The Deep Americana podcast has been focused on breaking bad barriers of "isms." The first season delved into mental illness and disability, as well as individual methods of coping. Season two delves into immigration, how covid-19 has disrupted lives, and frank discussions on institutional and personal racism. With Season three, Deep Americana takes on new hosts and topics, bringing back friends, and broadening the focus. Season Four lets the audio guy tell his story. Season Five is coming later this year! The Deep Americana team is driven to help regular people find ways to communicate their own experiences and express themselves fully. Find us on Instagram and Twitter @deepamericana
S4E13 – UNRELATED: A Series of Unrelated Thoughts
Meeting one's biological relatives after years of costly struggle is, to be frank, a privileged position. That I succeeded, that I haven't died along the way, that I somehow found the funds to travel across the country once I did locate them, and that my encounters with my relatives has gone as well as it has–all of this is a blessing, and such a strange sequence of events in retrospect that I find myself stunned at how it played out, reflecting specifically on my memories of visiting Twin Falls, Idaho, where I was born. There isn’t yet a central theme to my life, there’s no grand thread to pull at, other than this–the worst that could have happened never did, and the strangest situations have all resolved themselves. All I did was ask the right questions for a long enough period of time, and I have had more than my share of luck along the way. I’m deeply grateful to everyone I’ve named, and thankful that you, as an audience and readership, have taken the time to listen and share my story.
S4E12 – UNRELATED: Okay, Okay Already!
Recovering from being an adoptee isn't possible–it's a legal designation, and I can't undo it, or ignore it. Recovering means showing up, engaging, looking up. Forced, relentless optimism, in the face of the absurdity of life. Now, I'm no longer convinced I was under constant surveillance. I realize that much of what I felt was displaced rage, an unending scream, buried behind my silent, infant mask I assumed at birth. As an adoptee, I feel I have always had a life-long infection, a buried, festering sore, at the breaking point where identity and the self in relation to the world index, the nexus where I meet others. Bridging that chasm means having a vision of what is possible. The bridge must be precise, but the chasm is itself un-chart-able. Adoptees are all left, more or less, with this bridge to construct, on their own, from their side of the canyon. I feel as if I achieved an impossible task, bridged an impossible abyss, I've solved a riddle that had been at the back of my brain, occupying all of my subconscious processes, for decades. Now I've begun clearing out that space, using it to do more, be more aware, more centered around my friends and family. I don't feel rushed, or as if my time is misspent, that I could be doing more, somehow, to answer these questions. Adoptees are never 'the good adoptee' all the time, we are all afflicted with some residue from our pasts. I am no expert on what families are healthy and which are troubled. All I know is my own experience and the layers of pain I've navigated to understand what affected me most directly. More importantly, the roles I see played out in fiction, that I'm tagging in these films, are never the totality of one's life.
S4E11 – UNRELATED: Fatherhood
Becoming a father deepened my understanding of myself. I learned what I was capable of doing, I learned how to wake up and walk through the house before even becoming fully conscious when I heard my son cry out in the night. I learned how to change a diaper and clean a crib, give a baby a bath and install a car seat. All of these lessons changed me for the better. They made me human. There is a phrase that I first encountered in Betty Jean Lifton's book Journey of the Adopted Self, the terms 'genetic bewilderment' and 'cumulative adoption trauma.' Becoming a father, meeting someone, finally, who looked like me, even if it took a few years to really become apparent, was a kind of anchor. It landed me alongside the rest of the mortal world. I felt, weirdly, that I had been born alongside him in some way. As for the cumulative adoption trauma, this moment of becoming a father presaged a new era in my life as a recoveree. I became aware of memories that were liminal, memories that I could recall because I could see the universality of experience in my son.
S4E10 – UNRELATED: Warlock III (1999)
You probably have not seen Warlock III: The End of Innocence (1999). Not a lot of people have. It was an outlier to a franchise that had marginal popularity in the 1980s and – to be clear – it was direct to video. It neither fits with the previous films from the Warlock franchise, nor is it particularly remarkable as a stand-alone horror film. It is, one might say, a 'deep cut.' Unless you were looking for it, you likely have not seen this direct-to-video horror film written by Bruce David Eisen and Eric Freiser and also directed by Freiser. Yet, as an adoptee film, Warlock III does some remarkable things. So, while it remains relatively obscure, I'm going to ask you to hear me out. Its lack of popularity means that the film did not have a deep effect on society, but at the same time, it seems to be almost like an accidental birth. It is horror, based around the journey of the adoptee and their search for truth. In turn, the 1999 film turns the fear of the searcher into a cathartic experience, a meat-grinder of a nightmare that succeeds in banishing the demonic, malign possibilities that are in attendance during the adoptee's search for significance.
S4E09 – UNRELATED: Co-Sign
I do not think that I am an experiment, like the adoptee triplets Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland and David Kellman who were literally experimented on in the seventies and eighties, or that there has been a preponderance of surveillance of me... more than any other person in today's society. But a life-long anxiety about my place in the world was made worse, not better, by the circumstances of my closed adoption. I saw that by embracing the growing aggressive tendencies I encountered within evangelicals that the logical endpoint of that mindset was the justification of political violence. If I had remained in Idaho, and had never questioned my life path, I would have been radicalized into a violent supporter of evangelical ideology, perhaps filled with self-loathing. My adoptive parents wanted me to attend a private religious college in Kansas and become a teacher or preacher, or leave the country and serve in the military overseas. Moving to Kansas had reset my expectations about what I could do after high school, but while other students were visiting colleges, I was locked up and being dosed with what was a new class of medications, fresh on the psychiatric market. Still on these drugs after senior year and I'd graduated, I did not have the option to go to college after high school. My adoptive parents refused to sign the paperwork for student loans, and said they had spent all of the money they'd set aside for me to use for college. They said I could live at home as long as worked forty hours a week and paid them rent, which is what I did after high school. They suggested that I go into the military and go to college that way, rather than co-sign a student loan. I did not mention that the Marines had turned me down because I'd been on Prozac, at that time an experimental medication.
S4E08 – UNRELATED: The Paper Chase
I crossed paths unwittingly for the first fourteen years of my life with uncles and aunts and cousins and sisters and brothers, visiting Boise and Sun Valley and Twin Falls and Stanley. Idaho is not a large state, and there's only so many people in it. I don't think the state is run by heartless automatons, and there's a (traditionalist) reason for these laws. But it's absurd to deny me access to a document that only proves what I already know... my biological parentage is provably different from what they keep on file. My birth name was Harper. That was my last name. I do not know if my first name would have been Eliot, but I have always believed that was my real name. Eliot Harper became the name of a character in a novel I started writing as a way to control my own narrative–a response to that suicidal moment–to imagine a world where I was never split from my mother–lighter, engaged in the politics of the moment as protestors, mother and son. My ghost kingdom never included a father, oddly. My mother and I would take on the different war protests over the years, perhaps move from protest to protest while she made a living as painter, writer and performance artist. That was the world I imagined I would fit into, a nomadic, baudy, politically infused scene where change and power could be brought to the oppressed and could overturn the greedy. I've yet to finish the novel, but it lurks there, ever-present in half-finished form in the office I share with the cat's litter box.