S-Town

stown-CONTENT-2017S-Town. A podcast from Serial and This American Life. Hosted by Brian Reed.

Seven chapters that I finished listening to yesterday with each episode lasting an hour, give or take. Midway through, I was already raving to anyone that would listen that this was the next investigative journalism triumph and I couldn’t wait for the resolution. I was expecting a radio version of “The Jinx”.

Not so. When it ended, I was a little baffled. I was sure that this was supposed to uncover a seedy mystery or at least make one seriously question the goings on of Woodstock, Alabama, which was given the moniker “Sh*town” by the podcast’s protagonist and reason for existence, John B. McElmore.

John B. as he is referred to was a prodigy horologist; someone who engages in the study of time. He was genius when it came to refurbishing clocks or other intricate instruments that measure time. He had an extensive knowledge of climate change, politics, literature, music, and whatever interested him. He was reportedly a mediocre student, but was given free, if not inappropriate, rein of his college professor’s classroom to conduct chemistry experiments. That’s how smart and special he was. He was also heavily tatted and had nipple piercings. Not necessarily strange, except for the fact that he lambasted anyone with tattoos as being, “trash”.

If you couldn’t already tell, John B. was complicated. He reached out to Brian Reed, the host of the podcast and established journalist originally to uncover a supposed murder in his Alabama hometown. John was outraged at a coverup by the police in cahoots with an influential family that owned multiple properties and businesses there. After numerous conversations, Brian eventually travels to Alabama to investigate, only to find no evidence behind John’s claims.

Instead, the podcast delves into the eccentric, fascinating, frustrating and tragic story of John. I don’t want to give much more away, because I truly think it’s worth a listen. If you really want to be free of preconceptions, don’t do prior research as they will contain spoiler alerts and this is not exactly a new podcast, having been released in March of 2017. It’s just new to me and may be for you. For that reason, I’m going to refrain from including pictures.

S-Town was not really what I wanted it to be, but I was engrossed all the same. There are posits from people who knew John intimately or not so much, as he was a recluse but someone who ultimately craved intimacy so much that it was his downfall. He was full of dichotomies in his life, but one thing is for certain, his level of intelligence and impact was rare and to me, worth knowing about.

Please leave a comment if you listen or have listened. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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