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 Transom.org, 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.