by Catherine Buxton
|Tellers, host and special guest|
The theme of this slam was “kin,”—certainly a theme rife with opportunity for a good story. The stage was aptly set by story-teller Theresa Okokon. When she and her sisters visited their mother’s hometown in Ghana, Theresa witnessed what she called a “different kind of melting” as her mother and grandmother embraced after years apart marked by struggle and tragedy. At that moment, said Theresa, she realized two things: “Nothing goes as planned, and you should always hug your mother.”
Special guest Michele Carlo, a Brooklyn-based story-teller and author, entertained the crowd between slammers with charming, witty, and occasionally spicy stories of growing up Nuyorican in the ever-changing metropolis. Crowd favorites included a story wherein Michelle’s mother constantly questioned the sexuality of Lord of the Rings characters, and a retelling of a choice encounter with second cousins in the bathroom of her sister’s cross-cultural wedding.
The first story-teller of the evening was Pete Frannholtz, who brought a whole new meaning to the phrase “shits and giggles” with his story about winter 1965 spent in his aunt's backwoods Pennsylvania farm, smelling snow for the first time and accidentally pooping on the floor of a room he’d been locked into.
Rhode Island native, Martha Rollins brought us to the scene of a bike accident in San Francisco, 1988. Car-doored by a woman from New Hampshire, Martha walked away from the incident with a concussion and a resentment of women from New Hampshire. Six months later, an admirer of Martha’s started bringing flowers, and then soup and then sandwiches to her workplace. After finally agreeing to a few dates with this man, she soon realized he was best friends with the woman who had concussed Martha months before. Martha and the gentleman with the flowers/questionable taste in friends are now married, and have been for 25 years.
Audience Choice, Amy Goldfarb titled her story “Glass, blood, hand, everywhere,” derived from the four words she was able to gather over the phone from her screaming 9 year-old daughter one afternoon. Amy asked us to respect her judgment in not calling the ambulance for her daughter who she’d left home alone. Afraid of potential DSS involvement and inevitable embarrassment in front of the EMT’s, she rushed home to find a shattered glass door, a “unique Jackson Pollock painting” of blood all over her front porch and a daughter who was going to be just fine.
Harry Mishkin told the crowd, “I ain't got no kin,” but in a touching story he recounted how he grew to understand why no one in his family talked about his grandfather who was killed by a cop, or the mother and children who never got to say goodbye to him. “They were a lens to look at my own family through,” said Harry.
Recent graduate and last night’s second place story teller, Abby Eskenanzi, had always wanted a sibling growing up. And finally at age 20, she got what she’d wished for. Her mother had given up a son for adoption many years before, but Amy soon realized she was more jealous than joyous when her mother started reconnecting with this stranger. However, in the moments of watching her mother hug her son, Abby’s brother, for the first time, Abby said it was “exactly how she always envisioned getting a sibling would be.”
Veteran story-teller Bruce Marcus struggled to get to know the two children he and his wife adopted from Russia. They didn’t speak English, he didn’t speak Russian, but Bruce knew he was getting through when his youngest son saw a black and white photograph for the first time and jubilantly exclaimed “LIGHT OFF!”-- one of the phrases Bruce had been trying to teach his son for months. Bruce told me later that his son is now 11 years old, and while he doesn’t speak Russian anymore he will talk computers with their Russian neighbors—a language Bruce also doesn’t understand.
Devin Brahmall, another massmouth rookie, told the crowd of how she learned the true meaning of love after a fight in the pouring rain with her older sister. In order to start loving she had to stop judging, she realized. “Love opens and closes,” Devin said, “And at its core it is about acceptance.”
When asked to describe his story, first-place winner Reggie Pearse chose his words carefully: “Dead dog, fat-fingered vet, betrayal.” Reggie’s story, rich with details of his life in an agricultural community in Ireland, was about a dog that “licked us to happiness and then… it died.” Devastation and betrayal entered the picture when his father ordered the dog to be put down. He watched Niall Nally, the fat-fingered ‘veterinarian,’ shoot the dog with a euthanasia gun, and Reggie’s retelling of the ensuing heartbreak was almost as shocking as actually being there right next to the brandy-drinking medical ‘professional.’
Buck Rollins, of ‘your local Whole Foods’ fame, spoke of his own adoption and the search for his birth mother. Though he tracked Sally down in a TrueValue hardware store in Northhamptom, she was unable to provide the answers Buck had been looking for. Eventually, after seeking out his birth father as well, Buck found the answers he wanted in coming to realize, “In the end, it was a very good thing I was adopted.”
For the last story of the evening, Stas Burdan, recounted his journey to forgiveness with his uncle Arkady. After years of taunting, teasing, and re-gifted fencing uniforms, Stas came to the conclusion that, “Uncle Arkady is going to die the way he is, so I might as well forgive him now.”
In addition to these stories, we heard sundry one-minute tales about subjects like way-too-over protective mothers, fathers who invent ‘ass-kicking machines,’ and one unfortunate bike ride to Bible camp. The audience left Doyle’s that evening with a new--or at least a restated-- love for storytelling and certainly an appreciation for the many kin we all have in their diverse, beautiful, and often flawed forms.
Catherine Buxton is a museum ‘professional,’ occasional costumed tour guide, and sometimes an actor. She also loves farms, food, and 19th century feminists, and is developing a fledgling stand-up comedy habit because storytelling is the only art-form and language she understands. You may check out her infrequent blog posts at cabuxton.tumblr.com or follower her on Twitter, @cabuxton.