Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
|(Image by Amanda L. Hay)|
Getting up on stage reminded me of how much I have missed it.
The Moth StorySlam is where The Moth Podcast gets it's audio from; the podcasts tend to focus on the coasts, particularly New York, and they tend to air stories from well-known folks. In order to be considered for the grab bag, however, I had to sign a release giving them permission to record audio and video -- in the event the producers end up using my 5 minutes on the regular podcast.
StorySlams happen all over the country. In Louisville, it happens on the last Tuesday of the month at Headliner's Music Hall. I'd listened to the podcasts, but had never been to a live event. When I signed up to perform, I had no idea if I would be able to: not because of nerves so much as the nature of the event. I can stand up and read poems and tell stories for a long time. My problem with stories is generally that they tend on the long side. (I'm working on the craft a bit to get better. It's surprisingly difficult for someone who's longwinded.)
After putting my name in, I sat down with Amanda, had a cocktail, and waited. There are only 10 slots for storytellers, and you don't know if you're getting on stage until they pull another name out of the bag.
I tried not to get nervous. I'd thought about the story I was going to tell, and had practiced a bit. The topic for the night was "Fathers." I had decided, rather than talk about my own father -- the personage of whom, like my paternal grandfather, has fallen somewhat into the category of myth -- that I would talk about my own experience as a father. I chose a story that I thought reflected some of my own foibles and frustrations and experience as a father. But even after practicing, I was well above the prescribed 5 minute limit.
I drank a few bourbon and cokes, stayed calm, and half listened 11 stories. I enjoyed them for various reasons. Some did better than others about staying in the time limit; but I noticed that some of the slower moving ones made similar mistakes to the ones I usually make. By the end of the night, I didn't expect to step on stage.
And then they called my name.
The good news about a venue like that is that the stage lights are so bright, it's impossible to tell if people are making faces, not listening, or becoming horrified by your performance. Except for the times they laughed -- at points where I was hoping I'd be funny -- I really had no sense there was anything there. I'm generally used to more intimate performance spaces; I can usually see the people in the audience. But even that can be stressful, particularly with my still burgeoning musical exploits. And in this case, not being able to see the audience was more of a help than a hinderance... it helped moderate my nerves.
I didn't win the slam -- that went to Jim Call, who told a tear jerker about camping with his dad. But that's hardly the point. I was able to put a story together, make people laugh, talk about my daughter (which I love to do) and manage all of that within 5 minutes.
|image from therubygroup.com|
Why Rugby, you ask? Rugby happens to be the geographic center of North America -- or so ascribed.
After 9 days in Williston, I'm headed further west to East Glacier Park, Montana, where I plan on camping out for a few days, somewhere in the Glacier National Park. Then I'm back on the train, headed east, via Minneapolis.
From there, I'll wander back to Kentucky one way or another.
This is a trip of a different sort from last year, and with a different purpose. One of the things I found when I was out last year was that there are still plenty of stories to tell, and more that are never heard, simply because no one is listening. I'm a sucker for a good story, and a hound when it comes to digging them up. Williston is fascinating -- not only because of the tar sands boom, but because of the narrative that's built up around our need for natural resources. "Drill, baby, Drill!" (which is either a demand for more oil wells or Sarah Palin's mating call) versus "Recycle, Reuse, Renew!" is all anyone ever really hears. Poor, poor oil companies that'll fall off the Forbes Most Wanted List without reaching into the very core of the earth. Fracking -- the the primary operation in Williston -- is by many accounts an environmental disaster. But it also means jobs. High paying ones. And one of the voices that has always been suspiciously absent in the narrative between those who would squeeze the planet dry and those who would squeeze the oil companies dry are the people who need the work, and those who have more of a first hand perspective, like the residents of Williston. Those are the stories I'm interested in.
If you'd like to hear these stories too, please consider a donation to the Travel Fund. I'm still short of funds for shelter, and Williston, because of the boom, has extremely limited areas where tent camping is allowed... and virtually no resources for the weary wanderer. Thanks, and Gawd Bless.
|image from fineartamerica.com|
It would be remiss of me to not mention the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the assault on Miranda Rights that came down from the High Court in it's most recent session. It would also be completely thick-headed of me to not discuss the impact of the court's ruling on DOMA. So here's the short of it --
Gutting the Voting Rights Act was nothing more than the next step towards what is a dangerous trend in Nationalism. Don't think Hitler. Think Franco. This isn't about world conquest because the world is already conquered by those corporate interests that own most of what we hear, and all of our politicians... not to mention the food we eat and soon, the water we drink. The world has been cut up by them into a map that most of us have never seen. Governments are conduits for making sure money moves around to all the Right People. And in case you're wondering, it's probably not You. And it's not all those Nasty Poor People who are blamed for everything. And it's not anyone you probably know or see on the street. These people don't shop at the same places we do. They don't eat at the same restaurants we do. And while we think we know their names, we only know a few. And as long as their coffers are full, what happens to the rest of us is statistically irrelevant to them.
Ruling that suspects DO NOT have the right to remain silent means that if you are arrested, you are required to assist in your own prosecution. That's the long and short of it. And if you think it won't apply to you, you're probably one of those who isn't bothered by PRISM. Then again, you probably weren't bothered by the Patriot Act, the NDAA, or the fact that Google and Facebook have been gathering information on their users for YEARS. It's called MARKETING people. Except now instead of selling us Russian Brides and fashion underwear, they're selling us on the sure safety of a Police State.
DOMA: All the ruling says is that states can no longer hide behind Federal Law in condoning bigotry. Now they can hide behind self-loathing, hatred, and people's quaint notions of who (or what) they think god is. This good for State's Rights people (read: Confederate Sympathizers) and a potential good thing for LGBTs who want to get married. Yes, married partners, regardless of gender will have access to the Federal Benefits of marriage. And not to minimize the potential impact, but the fact is there still a bunch of stuffy guys in power out there with fears of forced sodomy... and enough ego to believe that gay men actually want to fuck them.
On Whistleblowers: I'm still not sure whether I think Snowden is a hero, or whether I think I'm being distracted (like the IRS and Bhengazi "scandals.") from some other story of greater importance. It does seem oddly timed, given the narrative of NSA wiretapping, and news that China has been cyber-warring against us. But whether the narrative is meant to silence would be whistle-blowers or to distract the info-meme ingesting public from more pertinent goings on, it's still interesting to note that a few other whistleblowers and truth tellers have mysteriously died over the past year. In this climate, I give Snowden 6 months before he winds up dead from a mysterious strain of typhoid or in a convenient plane crash, or as collateral damage in a South American Civil War (funded by the CIA, naturally, who helped bring South America so many little coups and ruthless dictators.)