Ari Zeiger’s audio documentary on this lost Portland, Maine neighborhood so struck a cord with Place + Memory that we asked if we could share it here.
Listen to: “What We Talk About When We Talk About Little Italy”
Producing this documentary seemed impossible at times—where was the conflict? why did this neighborhood matter? who would be the main characters? And most vexing of all: How do you locate a neighborhood that no longer exists!? That was the central paradox at the heart of my radio documentary on Portland, Maine’s long-lost Little Italy section.
My project began with a simple step: I headed down to (the area formerly known as) Little Italy and happened upon Sangillo’s—a small, working-class tavern. The locals pointed me to other locals who plied with me with phone numbers, street names, and anecdotes. I wrote everything down, my notes quickly metastasizing into a spider web of people to meet and places to visit. It was a vital lesson: access, to a large degree, is determined by local and impromptu connections, by your interviewees passing you along to someone else along the memory chain.