Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
Wed November 27, 2013
Our Favorite Things, Continued
Originally published on Sun December 1, 2013 5:50 am
CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR news quiz. I'm Carl Kasell, and here's your host, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thanks, Carl. Now we have given everybody else the week off, and we've taken over the show entirely, which is interesting because we actually don't know how to work this equipment. For example, if I push this...
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SAGAL: That's awful. Anyway, this week we're talking about what we're most thankful for, and by bizarre coincidence it's all stuff from recent episodes of WAIT WAIT. I never saw that coming.
Kyrie O'Connor, what are you most thankful for?
KYRIE O'CONNOR: I am, as we all are, most thankful for Paula Poundstone and most especially for a bluff she did about a special program for children who are away at college who need to send messages back to their parents.
SAGAL: Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
SARAH WERSAN: Hi. My name is Sarah Wersan, and I'm calling from Ridgecrest, California.
SAGAL: Ridgecrest, California?
SAGAL: I've been to many places in California but not there. Where's that?
WERSAN: We're over 100 miles from Bakersfield.
SAGAL: You're 100 miles from Bakersfield?
SAGAL: So is that out, like, where, in the desert, in the eastern desert of California?
WERSAN: Yes, it is, in the Mojave Desert.
SAGAL: Mojave Desert, and what do you do there?
WERSAN: I look for work.
SAGAL: This is just a crazy notion, but if you're looking for a job, shouldn't you go to where there are people?
WERSAN: Yeah, yeah.
SAGAL: Well, welcome to the show, Sarah. You're going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Sarah's topic?
KASELL: Time for school.
SAGAL: It's the fall, a lot of kids are going to college either for their first time or maybe to return, and it is exciting for them because we found out something that is going to make this the best year ever for one group of lucky students. Guess the real campus upgrade, and you'll win Carl's voice on your home answering machine or voicemail, whatever you may have. Ready to play?
SAGAL: Let's hear first from Adam Felber.
ADAM FELBER: Overflow housing can be a total drag. Sometimes freshmen get packed in three to a room or foisted off into some nearby dingy motel with a Yelp rating of negative three stars. But if you're one of 30 students at Columbus Ohio's Capital University, your overflow housing this year will be slightly less of a drag as you move into rooms at Fort Rapids, Central Ohio's largest indoor water park.
Forget the stuffy academics over at nearby Zoombezi Bay, Fort Rapids has it all. Students will get free access to frolic on all three major slide complexes plus the 30-person hot tub. Dude, you will barely be able to make time for it all, not to mention the studying.
Sadly, the awesometacularity will come to an end before the holidays, as Capital University is expecting to have enough dorm space by then, and then the party will be over, at least until next year's overflow housing in well-appointed rooms just above Barney's Burgers, Beer and Babe-O-Rama.
SAGAL: Capital University in Ohio housing students in a water park. Your next story of a reason to celebrate going back to class comes from Kyrie O'Connor.
O'CONNOR: Francis McGuinness(ph) surveyed his cafeteria tray: salt-baked beetroot with burrata? Check. Onion tart with baby leeks and goat curd? Check. And the cafeteria worker dishing it up: celebrity uber-chef Gordon Ramsey. Welcome to Southwestern University, where the students aren't lured just by the pretty campus and small classes but by the five-star cuisine.
WERSAN: It's a new generation, says Dean Bob Wiltenburg(ph) with a shrug. You can't schedule English Comp 101 at 8:00 am, and you can't serve mystery meat. In addition to bringing in a rotating cast of TV star chefs, the school offers round-the-clock artisanal coal-fired pizza delivery, high-end cronuts in the dorm lobbies and kombucha and cupcake happy hours.
Remember, said the dean, these kids have grown up in the foodie culture. Chefs like Ramsey are their folk heroes. We had Hunter Thompson; they have Mario Batali.
SAGAL: Gourmet food from Gordon Ramsey being served up at Southwestern University. Your last story of an exciting development at school comes from Paula Poundstone.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: College is a busy time when, in addition to academic studies, many students are discovering who they are, where they fit into the larger world and how to do their own laundry. Successful scheduling requires prioritizing, and sometimes parents don't make the cut. University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, offers their students tools for managing those pesky parental relationships through their adviser programs.
The adviser's office sends an array of customized form correspondent to the students' parents. The students choose from a list of messages for text: A, love you; B, thriving in this academic environment; C, you were right about everything.
POUNDSTONE: Instagram photos: A, I'm the one in the way, way back; B, that's me in the football gear; C, I'm Asian now.
POUNDSTONE: Handwritten notes, birthday cards, financial requests: I'm going to need another two grand because: A, I guess I've been going to Starbucks more than I realized; B, I have a gambling addiction, but I'm handling it on my own, you'd be proud of me; C, just send it, I don't want to worry you.
POUNDSTONE: Students seem really happy with the results. The student-parent relationships have really been strengthened by the tools, and the parents have no idea that the students aren't actually writing the notes. Most parents have never seen their child's handwriting, so that works for us.
POUNDSTONE: I liked it, says student Cole Massiaro(ph). There were some problems, like now they're coming to see me play football, and I don't play football. But I'll talk to my advisor about it. She could send maybe some injury tweets.
SAGAL: So here are your choices. One of these things is really happening at a university somewhere in this great country. At Capital University in Ohio, students are being housed, yay, in a water park with all-access passes. From Kyrie O'Connor, students at Southwestern University are getting gourmet food in the cafeteria. Or from Paula, at the University of Puget Sound, the university is helping kids communicate correctly and fruitfully with their own parents. Which one is the real story from the news this?
WERSAN: I'm going to say A.
SAGAL: You're going to go with Adam's story about the kids in the water park.
SAGAL: That sounds pretty good to me, too, as a former college student. Well, to find out the correct answer, we spoke to someone involved in the real story.
NICHOLE JOHNSON: They do get free access to the indoor water park on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
SAGAL: Well done, you were correct. You in fact picked the correct story. Adam had that true one. You have earned a point for Adam just because he was truthful and convincing. But you've also won our game. In fact you will have Carl's voice on your home voicemail, well done.
WERSAN: Thank you.
SAGAL: Thank you so much for playing.
WERSAN: Thank you.
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SAGAL: OK, now it's my turn. One of the things I'm most grateful for is the time we talked to children's author Jack Gantos. This was back in January of 2012, and Jack had just won the Newbery Medal for his new book "Dead End in Norvelt." But that's not what we ended up talking about.
I mean, is this book autobiographical? We can only assume, since the character is growing up where you grew up and when you grew up there.
JACK GANTOS: Yeah, yeah, all those three things point to autobiographical.
SAGAL: Yeah, they would. We referred to the drug smuggling. Can you tell us that story?
GANTOS: Yes. I was on my own in twelfth grade. I lived in a welfare motel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And then I was going to go to college to write books, but I drove up to the University of Florida. It looked just like my high school, a giant football facility with a small academic institution, like...
GANTOS: So I decided not to go, and write novels in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. And I could work all day and drink all night, but I didn't feel fulfilled until I ran into these really nice British guys who had a boat with 2,000 pounds of hashish on it.
And they said we're looking for a nice kid. I said, I'm nice. They said we'll give you $10,000 to sail it to New York. That's four years of private school back then. I said sure. I didn't know how to sail. I ran aground in the harbor.
SAGAL: Meaning the harbor leaving, or the harbor arriving?
GANTOS: Both, actually.
GANTOS: We got to New York. We docked it. And then we used to sell them. We would put big duffel bags full of hashish installed in shopping carts and go through the streets of New York City and deliver them to apartments.
SAGAL: This sounds like the perfect crime, Jack. I can't imagine...
SAGAL: ...how you ever got caught.
GANTOS: Yeah, well, you should have seen the surveillance photos.
SAGAL: Wait a minute; you are pushing a stolen shopping cart down the streets of New York with a duffel bag filled with hashish?
SAGAL: And I'm imagining you're running across another young woman doing the same thing. And you're like, hello, who are you, and she's like I'm Judy Blume; who are you?
SAGAL: And you're like maybe we'll meet again someday at the Newbery Awards.
GANTOS: Well, the whole thing was rigged from the beginning because the British guys used American counterfeit money to buy the hashish in Morocco and then Secret Service got involved because there was all that bad money floating around.
So they followed the boat. And then once I got on it, then they had aerial surveillance of the boat across the Atlantic Ocean. And so they had been watching it all along. All they were waiting to do is catch everybody. So then once we sold all the hashish, I moved into the Chelsea Hotel, a fine establishment for any writer.
BRIAN BABYLON: No drugs there.
GANTOS: And then after that, I got paid, I got $10,000 in ten-dollar bills. God, it was beautiful.
GANTOS: And then the FBI came in, the Secret Service came in, the Customs officers came in and I went out the back window of the Chelsea Hotel. But the guy who owned the boat went down to the lobby. He got popped, and I made it to the train station and took a train down to Florida, where I...
BABYLON: Now, did they pay you in fake money?
GANTOS: You know, I never knew.
SAGAL: This is the most exciting interview we've ever had. So you're in the train.
GANTOS: I'm on the train.
SAGAL: Everybody's after you.
GANTOS: I dye my hair in one of those little train bathrooms.
SAGAL: No, really?
SAGAL: So you're down there, you're dyeing your hair. There's a soundtrack, and then what happens?
GANTOS: I got a rash.
SAGAL: What's so amazing is I can so see the trajectory that leads from this to children's literature.
SAGAL: But go on, so go on. So you're in the train, you're dyeing your hair, you have a rash now. You have blonde hair and a rash.
GANTOS: I go back to the welfare motel, which was run by Davy Crockett's great-great granddaughter.
SAGAL: Where? This is in Florida?
GANTOS: In Florida.
SAGAL: In Florida, of course.
GANTOS: She had his wallet in her bra.
GANTOS: And at any rate - that's another story.
GANTOS: So at any rate, I called home. I thought maybe I should call home. So I called my father and he said where the H are you. He said I've got the FBI parked in the driveway. They're reading our mail and tapping our phones. And I said I'm at a pizza parlor.
GANTOS: And from there I got an attorney. Now, don't do this. My attorney, honest to God, was Alfred E. Neuman.
SAGAL: I love that you've gotten this far in the story before telling us, now don't do this kids.
SAGAL: You can smuggle the hashish. You can flee.
PETER GROSZ: But if you hire a fictional character as a lawyer...
SAGAL: Here's where I don't want you to be like me.
GANTOS: And so, at any rate, so I go to court. I dress up. I look nice. And the judge, you know, asked me if I have anything to say for myself. I go, I'm guilty, Your Honor, but I'm a very nice boy.
GANTOS: And he looks at me and he says nice boys don't smuggle dope. And I was, like, oh, you got me there, Judge.
SAGAL: I mean, so how did you then become an award-winning children's author?
SAGAL: Oh, I'm sorry, we're out of time.
SAGAL: No, I kid. I'm genuinely curious how you go from prison to there.
GANTOS: There was a little bit of work in between there.
GANTOS: The transitional period. So at any rate, I always liked children's literature and so I started writing picture books. And I wrote the Rotten Ralph books and then I took them to the publisher when I was a sophomore in college, still on parole.
GANTOS: And started placing picture books out there in the world. And then finally what happened is I started writing more novels, and I started winning some awards, National Book Award, you know, nominee and Newbery Honor for the Joey Pigza books. And I felt like I had a little bit (unintelligible). So I thought well the drug smuggling story is good, you know it's good. So I wrote that.
SAGAL: Now we heard, I don't know if this is true but we were looking into you and there is a rumor that when you were running up and down the streets in New York in your shopping cart, that you buried about $5,000 worth of hashish in Central Park. Is that true?
GANTOS: That is.
SAGAL: It is true.
SAGAL: Is it still there?
GANTOS: I wasn't going to tell you that.
BABYLON: Is it there?
SAGAL: Well, Jack Gantos, we have invited you here to play a game we're calling?
KASELL: Oh, darling, take me in your arms.
SAGAL: You write very well for kids and young adults, but when people get older, their tastes change and many then turn to romance novels. We're going to ask you three questions about those saucy novels and if you get two right you'll win a prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their voicemail.
GANTOS: Oh boy.
SAGAL: Oh boy. Carl, who is Jack Gantos playing for?
KASELL: Jack is playing for Eli Barnes of Madison, Wisconsin.
SAGAL: First question: over the years, Harlequin Romance, the big imprint, has developed a number of specialty lines of romance novels for particular tastes, include which of these? A: Harlequin NASCAR?
SAGAL: B: Harlequin Survivalist? Or C: Harlequin Democrat?
GANTOS: Wow. OK, let's see what's the most romantic there? Democrat? Nope.
GANTOS: Survival. I'd go with NASCAR.
SAGAL: You're going to go with NASCAR?
SAGAL: You're right.
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SAGAL: Romance novel author Susan Anderson had to apologize for a typo that changed the meaning of a line in one of her books. Was it A: that the hero was not, quote, desperately in need of a little late night cookie?
SAGAL: B: the couple did not, in fact, make sweat, sweat, love?
SAGAL: Or C: the line she had written as she felt his muscles loosen as he shifted on the ground, came out much differently?
SAGAL: When the printer got a letter wrong?
GANTOS: You know, all three of them are pretty graphic.
SAGAL: It is true.
GANTOS: I have to go with the last one.
SAGAL: The line she wrote as she felt his muscles loosen as he shifted on the ground came out quite differently.
SAGAL: That's right, that's what happened.
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SAGAL: She had to write a post in her blog a rather exercised apology for that typo.
SAGAL: All right, you're doing very well. Here's your last one. Romance novels cater to all tastes, which is why one book seller is offering which of these sets of romance novels with a similar theme? A: The Airport Security Bundle, including "Love at First Flight" and "The Jet Set Seduction."
SAGAL: B: The Hot, Hot Kitchen Collection, including "The Long Order Cook" and "Turkey with Extra Stuffing."
SAGAL: Or C: The Nerd Box, including "Erotic Robotics" and "The Empire Strokes Back."
GANTOS: I got to tell you, you know I already pulled it together for Eli here.
SAGAL: Yes, you did.
GANTOS: So now, I don't have to even think.
GANTOS: So I'm going for the Nerd Box.
SAGAL: You're going for the Nerd Box. I wish there was a nerd box of romance novels, but it was really the Airport Security Bundle, of course. It's a strange theme. Carl, how did Jack do on our quiz?
KASELL: Well enough to win, Peter. He had two correct answers. So Jack, you win for Eli Barnes.
SAGAL: Well done.
GANTOS: Thank you.
SAGAL: Jack Gantos' book "Dead End in Norvelt" just won the 2012 Newberry Medal. Jack Gantos, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
GANTOS: Thank you.
SAGAL: Had a great time talking to you. Thank you.
GANTOS: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.