Q is for Quirky

Q

quirk·y
ˈkwərkē/
adjective
1. characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.

My friend had a girlfriend. She started bringing her along to events and I learned something really unpleasant. My friend was a total asshole. She had chosen the girl based on a set of criteria she had for dating.

  • Higher level education; multiple degrees preferred
  • Beauty and skinniness
  • Family connections

I didn’t know this about her before, she was not a super close friend, but someone I hung out with occasionally and definitely didn’t date, therefore I wasn’t privy to the criteria needed to romantically associate with her. I found this out because I asked, after seeing her treat said girlfriend with an obnoxious, heavy-handed misogyny, which I didn’t realize could come from a woman, but have learned is pretty common sinse. She commented on her weight, figure and pedigree routinely, in front of people…it was upsetting. Despite the honking chip I carried about privilege, I started to realize that anyone can be reduced to the sum of their parts and not seen as the whole human they are, and I couldn’t play witness.

STP60251_zpsaa9b74d0

I started to speaking to the new girlfriend and found out she and I were much better matched, not romantically but as people. I told my “friend” that I had a criteria for friendships and she did not meet them, I chose the girlfriend instead. Thankfully she left my idiot “friend”,  as she deserved.

She was quirky and a dork, but so was I.

Have I mentioned my unhealthy love of all things NPR? If not, well, now you know. I know more NPR and WNYC names than I do popular Buscelebrities. She knew more than me. We traded stories, and unfinished craft obsessions. We wandered around Ikea for hours and bought nothing. We smoked American Spirits and drove for hours to nowhere often and to derelict buildings on occasion to sift through lives long past with cameras in hand. I do not how many hours have been spent over coffee at diners playing Scrabble.  She wore highly starched skirts, button up shirts and penny loafers and I was in loose jeans, hoodies and Vans yet we somehow found out we were a perfect match.

STP60255_zps95e4da36She and I talked for hours and never ran out of words, stories or adventures. We found something within each other, someone to be naked in front of. There are not that many people you can truly be exposed to in the course of one life; someone for which it does not matter what you disclose, whatever peccadillo, shame or heartbreak, will never judge you harshly or with malice. We each had plenty of these hidden recesses, things too dark and painful to let the world see. We hid behind different masks, came from very different places and on paper had little to nothing in common, yet we found kindred spirits in each other. You never know where you might find them or what circumstance will be an opportunity.

Over the years we have changed, each of us has moved, broken and been put together again. We have been apart and found each other. I think that any life that has held a lot of trauma lends itself to many forms of rebuilding, it’s a necessary part of growth.

We have only fought in the sense that we have both been afraid of that closeness and run at times, but neither of us could ever close the door.  I hope neither of us ever does, I need her to fill my hand of true friends at the end of this life, so I know I lead it well.

 

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”

― Bob Marley

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.