31 March, 2014

Cast Thy Troubles Upon the Dirty, Sacred River: Moth StorySlam Update, Wading Into This Grand Political Season, and A Story Worth Telling

IMoth StorySLAM Update


I told a story at last week's  Moth Story Slam at Headliners Music Hall that I rarely tell and will probably not tell again. The topic was 'Courage*' -- which is a 3rd person designation, and not one I would attribute to any action on my part.

The story I told was about the last physical fight I ever got into. The reason it was the last fight was that not long after incident I decided, to focus my energy on being a pacifist rather than feeding the angry little monster in my gut who had, by that time, taken on the name Terry.**

When I think of courage, I think of a current student who was among the wave of responders at Ground Zero. I think of my daughter, trying to build her life in spite of unreasonable backlash from her mother and her mother's husband. I think of Stanley Taylor, Cletus the Dog Man, Jimmy the Kid, Fisherman Jim, and The Roving Northern Englander. I think of Mother Jones, Lucy Parsons, and Albert Parsons. I think of my dad.

The Moth is a great venue and I will continue to go out, put my name in the hopper, and hope that I get to go on stage. It's entirely possible that The Moth is not the venue for me to stretch my storytelling legs, since I am far more interested in other people's stories and in the stories of people who generally get ignored than I am in trying to make myself out to be the center of anything.*** I am the least interesting part of every story I want to tell, and I am simply one small part of the All I write about when I write a poem.+

Wading Into the Political Season

I'll admit it. I'm a bit of a political junkie. Not enough to keep noxious news channels on 24 hours a day/7 days a week; but enough of one that, in spite of myself I went to both a candidate meet and greet in the neighborhood and a meeting of the Louisville Metro Council in the same week.

Politics -- especially local politics -- is like what a friend of Amanda's calls SPORTSBALL++. To look at politics as anything other than a kind of sport lends it far more gravity than it deserves. American politics are absurd and politicians are among the most absurd critters on the planet next  lawyers and the duck-billed platypus.
Meet your local representative.

I went to a neighbor's house to meet the opposing candidate for the District 21 seat on the Metro Council. His name is Erich V. Shumake. He's running against 20 year encumbent Dan Johnson.+++ They are both Democrats, which apparently is a relief to some of those who still think partisan politics matter and a real problem to the rest of those who think partisan politics matter.

Shumake is a Methodist minister and retired railroad man; but this is not the most interesting thing about him.

What makes him interesting is that he's so much fun to mess with.

Amanda and I arrived at the neighbor's house at the same time as the candidate and his wife. The neighbors, Tammy and her husband Kevin nice folks. She's from Nebraska originally. He likes microbrew beer. They live in a well-maintained older house a few streets away and are active in the neighborhood association. The meet and greet had the usual kinds eats -- cookies and chips and brownies, along with coffee and homemade lemonade and both kinds of wine. We were standing near the food spread talking with the candidate about politics and philosophical fishing when Tammy came up and asked him if he wanted a glass of wine.

No thank you,  he answered. But I will take a cup of coffee.

I wasn't drinking either -- neither wine agrees with me in mixed settings and I still had to work after the meet and greet -- so I didn't actually hold his temperance against him. Tammy seemed a bit shaken -- she later insisted I eat something so that she could too, so I can only conclude that she was following in that grand tradition of the midwestern hostess -- waiting for a guest to pop the cork before she herself took a polite gulp.

While it's entirely possible that Tammy was nervous -- as hosts of such events are sometimes expected to be when they invite all their neighbors, one of whom was erroneously accused of being convicted of check fraud in New Jersey in 1996^ -- I like to think that on some level, her deep, hearty, and stalwart midwestern soul intervened.

Do you take it like a man? she asked.

She laughed immediately and apologized for the verbal slip, but that opened the bag. The candidate, looked at me and asked how I took my coffee. (I was drinking the homemade lemonade.)

Like a man, Amanda said, laughing. The candidate looked at me and I nodded.

I drink it black. 

I sort of felt sorry for him. Sort of. Faced with burly bearded philosophical fisherman, his nearly hysterically laughing hostess, and Amanda -- all of us potential voters, of course -- he nodded, smiled, and in another grand tradition -- this one being the grand tradition of politicking -- he proclaimed that he would try it like a man. 

Later, before the mini-stump speech in the front room, I was talking to him again, this time trying to get a sense of what he wanted to do on Metro Council. His answers were charged with all the idealism and Democratic buzzwords that I expected, but he was intentionally non-specific. I noticed he was eating a ginger snap with his manly coffee -- which, to be honest, he wasn't drinking that much of.

You know, I said.  You should trying dunking it in the coffee.

Really?

Absolutely. It softens the cookie and... you know... adds a little sugar to the coffee. Try it.

He dunked it almost immediately and seemed moderately surprised that both flavor of both the cookie and the coffee were complimented by the addition of the other. You're welcome.

The Metro Council meeting was interesting to watch^^. A lot of pomp and circumstance, and a great deal of disagreement over who sits on The Monuments Commission (The distribution of vetted volunteers tends to lean heavily towards the east end -- where there is a lot more money floating around, even if it's some abstract number on a computer screen and not an actual bank roll.)  and over a motion to separate the City Employee Retirement System from the Kentucky State Retirement System -- which apparently is a really important issue to Jim King (D) the representative from District 10, who presides over Council meetings since the mayor doesn't have to.

Neither of these issues were decided one way or the other.

Of note, though. Dan Johnson was present at the meeting, while his opponent was not. The representative from District 21 didn't say much, and seemed focused on something in front of him rather than the proceedings. But his phone went off three times. The first time, he silenced it. The second time, I barely grabbed it in time. The third time, he silenced it good and proper, but his colleagues on either side of him could not contain their laughter. 

A Story Worth Telling:


I'm almost getting this audio portion of this blog together. Here's a story I haven't told in a while, but one that I really like. I hope you like it too. You can also follow me on reverbnation.com, listen from this link, (it's an mp3) for click on play on the Facebook page for Along The Dirty, Sacred River.

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*The original topic of the night was supposed to be "Heroes" -- which was stressful enough, since I think I am even less heroic than I am courageous. The topic changed at  the last minute, however, thanks to a special one time sponsorship by AARP.

** Every man is born with a monster in his gut, and every boy learns at an early age how to feed it. I started feeding mine shortly after I lost my first fight, at the age of 10. It's entirely possible, and entirely likely, that women are born with monsters, too. But I've never asked. And to be honest, I'm not entirely sure I want to know what that force of nature monster would look like unleashed.

*** The trend of "storyteller as protagonist" is actually referred to as part of the "American Style" of storytelling by the wider global community of storytellers. 

+ This is as close to an aesthetic statement as I think I've ever made. 

++ A derisive critique of all sports that I understand only because of a lexicographic relative, MUSIKILLS. A Musikill is any theatrical piece (except for Man from La Mancha) in which over-wrought music tells at least half the story. This includes the entire Rogers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber catalogs, and anything where the term "Fossey hands" is applicable. (From The Parsons Dictionary of Oft Used Words and Phrases, high school edition)

+++ The picture of him on the campaign page is old, probably as old as his first run. 

^Me.
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