Sound Effect | KNKX

Sound Effect

Credit Parker Miles Blohm

This story originally aired on May 26, 2018.

Naomi Wachira was born and raised in Kenya, studied broadcasting in Chicago, then theology in Seattle. While she always had an impressive singing voice -- she sang in choirs since she was five -- becoming a professional musician wasn’t truly on the radar until 2013, after her father, a pastor in Kenya, passed away.

Courtesy of Jason Webley and Chicken John

This story originally aired on May 26, 2018.

On a hot, windy night in San Francisco, a good friend of Everett musician Jason Webley climbed into a dumpster. His nickname was Chicken John, and he crouched at the bottom of the dumpster to light a cigarette. What he found, there among the garbage, turned out to be unexpected treasure: an oversized, handmade leather scrapbook that was falling apart.

Claire Barnett


This story originally aired on May 26, 2018.

On January 31, 2000, Claire Barnett lost 10 people she loved dearly on Alaska Airlines Flight 261. Two of the people on board were her daughters, 8-year-old Coriander Clemetson and 6-year-old Blake Clemetson.


University of Washington

  This story originally aired on May 26, 2018.

Ana Mari Cauce says her relationship with her big brother was pretty typical when they were growing up. 

"Every scar on his body was probably given to him by me," Cauce says, "He had a scar over his mouth where I kicked hime in the mouth -- not on puprose! He was in the front seat, I was in the back seat. He did some kind of name-calling and so I went to kick the back of teh seat, he turned around I caught his tooth."

We begin in the last large-animal farm within the city of Seattle, atop a chestnut mare named Star, as host Gabriel Spitzer gets a ride and a history lesson. Then we hear how a couple of sophisticated urban poodles became the talk of the town in rural central Washington.

Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer shares his story during our live event on June 4 at The Collective in Seattle.
Adrian Florez / KNKX

For this special edition of Sound Effect, the theme is “Small Miracles,” tales from our live storytelling event. Host Gabriel Spitzer recounts his brush with death after years of humiliation in swim class. Ty Reed recalls how a random encounter saved his life after he fell into homelessness and addiction. Cindy Healy is moved to tears seeing a special spacecraft in a Matt Damon movie. Queen Mae Butters remembers a powerful friendship formed at the end of her hospice patient’s life. And Paul Currington learns to breathe through the smoke of his past.

Cindy Healy (right) stands with friend and fellow engineer Becky Manning Mitties in the NASA clean room.
Courtesy of Cindy Healy

It may have not completely hit Cindy Healy, a former NASA engineer, until she was sitting in the theater watching the Matt Damon movie, "The Martian." 

"And I'm trying hard to suppress an audible sob because I know I am the only one crying at this part of the movie," she said. "And I'm just wiping away tears and my son looks at me like I'm crazy. And I lean over to him and I whisper 'that's my spacecraft.'"

Cindy was just one of a few hundred people who helped put the Pathfinder spacecraft on Mars in real life. But that did not come without its challenges. 

Our hero, suiting up for the water.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX


It’s 1985 — think New Coke and “We Are the World” — and little 8-year-old Gabe is shivering on the tile floor next to Jewish Community Center swimming pool in Canton, Ohio. I’d just wrapped up my “Advanced Beginners” swim class, and was lined up with the other kids awaiting our Red Cross cards. That card would be my ticket to the next class: Intermediate. 

The instructor came down the line and, when she handed me my card, it did not say “Intermediate” — it said “Advanced Beginners.” It appeared I would not be advancing at all. 

Courtesy of Ty Reed

By his own account, Ty Reed is gainfully employed, has the love of his friends and family, and is a productive member of society. But less than five years ago, he was a homeless drug addict and petty criminal. 

It wasn't supposed to be that way. Growing up, he says, his family was "like the Huxtables," and in 2006, he was a successful mortgage professional. But an addiction to crack and — later — methamphetamines turned him into "a down and out homeless person" by 2014.

Paul Currington as a boy.
Courtesy of Paul Currington

Sitting in an emergency room, trying to catch his breath, Paul Currington had one thought playing over and over in his mind: “Please, God, please don’t let my last thoughts on Earth be of my mother.”

They weren’t his last thoughts, especially of his mother.

Growing up, Currington’s mother smoked two to three packs a day — always enveloped in clouds of smoke. She had a volcanic temper, he says: “I would do anything to not have to go home so I wouldn’t have to show up in her crosshairs.”

Queen Mae Butters

Queen Mae Butters was panting her way up six flights of stairs, just about ready to turn around and find someone else to take the job.

"Then I hear Rose's twangy New York accent encourage me from above: 'You're going to make it nurse! You're almost here! Keep climbing!'" Butters said. 


I was born into the Love Family, a culty commune that existed in Seattle in the 1970s and '80s. The family had a leader, a patriarch named Love, and 300 to 400 brothers and sisters. Their first names represented the virtues that Love saw in them — Purity, Solidity, Imagination, Devotion — and their last names were all Israel.

I call it a culty commune because "commune" explains why people joined it, and everything positive they left with. "Cult" explains all the things that went wrong, and why it eventually ended.

rearview mirror
Juan Karita / The Associated Press

When you look back at things, from a perspective of a new time and place, they tend to look different. That’s our theme for the latest episode of Sound Effect, “Benefit of Hindsight” — how a little time passing can reveal the things we were once blind to.

“Almost Live” cast members reflect on a Space Needle prank that went sideways. A woman shares her experience discovery her lack of smell. A country singer reunites with his “kitchen mom,” who inspired one of his songs. A Seattle woman talks about how a call from the FBI revealed her childhood friend’s home as a house of horrors. And a longtime musician reflects on offensive lyrics in her past. Also, in the full broadcast audio, we hear about a woman who saved Sound Effect producer Posey Gruener’s birthday, after a cult took it away.

Associated Press


On April 1, 1989, people tuning in to watch the show "Almost Live" on KING TV were greeted with a disturbing news update. Instead of the show's usual comedy sketches about the Northwest, a straight-faced newsreader informed viewers that the Space Needle in Seattle had collapsed.

Tucked into the corner of that report was a banner, stating it was April Fools' Day — a signal to viewers that the news report was fake. However, the broadcast's fake images of a crumpled Space Needle looked so convincing, many people believed it had really happened.

Jamie Sumire Costantino
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX


Advisory: This story contains disturbing material regarding the exploitation of children. Nothing explicit is included, but listener discretion is advised.

Growing up in New Jersey, Jamie Sumire Costantino had plenty of friends — especially this one girl.

“She was one of my closest friends, and one of my oldest friends,” said Jamie, now a teacher in Seattle. “And she was rather popular. She was somebody that everyone flocked to. She was somebody who often had the gatherings at her home.”

Kimya Dawson
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

We’ve all said or written stuff we regret. If you’re a musician, once your music is out there it’s hard to undo. Seattle-based songwriter Kimya Dawson has had a long career, and when she looks back on some of her own lyrics, she cringes a little.

Back then, she used some words in her songs that she would never say today. So how do you take it back? Kimya reflects on the evolution in a conversation with Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer.

Sara Feigl may not be able to smell the flowers, but she's totally unfazed by stinky port-a-potties.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX


It wasn’t until Sara Feigl was 15 years old that she realized something was missing. She was hanging out with her friend, who had just spent $12 on perfume. Feigl told her friend that it was a waste of money to buy water that had been dyed purple.


Feigl’s friend was confused by this. She said that it wasn’t just purple water. The friend told Feigl that the purple water smelled like lavender. Couldn’t she smell it?


Feigl smelled nothing.




This show originally aired on March 31, 2018.

Courtesy of James Marx


Krystal Marx is a City Council member in Burien. Her husband James is an Iraq War veteran. They’ve both experienced hardships that never fully left them: in her case, it was poverty and homelessness as a kid; for him, it was combat-related PTSD.

Their relationship, and their healing, began on rival superhero teams.

A sign points to a remote toilet on a trail near Mount Baker.
Geoffrey Redick / KNKX

For this episode of Sound Effect, we're talking toilets — how these things we'd just as soon ignore actually have profound effects on our lives. We meet an author who is, among other things, teaching women how to pee in the woods without peeing on themselves. A Seattle man explains how he uses portable toilets to connect with his homeless neighbors. We hear what Seattle can learn from San Francisco’s approach to cleaner and safer public toilets. We talk with the founder about abundant toilet myths and their possible origins. And we try to settle a debate between writers at The Stranger: seat up or seat down?   

In this photo taken on Thursday, April 26, 2018, a woman in a wheelchair passes a Pit Stop in San Francisco. The Pit Stop program provides public toilets, sinks, used needle receptacles and dog waste stations in San Francisco's most impacted neighborhoods
Ben Margot / The Associated Press

Seattle, like many other cities, commonly deals with people going to the bathroom in public spaces.  If you are someone who does not have access to shelter, finding a safe place to go to the bathroom in Seattle is especially difficult.

In fact, work by the Seattle Auditor’s Office revealed just how limited bathrooms are citywide: six publicly funded bathrooms are available for use 24/7, said City Auditor David Jones. And of the bathrooms available, few were usable.

A remote toilet on a hiking trail near Mount Baker.
Geoffrey Redick / KNKX

In 1989, a young woman named Kathleen Meyer published a book called "How to Shit in the Woods."

For a book whose name can't be said on the radio, it has done very well. The book is now in its third edition, with 2.5 million copies sold. Meyer says it has been found on a coffee table in a nunnery, at a bed and breakfast in Scotland, and in the library at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. 

You won't find a colony of alligators in a sewer like this one. It would be "a completely inhospitable environment in the first place," says founder David Mikkelson.
Sean Havey / The Associated Press

No, Thomas Crapper didn’t invent the modern flushing toilet. Airplanes don’t directly dump “blue ice” and human waste from 30,000 feet. And alligators can’t thrive in a New York City sewer.

These are some of the abundant toilet myths that have circulated across the internet and beyond.

toilet seat up in a public bathroom
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

It all started with a raised toilet seat in The Stranger's editorial department bathroom. 

"To those of you in the office who don't have any women in your personal lives I'm sorry to inform you that you have women in your professional lives," Nathalie Graham, a staff writer for the alt-weekly newspaper, wrote one Friday afternoon. "Please put the seat down after you tinkle." 

A brand-new toilet set-up at an ecampment near Interstate 90 and Rainier Avenue.
Gabriel Spitzer / KNKX

Mark Lloyd pops his trunk and pulls out his supplies: kitty litter, a small military surplus tent, toilet paper, sanitizer and a 5-gallon plastic bucket, complete with toilet seat.

This is the rudimentary toilet set-up that Mark has been assembling and delivering to homeless encampments for about three years now. He guesses he’s given away between 75 and 100.

“It's something people need, and I can fill it,” he says. “You really can only do good when you provide people a more sanitary situation than they were.”

Rodeo clown J.J. Harrison gets trampled by a 2,000-pound bull at a rodeo in Hobbs, New Mexico. Listen to his story and others on this week's episode of Sound Effect, "Bouncing Back."
Courtesy of J.J. Harrison

This episode of Sound Effect, “Bouncing Back,” features stories about people who take the hits and come right back for more. We meet a Walla Walla man who became a rodeo clown to scratch his cowboy itch. Then, we meet a legally blind Seattleite who experienced Tokyo with his other senses. An East Side Tacoma woman shares how her experience hitting rock bottom informs how she gives back today. Hear how two rival, “real-life superheroes” fell in love. And, in the full broadcast of the show, meet a woman who helps fellow women of color heal through writing.

Jennifer Wing


Sheree Cooks is a 37-year-old working mom of three. She’s been a leader of parent teacher groups in Tacoma. She gives talks to school administrators about race and equity, and she co-founded the nonprofit Eastside Community Action Network.


This photo was taken at a rodeo in Hobbs, New Mexico, where rodeo clown J.J. Harrison fell down in front of a 2,000-pound, charging bull. "I remember thinking this could be the end," he said.
Courtesy of J.J. Harrison

When J.J. Harrison fell down in front of a charging, 2,000-pound bull in Hobbs, New Mexico, everything seemed to slow down.  

"I just remember thinking this could be the end," he said.

It wasn't. And even though Harrison was pretty beat up that day, he was back at it almost immediately. "I got my check and I drove five hours to get to the airport," he said, "because I've got to keep going."

In 2018, Seattleite Chris Jeckel decided it was time to visit Tokyo. He had just ended a four-year relationship, and he was struggling to find his footing again. Tokyo seemed like the perfect place, he said, to "shake things up."

Jeckel is legally blind, with just a blurry rectangle of vision in his left eye. So, for him, "seeing" Tokyo was more about tapping around the city and letting the experience wash over his senses. In this interview, Jeckel describes his delight at losing himself in the overwhelm of Tokyo — and finding unexpected peace in a quiet moment. 

James and Krystal Marx on patrol together during May Day 2016
Courtesy of James Marx


Krystal Marx is a City Council member in Burien. Her husband James is an Iraq War veteran. They’ve both experienced hardships that never fully left them: in her case, it was poverty and homelessness as a kid; for him, it was combat-related PTSD.

Their relationship, and their healing, began on rival superhero teams.