FGS: Never in a Million Years – Stories of the unthinkable

This month’s theme is “Never in a Million Years: Stories of the unthinkable.” Tell us about a time when you did something you never thought you’d do. Or lived through something you never thought you’d have to live through. Or maybe you always thought you’d react in a certain way but when real life came knocking your response surprised you.

How did you end up in that situation? What did you learn from it? Did it break you down or build you up? That’s the kind of story we’re looking for.

I don’t have time this week to write up a story of my own on this theme but I wanted to get the official invite out as soon as possible so you’d have lots of time to dive into your past and work up a story.

Remember to keep it clean and practice out loud as much as possible. Here are the rules & guidelines to help you get started.

https://freshgroundstories.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

I hope to see you on October 26 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

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Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who came out and supported all our tellers last Thursday. We had lots of first and second-time tellers and it’s always a treat for me to see those folks find the courage to get up there and share a story.

We started off with a Little League story by Dan and the sad realization that he was never going to play for the Cincinnati Reds. I always love hearing Dan’s stories but my favorite part of his story this month was the effortless way he handled a sudden outburst from the coffee bar a few feet away.

Dan: You know, there’s something about baseball glove leather. It’s one of the all-time best smells –
Barista: CHEESE PLATE!
Dan: -and cheese plates. Those are good too.

I almost fell off my chair laughing. I was so impressed with the timing of Dan and the Roy Street staff that later I asked all the tellers to say “cheese plate” whenever they wanted to use language that’s not allowed during the show. I might even start using it in everydayday life. In fact, on my way home from the show that night some cheese plate almost ran me off the road on I-5. Yesterday, I wanted to say to a guy in Target who was yelling into his phone, “Dude, don’t be a cheese plate. Take it outside.” If you ever see me selling t-shirts that say, “Don’t be a cheese plate” you’ll know where it came from.

One of the most surprising stories of the night was by first-timer Erin who told us about a night in Tokyo when she was at one of the lowest points of her life. Her career was stalled, she felt like a failure, and she couldn’t see a way out. Then, walking by a wedding venue, she spotted a giant flower mask in the trash. Is dressing up as a giant flower a wedding tradition in Japan? I hope so. Anyway, when Erin pulled that flower mask out of the trash and put it on everything changed. She spent the rest of the night walking through Tokyo dressed as a beautiful 4-foot wide daisy with her head in the center. Suddenly, the world not only looked different, it started treating her differently. Turns out when you walk around town dressed as a giant daisy people will start smiling at you. And then you’ll start smiling at them. And suddenly, life doesn’t seem so bad. I’ll do my best to post a photo of Erin in her flower costume so you’ll see what I mean. And this week, when I’m feeling down, I’m going to imagine I’m a giant sunflower.

I wish I could go into all the stories we heard that night but I don’t want to keep you guys stuck to your computer screen more than I have to. I wish you had been there to hear Obie tell the how much trouble a young boy can get into with his first pocket knife. I wish you could have heard Rich tell the story of how he helped bring America and the USSR closer together with his vodka-fueled impression of Ronald Reagan. And I know you would have loved hearing Sonny tell us about riding the rails as a 15-year-old in 1945. After two years of hopping freights around the country he was picked up by the police in New Mexico as a runaway and tossed in jail for three weeks. Hungry and tired, he sat in jail wondering how he was going to get home. Then one night he heard the most beautiful sound coming from the cells around him. It was all the immigrant farm workers who were waiting to be sent back to Mexico harmonizing with each other. That was 70 years ago and he still thinks about those young men in jail, waiting to be sent across the boarder, singing quietly to themselves. Thank you Sonny for passing that wonderful memory on to us.

If you didn’t make it to last week’s show I hope you can make it to next month’s which will be October 26. The theme is “Never in a million years.” I’ll get the official invite out as soon as possible.

The recording worked fine so if you told a story and want to get a copy of it send me an email. I only give out the audio to the people who told and it’s only of the story they told. Most of the stories at FGS are very personal so I never give them out or post them without permission of the people they belong to.

Thanks to everyone who told that night: Obie, Dan, Erin, Vidya, Sarah, Rich, Catherine, Moreah, Greg, Rebecca, Sonny, and Carl. (forgive me if I’ve forgotten anyone).

If you’d like to find out more of what it’s like to walk around Tokyo dressed as a flower you can catch Erin at the Haunted Bingo show she’s running on Halloween: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/haunted-bingo-on-halloween-tickets-37419771544https://www.facebook.com/events/1681011588598581/

Also, if there’s a good storytelling open mic in Tacoma now and their next show is October 18. It’s an open theme so you can work on any story you want there this month as long as it’s true, happened to you, and is around 8 minutes long: https://www.facebook.com/events/119104262091726/

If you’d like to see me telling the story I told two months ago at FGS you can catch me at the FAR-West festival this Sunday:
http://www.far-west.org/storyexpo-2017.html

That’s all for now. Thanks again for coming out and supporting all our tellers 🙂

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

FGS: Silver Linings – Finding the good

September’s theme is “Silver Linings: Finding the good.” Sometimes I think that life is a constant search for silver linings. I have to admit that until a few years ago I wasn’t really concerned with finding the good in the bad. I wouldn’t say I wallowed in the bad but I definitely liked to splash around in it.

Sometimes I did it because I needed something to write about. And to be honest, writing about the hard times is easier and more fun to read than writing about the good times. I’m not a chicken-soup-for-the-soul kind of guy unless the story is written from the chicken’s perspective.

Recently, though, I’ve realized how many regrets I have. I hesitate to say that because I don’t know a single person who will admit to having regrets. They could be in the hospital with their legs jammed into their neck and they would still say they don’t regret skateboarding off the roof of their garage. I, on the other hand, have a whole house full of regrets. Seriously. I write them down on little slips of paper and many of them find their way to hidden corners of my apartment. If you were with me right now you could probably jam your hand inside one of these couch cushions and find something I wrote in 2009. It might say, “It’s never funny to introduce your girlfriend as ‘your old lady.’”

Yes, I actually did that. I thought it was funny because she was obviously young and beautiful. Turns out she didn’t feel that way inside so she believed from then on that I thought she looked like an old lady. I still can’t believe I did something that dumb. Years later after we broke up I wondered how many things I had said trying to be funny that she took seriously but never told me. How much of our breakup was caused by my desperate need to be funny?

Now whenever I think of something funny I pause for a moment and wonder who I might hurt by saying it. I may not wring every laugh out of a situation but at least I’m not going through life using my wit like a wrecking ball. I still regret hurting that woman but at least now I can say there are a lot of people I won’t be hurting in the future because that lesson went deep. One of the best things that came out of that lesson was learning how to be a better host of this show. Five years ago I would have tried to get a laugh every time I stepped onstage between stories. Now I I can walk up there after a heartbreaking story and just say, “Thank you so much. That was beautiful.”

Earlier this summer I took a big risk and asked my son what I did wrong as a parent. It occurred to me that I really had no right to give anyone parenting advice without asking my own son if it worked on him. It took him two days to believe that I wasn’t fishing for compliments. He first told me all the positive things he remembered from growing up and then when he ran out of those I said, “Ok, now tell me what you wish I hadn’t done.”

So he told me. And it was just as hard to hear as you think it was. Luckily, it wasn’t anything you’d call CPS over. Most of the things he remembered weren’t things I had done but things I had said. He told me how much it hurt when I said, “I can’t believe you don’t know your times tables.” All these years he had that inside him and I never knew how much it hurt. I do remember saying it and I’d give anything now to take it back. I wish I had found a better way to express my frustration that night. I have no idea how I can find a silver lining in this. How in the world can I find something positive in making my son feel stupid?

Right now the best I can do is be patient with the people in my life who frustrate me. I can remind myself that when I get frustrated it’s more about me than it is about them. It doesn’t seem like enough but it’s the best I can come up with right now. I’ve spent most of my life assuming no one remembered what I said. Now I know, thanks to a kid who still loves me, that a lot of people remember what I say so I better be careful what I say.

And that’s the kind of story we’re looking for. Bring a true 8-minute-or-less story about finding a silver lining in something you might otherwise regret. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big thing or a little thing. It could be something you did or maybe didn’t do. What was something positive that came out of it and how did it change you from then on?

Remember to keep it clean and practice your story out loud as much as possible. Here are the rules & guidelines to help you get started.

https://freshgroundstories.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/

I hope to see you on September 28 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com

Thank you for a great show!

I almost got out the old Roget’s thesaurus today to see if there was a better way to say thank you to everyone who came out to the show Thursday. But then I thought “Hey, does hearing thank you ever get old? Of course not.” So all I can say is thank you over and over again as I write this. It was a wonderful show and one I know people are still thinking about.

Dave, one of our new regulars, started the show with a story about his low-speed getaway from a dog catcher in a Golden Gardens Park. It was so nice to hear that no matter how mature we get as adults when an authority figure waves us over sometimes our first instinct is still to run away. Luckily, Dave and Yankee, his standard poodle, are slightly faster than your average animal control officer and they made a clean getaway. I don’t know if Yankee’s mugshot is on the wall of every doggie daycare in King county now but you should know that if you give either one of them a ride home from a park you may be charged with aiding and abetting.

After Dave’s Bonnie & Clyde adventure we heard from two first-timers who I hope will keep coming back. Tiffany told us about meeting the world’s kindest drag queen in a Seattle Value Village and Rebecca Lee told us how she went from working at Club Med to being onstage in LA doing improv. Oh, Rebecca, why didn’t you ask me first about a life in comedy? Do you know how many comics would kill to work at Club Med?? Well, now that you’re here I hope you come back and tell another story. And, Tiffany, I hope your days are filled with kind and helpful drag queens and that you don’t accidentally drop any more desks on them.

Elliot, every time you walk up to the mic I know I’m going to hear about a corner of your life that I thought I knew well but didn’t. Thank you for letting us know how you went from protecting America in Iraq to female phone sex operator in Seattle. Can you imagine what we could accomplish around the globe if we took just a fraction of our military spending and put it into phone sex operations? If we could get Elliot on the phone to certain high-level people in North Korea we could have peace on earth for $3.99/minute. Joking aside, Elliot is one of the most honest, and vulnerable tellers I’ve seen. He doesn’t know it but he’s inspired me over the years to be more like that myself.

Zoe, our friend from last month who got bumped because we had too many tellers, told a story about John Lennon that I just loved. I asked her for permission to post it on our website and I’m crossing my fingers that I can share it with all of you. It’s one of those quiet stories where the little details stay with you for a long time. Parts of Zoe’s story I remember hearing as a kid and I would never have dreamed that I would one day meet someone who had experienced them in person. Thank you Zoe for reminding me that, in a world of internet and reality show celebrities, sometimes a person comes along who really is important and who really does matter.

I should probably end this here but I want to thank a few more tellers before I leave this coffee shop and start my day.

Chad, my friend, you made me very nervous with that story about hitchhiking. Here I am glancing over at my son in the corner while you talk about how you were never murdered by getting in a car with a stranger. What am I supposed to tell my kid now? Honestly, though, I wish I had your courage and faith in humanity. Right now I think it’s good for all of us to hear stories about how there are actually a lot of nice people in the world and if we give each other a chance we’ll be pleasantly surprised. Now that I’ve said that, please stick to safer places for meeting strangers like dark alleys and dive bars.

Stephanie, I feel like we just got to know you and now you’re flying off to Australia for love. I am happy for you and also a little awestruck. Most of us wouldn’t drive to Tacoma for love and here you are getting ready for an 18-hour flight to a giant rock in the Indian Ocean. I know you often get a tattoo to commemorate something you’ve lived through but I hope this time you don’t need a one. I hope this time the story is so big and beautiful that no amount of ink could ever cover it.

Deborah, your story of falling in love with a man for his heart before you even knew what he looked like was so sweet. Every time someone tells me I should go onto one of these online dating sites I think about what it would feel like to know that hundreds of women have swiped past me because I didn’t have the right nose, lips or hairline. I’ve never fallen in love from seeing a woman’s photo but more than once I’ve fallen in love after hearing their story. Thank you for reminding me that the app store isn’t the only place to find love.

Scot, my old friend, it was great to see you back at the show. I’m so happy you survived becoming a human bobsled on that mountain. We’re even happier to know that you didn’t leave any body parts on the rock that launched you into space 🙂

Moreah, one of our new regulars, has only shared a few stories with us so far but there seem to be about twenty stories tucked into the ones she’s told us. I love how she drops interesting little tidbits of her life into the last 10 seconds of a story just before she walks away from the microphone. Moreah, how do you just casually mention that if we want to hear more about what you’ve done since leaving the convent in the 70s that we should join you Saturday at Nudestock? How do you just walk away after that?!?! And where can we get tickets to Nudestock?

Our final teller was Ginger who told us about the party she threw where all the parts of her life came together. Some of us are lucky enough to have a moment in life when everything came together and sent us off in a direction we never expected. It’s something else when you purposefully create that moment for yourself. I love that Ginger knew what she needed to do and had the courage to do it. It was the perfect story to end the evening. This morning I woke up with two things in mind. I wanted to know more about kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery, and I wanted to spend more time thinking about this: what would I do if I knew what I had to do?

Thank you all for coming out and sharing the evening with me. As always, special thanks to the tellers, especially our first-timers, for doing the hard thing and sharing a part of your life with us. My personal gratitude goes out to everyone in the audience who gave each teller all the love and patience they needed to get through their story.

Our next show is September 28. The theme is “Silver Linings.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

The tape recorder did its job so send me an email if you told a story and I’ll get the audio to you. I only give out the audio to the people who told and it’s only the audio of their own story. Most of the stories we hear at FGS are very personal so I don’t share them or put them on the website without permission.

See you on the 28th 🙂

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com