Survive Houston Traffic With These Texas-Centric Podcast Episodes
More Perfect's episode "The Imperfect Plaintiff" hones in on two Texas lawsuits that made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
Photo by Carter Sherman
When you're trapped in Houston's bumper-to-bumper traffic, again, it's tempting to curse Texans' love for cars and elephant-size trucks. And after 30 minutes of inching forward on the highway, it's easy to start cursing the entire state. Yet thanks to Texas's outsized personality and vast size, the state has amassed a wealth of fascinating, oft-forgotten stories – and several popular podcasts have taken notice. These podcast episodes cover everything Texas, from lawsuits to historical developments to murders to the stories of everyday (and not-so-everyday) Texans. So next time you're stuck behind a mammoth truck whose license plate proclaims “TEX4EVR,” instead of banging your head against the steering wheel, try turning on one of the episodes below and listening to a Texan deep cut.
More Perfect – “The Imperfect Plaintiffs”
More Perfect – short for the phrase “to form a more perfect Union,” also known as the reason the founding fathers bothered to write the U.S. Constitution – is a miniseries podcast that centers around Supreme Court cases and its (apparently not infrequent) infighting. This episode takes on two Texas cases, both of which involve plaintiffs who aren't quite the people they initially appear to be. The first takes listeners to '90s Houston, where attorneys decided to fight a local law against sodomy after cops arrested a pair of gay men for having sex – which the men later say they weren't even having. In the second, the Texan man behind the recent Abigail Fisher case reveals how he attempts to change laws by finding an aggrieved plaintiff whose situation will land them in front of the Supreme Court.
This American Life – “Old Boys Network”
Texas has popped up a few times in Ira Glass's trailblazing storytelling podcast, but this episode zeroes in on Kermit, a small town in west Texas whose insular network of powerful men tried to keep female nurses from complaining about malpractice at the local hospital. Naturally, the men did this by arresting them. (One of the nurses was particularly targeted, another alleges, partially because, well, she's a Yankee.) Prepare yourself: If you're at all squeamish about descriptions of grisly medical procedures, you might want to cover your ears for parts of this episode. Listen here.
Last Podcast on the Left – “Texas Executions”
Marcus Parks, one of the hosts of Last Podcast on the Left, hails from just outside Abilene, Texas. Yet that doesn't keep him or LPL's other two hosts from mercilessly mocking the “only in Texas” craziness of some of the crimes that Texas has executed people for. According to its website, LPL retells the stories of “the horrors of the world,” from the Roswell alien controversy to Chicago serial killer H.H. Holmes, but it's also a comedy podcast – and the hosts consider no joke, controversial opinion or offensive accent to be off-limits. If you enjoy listening to three raucous guys bounce off of one another, Texas also stars in a few other episodes; for example, “Waco” dives into what went down with the Branch Davidians.
Death, Sex & Money – “Falling in Love… With Heroin”
Texas is only the backdrop of a complex story about two teenagers who first fall in love and then fall into heroin addiction. As you might be able to tell from its title, Anna Sale, the host of Death, Sex & Money, aims to break down the social barriers surrounding topics you just don't talk about in polite conversation. While the story of two married drug addicts' descent and redemption might initially seem easy to follow, the episode's final twist will make you question its message, the reliability of its narrators and someone's ability to truly change his or her life.
Stuff You Missed in History Class – “The Siege of Béxar”
We all remember the Alamo, but few people likely recall the siege of Béxar, the Texas Revolution's first major campaign. Stuff You Missed in History Class is a straightforward, no-frills history podcast, with the two hosts trading off regurgitating research on how the battle went down while minimizing the chit-chat. So if you like your podcasts to emphasize the education, this is likely your best option for Texas trivia. Listen to SYMHC's episodes on Jim Bowie and the Alamo if you want more Texas Revolution goodness.
My Favorite Murder – “Kind of Loco”
We've already recommended this podcast, but it deserves another nod, because who doesn't like a comedy podcast about horrific murders? Though MFM hosts Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff always talk about two murder cases in each episode, the first in “Kind of Loco” traces the history of Charles Albright, who in the '90s was dubbed the Texas Eyeball Killer for his habit of surgically removing the eyes of his Dallas sex worker victims. If you enjoy what you hear, the sixth MFM minisode – in which Hardstark and Kilgariff read listeners' tales of murders committed in their hometowns – features the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, an unsolved series of murders of necking couples, which took place in 1940s Texarkana.
The Dollop – “The Oil Boomtowns of Texas”
Two comedians, Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds, retell stories from American history. Well, Dave tells a story to Gareth, who tends to be shocked by, laugh at and generally mock the ridiculousness of America's past and its heroes. This particular episode follows one of Texas's biggest claims to fame (besides its aforementioned fondness for state executions, of course): oil, and how its discovery led to the bloom of entire economies and cities across the state. Evidently, in one town, the oil geysers grew so loud that local newspapers actually complained that people could no longer have sex because of the noise.
Radiolab – “The Girl Who Doesn't Exist”
Growing up, Alecia Faith Pennington barely left her family farm outside of San Antonio. She was home-schooled, with little access to TV and the Internet. As a teenager, sick of feeling controlled by her parents, Pennington left home. Radiolab, which created More Perfect as a spin-off, follows what happened next: Pennington realized that not only was she completely unprepared for the real world, but her parents had deliberately never registered her in any way with the government. She had no birth certificate, social security number, no doctor or dental records. Essentially, despite being an American citizen by birth, Pennington was legally invisible. The Texas Observer also did an episode of its Texas Miracle podcast that includes Pennington's story.
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