Category Archives: Audio Portraits

Audio Portraits
I was a contributing audio producer to the documentary exhibit “Daily Meaning: Life Inside America’s Service Industries” – the brainchild of radio journalist and producer Ben Calhoun. Audio producers from Chicago Public Radio and acclaimed photographers collaborated to capture stories of Chicago-area residents who work in service industries. The exhibit included photographs of more than a dozen workers on and off the job, and audio portraits that captured each person’s story in their own words. The Illinois Humanities Council helped fund the project. I interviewed and produced the audio portraits of 2 service workers – a psychic and a massage therapist: Paul Calhoun, took the photographs.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 111 million Americans work in service industries – which means working in a service industry is more definitive of the American experience than going to college. “It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash. I was constantly astonished by the extraordinary dreams of ordinary people.” – Studs Terkel

Massage Therapist

picture by Paul Calhoun

Paul Marren, 45, is a Certified Massage Therapist specializing in neuromuscular massage, advanced orthopedic massage, and cranio-sacral therapies. These approaches seek to relieve physical tension by manually palpating and manipulating muscles, tendons, and ligaments. He uses a variety of techniques ranging from direct to more subtle interaction with the structures and systems of the body. The oldest of nine children, Mr. Marren grew up on Chicago’s near north side in an Irish-American Catholic household infused ideas of social justice and the importance of serving others. A number of his siblings have in fact chosen care-giving, service related professions such as teaching, nursing, and counseling. Before coming in his mid-thirties to massage therapy as a career, Mr. Marren , who holds an MBA, worked in the corporate financial world for just under a decade as an employee of Continental Bank. There, he says, he had no actual contact with the people he was supposedly serving. As a self-employed massage therapist hiring out his services, Mr. Marren , married and father of two, admits that he will never make as much money as he did in the corporate world. Nor will his work ever be as lucrative as such other health professions as medicine or surgery. Mr. Marren, however, embraces the fact that his work allows him to spend an average of one to two hours with his clients and give them a kind of attention and focused care that a medical career would not easily allow.

A version of this audio portrait aired on (the now sadly defunct) Weekend America.



Mrs. Lynn (Lynn Ristich) has worked as psychic consultant for over 30 years. She’s been in the same location in downtown Chicago for over 10. Her work follows family tradition: Mrs. Lynn’s mother and grandmother were both psychic as well. Her practice offers a variety of spiritual services, including tarot card, astrology, and palm readings, energy clearing, soul mate uniting, and meditation classes. Mrs. Lynn says that the vast majority of her clients have sought out a psychic before. Most of her clients are repeat customers. She often becomes very close to her clients. She’s invited to many weddings and baptisms. Her office is filled with gifts of appreciation from customers she’s helped, like the large, soft-colored painting of the Pieta given to her by a grateful art student that hangs above the waiting room couch. Though her sign outside says “psychic,” Mrs. Lynn describes her practice as being more accurately “spiritual intercession…. Being able to know what is obstructing a person spiritually, whether that be a negative emotion or experience they’ve had, and being able to isolate and get rid of that problem, whether through prayer, meditation, or the person changing a certain situation in their life.”

A version of this audio portrait aired on the (now sadly defunct) Weekend America.