Thank you all for being part of a great show last Thursday! I know there were other things going on that night in the world so I’m grateful to everyone who showed up.
We heard some beautiful stories. We opened with Behnaz telling us what it’s like rooting for your soccer team in Iran as your country crumbles around you. Then Yousef told us how he’s learned to open up his life to risks and possibilities. Inside the story was a wonderful metaphor about how he always used to choose the thimble when he played Monopoly but now he chooses the iron because it feels a little more dangerous. I love it when a storyteller takes something simple like a Monopoly token and turns it into something bigger and more meaningful. Thank you Yousef for changing how I look at Monopoly boards now.
Tracey told what I think is the quintessential Tracey story. If you know Tracey, you know that stuff just seems to happen to her. Here’s why I think that is. One night, many years ago, The high priest in the desert town of Wackaloon, sacrificed 12 number two pencils in a holy fire that burned for three days and three nights. On the final night, with the embers low and the full moon high in the sky, he spoke these words, “Give unto us a child named Tracey. And may that child grow up to live a most storied life. And may she share those stories over a medium that will randomly and without cause mute people. But let the host unmuteth her so that she will continue to cause a great snorting and giggling amongst the people.” Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s how we came to blessed with Tracey. If you weren’t at the show that night you are very sad that you missed the story of Michael Jackson’s giraffe and the New York Stock Exchange,
After Tracey, Abhishek told one of the sweetest stories we’ve ever had at FGS. It was one of those little stories that I love so much. I don’t mean small in impact, I mean it was full of small moments that ended up being much more than just what happened. It was a story of how a handful of people with places to go and things to do all stopped on the side of a road to rescue a family of ducklings that had fallen through a grate. One of our listeners wrote me the next day to tell me how important it was for him to hear that story. Thank you, Abhishek, for giving us just what we needed that night.
Carin followed Abhishek and once again signed her story while she spoke it. She was a teacher for the hearing impaired for many years and she told us about how one of her difficult students grew up to be a success later on. I wish I had gone back years ago to thank the teachers who went out of their way to help and occasionally forgive me. If you have one of those teachers in your past maybe look them up on Facebook and send them some love. They probably need it right now. Thank you Carin for being one of those teachers.
Henry was next and I’m so glad he’s started coming to our shows. He runs a storytelling show of his own that I encourage everyone to attend (especially if you want to practice your story for bigger shows like The Moth) https://www.meetup.com/North-Seattle-Storytelling-Meetup/. It takes a lot of time and energy to run shows like ours so I’m happy to give Henry a chance to take off his host hat and tell a story of his own. Henry’s story reminded me that I’m not the only one getting older and that sometimes the grace I need to deal with life is found in a story that I write for others.
Alexia told her second story with us and it was the perfect example of speaking from your scars and not your wounds. One of the things that happens when you speak from your scars is that you don’t traumatize your audience. Our stories are gifts that we give to strangers so it’s important that those gifts don’t come with sharp edges. Alexia waited until she had processed and moved through what it cost her to live that story. Adding humor to a hard story is the best way to let the audience know that they don’t have to worry about you. Alexia did a great job giving us laughs when we needed them. Thank you Alexia. I hope you come back and tell more stories with us.
Paul Barach was our penultimate (I finally get to use that word!) teller and I’m embarrassed to say how much I identified with his story. I have a great job now, but I’ve had a lot of jobs that I hated and didn’t want to have to tell people about when they asked. Paul apparently has a much bigger sense of adventure than I do and actually made up a job that didn’t exist so he’d have something positive to tell people at parties. My favorite part of his story is the heartbreaking last line. I’m not going to spoil it for you in case you hear him tell is somewhere but it’s been three days and I’m still thinking about it. Thank you Paul for doing all the work I know you did on that story.
Our final teller was my good friend, Bengt Washburn. I first met Bengt in 1998 when I opened for him at the Winner’s Casno in Winnemucca, Nevada. I knew when I drove past the sign on the outskirts of town that read, “City of Paved Streets” that it was going to be a rough weekend. I thought, “Where am I booked next? Village of Flush Toilets?”
The best part of that gig was meeting Bengt and starting a friendship that’s still going strong over 20 years later. Bengt is the only comedian I’ve ever asked to tell a story at FGS. He’s one of the few comics I know who understands the difference between comic storytelling and personal storytelling. His story was about how he ended up leaving the Mormon religion. I have a recording of the story from years ago but he’s never let me share it because of how his parents might feel hearing it. Bengt had to call in from Germany to be with us and I’m absolutely indebted to him for staying up all night to tell that story.
I still want to share something of his with you so here’s one of my favorite bits of his. A few months ago he turned it into a TED talk.
If you’re wondering if I made up the part of the sign outside of Winnemucca you can read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnemucca,_Nevada
Before I let you get back to you Saturday, I want to share some great stuff with you.
1. The Kindle version of my favorite storytelling book is free right now. Yes, FREE! I don’t know why but it’s free until tomorrow (if I’m reading the website correctly.) This is the book I’ve been giving away at the end of each show for over a year now. Now you can get it for free in your Kindle or whatever shiny flat thing you read books on these days. The audio version seems to be free too if you want to put the book in your side holes instead of your front holes.
2. Melissa Reeves, one of our regular tellers and also the woman whose been helping me run the last two Zoom shows, is featured in an online show tonight with Matthew Dicks, the guy who wrote the book I just told you to get for free, Buy a ticket and support Melissa and Matthew (cos apparently he ain’t making money on his book this weekend.)
Melissa is also producing her own show in a couple of weeks called Melanin Stories Matter. I’ve heard some of the stories that are being featured and I know you’ll want to hear them too. This is storytelling being used to make the world a better place. Melissa’s show has stories you won’t hear at FGS and I hope this isn’t the last time she does it.
I mentioned at the beginning of our show Thursday that NPR recently asked me to co-host a live show with stories about COVID-19 and racial justice. It was an honor to be asked and I’m proud of the work being done by the six tellers we asked to be on the show. Melissa Reeves is also helping out as story coach for three of the tellers. I don’t have a link for you yet but I do have the text that went out to KNKX supporters a few days ago. I pasted it below. I hope you can join us. Erin Hennessey is producing with Jennifer Wing and I hosting.
Join us for “Pandemic and Protests,” a night of live storytelling brought to you by KNKX and Fresh Ground Stories. This virtual event will feature stories about life during COVID-19 and the fight for racial equality. Hosts KNKX’s Jennifer Wing and Fresh Ground Stories’ Paul Currington will introduce us to six storytellers.
Their stories include one about a peaceful activist and war veteran who was tear gassed at Seattle’s “Capital Hill Autonomous Zone;” and a story about a Seattle man who took the Harvard Implicit Bias test before, during, and after a Peace Corps assignment in Namibia.
This free Zoom event will take place on September 11th at 7p.m. and is expected to last about an hour. The storytellers are workshopping their pieces right now and we are excited to share them with you. Also thanks to Story Fruition which is helping to coach the storytellers and bring new voices to the stage.
Thanks again to everyone who continues to show up and support FGS through a really hard time. I’ll keep running this show as long as you keep showing up.
Stay tuned for some updates to our Rules & Guidelines. I’m making a few changes that will help me run the Zoom shows a little easier.
Stay safe, Wear your masks. Call your mother. Thank a teacher 🙂