Last night, I was invited to a performance by a friend, whose friend, whom I barely know’s brother, whom I know even less well would be one of the performers.
That’s how much I wanted to get out of the house.
It was one of those Moth kind of performances. You know what that is? People get up and tell personal stories? Not the “I’m Bruno, I’m an alcoholic” – “Hi, Bruno” kind of personal stories, although I suppose those would be acceptable as well. But, you know, there are other places to tell those. And you get free juice and cookies.
In this particular Moth variation, the presenters were provided a topic ahead of time and they prepared a ten-minute or so personal anecdote, consistent with that topic. That’s all it is. You get up and tell stories.
Having heard Moth on the radio, I had thought about trying that myself. I mean, telling stories – that is totally my M.O. Plus, I’m a closeted performer. The added advantage, performing, as they would on this occasion, in a theater:
I could do that, I thought. And yet something was holding me back.
The “Theme of the Evening” was “Grace.” Which I am not sure precisely what that means so I’ll look it up.
I found nine definitions of “Grace”, from “attractiveness especially in elegance” to the one they were most likely referring to, “a divine saving and strengthening influence.”
I just happened to have one of those stories. But so what? I was not doing the show.
The first participant told a story of “Grace”, but it wasn’t about himself; it was about Walt Disney’s daughter. Whom he did not claim to have known. I had never heard a third-person ‘personal story” before. Empathizing with a woman who is not there? It’s like a sympatico “bank shot.” The man also seemed to be reciting his story. He’d muff a word, then go back and retrieve it. It was a good enough anecdote. I just wish Walt Disney’s daughter had told it.
Walt Disney’s daughter – once removed – was followed by a woman whose opening line was, “I trimmed my mother’s pubic hair.” Which she immediately followed with, “If that’s not ‘Grace’, I don’t know what is.” It seemed a little non sequitor to me. But what do I know… about that totally alien arena?
The next woman talked about being a hippie, but she looked like a grandmother. That makes me chuckle again, just thinking about it.
The fourth performer, in surprisingly humorous fashion, told the story of coming to realize he was having a stroke.
And then it was intermission.
But before intermission, it was announced that if you wrote your name down on a slip of paper and placed it into a shoebox, a name would later be drawn, and that volunteer from the audience would be invited to come onstage and tell their story.
It seemed like Fate to me.
I placed my name into the shoebox.
And I waited.
No, I didn’t.
Sorry. I’ve been listening to a Michael Connelly mystery lately and I thought I’d try a Connellian “mislead.”
How’d I do? Did I fool you?
Not if you know me.
I would never have put myself in that position, going onstage without being adequately prepared. I would not memorize the material like the “not Walt Disney’s daughter” guy. But I would know where I was going, every step of the way.
Belatedly Coming Clean
That is the inherent “conceit” of Just Thinking. Which you may have picked up on somewhere along the line. Or not. I only discovered it myself earlier this morning.
I have frequently mentioned that I want what I do here to sound totally natural, me, this (hopefully) interesting storyteller, riffing spontaneously on one matter or another.
I am, and I’m not.
I try to give these posts a naturalistic patina, but never premeditatedly on purpose. When I forget a significant story point, I actually forgot that significant story point. But, instead of a restructuring rewrite, I say, “Wait!”, I write in what I should have written before, and continue merrily on my way. I have also been known to abruptly digress. And be assiduously “in the moment.” None of that is made up. It’s just me, thinking like a person, not like an impeccable machine.
But – or more appropriately –
I take an hour or so to write my first draft. Then I follow that with three or four hours or longer, revising what I had previously put down.
How spontaneous is that?
It’s not. Lord help me, it’s naw… (TOTALLY BREAKING DOWN)… hah-hah-hah-hawt.
Whew. I feel so cleansed.
Now, while I am in a revelatory mood, here’s a second confession.
I was going to replicate my ad-libbed “Grace” presentation in this post, “courtroom stenography-style”, literally exactly as I had delivered it during my onstage performance. (Which, may I remind you, never actually took place.)
The thing is, I am no more capable of delivering a post I have not meticulously rewritten than I could “free associate” in front of that audience. I might promised not to “cheat”. But I unquestionably would have changed things if something needed to be improved.
Hey, a man has to sleep at night, doesn’t he?
Oh, well. At least, I remembered a good “Grace” story I can tell you, if you come back tomorrow.
But don’t expect me to “wing” it.
It’s not my style.
My style is pretending to “wing” it.
Which is almost as good.