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Podthoughts: You Can’t Eat the Sunshine

Vital stats:
Format: comments on Los Angeles and the changes therein, followed by interviews with those tied to the region’s past
Episode duration: 1h-1h30m
Frequency: weekly

I’ve never taken a trip with Esotouric, which offers “provocative and complex, but never dry” bus bus tours of greater Los Angeles which mix “crime and social history, rock and roll and architecture, literature and film, fine art and urban studies into a simmering stew of original research and startling observations” on such territories as “Hot Rods, Adobes, and Early Modernism,” “Haunts of a Dirty Old Man” (i.e. Charles Bukowski), and “Pasadena Confidential with Crimebo the Crime Clown.” Until such time as I cough up the sixty bucks to board an actual Esotouric bus, I’ll opted for the next best thing: You Can’t Eat the Sunshine [RSS] [iTunes], a weekly podcast hosted by the company’s proprietors, the husband-and-wife team of near-obsessive Los Angeles enthusiasts Kim Cooper and Richard Schave. Each episode opens with a local place-name-checking theme song by a ukulele-playing lady known as the Ukulady, who looks, as her site reveals, exactly like she sounds, thus embodying a perfect union of form and substance. The podcast on which she plays enjoys a similar alignment between its own expansive form and that of the city/county/”mega-region”/half of the state of California it examines.

You Can’t Eat the Sunshine doesn’t make the obvious choice of offering audio versions of Esotouric tours, but it surely burns as much gas each time out with its actual mandate: to track down unusual people — poets, craftsmen, professors, impersonators of historical figures — living in Los Angeles and its environs, most of whom have strong ties to the place’s past, and interview them. On some episodes this just means going downtown; on others it means rolling to Long Beach, Eagle Rock, UCLA, Downey, La Mirada, or Lake Elsinore, the names of which wear me out in the typing alone. “We were born here,” announces Cooper in the 90-second back-and-forth spoken intro that precedes the Ukulady, and indeed, I’ve come to notice a certain divide between native Los Angeles appreciators and those transplanted. I fall into the latter group, having moved here for no better reason than that it fascinated me more than any other city in America — well, that and its robust revival cinema scene — and now my current projects include not just a book on the place but an interview podcast more than half of whose episodes deal with Los Angeles. By all rights, I should have taken every available Esotouric journey already, if not up and launched a competing provocatively complex, research-and-observation-stewing bus tour company of my own.

Read the whole thing at Maximum Fun.

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