Do Tell Story Swap
March 10, 2020
The swap members were excited to welcome Rick Roberts as a guest teller. He started the evening with a personal story about his hero, Oscar Charleston. According to some knowledgeable about the game, including Joe DiMaggio, Oscar Charleston was the best baseball player who ever lived – but relatively few people ever saw him play. At that time, black players were not allowed in the major leagues. The Negro League, formed in 1920 and dissolved in 1960, made their living barnstorming – always worried about the KKK, and always carrying their green books to make sure they could find places where they could safely eat and sleep.
As a child, Rick played baseball for the Douglas Street Pirates. He was the only white kid on the team, playing in the factory fields of North Philadelphia. Their Little League coach, Mr. Willits, loved to teach boys how to play “well and play fair.” Rick thought his coach was much like Oscar Charleston, who lived only a few blocks away.
On May 2, 2020, Rick is going to Indianapolis, where Charleston is buried without a headstone. Charleston played his first game on May second, and Rick will participate in a ceremony placing a headstone for him on that date.
Rick’s second story was about another person who he thought was named Bobby Smith, although he later learned his real name was Bobby Holcomb. Rick’s early life had been tumultuous. When he was three, during the McCarthy Era of Communist fears, his pacifist father was arrested and jailed for a conspiracy plotting the violent overthrow of the government. For six years the family lived under the threat that he would be imprisoned, until the case was finally thrown out. Rick’s mother became deeply involved in New Age philosophy and took him to live in South Pasadena with a new boyfriend who had introduced her to nudist camps and LSD. Leaving the “naked acidhead,” Rick hitchhiked to San Francisco in 1967, where Bobby “Smith” befriended him. Rick later learned that Bobby had moved to Tahiti, where his art work was considered a “national treasure,” and is on a postage stamp. Next year, Rick will go to Tahiti in honor of his friend.
A panel discussion followed, in which Katy Mangan and Robin Whealdon joined Rick Roberts to discuss their process for finding and developing stories. We learned that some tellers write their stories; others don’t. Some search for stories; other stories jump out and ask to be told. Some tell their stories several times before they come to understand what the theme is. It was an interesting and enlightening discussion about the craft of storytelling.
Our stories continued:
Katy Mangan told a segment of her story about the Native American boy who left Two Rocks and traveled to Lake Tahoe. On his way he met his spirit guides, the hawk, the spider, and the skunk. After an arduous trip up the mountain, he was overcome with joy at the sight of the beautiful lake. He sang a song that was so lovely the mountains echoed it and the people down in the valleys went up into the hills to try to find the group producing the wonderful music.
Laurie Reaume told a story she called “Surreal ID” about visit to the DMV. Attempting to renew her license before her birthday due date and get her real ID with the appropriate embossing, she endured all the rigors of making the appointment, standing in line, taking her picture, and giving her thumb print. She was alarmed when the clerk told her that her thumb print didn’t match the one they had on file. After consulting her supervisor, the clerk agreed that they would override it “just this once.” Laurie wondered how she could go home and practice to develop a better thumb print!
Kim Stanley envisioned a conversation with her 17-year-old self, who was determined not to become a stay-at-home mom like her mother. She saw that choice as the “end of life.” Yet after college and working in the corporate world, she became a mom. She approached it like a challenge in business, reading everything she could find and asking her pediatrician, “What are the success markers?” “Where is the bar?” He kindly assured her that children don’t need perfect parents – only parents who do their best.
Sharon Elwell told a story about a friendship between third grade boys that helped both of them succeed in school, although their difficulties were opposite.
Elaine Stanley finished the evening with “Little Boy Blue,” a sweet poem about the toys waiting faithfully for a child who has grown and gone.
Next Swap is April 14th. See you then!
Do Tell Story Swap 11 February 2020
Celebrating February with stories of magic, miracle and more, Do Tell Swappers mixed traditional with personal stories to brighten a winter night.
Brandon Spars was MC for the evening. He recently returned from a trip to Morocco with eleven high school students. He told us that he visited a place in Marrakesh called “The Square at the End of the World.” The square marks the end of the city and the beginning of the enormous Sahara Desert.
Sam Peters was the first teller of the evening. He told about a weredeer. His friend Cynthia said that she had learned to transform herself into a weredeer so that she could be safe outdoors at night. But one night a werebuck appeared in her backyard. She used her magic powers to turn him into a statue. When Sam suggested to her that she get rid of the statue, she said she wanted to keep it forever – it was “the first buck I ever made!”
Anne-Marie Cheney told a true story. Her belief in guardian angels was strengthened one night when she was working to read the heart monitor readouts from patients. Her machine would do 24 hours of heartbeats in 24 minutes. She learned that one of the patients had lost one of the patches, so she disregarded the two anomalies she read in her history. As she walked away, she felt a strong impression to go back and carefully read those flashing anomalies. When she did, she saw that the woman’s heart had stopped beating twice – once for 18 seconds and a second time for 12 seconds. She immediately called her doctor, and the woman was called into the hospital and given a pacemaker that very night. Anne-Marie believes her guardian angel gave her the impression that saved the woman.
Sharon Elwell told a fractured version of Little Red Riding Hood adapted from Jane Yolen’s fractured fairy tales. In this version, the wolf is a good-hearted vegetarian who helps the child find her way home after they share Grandma’s carrot cake. Red Riding Hood turns out to be a member of the Grimm family who makes up a story to explain the vanished carrot cake in the grandmother’s basket.
Katy Mangan told a story about the early days of life on earth that is an introduction to a longer saga. Little Bear was a young man who could not go on the quest all adolescents go through because he was not able to learn the stories of the people of his village. He went alone, and encountered an old woman. When he told her that he had followed his heart, she said he was ready for a quest and shared her knowledge with him. She told him to go to the mountain and warned him not to look back. But after a time he looked back and saw that the old woman watching him. He saw that the sun had turned his footprints into gold.
Jessie Buckley told us that being busy is a blessing and a curse. When she has been called “driven” or “aggressive,” she has interpreted those words as negatives. But she is actually acting “as if,” which she believes is a good way to overcome discouragement.
Mary Turner used finger puppets to tell the tale of five identical Chinese brothers, each with a powerful gift. The first brother caused the death of a child by allowing him to play in the sea bottom while he held the entire ocean in his mouth. When he could hold it in no longer and released the water, the boy drowned. The villagers intended to punish him and took the second identical brother out on a boat and dumped him into the ocean. But that brother could grow to any height, so he was able to keep his head above water. The villagers tried to behead him, but the third brother took his place, and he had an iron neck. They tried to burn him, but the fourth brother took his place and he could not be burned. They decided to smother him, but the fifth brother could hold his breath indefinitely. In the end the villagers decided that no punishment was possible, so they made the Chinese brother promise that he would never again take a child fishing.
Christian Hernandez shared a piece of original prose that he has used in forensic competitions. He tells the story of a Mexican boy who is the first in his family to go to school. He loves his family and wants to please them, but feels that he must reveal to his mother that he is gay. His mother says that she is eager for the day when he will marry, and he realizes the time has come to tell the truth and hope that their relationship survives the strain.
Meg Brown told a folk tale of Golden Hair, who was in love with Pietro, but desired by an evil count. Pietro leaves to make a life for them and promises that he will return. She waits for him and one night hears a call to jump from her window and onto the back of a horse being ridden by a figure in a dark cape. As they ride rapidly away, she gradually comes to realize that the rider is not Pietro, but the ghost of the evil Count, and they are on their way to the gates of Hell. At the last moment, Pietro appears on another horse, cuts through Golden Hair’s braid, releasing hear into his arms, while the Count rides on into Hell.
Evelyn Hardesty wondered why the WWI photos of her grandfather always looked happy. Wasn’t the war in progress? He had turned 18 in 1918 and was eligible for the draft. He thought the best way not to be shot was to join the merchant marine. When he enlisted, the only position open was the ship’s embalmer. Being Irish, he made up the story that he had worked in mortuaries all of his life, and lived through the war out of danger, smiling in all his photos.
Vina Breyfogle told of her brother, who had been hit by a car while bicycling. He needs some time and physical therapy to recover, and since he lives alone, their aunt has agreed to let him spend his recovery time in her home. Since both of them are used to living alone, Vina, who is a trained mediator, is using her mediation skills to help them draw up a written agreement to consider future issues that may arise so that they can adjust to the changes.
Elaine Stanley finished the evening with a favorite story she has used to win liars’ contests: “One Bullet Left.” The story draws the reader in with a plausible beginning about her desire to live off the land in Virginia – the state where she was born and which she had not revisited during all the years she traveled with her military father. The fact of a girl living alone and learning to grow all her own food and hunt for her own meat is marginally believable, but the events become more and more incredible and ultimately impossible in this hilarious story.
See you at Swap March 10th!