Neighbors: The Hero’s Journey

Neighbors: The Hero’s Journey
photo credit: Eric England

The town of Harrenheim is mysteriously out of water, yet its reservoir is full. The Heroes’ Guild summons four of its bravest to investigate. These particular heroes are middle-schoolers, playing a tabletop roll-playing game at a Nashville community center. The game master is Josh Unruh. He’s also a barista and leather worker. A couple years ago, Josh was sinking into despair over our polarizing political climate. Rather than give into the hostility, he decided he would “follow his bliss.” As a lifelong enthusiast of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Josh decided to share the benefits of those games with kids and founded an after-school program to teach them a new game he and his friend Keith created for that purpose: The Heroes’ Guild RPG. It incentivizes peacemaking and cooperation over fighting, and you get a front-row seat at how four kids embody the game. (more…)

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Neighbors: Back Home On Short Mountain

This is a story about a way of life put on trial. Jeffory Young was a beloved farmer and major landowner in scenic Short Mountain, Tennessee, a place about 90 minutes southeast of Nashville that’s long been a magnet for interesting people.

But when police charged Young in a major marijuana distribution operation in 2006, they were able to seize much of his coveted property and send him to prison for more than a decade.

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Neighbors: The Dog Trap, Part Two

Neighbors: The Dog Trap, Part Two
photo courtesy Joel Rice

Joel Rice got the opportunity to ghost-write the memoir of one of his childhood heroes—skateboarding legend Christian Hosoi. But Joel’s experience was an unpleasant one that brought up an old childhood trauma at a skatepark. In this episode, I call Christian to hear his side of the story, and then both Joel and Christian hash out the past on the phone together. And much like the first episode, Joel’s experience with Christian did not go how he hoped it would.

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Neighbors: The Dog Trap, Part One

Neighbors: The Dog Trap, Part One
Photo credit: Eric England

What happens to someone when the thing they love most in the world — skateboarding— is also the source of their greatest wound? When Joel Rice, a naturally bookish kid was younger he wanted nothing more than to be a pro skater like his heroes, Christian Hosoi and Tony Hawk. That dream died the day he hit the “dog trap,” a hazard at a popular skating spot in San Francisco. Falling on his face in front of everyone that afternoon was a major trauma that haunted Joel as he became a prominent skateboarding journalist for ESPN and McSweeney’s. Years later, he got the opportunity to ghostwrite the memoir of his idol, Hosoi. It was a second chance to join the ranks of professional skaters, but it did not go how he hoped.

(more…)

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