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LIANE HANSEN, host:

During President Obama's first 100 days, NPR's David Greene is on the road to chat with Americans about the recession. It's a broad assignment - go out, meet people, find stories about the economy. David describes his strategy in this Reporter's Notebook.

DAVID GREENE: The first day of this road trip, I was on a small plane landing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and the woman sitting next to me started talking about the economy. I wanted her on tape. So as soon as the seatbelt sign went off, I went in the overhead bin and yanked out my recorder.

(Soundbite of airplane)

GREENE: Just talk to me about the airplane. Tell me where…

Ms. JOANNE UMBRASAS: Okay. We've just landed at the Chippewa County International Airport in Kinross, Michigan.

GREENE: Joanne Umbrasas kindly repeated what she told me during the flight. How she was just in Chicago after at a summit focusing on the recession and public housing programs.

Ms. UMBRASAS: You know, one of the things we always laugh about up here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, of course, is that we're economically depressed all the time, so we didn't know there was a problem.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: She was great to talk to.

(Soundbite of airport)

GREENE: Thank you so much.

Ms. UMBRASAS: Well, thank you.

GREENE: It was so nice to meet you. I'm so happy they adjusted our seats, and I got to sit next to you on the plane.

Ms. UMBRASAS: Isn't that fun?

GREENE: This got me thinking: I'm out here with this broad goal of examining the recession, but it's touched so many people. A good story could pop up anywhere. How do I decide who to record? Well, my solution has been to record as many people as possible. This means I've collected more sound than on any assignment ever.

Hi, I'm a radio reporter and I'm doing stories about the economy. Do you mind just telling me one more time what happened to…

Unidentified Man #1: Lost business. Didn't really have…

GREENE: I'm doing a road trip across the country, can you tell me a little bit about the company real quick?

Unidentified Woman: I can give you…

GREENE: It's funny, we're talking to people around the whole country, I mean, musicians, everybody, about the economy. Have you guys felt it at all? Like…

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, the crowd sometimes is not as good…

GREENE: I have hours of audio filling up the memory on my laptop. Not every interview is a blockbuster, but not once did I regret walking up to someone and sticking out my microphone.

Don't mind this. I'm David.

Mr. GEORGE BEIRO: George.

GREENE: George, nice to meet you. I'm just curious, how's the economy been around here?

I caught George Beiro outside a Cuban restaurant in Tampa. He said he hasn't felt the recession personally, and our conversation might not find its way into one of my stories on the economy. But meeting him was a pleasure.

Mr. BEIRO: Here's where I spent the last of my years, sitting in a chair smoking a cigar.

GREENE: I like it.

Mr. BEIRO: It's nice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BEIRO: It's all we have now - just sit around and talk (censored). Pardon the language.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: No worries.

When you're on the road and on assignment, eventually there comes a time to relax, go out to dinner. But on this trip, it's hard to find the line between on duty and off. One night I stopped at a karaoke bar. I hadn't planned on doing interviews. But I thought if I found someone to talk to, I'd want sound of them singing. So, to be safe, I let my recorder roll the whole night.

(Soundbite of karaoke bar)

Unidentified Man #2: Please notify the next singer, please.

Unidentified Man #3: David.

Unidentified Man #2: I thought it was a girl. David? That's not David, that's a girl.

GREENE: Yeah, they were looking for me. I had put in a song and it was finally my turn on stage.

(Soundbite of song, "The Gambler")

GREENE: (Singing) Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.

Okay. That may be the only tape I am going to erase.

I'm David Greene, NPR News.

HANSEN: Just remember, you heard it here first. Tomorrow, David begins a drive from New York to California. Now, his route is quite flexible, so if you want to send him some ideas or to follow him on a map, go to NPR.org/100Days. And that 100 days, it's the number, 100 days.

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