Jakob Lazzaro and Morgan Smith Can't Let Go of undocumented immigrants in the desert, e-coli outbreaks, brunch and a seventh prom. Stories featured in this episode hail from Radiolab (Parts one, two and three) and Business Insider. Transcript below.

[Music: Little Lily Swing]

Jakob Lazzaro: Hey, welcome back to Can't Let Go, the NBN podcast where we discuss the news and the personal stories from the past week or two that we cannot let go of. I'm your host, Jakob Lazzaro, and I want to welcome you back to the podcast for the second episode of this fine spring quarter. Bit of a change this week – I’ve only got one guest, new guest, first time on the show. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Morgan Smith: Hi. I’m Morgan Smith and I’m a Managing Editor for NBN.

Jakob: Alright, I guess I’ll start this week. So, my news story is a bit serious – it’s from this great podcast called Radiolab out of WNYC in New York – and they recently did this three-part series called the border trilogy, which focused on the human implications of the changes over the past 20 years in border patrol and U.S. immigration policy. Most undocumented immigrants to the US used to come through urban areas like El Paso or San Diego, and the border patrol used to be like, you know, a regular police force – they’d just kind of go around cities and look for people. But there was a policy change in the 90s that instead just had the border patrol just kind of park their trucks, you know, like in a line on the border and just continuously watch it, and just grab people right when came over into the urban areas. But this had the effect of forcing undocumented immigrants out into the desert as it’s hard to police thousands of miles of desolate wasteland. And then people started dying in the desert. And it was actually in U.S. government documents from the time – like I know if we push more people to the desert, more people are going to die but it might serve as a deterrent to people coming. But that did not happen, and so to this day hundreds of people a year die in the desert. But the reason this third part of this series stuck with me is that it focused on what happens to a human body when it is left in the desert to decompose. And it’s just – I don’t know. It was just like, it was one of those things where you listen to it and it stays with you, like a weight on your soul, and ... yeah.

Morgan: Yeah, no I understand because A. it’s a very disturbing story and B. It’s very alarming especially given the current climate and rhetoric around Mexican immigrants to the United States specifically. What I was thinking about when you were talking to me about the story is that just how important it is that we give a human aspect to immigration stories.

Jakob: Mhm.

Morgan: Because when you’re just talking about people as this distant stereotype, as part of this general statistic or image of what Mexican American immigrants should look like, you kind of forget that they’re human and that their stories are more complicated than just immigrants are crossing the border and they’re gonna steal our jobs.

Jakob: It’s like one of those things you listen to it and it is like a humanizing… so the third part focuses on a scientist who was out in the desert studying the effects of the desert on human decomposition. And he was out there with a group of students hiking and they actually stumbled across this woman’s body, who is one of the many people who’ve died in the desert, and calls the police, et cetera, et cetera, but eventually he’s able to trace back through – because her body had only been there for not so long so it wasn’t super decomposed. So he’s able to trace back and find her family in Ecuador. Earlier I was thinking, it’s one of those things you listen to and you just kind of leave with it and you think like, it’s so humanizing but it’s just such a massive issue and it makes you feel really small.

Jakob: Morgan, what’s your news story?

Morgan: The news in general lately has just been really fucking depressing in terms of, like, I’ll get five news notifications at a time sometimes on my iPhone – I mainly consume my news through the Apple News app. And just five of the headlines in a row will be like “Waffle House shooting,” “truck kills pedestrians in Toronto; possible terrorist attack.” And it’s just like how does all this stuff happen in a week? The one funny news story that I saw this week that I just Can’t Let Go of is – and I’m sorry to anyone that’s ever suffered from an e-coli outbreak that listens to this podcast, but i think they’re kind of funny. Cause they’re usually not deadly, it’s just awkward and it’s one of those funny science stories – like guess you didn’t know this could be in your food. Now you have this fun microbe in your body. But the e-coli outbreak…

Jakob: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s a fun microbe, but…

Morgan: Yeah, well there’s a massive – in case you haven’t heard, there’s been a massive e-coli outbreak with romaine lettuce coming from this one specific producer of romaine lettuce in Arizona. Even though the lettuce has come from this one small area, there’s been this nationwide panic over romaine lettuce, which is in so much. So, I was visiting my boyfriend’s family on Saturday in the suburbs of Illinois, and his mom brought back PortIllo’s for lunch. And I thought oh, you know maybe I’ll get a chicken sandwich. There’s romaine lettuce on it! So the whole time I was eating it, I was like do I eat the lettuce? Do I not? What if it came from Arizona? And I’ve read a couple funny articles – the Washington Post has this great food piece about “you don’t need romaine lettuce to make a good chopped salad.” And it’s just like what would our world look like without romaine lettuce?

Jakob: I mean, I’d rather have romaine than iceberg, because iceberg is the worst form of lettuce in my opinion.

Morgan: I’m in a rare minority of people who prefers arugula over anything else. I like the crunchiness.

Jakob: I mean arugula is not bad. It’s fine. Iceberg is just awful, and ugh.

[Music: Little Lily Swing]

Jakob: So now it’s on to the personal stories for this week. Mine, thankfully, is a bit more lighthearted than my news story. So, it’s about brunch and friends, which you know, go together quite well. This Sunday, after postponing for a week because my friend David who was on the last episode was running the Boston Marathon, which is like, wow. Go David. That’s a lot – I could never run a marathon or the Boston Marathon.

Morgan: I can barely run 3 miles.

Jakob: So after postponing for a weekend, we all got in Maggie’s car – she’s from the Illinois suburbs and has her car on campus – we drove down to this great brunch place called the Peckish Pig which is on Howard. Go there. Justin described it really well – he’s good at describing hipstery things. It’s New American food, but it’s not really pretentiously overpriced. It’s like actually pretty cheap. So go there – it’s really good. We go there, it’s the five of us – me, Paola, Justin, David and Maggie – have our brunch, it was great food. It was nice to just be around four other people who I really care about, and it was just a nice way to start my Sunday. And Maggie also parked in the lot of, I think it was a Popeye’s, I don’t remember. It was a fast food place across the street that had a giant sign saying unauthorized vehicles towed at owner’s expense, and I was like what if you get towed? Lol. But she was like I won’t get towed. She did not get towed.

Morgan: That’s like a cute anecdote, but I don’t really feel like that was a story. I was expecting someone to show up hungover, for Maggie’s car to get towed, I was waiting for the climax.

Jakob: You know what, you know what…

Morgan: Like peak, peak, peak. No climax!

Jakob: Well after my news story this week, I felt like I deserved a peak, peak, peak personal experience. Because it doesn’t have to all be sad. We can just have some nice moments.

Morgan: Oh, no. That’s great. I just don’t think I describe my life in such quick black and white. I feel like I don’t have good and bad days, I feel like I mostly just have ridiculous days.

Jakob: So on that note, what happened to you this week, personal story?

Morgan: So one of the highlights of my weekend – as I mentioned, I visited my boyfriend and his family, also in the Illinois suburbs. They live in Deerfield, very cute town if you need a place to visit. And it was my boyfriend’s younger brother’s senior prom. So Deerfield is kind of upper-middle-class, a little bit boujee, so I was expecting this prom to be a gala. Like a sparkly night on the town.

Jakob: Like limousines and champagne, but non-alcoholic champagne because it’s prom.

Morgan: Yeah. And for people who don’t know me well, I’m a huge fan of prom. I went to six proms by the time I graduated.

Jakob: Oh my god.

Morgan: Yeah, so fast forward now to when I’m in college, I attended my boyfriend’s younger brother’s senior prom pictures to relive my glory days, and oh my god, it was so funny. First of all, they hired a professional photographer.

Jakob: For prom pics?

Morgan: For this gangly group of six teenagers in high school. And they didn’t even know what to do with themselves – they’d just get in front of the camera and shit their pants. Most of the boys would just dab and do ridiculous poses like they were on the titanic and things like that. Picture me, in my sweatpants, full groutfit, running around fixing people’s prom dresses amid all of these Lululemon-wearing, Starbucks-holding, upper-middle-class Deerfield suburb moms. And they’re just like aghast. They’re like who is this girl? Who is she related to? Why is she telling people how to pose? Why is she eating so much of the free cheese that’s out on the table? Like, those are for the high schoolers? So I just like…

Jakob: Hey. Free cheese is free cheese, that’s all I’m saying.

Morgan: Right? Like why would you just put all this free food out and limit people who could eat it? Anyway, so I made these prom pictures my bitch. I was like, I’m going to senior prom. I’m a seventeen-year-old and I’m having the time of my life. And my boyfriend’s parents just took so many embarrassing photos of me, not their son, but me running around and interacting with everyone. So now I have a full photo album of senior prom part seven. But it also made me a little sad because I’m graduating in a couple months and I’m just thinking – in college, the only two milestones I can really point out to were my first day of classes in college, and then also flash forward to senior year – like your last football game, you graduation ceremony, your last senior formal. But what about all the things in between? Like in high school, we had…

Jakob: This is why you’ve got to make your own milestones. Just be like remember the time I first did x?

Morgan: I mean I do a bunch of crazy shit in college, but I wouldn’t consider those milestones. It’s like cool, you skinny dipped in Lake Michigan. But is that a milestone?

Jakob: That’s the first! That’s the first time you’ve skinny dipped in Lake Michigan. That’s the first time you’ve done that. Counts as a milestone to me.

Morgan: Fair.

Jakob: I’ve never skinny dipped in Lake Michigan, tbh.

Morgan: Very fair. I’m just getting sentimental.

Jakob: Cold.

Morgan: It’s actually not as cold as you’d think. But yeah, to wrap up my story, I just think going to these senior prom pictures and being able to be a part of a milestone for my boyfriend’s family made me feel a bit bittersweet, because I’m getting closer to graduation and while I’m excited to have my final milestones at Northwestern, I’m also a little regretful because I wish I just kept track of more of the memories that I made here. So to any younger listeners, tuning in, make sure you record your memories here. Because your time is short.

[Music: Little Lily Swing]

Jakob: So that’s going to wrap Can’t Let Go up for this week. This and all other NBN podcasts can be found on iTunes and the Google Play store. And that’s where you can subscribe, which you definitely want to do, because then you’ll get a notification whenever there is a new episode of any of the shows you’re subscribed to – which is in my opinion, amazing. The theme for this podcast is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon which we use under a Creative Commons Attribution License. I'm your host, Jakob Lazzaro.

Morgan: And I'm Morgan Smith.

Jakob: And this is NBN Audio.

[Music: Little Lily Swing]

Jakob: If you know me, you know that I do love a good ironic dab, so I’m just gonna…

Morgan: I don’t think it was ironic, but…

Jakob: No, Morgan.

Morgan: They’re 17-year-old boys!