end of Day to Day is the hardest hit, in many ways. My friends worked there. My NPR career started there. I got to interview a sock. In searching for advice on how to close it out, I thought back to a story I just covered in October, the World Series. Closer Brad Lidge was in the locker room, having just completed a perfect season: a save in every opportunity, including the save in the World Series. A few years ago, after Lidge gave up a big post-season home run, his career was considered ruined. But even when his statistics were among the worst in baseball, Lidge retained a Nietzschean outlook.

Mr. BRAD LIDGE (Baseball Player): If you really look at any great closer in this game, it seems like they've all gone through a situation, maybe not exactly like that, but something where they give up a home run in a big situation. It just kind of happens. And I think whatever doesn't kill you makes you better.

PESCA: Let's take our lesson on closing from the best closure in the game. Trust your stuff. Trust yourself. Don't be defined by your setbacks. Lidge could have let the story end with a ball sailing over his head for a home run. Instead, it ended in perfection. Baseball fans thrilled to the achievement; fans of human drama admire his perseverance; and we all listen because the story sounds interesting. For Day to Day, I'm Mike Pesca.

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