Editorials — July 12, 2013 12:56 — 0 Comments

The Monarch Drinks With Luke Burbank pt. 1


Hi! Below is Part 1 of our Drinks With feature with Luke Burbank, radio and podcast host extraordinaire. Normally, we’d run a more traditional piece, but since Luke and our writer Stephanie Drury are so wonderfully loquacious, we thought we’d run their conversation in two parts (Part 2 can be read here). Enjoy! 

– Jake Uitti, Managing Editor


“First of all, I use this shit all the time,” says Luke Burbank. “This is a very official public radio kind of thing. I’m just checking the level for you.” Luke is messing with my Tascam recorder that I barely know how to work. “I’m, like, an audio person,” he says.

“No way! You are?” I scoff.

“You know, technically you should have a windscreen on this.”

“Do you want to know what I usually do? I just use a coat hanger and a pair of tights.”

“I was just going to make a terrible abortion joke – in Texas that’s now what you have to do to get one,” says Luke.

Luke and I are at Big Mario’s on Capitol Hill during Pride Weekend. The bar is filled with leather harnesses and codpieces and the TVs are showing footage of Wendy Davis’s filibuster from a couple days before. Luke has Don Draper hair and a new wedding ring. During the day, he hosts the podcast Too Beautiful To Live and an afternoon radio show on KIRO 97.3. He’s also the host of NPR’s Livewire show. He could talk the wallpaper off a wall.

“Coat hangers? What? They fixed that, right?” I asked.

“No, they unfixed it,” Luke says. “Rick Perry took care of that. Now they’re putting the abortion legislation at the beginning of the session so she would have to filibuster for like a week straight.”

Luke and I have bonded before, having both been raised in conservative Christian homes. We met through Ben and Aaron and the Grapes of Rad podcast, and Luke had my husband and me on his KIRO radio show after Mars Hill Church banned my husband on account of being married to me, an open dissenter of that church.

“I used to go to Operation Rescue protests when I was a kid,” he says. “Randall Terry was a big hero in our household.”

“I bet you didn’t eat Domino’s for years because they supported Operation Rescue.”

“No, but that was mainly because my parents were cheap,” he says. “My family would eat out like once every three weeks, we’d get three Pad Thai’s and split them between seven of us kids. My mom is like obsessively frugal, it’s like an emotional disturbance for her. She grew up really poor and there’s something about the notion of spending money that’s really hard for her. She collected sauce packets, that kind of thing. I was like 22 before I knew that mustard came in notathingfromWendy’s. Or it would be like, ‘We’re going to get two large sodas and Luke, Elizabeth and Sarah can share one soda’ and the rest of the kids would share the other.”

Luke is charming – he smiles a lot and his diction is more than impressive. I am fascinated speaking with him and giggle to myself while watching his more regulated features amongst the wildness of Pride.

“Luke, Elizabeth, Sarah. Such Biblical names!” I coo.

“Yup, all of us. Luke, Elizabeth, Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, Samuel, David.”

“I have a son named Judah, so I can’t make fun.”

“You and David have a Judah? Man, were you guys in ‘the life’ when you picked that name?”

“Well, we got the idea from Judah Street in San Francisco.”

“Is that where you got pregnant with him?”

“Well no, that would be disgusting.”

Luke starts singing praise songs in Big Mario’s, “Lion of Judah on the throne! I shout your name, let it be known! Let your kingdom reign…”

“My son is not learning that song. Please don’t teach him that song.”

“My hang-up with the name Judah is that when I was a kid my family moved up here from this religious commune in Northern California called The Lighthouse Ranch and we moved up here to an outgrowth of that which was called Gospel Outreach Christian Fellowship and that pastor had a son named Judah, and Judah was the…the most bad kid I knew. But he’s dead now because he was such a terrible kid. He drove into a tree when he was like 20 or something.”

I am laughing, hard. “He was so bad he’s dead now,” I squeak.

“He was like a next-level bad. What’s your daughter’s name?”

“Her given name is Rilian Flannery but we call her Lolly all the time.”

“Awww, I love it!” Luke is a sweetheart. “I’m really big on nicknames. My daughter is named Adelaide Grace and I’m the only person who calls her Grace and I feel that’s a special connection for us. I actually have it tattooed here.” He shows me a tattoo of the name Addie Grace on his arm. “And my wife – I got married recently, you know, like three weeks ago —”

“In Vegas, right?” I just assumed.

“No, in Port Townsend, but that’s like the Vegas of the Northwest.”

“So did you elope or was it a real ceremony?” I am getting really nosy.

“It was a real ceremony.”

“Oh cool! It happened so fast. Were you trying to avoid the paparazzi?”

“Well, a little bit. No, we got engaged and were trying to decide if we should do a big legit wedding or elope, and I was voting for smaller because I didn’t want to spend all the money we had in the world on chicken skewers for some fuckers from my work that I don’t even know. So I was pushing for smaller but my wife, God love her, was a little more interested in something bigger.”

“Is this her first marriage?” I’m getting SUPER nosy but Luke, ever-nimble, is going with it respectfully.

“Her first and my second, so that was the thing. I’d already been through it and it’s not fair of me to take away from her experience because I was a dumbass and got married when I was 24. Not to my kid’s mom, to a different person altogether.”

“I never knew that!”

“Yeah, because I got my baby mama pregnant when I was 17, when we were juniors in high school.”

“Then you married someone else.”

“When my daughter was seven.”

“How long did that last?” Super extra nosy I am getting.

“Six years, and we didn’t have any kids.”

“Wasn’t [your new wife’s] family paying for your wedding though, and all the chicken skewers, or is that a southern thing?” I’m so nosy I’m scaring myself.

“Her family, really sweetly, sent a check to help which I wasn’t expecting but I don’t think that’s really done anymore, I would never ask them to pay for it. My parents didn’t pay for the rehearsal dinner, but my mom did have a coupon book with her. If only we’d had it at a Pizza Haven! So we wanted to get married at Fort Warden which is where they shot Officer and a Gentleman, and the only date we could do it was two weeks away from when she looked at it and we decided to just do it in two weeks. And she said, ‘The only bummer is I’m not going to be able to get that wedding dress.’”

I love the subject of wedding dresses! “What kind of wedding dress did she want? You’re not going to get this kind of journalistic interrogation from a male interviewer, you know.”

“Well, let’s put it this way, it saved me a lot of money. Because the kind of dresses she was looking at and the kind of stores she was looking at – my wife is amazing: she’s not bourgeois, really. She said, ‘I only care about two things: I’d like to have a dress that I feel psyched about, and a wedding ring that I really like.’ She doesn’t have a wedding ring yet, but she got two dresses, one for the ceremony and one for the rehearsal. Because we rushed it, she didn’t have it made, just went to Nordstrom and got one that was on the rack. So she got two dresses but both of them together were like a rounding error on the dresses we had been looking at. We went to one of those crazy stores where they truss her up in the back like a goddamn fucking Christmas turkey in a $15,000 dress.”

I can’t hold it in any longer. “I love that show, Say Yes To The Dress. Do you know it?”

“Oh, man. Yeah, right now my daughter’s home from college and I’m fucked on TV. So with her and my wife I’m outvoted on all television. Lots of The Bachelorette, stuff like that. And both of them are super self-aware ladies…”

“Hang on real quick. Is this thing even recording?” I suddenly have chest pain.

“Listen, if it stops recording, what would Hunter S. Thompson do?” Luke asks.

“Shoot something?” I say. “Shoot a barrel of gunpowder.”

“Yeah, exactly, do some mescaline, shoot a small barrel of gunpowder, then a larger barrel of gunpowder and just remember the gist of it. So if what ends up getting written is just a hazy recollection of what we talked about, I think that’s okay, right? Because no one’s going to listen back to all this shit.” Luke pauses a moment. “Oh, I think I just spit in your beer.”

“Is that mine? Because I’ve been drinking this one,” I say.

Turns out Luke spit in his own beer. He looks at me, then over toward the bar. “Oh my God,” he says, “those people over there are getting Fireball. Do you know about Fireball?”

“Is that the cinnamon whiskey?”

“It’s the Hoobastank of alcohol. It’s so bad and everyone’s in love with it.”

“Yeah, I like it, I’ll admit it. I’m lowbrow. I watch Say Yes To The Dress and I like Fireball.”

“It’s okay, it’s not lowbrow.” Luke is trying to be nice.

“It’s Hoobastank!” I say.

“Okay, it’s lowbrow. You want a shot of Fireball.” It isn’t a question.

“I do?”

“Yes. I’m getting you some Fireball.”

“No, just get me more Jameson!” I’m trying to silence my lowbrow sensibilities.

“I’m getting me Jameson, I’m getting you Fireball.”

Luke claws through the Pride Week throng of three men in neon tights and women in cutoffs with dice tattooed on their thighs and after about fifteen minutes, he returns with whiskey and pizza.

He smells my shot before handing it to me and says, “Ugh, horrible. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

“I love Randy from Say Yes To The Dress and I love Fireball! That’s what’s wrong with me.”

“It actually has less alcohol so I think that’s why it might be more popular with ladies. Hang on, I gotta get the pull tabs.” He comes back after a minute with a plastic basket of cardboard tickets. “Okay, we’re supposed to have forty of these.”

“What are they?”

“This is like old person gambling. You’ve never done a pull tab? Are you shitting me? I thought this was like all they do in Texas. So if there’s a line through it we win.” He opens one. “Won a dollar. Boom. It’s possible we can pull one of these and win $500. Real American.”

I start ripping them open. “I could get into this.”

“Ooh, another dollar! We got $2 back on our $20 investment,” says Luke.

“My editor said he’d pay for it.”

“I’m not going to take any money from him. Of all the people in the world I wouldn’t take money from him.”

“Did I just win $5?”

“That’s $5, Stephy!” I feel a sense of accomplishment. We high five. “You should open all of them, you have better luck than me,” he says. I notice a look in his face, as if he’s remembering something. “So your husband teaches a blackjack bootcamp, is that right?”

“Yeah, he teaches card counting.”

“I’ve tried that so many times because I love gambling. I’m going to be gambling after this. Now that I’m married, it’s a very good thing for me to not do just whatever the fuck I want all the time. But she’s away this weekend so there’s a little less regulation.”

“So do you see marriage as regulation?” There I go, nosy! I try to temper it by saying, “It’s okay if you do. I’ve been married 14 years.”

“But see, you’re not married to a guy like me.”

“Are you sure?” I ask.

“I know David a little bit and he strikes me as a much more responsible person than I am. I’ve had consistently the same feedback in every relationship I’ve ever been in, which is ‘Can you stop coming home drunk at 4 in the morning?’”

“But isn’t that kinda what people who do your kind of work do?”

“No, it’s not a tax write-off. I just like to drink a lot and I like to be wild. For example, last night me and my buddy went and played bingo at the Greenwood Senior Center and then we went and we did karaoke and then we went to another casino and then he went home. So left to my own devices, that’s kind of my default setting. And I don’t feel great the next day. Like when I woke up today I was like ‘Ooh, that was a lot of drinking and not a lot of sleeping.’ Then today as I was mowing my lawn I was sweating out pure grain alcohol.”

“But you have a lawn to mow, you’re a homeowner. That’s responsible,” I say.

“Wait, how did you and David meet?” Luke is turning the conversation onto me now, like a boxer coming off the ropes.

“I read something he wrote and said I need to marry this guy and have his kids so I stalked him.”

“Really?! That’s awesome! That’s really adorable.”

“What’s your wife’s nickname?” I ask, jabbing back.

“Well I call her PeeWee because that was her nickname when she played softball when she was a kid – her coach called her that. But also…” He’s finished his pizza already so I tear mine apart and give him half. “Hey you sensed I wanted more pizza and you made that happen!” I smile. “So everyone else calls her by her maiden name, Bolden, except now her last name is Burbank so it feels like I’m talking about myself in the third person if I do that.”

(Part 2 available here)


Luke Burbank is a radio and podcast host based in Seattle, WA.

Stephanie Drury hosts the podcast Dongtini and the blog Stuff Christian Culture Likes.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney