Tuesday, January 22, 2013
TROY, N.Y. -- A new podcast series is bringing the voices, stories, history, and urban fabric of Troy, New York, to a global audience. "A Small American City," hosted and produced by author Duncan Crary, 34, aims to re-acquaint listeners with the joys, benefits, and daily rhythms of small city living.
"A lot of Americans only think of giant metropolitan areas like New York as 'The City.' But our smaller cities were once very vibrant urban centers, built at a rewarding human scale, and I believe they will be that way again as events unfold," Crary said. "It's not just the number of people or the concentration of buildings that make a city. It's also the quality of characters that enliven the place."
In recent years, Troy (pop. 50,000) has been gradually coming back to life as new business owners and residents "re-discover" and "re-colonize" the former industrial city on the Hudson River, Crary says. Rising fuel prices and a faltering economy are contributing to a new shift toward urban living, but Crary also notes that many younger Americans are rejecting the suburban values of previous generations in favor of small-city life. In many ways, he sees his adopted city of Troy as a universal stand-in for all small American cities. But Troy also has qualities that make it uniquely poised for success according to Crary, and he intends to explore that theme through his show.
"A Small American City," is the third podcast series Crary has launched in eight years. His previous two series -- featuring his face-to-face interviews with Sir Salman Rushdie, E.O. Wilson, Christopher Hitchens and other notable thinkers -- attracted more than 10,000 regular weekly listeners around the world. Already with more than 3,000 Nielson-verified listens in its first 10 days, Crary expects the same reach for his latest offering.
This August, after four years and more than 200 episodes, Crary stepped back from producing and hosting a popular weekly podcast series, The KunstlerCast, featuring his conversations with social critic James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency. Crary and Kunstler often used the urban fabric of Troy to observe and comment on the urban design topics of their podcast discussions. In Nov. 2011, Crary authored a book based on that series, The KunstlerCast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler…the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl (New Society Publishers).
"Although we would benefit from more people relocating to Troy, the purpose of the podcast is not necessarily to entice listeners to move here," Crary said. "We've got a pretty charming scene going on in our small city, in spite of our struggles, and I want other people in other small cities to be inspired to foster a similar sprit where they are."
Already, Crary has heard from fans across the country and from as far away as New Zealand, Tokyo, United Arab Emirates, and Sweden.
"A Small American City" features spoken-word essays and conversations with a cast of characters who bring Troy to life. The first three episodes feature guests James Howard Kunstler, novelist/attorney Jack Casey and Peter Albrecht, a philosophizing carpenter who built many of the barrooms of Troy where people come to life after work and before heading home. Future episodes will feature the tug boat sailors of Troy, a family raising children downtown, and the creators of the "Enjoy Troy!" meme.
"The conversations on this show have an intimate feel to them because I know the guests, intimately," Crary said. "That's intentional. I want listeners to feel like welcome eavesdroppers, which is how I felt when I first arrived in Troy ten years ago."
As with The KunstlerCast, Crary plans to sell advertisements and underwriting spots once the audience reaches a critical mass. Listeners may also donate to support the program. In the future, he also plans to host on-stage live audience events featuring interviews with new, and previous, guests.
How to Listen:
To listen to "A Small American City," visit: A Small American City or use the listen app on Facebook. Subscribe to the program for free via iTunes.
Praise for Crary's Previous Podcasts:
"Duncan Crary wrangles these free-wheeling conversations masterfully" -- Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics
"...some of the smartest, most honest urban commentary around -- online or off." -- Michele Wilson, Columbia Journalism Review
[Image Credit: “Troy, N.Y. 1881. Bird’s-eye-view panoramic map by Beck & Paul.” Prints of this map, framed and unframed, are available for purchase at Clement Frame Shop & Art Gallery.]