Z is for Zany

Z

za·ny
zānē/
adjective
1. amusingly unconventional and idiosyncratic
noun
2. an erratic or eccentric person


As I mentioned before, I have been a lifelong lover of NPR and a devotee of WNYC, and that means I get my news, entertainment and conversation starters via that medium. One of my weekly listens includes something called The Moth, a storytelling podcast. I had been hearing strangers stories on,  for years and at the beginning and end of every one, there is an entreaty for more. You can call the pitch line, give a short summary of your tale and hope for the best.

Have you ever had a moment when it all seemed to make sense, as if you stood outside of yourself and could see beyond your own internal dialog? At my daughters 4th birthday, that is what happened for me, as I watched everyone enjoying the sunny day and good company.  I was momentarily overcome by seeing the proof of what we had built, this shining thing that was something I never thought I would have.

During this moment of internal jubilant peace, I decided to call and pitch the story of my journey between one child and the next. It had all spiralcome together for me, in one hippy dippy moment, becoming a perfect circle. I called, I pitched and hung up in a panic. I called Robyn and told her I had done this incredibly idiotic thing.

A week or so later, I got a call, they liked my story, they wanted me to put it on stage.

What follows can be read elsewhere in this blog, but I can not articulate strongly enough, how amazing this experience was.  If you read back you can find out more about it here and here. It has put me in the company of people I admire greatly and shifted my perspective yet again. I found a new fight/drug/meditation to make the world shiny.

I didn’t find space to talk about my job in this month, so here’s the short explanation; I run an office that focuses on Transgender health, we provide the counseling and medical care for the transition process. I started working there because another adopted family member Dr. Lisa, asked me to run her office and I have been there for the past 6 years. I tell you this only to provide some background.

I get to help people everyday, through some of their hardest moments, I have a beautiful, weird, safe and healthy family and on top of that, I got to share my story with the world on a show I have been a fan of for years. It’s been a pretty zany, lovely, heart-growing ride.

I told my story in The Boys city, with all of his clan in the audience. I think that moment will be in my personal jewel box until the day I leave this world.thestory

I told my story because it is hard to say these things over the kitchen table during a weekend visit. I told my story so that my children would always have it, which is a pretty big thing for a kid without anyone to remember her childhood story. I told my story for me too, so I never forget my blessings.

~~~~~ 5660_148666960751_609560751_3493031_2062122_n

I did this as part of a larger project, both personally and professionally, but even if some of that doesn’t come to fruition, I really enjoyed the challenge.  I found a lot of new stories while I explored the other people participating in  the A to Z Challenge, which has been awesome. I also learned a lot about the habit of writing and myself.  So, thank you for reading this and thank you for being a part of this process with me!

 

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A Moth Year in Review

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

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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.

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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.

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413522_10151496364875752_123495098_oJen 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.

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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!

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473282_10151616325865803_1076699751_o 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.

Stage Stage @ Tour De Fat Ft. Collins, CO

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.

Matt Kowal; empresario

Matt Kowal; empresario

Beats Antique @ SF Tour De Fat

Beats Antique @ SF Tour De Fat

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.

The Moth @ SF Tour De Fat 2013

The Moth @ SF Tour De Fat 2013

 

September came, Asha started Kindergarten (!) , we learned what the fox says and the book was released!1269338_10201348703792189_207614285_o

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 AM IN A BOOK...

I AM IN A BOOK…

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 Aguero

Peter Aguero

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.

Where we performed: Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library

Where we performed: Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library

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:

Asha as Misery from Ruby Gloom

Asha as Misery from Ruby Gloom

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.

Le Train Bleu @ Bloomingdales

Le Train Bleu @ 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.

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Robyn and Henry Christmas ’13

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.

The Moth (plus everything else)

themoth.org

On Wednesday I performed at The Moth, in a main stage production. If you don’t know what The Moth is, you are missing out and I recommend you go check it out. In short it is a storytelling program, where all the stories are true and told without notes. There are story slams where you can show-up, put your name in a hat and if picked, tell a short story and compete with everyone else chosen. If you’re lucky you win and go to a Grand Slam to compete against other stories. These are held all over the country. You can call their pitch line and give a 2 minute story pitch, and if it’s good enough you get on stage, maybe even do a Main Stage show. The other way is being asked to participate, as many noteworthy people have been. If you go to the big main stage show you get a producer assigned to you and they help curate your tale and get it ready for the show, a 300 person audience in an amazing venue, where people pay to hear you!

I called the pitch line and got to be in a Main Stage show at The Players club in NYC. IT WAS FUCKING AWESOME! I was assigned a producer, Jenifer Hixson and she partnered with me over the last couple weeks getting my tale ready for the show. Jen was/is amazing. I feel so blessed to have worked with her. She has the ability to turn the lowbrow to refined genius. She is brilliant and so funny. I kinda have a gigantic (platonic) crush on her, but that’s how I make friends, I fall in love with them.

I got an email that they were interested in my tale, and then a call to see what the story was in full. I was told it might be a few months, up to a year before they found a show that would work with my story but they liked it and wanted to use it. Within two weeks they contacted me again, would I like to do the July 11th show they were putting together? YES YES YES, of course I would do the July 11th show (that was, three weeks away at the time)! I thought I had months to be anxious about this whole idea but luckily I could compress all my anxiety and self-doubt into a much shorter amount of time.

I was afraid to tell everyone , since it all seemed surreal, like it would just be some elaborate hoax or they would simply realize I was a nobody and/or find someone who would fill more seats. It wasn’t a hoax and that meant I had to call The Hive in Maine, my sons family, because the story was about them and I needed to get permission. I think some small part of me was waiting for them to say “No, we’d rather not have our story put out in front of the world” , but that was a delusional thought. This was a whole family of performers and storytellers, whether it be through dance, theater or art. OF COURSE they knew what The MOTH was and they were so excited and supportive of me! Bleh….that out was quickly smashed.

I had pitched the story all about my journey between my first-born child and my second. I gave my first child up in an open adoption and the tale of how I got there and back was what gave me this opportunity. During my daughters 4th birthday I had, had one of those moments where you experience a paradigm shift, my whole perspective changed and I saw what was going on at a new angle, yet again.  On one hand I drive my whole life towards those moments when just a little turn this way or that makes you reevaluate everything you have thought or felt on the subject at hand. Moments like these mark growth, they are what makes life worth living, at least for me. On the other side, these moments mark how everything I thought might have been completely wrong. Sometimes this requires some apologies…..

I watched my 13 yr old son holding my 4 yr old daughter and realized, the whole thing had made a full circle. There was nothing to forgive, I had made the right choice despite all of my self-recriminations to the contrary over the last 14 years. My son by birth was a brilliant smart-ass kid (genetics, apologies to his moms) and he was going to help provide what I didn’t have for him, an amazing support system and family for his sister. On top of all of that super squishy goodness, his family was part of my family to, they taught me the only lessons I had to build from and they did a pretty damn good job across the board, which is why I picked them. In the middle of this goofy smile realization, I decided I finally had a story worth telling, so I pitched it. More accurately I blurted it in a panic and then hung-up..shockingly they called me anyway.

The story started at 25 minutes, it had to get down to 10. Many “darlings” were killed, and it was so much fun! I got to work with this amazing woman, Jenifer Hixson, who created The Moth Story Slam.

I realize not everyone may be as excited as me, but I am a super NPR geek, I’ve been listening to since I was 16 and I have the members tote bag to prove it. I would not want to be on a screen, but the thought of being on NPR, on WNYC? That is fucking awesome. It’s a nerdgasm.

Three weeks, a trip to Asbury Park and many many calls later, my time on the Sunday before the show was at 9min 31 sec. Monday was rehearsal In NYC with the other story tellers minus one who had to be elsewhere. My time bloated to 14 minutes, damn it.  Everyone got one more simultaneous ego boost/critique, and doors opened at 6:30 Wednesday July 11th.

The venue made me dearly wish I had hours of time to research and wander around inspecting plaques and the huge oil paintings that decorated the walls. Just the building itself was worth extensive inspection.

We did a sound check where we confirmed I might be part dwarf. I had to bring the mike down about a foot to adjust it and we would have to do it ourselves when it was our turn.

I had heard everyone’s story minus one at rehearsal, but we were all still a little rough, still missing beats. On Wednesday, we all seemed to pull it together. It was amazing. All the other storytellers are authors and storytellers, except me. I felt so honored to share this stage with these people.

1st storyApril Salazar told a story of her unconventional upbringing and how her nudist mom might of not been a member of the PTA but showed her love in so many other ways.

2nd StoryKemp Powers spoke about the trauma of accidentally shooting his best friend when he was 14 yrs old and the journey from there to the amazing man he has become.

3rd storyDamien Echols shared his story of his murder conviction, years spent in prison and eventual exoneration through the Innocence Project. He was the one person I hadn’t met. He received a standing ovation.

4th Story

I was the 4th story, I went up right after the intermission. It was the clearest I had told the story. I was more at ease in this telling than any prior. It was so much fun.

5th storySebastain Junger was the last story. He told of why he went into war journalism and why he left that behind after the loss of his friend and partner.

All of these people have impressive bios and are worth looking up.  I feel ecstatic and blessed to have met them and to have shared this moment with them.

Afterwards there was a lot of strangers thanking me and all of us I’m sure.  My story elicited many empathetic tales of children lost, found and adopted. Many teary smiles and grateful hugs. I did this for my own children, it’s their story from me, a love letter to the two people who will never stop being a part of me. I hadn’t anticipated this out pouring of gratitude for sharing a part of so many other people’s stories as well. Perhaps I should have, but it’s hard to see outside of our own little boxes of narcissism, self-doubt and internal dialog. I was overwhelmed by this, but to see my words, my little tale touch all of these people, I might never know the names of? It felt like my own personal evolution, my paradigm was shifting. I can not thank the universe enough for this gift.