Transcripts

This Week On Metro Connection: Choices

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Welcome to "Metro Connection," I'm Rebecca Sheir and, wow, what a week, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE

We'll probably have winds gusting to nearly 70 miles an hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE

As Metro officials tell Kavitha Cardoza, the decision to close the system isn't one they made lightly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE

We had to close off, we're rescuing some residents that are in low lying areas right now. Humvee's are coming from the National Guard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE

We were in the house and suddenly the water just started rising...

MALE

I'm down near the bottom of King Street, looking out across the Potomac River where you can see some white caps and some swift moving water out in the...

FEMALE

...so quickly that we were trapped in the house.

FEMALE

We know that it only takes two feet of water to move a vehicle. We want people to stay off the roads.

FEMALE

What was one screen out of my back porch patio is water.

SHEIR

Those, of course, are some of the voices we heard hear on WAMU as Super Franken-sub tropical Sandy swung by to say hello. And now that the storm has past, with just a few days before Washingtonians cast their ballots in the big election, this week we're bringing you a show about choices.

SHEIR

We'll find out why old fashion snail mail still plays a role in swaying our vote.

MALE

Whereas, everybody open their mail, not everybody goes online to find information about candidates.

SHEIR

And we'll head to Northern Virginia to learn the crucial role Latino's may play in what happens on Tuesday.

FEMALE

For some of them, it's the first time voting. Like, they just registered this year.

SHEIR

Plus, we'll share personal stories of Washingtonian's facing big choices like a Polio doctor and survivor who's entering a new phase of life.

DR. LAURO HALSTEAD

I think it's absolutely critical that everybody learn how to deal with challenges, whether it's physical, emotional, financial. When that happens, it forces you to find resources you didn't think were there.

SHEIR

First, though, you know that one reporter on the Weather Channel or on the TV News who's out there on the beach in a rain slicker, reporting on absolutely miserable weather? Well, every time a nasty storm rolls through Ocean City, Md., Bryan Russo is more or less that guy.

MALE

Let's get the latest from coastal reporter Bryan Russo. He's on the Delmarva Peninsula.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

Many Ocean City residents got a late start to their storm preparations yesterday. Mayor Rick Meehan has declared a state of emergency as the city is already starting to see rising waters and flooding in the low lying areas of downtown (unintelligible) -- but for anyone who stayed behind, it might be too late to leave.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

As Route One, just north of the Indian River inlet, has been closed since yesterday due to a dune breech. (word?) had to walk or wade, rather, down eight streets to the Route 50 bridge, wading through thigh deep water before walking across the bridge and another mile or so to a friend's house which is located...

SHEIR

With this week's events, we asked WAMU's intrepid coastal reporter to keep a sort of audio diary about what it's like to face the wind and rain when everyone else is high tailing it out of town.

RUSSO

Check one, two. All right, this is reporter diary number one. It is 1 p.m. on Sunday. We're sitting here at the most narrow point of Ocean City. If you look to your left, you can see the beach, you look to your right, you can see the Bay. I'm sitting in the back of my car, I've put on my new galoshes. I've got the hatchback up on the Touareg and rain is already hitting me in the face. It's like a stinging rain of sorts. It's very cold and now I'm going to go to the beach and really get a feel for how this storm is moving in.

RUSSO

Usually Nor'easters like this happen a couple times a year. You know, locals are pretty used to them. And I think a lot of people really took this one lightly. People were partying yesterday. You know, festivals, the boardwalk was jumping. But now I'm walking up over the dunes here and that usual beautiful moment where you see everything so pristinely and panoramic, is not that at all. The ocean is probably about 10 feet away from the fence.

RUSSO

The beach has been almost swallowed up. We're heading down to the convention center right now which is where the emergency evacuation for people that are downtown, the people that are in need and need to get off the island are being told to go to 41st Street, to the convention center to get some stuff and that's where we're heading right now, to see if we can find some people and talk to some folks down there.

RUSSO

The worst part is, of doing this, is after you're outside and you're getting hit from every angle, when you get back in your car, you realize not how much -- how wet you are but how much sand you have on you too and it's just -- it's impossible to get dry, plus I wear glasses and that's almost impossible to get any sort of visibility.

RUSSO

Check one, two. All right, so I'm walking outside right now. It's a little after 8 p.m. on Monday which means the high tide is going to be hitting Ocean City in about 20 minutes. Ocean City is like totally flooded and it is a mess. You get really desensitized when you're in the news business or in journalism or whatever, that things happen to other people, they don't happen to you.

RUSSO

And when they're happening to you and people that you know, it's just heart breaking. Just -- I know people that have lost homes and, you know, businesses are just under water and a mess and it's kind of heart breaking but everyone right now is just in survival mode.

SHEIR

That was WAMU's dauntless coastal reporter, Bryan Russo. And we'd love to hear your stories about weathering Sandy. You can reach us at metro@wamu.org.

SHEIR

We move now from the calm after the storm to the calm before. Though in the case of this next story, the storm we're referring to isn't so much the inclement type as the electoral type. Election day 2012 is just around the corner, folks. And for months now, candidates have been speech stumping, hand shaking and baby kissing across the country in hopes of swaying your voting choice come November 6th.

SHEIR

And, of course, they haven't done it alone. They've had help from a bunch of sources like TV ads.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY

I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this message.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.

SHEIR

Phone calls...

SHEIR

...and as anyone with a mailbox knows...

MR. ANDREW KENNEDY

What's in here, oh...

SHEIR

...snail mail.

KENNEDY

This, for example, is an 8-1/2 by 13 jumbo card, they call it. It's larger than a normal sheet of paper. So it actually really sticks out in the mail.

SHEIR

And Andrew Kennedy is all about sticking out in the mail. I visited Kennedy last week at his office, tucked away in Northwest D.C.'s Blagden Alley. Kennedy is President and Founder of Kennedy Communications.

KENNEDY

And we're a direct mail operation, basically specializing in what we like to refer to as "persuasion mail."

SHEIR

I'm curious about that term, "persuasion mail," where did that come from?

KENNEDY

You know, that was a term that somebody concocted back in the '80s. I started hearing that then and I actually thought it was fairly accurate because this is not fundraising. This is really just persuading voters who might otherwise be undecided to, sort of, vote your way in a particular election. And, you know, it's not a perfect description of it but I think it's, sort of, a whole lot closer than just the broader term of direct mail.

SHEIR

Kennedy began his career as a campaign manager actually, and that's where he got a sneak peak at campaign messaging. And these days, his eight person team brainstorms messages and cooks up several hundred different mail pieces.

KENNEDY

In the course of a few months, making various arguments to various constituencies, and hopefully, you know, win as many campaigns as possible.

SHEIR

Here's the thing, though, in the persuasion mail industry, you don't measure success simply by whether you win or lose. For instance, let's say your candidate wins on Election Day.

KENNEDY

And we were 30 points down three months earlier. That is a monumental success.

SHEIR

But if your candidate wins and you were 30 points ahead three months out...

KENNEDY

That does not quite convey the same degree of achievement.

SHEIR

And while we're on the subject of success and achievement, here's a question for you, in this brave new digital world where the U.S. Postal Service is bleeding red ink, so to speak, how is political mail successful at all? Well, the way Andrew Kennedy sees it, when it comes to, say, the internet...

KENNEDY

Not everybody goes online to find information about candidates.

SHEIR

Whereas everybody physically gets their mail. Plus, he says, direct mail can micro-target and narrow cast to sprinkle in some fun industry jargon. So, sure, you can broadcast a TV ad to enormous numbers of people...

KENNEDY

But they might not even be in the sort of voting universe that you're interested in. Mail is able to sort of prove to campaigns that they could specifically target voters they knew or were likely to turn out. And in fact, they could narrow-cast certain messages to certain people within that voting universe.

SHEIR

That said, Andrew Kennedy does acknowledge a major downside to political mail, many people simply dismiss it as junk.

KENNEDY

And that's been a challenge even since the '80s, although I think that the sheer volume of it has caused people to look askance at mail, you know, in increasing degrees from one year to the next.

SHEIR

Nevertheless, Kennedy says, provided political mail is done in targeted, concise and eye-catching ways, he believes it won't disappear anytime soon. But if you look at the numbers...

MR. BOB BIERSACK

It's probably a relatively smaller portion of the total pie of campaign activity. As far as money goes, this year, we think it totals about $216 million so far.

SHEIR

Bob Biersack tracks money in U.S. politics at the Non-Partisan, Non-Profit Center for Responsive Politics. And that's a small part of the pie?

BIERSACK

And that's a pretty small part of the pie, yeah. The total pie is going to be several billion dollars when all is said and done, just in federal elections.

SHEIR

Now, granted that $216 million is up from $211 million in 2008. But those, Biersack says, are just estimates.

BIERSACK

There are a lot fewer rules about how you disclose what you're spending money on, than there are about how you disclose what -- where you're getting money from. And so it means the way in which people describe what they're doing is a lot more flexible and freeform.

SHEIR

So what one campaign describes as direct mail, another may describe as something else. In other words, you say potato, I say po-tah-to. That's tricky.

BIERSACK

The world's a tricky place. Regulation of just about anything like that becomes more and more complicated over the years.

SHEIR

Then there's the issue of language in mailings. If organizations don't explicitly use terms like Vote For, Vote Against, Elect or Defeat, as far as disclosure goes, they're in the clear.

BIERSACK

If they send you a mailing and they say the economy's falling apart and taxes are too high and there are all these terrible things happening, call President Obama and tell him to do something about these problems. That's not what, technically, under the law is called expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.

SHEIR

As opposed to the same kind of message on television...

BIERSACK

Which because we're very close to an election, now, the law says that would have to be disclosed.

SHEIR

And speaking of being very close to an election, back in Blagden Alley at Kennedy Communications, there's a dry erase board, a white board as you walk in and it says, Days till E-day, Days till last drop.

KENNEDY

Yeah, last drop. Drop is a term we use for the day that we drop it at the post office.

SHEIR

So as of today, as of this interview, days till Election Day, 11 days till last drop, seven.

KENNEDY

Yeah.

SHEIR

So are you trusting that in those four intervening days everything will get where it needs to go?

KENNEDY

It's always a risk and we propose that risk to the candidates. We will say the last word can often be the most effective.

SHEIR

Andrew Kennedy says this strategy's worked pretty well through the years. Though he admits, the growing popularity of early voting has complicated things. Still, he says, he and his persuasion mail colleagues, plan to keep on, keeping on, in snow, in heat, in the gloom of night and even, in the case of this week anyway, in subtropical pre-election superstorms.

SHEIR

Time for a quite break, but when we get back, we'll scoot around two more local neighborhoods in our regular segment, "Door to Door" and revisit a monumental election that took place a century ago. Plus, we'll learn the way Latino voters could shape the outcome of Virginia's elections.

FEMALE

I just want to hear that they're going out to vote. That's all I want to hear. I don't want -- I don't care, like, what they're for, what President they're voting for. It's just that they're actually going out and voting. Like, that's all that's really important.

SHEIR

That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today we're talking about choices as we turn from one event in which we were forced to participate, we're looking at you, Sandy. Yeah, to another event in which Americans of all stripes will be choosing to participate next week, the 2012 election. In just a few minutes we'll head out on the campaign trail in Northern Virginia to learn about the role Latino voters are playing there.

SHEIR

But first, let's go back in time to a rather exciting Presidential race that took place exactly 100 years ago. It's the race that featured democrat Woodrow Wilson, Republican William Howard Taft, Bull Moose Party nominee Teddy Roosevelt and Socialist Eugene Debs. Tara Boyle headed to the Woodrow Wilson house on S Street in Northwest D.C. to meet with author and historian, Paul Dickson, who explains why it's worth remembering 1912.

MR. PAUL DICKSON

It was an interesting year because a lot of other things were going on, the Titanic had sunk in April, there was two big movements in the country, in both parties. Both Republicans, democrats had sort of a reform, progressive arm and they had a more conservative status quo arm. So the big deal in that year -- and it was a year in also in which the last two states, Arizona and New Mexico had been admitted to the Union. So they had a full continuous 48 states for the first time in the election.

MR. PAUL DICKSON

And again, it was the first primaries. They had never had party primaries before. They were just starting. And the big story, of course, is when the democrats have their convention, a man named Champ Clark is favored to be the nominee of the Democratic party. And what happens is, the convention starts, Woodrow Wilson is truly the dark horse, the guy who's not supposed to get there yet. He's Governor of New Jersey, very progressive in the -- in one of his attitudes, he's been President of Princeton University, an educator. And Wilson, in the first ballots, looks like Clark is clearly ahead. But Clark needs two-thirds of the convention and he's not getting it.

MR. PAUL DICKSON

And so they go again and again, vote after vote and as the votes are taking place, Wilson keeps creeping up on Clark. One of the votes is held at midnight. There is a break until 8:00 o'clock the next morning. Finally, on the 46th vote, Wilson takes it. California had swung over to him and he's got the nomination. On the other side, the incumbent is President Taft and he is running into problems because Teddy Roosevelt is a progressive Republican, Taft is a more conservative. And Taft and Teddy Roosevelt disagree on many things, many of the things they disagree on.

MR. PAUL DICKSON

But one of the big ones is conservation. Teddy Roosevelt tried to protect huge amounts of the Western land, he's trying to create a forest service, etcetera, has already done so. But he's trying to protect it. And he breaks, he breaks from the regular Republican party and forms the Bull Moose party. It's a really very interesting time because you've got Taft who's much more conservative, much less of a speaker, much less of, you know, person that could elevate crowds.

MR. PAUL DICKSON

And you've got Wilson, this sort of sharp, academic who is basically promising, among other things, to keep the country out of war. He's also running on a thing called The New Freedom, which is -- he's in favorite states rights, individual rights, almost sounds Republican in today's standards. But that's what Wilson is running on.

MS. TARA BOYLE

It's it amazing to you, when you think about all the unusual aspects of that campaign, the closely contested primary, all of these dynamic figures. You know, it's not just a two party race, per se. It's hard to imagine how much has changed in American politics in the past century in some ways.

DICKSON

Oh, in many ways. I mean, even the fact that Wilson is not even at the convention. The convention's in Baltimore and Wilson is in Sea Girt, N. J., and so he's not even there for his own nomination. So that's happening. The other thing is this idea of these contests that go on and on and the pledging and the pulling back and forth, to go to over 40 ballots is just an extraordinary thing when you think about it. And, I think, the fact of Roosevelt just being such a phenomenal figure.

DICKSON

But again, it was the dynamic guys and the country was really, you know, they had some major issues. Anti-trust was one of them, huge powerful corporations. Roosevelt's whole business with conservation which was major damn, which is preserving the natural parks, the national forests and they were interest in this country at that time who desperately wanted to rest those back from the government and turn them into commercial development, logging and other forces.

DICKSON

And the other thing, of course, was the great differences, was the concept of mass communications. They were totally relying on newspapers and the things that newspapers could give you. Imagine a day that's even pre-radio. You would go to bed and the only thing somebody down the street may have gone downtown to see a sign in front of the Washington Post or the Evening Star building saying "Wilson's gaining in the last ballot." So even that changed. But again, it's still politics.

DICKSON

And still, you realize the big struggle was going on in both parties, was between Conservatives and Progressives. You know, you can call that, you know, Conservatives and Liberals, Conservative -- but it was in fact, a typically very American campaign, which you can argue this is as well. This is the two forces that have always been the Yin and Yang of American politics.

SHEIR

That was local writer and historian Paul Dickson, talking with "Metro Connection's" Tara Boyle. Paul is the author of a forth coming book, "Words From The White House." You can find more information on that book by visiting our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

We'll bid farewell to 1912 now and speed back to the present to take a peek at our fast-approaching political future. The polling firm Latino Decisions says that nationwide 50,000 Latino voters become eligible to vote every month. And in the battleground state of Virginia, George Mason University Professor Michael McDonald recently found that Latino voters are more enthusiastic than they were in 2008. Kate Sheehy went knocking on doors with a canvasser in Woodbridge, Va. to ask Latinos if they will vote and if so, why.

MS. KATE SHEEHY

Among the customers munching on sandwiches and sipping soup at Panera Bread in Dumfries, Va., are volunteers for a Virginia New Majority or VNM.

MR. ERIC KOSCYK

Today, there's roughly about 50 percent chance of rain. So please take a poncho, please take an umbrella. Hopefully, the umbrella won't be blown away, but we'll see. And I really appreciate your hard work.

SHEEHY

VNM is a non-partisan organization focusing on voter education. Eric Koscyk, a field director for VNM is rallying his troops.

KOSCYK

I get a sense of a high-turnout election. I think there'll be high-turnout on both sides. I think it'll be very much based on getting out the vote efforts at the last minute.

SHEEHY

Maria Rodriguez is one of the youngest canvassers helping with the effort. So you aren't old enough to vote?

MISS MARIA RODRIGUEZ

No. But I think it's important to get other people to actually get involved. And I wish I could vote, but just getting others to go out there and do it is enough for me. So I’m making a difference this year.

SHEEHY

Maria is 17 years old. She's a first generation American citizen, born in the U.S. to Salvadoran parents who left during that country's civil war in the 1980s.

RODRIGUEZ

Are you voting in this year's election?

MR. SAMUEL CRUZ

No.

SHEEHY

Maria has been speaking with people of various backgrounds, but is most excited about the eagerness of Latino voters.

RODRIGUEZ

For some of them it's the first time voting. Like, they just registered this year. So it's amazing to see, like, how many, like, 60-year-old, 70-year-old Latinos getting involved. So that makes me happy.

SHEEHY

One of the first houses she stops at belongs to Samuel Cruz of El Salvador. He tells her doesn't have time to vote this year. A little more probing reveals that it's not his schedule keeping him from the polls.

CRUZ

(Through interpreter) Neither candidate has focused on what they will actually do. No. Neither of them is convincing.

SHEEHY

A couple of blocks away Walter and Lorena Velasquez of Honduras are getting ready for dinner. Walter says his whole family will vote for President Obama, but he does say he has his doubts about Mr. Obama.

MR. WALTER VELASQUEZ

(Through interpreter) I think right now it's true we are a little disappointed because he hasn't proved anything, but we'll give him another chance to see what he'll do.

SHEEHY

Walter says he did regain some trust in Obama after the president announced his policy for deferred action earlier this year. This act protects some undocumented Latinos brought here as children from deportation. And a recent poll by Latino Decisions found that Latinos have expressed more confidence in President Obama because of this program. Walter admits he doesn’t like politics much and is tired of the campaign, but his wife, Lorena, says she has always loved being involved with politics. She and Walter have two sons. And she says what she considers most in her vote is their future.

MS. LORENA VELASQUEZ

(Through interpreter) And, you know, education is really expensive here. And parents work very hard to have the ability to help their kids a little, but sometimes they can't. And the second is immigration reform. We thank God that we have our citizenship, but we have family and friends that don't and they work hard. And I believe they deserve it also.

SHEEHY

Recent surveys suggest a candidate's stance on immigration issues affects Latino support even among those who say immigration is not their top issue. Even though 17-year-old Maria Rodriguez can't vote, she knows what is important to her.

RODRIGUEZ

I'm a really big advocate of women's rights, specifically the right to choose because even though I may not agree with what they might do, it's their choice.

SHEEHY

Maria says many young people who are part of immigrant families covet the right to vote.

RODRIGUEZ

They're, in a sense, voting for their parents because their parents can't vote and that's what your parents want you to do. They want you to actually be able to vote, something that they can't do. That's the whole reason they came to this country, to give their kids a better opportunity. And in a sense, in voting, you're fulfilling their dream, basically.

SHEEHY

She is hoping by the next presidential election her father will be able to cast his own vote. She's helping him study for his citizenship exam. I'm Kate Sheehy.

SHEIR

And now, our weekly trip around the region. On today's "Door To Door," we visit the Gunner's Lake neighborhood of Germantown, Md. and northwest D.C.'s Chevy Chase.

MS. JOANNE ZEKE

My name is Joanne Zeke. My husband and I have lived in Chevy Chase, D.C. since 1974. When I think of what Chevy Chase is I think of Chevy Chase Circle, which is where the Maryland/D.C. line is and we are south of Chevy Chase Circle in the city. And then extending over to Friendship Heights and then through Barnaby Woods toward the park. The community started with the Chevy Chase Land Company. At the time it started there was development on both sides of the line, the Maryland and the D.C. line. There was a streetcar that eventually did run out, making it possible for this to develop as a commuter's community.

MS. JOANNE ZEKE

Well, I think one of the really nice things -- it's a neighborhood where you can do what you need to do on foot. You can go to the grocery store. You can go to the movies. You can go to the Metro. If you live here as long as we have, when you do these walks you see people you know. One of the things that's fun is people turn their porch lights on. They're great big porches. And in the summertime people do still sit on the porch. What lends so much charm and so much livability to the neighborhood are the shops that are part of it. And although there's certainly been change, we don't have perhaps as many shoemakers, although we have a shoemaker, we've lost some neat things, like some bookstores, but we have many of the same services that have always been here.

MR. OMID JAHAMDEN

My name is Omid Jahamden (sp?) and I live in the Gunner's Lake neighborhood of Germantown, Md. Gunner's Lake is central to Montgomery County on I-270 about halfway between Frederick and Washington D.C. The neighborhood in Gunner's Lake consists of about 500 mixed residential properties, townhouses and single-family homes.

MR. OMID JAHAMDEN

Some housing developments, the houses are really separated and so being in Gunner's Lake and with the close community that's here it's very easy for you to interact with your neighbors and get to know them and develop those friendships. The unique thing about this community is that there's no one majority. There's a good mix of ages. There's a good mix of races and cultures and so it makes it a joy to get to know the people in your community. And they seem to respect the fact that you're getting to know them and they want to know about your life as well.

SHEIR

We heard from Omid Jahamden in Gunner's Lake and Joanne Zeke in Chevy Chase. If you'd like your neighborhood to be part of "Door To Door," send us an email. Our address is metro@wamu.org. And to see a map of all the doors we've knocked on so far, visit our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

After the break, opting out of your 9:00 to 5:00 in order to pursue your dreams.

MS. ELENA LACAYO

You just get to a point where you know you have to make a decision. And when it's affecting your personal happiness, to the degree it was for me, it was made very clear to me that I needed to leave full-time employment and I needed to try this.

SHEIR

Plus, what it's like to make big life choices when your health is on the line.

HALSTEAD

Within about 48 hours my right arm was totally paralyzed, my legs were so weak I could not climb a flight of stairs.

SHEIR

It's coming your way on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. Our theme today is Choices. And thus far we've mostly been focusing on the choices being made at the polls, come Tuesday. In this next part of the show though, we're gonna bring you some stories of a more personal nature. We'll begin with the tale of Washingtonians who, in the midst of a weak economy, are choosing to walk away from a really good job. The Department of Labor says the number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs is on the rise this year. It's about two million a month, one-third higher than we saw back in 2009, when the recession was at its worst.

SHEIR

Jacob Fenston went in search of people who are redefining the daily grind and found that sometimes, regardless of the stagnant GDP or high unemployment rate, there comes a time when you just have to quit your high-profile policy job and start a band.

MR. JACOB FENSTON

It's a Wednesday night and Elena Lacayo and three friends are practicing in her basement in Mount Pleasant. Until a few months ago, Lacayo worked on Latino and immigrant issues at a big non-profit in D.C. It was a great job she says, tackling really important problems, she had a lot of responsibility, she was on TV all the time.

LACAYO

But that also was, like, really high pressure. That meant, like, any day I could show up to work and I'd think it'd be a chill day and then suddenly it'd be like, oh, my God, CNN called and I've gotta do everything and get my talking points ready and put on my pearl earrings and, you know.

FENSTON

This was a career path she'd been on since college, moving from one job to the next one up the ladder.

LACAYO

You know, D.C. is the kinda place where the next step is the next step kind of up. And I just couldn't think of what that would be for me.

FENSTON

She thought about going back to school, but instead decided to take a different route, live cheaply and focus on playing music.

FENSTON

Even though she had some money saved up, it was a sort of scary decision to make in this economy.

LACAYO

For me the biggest fear actually was, like, never getting a job that was as fulfilling as my old job. Like, feeling like I was walking away from, like, the best job I could have ever had.

MS. FRAN D'OOGE

Well, in the past few years, not very many people are quitting their job at all.

FENSTON

Fran D'Ooge runs the D.C.-based recruiting firm, Tangent. On the eve of the great recession about 2.7 million Americans quit their private sector gigs each month. That number plummeted as jobs dried up. D'Ooge says many workers are still afraid to walk away from steady employment, even if they hate what they're doing.

D'OOGE

You can say we're in a recovery, but that's sort of the economic numbers, that's not -- it hasn't really filtered through. So whether we're really recovered or not, people are just going out there and quitting jobs.

FENSTON

But, she says, the recession has created a sort of pent-up desire to quit.

D'OOGE

People have been working many, many, many extra hours and I think there's some people that have gotten to the point where they just couldn't do it anymore. 'Cause you can sustain that for a while, but when you're looking at doing it for years...

FENSTON

For Barbara Michelman, the choice was between career and family. A little over a year ago, she decided to quit her job in an education non-profit and now works part time from home in Cheverly, Md.

FENSTON

She gets to spend a lot more time with her seven-year-old daughter, Ava, walking her to school most days.

MS. BARBARA MICHELMAN

It is the conundrum of when you have a child or children, at least it's my conundrum, is if I felt I was doing a good job at work, then I felt I was neglecting my family or vice versa. I think there's a lot to do with being an overachiever. There's a lot of Type A personalities in Washington, D.C.

FENSTON

She'd always been driven by her career, but as she was spending more and more hours at work and away from her daughter, Michelman thought more and more about her childhood and how her mother raised her.

MICHELMAN

Our life paths couldn't have been any more different. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, but I really started to think, my mom was always there. And home-cooked meals were always on the table.

FENSTON

She says this stay-at-home thing is probably not permanent and she'll reevaluate as her daughter gets older.

MICHELMAN

I don't think I'll ever get to a place where I feel completely comfortable with any one decision, but for now this works well. It was a good decision.

FENSTON

Meanwhile, Elena Lacayo, in addition to working on her music, has a part-time gig at a bike shop.

LACAYO

Oh, I'm in sales. I work at City Bikes in Adams Morgan. And I'm learning a ton about bikes.

FENSTON

It's the kind of job you don't take home at night or on the weekend. She says that's part of what she was looking for, the chance to define herself beyond a job title.

LACAYO

Who am I gonna be? I've been this person for four years and working in this job and, like, being known for that. And actually really, like, I felt like I had also accepted that as my identity. Like it wasn't just what other people saw in me, it was also what I was seeing in myself. And I think that at the end of the day part of the reason that I decided to leave is because I wanted to rediscover who I was without that.

FENSTON

At this point she's not sure what's next, but says it's kind of liberating to not be focused on that next rung of the ladder. I'm Jacob Fenston.

SHEIR

If you want to hear more of Lacayo's music, the band is called Elena and Los Fulanos. And they have a show coming up at the Black Cat in Northwest, D.C. You can find more information on our website, metroconnection.org. And this story comes to us from WAMU's Public Insight Network or PIN. It's a way for people to share their experiences with us and a way for us to reach out for input on stories we're working on. To learn more about the Public Insight Network, head to metroconnection.org/pin.

SHEIR

The man we'll meet next has a story that really says a lot about the choices we make when life throws us a curve ball. Dr. Lauro Halstead contracted polio when he was just 18 years old. He went on to become a very successful physician, one who spent many years at D.C.'s MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital caring for other polio survivors. Now, 76 years old and newly retired, Dr. Halstead sat down with Sabri Ben-Achour to talk about his life and his future.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

Dr. Halstead, you contracted polio when you were traveling as a teenager in Europe. Can you share that story with us?

HALSTEAD

I was 18. I had just completed my first year in college. I was going to Europe, as many students did in those days and still do, and I passed through Madrid. And as it happens, when I got to Madrid I was quite ill, initially GI upset, mostly lower intestinal tract with diarrhea and cramps, low-grade fever, not feeling generally well. Of course initially I thought this was a minor setback and I'll be finished with it shortly, but this persisted and within about 48 hours my right arm was totally paralyzed. My legs were so weak I could not climb a flight of stairs and I had reduced use of my left arm.

HALSTEAD

Eventually I ended up in a Spanish hospital. And within another week my breathing started to go out and they transferred me to another facility where I was placed in a respirator. They didn't have iron lungs in Madrid in those days. They had respirators made of plywood. So I was put in plywood lung.

BEN-ACHOUR

I think that in this day and age many people don't even know what an iron lung is or can't really conceive of a plywood respirator. Can you tell me what that machine, that contraption looked like and did?

HALSTEAD

Sure. The iron lung, which is the prototype, is like a cylinder and it's enclosed on both ends except for a little port where your head is exposed. And then there's a small motor which drives the bellows at the other end of the lung, the foot-end of the lung. And it allows the bellows to either go out and then the pressure drops and air is pushed into your mouth from the outside. And then on the repeat cycle, the bellows pushes into the lungs so that now the air's compressed, puts pressure on your chest and makes you exhale. So it's a cycle of (makes noise) in and out, in and out, allowing you to breathe.

BEN-ACHOUR

I cannot imagine what that must have been like to have to be in that contraption so far away from home. I mean, did your parents know?

HALSTEAD

No. I was essentially alone. What made it even worse is that in those days, the dictator of Spain, Franco, in an effort to conserve electricity, they turned off all power in the city of Madrid from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. And so the respirator went dead at 2 a.m. So just by the grace of God, I managed to survive, as I say, eventually get back to the United States.

BEN-ACHOUR

You eventually recovered and went on to pursue medicine. I can imagine a lot of people wanting to stay as far as away from medicine as possible after that experience.

HALSTEAD

Well, you're right in some respects. I mean, I didn't fully recover. My right arm has remained totally paralyzed since. My legs did get stronger; in fact, they were very strong for a number of years. And my left arm was reasonably strong, it wasn't normal strength. I realized that with my physical limitation that I needed a profession where there was a fair amount of intellectual involvement.

BEN-ACHOUR

I just wonder how you were able to take all the notes that are required in medical school. Do you just have an amazing memory or...

HALSTEAD

No, no, no. No, no amazing memory. Not at all. Well, I was right-handed originally, so I did have to learn to write with my left hand. It was never a very graceful script, but, you know, you manage. And that's one of the lessons I've learned with my polio, is that you learn to compensate in ways that the average person can't even conceive of. When I was in training, for example, I had to draw blood often. And one might say, well, that's almost impossible with one hand. Well, I devised techniques for doing it and in fact got so skillful that I was I was teaching other people how to do it with one hand, if you can believe it.

HALSTEAD

So the thing is, it's difficult sometimes for someone who is able bodied to imagine how could I ever, ever do what he's doing with that disability, with those physical limitations? But, you know, when you live with it, minute by minute, every day, 24 hours, you know, you learn to compensate.

BEN-ACHOUR

When you look back on your life and how it sort of unfolded, in many ways serendipitously, what would you say to a young person, say 20, starting out, about how they should plan their life or if they should at all?

HALSTEAD

I mean, I think an important element for any young person is the whole concept of resilience and perseverance. I mean, no one's life is free of problems, of challenges, of confrontations. And I think it's absolutely critical that everybody, everybody, you know, learn how to deal with misfortune, with events that are out of their control, of challenges, whether it's physical, emotional, financial. When that happens it forces you to dig deep and find resources you didn't think were there. I mean, in medicine, we have a perfect metaphor. You break a bone. When it heals, it's stronger than before. I mean, just imagine, stronger than before. And that's what surmounting life's challenges is all about.

SHEIR

That was Dr. Lauro Halstead speaking with WAMU's Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

Before we say goodbye today, how about a little D.C. Dives?

MR. JERAD WALKER

What is a dive bar?

FEMALE

It's a glorious dump.

MALE

It's gotta have an interesting staff and an interesting crowd.

FEMALE

It's gotta be dark. It's gotta be old. Typically, it's gotta be cheap.

SHEIR

This time on our monthly series, Jerad Walker visits JV Restaurant. A family-owned establishment in Falls Church, that's celebrating its 65th year of business.

WALKER

Tucked among the strip malls of northern Virginia, JV Restaurant is unassuming, to say the least. Even if you're a longtime resident of the area, owner Lorraine Campbell says you might miss it altogether.

MS. LORRAINE CAMPBELL

We think of us as like Falls Church's little secret. I've had a lot of people come in here and say we've lived here 10 years and never knew you were here.

WALKER

But the bar and grill has been around a lot longer than just a decade. Last month, JV Restaurant celebrated 65 years in business.

CAMPBELL

My dad started JV's back in 1947, after the war. This was the first strip mall outside of D.C. back in the '40s. And they were the first business to open in this strip mall.

WALKER

And now it's the last business left from that era.

CAMPBELL

The area itself has changed tremendously. Very corporate and that's where we came up with our slogan in the '70s, ageless charm without yuppie bastardization. But it...

WALKER

Could you repeat that?

CAMPBELL

It's ageless charm without yuppie bastardization, but it has nothing to do with the clientele, it has to do with all the corporates that are coming in, your Ruby Tuesday's, your Chili's, your Applebee's. I can't compete with corporate. Either you're gonna like us or you're not gonna like us.

WALKER

One way JV's has set itself apart from the competition is its devotion to local live music.

CAMPBELL

We've been having live music since the mid '50s. We started with mostly bluegrass. It all started with people sitting around a table and they'd bring their instruments in and they'd start picking and playing.

WALKER

Just a jam session?

CAMPBELL

A little jam session.

WALKER

That little jam session has grown significantly. The bar now features an eclectic mix of blues, country, bluegrass and classic rock. Vernon Santmayer has been a regular performer at JV's since 1980.

MR. VERNON SANTMAYER

Seven nights a week and twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday. They got an early show, which I'm part of today. And this will be our first gospel show that we've ever had.

WALKER

That's right, Vernon said he's performing gospel music today, in a dive bar. And as we're finishing our conversation, something bizarre, something truly magical begins to happen. About 25 parishioners from Vernon's church show up and start to cram into the tiny room, eagerly awaiting the performance. And the Santmayer Family Band doesn't disappoint.

SANTMAYER

Any local musician, they first step in the door and they think to themselves, uh-oh, this is not gonna go over good 'cause the place is so small. And you think, oh, mercy. But by the time the night's over, I’m telling you, they can't wait to get back in here and play again. That is the way this place is designed. You're up close to the audience and you can see the audience's faces and stuff. And it's just like having one big front row.

WALKER

Halfway through the show I catch up with Pastor Billy Shepard, who led his congregation on the 30-mile trip to JV's from Woodbridge, Va.

PASTOR BILLY SHEPARD

Sometimes we have to get out of the box, so to speak, and move out. So I'm glad I could come.

WALKER

This is definitely outside the box. Can you--

SHEPARD

This is outside the box. Yes, it is. We have Sunday night church, but we just missed church tonight so that we could come up and enjoy the Santmayer family since they're kind of a part of our lives. And so a lot of us came up here and just thoroughly enjoying the music and even the atmosphere. It's a nice atmosphere, in spite of, you know, it being a bar. Good gospel music fits anywhere.

WALKER

Pastor Shepard gets it. JV's is more than just a drinking establishment and diner for regulars like Vernon Santmayer. It's a living room, it's a dinner table.

SANTMAYER

I think it's very homey, very comfortable. It's very low key.

WALKER

It's a place where friends and family gather to listen to music, watch sports, laugh, argue and in some rare cases, praise and worship. I'm Jared Walker.

SHEIR

Is there a local dive bar you think we should visit? Let us know. Send an email to metro@wamu.org or tweet us. Our handle is @wamumetro.

SHEIR

And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Bryan Russo, Jacob Fenston, Tara Boyle, Sabri Ben-Achour and Jared Walker along with reporter Kate Sheehy. WAMU's managing editor of news is Meymo Lyons. "Metro Connections" managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our intern is Raphaella Bennin. Lauren Landau and Raphaella Bennin produce "Door To Door." Thanks as always to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website. Our theme song, "Every Little Bit Hurts," and our "Door To Door" theme, "No, Girl," are from the album Title Tracks by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company.

SHEIR

You can see all the music we use on our website, that's metroconnection.org. Just click on a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song. Also on metroconnection.org you can find our Twitter and Facebook links, you can read free transcripts of stories and if you missed part of today's show you can hear the whole thing by clicking the This Week On "Metro Connection" link. To hear our most recent episodes, click the podcast link or find us on iTunes.

SHEIR

We hope you can join us next week when we'll bring you a show we're calling New Beginnings. We'll explore what's next after elections and we'll hear some more personal stories of Washingtonians' fresh starts, like a nun who's pursuing a new life outside the church and a teen who's looking to turn things around now that he's out of juvenile detention.

MALE

'Cause if I would have never got put in a group home or none of these programs I wouldn't have never finished school. I would have still been on the streets.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 News.
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