Two good shows coming up this week

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick email to let you know that there are two great shows coming up this week before our own show next week.

The first one is a new open mic storytelling show in Tacoma. I think it might be the only story show in Tacoma right now. It’s run by one of our regulars, Big Tim, and he’d love to see some Seattle people there if you can make it. It starts at 7pm.

Click below for details.

First Responders Night!!!

Wednesday, Jul 19, 2017, 7:00 PM

Black Kettle Bites and Brew
744 Market St. Unit 102B Tacoma, WA

3 Members Attending

First Responder night. Do you have a story about a Cop, Fireman, Medic, Dispatcher, Prosecutor or Corrections person? Do you know one that has a story to tell? This will be a night to be THANKFUL for those that watch over us every day. As a rule, stories are supposed to be about YOU, but for this show, we will break ALL the rules.

Check out this Meetup →

The second event is the annual Powellswood Storytelling Festival that runs all day Saturday. You can see some of the best storytellers in the world perform in this really cool hidden garden setting. I volunteer every year there so I can get in free. You’ll see personal storytelling like we do at FGS but also other types of stories you won’t see anywhere else.

Come down and hear some great stories while you watch me empty garbage cans!

Here’s the link to our own show that’s happening next week

Fresh Ground Stories: Before and After – Stories that divide your life

Thursday, Jul 27, 2017, 7:00 PM

Roy Street Coffee & Tea
700 Broadway East – Seattle, WA

43 Story Fans Attending

This month’s theme is something I’ve been thinking about for a while but wasn’t sure if it would resonate with anyone. The theme is “Before and After: Stories that divide your life.” At first I thought maybe it was a little too dramatic. Not everyone has a life-changing event that sharply divides the first part of your life from the second. But the…

Check out this Meetup →

I hope to see a bunch of you at Roy St on the 27th 🙂


Fresh Ground Stories: Before and After – Stories that divide your life

This month’s theme is something I’ve been thinking about for a while but wasn’t sure if it would resonate with anyone. The theme is “Before and After: Stories that divide your life.” At first I thought maybe it was a little too dramatic. Not everyone has a life-changing event that sharply divides the first part of your life from the second. But then I realized that we all have little things that happen to us where we can see that there was some sort of before and after effect.

The last couple of days I’ve been listing off all the things in my life that represent some kind of that-was-me-then and this-is-men-now. I just realized this week that it was 10 years ago since I joined Weight Watchers and started bringing my lunches to work. Every Sunday for 10 years I’ve cooked five days worth of lunches so I’m not tempted to eat a giant portion of something at a restaurant. Making lunches seems like a tiny little thing but when I think about it terms of a decade of healthy eating it makes me feel pretty good.

Naturally, I have some big before-and-after stories, my parents dying, my son being born, moving to Washington in ’95. But the little stories are the ones that I’m having the most fun thinking about this week.

In 2007, I was driving one of favorite comics to a gig when he told me the difference between telling a joke and being funny. That 30-minute conversation on SR 167 changed how I write and eventually led me to storytelling.

There was the time in the gym in 2009 when I did my first pull-up. For most of my life I’d been the weakest guy in the room. Ten push-ups was a struggle. If three of us had to move a couch I’d be the one holding the pillows while the other two moved the thing upstairs. But the day I did that first pull-up, man I felt like the baddest man in three counties. I was Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Grizzly Adams all rolled into one. I walked around town for the next two hours looking for a robbery to stop.

I remember a long time ago when I got an email out of the blue telling me that the NPR affiliate in Austin was going to play an audio story I made about my dad on Father’s Day. I had finished the story nine years earlier but no one in my family wanted to hear it. So it sat online for years collecting Google dust before someone halfway across the country heard it and decided it was good. For nine years I wondered why almost no one wanted to listen to it. When I sent it to, the producer wrote back to say he had no idea what he was listening to. I had no idea what he meant by but I was pretty sure it meant he didn’t like it. But then, someone in a little studio in Austin found it and decided it was perfect for their Father’s Day show. They played it again the following year. And the year after that. I didn’t make any money from it but I’ve been living off the emotional residuals ever since. I learned that I’m not for everyone but I might be for someone. And that’s enough for me.

And that is the kind of story we’re looking for. The theme for July’s show is “Before and After: Stories that divide your life.” Bring a true, 8-minutes-or-less story about something that happened where you think of your life before and after that event. I know you have lots of those moments so pick one of them and figure out how to tell that story. Remember to keep it clean and practice out loud as often as possible.

Here are the rules and guidelines to help you along:

I hope to see you on July 27 at 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea.


Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who took a break from the beautiful weather to hang out and listen to some beautiful stories last Thursday. There must have been something in the air that night because we ended right on time and everyone who came with a story got to tell.

David opened the show with a story he told at the Moth Grand Slam earlier in the week and once again I was reminded how important it is to have people in your life who push you to do the right thing. David’s career as  doctor took a big hit in the early years because he called out some doctors for doing unnecessary procedures on indigent patients. Integrity isn’t always the first word that comes to mind when I think of the medical industry but sometimes a guy like David shows up and shows me that there are still doctors out there who care. He may have paid for his integrity by not getting to work at the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins but his soul is intact so he’s probably better off in the long run.

One of our regulars, Chris, told a story of waking up under a blanket of snow and feeling, deeply and surprisingly, more alive than ever before. In the dispassionate fairness of nature she discovered she felt more connected and comforted than she did in her life back home. I found myself smiling as she told her story because a week earlier I had gotten lost hiking in Capitol Forest and was very put out with nature’s dispassionate unfairness of keeping me from finding the parking lot.

Our two first-timers stand out to me because they both told stories of helping others. Michael told a beautiful story of working as a reading tutor at a grade school even though he has no kids of his own. We all had a good laugh when he admitted how intimidating 8-year-old girls can be. Tammy told us about working with Syrian refugees and how much it changed her. What I keep going back to is how much Tammy and Michael made me think that maybe this world is in better hands than I thought it was. Apparently, when I pull myself away from Twitter and Facebook for a minute I can meet some pretty good people who give me hope for the future. Michael and Tammy don’t know this but long after I’ve forgotten the details of their stories I’m going to remember that I met two people that night who didn’t have to spend time helping others but did it anyway.

Another teller who made me smile was Moreah who told us how getting kicked out of the convent had led to a life of adventure that she almost missed out on. How have I gone all these years without realizing how much fun ex-nuns can be?? Next time someone invites me to a party I’m going to make sure there are some former nuns on the guest list before I say yes. I almost told Moreah afterward that I was planning on staying a few days at monastery in Oregon this summer but I didn’t want her to  slap me.

Before I get out of here, I want to thank another teller, TC, for a couple of things. The first is for sneaking Ryan’s name into Mr Coffee without telling her. Normally, I don’t condone this kind of scandalous behavior but we’ve both been hoping for years that Ryan will share a story with us and I was curious to see if we could nudge her into walking up to the microphone. We weren’t able to but the round of spontaneous applause that the audience gave her to show how safe she’ll be one day when she does get up there really touched me.

The second reason I want to thank TC is for the story he shared of traveling to the Shaolin temple because he loved watching David Carradine in Kung Fu when he was a kid. Guess what! I did too! I totally geeked out over his story of watching monks punching trees and doing two-finger pushups. After the show I got to talk to him about meditating and how much it’s meant to him. He didn’t know that I had just started meditating two weeks earlier and how happy I was to find someone who’d been doing it for years. Kismet! Synchronicity! Magical coincidences!

Everyone who got up that night helped make it a very special evening for me. I got to hear about Jonathan and the Happy-App-That-Never-Was. Ginger, who was thanked by strangers for being the best thing that ever happened to Port Angeles. Big Tim for sharing how much storytelling has helped him recover from PTSD. Dan for a story about the first love of his life which happened to be a ‘69 Volkswagen Beetle. I’m sure I’m forgetting some people but my notes are scattered around the apartment so I’m going to just have to send out a thanks to everyone who told a story that night.

Wait! One more thank you to Beverly for helping me with my allergies before the show. I was dying in the corner and she came to me with a cold, wet towel and a cup of ice water. You guys have no idea how close you came to the show being run by a blind, weeping emcee. Thank you B!

Most of you who have been coming to FGS for a while know that I don’t usually tell my own stories there. It’s more important to me that I give as many people as I can a chance to tell. I almost told a story Thursday but Ginger ended the night so perfectly I didn’t want to add anything afterward. But I would like to let you guys know that I was asked to tell a story at a show this Saturday called, “A Necessary Sadness.” It’s run by one of our regulars, and former Moth producer, Danielle K.L. Gregoire. Danielle does so much good work for storytelling in Seattle that I want to make sure everyone knows about her.

“A Necessary Sadness” is just one of the shows she runs and it’s different from anything else I’ve seen. It’s a show that’s hard to describe so click on the link below if you’d like more information. There will be storytelling, comedy, music, maybe some poems, who knows. Every performance is different. I loved the first version I saw last year and was happy to be invited to tell a story at this one. (If you went to the NAMI fundraiser last month you saw me tell the story I’ll be telling this Saturday).
The show is June 29 and July 1. I’ll be in the July 1 show but both shows will be really cool.

Our next FGS show is July 27. The theme is “Before and After.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can. In the meantime, you can check out the two events below that I want everyone to know about.

Every year my son and I go to the Powellswood Storytelling Festival. It’s one of the best story festivals in the PNW. I can’t recommend it enough. You get to see nationally known storytellers for only $20. These people are really, really good. Plus, if you go you’ll see me and my kid emptying garbage cans because that’s how we get in for free 🙂
Festival: Saturday July 22, 9 am to 5 p
Workshops: Friday July 21, 9 am to 4:30

Two of our regulars who moved to Portland last year are holding a storytelling workshop on July 23. I love these guys. If you want to learn how to tell stories better go to Anne and Norm’s workshop and tell them I said hi. Do your best to get them to move back to Seattle for me, ok?
A Storytelling Workshop with
Anne Rutherford and Norm Brecke
July 23 (Sun) 1:00-4:00 pm


Sweet! – Stories of discovering what you love

It took me over 40 years to find out why my mom became a missionary. She was a Baha’i, not Christian, and Baha’i’s call what she did “pioneering.” In 1964, she left Hollywood and an acting career, and moved to Alaska to bring the Baha’i Faith to whoever would listen. I came along later and accompanied her by plane, boat, train and car on her religious mission throughout the state.

Even as a kid, I felt there was something a little nutty about this. Why were we flying all over bothering people? It felt worse than going door to door in the neighborhood selling my Cub Scout raffle tickets. The raffle tickets only cost a dollar and there were no afterlife implications if you didn’t have the winning number.

My mother, though, was selling religion. The stakes were higher both spiritually and emotionally. My mother was driven to bring people to her faith no matter how much it embarrassed her family. We knocked on doors, hosted fireside chats, stood behind card tables filled with pamphlets at conventions, we did it all. But during that time I never had the courage to ask her why. What could possibly drive a person to give up everything she worked for and move to a place like Alaska? It would have been easier for me to understand if she’d gone up to work saloons during a gold rush than to be a missionary.

Unfortunately, my mom died when I was 17 and I never found out what caused her to move to the frozen north. I have DVDs of her in sitcoms from that time. She seemed successful. I still have her portfolio she used to send out to agents. She was striking. I remember going with her one day to a big house in Beverly Hills to see an old friend who was a regular on Charlie’s Angels and wondering, “Why did you leave all this?”

My mother’s love of the Baha’i Faith was a mystery to me until last year when an old family friend sent me a book on Baha’i’s in Alaska that included a short chapter on my mother. Right there on page 148 the mystery was finally solved. A quick email to my cousin Bernie added another important layer.

My mom grew up Jewish in Brooklyn and every year during Passover Seder her father would tell her to run to the door to let in the prophet Elijah. (Technically, this would happen while the rest of the family recited verses where they asked God to, according to, “visit His wrath upon their persecutors and oppressors.” I kinda like that part.) Every year, according to the story my mother told the author of this book, Elijah had someplace better to go and my mother would be very disappointed.

I can totally see my mom at eight years old being very disappointed in Elijah. Once, when we were living in Anchorage, she threw a pot roast out the window because someone didn’t show up for dinner. It didn’t matter to my mom if you were a prophet or a dinner guest. If you said you were going to show up you better show up.

Then, one night in 1964, a friend of hers was introduced to the Baha’i Faith. Later that night, around midnight, that friend knocked on my mother’s door in Beverly Hills and told her about his conversion. My mother said it felt like Elijah had finally come to her door. After 25 years of Elijah-less Seders my mom had finally found God. Immediately after I read that I wrote my cousin Bernie and asked if he’d heard that story. He said no but when I asked him why he thought his aunt would just run off to Alaska he said, “Well, she was always getting a wild hair about something.”

So there it was. For 17 years, we flew all over Alaska in bush planes because Elijah, in the form of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i Faith, came to my mother’s door. And also because she was prone to wild hairs.

Finding this out was so comforting me to that I resolved to go back into my own life and figure out why I love the people and things that I do. It’s been a humbling, fascinating experience. I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with standup comedy (on a camping trip with my Boy Scout troop). I can tell you why I fell in love with certain women (this story is too long already for all that.) I can tell you why I fell in love with reading and writing (I was desperately looking for a way out of the life I was in as a kid). And I can tell you why I love unexpectedly washing dishes at people’s houses (t reminds me of my dad but don’t get excited, I don’t do it for everyone). I can even tell you why it’s still comforting to write stories sitting on the floor in the bathroom with the lights off and the shower on (it was the only room in the house with a lock on the door where I could get away from people screaming at each other. The sound of the shower would drown out everything going on the hallway six inches away. Now that I think of it, I could probably find an app for that and save on the water bill.)

I’ve been going to therapy for a long time and done a lot of work figuring out why I hate certain things about myself and others but until now I never tried to figure out why I love things. Crazy, huh? Figuring out why we love the things we love might even more important than finding out why we hate the things we hate, right?

Whether you agree with that or not, that’s the kind of story we’re looking for at our next show, June 22, at Roy Street Coffee and Tea. The theme is “Sweet! – Stories of discovering what you love.”

Do you remember when you realized you loved music? Or baseball? Or your first sweetheart? Did you fall in love with swimming when you went over Niagara Falls in a barrel with your dad? Did you fall in love with Judo because your mother taught you how to throw your brother in the back yard? Maybe you fell in love with the law from watching Matlock! Please, God, let there be someone at the show who became a lawyer because of Andy Griffith.

Remember to keep it clean and under 8 minutes. Here are the rules and guidelines for telling a story at the show:

Practice out loud in the car or in the living room on the cat. Let me know if you have any questions.

I hope to see you on the 22nd.


Thank you :)

Thanks to everyone who came out Thursday and helped make it such a great night. I say all the time that FGS is the best night of the month for me but last Thursday was something special.

Bill started off the evening with a hilarious story of trying to buy a new car but not wanting the salesman to know that one of his requirements is that it’s big enough to sleep in. I was happy to find out that I’m not the only one who buys cars based on that metric. If you’ve ever had to live in your car it’s always in the back of your mind that you might have to do it again one day. I’m pretty sure that no one driving a Mini Cooper has ever been homeless.

Dan, a first-timer, followed that with a story that went straight into my heart. He told us the story of his 25-year marriage ending and the first kiss a year later that gave him hope that maybe one day he could find love again. I know what it’s like to feel like you’ll never be kissed again. It’s the worst feeling in the world. I wish I could go back and tell every woman who kissed me after years of loneliness and tell them how much it meant to me.

I was very happy I pulled Stephanie’s name out of Mr. Coffee because she got bumped last month and I hate having to look at someone when they give me the “two times in a row?” face. Stephanie has an interesting hobby of getting a tattoo for each adventure she’s been in around the world. Next time I see her at FGS I’m checking her arms for new ink to see if she’s telling a story that night.

Colby told a touching story of having to give up his career as a healer and it reminded me of all the people who have helped me heal through various techniques. I can’t imagine what it would be like for them if they lost that ability. When I listened to the story again I heard something I missed the first time. He also talked about how sometimes we give up one thing in order to get something else and how different that is from losing something and getting nothing in return. That’s a situation I rarely hear spiritual people talking about and now it’s something that I’m going to be thinking about for a while. Thank you Colby.

We had so many great tellers last night I feel like I’m letting you down by not telling you about all of them. Unfortunately, I only have so much time to get this email out and you only have so much time to spend reading it. I wish I could tell you about Janet falling out of a raft in Zambia and instead of being eaten by crocodiles she was rescued by the the most handsome man in Africa. And I’d love to talk more about how Eric grew up with the coolest dad in the world who played air guitar in the living room and still sends his son classic rock mix tapes. Unfortunately, all I have time to say is that if you weren’t there that night you missed a great show.

One teller I want to take time to thank personally is a woman I’d never seen before. I don’t know if she wants her name out there so I’ll just call her C. I happened to standing next to Mr. Coffee when C put her name in and I could tell she was having a rough night. Her eyes were red and puffy and she hesitated before writing her name down. We talked for a moment and she told me a little bit about the story she wanted to tell. I told her I didn’t know a safer place to tell that story in public than where she was.

The story she told was how the year she didn’t make the usual call to her little brother to wish him a happy Thanksgiving. She found out later that it was the night she lost him to suicide. Even though her story was heartbreaking for me to hear I was grateful she chose us to share it with. I don’t know another group of people, who are mostly strangers to each other, who could receive that story with the grace and compassion that you guys did. Thank you for supporting C and all the other tellers over the years who have told these difficult stories. And thank you C for having the courage to tell it. It made a difference to me and I know it did for others.

I wish I could name everyone who told that night but I don’t have my notes with me and I don’t want to forget anyone. As always, special thanks to the first-timers, though, many of whom had never been onstage before. You guys always amaze me.

The audio levels on the recording were a little low but still worth keeping. It just means you’ll have to either turn up the volume or wear headphones. I’m still trying to get this audio stuff dialed in. Send me an email if you told a story that night and I’ll send you the audio of your performance. I only send audio to the people who told a story and it’s only of the story they told. A lot of the stories were hear at FGS are pretty personal so I don’t send them out to anyone but the teller.

Our next show in June 22 and the theme is “Stories of Discovering What You Love.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

One last thing before I go. I forgot to mention at Roy St. that is hosting a storytelling show and they’re looking for people with public transit stories. If you have a 3-5 minute story about something memorable that happened to you on the bus or other form of public transit they’d love to hear it. I’m not sure if you should just show up at the event or if you need to contact them beforehand so email Rachel Logo at for details.

I pasted the text of her email below:

“I wanted to reach about a program we have coming up that I thought might be of interest to you and your audience. This June we are celebrating public transportation, with our annual Ride Transit Month program, which includes prizes, fun events, and more! On June 15th we are presenting a special live storytelling event that highlights the unique way that transit connects to people, places and community. We are looking for riders of all kinds to share a short 3-5 minute story of a moment they have had on transit.

I’d love to make sure there’s the opportunity for all voices to be included in this event, and would appreciate any help connecting with voices and stories that don’t always get heard.

Transit Talks – Moments in Motion

Date: June 15th, 6pm

Location: Jewelbox Theater

Reserve your spot

To celebrate Ride Transit Month this June we are bringing you a very special version of our quarterly Transit Talks: Moments in Motion. This live storytelling event will feature a collection of stories about connections, told by riders of all kinds, about a moment they’ve had on transit.

A conversation with a stranger, an unexpected reunion, a date. It can all happen when we step out of our bubbles and onto transit.

These true stories will highlight the unique ways that public transportation connects us to people, places, and community.”

That’s all I got, though I suppose it’s enough given the length of this email. I hope you’re all out enjoying the weather. Remember the sunblock! We live in the PNW and are defenseless against the sun.