[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
wednesday was a tough day for transport in dc. the cab drivers were on strike. the metro was more problematic than usual. and the 6 pm bus that would take me to love cafe in time for the 7 pm start of fray day simply never showed up. usually when faced with such a situation, one simply hops a cab.
see: cab drivers on strike.
so, i ended up sharing a ride with a total stranger, both of us commiserating about our transportation woes and then getting the shaft from the cab driver who made us both pay full fare.
i didn't have time to debate the matter, though, as i didn't want to be late. i arrived to find bill and tom already there, and thought this might be a good time to decide what story i wanted to tell.
that's right: decide what story i wanted to tell. twenty minutes from then. in front of a room full of people.
oh yeah...i'm a planner.
i was in the middle of pondering my choice when the door opened. with each swing of the door, i looked up to see if it was a familiar face. a dc blogger i know. maybe someone who spoke at last year's fray day event.
but the familiar face that walked through the door wasn't in either of those categories. the face belonged to someone i never expected to see.
my cousin, michael.
michael lives in delaware with his wife and two amazing kids. it was only this summer, during my family's trip to atlanta, that michael found out about my site. and, since then, he's been reading every day. that alone is touching. but the idea that michael got into his car and drove to washington just to come an dsee me tell a seven-minute story? well, that's just about the best belated birthday gift a gal could get.
michael and i are different in a lot of ways. but we're alike in almost as many. we were always close growing up, and were the only two grandchildren in our family for a number of years. out of respect for the fact that michael is in the military and that he needs to have a certain degree of dignity as a father, i will refrain from scanning and posting the cutest picture ever, in which michael and i are in the bathtub wearing pirate hats made out of bubbles.
after i got over the incredible shock, i bought us a couple of slices of the best cake ever, and we settled in for some storytelling.
there were some new faces this year, which i love. it's great to hear new voices.
we heard julia [not this one, another one] remind us how love finds us all, usually when we least expect it. we heard dan utter my favorite phrase of the night: "possible std...question mark, question mark...frowny face." lisa knows more about bob dole's scrotum than you do...and we're all okay with that. we listened as bill recounted that universal truth we all know so well, but never seem to remember: "mom and dad will find out." emily made us laugh so hard we almost peed our pants...just like her customer in the wine shop. tiff ran down the extensive checklist her family uses to evaluate her boyfriends: "male. doesn't beat me." we rallied around tom in his demand for flying cars. we felt a little guilty when warren told us about his bout with exhaustion, shamed by the fact that, if he has to be exhausted to keep making that cake, then...well, maybe that's just the way things have to be. and we heard dan [not that one, another one] wax rhapsodic about the intimacy that comes with anonymity.
there were other storytellers whose names escape me, and for that i apologize. your stories had no less impact on me...i'm just getting slippery in remembering names, i guess.
"open mouth. insert leg. repeat." was the story i decided to tell for fray day this year. the trick is to find a story that tells well...and some of my stories read much better than they tell. and fray day presents an unusual challenge for me...stage fright. now, i'm sure you've seen that note at the top left corner of this screen about how i enjoy speaking in front of large crowds, so you're probably thinking, "huh?" but the key word there is large. fray day isn't large. it's intimate. and the people are close. and you know some of them. so it's...different. but, nerves or not, i love it. there is absolutely nothing like hearing people tell their stories. the inflections. the hand gestures. i love reading a good story, but hearing it is transformative. and being able to share yours and hear the response from the crowd? the laughs [you hope]? the gasps [if appropriate]? it's like heroin.
or, in case my mom is reading this, it's like what i imagine heroin would be like. instantly addictive ecstasy.
as the evening moved along, tiffany opened the mic for a second round, to those interested. and, really, before i even thought about it, i told her i would tell a second story. turns out it would be the last story of the night.
and, that's how i came to stand in front of a microphone and tell "lester."
i had toyed with the idea of telling "lester" when i first got invited to be a featured storyteller. but, i just didn't think i could get through it without heaving sobs. i test drove that theory at the blogger meet up in atlanta, and, sure enough: heaving sobs. what surprised me so much about my test drive was how soon the sobbing came. i figured i would make it through to near the end. but, that's not how it worked out at all. i crossed the story of the list of candidates, telling myself it was all for the best -- the stories at fray day tend to be more lighthearted and, rally, there's nothing lighthearted about "lester."
so, on wedesday night, i took a shot. i didn't tell all the parts of it...self-editing for self-preservation. but i told most of it. and i didn't dissolve completely. and that's probably the best i could expect of myself.
there was at least one appropriate gasp.
and at least one person reached for a napkin to dab their eyes.
but the best response for me came afterward, when my wonderful cousin wrapped his strong arms around me and simply said, "i love you, jules."
he drove me home and we sat in the car and talked for what seemed like fifteen minutes. when his cell phone rang and it was his wife asking how things went, we realized it had been closer to an hour and fifteen minutes. we talked about how he has grown and changed. how we miss the closeness that our family had when our grandparents were still alive. we vowed to find a way to get that back, and be the glue that holds us all together. he encouraged me in my writing, and told me that reading my stories had made him consider writing himself.
"you should," i said. "start a blog. it's free. i'll link to you. you could be internet famous!"
if you had asked me wednesday morning what i would be doing an hour after fray day was over, i probably would have told you that i would be doing a post-mortem. analyzing what i liked -- or, more likely, what i didn't like -- about how my stories went. replaying in my head the stories of other storytellers and thinking about what i particularly liked about their story.
but two hours after the last word was spoken, i hadn't thought once about fray day. i was wrapped up in laughter and memories of family, and a conversation with the last person i expected to see.
as michael drove away, i waved good-bye with a smile on my face. and, although he couldn't hear me, i told him, "i'll see you soon, mike. i promise."
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