Note: This post is long for me and a bit newletter-y for my tastes, but I really wanted to make note of an amazing time and give credit to those I wish could give more.
You have been warned.
Let me just say 2013 started out kinda rough
There was the accident, in which I broke both knees, chipped my knee caps, fractured ribs and lost the use of my left arm (temporarily due to nerve damage). I spent a month in the hospital, and another two re-learning how to walk and function at home. The worst part of this for me, was the mental aspect. I was really a mess. I was dependent, in pain and horribly depressed. The bulk of responsiblity fell on my wifes’ shoulders and for this I will be forgiving any number of sins for many years to come.
We had a lot of help, my daughters school mobilized and brought over food. My neighbor built a ramp into my house, so I could not only get in my house but also get out. My mother and sister-in-law took turns staying with us to help with the day-to-day process of dealing with my crankiness and keep my wife sane. My childhood best friend organized a GoFundMe drive and raised money to cover replacing our car and cover living expenses while I was out of commission. It was a rough start but I can not think of anything that has caused me to realize with such cutting clarity, how blessed I am, how blessed my family is.
I got better. My arm worked and I started walking again. I retired my wheelchair. My wife managed to not kill me..surprisingly, I am a wretched patient. By the time my daughters birthday rolled around (April) things were looking up. The Maine crew came down for the birthday party which is always a good time.
Jen contacted me about a second performance of the adoption story, for June in Portland. ME at the State Theatre. This was kinda a big deal, I would be performing in Portland, where Henry and his moms resided. I haven’t mentioned this in the blog but they are well-known people in that city. I have rarely gone out with them without someone, a student or acquaintance or performer, recognizing one or both of Henry’s moms. It feels as if Gretchen has taught at every single school at some point in her history. Although Gretch doesn’t currently teach at the college, she did for many years and Gwynnie still does. They support and have been a part of Portland’s art scene for a long time. On top of this, the headliner at the show was an ATRONAUT! Rick Hauk has done many things but what I knew off the bat was that he commanded the Discovery shuttle, the first manned shuttle after the Challenger explosion, which is pretty bad ass. Also, did I mention he is a fucking astronaut??
The other storytellers included Jenny Allen, an amazing performer, writer and essayist, who I met at my first show in NYC when she was the MC; Mellissa Coleman (author of This Life is in Your Hands) and Paul Knoll (shamanic healer). Meg Bowels and Kirsty Bennett produced the show.
This show was pretty awesome. As soon as I mentioned Gwynnie and Gretch, there was a huge cheer, they are much-loved, as is their somewhat amazing kid. I had a great time, it went well and I got hang out with an astronaut, ’nuff said.
Summer began, we planted our second garden, went to Ren Faire, the beach, and Asha started Summer day camp. Henry turned FIFTEEN!
Then I got a call. The Moth was publishing a book, of their favorite 50 stories and my story was going to be included. Out of over 10,000 stories and over 15 years of performances, my story was being picked. What do you say to that? I still haven’t figured it out.
While editing on the book was being done, I went with Jen Hixson to do two more shows, with a new story on a very different stage. The show was with Tour De Fat (Beer, Bikes and Bemusement) and they were in Fort Collins, CO and San Francisco, CA. This story was shorter and had to involve bikes, you can read that story here. Tour De Fat is an amazing festival put on by New Belgium Brewery. It raises money for urban bike projects in whatever city they are putting it on and celebrates bikes, beer, art, conservation and fun. The festival is an experience I’m glad I had, filled with costumes, laughter and great performers, from the music of Reggie Watts and Beats Antique to sideshow performers; yo-yo master John Higby, strong woman Mama Lou and the disturbingly brilliant Vanessa Valliere, plus many many more. All of it was brilliant.
The empresario of the whole event is a guy named Matt Kowal.He gave us a tour of New Belgium Brewery and even though I don’t really dig beer, it was a highlight of the trip. He came out with the The Moth crew most nights and provided great company and really he is one of the people I feel most blessed to have met and spent time with. So in summation..he’s pretty okay.
There is a long list of other accomplished, funny, brilliant people I met during this project, not least of which were the storytellers. Shannon Cason and Jim Bennett were there for both shows, with Shannon as the MC. These guys are fabulous and uber supportive. I met Adam Sussman in SF and if I could have brought him back with me to be my new bestest friend, I would have. He was also a great performer, but really that is just the icing on his utter loveliness.
September came, Asha started Kindergarten (!) , we learned what the fox says and the book was released!
Did I mention that I am in a book?? If you have forgotten that tidbit of surrealism, I took a picture. I will resist the urge to make it super big.
I was asked to do one more show, with another new story at the New York Public Library (NYPL) ..you know, the one with the giant iconic lions on the stairs? I have lived most of my adult life between NYC and North Jersey (suburbs of NYC or what some might say the armpit of NYC) and can not tell you how many hours, days, weeks I have spent in the city but somehow to my chagrin, I never made it into this library. It is one of the most gorgeous buildings and in me, imparted the sacred awe some people find in churches and cathedrals. I love libraries.
The NYPL show was in support of the books’ release. There were to be two primary storytellers and one surprise guest. Peter Aguero hosted. Let me say this about Peter and the whole Moth thing in general. I have often gotten to meet amazing people through this program, so often in fact it is unbelievable and surreal how it has effected my life and my perception of self.
Peter is one of them, he had a story on the radio that I had not only listened to but shared a few times, I love his voice (both figuratively and literally). I met him and didn’t know who he was until we started talking and I realized I had been listening to this guy, I knew a tiny snippet of his life and he knew me from my story; isn’t that neat? I was mocking myself for wandering around with my mouth open and camera at the ready like some kind of tourist and he told me never apologize for wonder and joy. As more and more of my cynicism gets peeled away through the years I have started to feel like I am going in reverse, where most people grow more cynical with age, I started out that way and it is only through conscious effort and consistent support that I remember that it’s okay to be an idiot, to be silly and to take joy in the proceedings. If I have a New Years wish it is to keep growing less cynical, to be more joyful and to not apologize for it.
The NYPL show included George Dawes Green who is both the author of The Juror and the creator of The Moth; Andrew Solomon author of The Noonday Demon and Far From the Tree; Catherine Burns creative director of the Moth, editor of the book and all around beautiful lady. Calvin Trillin was the surprise guest with a very funny story about a tic-tac-toe playing chicken. The musician tasked with playing us off if we went to long was Mazz Swift, who is such a lovely violinist it wasn’t such a terrifying thought to have her accompany me, even if was to kick me off stage.The whole thing was hosted by the “Live from the NYPL” founder Paul Holdengraber . Paul is another character I am glad to of met and hope to meet again, if time and the universe allow.
The NYPL overwhelmed me like none of the other shows had, I couldn’t hear the audience and didn’t know how different that made the experience. I felt like Jenny from the block on the stage after and before much more illustrious company. I was overwhelmed by the setting. The story before and after me were tales that incited laughter, while mine was much more on the other end of the spectrum. I felt, it was the shakiest I had ever been while telling a story. I allowed doubt and insecurity to have the day instead of claiming it as my own.
This, of course, means that it was swiftly put online for all to enjoy and me to squirm in front of. This performance is the only one you can easily watch online. I still haven’t watched myself, I’m working up to it..maybe next year. Feel free to check it out:
That was October which means Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas of course. We got some snow, more than we’ve had a for a few years. I went to NYC with Asha to stay with a friend and we started a holiday tradition of seeing the windows, the tree and having lunch at Le Train Bleu at the top of Bloomingdales.
Two of my best friends got engaged and will be getting married in June and October of 2014 respectively. I get to be a part of those events, which is pretty neat, I love them dearly.
To end the year we made a trip to Portland, ME the day after Christmas. We have never gone up for the holidays. Hopefully, in another post I will get around to writing about how much our relationship has shifted and taken great leaps since another sibling has been added to the mix and how we have adapted to these changes, but for now I will say that I love my family in all of its various forms.
This year has been pretty amazing, irrelevant of its start. I’m not sure how I’m gonna follow it up but I’m looking forward to the effort.