COLD OPEN—INTERVIEW CLIP
What makes Boston Great? And what can make it greater?
Male Interview 2
I want to say “the people,” but the people suck…now. That would be something that I’d improve. But that’s probably because of you know, common technology and stuff. Nobody likes to talk to each other. But, um, what I love about it is…it’s kinda hard to explain, it’s just like…
[Charlie on the MTA plays]
Especially at night, like when I look at all the lights and stuff, that’s what I love. Just the feeling of it. It’s kinda similar to New York, but the people are….crappier.
PREVIOUSLY IN GREATER BOSTON
Previously, in Greater Boston:
Dimitri Stamatis—James Johnston
Starkey had dampened my enthusiasm for our shared voyage. I thought I had found in him a kindred searcher. We have been searching for Atlantis in the Pacific. We are in the wrong ocean!
Michael Tate—James Oliva
Return brings good fortune. Return of Leon.
Leon’s death had been his shock. And his memory was Michael’s higher truth.
Extinction Event Poletti—James Capobianco
One must wonder what malignant impulse motivated Gemma to hire someone in need of such remedial advice. I can only conclude that it is her hope to drive me from the office. Regards, Extinction Event Poletti.
I can’t say that one without a ridiculous accent, it’s just impossible
This week in Greater Boston, Dimitri exits the submarine in “The Wrong Ocean,” Michael calls Nica with a special invitation, in “Gemini Nature” and Extinction Event orchestrates a lunchtime social in “The Seance.” All that in Episode 8: Message in a Bottle.
Interviewer—Jeff Van Dreason
What’s the best message you’ve ever received?
Male Interview 2
Oh, I got one last night. It was bro, come over, I have pizza.
Male Interview 2
It was half cheese half bacon.
Female Interview 1
To forgive but to never forget. I think that’s the smartest thing I’ve ever heard.
Male Interview 8
Uhhh, smile through it all. I actually got that from a local raptor. Rapper.
Female Interview 2
Don’t ever doubt yourself either, just keep your head up in every situation and you’ll be perfectly fine.
Male Interview 8
Oh, he’s actually from Canada.
Male Interview 8
I didn’t mean to say “local.”
Not that local.
Male Interview 8
Not that local. He’s on this planet.
Female Interview 3
When Sam and I were first together, we worked in a restaurant, and you had like these cards, like a manilla envelope kind of card, or stock paper. And you had to run it through the register, and that’s how the bill was made.
Female Interview 8
The best phone message, which I th…which we still have saved was from, um…our first granddaughter, when she was I think between the ages of one and two. And you can hear her mom in the background coaching her.
I guess it was the citation I got from the Massachusetts State House when I completed my internship there, with…I was under Representative Gloria Fox. And once I completed it, I got a citation saying I completed it, so I had official document, so that nobody could claim that I was lying, or that I didn’t really go there or anything like that.
Female Interview 3
And we would take that paper all the time, and we would write each other notes and then staple it so that other people couldn’t see it, and then we could pass each other notes.
Female Interview 8
Going [whispers] “happy birth…” and so Amy would say “happy,” and then Suzie would go [loud] “ppy birthday! To youuuu!”
Female Interview 5
I would say the best message I ever received was someone telling me they’re proud of me. I don’t really hear it a lot, so when I do hear it does mean a lot.
Female Interview 3
So, I don’t know, there were things like….you know…”hi lamby. Are you having a good day?” Or something. I don’t know! So they’re really nice, and I have them in a Whitman’s Sampler box in the attic.
You kept them?
Female Interview 3
CHAPTER ONE: THE WRONG OCEAN
Dimitri Stamatis—James Johnston
We found something. We found something!
I could hardly believe it. After my conversation with Claude, I was convinced of the futility of the entire enterprise. Searching for Atlantis in the Pacific seemed so self-evidently wrong-headed. I may not need conclusive answers, but I do need the possibility of them—the sense that the truth lies just beyond reach is the only motivation to keep reaching.
Captain Starkey waved off my concerns. “The name means nothing,” he said. “It is no more sensible to seek Atlantis in the Atlantic than it is to seek Indiana in India. It was named in a time when Europeans thought they ruled the whole world and only one ocean separated Palos from Shanghai. They knew Atlantis was to the west, but they couldn’t know how far”
Indeed, they couldn’t. But what made Starkey so sure that finding the city was simply a matter of looking farther west than anyone had ever looked before? He just shrugged. He had to follow his instincts, he said. And his instincts told him that if the city was in the most logical place, then it would already have been found.
But, Leon, I know how little of the ocean has been seen by human eyes. There is no “most logical” place, just one great expanse of darkness that we’ve only just begun to probe. And the likeliest ocean is no less likely now, for humanity’s few trepidatious steps into that void. But could I truly say that Starkey was wrong? Is it so foolish to distrust maps drawn at a time when maps were fantastical, a cartography of rumor and guesswork?
Do you see my mistake, Leon? Can you puzzle it out?
I was viewing the situation as you would view it. As a puzzle to be approached purposefully. Follow the steps from the question to the answer. But the answer was never the point, and I should not have allowed myself to be so distracted by it. It’s the search that matters, and the potential for unanticipated discovery. Set out in search of Atlantis, and you’ll only be disappointed when Atlantis isn’t what you find. But set out in search of mystery, and satisfaction abounds!
And so: we found something.
We found the body of a whale, or something like it.
[Tense sonar rhythm begins]
I put on a diving suit, and joined the crew to investigate.
[Submarines noises end]
[Underwater bubbling begins]
The carcass was half sunken into the ocean floor, much of its flesh eaten away by the myriad creatures such tragedies nourish. It was enormous, and unrecognizable as any species I’ve ever seen. It’s mouth glowed in the ocean dark, a thousand phosphorescent corpses lodged in its baleen, and a brighter glow shining through the decayed skin of its flank. It’s tail lay too far into the ocean dark to be seen.
It had not died naturally. A dozen or more harpoons protruded from the body, lodged between the bones. They were strange things, the harpoons. Irregular, jagged, brightly colored. They were carved from coral and bone. Two men gathered the harpoons to bring aboard the submarine, while the rest of us ventured into the beast.
[muffled tearing noise]
Gaining entry was unsettling, but not difficult. We widened a gap between two ribs, the half-eaten flesh easily falling away at our touch. Four of us went in—as the least experienced diver, I was third, giving two men with experience first look, while a third watched me for signs of distress. But I felt no distress. On the contrary, I felt on the verge of a lifetime’s achievement.
The whale’s interior was lit by a natural phosphorescent lantern that dangled from the peak of its cavernous gullet. Whales have no uvulas, of course, but this glowing organ could easily have passed for one. Two illuminating strands extended back from it, along the roof of the cavern, likely the circulatory vesicles that fed phosphorus into the lantern.
We followed those veins back through the abdominal cave. We tried to swim without touching down on the surface, where our feet would punch through the soft meat, releasing clouds of decay into the water around us. It was an unpleasant journey, but the reward at the end of it was extraordinary. We found a device, something made, something technological, roughly the size of a single-seat car. It was enclosed, impossible to see inside. Despite its size, it was light enough for us to carry, all four together, so long as we abandoned our hope of keeping our feet clean of the putrescence below.
It was too large to squeeze through the ribs, so we had to remove them with a mechanical saw.
[muffled tearing & snapping]
[creaky electric crane]
We brought our loot aboard the submarine.
[underwater sounds end]
[submarine noises resume]
[water pouring from device]
Like the harpoons, it was made mostly of bone and coral, pink-hued and slightly iridescent, but worked into sophisticated forms, hinges, and tubes, and even a system of propellers at one end. But how to open it? That too was a mystery! Despite much prodding and examination, the thing remained shut tight.
“It’s just as well,” said Captain Starkey. “The mystery will only raise the value. Collectors are often gamblers at heart.”
That night, I could hardly sleep for Starkey’s words itching at my mind. Here he had the most amazing thing he would likely ever see in his life, and all he thought of was what price he could affix to it!
Sleepless, I threw myself out of bed and stalked down to the bay, to the coral machine.
[Strange mechanical noises]
Alone with it, the logic of the controls came clear to me; it was a mechanical puzzle, a thing meant to be solved, not so different from the boxes I gifted you and Nica before I left. It took only a few clever twists and turnings in deliberate sequence before split open, revealing an empty cockpit. There was a bewildering panel of controls at the front, and a seat reclined behind it. Room enough only for one, like a seat in a Mercury capsule.
I paused only to scrawl this message to you, before pressing it upon my compatriot, Claude. He too would rather see thing thing out of Starkey’s hands, and has agreed to transmit this letter after I’m gone, so that you will know what has become of me. I don’t know if or how I’ll have means to contact you again. Once I sign this letter, I’ll climb into the craft and close the canopy above me. Claude will push me from the submarine into the ocean below. Once there, I will press the button…
…the one button most different from all the others, a round protrusion festooned with the iridescent image of a prawn.
And then we’ll see what happens.
My love to you, Leon. And to Nica.
NICA‘S VOICE MAIL
[ringing cell phone]
Nica Stamatis—Kelly McCabe
Hey, you’ve reached the voicemail box for Nica Stamatis. Please leave a name and number, and I’ll get back to you within the hour. If this is a casting agent, you can send an e-mail to email@example.com. That account will auto-respond with copies of my head shots and theatrical resume, as well as links to my demo reel.
If this is a fan, you can see me perform on the second Friday of every month at The Someday Cafe. Additional events will be announced as they are scheduled.
[Voice mail beep]
CHAPTER TWO: GEMINI NATURE
[dishwasher in background]
Michael Tate—James Oliva
Hi, Nica, this is Michael. Leon’s friend. I just thought I should touch base with you on a few things. It’s part of…you know. It’s one of the steps. Making amends. I realize I messed up Leon’s funeral. I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I embarrassed you. I’m sorry if I embarrassed Leon.
I’m still at Leon’s place. I know I shouldn’t be. But I’ve kept up with the rent and other bills. I’ve kept Leon’s stuff in good order. I fixed the leak in the dishwasher.
[footsteps approaching dishwasher]
[focus on dishwasher noise]
[footsteps away from dishwasher]
I’d been meaning to do that. Before I mean. I didn’t get around to it when I should have. But it’s done now. And I’ve bagged some of the things that should probably be donated. Clothes, mostly. Medications. Reading glasses. I haven’t gotten rid of anything yet—I know that’s your call. But it’s ready to go if you give the word.
I’m sure you’ll want some things. Mementos. His records maybe. His books. I’ve been using his kitchen stuff. His sheets. The furniture, obviously. There’s some mail you’re going to want to go through. A couple of letters from your brother. Dimitri, I mean. I hope it’s okay that I read them. I’ve been opening the mail to see what’s important, what needs to get paid, who needs to be notified that Leon…about Leon. And there were these two letters. Leon never saw them. I know he wondered where your brother was, what he was up to. They don’t make a lot of sense. He says he’s living on a submarine. Look, I didn’t really know Dimitri. I met him a few times, you know. He talked about traveling, seeing the world. I thought he meant, like, France. See the Eiffel Tower.
Anyway, those are here, if you want them. You can stop by, or I can bring them to you. Whichever you like. Or you can come by my office. You could come by on Friday, if you want. We’re having a thing.
For Leon. It’s going to be a…uh…well, a seance, actually. It wasn’t my idea. My boss wants to do it, and I’m new, so I don’t really have much say about it. I don’t know how you feel about that kind of thing. I’m not really sure how *I* feel about that kind of thing. But my boss said I could invite you. So, that’s at 1:00 if you’re interested. I would like it if you came. I’d feel better about the whole thing. I’ll bring the letters with me to work, so you can get them if you want. Up to you.
I’ve done a little redecorating in the apartment. I hope that’s okay. I’ve got this new job, and I wanted to put some stuff on the walls to help inspire me. To help me get into the headspace of my readers.
[Footsteps toward the kitchen]
In the kitchen, I put up an astrological calendar. That’s relevant to my work. The readers are into that. I’m supposed to be learning all sorts of new-agey stuff. Predict the future. It’s fun, sort of. Helpful. So I put up that calendar, and I keep track of where the astral bodies are. I’m supposed to know that kind of thing now.
I’m a Gemini, by the way. Gemini’s are indecisive. Changeable. So that’s part of my problem, I guess. It’s a thing to take into consideration. I think I have to change myself into something less changeable. I suppose it must be in my nature to do that. Or at least it’s in my nature to try, but give up halfway there. Maybe halfway is enough. It’d be an improvement, at least.
It’s funny that Leon didn’t have a wall calendar, since he was so adamant about keeping that kind of organization. He was strictly digital with that. Didn’t trust a calendar he couldn’t take with him. I’m trying to do that too. Keep a digital calendar. But I like having one on the wall too. It helps me visualize my obligations in a sort of spatial way. I’ve never been very good at that, but I’m trying. I’ve been looking at how Leon did it, how he organized his life. His higher truth. He still has a lot to teach me.
Like cooking, for instance.
Leon has a lot of cookbooks, good cookware, and an alphabetized spice rack. His cookbooks all have sticky notes in them, to mark the recipes he wanted to make. Which I realize isn’t a big thing, everyone does that. But his sticky notes all have dates on them. He didn’t just flag things with a vague hope of someday making them—he scheduled every dish. So I’ve been sticking to that schedule. It’s a time-saver, actually. I’ve always been really bad at making decisions about what to eat.
[Dishwasher starts draining.]
[Footsteps away from kitchen.]
I could spend an hour just deciding what I wanted, never mind the time to actually prepare it. But now I don’t have to worry about that. I just follow Leon’s plan. Every now and then, there’s a day with no recipe, so I know that’s when he planned to eat out, or get delivery. I stick to that too. It’s usually only once a week, so I’m spending a lot less on delivery than I used to. Frugality is a good skill, so I’m working on that. Did you know how much he liked beets? Turns out, he really liked beets. They’re on the schedule at least twice each week. I don’t mind beets, really, but damn. That’s a lot of beets!
I suppose you don’t really want to hear about any of that. Why should you care about my frugality? I guess I just want to make the point that I still feel like Leon is talking to me. Leading me where I need to go. Maybe that’s why I don’t like the idea of this seance. If Leon is still speaking to me, why press the issue? It’s just greedy. Ungrateful. I’m a little twisted up over it, honestly. But…
Maybe it’ll be different for you. So I thought I should invite you.
I hope you come.
CHAPTER THREE: THE SEANCE
[chicken dance drumming begins]
Extinction Event Poletti hadn’t intended to get Gemma fired. He’d only just wanted his private office back. And that hadn’t happened exactly, but he did get a promotion, and he got Gemma’s office, so he’d actually come ahead of his goals. So that was good. Karmic, even. He thought he should probably feel bad for Gemma, but he just couldn’t manage to work up the sympathy. It was kind of a novel experience, actually; Extinction Event had always dedicated himself to cultivating a sense of empathy for all living things, from the lowest flea to the greatest blue whale. And, of course, for pandas.
But not Gemma apparently. She was the one exception. The one living thing on all of planet Earth that he just couldn’t manage to care about. He decided he was okay with that. On balance, he was well ahead of most people by any metric of decency or fellow-feeling, so he felt he could afford a single instance of blackest hatred for a particularly unlikable individual. Gemma was…well, to put it bluntly, Gemma Linzer-Coolidge was a *jerk.* And he was glad she was gone.
The first thing that Extinction Event did after settling into his new office was to call in Michael Tate, the new hire, Gemma’s last hire, to get a sense of him. Well, to get more of a sense of him. His first impression hadn’t been favorable. In the weeks they’d shared a space, he’d learned that Michael was a carnivore and an inconsistent recycler, and he didn’t know anything at all about prognostication.
But in the time since Gemma had left, and Extinction Event had settled into his own office, he had realized that his initial reaction to Michael had been uncharitable, too strongly influenced by his association of Michael with Gemma’s own transgressions. But it was unfair to blame Michael for Gemma’s childish behavior. Something would have to be done to reset that relationship, to allow Extinction Event and Michael to find some point of synergy on which to build their future association.
And so Extinction Event decided to throw a seance.
Michael had lost a friend recently, a roommate, who had actually been meant to have the job Michael now occupied. That meant this guy would have a connection not just to Michael but to ThirdSight as well. It was a perfect scenario for contacting the other side, and an excellent activity for a Friday lunchtime community-building event in the office. Plus, helping Michael chat with his friend was a surefire way to deepen Michael’s understanding of what ThirdSight was all about, and foster that personal connection.
[Drumming abruptly stops]
Michael Tate—James Oliva
Oh. Uhh. Okay. I guess so.
Michael seemed uncertain about the idea, but that was fine. Everyone did, at first.
When Friday came, Extinction Event was pleased to see that Michael had brought a guest, a woman named Nica, the deceased man’s sister apparently. She arrived at the office looking lost, and still looked lost even after Tyrell had shown her the way to Michael’s office, where she sat reading letters from another sibling, a traveling brother, while she waited for the seance to start. Michael looked a little green, actually. A little unsteady.
I don’t feel right.
Probably just excited to talk to his friend again.
Extinction Event set the conference room up himself, not wanting to insult his subordinates by delegating menial tasks as Gemma had always done. Besides, it always ended up his job anyway, so why not just keep doing it? He arranged the candles and the incense, along with the catered sandwiches, salads, and coffee. He placed an extra vegan club sandwich, with soy cheese & sliced tofurkey at the center of the table, as an offering to the spirit being summoned. He was confident that across the threshold, everyone was vegan.
Once everything was set, Extinction Event used the intercom to call everyone to the conference room, seating himself at one end of the table, and Michael and Nica at the other. Extinction Event himself would serve as medium, of course. With everyone present, he began the seance.
Okay, everyone, please join hands.
Tyrell Fredericks—Arun Sannuti
Before we eat?
Extinction Event—James Capobianco
Yes, Tyrell, we’re holding the seance first. I’m sure you can wait another twenty minutes for lunch. We have a guest, we don’t want to keep her waiting. Okay, now join hands. Tyrell, put the fork down.
It’s just a crouton.
I don’t care if it’s just a crouton, it’s distracting. Do you think visiting spirits want to sit around waiting for you to finish crunching on a crouton?
[plastic utensil slammed down]
Okay, thank you. Again, everyone. Please take the hands of the people to either side of you. Once we begin it is important that we do not break the circle, as that will end our connection with the other side. Oh, Tyrell, could you hit the lights?
Why don’t you get it?
Because I’m trying to prime my aura for spirit communion.
But you’re closer.
But I need to do the thing. Would you please just take care of it? Just squeeze through, I’m sure you can fit.
[Tyrell awkwardly squeezes past chair.]
Thank you. Finally.
[Ominous didgeridoo music]
We are gathered here today, in this place, at this time, to invite the spirit of Leon Stamatis to commune with us. Leon, you were meant to be among us here at ThirdSight Media, and so we welcome you in death, as we would have welcomed you in life. Please, join us. Your sister, Nica, has come to the office for just this occasion, in the hope of speaking with you. Nica, please welcome your brother.
And Leon, we have another person special to you with us today as well. Your friend is here. Michael, please say hello to Leon.
Michael, where are you going?
I think he’s sick again.
[music fades out]
I’m going to be sick again.
He, uh…just puked. A few minutes ago. I think he’s really nervous about this. About talking to Leon this way.
Should we wait for him to come back?
I’d really rather just get this over with. If that’s okay. I mean, I appreciate that you invited me and everything, but really, this is kind of fucked up.
Oh. Uh. Okay. I’ll just work on calling up Leon then.
Leon. Are you with us, Leon? You should know that Nica doesn’t mean to be unwelcoming. She loves you, but she’s not convinced that this will work, and worries that we might be offending you. But she’ll be glad once she hears from you.
Leon, are you here? Are you in this room? Do you have something you’d like to say to us?
Leon, we’d really like to hear from you. Please feel free to occupy my body and speak through my mouth. Or just knock on the table. Once for yes, two for no, that sort of thing. Does that sound good?
[Music fades out]
Remember, once for yes, twice for no.
[Awkward chair creaking]
Nothing? Okay. Is there something else you’d like us to try? Psychography, maybe? I’ve got a pen and paper here.
Thank you for trying.
Oh, we’re not done. We’ll just give it a little longer. Sometimes it just takes some time.
No, no, that’s plenty. Thank you.
I really feel he has something to say.
Not today, apparently.
What was that?
Oh, that’s our message-in-a-bottle system. Pneumatic tubes.
Much more tactile that e-mail. Tyrell, could you grab that? Thank you. I guess the folks upstairs have some instructions. Sometimes they like to offer input on how were perform out rituals. They’ve been doing this a long time, naturally.
There’s a note. “Danehy.”
That’s it. Just “Danehy.”
Just one word?
Yeah, that’s…oh wait, there’s more on the other side. Let’s see.
Extinction Event/Leon Stamatis—Braden Lamb
“Saturday, January 10, 1996 12:00 to 12:45 PM
Post blizzard, as predicted by Old Farmer’s Almanac. School still closed. Supervise outing to local play facilities. Exercise caution—conditions hazardous.”
Well, I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean.
I get it.
Oh, excellent! So what does it…
I have to go.
Oh…okay. Well, bye then. Thank you for coming!
Tyrell, could you get the lights?
Why me again?
Because I have to focus on expunging the spirits from my aura. If you don’t do it right away, they settle in, and then it’s that much harder to clean them out. Thank you, Tyrell. And you’ve got cleanup handled here, right?
Okay…wait, we haven’t even eaten.
No, don’t just throw out the paper plates, you can wash them.
Because it’s wasteful. Just use a damp paper towel. There you go, that’s much better.
[Circus Music plays]
Greater Boston is written and produced by Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreason with recording and technical assistance from Marc Harmon.
We’ve started writing season 2, and we’re eager to get to work on production, but we need you help: You can support Greater Boston by contributing a little as $1 per episode to our Patreon campaign.
You can also help the show by telling your friends to listen or by rating us on iTunes.
In order of appearance, this episode featured:
- James Johnston as Dimitri Stamatis (he/him)
- Kelly McCabe as Nica Stamatis (she/her)
- James Oliva as Michael Tate (he/him)
- Alexander Danner as The Narrator (he/him)
- James Capobianco as Extinction Event Poletti (he/him)
- Arun Sannuti as Tyrell Fredericks (he/him)
- Braden Lamb as Leon Stamatis (he/him)
Interviews recorded with Greater Boston residents.
Charlie on the MTA is performed by Emily Peterson and Dirk Tiede. Circus Music performed by Adrienne Howard, Emily Peterson, and Dirk Tiede. Drum tracks by Jim Johanson.
Some sound effects and music used from public domain and creative commons sources.
Episode transcripts will be posted online at GreaterBostonShow.com.
Greater Boston is written in part at The Writers’ Room of Boston, a non-profit workspace for Boston-area writers. Find out more at WritersRoomofBoston.org.
Michael Tate—James Oliva
I don’t mind beets, really. But damn. That’s a lot of beets.
That’s a lot of beets.
That’s a lotta beeetsa!
That’s a lotta beeeeets!
That’s a lotta beetahaha…ah. Uhh.
- Strong Language
- Mild Gore