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Photo: Duhon Photography
Photo: Duhon Photography

Ari Shapiro Considers All Things

“I got into journalism on a fluke. I was finishing college and I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.”

Drinking from a refillable coffee cup and donning a black polo on the patio of Big Bear Cafe in DC’s Bloomingdale neighborhood,
Ari Shapiro is explaining that even though he didn’t practice journalism during his formative years, he has since crafted a career as one of the most recognizable voices on National Public Radio (NPR).

“I applied to a million things and thought an NPR internship would be cool,” he tells me. “I got rejected for the NPR internship, and pretty much everything else I applied for, too.”

What once sounded like a cool idea would eventually lead to an esteemed career as a rotating co-host for flagship news program
All Things Considered, a position he’s held for the last three years. The 39-year-old journalist’s voice is heard by 14.7 million listeners on weeks where he’s featured.

Despite his penchant for journalistic storytelling, Shapiro is far from just a news radio rock star; he’s a singer as well. After an evening hang  at his home in 2008 with members of Portland-based Pink Martini – a self-described United Nations house band of 1962 meets Lawrence Welk on acid – ended in a sing-along, he was invited to provide vocals for the band in the studio and then live, a collaboration that’s continued over the years. He’s set to guest perform with the band at The Anthem on October 7.

A man as handsome and sultry sounding as Shapiro talking about rejection seems ludicrous at first; as you look at him and hear him speak, you can’t imagine him being less than successful at anything.

“Part of it is that rejection is a part of success. The repetition of rejection is what will eventually lead to success. That’s a necessary step along the way.”

 

All Things Considered is comprised of four hosts sharing duties on a bi-weekly basis.

Shapiro’s on-air days starts at about 8:30 a.m. after a bike ride to the office (he has never owned a car). An editorial meeting at 9:30 a.m. follows, where he pitches three fully formed ideas: an angle on national news, a “page two” story and another he describes as “joy, surprise and uplift.” He then begins working with editors and producers to craft introductions, develop interview questions and review edited versions of earlier conversations – all this before going live at 4 p.m.

Shapiro delivers stories with calm and candor, even when his guests get hostile or fiery, or the interviews venture into weird territory. These authentic interactions are largely absent in print media; the back and forth between the interviewer and interviewee often gets lost when the quotes are broken up and words hit the page.

“That’s one of the things I love about radio,” he says. “There’s something so intimate and nuanced about hearing a person’s voice that I don’t think comes across as effectively in print and even on television. There’s just something about hearing a person talk that I think goes around the defenses we all put up and the judgments we automatically make about people when we see them. It accesses something that is so fundamental to the human experience. There is no form of communication older than audio storytelling.”

One host is on call until 10 p.m. each night to provide updates for the West Coast feed as news breaks. The evening before our coffee-charged conversation, Shapiro was in the NPR offices lending his voice to updates on houses catching fire in Massachusetts, Hurricane Florence’s landfall and the prospects of Jeff Bezos’s second Amazon headquarters. Like a healthy diet of all things in variation, the diversity of stories keeps Shapiro enthusiastic about the program.

“The thing that really appeals to me is the mix. It’s not that, ‘Oh, I get to do an interview about the thing I really love.’ It’s that I get to keep doing interviews about different things all the time, and it goes back to that idea of being curious and learning and finding out more about the world.”

While Shapiro’s work no longer focuses solely on hard news, he’s still a nationally renowned journalist in a political atmosphere that has become hostile to some in the media. And though he’s not appreciative of President Trump’s tirades against the Free Press, he thinks the outbursts have helped provoke a sense of transparency in newsrooms nationwide.

“I’ve seen an evolution where I now think more news organizations and journalists are saying, ‘Actually, we have to do a better job than we’ve done in the past of explaining what we do, how we do it [and] how it’s important to democracy,’ and I don’t think those are bad things. That’s something we should have been doing for a long time, and the attacks on the media have woken us up to the fact that we can’t just assume people know why a free press is important and what the role of the media in democracy is.”

Shapiro mentions a reporting trip to Michigan scheduled in mid-October for midterms. He says the Midwest state represents a convergence of several ideas rolling around in his head: the state recently turning red, the auto industry and tariffs, and an intriguing place to reflect on the decade since the nation’s financial collapse. When I press him to project even further in to the future, he hesitates a little.

“In my career, I’ve never known what I wanted the next step to be. I’ve always felt like as long as I’m happy where I am and can forecast at least a year into the future, I’m in a good place. It feels like I’ve only just started. [All Things Considered host] Robert Siegel, who retired last year, hosted the show for 30 years, so I’m definitely not looking to move on anytime soon.”

 

Shapiro’s parents both spent their lives in academia.

His father was a computer science professor from San Francisco and his mother a communications professor from Chicago. In an educator-led household just outside of Portland, Shapiro was raised in environment that embraced curiosity. Imagination and discovery were not relegated to a classroom or strictly tethered to homework; instead, a willingness to experience the world in full was embraced and shared.

“There was a sense that the more you know about the world, the more interesting the world becomes, and you can learn anything you’re curious about. [My parents] were always grading papers or developing lesson plans. It wasn’t you clock out of work at the end of the day and you get to enjoy your life. The work is integrated into your life. I feel like that’s true of what I do now.”

Despite his piqued curiosity under the influence of his parents, broadcast journalism wasn’t an obvious path for a young Shapiro. He wasn’t sitting in his bedroom with a tape recorder working on a faux talk show or jotting down questions about the world he wanted to investigate.

“NPR was on in my house all the time, and in the car. I actually never did any journalism when I was in high school or college. I didn’t take a journalism class. I didn’t write for the school paper.”

Instead, Shapiro majored in English at Yale, where he learned how to “read and write and think.”

“I think that’s the value of a liberal arts education, whether you major in English or history or psychology, or anything else. It’s not so much that now I can understand Shakespeare or Dante, it’s that I can read a complicated text, make sense out of it and explain what the important thing is. That’s a skill I use when I’m reading a Supreme Court opinion or a report from a think tank.”

A lot has changed for Shapiro since his initial NPR assignment as Nina Totenberg’s intern in 2001. Before injecting his voice into national conversations, he was charged with transcribing audio, providing research on Supreme Court cases and scheduling interviews.

“I remember the first time [Totenberg] let me do an interview for a story. It was about a medical marijuana case, and I was so nervous and stressed. I was preparing for days, and I went to do the interview and the guy was giving these really slow, vague, one-word answers. I finally realized he was totally stoned.”

 

Pink Martini started playing in the mid-90s, when Shapiro was a high school student pondering an alternate reality of the world after reading Guns, Germs and Steel.

Before he stood onstage as a member, Shapiro geeked out as a fan with X’s on his hands in Portland bars that no longer exist.

“I remember a show they did at the employee party for a bakery where a friend of mine worked,” he says. “Now they play at Carnegie Hall, and back then they would play anywhere, anytime, for any reason.”

After college, he became friends with the band to the point that Shapiro’s house was a customary stop when Pink Martini performed in the District. Members of Pink Martini and another Portland band, Blind Pilot, swung by his barbecue 10 years ago and ended up staying late night, circling his piano and singing together. People who never sang stood side-by-side with professional musicians, and everyone tackled song after song in unison until 3 a.m. The next day, Pink Martini’s founder Thomas Lauderdale told Shapiro his voice would be perfect for a song on the band’s next album.

“At first I thought it would never happen, and then I thought if it did happen, it would be like that one time I did that thing with Pink Martini.”

The radio personality was sure the song wouldn’t make the album after recording in Portland, but then it did. Lauderdale then encouraged him to perform live with the band in front of 18,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl.

“It was incredible,” Shapiro says. “Backstage they have big black-and-white photographs of the legendary acts who’ve performed there over the years, so you’re waiting to go on and you see Jimi Hendrix, Judy Garland and The Beatles all on that stage you’re about to walk onto.”

Four albums later, though not a permanent fixture in the band nor always on their tour schedule, the list of songs Shapiro performs with Pink Martini has expanded. And because the band produces music with lyrics in foreign languages, part of his prep is nailing the pronunciation.

“I write them down phonetically on a piece of paper and carry it around in my back pocket for weeks just drilling them into my head. For the [upcoming] shows, I’m trying to learn two new songs in Japanese and French so I’m literally walking around town murmuring Japanese words under my breath.”

With the opportunity to express himself sonically with Pink Martini, and other side projects like cabaret shows and guest performances at venues including the Kennedy Center, Shapiro tells me he has little interest in recording a solo album. The contrast between being onstage and on-air provides him with enough of a shake-up from journalism.

“Hosting a show like All Things Considered, it’s just you and your guest in a studio, whereas at a Pink Martini show, the audience is right there and you can hear them responding or not responding. You have an experience that is in real time, that is real engagement with them, that you don’t really get on the radio.”

I push him on the album, facetiously suggesting a mixtape or SoundCloud page. He playfully shrugs, but a man like Shapiro won’t outright say “No.” Besides, he’s already in a profession he didn’t expect, and moonlighting as a singer for a band he followed in high school. For him to completely rule anything out would be uncharacteristic.

“Never say never.”

Catch Shapiro with Pink Martini at The Anthem on Sunday, October 7. Doors at 6:30 p.m. and show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $35 and can be purchased at www.theanthemdc.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @arishapiro, and learn more about All Things Considered at www.npr.org/programs/all-things-considered.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0020; www.theanthemdc.com

Doggie

Year of the Dog

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. But based on the plethora of pup-friendly happenings in the DC area, the dog days are here to stay. We’ve hunted high and low for everything you and your four-legged friend can do together now and well into the year. From events and fundraisers to parks and places to adopt a new companion, we’ve got your definitive guide to DC dog life below.

Off-Leash Areas + Summer Spots

There are lots of places around town that are dog-friendly, but not as many where pups can legally roam free from the tether of a leash. The 35-plus fenced acres of Congressional Cemetery are a favorite, but membership is required and there is a yearly waitlist. If you’re not a part of the in-crowd, try Shirlington Dog Park or Glencarlyn Park, both in Arlington with access to creek areas for canine cool-off sessions. In the District, Yards Park has a small off-leash area, which is a decent option for letting the pup run off some steam if you plan to bring him along to an outdoor concert or al fresco dinner.

While Kingman Island, Theodore Roosevelt Island and the wooded area along the Potomac from Fletcher’s Cove toward Chain Bridge are not designated as off-leash grounds, they provide new scents and stimulation for a good trail walk or run. The nearby water and tree canopy provide ways to cool off in the hot summer months, making this a great set of locations for dogs and their humans alike. The canoe, kayak and boat rentals at Fletcher’s boathouse are pet-friendly too!

If you and your pup want to skip town altogether, head to one of the dog-friendly Virginia wineries like Three Fox Vineyards or to Delaware’s Dewey Beach where dogs are welcome to bask in the sun and play in the sand year-round. Learn more about these spots below.

Congressional Cemetery: www.congressionalcemetery.org

Dewey Beach: www.townofdeweybeach.com

Fletcher’s Cove: www.boatingindc.com

Glencarlyn Dog Park: parks.arlingtonva.us

Kingman Island: www.kingmanisland.org

Shirlington Dog Park: parks.arlingtonva.us

Theodore Roosevelt Island: www.nps.gov

Three Fox Vineyards: www.threefoxvineyards.com

Yards Park: www.capitolriverfront.org

Local Rescues + Adoption Organizations

City Dogs Rescue
City Dogs (and City Kitties) is a foster- and volunteer-based organization that helps place animals from shelters with loving human companions. The organization sponsors adoption events with local businesses like Dogma Bakery and Logan Hardware, and volunteers periodically host Yappy Hours at local bars to raise funds for the puppies and kittens. www.citydogsrescuedc.org

Homeward Trails Animal Rescue
Like the other great organizations in this list, Homeward Trails makes it their mission to find homes for abandoned, abused and high-kill shelter animals. Homeward Trails also wants to inspire kids to take the lead when it comes to rescue. During the organization’s Camp Waggin’ Tails summer camp in Fairfax, kids ages eight to 13 can “learn all about animal rescue, responsible pet ownership, positive dog training, hear from a variety of pet professionals, and work hands on with carefully selected adoptable dogs while engaging in fun games and projects.” www.homewardtrails.org

Humane Rescue Alliance
Two years ago, the Washington Animal Rescue League and Washington Humane Society merged to create a mega resource for bringing people and animals together. In addition to adoption services, HRA also provides affordable veterinary care, free pet food for those in need, behavior and training classes, and education and outreach opportunities.  www.humanerescuealliance.org

K-9 Lifesavers
Located in Stafford, Virginia, “K-9 Lifesavers save lives ‘Four Paws at a Time.’” With volunteer drivers and boarding partners, K-9 Lifesavers rescues dogs from low-income rural areas throughout Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky. Dedicated volunteers drive the pups to the DMV where boarding partners help host the pups until they can be adopted. K-9 Lifesavers also strives to be a support group for adopters and all dog owners. www.k-9lifesavers.org

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue
Founded in 2009, Lucky Dog saves an average of 100-125 homeless and abandoned animals every month. And while based in DC, Lucky Dog’s outreach goes far beyond the DMV. This past January, Lucky Dog partnered with Southwest Airlines to deliver more than 14,000 pounds of humanitarian supplies to animal rescuers in Puerto Rico and came home to DC with more than 60 dogs and cats who survived Hurricane Maria and were ready to be adopted. www.luckydoganimalrescue.org

Rural Dog Rescue
Rural Dog Rescue (RDR) is completely foster-based and run entirely by volunteers. The rescue works predominantly with several rural, high-kill shelters that euthanize over 70 percent of dogs, or euthanize within 72 hours in Virginia, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina. When RDR finds dogs that are ready for their forever homes, they provide each pet with up-to-date vaccinations and a microchip. Forever true to “The Underdog”, RDR is dedicated to saving the lives of high risk dogs in economically challenged high kills shelters who are often overlooked for adoption or rescue. This organization saves the dogs who are at most risk of being euthanized: the hounds, the black dogs, the seniors, the sick, the handicapped and the broken. RDR makes a commitment to reserve a minimum of 50% of the dogs they save to these underdogs.  www.ruraldogrescue.com

Dog Days of Summer: Wag-worthy Events

Congressional Cemetery’s Day of the Dog
Though the venue may seem morbid, it’s way more fun that one might think! This annual festival is a chance for all dogs, not just those who are members of the cemetery’s K-9 Corps, to join in a day of fun and games and romping around the cemetery’s 35-plus acres. Activities include contests, raffles, demonstrations, food trucks and local adoptions. Check out the Day of the Dog on Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Historic Congressional Cemetery: 1801 E St. SE, DC; www.congressionalcemetery.org

Humane Rescue Alliance’s Fashion for Paws Runway Show
Few things could be cuter than a poodle strutting her stuff down the catwalk. For the 11th year running, Fashion for Paws’ Annual Runway Show will couple the glitz and glam of the fashion world with a great charitable cause. “Participants are Humane Rescue Alliance ambassadors who raise a minimum of $4,000 to benefit HRA for the honor of escorting their fashionably dressed dog down the runway,” according to the HRA website. Complete with celebrity host Carson Kressley from Queer Eye, cocktail attire and a glamorous afterparty, the event sells out every year. Dogs not participating in the runway show are not permitted to attend. Don’t miss Fashion for Paws on Saturday, May 5 from 7 p.m. – 12 a.m. Omni Shoreham Hotel: 2500 Calvert St. NW, DC; fashionforpaws.org

Pups in the Park
Summer in America means baseball, and at Nats Park, that includes all-American dogs! Throughout the season, you can purchase tickets to reserve a seat for your dog in the pet-friendly outfield section of the park. As a bonus, the June 23 game will feature a special pregame pup parade around the warning track. Proceeds from dog tickets benefit the Humane Rescue Alliance. Check out Pups in the Park on May 19, June 23 and on multiple dates in September. Nationals Park: 1500 S Capitol St. SE, DC;
www.mlb.com/nationals

We The Dogs DC’s Bipawtisan March
You wouldn’t be a DC dog if you didn’t participate in political activism. You and your pup can make friends across party lines while supporting a great cause at We The Dogs DC’s Bipawtisan March on September 23, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. with 100 percent of the event’s proceeds donated to local dog rescues. Bipawtisan March: Location TBD; www.wethedogsdc.org

Home Sweet Home: DC’s Dog-Friendly Digs

Let’s face it, even in a town as dog-friendly as DC, the traditional rental market offers slim pickings when it comes to finding a place that allows four-legged friends. But the recent uptick in development has also brought an influx of property managers who see this plight as a niche market opportunity, offering amenities specifically targeted at residents with dogs – granted you can afford the perks.

2M Street

Neighborhood: NoMa
Petmenities: Private dog park, grooming station, community yappy hours and a resident bulldog, Emmy
www.2mstreet.com

City Market at O
Neighborhood: Shaw
Petmenities: Rooftop dog park, dog washing stations, pet walking and grooming referrals, and quarterly yappy hours
www.citymarketato.com

The Hepburn
Neighborhood: Kalorama
Petmenities: Onsite pet spa and a pet wash station
www.thehepburndc.com

Park Chelsea at The Collective
Neighborhood: Capitol Riverfront
Petmenities: Dog wash station, rooftop dog run, and easy access to Garfield, Canal and Yards Parks
www.thecollectivedc.com

Pro Tip: Pup-Friendly Hotels

Friends and family heading to town with Fido? There are lots of great pet-friendly lodging and hotel options, including Hotel Monaco, Hotel Palomar, Hotel Madera, Liaison Capitol Hill, The Carlyle and many others!


Illustration: Haley McKey

Illustration: Haley McKey

Telltale Tails What’s in a Wag?

When many people see a dog wagging his or her tail, they immediately think that dog is happy. But that is not always the case. Dogs use a different language to express how they’re feeling than people do, and their tails can really talk. What’s most important for humans to know is that not all wags mean the same thing. Here are five common wags and what they can indicate.

1. Broad-sweeping, loose and generally side-to-side at a moderate speed: This is the one we like to see! It means, “I’m pleased,” or that there is no sense of threat or challenge.

2. Tight, circular motion at moderate to high speed: This is generally an indicator that the dog is uncomfortable in the situation, unsure how he/she should act or may be a bit high-strung. This wag should be taken as a sign of caution, though not necessarily aggression.

3. Low, tucked and slow to moderate speed with half of the tail in motion: This wag is a classic sign of submissiveness. If your dog is using this wag, he or she isn’t necessarily having the best time, but may just be trying to signal that she “comes in peace.”

4. High, stiff, and fast-paced or vibrating: This is usually a sign of an active challenge. Pay close attention to the situation and extract your dog if necessary.

5. Half tail at a moderate speed: This one is a little vague. It means, “I’m a little tentative here, so not going to put on the full-works display.” It can be a warm up to a hello, or a show of a bit of insecurity.

Common wag facts were originally sourced from Psychology Today here.