#5: I Need a Friend

Today’s show is about friendships—how they help shape who you are,  and why they can be so hard to navigate and keep going.


Midway in the journey of our life, I came to myself in a dark wood, for the straightforward path had been lost.
— Dante's Inferno


Midway's Independent Cafe Tour of DC   

Producer Barbara Paulsen and Middlebury College Intern Sara Hodgkins worked on the 5th episode—on friendship—in coffee shops all around the district: Big Bear Cafe in Bloomingdale; Open City at the National Cathedral; Tryst in Adams Morgan; and Coffee Nature in Tenleytown. Many thanks to Sara for her amazing insights and wise counsel on how to shape this story!

#4: Getting In

When your kid applies to college, it can feel like the end of your child rearing, the last time they'll need your help, the final verdict on how you've done as a parent. This is the story of my son Miro applying to college, but it's also my own, sometimes frantic, quest to figure out what I’ll do as an empty nester.

#3: Mother Road Trip


My family travels 2,000 miles from Oklahoma to California to witness the drought that's taken hold of the American Southwest and California—and to get closer as a family.

Any parent of a teenager can get wistful about what’s been lost. When they were younger, they drove you round the bend with all their need. Now they don’t need you and it’s not like you want them to—but there’s a closeness that is lost. At 16, my son Miro spent a lot of time in his room listening to music, and when he came out I usually pounced on him with questions and reminders. I didn't like the pattern we’d fallen into.

Part of the reason I'd quit my job was that I wanted to try to regain some of the intimacy that had slipped away while I’d been so focused on work, and he’d grown into a teenager all of a sudden. But was that still possible? To find out, my family of three did what so many Americans do when they’re looking for answers: We took a road trip out West. We drove from Oklahoma to California—retracing the journey taken by the Joad family in the Grapes of Wrath. 

This podcast is the story of that trip, told in 4 chapters for each state we passed through. It’s the story of the people and places we encounter over the course of a 2,000-mile trek across the southwest—which happens to be in the midst of an historic drought. But like any road trip story, it’s also about other things, about love and attachment, and how learning to tell the difference can transform relationships—can transform us.

Check out my three-part article for National Geographic.

Part One: On the 'Grapes of Wrath' Trail, the Dust Bowl Still Resonates

Part Two: Rediscovering Route 66, America's Mother 'Road'

Part Three:  A Visit to the Migrant Camp of Weedpatch During California's Worst Drought in History 

The people behind the Mother Road Trip: 

From Top Left: Miro recording sound in Hooker, Oklahoma; Tom and Patsy Fischer outside Patsy's mother's house in Hooker; Diana Peterson Lane at the Joy Junction Homeless Shelter in Albuquerque; Miro mopping up after a volunteer session at Joy Junction; Barbara outside David Newton's house in Albuquerque; Miro and Teo dig holes to build a fence in Portersville, CA; Barbara wades in the Colorado River in Needles, CA; Carla Eggman is an orange farmer whose son has returned to Oklahoma in what she calls a "reverse migration."

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straightforward path had been lost.
— Dante's Inferno

#1: No Road Map

I was probably 11 or 12 years old the first time I saw a map of my hometown. And I had this rush of excitement when I understood for the first time that those red and blue squiggly lines were the roads and rivers around my house. Even now, every time I look at a map, my whole world opens up. I see the connections between where I am and everything else, and I suddenly I feel both grounded and ready for adventure at the same time.

My love of maps probably has something do with why I worked for National Geographic for more than a decade. And It also explains why I’m both excited and scared about the next stage of my life.

Because, for the journey I’m on, there are no roadmaps.

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straightforward path had been lost.
— Dante's Inferno