If you are traveling this Thanksgiving, boy, do I have the perfect early Christmas gift for you. Even if you aren’t traveling, but are just going across town, this is still a gift, though one that will take longer to enjoy — unless you need an excuse to keep sitting in your car instead of facing your in-laws (wait, this might be a bigger gift than I realized …).
Anyway, trust me when I tell you, this is a great thing that all (adults) can enjoy.
Heard of it? I hope so. Not heard of it? OK. Buckle up.
I was first indoctrinated a few weeks ago when I was visiting my little brother Matthew with my best friend Kristin. She’d advised I listen to the podcast “Criminal” on my way to Cincinnati to catch my plane, which I did and which I very much enjoyed. I told her as much in Edmonton and then about how much I loved the podcast S-Town (which I highly recommend) as well. Upon hearing that, she said, “Hold the phone. Listen to me very carefully. You need to reserve yourself six hours.”
I listened to one episode of “Dirty John” on my way home from the airport and within the first five minutes, I was hooked. The podcast is about a real-life conman who sets his sights on a successful California business woman, who has a habit of marrying the wrong men. John meets Deb on a dating website. He is all-American handsome, a doctor and, from nearly their first date, dotes on Deb to no end. Two months later, they get married.
The story is told from Deb’s perspective, along with insight from her daughters, John’s ex-wife, John’s sisters, and people with whom he went to university. As the episodes unfold, you get this razor-sharp picture of John and Deb that just keeps getting more and more compelling. Think: the Mob. Think: zombie apocalypse. Think: fentanyl. Think: Why does he only wear scrubs?
Anyway, fast forward to this past weekend. I went to a wedding shower in Knoxville and was rubbing my hands together before I even left Somerset because I knew how I would be occupying my time on the drive. Nearly to the city, I saw there was a long snake of traffic heading back up north and despaired that it would still be waiting for me when I drove home.
Sure enough, it was. In fact, it took me 63 minutes to get 5 miles due to a baffling construction project. But did I mind? I mean, kind of, I’m not going to lie. But did I mind too much? Actually no, because it meant I could get through more episodes of “Dirty John.”
I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to give anything away, but trust me when I say, it is riveting. Riveting, I tell you!
And, unlike a few other podcasts I’ve heard, it is extremely well written and cleverly pieced together. In fact, it’s a project by the L.A. Times, reported by Christopher Goffard. Everything is well researched and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The music interludes are even provocative and enjoyable. And one of the juiciest parts of all? Goffard has posted photos of everything they talk about in the podcast, so after you’re done, you can just go and marvel. Not only is it a great gift, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
So, this Thanksgiving, if you’re in a long snake of traffic or even if you’re just having to drive to somewhere like Scratch Ankle, Ala., or Toad Suck, Ark., or even Mormon Bar, Calif., do yourself a favor and have a listen. “Dirty John” does not disappoint.
P.S. Other podcasts I love: “This American Life,” “RadioLab,” “Moth Radio Hour,” “TED Radio Hour,” “S-Town,” “Criminal,” “Up and Vanished,” “Serial,” “Milk Street Radio” and “Gastropod.”