#WaitWait… PTSD: Two Contrasting Weeknight Evenings

Wednesday night moon after PTSD talk.

Wednesday night moon after PTSD talk.

Wednesday and Thursday nights were both interesting for me, and featured very contrasting, interesting experiences.

On Thursday, my daughter, wife and I drove in the afternoon to Des Moines to watch a recording of the NPR radio program “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.” Usually recorded in Chicago, the show made its first stop in Iowa and was taped at the Des Moines Civic Center.

Civic Center is packed for

Civic Center is packed for “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me.”

We were lucky to get tickets. When they announced the show was coming, my wife was quickly on the internet. First she ordered two, and later that day when she wanted a third, there was already no way to get adjacent ones. The event was quickly selling out. But we did get three seats, in the same row (near the back). Two were adjacent and one was rather far away. I sat alone so my daughter and wife could enjoy some time together, but I don’t mind. It was still fun for all.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting from the program. I’m a fan of the radio show and listen to it regularly, but I wasn’t sure what it would be like to “watch” a radio show being recorded.

Well, it was just lovely. I was way, way back in a very large auditorium, so I could only see the people rather vaguely at a distance, but the sound system in the civic center is great, and it was both entertaining and fascinating to observe as radio magic was made.

Host Peter Sagal was clever and amusing. I don’t know if you’re a fan of his, but I liked his banter. He did ask at the beginning if any presidential candidates were present, and when none were, noted that in Iowa these days, that made the Thursday night gathering unusual.

The GOP also should get a “thank you” card from Wait Wait, as the Republicans as a horde of clowns and their freak show of a debate this week provided much of the topical humor.

Capitol reflected in state office building--went to Capitol before the show.

Capitol reflected in state office building–went to Capitol before the show.

It’s now 24 hours later, and I’m drawing a blank on what most of the memorable lines were. However, a remark Sagal made about Jeb Bush comes to mind—about how, after the CNBC debate, reporters didn’t question Jeb, they just stuck toothpicks in him. And all of them came out clean.

In particular, I don’t recall details of what Roxanne Roberts said, but I have the distinct impression that of all the panelists, I would rather feed and house her during a blizzard than any others. And no, I don’t intend any double entendre or even single entendre—she just seemed like a person you wouldn’t mind playing endless rounds of Bananagrams with, chatting with until the snow plows come.

Peter was in good form. Tom Bodett was also good, although he could not tell the difference between “Ottumwa” and “Altoona.” Then again, he was relating a 40-year-old story and a fake news item featuring Ottumwa had been read, so I guess we’ll just gloss over the Iowa geography lesson. Luke Burbank was funny, too, even if, like Tom, he wasn’t quite Roxanne. Something was going on with Luke that I don’t understand, and even 10 seconds of intense Google research (as in, typing “why did Iowans boo Luke Burbank?”) didn’t yield an answer. He got hearty boos at several points—what did I miss? I was way up in the cheap seats, sure, but I didn’t hear him say anything that an Iowan would boo. Did something notorious happen in Des Moines yesterday that I don’t know about? Did he do something unspeakable and outrageous like try to put a bra on our Civil War memorial or diss a corn dog? I don’t know, it’s just a mystery.

During the show.

During the show.

Anyway, the show began with a cute use of disco style lights and a warm up by Sagal, and then we were off. You’ll have to listen Saturday (or to the rebroadcast Sunday), but I for sure will tune in. It’s at 10 a.m., and the station here in Cedar Rapids is 90.9 FM.

After all, the audience can be heard clapping and cheering at several points, so listen to hear the sound of my hands. I don’t know if they will edit out the booing, but no matter, don’t bother to listen to it, I didn’t have any reason to, so I didn’t boo.

Sagal said that it was the first time in 18 years that the show had been in Iowa. I didn’t realize that, and am really glad that Audrey jumped on it and got tickets.

Other impressions from the trip:

  • At Capitol, getting first-lady fashion advice.

    At Capitol, getting first-lady fashion advice.

    I know it’s a nerdy thing, I but I do like dropping by the Capitol. We got in town a bit early, so spent an hour there. So much that is in the Capitol is both cool and strange at the same time. Like the doll display of gowns worn by first ladies of Iowa. Huh? And why is Lincoln reading to Tad such an important historic moment that it’s preserved by the entrance? I mean, cute, but what?

  • We could not help ourselves so we did it. We thought briefly about branching out—there are other places to eat in Des Moines after all—but really, we were at the Capitol and between us and the Civic Center temptation loomed too large to ignore. Those of you that know Iowa eateries, be jealous. Zombie Burgers.
  • Every time I’m in an auditorium, I find myself picking out attributes I would like to include in the new MMU Fine Arts Center. Not an auditorium the size of the Civic Center—something maybe about a third of that size—but still, we sure could use a nice auditorium with some Fine Arts facilities attached to it. If you want to know where to blow millions of dollars, I’ve given you a hint!
  • We saw some random Cedar Rapids people there—a neighbor from our neck of the woods for one, a ringer from the MMU hand bells for another. Iowa’s second city had several reps besides the Shellers.
  • One aspect of watching a radio show that I found fun was watching the quick second takes, and the “corrections” at the end. It took a bit more than two hours to record the audio for less than an hour of radio time, and it will be funny Saturday to listen for what was left out.
Zombies run from me.

Zombies run from me.

You all tune in Saturday.

That was Thursday night. Wednesday was also a good night, in a completely different sense. A professor emeritus of psychology and a graduate student working in counseling at Mount Mercy spoke as part of our ongoing Vietnam series.

Dr. Don Damsteegt did most of the speaking, but Travis Guy has some interesting additions. They told the stories of five different Vietnam veterans who suffer from PTSD, and then Don took us through some of the history and treatments for the disorder, which was first diagnosed in the wake of the Vietnam War.


I felt that I learned a lot. I am close to some people who have suffered traumatic stress, and I think the evening was a good eye opener. In particular, Dr. Damsteegt talked about the neurological changes brought on by this kind of stress—a good reminder to those of us lucky enough to not have suffered traumatic stress that those who have PTSD are not malingering or failing to “get over it.” Their brains have been rewired and their way of thinking and perception of the world has been altered in fundamental ways.

Not that there is “no hope.” In fact, there appears to be effective treatments for many who suffer PTSD—but it’s important to remember that it’s a condition that requires both time and professional help to cope with. And as both Dr. Damsteegt and Guy noted, you don’t “get over” PTSD. You learn to cope with the new way your brain is wired.

Anyway, Vietnam vets, especially combat veterans, certainly have a high incidence of PTSD. And during a question-and-answer sessions at the end of the presentation, an audience member asked what those of us who know a person suffering from PTSD can do to help.

Common style of cap worn at these events--this is the man who made the poignant comment.

Common style of cap worn at these events–this is the man who made the poignant comment.

An old gentlemen, wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” cap, raised his hand. “Just listen to his story,” he said, his voice catching as he spoke.

“That is an excellent answer,” Dr. Damgseegt said.

As I said, Wednesday and Thursday certainly contrasted, but it has been a fascinating week! More image: photo tweetted by WaitWait, images from Des Moines Register and my PTSD and Des Moines pictures.


1 Comment

Filed under Food, Mount Mercy, Travel

One response to “#WaitWait… PTSD: Two Contrasting Weeknight Evenings

  1. FYI on the Luke Burbank booing…it may not have been boo-ing. They were saying “Luuuuuuuuuke”….a tradition on the show. Details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_Burbank

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