Transcript for Episode 13: Mayor Linzer-Coolidge and the Lottery

COLD OPEN

Interviewer — Jeff Van Dreason
Is Boston a racist city?

Several Interview Voices
Yes.

Female Interview 1
Depends.

Other Interview Voices (background)
Yes. / Yeah.

Interviewer
Depends on what?

Female Interview 1
Like…it depends on. Like…basically who…who are your neighbors?

Female Interview 2
I say some areas. Because like, if you’re like. See I’m in South Boston. There’s a lot of like white Irish people. And I’d say from the Irish people I know? They’re racist.

Female Interview 3
If you’re white you know you’re kinda, born into being privileged. And when you’re privileged, that comes with more money. And it’s vice…it’s the opposite for black people.

[Charlie on the MTA begins]

Female Interview 4
Because umm, when you’re born into some type of privilege you tend to think that you’re superior to people who are not. So I don’t …I think Boston is racist, but they were born into that, like, method of superiority and all that stuff.

PREVIOUSLY IN GREATER BOSTON

Summer Unsinn
Previously…in Greater Boston.

NARRATOR — Alexander Danner
The count was in. The city of Red Line was officially a thing. An hour later, Park Street station is empty. Paul Montgomery supporters all gone home. Still wondering why their mayor has gone away.

CHARLOTTE LINZER-COOLIDGE — Summer Unsinn
I worked too hard to let this all go to hell. And need I remind you, this is all we’ve got right now. So if you’re not going to let me do it, get to work at figuring it out yourself.

GEMMA LINZER-COOLIDGE — Lydia Anderson
Oh, no no, where is it?

LOUISA ALVAREZ — Julia Propp
Did he take something? Your – your wallet?

Gemma
My crystal ball!

Louisa
I could try to find it for you.

TITLE SEQUENCE

Multiple Voices

Red Line
Arlington
Cambridge
I’m from Dorchester.
Jamaica Plain
Revere
Uhh…I’ve lived in Leominster my whole life.
Hanson
Wellesley
(hate that town)
Lowell
Lexington
Red Line
Worcester
Uhh…I’m from Somerville
Peabody
Tewksbury
Hyde Park
Roslindale
Andover
Dorchester
Newton
Framingham
Medford, Massachusetts
This Is
Lowell
Fenway Park
Red Line!
This Is
Revere
Metheuen
This Is
This Is
This Is
Greater Boston

 

EPISODE CONTENTS

Alexander Danner
This week in Greater Boston, Episode 13, Mayor Linzer-Coolidge and the Lottery

[Music ends]

The Tree of Tales – Part 1

[Train Jam fades up]

Narrator
When she was a little girl, Charlotte knew she was going to tell stories when she grew up. She knew because she was already doing it and had no intention of stopping. Dozens of stories; short sketches, one or two page romps, some longer epics with illustrations adorning every page, lush with color and sharp design, cardboard covers carefully cut from boxes her mother brought home from her job at the post office.

In Charlotte’s back yard there was a glorious red oak that towered over her house. The tree featured in several of her initial stories and eventually became her hallmark, appearing as an illustrated cameo in the very least. In one tale, a young warrior clearly modeled after Charlotte battled fire demons up to the top branch, where she was crowned queen of all tall things, empress of earth and goddess of the galaxy.

She often wrote while perched under the tree. In the winter, she positioned her desk to face the rear window of her bedroom so she could look at it for inspiration.

During her last summer with the tree, she carved a big hole in the trunk. It took months of digging and scraping with a garden hoe and a pair of weed cutters. By August, there was a large enough hole for her to shove most of her stories inside. Copies, of course.

[Sound of incoming RedLine train and low, ominous dream music that steadily builds].

She moved shortly after. Her mother needed to find a new home after — after her father left.

And in her mind, she pictured that tree budding year after year. Blossoming with her words and images. Blooming with fiction. Blooming with fresh books and stories and pages and drawings and words, wrought naturally from the limbs, blessing the earth underneath in the fall, gifting would-be readers with a fresh harvest of tales. She pictured her words spiraling into the surface of the stump, lining the tree rings in one long epic yarn, spinning longer each year the tree grew.

[beeping sound].

Charlotte
But what really happened to it?

MELISSA — Tanja Milojevic [distantly over intercom]
Ms. Linzer-Coolidge?

[Train noise increases. Screeching breaks. Ominous noises].

THE MAYOR OF THE RED LINE — James Capobianco
Wake up, Charlotte. You have our city to run.

[Music crescendos and cuts off abruptly. Beeping sound].

MEETING #1: NURSING

[Sound of Red Line train racing in background throughout].

Melissa [over intercom]
Ms. Linzer-Coolidge?

Charlotte: [waking up / turning on intercom]
Yes. I’m — I’m sorry, what is it Melissa?

Melissa:
You told me to remind you twenty minutes before —

Charlotte:
Are we going to be on time?

Melissa:
Well, uh. There’s a good chance we will be.

Charlotte:
A good chance?

Melissa:
A strong probability. Also —

Charlotte:
What was the delay?

Melissa:
Ms. Linzer—

Charlotte:
How many times do I have to tell you to call me Charlotte?

Melissa:
I’m sorry. Charlotte. Your family is here.  

Charlotte:
Shit. Of course, Monty needs to eat. Why didn’t you tell me?

Melissa:
You — you didn’t quite give me a chance Ms….Linzer…Charlotte.

Charlotte:
Come in with them, I need to ask you something.

Melissa:
You — while you — nurse?

Charlotte:
Two birds, one stone. Hop to.

[Charlotte turns off intercom. T-sign]

RUSTY THE MBTA OPERATOR — Jim Johanson
Good morning, passengers. It’s 10:14am and we’re approaching Broadway Station. A friendly reminder that we did have a slight delay this morning and so we will be offering emergency shuttle services at the next stop for any citizens with a provable work or health related deadline. Submit your documentation by the end of the month and the Lead Car will reimburse you accordingly. We do apologize about the inconvenience and remember to thank your Rail-Hosts for their hospitality.

[Operator hangs up. Red Line doors open. Monty coos.]

Charlotte: [Takes Monty]
Sweet little Monkey. What was the delay?

Gemma:
Nice to see you too.

Charlotte:
I’ve got fifteen minutes before the interview, I don’t have time for small talk.

Gemma:
You don’t have time for any talk. You don’t even have time to sleep.

Melissa:
Umm.

Charlotte:
Exactly. So I would expect you to acknowledge that fact and try to be a little more sympathetic.

Melissa:
I think — I should gooooo…

Charlotte:
Plant yourself. The delay. What was it?

Melissa:
It was more of those posters. The Lottery is Coming.

[Pause]

Charlotte:
How many?

Melissa:
One on every other car, covering windows

Gemma:
But of course nobody sees a thing.

Charlotte:
Did anyone check the cameras yet?

Melissa:
We’ve been focused on removing the posters as quickly as possible. It’ll take someone hours to go through all the footage and we —

Charlotte:
Don’t have time. We never have time. We don’t have time because we constantly have to be on time so we never have time. [Pause]. I’m sorry for snapping, Melissa. Do anything you can to make sure we make the interview.

Melissa:
We’ll make it on time and I’ll give him a nice warm welcome.

Charlotte:
Yes. Thank you. What’s his name again?

[Operator door open}.

Melissa: [from a distance].
Chuck.

Charlotte: [quietly].
Chuck, Chuck, Chuck.

Gemma:
A real Mother Chucker.

Charlotte:
Thank you.

Gemma:
Just trying to add some levity.

Charlotte:
I’m too tired to laugh or cry or feel much of anything right now and I need to focus on putting on my BS face for this mother-Chucker so —

Gemma:
I wanted to tell you, ahh, I was reading this article the other day about how breastfeeding culture is like ninety-five percent bullshit.

Charlotte:
(Sighing) Gemma, not in front of the baby.

Gemma:
Right, sorry, but anyway, breastfeeding! It’s been over-mythologized and turned into ridiculous mommy gospel. “Baby better drink from your tits or he’ll never get into an Ivy League College and he’ll work mopping gas station bathrooms his whole life.”

Charlotte:
We talked about this.

Gemma:
We also just talked about how you aren’t getting enough sleep. Like, mere seconds ago. I don’t mind feeding him and there are some really good formulas out there. More natural ones. You don’t have to —

Charlotte: [Monty coos]
I like to. I want to. It’s one of the few times I get to see him lately. Ugh, god. When he looks at me he probably just thinks of a baby-version of a refrigerator or something.

Gemma:
Or like a freshly baked chicken like in one of those old cartoons.

Charlotte:
Meat-o-vision. Chuck Jones stole that from Charlie Chaplin.

[Monty burps].

Charlotte:
Good boy, Monty. [To Gemma]. What did he say?

Gemma:
I thought you told me not to —

Charlotte: [pleading]

What did he say?

[Monty cooing]

Gemma:
He’s worried about you.

[Beeping noise].

Charlotte: [Answering intercom]
What is it?

Melissa: [through intercom]
I’m — I’m sorry Ms—I’m sorry Charlotte. Um. One of the House-Cars was…was vandalized. Possibly burglarized. A Big Red.

Charlotte: [sighs]
Of course it was.

Melissa:
On the Ashmont line, it just happened. It’s possible he wouldn’t have heard about it but—

Charlotte:
He’s a journalist. If he’s halfway decent, he’ll know. Give me the details immediately so I’m prepared. Are we going to make it on time?

Melissa:
I’ll make sure we do.

[Charlotte turns off intercom]

Gemma:
I can look into it.

Charlotte:
Ah, eh. It doesn’t matter.

Gemma:
Hey. This stuff happens. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you know.

Charlotte:
It does. It absolutely does, or at least as close to perfect as possible. With how it all started? With how weird it all is? If it doesn’t work, if one thing is off then it all looks —

Gemma:
Who cares? Blow this stupid interview off. Does this guy live here? He’s going to try any angle he can to slam you, so why give him the opportunity?

Charlotte:
I’m not going to let him slam me or the city. I’m –I’m prepared for this.

Gemma:
At the end of the day though, you don’t own it all. You can’t. You can’t control everything so —

[Beeping noise].

Melissa:
Crime report forwarded to your email right now.

[Monty cooing]

Charlotte:
I’ve gotta read this. Monty’s finished. Burp him for me?

Gemma:
Sure, maybe I’ll talk to you next time you need to feed the heir apparent.

Charlotte:
I’m sorry I have a city to run.

Gemma:
Who’s city?

[Red Line doors open. T-Sign].

WELCOME TO RED LINE

[Sound of Red Line train pulling into station].

Rusty [Over Intercom]
Okay, folks. We’re pulling into JFK/UMASS now. I’d like to remind everyone both on the platform and in the train that this is a commute-ity car. If you’re visiting from out of town or just generally unfamiliar, welcome to Red Line, the only sub-urban free-roaming city in the known world.

In order to accommodate both the residents of Red Line and greater Boston commuters, we’ve set aside a dozen-or-so specific trains that run during peak business hours. Residents of Red Line who have volunteered to live within the commute-ity cars enjoy discounted housing for allowing commuters into their homes as guests during their ride. Please pay your fare directly to your rail-hosts. Payments will go directly to help support our unique city, which helps guarantee your next trip will be just as pleasant as this one. If you’re interested in becoming a resident of Red Line, ask your rail-host for a flyer. They’d be more than happy to share their experience with you.

Welcome to Red Line if you’re joining us. If you’re leaving Red Line, have a wonderful day and we’ll see you underground next time you’ve got somewhere to go.

MEETING #2: 7 News Interview

[Hangs up Intercom. Train noise. Red Line door opens].

CHUCK OCTAGON — Jeff Van Dreason:
Thank you for meeting me.

Charlotte:
Oh, it’s my pleasure. Please, have a seat.

Chuck:
I’m going to record you. Is that okay?

Charlotte:
Of course.

[Seat pulls out. Tape recorder turns on]

Chuck:
Okay. Charlotte. Where is the Mayor of the Redline?

[Light drumbeat begins]

Charlotte:
Umm. It’s a little early to tell. We’ll find out in five months.

Chuck:
I don’t mean the future mayor. I mean, you know, the—

Charlotte:
As I’ve told the press several times before, I am unaware of the Mayor’s current whereabouts.

Chuck:
What was the last thing you heard from him?

Charlotte:
I’d — I’d really like to focus on the city if you don’t mind.

Chuck: [turns tape recorder off]
I’m sorry. Okay. Off the record here. I can tell you’re, you know, I can tell you’re not — I can tell you —

Charlotte:
It’s fine, it’s just —

Chuck:
It’s — It’s my boss. The whole story has people’s attention. Some don’t believe it. The guy wins the referendum and just takes off? It’s like, you know, it’s like the mystery of it, right? The more people wonder where he went, the more they talk about where he could be. Some even believe it’s like a publicity stunt or something. Others, a sort of spook story. Like, if you become a citizen, you might spot the Mayor preaching between cars, or he’ll lull you to bed at night with lullabies sung from the operator’s intercom. You know. Just — please, bear with me.

Charlotte:
Bearing.

Chuck: [turns tape recorder back on].
Picking back up. What was the last thing you heard the Mayor said to you?

[Drums intensify]

Charlotte:
Good luck.

Chuck:
Was that about running the city?

Charlotte:
Oh, no, my water had just broke.

Chuck:
Of course. Congratulations. Shortly before I met you I received word of an Outbound Ashmont train being burglarized. A Big Red rail-home. Would you care to comment on that?

Charlotte:
Oh, well, it sounds more like vandalism than burglary. A commuter tried to spray paint over a resident’s wall. When the resident stopped him he stole a coffee mug on his way out the door. Hardly anything warranting a burglary charge, but all the same we are investigating the incident. When we identify the suspect he will be charged with a fine and exiled from the city for at least one month.

Chuck:
Seems a little harsh, doesn’t it?

Charlotte:
No.

Chuck:
Exiled from the city?

Charlotte:
For one month. We’re a unique city, I’m not going to pretend otherwise. We need to have unique laws.

Chuck:
Can you really expect to keep this city safe?

Charlotte:
Oh, I do keep this city safe. Not just me, our city security and —

Charlotte:
Don’t situations like this underline how dangerous Red Line can be, especially for residents?

Chuck:
Every city has crime, but I operate under the assumption that most people, if not all people, don’t want to break the law. Crime happens, of course, but our city functions on the assumption of trust in one another and our crime rate is one of the lowest in Massachusetts.

[Drums intensify]

Chuck:
Does Red Line have a prison?

Charlotte: [hesitant]
No.

Chuck:
A city jail?

Charlotte:
I mean, I don’t think there are many cities that don’t have some kind of —

Chuck:
Where is it?

Charlotte:
Shawmut Station.

Chuck:
Why Dorchester?

Charlotte:
Well, the foundation of the station proved to be the easiest to convert for our needs.

Chuck:
You’ve come under fire from neighborhood organizers like Isabelle Powell for several reasons, including the segregated demographics of Red Line and the choice of Shawmut for the prison —

Charlotte:
It’s not a prison.

Chuck:
What do you have to say about that?

Charlotte:
I’m meeting with Ms. Powell later today and I’m looking forward to addressing her concerns directly.

Chuck:
Do you mind if I ask you what the Lottery is?

Charlotte:
I’m afraid I can’t answer that.

Chuck:
What else can’t you answer about your own city?

Charlotte:
It’s not my city. The city is run by its residents. I’m solely the acting interim mayor, trying my best to be a leader. And I can’t tell you what the Lottery  is, umm, because it’s a surprise for our citizens.

Chuck:
A surprise?

Charlotte:
Mmmhmm. Yeah. You’ve heard of surprises before, I imagine? Like, when a transit system transforms into a city, descends into chaos and is salvaged from the brink of anarchy by brilliant urban planning, obsessive attention to detail and tremendous loss of sleep?

Chuck:
We have reports of posters popping all over the city, warning citizens that “The Lottery is Coming.”

Charlotte:
Well, they’re advertisements, not warnings. I’m sure you’re aware, in order for the city to run as efficiently as it must, we pay our employees a tremendous compensation, especially the train operators, ensuring the best possible commutes imaginable. That in combination with expedited service during peak travel times, and we’ve literally made sure the trains run on time. The Lottery will be a way to build excitement in our community as well as generating revenue to continue with this trend.

[Drums diminish somewhat]

Chuck:
Okay, if that’s the case, why have all the posters mysteriously vanished right after confirmation of their appearances in Red Line?

Charlotte:
Oh, what did you say before? It’s the mystery of it. The more people don’t know, the more they talk about it.

Chuck:
You don’t actually believe that, do you?

Charlotte:
You tell me. You’re the one who brought it up.

Chuck:
One last question. Do you really think you have it takes to be the mayor?

Charlotte:
Yes.

Chuck:
Forgive me, but your background is in…backgrounds.

Charlotte:
That’s correct.

Chuck:
You’re an animator. An artist. And not even like, the person who does all the exciting stuff in cartoons. The action.

[Drums diminish more]

Charlotte:
Uhh. Sure, the action in the foreground. The “exciting stuff.” But what does it do? It moves. It’s unpredictable, distracting. The background though? Stable. Constant. That’s what a city needs.

Chuck:
That’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you think? In terms of making an argument about why you’re qualified to run an entire city, especially a city like this?

Charlotte:
Why don’t you ask our residents that question. Or the commuters. Or better yet, ask the Mayor of the Redline. If you can find him.

Chuck:
Of course. Well, I think that’s all I have. Thanks for your time, Charlotte.

[Turns tape recorder off, drum track temporarily stops]

Charlotte:
Ms. Mayor

Chuck: [drum track lightly builds during question]
Ms. Mayor. Off the record, one more question. Have you heard that some residents want to draft your wife as their mayoral candidate? There’s a petition going around — Draft Gemma — all thanks to her being one of the biggest city organizers the day the referendum passed?

Charlotte:
Oh, Gemma isn’t interested in the position.

Chuck:
Why weren’t you there the day it all went down?

Charlotte:
I was in the hospital.

Chuck:
The baby, right. But Gemma had the baby with her. Didn’t she? Isn’t that funny.

[Drums end, Chuck pulls out chair].

Charlotte:
Enjoy your stay in Red Line, Chuck.

Chuck:
Have a wonderful afternoon, Ms. Linzer-Coolidge. And good luck with your election campaign.

[Red Line doors open].

MEETING #3: IN THE RED

[Melissa buzzes Charlotte].

Melissa: [over intercom]
Louisa is here to see you.

Charlotte: [answers intercom]
I’m ready for her.

[Red Line doors open]

Louisa:
Hey, so I was thinking about our last fiscal meeting and I — Charlotte, are you okay?

Charlotte:
Is he gone?

Louisa:
Who? The boob from 7 News? Yeah, it looks like it. How did it go?

Charlotte:
Well. It could have gone better. Uhh, he questioned my leadership ability, made mountains out of every possible Red Line molehill and simultaneously ignored the gargantuan levels of blood, sweat and tears I continually pour into this place to keep it together. And he asked about The Lottery.

Louisa:
What did you say?

Charlotte:
I may not have been completely honest with him.

Louisa: [dreadful tone]
What did you say?

Charlotte:
I told him we were responsible for the ads and took them down because we wanted to build a sense of mystery about what the Lottery means.

Louisa:
Oh. Well, that’s actually pretty smart.

Charlotte:
But now I have to come up with some kind of lottery.

Louisa:
How hard can that be? It’s not like we don’t need the money.

Charlotte:
But what do I do when the real lottery crap actually happens? The people who actually put-up the posters?

Louisa:
Discredit them. You run a city. All they’ve done is put up some dumb signs. Oh, speaking of which — I’ve only got a couple of minutes and I had an idea about how we could make some cash.

Charlotte:
I’m all ears.

Louisa: [hands over photograph portfolio]
Weddings.  Take a look at these.

Charlotte:
Oh my god. These are incredible. When was this?

Louisa:
Couple months before the referendum. The clients were kinda garbage humans and the whole wedding was a gigantic red line pain in the ass, but — if we can rent one of the trains to people? Maybe the use of a station for the ceremony? And if we use some of these for advertisements? I think this could make some real money.

Charlotte:
It’s funny. I think I remember this. It was the day I — [pause]. Can we really use these images?

Louisa:
I own the copyright, I don’t see why not.

Charlotte:
This is amazing. Thank you. You’ve been a breath of fresh air today.

Louisa:
Considering we’re in an underground city, that’s quite the compliment. Tell Gemma I said hi.

Charlotte:
Speaking of which. Any luck with the crystal?

Louisa:
Uhhh, is she still asking about it? [Brief pause] I haven’t seen anything new. But I’ll keep my ear to the ground. I just can’t help thinking — Gemma had her iPhone out. Her diaper bag was with her. Her purse. Why would someone take the crystal ball?

Charlotte:
You think someone had a personal motive to take it?

Louisa:
I can’t understand why they would otherwise. But I also can’t imagine a motive. It’s very odd.

Charlotte:
Speaking of motive, thank you for how fast you took pictures of that Big Red vandalization. Thank you for everything.

[Trains fade out]

INTERVIEW MONTAGE — HARDEST THING YOU’VE HAD TO MANAGE?

Interviewer
What’s been the hardest thing that you’ve had to manage or handle or run or on your own and why was it difficult?

Male Interview 1
School.

Female Interview 5
I would say school.

Male Interview 2
Probably balancing school and work.

Male Interview 3
School, I guess? Because, uhh. I have an I.E.P? So…it was kinda hard for me?

Female Interview 6
Money.

Male Interview 4
Probably getting into the routine of cooking. Living. Keeping clean.

Male Interview 1
I had to go through a transition process from going to school in Haiti and then coming here, not only having to learn the language, but just coping with the new system and —

Female Interview 6
You know, when you get your first job? I got my first job when I was 14? And I thought, oh my gosh I have all this money in the world, like, I can spend it on everything and then it comes time to like when your parents see like, oh she has a job and maybe she can help with this, and maybe she can help with that.

Male Interview 4
You know, get my studies done, get my work done, but also make money and have to pay my bills because I also have bills, I’m not just a student like it was like in High School or whatever.

Interviewer
Mmhmm.

Male Interview 6
Finding a place to sleep because I used to be homeless and cops would continuously kick you out of where you were sleeping.

Male Interview 3
I had to like, get help on that like constantly? And teachers been helping me like, you know, sound out the words and stuff. So.

Female Interview 5
And since I’m like the first generation of in my family to go to college? It’s kinda like hard because none of my parents know anything about college so everything is like on you and you have to do everything by yourself.

Female Interview 6
Just keeping track of your money, even though you wanna spend your money on everything, I think it’s completely hard, umm.

Male Interview 1
There was a lot of stuff I had to learn on my own, a lack of guidance and the umm structure I needed for school.

Female Interview 6
And the reason why it’s difficult because you have so many stuff going on outside of school, especially you have to work to get to school, like, to be able to to afford it.

Female Interview 7
I don’t know, I think my personal being is like the hardest thing I have to manage on my own, like, umm, my emotions and stuff? Like, umm. Yeah, my feelings. Handling my feelings on my own without talking to anything about it has  been the hardest thing to do.

[Red Line train picks up in the background]

MEETING #4: ISABELLE

[Intercom buzzes]

Melissa: [via intercom]
Ms. Powell is here for you.

Charlotte: [Answers intercom]
Thank you, send her in right away.

[Red Line door opens, shuts].

Charlotte:
Ms. Powell. Wonderful to meet you.

ISABELLE POWELL — JESSICA WASHINGTON:
Mayor Linzer-Coolidge. It’s truly a pleasure.

Charlotte:
Oh, no need to call me that until it actually happens. Charlotte is perfectly fine.

Isabelle:
Of course. Charlotte.

Charlotte:
Have a seat.

[Chair pulls out]

Isabelle:
I’m impressed with the modesty of your office. Very tight and cozy in here, how I like it. I’m sure you haven’t had much time for frivolity. I’m always amazed when people fall into important positions and make interior decorating their primary concern

Charlotte:
Thank you. The truth is, if I had time I’d work on making this a little more — welcoming. But time is a commodity around here. In more ways than one.

Isabelle:
(laughs) It’s simply marvelous. The level of organization.

I have this nephew, commutes to Tufts in Somerville, all the way from Dorchester. His first semester grades were rotten. I’m helping out with tuition and our agreement is, I see his grades, he gets my check. So midterms rolls around and I get a peek. What’s going on, I ask him. Nothing, he mumbles. Always mumbling, but this is a particularly sullen mumble. So I get it out of him, eventually. Tells me it’s the commute. It’s simply too far and with the constant train delays, he’s consistently late. Some classes? If he’s tardy, he gets a zero that day. Doesn’t matter how good his work is, how much he studies. I need to live closer, he says. On campus. But I can’t afford it.

So I looked into it myself. Housing on campus is downright criminal and rent up there is certifiably insane. I’m old enough to remember when Somerville was actually somewhat affordable. Those days are gone. Still, we worked out a plan and started putting a little nest egg away. Get through this semester, I tell him. And I’ll figure something out. Salvage this.

[Pause]

Some kids his age, you know, they have this issue going one or two blocks. The closer they are the harder it is for them to get their ass to class. He’s not like that, you understand. He’s a good boy. And this semester? He hasn’t been late once. Not once. And that’s all thanks to you.

Charlotte:
Hardly.

Isabelle:
Ah, don’t sell yourself short. This is all your doing. Your planning. Your organization. Simply marvelous. Which begs the question: why didn’t you implement it earlier?

Charlotte:
Excuse me?

Isabelle:
Don’t get me wrong, it’s admirable how you were able to pick up the pieces. I just don’t understand why everything had to be destroyed in the first place.

Charlotte:
I — I wasn’t. I mean, the Mayor left and— we — we all assumed—

Isabelle:
Ah, yes. Assumptions. Very dangerous, aren’t they? Like the assumption that Shawmut Station would make a fine jail for your city?

Charlotte:
Ms. Powell, you need to understand, this was never supposed to be my responsibility. I had no idea the Mayor planned to abandon us. I believed in him. Do you know how much that hurts? I was certain he had thought this through.

Isabelle:
I want to believe you, Charlotte. But tell me which is worse: the idea that the Mayor had no plan for the city should the referendum pass, or that he DID have plans and failed to share them with his second in command?

Charlotte:
There were never any concrete plans, only suggestions, conversations. I mean, to be honest, I never thought the referendum would pass. But I’m here now. I’m listening. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to address your concerns.

Isabelle:
Good. Because the demographics of Red Line demand dramatic readjustments up and down the line.

Charlotte:
Readjustments?

Isabelle:
That’s correct.

Charlotte:
What kind of readjustments?

Isabelle:
I’d think that would be obvious. Red Line is the name of our city,. But there are several people I know who think of it not as a city but as a barrier, a line we were — we are —  forbidden to cross. A line separating us from better educational opportunity, or opening a small business, or a new life in a safer neighborhood. A line denying us a housing loan. A line encircling us, encircling the entire neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.

[Pause]

You know about the line I’m referring to, yes?

Charlotte:
I know enough.

Isabelle:
Enough frequently isn’t enough. You could help us take back the term Red Line, turn it into a symbol of change and opportunity. But if Red Line keeps the same dynamics as the greater Boston area it sprang from? It’ll all be for nothing.

Charlotte:
But that — I mean, doesn’t that dynamic make a certain amount of sense?

Isabelle:
For whom?

Charlotte:
I just, I don’t understand how else — what else we can do.

Isabelle:
Dramatic readjustments. Up and down the entire line.

Charlotte:
Housing readjustments.

Isabelle:
Correct.

Charlotte:
Don’t you see how impractical that is?

Isabelle: [scoffs]
Impractical.

Charlotte:
You’d be asking people to move out of the homes they’ve been living in for almost a year, and many of them have made tremendous sacrifices, opening their doors to strangers. Our city moves, it’s not stationary, and all sorts of people step into their homes on a daily basis.

Isabelle:
I’m not talking about the commuters, I’m talking about the residents. And when you look at the demographics of the people forced to open their doors to commuters for the benefit of discounted housing versus those who refuse, those who have the privilege of paying more rather than opening their doors to any soul they don’t know? Well, I’m guessing it isn’t a terribly big surprise how those demographics break down. Your system is income based which amplifies the already existing inequality. Change would be slow, but it’s hardly impractical. You’d begin with the mandate that in order to live on Red Line, everyone would need to open their doors to commuters for at least part of the day. From there, you could slowly and — and systematically embrace a unified system of complete equality.

Charlotte:
Ms. Powell, I greatly respect your position, but you can not put this all on me to change.

Isabelle:
I’m not. (laughs). I knew you’d oppose. I came here today as a courtesy. I’m running against you for mayor of Red Line.  

Charlotte:
I see.

Isabelle:
Your city is like our history, Charlotte. Yes, it moves. But the more it moves, the faster it goes, the more things stay exactly the same.

Charlotte:
Good luck to you, Ms. Powell. I hope you plan to campaign on the impractical ideas you’ve outlined to me here. I have no doubt you will lose if you do.

Isabelle:
Mm, that word again. Impractical. If you knew what I knew, Charlotte. Felt what I felt, you’d know this is beyond practical. It’s necessary. The fact that you can’t see that proves to me that you are not the one who should be leading our city, despite all of your hard work.

Charlotte:
I think you underestimate me.

Isabelle:
Oh, I have no doubt.

Charlotte:
Good luck to your nephew as well.

Isabelle:
I will pass that along, although I’m not sure Isaiah will be able to forgive you.

Charlotte:
I thought you said —

Isabelle:
Oh, yes. Well. He worked incredibly hard to salvage that first semester. But when the referendum passed, Red Line fell into such chaos that he was unable to make it to school for months after. The winter got colder and he tried everything, tried biking even — but just couldn’t manage it.

[Chair pulls out, Train Jam fades in].

Isaiah voted yes for your referendum, by the way. He had his assumptions, too. Good day!
[Red Line doors open and close].

TREE OF TALES PART 2

Narrator:
And so, long after Charlotte moved away, the tree of tales continued to bloom with fresh stories an —

LEON — Braden Lamb:
No.

Narrator:
Ex — excuse me?

Leon:
The tree never sprouted with stories. Charlotte’s imagination may have blossomed with possibility, but her stories failed to serve as seeds. In fact, exactly one year and seven months following Charlotte’s move, the tree in her backyard began to die. It withered slowly, the branches turning brittle and neon white. Few of Charlotte’s stories managed to stay lodged inside the hollowed trunk, and none managed to merge with their red oak host. While some were stuck deep inside the dying bark, others blew away until their words and images were ruined by mud, rain or other such natural censors.

[Ominous dream music builds along with Train Jam]

Two years and three months after Charlotte and her mother moved away, new owners purchased their former residence and chopped the tree down at the stump, using the wood for timber, burning piece by piece in their freshly installed fireplace. All that remained behind was a thick stump. No words spiraled along its center. Only bare tree rings, circles within circles. Finally, even the stump was removed, its roots pulled from the earth. Fresh grass was planted where the tree had been and soon it was like the tree had never existed.

[Dream music builds and cuts quickly]

Narrator:
But in Charlotte’s mind? The tree grew. It’s leaves budded and blossomed with her words and fiction. And no story grew greater than the one she told herself.

[Train Jam continues through credits].

CREDITS

Alexander Danner
Greater Boston is written and produced by Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreason with recording and technical assistance from Marc Harmon.

You can follow Greater Boston on Twitter @InGreaterBoston and you can help keep the show running by supporting our Patreon campaign, or by sharing the show with your friends.

In order of appearance, this episode featured:

Alexander Danner as the narrator
Summer Unsinn as Charlotte Linzer-Coolidge
James Capobianco as the Mayor of the Red Line
Tanja Milojevich as Melissa Weatherbe
James Johanson as Rusty the MBTA Driver
Lydia Anderson as Gemma Linzer-Coolidge
Jeff Van Dreason as Chuck Octagon
Julia Propp as Louisa Alvarez
Jessica Washington as Isabelle Powell
And Braden Lamb as Leon Stamatis

Interviews recorded with Greater Boston residents.

Charlie on the MTA is performed by Emily Peterson and Dirk Tiede.

Train Jam performed by Adrienne Howard and Emily Peterson.

Dream music by Jeff Van Dreason.

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.

COOKIE

Charlotte — Summer Unsinn
I told him we were responsible for the ads and took them down because we wanted to build a sense of mystery about what — uhh — luhh — uhh.

Louisa — Julia Propp
Oh, well that actually sounds pretty smart.

[All Laughter]

Jeff Van Dreason
I love it when that happens.

CONTENT WARNINGS

  • Strong Language
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