Out of The Blocks | WYPR

Out of The Blocks

Stories hidden in plain sight

Out of the Blocks is an immersive listening experience built from a mosaic of voices and soundscapes on the streets of Baltimore.  A custom-tailored score embroiders this tapestry of stories hidden in plain sight.

You can get the Out of the Blocks podcast at Apple Podcasts or Google Play

Contact Aaron Henkin

Out of the Blocks is produced with grant funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Cohen Opportunity Fund, The Hoffberger Foundation, and The Muse Web Foundation, which invites listeners to hear more Baltimore stories at Muse Web.

Music programming on WYPR is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive.

Curious about how the original seed got planted for Out of the Blocks? This week marks the ten-year anniversary of Aaron Henkin & Wendel Patrick’s audio bro-mance, and on this episode the two friends unearth archival audio from when they first crossed paths. They originally met in 2008, when Wendel was Aaron’s musical guest on WYPR’s old radio show, The Signal. Aaron liked Wendel’s music, Wendel liked Aaron’s interviewing style, they hit it off, and the rest is history. Plus: Did you know that ‘Wendel Patrick’ isn’t Wendel Patrick’s real name? Take a trip down memory lane with the guys and enjoy the back-story!

Funny thing about making a podcast:  You never know who’s listening.  Turns out, Baltimore’s mayor, Catherine Pugh, is a fan of Out of the Blocks, and she invited producer Aaron Henkin to join her in front of a live audience for a conversation about the show.  (Aaron got to ask her some questions, too.)  This episode is a recording of the event, which happened Monday evening, June 25th, at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s theater in downtown Baltimore.  

all photos by Wendel Patrick

In this episode, we meet the founder of the Detroit Artists’ Test Lab, the head of an African American podcast network called Audiowave, neighborhood activists young and old, a closet poet, and the woman who taught The Slide to a generation of skaters at Royal Skateland roller rink.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

On the east side of Detroit, the streets of MorningSide are lined with stately, brick Tudor-style houses.  But today, one in four of those houses is abandoned, boarded up, gutted, or burned out.  The foreclosure crisis of 2008 hit MorningSide like a tidal wave, and the neighborhood is struggling to sprout again from the rubble. There’s a lot of buzz about a new Renaissance in downtown Detroit, but the locals in this corner of town are wondering when – and if – the revival is going to make its way to them.  In the meantime, they’re holding their own and looking out for each other.  In this special episode, Out of the Blocks teams up with Michigan Radio’s MorningSide 48224 podcast to share voices from MorningSide.

Ever build one of those snap-together model kits when you were a kid? Think of this episode as a sort of snap-together podcast kit. It includes a demo of a fully mixed and produced Out of the Blocks audio feature, followed by the original interview it was cut from, the accompanying musical score, and lots of bonus interviewing tips.  This episode is a fun tool for anyone who’s interested in learning about podcast production techniques. Listen along, then take apart this episode to build your own version! 

Special thanks to our interviewee, Nate Couser, of The Artist Exchange Radio Show, and check out this story-making toolkit at The Peale Center.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The owner of a falafel stand gives a lesson in gratitude, a minimalist overcomes cerebral palsy by sheer force of will, a female boss takes the helm at a men’s barbershop, an apparel entrepreneur reflects on a family tragedy with a silver lining, and a friendly neighborhood barista whips up chai lattes and plays experimental doom metal.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The bartender at The Drinkery tells the history of 'the gayborhood,’ a handyman-turned-comedian reflects on comedy as a flashlight in the dark, a pizza-maker from Pakistan shares words from the Koran about living with good intentions, a master clock-maker ponders the passage of time, and two shop owners share an address and a mutual admiration.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

The 200 block of W Read Street was Baltimore’s ground zero for hippies, head shops, gay nightlife, and wild fashion.  In this episode, we explore the past and present of the neighborhood with a vintage clothier, a husband-and-husband duo that runs a hair salon, a father and son who operate a 70-year-old key shop, and a guy who loves to smoke a good cigar.

Chinatown ID, Seattle, part 2

Mar 26, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

Devotion to family.  That’s the overarching theme in this episode, as we return to Seattle’s Chinatown International District once more to visit with sons and daughters who are committed to honoring and preserving their families’ legacies. 

all photos by Wendel Patrick

Seattle’s Chinatown International District is a bustling, pan-Asian neighborhood of immigrants from China, Japan, Vietnam, and The Philippines.  It’s also a mix of generations, where Americanized children navigate a complex family dynamic with their non-English speaking elders.  Tradition is in a tug-of-war with modernity on the streets of Chinatown ID, where multi-generational family businesses stand side-by-side with the startups of young, artistic entrepreneurs. It all amounts to a beautiful, mutable monument to the American Dream.  This episode was produced in collaboration with KUOW and made possible by a generous grant from The National Endowment for the Arts.

Wendel Patrick is the composer, producer and performer of the musical score for every episode of Out of the Blocks. In this special installment, he talks about some of his favorite compositions from the show and delves into how (and why) he makes the music.  Wendel can span musical genres from classical to hip hop with compositions that take the listener on an emotional journey full of surprises:  A cell-phone ringtone symphony? Check. A hair-clipper fugue? Check.  This is a must-listen for aspiring music producers or anyone who wants to hear extended music cuts from Out of the Blocks.

100 S Broadway, part 3

Feb 12, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

If we’re truthful about it, most of us will admit it:  There’s a gap between who we are and who we yearn to be.  In this episode, people confront the sting of getting honest with themselves.  In the end, some find redemption, and some just stare into the abyss.  There’s darkness in this episode, yes, but rays of hope have a way of shining in through the cracks.  As you’ll hear Francesca say, “Life is too short, the world is too cruel. Just love one another.”

100 S Broadway, part 2

Jan 29, 2018

This episode begins with a recovering addict who’s found peace, purpose, and a modest income folding paper flowers and peddling them to passersby on the street corner.  The episode ends with a Salvadorian immigrant who spends 50 hours a week on an assembly line in a chicken processing plant.  In between are more stories of entrepreneurs and day-laborers, people trying to make a living and trying to live life along the way.

100 S Broadway, part 1

Jan 16, 2018
all photos by Wendel Patrick

Baltimore became a second home to members of North Carolina’s Lumbee tribe when they immigrated to the city after World War II, trading in farm work for factory and construction jobs.  Since then, the Baltimore American Indian Center on the 100 block of S Broadway has been a cultural hub for the transplanted Lumbee people and other Native Americans in the city.  In this episode: Conversations with Urban Indians about family, spirituality, and identity.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

A spectrum of stories exploring the creative impulse: from an emcee, a sculptor, a muralist, a florist, and others in Baltimore’s Station North neighborhood. This special episode was originally commissioned as a sound installation for the 2014 MICA exhibition, Locally Sourced.  

all photos by Wendel Patrick

This episode kicks off with a barber who’s been cutting hair in The Ville for 60 years, and it ends with the story of a woman who just recently became a proud homeowner in the neighborhood.  In between are beautiful, personal stories from mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, war veterans, preachers, urban gardeners, and more. Produced in collaboration with the podcast We Live Here and the neighborhood organization 4 The Ville, and made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Out of the Ville, part 1

Dec 5, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

We’re all taught that housing desegregation was a good thing, right? But if you talk to the old-timers in The Ville, they’ll give you a more nuanced story:  They’ll tell you it was a gift that came with a curse. In its heyday, The Ville was the beating heart of black Saint Louis, with historic African American institutions like Sumner High School and Homer G Phillips Hospital.  Desegregation opened the floodgates for a mass-exodus from The Ville, and now the neighborhood is more than 60 percent vacant.  Out of the Blocks travels to the Ville for this special episode, produced in collaboration with the Saint Louis Public Radio podcast We Live Here and the neighborhood organization 4 The Ville.  This episode was made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

3600 Falls Road, part 3

Nov 20, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

In this episode, a group home is a haven for residents with mental and psychological challenges; a web-design CEO reveals his second life as an experimental musician; a pizzeria owner shares a lesson in pride and humility; a rock drummer trades in his sticks for a career in corporate voice-overs; a recovering heroin addict struggles to stay clean for her 2-year-old daughter; and the boss of a branding agency second-guesses his own brand of leadership.

photos by Wendel Patrick

This is quite possibly the first time ever that a musical score for a podcast was written for, and performed by, a full symphony orchestra.   Here’s how it happened:  Out of the Blocks collaborated with the BSO for a special concert series called, “Baltimore Voices.” The concerts featured recordings of four Baltimore City teenagers sharing beautiful and honest stories about their lives.  Wendel Patrick composed an original score for each story.  And The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performed Wendel’s scores live, while the stories aired on the sound system in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

A boom in new, young residents is great for business, unless you’re the neighborhood funeral home.  In this episode, a funeral director looks toward an uncertain future, a yarn shop becomes a handicraft social hub, a family of Mennonites arrives to start a Christian school, and a record store owner ponders his decision to become… a record store owner.

3600 Falls Road, part 1

Oct 10, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

“I think the word we’re dancing around is ‘gentrification.’” So says Benn Ray of Atomic Books at the outset of this episode. What follows is a multidimensional portrait of a neighborhood in flux.  The 3600 block of Falls Road is a mix of longtime rowhome residents, recovering opiate addicts, and a new wave of business owners whose trendy boutiques have come to redefine a neighborhood that’s been in long economic decline.  Who does Hampden belong to?  The answer depends who you ask.

2400 Saint Paul St, Part 3

Sep 26, 2017

Super-saturated sound-portraits of entrepreneurs and artists at work on the 2400 block of Saint Paul Street:  Whirring blenders, whispering crochet needles, bubbling deep-fryers, clanking screen-presses, snipping scissors, and whooshing hair dryers comprise the soundscapes at Style Lab, Ajna Printing, American Wings & Pizza, Lauryn Byrd’s Yarn Bombs, and Grind House Juice Bar & Café.

2400 Saint Paul St, Part 2

Sep 12, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

In this episode, portraits of irrepressible drive and determination:  A self-made cosmetics mogul opens up a school of makeup artistry, a local fashion entrepreneur delivers a searing sociopolitical critique, a hair stylist runs a one-man business and wears his heart on his sleeve, and a sanitation worker trades in his drug-dealing past for a career cleaning the streets.

2400 Saint Paul St, Part 1

Aug 29, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

The locals call it Black Wall Street, and it’s earned the nickname.  17 black-owned businesses operate on the 2400 block of Saint Paul Street, which sits on a bustling intersection at the geographic center of Baltimore city.  In this episode, we meet the crew at Reflection Eternal Barbershop, where an aspiring music producer creates hip hop tracks in between haircuts. We visit Deleen’s Boutique, where the namesake proprietor works wonders on a Juki sewing machine. We drop in at Flourish, a shop that specializes in crystals, essential oils, and Tibetan Singing Bowls. And we check out what’s cooking in the kitchen of Terra Café.

all photos by Wendel Patrick

It’s hard to write a 'spoiler-free' description of this episode because these stories from 1100 Ward Street take so many surprise twists.  Let's just say we meet a man who almost got to play with The Orioles, a guy who ended up becoming friends with a woman who stabbed him, a woman who survived a house fire, a man who got the closest thing he ever had to a father figure when he was behind bars, and a repo man who struggles to make his own car payments.

1100 Ward Street, Part 2

Aug 1, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

This episode is an unlikely triptych of redemption stories from the 1100 block of Ward Street.  We meet Paul’s Place Peer Recovery Coach Dolly Miller, who’s been clean for nine years now after spending more than half her life addicted to drugs.  We visit with Paul’s Place Ambassador Volunteer Coordinator Will Thomas, who overcame addiction and homelessness and uses his experience to guide others with similar struggles.  And we get to know Paul’s Place volunteer Paul Schurick, whose life changed profoundly when he was sentenced to community service after being disgraced in a political scandal.

1100 Ward Street, Part 1

Jul 17, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

Back in the 1800’s, they literally herded pigs through the streets of Southwest Baltimore’s Washington Village, from the terminus of the B & O Railroad to the neighborhood’s meat packing plants and butcher shops.  The nickname, ‘Pigtown,’ has stuck, but the industry is long gone from this part of the city.  These days, the neighborhood is known for unemployment, homelessness, and drug addiction.

7200 Harford Road

Jul 3, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

7200 Harford Road is about as far north and east as you can get and still be in Baltimore City.  It’s tucked just inside the county line, and downtown feels far-off when you’re out here.  On this block, MMA fighters train at American Muy Thai, customers get perms at Umberto’s Hair Salon, folks line up for Italian and German specialties at the counters of Mastellone’s Deli and Mueller’s Delicatessen, and the 112-year-old Fenwick Bakery sells homemade marshmallow donuts.  Field producer Adam Droneburg is our guide as we visit these spots and more on the 7200 block of Harford Road.

600 Cherry Hill Road, Part II

Jun 20, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

We have our own community here. It's like no other neighborhood.  We're R.I.C.H. Raised in Cherry Hill.

600 Cherry Hill Road, Part I

Jun 5, 2017
all photos by Wendel Patrick

This place, people counted it out to drown.  But Cherry Hill is literally that.  We are a hill.  I don’t care how much water you surround us by.  We are a hill that will always stand and will always be bold.

Pages