December 15, 2015

#49 Past, Present, Future

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

This week, updates on some of the stories we've done over the past year, some bonuses and surprises, and the most beautiful song ever written about ping pong balls and a clarinet. 

The Episodes

#42 Blind Spot #29 The Takeover #19 Underdog #36 Today's the Day #44 Shine On You Crazy Goldman

Lightning Round

#2 The Secret, Gruesome Internet For Doctors #1 A Stranger Says I Love You #4  Follow the Money #21 Hack the Police #6 This Proves Everything #26 Craigslist, Horsley's List #15 I've Killed People and I Have Hostages #35 One Strike

Further Reading

Illustrator Matt Lubchansky's website is OVER HERE Singer/songwriter Matt Farley can be found on his website or on Spotify. Our theme song is by the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Our ad music is by Build Buildings


PJ VOGT: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I'm PJ Vogt.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And I'm Alex Goldman.

PJ: And we're doing something different today, something we've never done before.

ALEX: That is correct.

PJ: Well, normally we do these stories, we report on people, we often meet them at an unusual time in their lives, and then when we're done, we leave. And even though we will hear interesting things about what continues to happen to people after we've reported their stories, there's no place for that information to go. Because it's not like we can just come together at the end of the year and do a big updates episode where you found out about all the crazy stuff that happened to the people we'd reported on since we'd done the story.

ALEX: Or can we?

PJ: Probably we can.

ALEX: Or will we?

PJ: Probably we're like 42 seconds into that episode right now.

[MATT FARLEY SONG: Through the winter and the spring
And the summer and the fall
So much good stuff
Happened on Reply All
Now it's time to look back
Check in, get a few updates]

ALEX: That’s right, this is the update episode! Thanks to our friend Matt Farley for writing that amazing theme song. So, just as a disclaimer, if you're new to the show or if there are episodes that you haven’t heard before, not only will this make very little sense to you, but there will be spoilers all over the place. So go back and listen to every episode, and then come back and listen to this one!

PJ: And we have someone who is gonna guide us through these episodes.

PHIA BENNIN: Okay, guys.

ALEX: Hi, who are you?

PHIA: Hi, I’m Phia. I’m Phia Bennin, I’m a producer on your show.
ALEX: Oh, that’s where I recognize you from.

PJ: So Phia, what episodes are we revisiting today?

PHIA: So here’s what’s in today's episode: we are going to do updates on #42, "Blind Spot."
#29, "The Takeover." #19, "Underdog." Episode 36, "Today’s the Day." And episode 44, "Shine On You Crazy Goldman."

PJ: And is it possible there will also be surprises along the way?

PHIA: Maybe there's gonna be a couple bonuses. Okay, so the first story we’re going to update is Sruthi’s medical mystery: Episode #42, "Blind Spot."

ALEX: So, this episode... we got more emails about this episode than any other episode.

PJ: Is that true?

ALEX: I think so.

PJ: Could be true.

ALEX: Might be true.

PJ: We got a lot of emails about this episode because it ended on a cliffhanger. And people wanted to know what had happened. So should we tell them what happened? Should Sruthi tell them what happened?


PJ: Hey, Sruthi.

ALEX: Hi, Sruthi.

SRUTHI: So, so, so, we are gonna talk about Hope. So just a quick summary, we did a story about a woman who we called Hope. She had her body basically break down in every possible way. She couldn’t figure out what it was, she felt as if the doctors were misdiagnosing her. And so she goes online and finds a website where people—a group of strangers, basically—they give her a bunch of different diagnoses. And one of the things they say she might have is something called SCM syndrome. It has to do with a muscle in your neck. Anyway, she get some neck massages, goes to the chiropractor, and... it works.

PJ: Right, the advice she got from the website, she followed it and her pain went away, and so for her, it was like, this website fixed my mysterious ailment. But when you started reporting it, you talked to other experts who said like actually, not only might Hope not have been cured by a website on the internet, but she might have this underlying condition that is very serious and could be fatal, and so she might have just like fixed the symptom, and be in a lot of danger.

SRUTHI: Yeah, exactly. And so when we left off, Hope was off to go do this one last test to see whether she had that condition called a carotid dissection.

PJ: So what happened?

SRUTHI: I’m going to tell you what happened, but first I have to tell you this other thing.

PJ: What's the other thing?

SRUTHI: So hang in there for a sec. After the episode aired, we got some really eerie emails. Like one from this guy, a man who heard our show while driving home from church, and he was like wait, is this a show about my wife?

KYLE: I kept perking up more and more on the drive home as I was like oh my gosh, that too, like yeah, totally, yeah, that's been our experience.

SRUTHI: So that’s Kyle, and his wife Mel had been having these horrible, horrible headaches. For months.

MEL: That headache lasted for like 45 days and then I went to the hospital.

SRUTHI: Oh no.

MEL: And then the headache came back. It was 108 days. Straight.

SRUTHI: She tried all of these different procedures. One of them gave her an aneurysm. And same thing as with Hope, doctors told her it was one thing, but none of the treatments for those things were working, so she just was at a loss.

KYLE: At the point of me listening to this story, we didn't have any path that was... hopeful.

MEL: We were at the end. Of every path.

KYLE: Yeah, yeah. You know, we were looking at... The next course was basically this procedure where they cauterize some nerves in your neck. Stop those nerves from firing the pain signals.

PJ & ALEX: Ooh!

SRUTHI: Yeah. She was terrified, but she just wanted these symptoms to go away, so after she heard the episode, she tried massaging her neck the same way that Hope did, and just like that, the symptoms went away. And at first she didn’t believe it. But she kept doing it.

MEL: It seems like crazy, like when I tell people, I'm like, ”All I'm doing is just squeezing this muscle.” And everybody's like, "How's it going squeezing that muscle?" I'm like, "I'm still good! It's really weird!" But, totally back to life as normal. Like, 100%.

ALEX: Sruthi, that is an amazing story, but I really wanna know what happened to Hope.

SRUTHI: So, I spoke to Hope. She got the test, a scan for something called a carotid dissection. And the test came back completely clear. She definitely doesn’t have it. When I spoke to her, she was in an airport. It was super loud. She was on her way to London and then to Iceland, she was going just on holiday, she was super excited, and she sounds just great.

HOPE: Um, so I’ve just been continuing what I was doing, which is going to the chiropractor, physical therapy, doing stretches for my head and neck. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

PJ: That’s awesome.

ALEX: She went from being totally debilitated to like, you know, traveling the world.

SRUTHI: Yeah. I’m really happy for her, I’m happy for Mel, and anyBODY else who got something out of listening to that episode. However, I really don’t understand this thing Hope thinks she has, the SCM syndrome. I spoke to so many different doctors and all of them said they couldn’t explain why the symptoms would have been relieved. And so if anyone is having these kinds of symptoms, I want to make sure, just check with a doctor first. And yeah, we’re definitely not the experts.

PJ: Yeah. Thanks Sruthi.

SRUTHI: You’re welcome.

PHIA: Next episode, 29, "The Takeover."

ALEX: Alright, so here’s what happened in "The Takeover.” Reporter Karen Duffin interviewed this guy named Thomas, who's like a 17-year-old punk rock kid, who decided like as a gag to create a fake office roleplaying Facebook group called Stackswell and Co.

PJ: It was like a roleplaying game where you could pretend that you had a boring office job to make fun of people with boring office jobs.

ALEX: And it quickly became much more popular than he anticipated, and sort of spiraled out of his hands in a way that frustrated him.

PJ: Because real, people with actual office jobs really liked the game and they liked playing the game, even though it was supposed to in his mind just be a critique of their lives, they totally enjoyed it. It's like how people in offices like Dilbert comics. But if Dilbert was written by an angry 16-year-old who thought nobody should work in an office.

ALEX: There was this one recurring joke that especially annoyed Thomas which was about iguanas that took over the office.

THOMAS OSCAR: There’s this specific one dude. And he did it in the whole email format. It was like, uh our reptilian overlords have requested your meeting on next Sunday morning at like three AM ha ha ha ha. Like, what the fuck? That’s not funny. Like, where’s the humor in that? Your boss is a lizard? Like is that what’s funny? Is it the fact that he called you in for a meeting at a dumb hour? Is it the fact that lizards can’t use the phone? Like what’s funny about that?

ALEX: He eventually got so frustrated that he sold the Facebook group for $25 to a guy named David Frew, who happens to be exactly the kind of person that Thomas was trying to make fun of.

PJ: Karen talked to Thomas again after the story aired and she said that one consequence of the story was that Thomas's mom actually grounded him when she heard it.

ALEX: That's so funny.

THOMAS: My mom heard it and she was like, what? Like, what the fuck? She's like, you say all this mean stuff about me. Even though I didn't really say anything that mean.

KAREN DUFFIN: Oh, okay. So, you graduated?

THOMAS: I sure did, I'm now officially a grownup.


THOMAS: Oh, and I turned 18 as well, so now I am also even more officially a grownup.

KAREN: That's exciting.

THOMAS: Um yeah, I guess, it's a bit scary.

KAREN: Wait, why is it scary?

THOMAS: I just have a lot more responsibility and stuff. And I keep dreaming that I break the law and I go to jail. I've had that dream so many times, that now that you're an adult you have to go to jail. Very scary. And I have to do the shopping now. My parents make me go and do the shopping. And I fucked up and instead of buying Corn Flakes the other day I bought Crispy Wheats, which is just like, wheat flakes, with just, ugh, they're terrible, and I had to eat them, they're just crap.

ALEX: As for Thomas’s nemesis, David Frew, he is loving life and Stackswell is going strong. He actually wrote Karen a message about his recent vacation, which said, quote, "I had a pretty extreme trip in the USA, averaging 4 hours of sleep and 30,000 steps a day according to my Fitbit.”

PHIA: So, next is episode 19, "Underdog," the episode about Marnie.

PJ: So this was about this dog that was Instagram famous that had, I think like 2 million followers, and we were just trying to figure out why some dogs are super Instagram famous and others aren't. Cuz Marnie's like, not a conventionally attractive dog.

SHIRLEY: Marn Marn! Marn Marn!

PJ: Marnie. She's a shitzu.

SHIRLEY: Hungry? Go. Hungry? Go.

PJ: Oh my god.

PJ: Her tongue is always sticking just out of her mouth like a tiny flag. And her whole body has a tilt to it.

SHIRLEY: Who's my special...

PJ: She is one of the most famous on the internet. And like a lot of her appeal is that people wanna take pictures with her, cuz she's like a funny dog, like she does have this sort of like funny head tilt, and all these celebrities have taken pictures with her, which makes other celebrities wanna take pictures with her.

ALEX: Right.

PJ: What has happened since that story is that Marnie now has a lot more merch than she used to have. So, if I take picture of you right now... God, you look very morose, what could make this picture a little bit better? Well, I'd have to use Marnie Pro, Marnie's new app. I choose my photo, you looking all glum and sad, choose, and look! Here you are, holding Marnie in a tuxedo.

ALEX: That’s very nice. It does make me feel happier!

PJ: Or, if I shake the app, look, it's Marnie jumping over your head with her tongue out. Shake the app, it's Marnie dressed like Shrek sitting on top of your head.

ALEX: Listen, this dog is really, really good at bringing joy into the world.

PJ: I feel like this is an ad for an app, an unpaid for an app, but you know what, I’m cool with it. 99 cents. It's definitely brought me a dollar of joy.

PHIA: Alright guys, next episode, #36, Today's the Day.

PJ: That was an episode where, rather than doing a typical episode, we just went outside and enjoyed a summer day. It was really fun.

PJ: I can't remember the last time I felt this at peace. Stomach full of hot dog, carriage under my butt, cohost on my side.

ALEX: See, you're telling me this isn't romantic at least a little bit?

PJ: I guess it’s a little romantic...

PJ: We went on a rollercoaster at Coney Island, we...

ALEX: Did karaoke.

PJ: Did karaoke with Alex Blumberg.

ALEX: We went on a boat.

PJ: We went into a warehouse that we were not supposed to be in. It was really nice.

PHIA: Let me just play a clip for you from when you and Alex broke into that abandoned building.

PJ: Oh, I like that.

PHIA: Can I do that?

PJ & ALEX: Yeah.

PHIA: Okay.

ALEX: Oh my god, there's a goat!

PJ: Oh my god, there's a goat! What the fuck! Why is there a goat there? I have never been this afraid of anything as I was of that goat. It was just like, a creature that wasn't a human. Did you not feel scared?

ALEX: I jumped and ran!

PJ: Okay. Here's a question that I would want to know the answer to...

ALEX: Sure. What?

PJ: How did that goat get here?

ALEX: I dunno, man.

PJ: Have you ever seen a wild goat in New York City?

ALEX: Nah.

PHIA: So PJ, do you want the answer to your question?

PJ: Yes, I do want the answer... Do you have the answer to my question?

PHIA: I think I have the answer to your question

PJ: Why is there a wild goat in a warehouse in New York City?

PHIA: Um, specifically you guys were in an industrial harbor. That harbor is owned by a guy, I tried to reach out to that guy, I haven’t been able to get get in touch with him partially I think because he doesn't appreciate people breaking into his building.

PJ: Completely fair.

PHIA: So, instead I ended up connecting with a listener who like a completely personal connection: 23-year-old Katie Oldham, she's from England, she was listening to this episode on the subway.

KATIE OLDHAM: The moment I heard goats, I was just like oh my god! And my heart was pounding, I was like holy, holy balls, they’re where I was in the most like, absolute nowhere! It blew my mind. And I was just like the goats! They met the goats! Oh man, crazy!

PHIA: So Katie, she actually knows the goat you guys saw.

PJ: No.

PHIA: Yes. Just this past summer, she was living in New York, on a boat, that boat was docked in the same harbor that the building is on. She was living on that boat, and here's the first thing that you guys need to know, there's not one goat.

KATIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah, there’s two. They had such different personalities. One of them was really stupid, and would run around, and his ears would flop in, and it would eat insulation. And the other one was like really mean and it had to be tied up and it would sort of like, butt you and then curve its head around so its horns hooked around you, and then it would pull its head back, like it's trying to trip you up. It was really quite scary.

PJ: One of those goats was dangerous!

ALEX: A goat trying to trip you doesn't sound super dangerous.

PJ: You don't have to be so much on the side of making fun of me that you can't admit that we almost got attacked by a goat.

ALEX: I think we met the dumb one.

PHIA: Well, these goats live on the property. She said sometimes she would feed the friendly one, but she and her coworkers lived in fear of the other one. He would walk up the gangplank and trap Katie and her coworkers inside the boat and then just stare through the glass, through the window, at Katie and just be like, "You're not leaving."

PJ: Oh my god.

PHIA: But Katie said it was weird that you guys saw one of the goats in that building you guys were in, because they’re usually locked in this little two-story house, like a real brick two-story house house at night.

PJ: By who?

PHIA: They’re owned by same people who own building...

PJ: Got it.

PHIA: And they hang out mostly with the security guards. And I have a picture, I have a picture of the two goats, so you guys can tell me based on Katie's picture if you think you saw the evil goat or the nice goat.

ALEX: Okay.

PJ: So good.

PHIA: Do you remember if it had these white stripes here or if it was splotchy?

PJ: It had the white stripes.

ALEX: It did have the white stripes

PJ: It was the evil goat.

ALEX: We met the evil goat.

PJ: You want to apologize to me, Alex?

ALEX: I'm sorry PJ, I'm very scared.

PJ: Thank you.

PHIA: Okay, so I also asked Katie if you guys went there again and ran into the goats again, what you should've done...

PJ: Phia, you're the greatest.

PHIA: To deal with the evil goat.

PJ: And she said be really scared and talk a lot?

KATIE: Um, take a water pistol with you. Like a super soaker. That would do it, because they hate water.

PJ: That's amazing.

PHIA: So, there you go, next time you break into a building, bring a water pistol.

PJ: Um, thank you, Phia.

PHIA: Yeah, my pleasure.

PJ: Okay, so I actually have one more Today's the Day update. One of the reasons we wanted to do that episode is that we’d gotten stuck on this idea of like, freedom. Like, all the things you could do but you don’t do because you just forgot they were an option. Like just, for instance, going outside.

PJ: I feel like such an idiot.

ALEX: why?

PJ: Cuz like summer happened and I could have been here like twice a week.

ALEX: Why didn't you?

PJ: I just like didn't realize I could. It seemed like, harder. Than it was. And we're now like standing at the Atlantic Ocean.

ALEX: Yep.

PJ: I’m just gonna jump in, okay?

ALEX: Take your jeans off

PJ: Eh, I'm not gonna do that.

ALEX: Dude, that’s crazy... So uh, was that a good idea?

PJ: Yes. Emphatically yes.

PJ: So, I heard from this woman named Kristen. She'd had this job that she really didn’t like. She worked at a hedge fund, the people were not nice to her there, she'd been there for four years, and then this one August morning, she's heading into work...

KRISTEN: At like 6:30 in the morning, and was listening to this particular episode which was about, you know, taking time to yourself, taking risks, doing things that are slightly uncomfortable or interesting. And that day I went in and I was like you know what, that's it, I quit this job. But it was like one of happiest moments of at least the last like year and a half, which is sad but yeah, it was wonderful. It was a really, really good feeling.

PJ: Have you ever quit a job before?

KRISTEN: No. It was my first job, first job quitting. Yeah.

PJ: And asked her if that worked out for her or if it was bad, you know, because like conventional wisdom is you're not just supposed to quit your job, and she said it had totally worked out.

KRISTEN: I got a new job. I got a dog. She's cool.
ALEX: That's wonderful. You know, I used to be an IT guy, you may have heard that before. And I got an internship that paid nothing doing radio. And I called my dad and said, "Dad, should I take this?" And he was like, "Look, I know this is something you wanna do but I would stay where you are." And then I called my wife and I said, "What should I do?" and she was like, "You're an idiot if you don't do this internship." And so, I don't know. That was my Today's the Day moment I guess.

PHIA: Okay, now, one of the bonuses we promised. Time for a lightning round. I have 60 seconds on a clock. I’ll press start. You guys will take turns going back and forth with updates as quickly as you can, see how many you can get in 60 seconds.

PJ: Okay.

ALEX: And just so you know, if you thought that the rest of this episode has very little context, this has even less context.

PJ: Zero context. I don't know if it'll even spoil anything.

ALEX: But we will put the episodes we are referring to up on the website,

PJ: I am going to actually pump my asthma inhaler to get through this faster, okay?

ALEX: Sure. Alright, on your mark.

PJ: Wait, Phia is the time keeper, let her keep the time. Alright, then Phia says that.

PHIA: Alex, let’s do it together:

PHIA & ALEX: On your mark, get set, go!

PJ: Okay, you remember the Instagram for doctors episode where it was like really gruesome internet, and I talked to my friend Loren?

ALEX: Yes.

PJ: Who was a doctor?

ALEX: Yes.

PJ: Uh, she sent me a text saying that she cut the penis off of a cadaver.

ALEX: Miranda July shut down Somebody App because it became too difficult to maintain.

PJ: Mine was better. Uh, Venmo, remember we did a whole thing about people creeping on each other's Venmo transactions so you could see what people were spending money on?

ALEX: Yes.

PJ: You can still do that, it's still creepy.

ALEX: That’s not an update!

PJ: Keep going!

ALEX: Higinio Ochoa's parole officers let him back on the internet, but every keystroke's still monitored by the government, he says he likes being back online, but he's too scared to do anything fun because he's being watched.

PJ: Zayn left One Direction. The whole optics of the situation were so badly handled by their management company that it really makes me suspicious that they could keep a secret gay conspiracy under wraps.

ALEX: Philip Bowden's felony assault charges were dropped, and the lawyers who were representing him agreed to void a $1,700 in billing.

PJ: Uh, remember the swatting episode?

ALEX: Yes.

PJ: People are still getting swatted all the time.

ALEX: Barry Crimmins' documentary "Call Me Lucky" is on Netflix.

PHIA: Time!

PJ: How many did we get?

ALEX: I don't, okay. So, I think we got...

PHIA: I just yelled that...

ALEX: I think we got eight.

PJ: No, there's no way we just got eight. Did we really just get eight?

ALEX: Yeah.

PJ: Okay, that’s all people get. I had a crazy one at nine, but that's okay.

PHIA: Okay, one more bonus, guys.

PJ: Yes?

PHIA: Alex, can you intro this one?

ALEX: Sure. Every week on our show in the credits, we say that our theme song is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. And that’s not a joke. Breakmaster Cylinder is a person on the internet whose real name we don’t know, it's someone we’ve never met, just every once in a while, some amazing new music pops up in our inbox. A song like this one.


ALEX: Or like this.


ALEX: And all of them are just amazing. So we decided to ask Breakmaster for an update, and this is what we got back.

Someone gave me pingpong balls
And a clarinet
Please no more shows
About missing dogs, it's way too sad
Okay, bye, bye]

ALEX: This song is so beautiful, I have listened to it like 50 times since he sent it to us.

PJ: Technically not an update, but like still a pretty good update.

ALEX: Coming up after the break, two concerned moms, and a parrot.

PJ: Welcome back to the show. It's the updates episode.

PHIA: This is the last episode we’re updating. It’s episode 44, Shine On You Crazy Goldman.

ALEX: That's a relatively recent episode to have updates on.

PJ: Yes, but there are updates. Oh boy, there are updates. So, Phia, you were in this episode.

PHIA: I was.

PJ: Basically, you and I discovered the idea of microdosing LSD, which is when people take tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny amounts of LSD many times throughout the week, not to get high but to have the same sort of like mild, general good feeling that like an antidepressant or an anti-anxiety pill would give them?

ALEX: And it was done clandestinely so I didn't know about it.

PJ: The way we looked into it is that Phia and I did it at work and didn’t tell you.

ALEX: Right.

PHIA: Here’s a clip.

PJ: Okay, so now what are you doing?

PHIA: I’m preparing a dropper for me.

[Clinking vials]

PHIA: Okay.

PJ: Okay. Now we just see what happens?

PHIA: Yeah, now we just have a great day.

PJ: So one of things that happened in that episode was that our microdosing experiment went off the rails, and I accidentally took too large a dose and had sort of an acid trip.

ALEX: What did you think would happen when you did acid?

PJ: Not that. I thought it was gonna be a controlled experiment. So the update actually has to do with feedback that we got about it. Um, so it was a divisive episode, some people really loved it. The people who hated it, REALLY hated it. Basically they felt that we were just reckless jackasses. And then we heard from our moms. They felt very strongly about the episode. One person from this staff was on the phone for over two hours with their mom. But the weird thing was, the two moms that we heard from did not actually agree with each other. They had completely opposite opinions about the episode. And so we figured the best thing we could do would be to get them on Skype and have them talk to each other. So, Phia, you moderated, your mom was connecting from Berkeley, my mom was connecting from Philadelphia, and we just let them hash it out.



PHIA: So that's PJ's mom, Nancy, talking to my mom, Josie.

NANCY: So, Phia came and told you that she and PJ were thinking about doing this?

JOSIE: Yes, she called me to talk about it. She was anticipating that I would basically be very upset and say absolutely not and stomp my feet and fall on the ground, I think. And she was thinking that because I took drugs a long time ago, actually starting in 1966 when I was 16 and then 1967 when I went to college. And of course nobody had a brain in their head with regards to drugs at that time, particularly me, so I ended up with some tough experiences because I went so far as to shoot cocaine, and to...

NANCY: Oh, god.

JOSIE: ...pretty much put myself into cardiac arrest. And it left me with a lifelong phobia of drugs of any kind. But you know, I’ve also really discovered with my kids that I don’t get to stop them from anything.

NANCY: So were you nervous? When she was doing it?


NANCY: Yes. I think I'm glad I didn't know, right?


NANCY: So you were sort of like, try the wine at the kitchen table, or the dining room table. I mean, yours was sort of like, if my kids are gonna do this, I want it in as a controlled situation as it can be. I mean, I can see where you were coming from.

JOSIE: yes, I mean, and she's not 16...

NANCY: Right.

JOSIE: There's some maturity here, and after listening to the show, I felt that, I liked pretty much every, I didn't just like, I really thought everyone on the show was really appealing, I thought Reality sounded great. I would like someone that I could call periodically and say could you verify my existence, please? And I thought there was a lot of patience and warmth and kindness in all the people on the show and I thought that Jim Fadiman, I thought his, the science, the experiments he referred to all sounded quite interesting. I thought it was a worthy thing to have some curiosity about.

NANCY: I agree with you. I mean, that's one of the hard parts about raising kids is learning to let em go, and they follow their own life plan. But PJ, he didn't tell me anything, so I heard the show and I called PJ because I had a different kind of reaction. I guess. So my reaction with PJ was, they had just done a pretty, very intense show about depression and suicide, they were all talking about something that other people have had and they were saying I've had this too. And this is how I dealt with it. So I felt that it was a good that they sort of, that they talked about those things that are hard to talk about. And that is kind of a leadership role, and I was upset, really upset because I was worried that, mostly I was worried about how the listeners would react. I said, if one person does something that's dangerous and hurts themselves trying micro whatever it's called, micro...

JOSIE: Dosing.

NANCY: Dosing, yeah, that's a huge risk to be taking. I was afraid that somebody else might try it.

JOSIE: I mean, that’s a real concern. Didn’t really come through quite as positively as Jim Fadiman had suggested.

NANCY: Right.

JOSIE: So essentially, probably… absolutely, you wouldn’t want anyone getting hurt but I guess it didn’t cross my mind that the show would encourage someone. But I, who knows.

NANCY: Right, right.

PHIA: Nancy, you didn't talk about what your association with LSD is, do you have an association that you're comfortable talking about?

NANCY: I do. I did acid when I was in high school once, and it was fun. And nothing bad happened.

PHIA: PJ, did you know that?

PJ: No, no! We talked on the phone about this a lot after the episode came out, and she was really upset with me. Understandably. But she never said that.

PHIA: Yeah, I thought it was really interesting, cuz Nancy wasn't saying what I imagine a lot of moms would say, like, acid is scary and dangerous and destroys minds, what she was saying was that the tone of what you guys did was cavalier, and I found that really upsetting.

PJ: Yeah.

NANCY: It just seemed cocky to me. As far as work went, and also as far as playing with drugs because they're scary, and also as far as putting on the radio that we're doing this thing that's illegal, and it is illegal.

JOSIE: Yeah.

NANCY: So. I guess those are the things that I was thinking about. They also did a show where PJ and Alex broke into an abandoned building in New York, did you hear that one?

JOSIE: I did.

NANCY: Yes. So the risk taking and the like, I'd rather have them do different, safer things to make interesting shows.

JOSIE: You're right. I give up.

NANCY: It's like, oh my god. I mean, what's gonna be the next step, that was the other thing I said to PJ, like what are you gonna do next? How are you gonna top this one? Stop with this risk taking stuff! We should now interview our kids on what they think of us, of our interview, don't you think?

JOSIE: Yes, of us talking about them.

PHIA: I'm just like loving both of you over here, so that's my critique.

NANCY: Well wait, maybe we can take some acid and be better.

JOSIE: Don't count me in!

PJ: Josephine Coatesworth and Nancy Warren. Thanks, moms. Okay, so, we've handled the past. We're in the present. Now, we want to look towards the hard part.

[MATT FARLEY SONG: What's gonna happen in the future?
What's gonna happen in the future?
For Reply All
What's gonna happen next year?
And the year after that?
Listen up and we'll tell you!
What's in the future!]

PJ: So, we wanted to see if we could get any updates on the future. And we were talking about this and discussing how this would possible work, and Sruthi, you rudely interrupted.


PJ: What did you say?

SRUTHI: Cuz every time somebody says future, I think of parrots. Because, so I grew up in South India, where any time you go to say, a temple, there'd be a little old man sitting outside with a small parrot that will tell your future. And you can pay the parrot and the astrologer money, they'll come show up, say at your wedding. I had one at my wedding. And people were just lining up to get their fortunes told.

PJ: So we decided we wanted to try this. Turns out it's like surprisingly complex?

SRUTHI: Yeah, so I asked my mom, Rajashree. You can call her Mrs. Pinnamaneni. And she invited the parrot psychic to my father’s office, where we were guaranteed a good internet connection.

PJ: But then it was like, we were looking through a laptop at Gimlet, and on the other side it was a nice, well-dressed, parrot psychic with his very beautiful parrot. Your mom's translating the parrot psychic. The parrot psychic is translating for the parrot. But then it's also like, there's one guy there cuz he was good at computers in case an IT person was needed.

SRUTHI: My dad’s office IT guy.

PJ: And then, your mom’s sister was there for reasons unclear, for moral support reasons?

SRUTHI: When we do things in India, we do them right.

[Parrot noise]

PJ: How does this work?

RAJASHREE PINNAMANENI: Um, he has some cards here, the red cards, and then the parrot is in the cage, and then when he opens the door of the cage, the parrot comes out. First you have to tell your names to the parrot, and then she just picks up a card, and then he's going to read it and then you'll know your future and your character.

ALEX: Okay.


PJ: Wow, I feel very worried. Do you want to go first, Alex?

ALEX: Sure. Yeah, sure. I'm ready when you are.

MRS. PINNAMANENI: Yeah, what's your name?

ALEX: My name is Alex.

PJ: The parrot is jumping out of the cage

ALEX: Yes, and he just grabbed a card.

MRS. PINNAMANENI: Yeah, she flipped the card and then he's going to read it.

[Psychic reads card]

MRS. PINNAMANENI: You look as if you're very innocent but you're not.

PJ: Oh ho HO!

ALEX: That's true. That's true.

[Psychic reads card]

MRS. PINNAMANENI: Whatever you're thinking of doing, you're going to achieve it with the help of a friend.

ALEX: I see. I guess that that is...

PJ: Alex really only has one friend, and that's me.

ALEX: It's just him, he's the only friend I have.

PJ: And the only thing we really do is make a podcast together, so that's a good sign.

ALEX: Yeah.

[Psychic reads card]

MRS. PINNAMANENI: Okay, you were supposed to have a little problem with money, little financial problem, and then that's passed. It already passed.

ALEX: Yes.

PJ: Wait, is that true?

ALEX: Yeah.

PJ: What was your financial problem?

ALEX: Uh, you know, just house stuff.

PJ: Recently?

ALEX: Ehh.

PJ: You didn't tell me about that.

ALEX: It wasn't that big a deal.

PJ: What happened?

ALEX: It's just like, there was expensive stuff that we had to pay for.

PJ: And it passed?

ALEX: Well, I paid for it.

PJ: There's a man in another country that knows more about your life than I do. Is there any bad news for him?


[Psychic says something]

MRS. PINNAMANENI: Yeah, there's not much bad, but he has to be careful while driving.

ALEX: Okay.

MRS. PINNAMANENI: Just be careful. He's warning.

ALEX: Okay, no texting.

MRS. PINNAMANENI: That's it for you, and maybe now for...

ALEX: Now PJ's turn.


PJ: Hi. Okay, so should I say my name?


PJ: My name is PJ Vogt.


PJ: The bird is leaving the cage, and he picked the red envelope, and the card's coming out of the envelope.

[Psychic reads card]

MRS. PINNAMANENI: You're never going to put on any weight, are you? However much you eat, he says you don't put on weight.

PJ: Ah, that is great.

ALEX: Now I wish I'd gotten your card.

PJ: That is not how it works

[Psychic reads card]

MRS. PINNAMANENI: He doesn't see you continuing in the same field forever, but even when you go to another field, you're going to do well.

PJ: That's bad news for Alex cuz we work together.

ALEX: Yeah, what am I gonna do when you quit? It's been nice working with you, man.

PJ: Alex is joking but he's afraid.

ALEX: Yeah, I'm terrified.

PJ: And what should we most worry about in the next year, like what should we be on guard against?

[Psychic says something]

MRS. PINNAMANENI: Now you don't have to worry about everything, maybe a little before, you know, but the problems would have come maybe but it all passed, the bad period has passed, and then now you're going to be fine.

PJ: That's great news.

ALEX: Yeah.

PJ: Okay.

ALEX: That was pretty great, now we know our futures.

PJ: Now we know our futures. The rest of our lives, and the show, are just a long, forgone conclusion.

ALEX: Yeah. It's like a long series of successes so long as I drive safe.

PJ: Yeah, and I'm never gonna get fat, which is really the main thing. Because I eat horrible food all the time.

ALEX: So that's the update show. We just want to say it's been an amazing first year, and thank you so much for listening, it is crazy that people listen to this show.

PJ: Yeah, and we got you guys a present. If you go right now, right now, if it's December 17th at 5 o' clock in the morning, right now may have already passed, but if you go right now to

ALEX: That's replyall dot G-I-F-T.

PJ: ...there's a poster, a very beautiful poster that Matt Lubchansky, the best artist that Earth has ever had, he made us a poster. It's all these different characters from Reply All stories from the past year all crammed together, it's beautiful and weird and very funny. And Framebridge said that they will send you a custom-framed poster of Matt's art that will arrive at your door, completely ready to hang, completely free. So go, hurry. And also you have to pass a trivia quiz that's kind of complicated good luck.

ALEX: Good luck.

PJ: Reply All is me, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. We were produced this week by Tim Howard, Sruthi Pinnamaneni, and Phia Bennin. Our editor is Peter Clowney. Production assistance from Kalila Holt. We were mixed by Rick Kwan, and our theme music is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Our ad music is by Build Buildings. Matt Lieber is when you run into a friend on the street and you end up just spending the day walking around. You can find more episodes at Our website is

ALEX: Thanks again for listening. We’re taking a couple weeks off for the holidays, but we will be back with a brand new episode on January 7th.

[Phone ringing]


ALEX: Father.

MARC: Son. How you doing?

ALEX: I'm okay, how are you?

MARC: I'm good.

ALEX: I just wanted you to know that in this week's episode of Reply All, I mention the fact that when I got my first radio internship, you told me it wasn't a good idea. So I called you to shame you a little bit.

MARC: Oh, okay! You know, um.

ALEX: Oh, I'm recording this by the way.

MARC: Oh, okay, well, all I can say is the advice I gave you was right at the time, under the circumstances, but it turns out to have been the wrong advice. How does that sound, it was right at the moment?

ALEX: That sounds like some mealy-mouthed bullshit.

MARC: That's lawyer talk. That's 40 years of lawyer talk coming out right now. You know, I'm real proud of you. What you've accomplished.

ALEX: Thanks!

MARC: It's quite amazing, it really is, you know. I listen to your stuff all the time, I tell everyone about you, I get people in the neighborhood listening to your show. I'm so, all I can say is I'm so happy you didn't follow my advice.