Missoula

Sharing stories goes beyond entertainment. It goes beyond a night out. The stories we share at Tell Us Something are the stories of our lives and of our community. And without you sharing your stories, there would be no Tell Us Something. Without your financial support in the form of ticket sales and donations during fundraisers like Missoula Gives, there would be no Tell Us Something. And so, for this week’s podcast, we’re exploring why Tell Us Something is important to the storytellers themselves. Let’s hear from the storytellers what they love about Tell Us Something, and what they love about their experience sharing their stories.

Transcript : Your Story Matters - And So Do All of the Stories Storytellers Share at Tell Us Something

TUS012-010-Missoula Gives Special Verbiage

 

[Marc Moss] Hi, it’s Marc Moss, Executive Director at Tell Us Something

 

[Dick King] And ended up going to Afghanistan 71. So that’s the beginning of the story, you know, that, uh, when I thought about that at that time, and when I told the story to tell us something, it was, uh, you know, uh, interesting would think about what’s, you know, what do I have to say? Well, everyone has something to say that can, can.

 

Highlights and things on the inside, what really happens, you know, not the big news, the headline news

 

[Marc Moss] That was Dick King, saying what I have been saying for years: Everyone has a story. Then, I always ask: what’s yours? Our stories don’t have to be earth-shattering stories of epiphany or revelation. They can be as simple as running out of gas in front of a huge box store and having someone help you out.

 

[Katrina Farnum] So yes, this is a story of me running out of gas in my car. And,  I am going to just avoid telling you how many times in my life that I have run out of gas in my car. There are probably some psychologists in the room they’re evaluating me right now.

 

[Marc Moss] And those stories can be quite compelling. That was Katrina Farnum from the March 2022 live storytelling event. 

 

Here’s Dick King again.

 

[Dick King] You know, so what I really liked about Tell Us Something, as I thought through that, and then, you know, you helped me get that kind of get my thoughts organized. And it was a real pleasure to talk to people then, uh, uh, do that as Jason, then afterwards continue that discussion with people and they had their stories told.

 

So I thought it was a really positive experience.

 

[Marc Moss][ Sharing stories goes beyond entertainment. It goes beyond a night out. The stories we share at Tell Us Something are the stories of our lives and of our community. And without you sharing your stories, there would be no Tell Us Something. Without your financial support in the form of ticket sales and donations during fundraisers like Missoula Gives, there would be no Tell Us Something.

 

And so, for this week’s podcast, we’re exploring why Tell Us Something is important to the storytellers themselves. Let’s hear from the storytellers what they love about Tell Us Something, what they love about their experience sharing their stories.

 

First, though, a brief message from Missoula Community Foundation Executive Director marcy Allen. For those that don’t know, Missoula Community Foundation is the organization that organizes the annual online giving event called Missoula Gives.

 

[Marcy Allen] Hello Missoula! We have raised just about $1.2 million in 26 hours for Missoula and Bitterroot non-profits. We are so grateful for all the donors and all the volunteers and all the nonprofit staff that has worked to make this day special and works to make our community special.

 

[Marc Moss] You know the importance of storytelling. You know the importance of sharing stories. And some of you have already stepped up to help keep Tell Us Something going. Missoula Gives has been extended through May 13. So far 62 donors have given $6,327 to support Tell Us Something. Every dollar helps. Donating as little as $10 enters you into a raffle to win season tickets for the remainder of 2022.

 

Oh, what’s that Marcy?

 

[Marcy Allen] You can still give until May 13th, and we encourage you to give.

 

[Marc Moss]That’s right! The giving portal is still open. Go to tellussomething.org and click DONATE to be taken directly to the Missoula Gives donation portal. Thank you so much.

 

Let’s start at the beginning. What a very fine place to start, right? When I talked to Jeremy N. Smith as part of the meet the Storytellers of Tell Us Something series back in 2020, I told him that the storytelling event that he produced back in around 2004 or 2005 was the first live in-person storytelling event that I had attended. I was blown away by the stories that he, Josh Slotnick, Gary Delp, Caroline Keyes and others told that night at The PEAS Farm here in Missoula, Montana. He called that event “Eat Our Words”, and it happened in the late summer, when the harvest at The PEAS Farm was in full swing. It was one of the inspirations to make Tell Us Something become a regular event when I took over what was then called Missoula Moth in 2011. Here’s Jeremey after I thanked him for the inspiration that because Tell Us Something:

 

[Jeremy N. Smith] Well, That’s amazing just because I know how amazing the events you put are are, and how you’ve seen it grow and how much storytelling you’ve nurtured and just how the audience is so moved. So to be like, I’m the father of the father of the father of all that pleasure in my own way. It’s, it’s a lot of, I’m like 8 times removed from all that hard work and amazing stories, but it’s just, that’s, that’s inspiring to me because it means you can just do something that’s kind of random and cool, and, you know, you can do it three or four times and it can have this other effect.

 

So thank you. And you’re just never, I say that to people all the time, like you don’t, you know that good. You do, but you also, like how else could you don’t know that you do yeah. A follow up. So you know, back at you, I hope you’re, you know, I know you’re getting good feedback, but just whatever feedback you’re getting. Each of those people is speaking for so many other people.

 

[Marc Moss] Jeremy has shared 2 stories at Tell Us Something. In fact, he closed out the very first Tell Us Something event at The Missoula Art Museum in 2011. His story was about a crush that he had and pushing through the feelings of a crush and getting to know them as a person. And it was about more than that. Listening to it again, it was also about the power of storytelling.

 

[Jeremy N. Smith] Her story was even more beautiful to me. And I realized at the end of her story, she had figured out what she wanted to be a coach. And I figured out what I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to hear people’s stories about their life changing moments or where they changed other people’s lives. And I wanted to share them with other people.

 

[Marc Moss] We’ll find, as we listen to this episode of the podcast, that the storytellers had fun sharing their stories, they felt heard and that they are grateful to have been able to share their stories live onstage. Here’s storyteller Laura King, from Helena.

 

[Laura King] Laura King: No, I just, I really appreciated the opportunity of that, that you gave of having a platform to tell it. So thank you for that. 

 

[Marc Moss] As we listen to each storyteller, you may be curious about the stories that they shared. [Laura clip] 

 

When you visit tellussomething.org and look at the show notes for this episode of the podcast, you’ll be able to click through to each of the storyteller’s stories. 

 

Melody Rice shared a story in 2019 at The Covellite Theater in Butte. 

 

[Melody Rice] I walk into this barbershop and I say, Hey, I’m wondering if you’re interested in hiring somebody to be in that second chair. And the guy turns and looks at me and he says, I don’t hire women. And I go, huh. And he says, there’s a guy down the street that does. So I, I back out because I know that barbers have sharp things and I can feel how intensely like angry or whatever he was to me.

 

[Marc Moss] She really gets Tell Us Something:

 

[Melody Rice] Um, And when other people share their stories, there’s it becomes part of us. So there’s a couple of layers in my view of how storytelling is so important and women being able to externalize your narrative, you have a story that lives in you. And I think it was my line and a little bit said something to the effect of, um, there’s no bigger tragedy than having a story in you not expressed.

 

[Marc Moss] Going in to 2020, Tell Us Something had a lot of momentum. We sold out 4 shows at The Wilma, we nearly sold out The Myrna Loy in Helena, we had our first visit to Butte, America, and we were getting ready to do the same thing in 2020, adding stops in again in Butte and Helena, as well as Livingston, and Gardener.

 

Wendy Wollett, a storyteller who shared a story that she called “Blackfoot River Horse” reflects on Tell Us Something during the pandemic:

 

[Wendy Woollett] People are still telling me that people still go there, you know? Cause when they Google my name, that’s the first thing that comes up is Tell Us Something 2017 or whatever.

 

Yeah. So I, I recommend people, you know, listen to it and then I try to sell, Tell Us Something, you know? Cause I think it’s such a great idea. It was fun. What are we going to do now?

 

[Marc Moss] What are we going to do now?

 

When the pandemic hit, I didn’t know *WHAT* to do. So I asked the storytellers to guide me. Let’s meet the storytellers! I put out the call, and about 20 storytellers responded that they’d like to sit down with me and talk about storytelling, about their story, about Tell Us Something and about what’s been going on with them. Those conversations are still coming out. 

 

What I did, what Tell Us Something did, was host donation based and free storytelling workshop intensives on Zoom. We streamed two live storytelling events with all new stories from brand new storytellers. 

 

But Wendy was right in asking the question 

 

[Wendy Woolleett]  It was fun. What are we going to do now?

 

[Marc Moss] Well, donate that’s what. That loss of revenue really impacted us. Help us keep the lights on. The giving portal is still open. Go to tellussomething.org and click the DONATE button to be taken straight to the donation page.

 

Here’s Melody again:

 

[Melody Rice] Uh, reinventing how this going to be in order for it to fit in the coronavirus pandemic and the norm for other people that continue to allow that healing to happen, even though based with faith or live audience, um, a way of storytelling can happen right now. So, um, thank you. Thank you for your motivation.

 

Thank you for your creativity in this. Um, thank you for your dedication, dedication to it, to allowing people to share and to, um, receive the story. 

 

[Marc Moss] And Missoula author and storyteller alumni Neil McMahon weighs in about the importance of Tell Us Something to this community.

 

[Neil McMahon] Hey, let me just say I don’t, uh, I don’t want to blow smoke or anything, but I just want to say, uh, you know, this is really a terrific program. Tell us something. And I think a lot of people realize that you put a lot of work into it, and there’s a great appreciation for that.

 

[Marc Moss] I hope that it survives this pandemic. 

 

[Neil McMahon] Well we sure hope so too, but it’s gotta be tough. 

 

[Marc Moss] When I greet you at the live in-person storytelling events, I open the evening by saying It is important to actively listen to one another, join together, & to support each other and share stories. This is your community. These are your stories. I go on to say, Thank you for your support of each other and of each other’s stories. Tell Us Something believes that everyone has a story and everyone’s story matters.  Everyone is welcome to share a story. Yes, it can be scary and intimidating to call the pitch line, and, you got this! Here’s storyteller Travis Doria explaining how he came to understand that he wanted to share his story.

 

[Travis Doria]  So I was familiar with Tell Us Something hasn’t paid. Citi event. , I think it’s something that Ms. Lou should be really proud of to have a storytelling community for being such a small town.

 

It’s a Shaundra of a creative expression that I think is growing in larger cities. And to have that and to speak uniquely to the Montana experience, and specifically Zula is really beneficial. So. Whenever I could, I would have to get out to tell us something events and it’s something I wanted to support.

 

But I guess I was the type of person whenever I heard someone’s story, it would prompt me to think of things that happened in my past. And always wondered if I could do it. , could tell a story myself. What I went specifically made me think of it. I think I was listening to a podcast at work and I thought of this story in the past.

 

And I was like, oh, I really could put this together. And to. Succinct 10 minutes story. And it would be something I would be comfortable telling on stage. And I think I called to pitch it that night. 

 

[Marc Moss] One of the things that I love about Tell Us Something is that I don’t announce who the storytellers are ahead of time, and you still show up. You come to the event not to listen to a specific individual, you show up and you listen to your community share their stories. Brian Upton shared a story at Tell Us Something in 2015. He remembers a reason that he loves Tell Us Something, and it’s that storytellers interpret the themes in so many unexpected ways.

 

[Brian Upton] Brian Upton: Anybody that hasn’t been to a tell us something event is one of the things I’ve always appreciated too, is that in a number of the events, there’ll be a side splitting, hilarious story. The same night as there can be a really, really moving emotional, sometimes traumatic story that just in some ways they just don’t go together at all. And in other ways it’s a great way to, um, really appreciate the, either emotional depth of one story or the humor in another story, because you get to compare them to each other. Okay. It kind of lets you kind of travel a whole human gamut in one night and I’ve always appreciated that.

 

[Marc Moss] And the audience is as important as the storytellers at a Tell Us Something event. The audience holds space the the stories. They hold space for the storytellers. 

 

Here’s storyteller Shelby Humphries:

 

[Shelby Humphries]  It was at the Top Hat, and that room was packed, which I loved, but I have since been at the Wilma and you know, what that manages to feel really intimate as well. I think Missoula does a great job of showing up when we can. And, uh, I got to benefit from it that night 

 

[Marc Moss] Can you hold space right now by donating to Tell Us Something? I’m asking you to show up for each other right now. Show up for the storytellers, who are paid to share their stories, show up for the photographers who are hired to capture the event with their cameras. Show up for the poster artists who make beautiful artwork to convince you to come, to let you know that yes, these stories are happening! Showing up is easy, go to tellussomething.org and click the DONATE link to give any amount that you can. Tell Us Something has 1,639 Instagram followers, we have 2,393 FB followers, people who “LIKE” Tell Us Something. Imagine if all of those followers each gave $10 during Missoula Gives! 4,032 followers x $10? That’s over $40! That’s enough to pay back the loans that Tell Us Something had to take out during the pandemic to stay afloat. That’s enough to keep the organization going, to give us a jump on 2023 and keep live storytelling alive in Missoula. Donate today. Donate now. Don’t wait and think that someone else will donate. We need YOU! Yes, YOU! To donate today.

 

When I initially envisioned what Tell Us Something has become, I imagined that audience members would listen to the stories and absorb the stories and their meanings over the course of time. That the stories went beyond the night. That the stories required active listening, sure, and that they also required reflection over time. That they might touch the hearts of audience members. Of those who are holding space for the storytellers who are sometimes performing open soul surgery on the stage. Soon I learned that the storytellers need a little bit of guidance in shaping their stories.

Here’s Dick King again.

 

[Dick King] you know, so what I really liked about tell us something, as I thought through that, and then, you know, you helped me get that kind of get my thoughts organized. And it was a real pleasure to talk to people then, uh, then afterwards continue that discussion with people and they had their stories told. So I thought it was a really positive experience.

 

[Marc Moss] Neil McMahon, a storyteller who shared a story at Tell Us Something back in 2016 remembers how great you are as an audience:

 

[Neil McMahon] Neil McMahon: So it, and it was, it was wonderful, you know, I mean, a really good audience and, you know, and you could tell that,

 

[Marc Moss] Can you extend that graciousness to us during Missoula Gives, too? Donations are extended through May 13, so you still have this week to make your donation. Be part of the Tell Us Something story.

 

Hey, let me just say I don’t, uh, I don’t want to blow smoke or anything, but I just want to say, uh, you know, this is really a terrific program. Tell us something. And I think a lot of people realize that you put a lot of work into it, and there’s a great appreciation for that.

 

Marc Moss: I hope that it survives this pandemic. 

 

Neil McMahon: well we sure hope so too, but it’s gotta be tough.

 

[Marc Moss] As a good audience, are you ready to keep Tell Us Something going as we come back from the deficit that the pandemic caused? Help us heal this financial wound so that we can continue providing opportunities for our community to share the stories of their lives, of *YOUR* lives.

 

Melody Rice, a storyteller from Butte remembers the power of storytelling to heal.

 

[Melody Rice] Um, and I, I agree with that. And, um, so there’s that level of telling it that’s super important. And then there’s that other level of healing that can happen when we hear someone else’s story and it resonates in the stuff in a box, um, personal experiences. So, so yes, really want to tell you how much I appreciate the fact that you are keeping, tell us something alive that you are.

 

[Marc Moss] Even after years have gone by, the storytellers at Tell Us Something remember how impactful the experience was for them.

 

[Becca Kelly] I, I really enjoyed telling my story to tell us something all those years ago and doing this interview now with you and talking about it again is just really lovely and helps me process it even more.

 

So, yeah. Thank you. Still relevant material.

 

[Marc Moss] Becca shared her story back in 2016. She remembered how a death affected her.

 

[Becca Kelly] And then you could walk across the train tracks at that time. And then she ran outside and ran across the railroad tracks at the end of the night and like slept and just tried to stay on the railroad tracks and wouldn’t leave. It was so dramatic. It’s like, that’s why they put the pedestrian bridge up, you know.

 

[Marc Moss] Tell Us Something stories are a record of history in Missoula by those who lived the history. We’ve had the privilege to host on the Tell Us Something stage some who have gone before us. One person from our community, Greg Johnson, who was the force behind the legendary Missoula Colony, a program of the Missoula Repertory theater shared a story at the inaugural Montana Film Festival at The Roxy.  

 

[Greg Johnson] I got a call from my agent and he said, this guy wants to meet you. Um, he’s a hot, hot, very hot, uh, director out of USC. He’s got a movie coming out this summer. Everybody thinks he’s the next big deal. And it’s American graffiti and his name is George Lucas. I said, okay. Okay, George Lucas. So I go, I’ll meet anybody, starting my career.

 

And he says, it’s a, it’s a part of, uh, this, this, this, uh, Luke Skywalker in star wars. And I said, fine. Okay, I’ll go have coffee. So we have coffee.

 

[Marc Moss] Greg shared a story about how he auditioned for the role of Luke Skywalker, and remembers having lunch with George Lucas.

 

[Marc Moss] Ric Parnell, the legendary drummer from “This is Spinal Tap”, shared a story in 2013. 

 

[Ric Parnell] Um, okay. What else? Storytelling. Okay. All right. That’s it. Um, oh, Jimi  Hendrix, Jimi  Hendrix once bought me a scotch and Coke and gave me a Malboro . Yep. My dad was doing the dusty Springfield show and, uh, he comes up to me one morning and he goes, oh, I’m taking you to the show. I’m like one I’m 16. And he goes, no, your idols playing.

 

I’m like Jimi  Hendrix. I’m like, all right, let’s go. Thank you. So I get them. And I’m sitting there in the front of the state. And jimi  Hendrix is like where you are and he goes into, um, stone free. I don’t know if you know, Jimi  Hendrix  music stone free is a really good song.

 

[Marc Moss] Ric was the only person that I’ve ever pulled off the stage. He died just this month, and the drinks I had with him will be forever fuzzy in my memory.

 

[music]

 

[Marc Moss] So – you subscribe to the podcast. You bought tickets to the live in-person shows. Did you donate to the live streamed shows that we did in 2020? Because the very first live-streamed show that we did had over 700 attendees watching live. Tell Us Something paid all of the storytellers. Tell Us Something paid the american Sign Language interpreters. The event was donation based. Did you donate? Because I can tell you that less than 100 people donated for that initial show that we live streamed. You “like” Tell Us Something on social media. You subscribe to the podcast. Sometimes you are able to attend the in-person events. Sometimes you share your story. Now is the time to help keep Tell Us Something going. We need your help to make up the losses that the pandemic caused. 

 

You can go to tellussomething.org now to donate.

 

Thank you for supporting Tell Us Something during the Missoula Gives event!

 

Your donation is a ‘yes’ for stories. 

 

It’s a ‘yes’ for the magic of someone going on stage and bringing our community together. 

 

It’s a ‘yes’ for acknowledging there is so much that ties us all together and a story can show that.

 

Your donation ensures that we can support storytellers, host a podcast, continue to produce in-person events, and to keep the lights on.

 

It takes a community to keep the spirit of Tell Us Something going and we are honored to have you be a part of it.

 

The donation platform is open through Friday May 13.  We need your help to continue to provide a platform for our community to share their stories. We need your help to continue holding space for storytelling here in Missoula. Please, go to tellussomething.org right now and click the DONATE button to let your voice be heard that you support your community. You support live storytelling. You support the storytellers that share their stories and bring us together.

 

There are only 3 days left. The time is now to go to tellusssomething.org and click the DONATE button. Let your community know that you hold space for them. Let them know that you  go beyond “liking” a social media pot, or liking the Tell Us Something page. Turn that like into action and donate to Tell Us Something today. Thank you for supporting Tell Us Something during the Missoula Gives event!

 

Thanks to Cash for Junkers who provided the Tell Us Something theme song, an original composition of theirs called buzzin. Additional music comes to us from Super Mario Brothers, music released under the Creative Commons license form NIN and Moby.

 

Next week, we return to the expected Tell Us Something podcast. We’ll catch up with Rick White.

 

[Rick White] Then I was concerned because curious students in my classroom were kind of endangered species or as we in capital leave education, like at risk.

 

Thanks for listening. Remember to donate at tellussomething.org. today.

Four storytellers share their true personal stories live without notes on the theme "Stone Soup". A young woman visits New York City with her Papa, a Polish track athlete reflects on defecting from Poland in the 1980s, A woman runs out of gas in front of Costco on a busy Missoula street and an adventure guide with a dying cell phone, no water, and only a thin poncho is charged by a wild boar and end up drinking his own urine before his dramatic rescue.

Transcript : "Stone Soup" Part 2

Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

We are currently looking for storytellers for the next Tell Us Something storytelling event. The theme is “Didn’t See That Coming!” If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 406-203-4683. You have 3 minutes to leave your pitch.

The pitch deadline is May 27. I look forward to hearing from you.

Please remember to save the date for Missoula Gives May 5th through the sixth. Missoula Gives is a 24 hour online giving event. Remember to support Tell Us Something. During Missoula Gives, May 5th through the sixth. Learn more at missoulagives.org.

Tell Us Something acknowledges that we are in the aboriginal territories of the Salish and Kalispel people. The land we walk on, recreate on, grow our food on and live on is sacred land.Being mindful is a practice. We may not always be mindful of the gift that the land gives us and the wisdom that it has.We take this moment to honor the land and its Native people and the stories that they share with us.

This week on the podcast…

Rachel Bemis: I just wanted to let you know that I told Ruth about your trip. And I let her know that your travel companion canceled and that you didn’t feel comfortable traveling alone.

Darius Janczewski: when I defect in 1984 in Italy, I don’t remember worrying about consequences of my, uh, of my defection. No desertion. I don’t worry about, don’t remember worrying about my family and my friends or seeing my country.

Katrina Farnum: I’m like busy. Right. I got stuff to do. I got places to be. And all of a sudden, like, that’s it, there’s no more fuel and I’m coming to a stop, like at the worst spot.

Jeff Ducklow: Little yellow markers are everywhere. I don’t know what the hell is going on. And I see maybe a thousand feet away what could be a trail, but it’s super steep embankment. And I start going down and it’s ridiculously steep.

Marc Moss:…four storytellers share their true personal story on the theme “Stone Soup”. Their stories were recorded live in-person in front of a sold-out crowd on March 30, 2022 at The Wilma in Missoula, MT.

We wouldn’t have been able to produce this event without the help of our title sponsor, Blackfoot Communications. We are so grateful to the team at Blackfoot for their support. Learn more about Blackfoot over at blackfoot.com.

Our first story comes to us from Rachel Bemis. Rachel Bemis visits New York City with her Poppa, who sleeps through much of the trip. She sees her Top Chef favorite and yells out the tour bus window, “I’m not your b*tch, b*tch!” at him and no one reacts. Rachel calls her story Sleepy New York” or “An Adventure with Papa”. Thanks for listening.

Rachel Bemis: It was the summer of 2007. I was 27 years old living in Missoula. I worked as a real estate lender and also served on a nonprofit board and I had a dirty little secret. I loved reality shows and my standards were very low

flavor

of love. Rock of love, project runway. We’re getting up there top chef, little better.

But after a long day, I absolutely loved watching a good show and reality stars became the new celebrities of our time. I had an upcoming trip planned. I had a work conference in Washington, DC, and I had traveled, you know, before, but I had never spent any time on the east coast. And I decided if I was going to be there for work for a week, I might as well add New York to the list.

Why not spend a few days in New York city checking out all of the sites. But the number one thing that was on my list is I wanted to meet a celebrity. And when I say celebrity, I mean a reality star. So the trip was planned. The tickets were purchased. Of course, I was going to go see the Lincoln Memorial Lincoln Memorial Lincoln monument, big priority.

I was certainly going to see the things that my mom told me I needed to see purchase the tickets. But of course, I also wanted to see a reality star. So like many of my trips, one of my weekly phone calls was to my wonderful grandfather. Papa Papa was 77 years old. We were 50 years and four days apart, he lived in Sacramento, California.

He loved hearing about my adventures. So I gave him a call, let him know what my plans were. I’m going to go to Washington DC. I’m going to jump on the Greyhound bus. I’m going to spend three days in New York and this was my plan. Okay, great. Super supportive. I felt very confident traveling on my own. A couple of days after I got off the phone with Papa, Papa gave me a call and said, I just want to let you know that I spoke with Ruth.

Ruth was his wife of six years. Not my grandmother. They were having some marital problems. And he said, I just wanted to let you know that I told Ruth about your trip. And I let her know that your travel companion canceled and that you didn’t feel comfortable traveling alone.

And

that I’m going to fly to New York to be with you.

And again, he lives in Sacramento, California, and I live in Missoula, Montana. And I said, okay, well, you’re more than welcome Papa, but you do know that I never had a travel companion. I feel completely comfortable, confident traveling on my own. And he said, Rachel, I need a break.

Okay.

I will meet you in New York city.

So the trip is

becoming very different. So first of all, I definitely checked some things off the bucket list spent the week in Washington, DC learned a lot. Did the work conferences did the sight? Seeing did all of the things my mom told me I should do. Then I went to art and soul, which has art Smith.

Oprah’s personal chef. I went to his new restaurant. I saw spike from season one or his restaurant top chef his burger joint, but I still had not seen a celebrity. So this is very much on my mind. And of course I knew I was going to New York, but a very different trip than I had planned as a 27 year old solo traveler.

Now my elderly grandfather is coming with me.

I get on the Greyhound bus on Friday afternoon from Washington DC to New York. Of course I had that trip planned as well. That’s who I am. I was going to be staying, or we were going to be staying at my cousin’s apartment in Harlem that my mom arranged. I’ve never met him and he wasn’t going to be staying there.

So I had the whole trip plan, very excited. So I get to New York city. My grandfather has been traveling all day. Of course, I’ve been in a conference all day and now I’m on the bus. And I arrived to see my 77 year old grandfather who loved every shade of green. And he wore them all at once. He was never too full for ice cream and he had beautiful salt and pepper hair.

We arrived and were exhausted. So we immediately went to the apartment in Harlem, which was great. It’s vibrant. We’re excited where these country bumpkins he’s from the suburbs. I’m in quiet, sleepy, Missoula. I’m in the big city and I’m going to see a celebrity I’m used to the magazines. You know, photographers are getting people walking out of restaurants with their dogs or, you know, something I’m going to, I’m definitely going to see somebody.

That was my focus. Of course, I’m enjoying my time seeing the sites, but that was my focus spent the night in Harlem. Wake up the next morning. How did you sleep? Papa? Terrible. We both slept horrible. It was loud. We weren’t used to it. It was great. It was vibrant. It was the city, but we were tired. Well, we had to push through.

We only have three days, so of course we had everything or I had everything planned and uh, we went on a boat tour, exhausted, pushed through. We said, we have got to go see a show. We’re in New York city. It’s sweltering. It’s 95 degrees. It would be really nice to go see a show and just sit into the suit, the air conditioning for a few hours.

So he said, let’s see Phantom of the opera. Okay. So we walk in air conditioning, we sit down and we woke up three hours later.

We slept through the entire thing.

And I don’t mean that peaceful, you know, with our head down on each other’s shoulders. I mean, you know, waking up snorting, you know, did anybody hear me?

Did anybody see, you know, head-nodding uncontrollably embarrassed and I’m still like, okay, we slept through it. It’s fine. We laughed about it for years. It was the best snap we’ve ever had. It was, it was the most expensive nap we’ve ever had. And I was like, okay, maybe this is the time I’m going to see someone.

I’m going to see a celebrity. Someone’s going to come to a matinee in the summer, right? No, nothing. Okay, fine. Continue on with the trip. We are walking central park. Not that big, by the way, if you haven’t been there, thought it was huge. It’s not times square, not that big, super shocked, but it was great. We had a wonderful, wonderful time still looking for that reality star.

So through our marital conversations and Papa’s venting and me trying to give advice to my 77 year old grandfather about marriage, when I’m not married,

we

decided on our last day, we’re going to go on one of those touristy bus tours where you drive by all of the sites. We drive by serendipity with the hot chocolate. We go by where the Macy’s parade is Rockefeller center, all these great things. So first of all, we get onto the bus. Again, air conditioning was our best friend.

At this point, it was so hot and he’s 77. He needs a break. He needs to sit down. We enter the bus, the air conditioning just blows on us. I sit on the window and he sits to the right of me with an aisle. The bus was fairly empty, which was kind of nice. I could comment on the, oh my gosh, serendipity. We should go there for hot chocolate.

You know, all of the things without worrying about other people judging or listening to our stories. So as we’re going along, we’re enjoying our time pointing to different things and the bus is moving. And then I

see him

walking the opposite direction of the bus. I see this platinum blonde hair. I knew immediately

who it was.

Okay. So pause.

So it’s season one of top chef. Okay. And there’s this feisty platinum blonde chef named Dave. And he is cooking with this fiery ginger red head named Tiffany. And she is assertive, not bossy. I don’t like that word because I relate to it very much. She is fierce and she is assertive. And he doesn’t like it.

Okay. And he says something to her, mind you, this is racing through my brain. As I see the platinum blonde. This is like two seconds of my life. Okay. I don’t really remember his name. I don’t really remember how I know him, but I remembered what he said to her

without a beat

I’m on the bus and I start panicking. Oh my God. Oh my God.

I’m not bitch. I’m not here. Batch batch. , I’m screaming this on the bus with my 77 year old grandfather next to me.

Okay.

Why? I didn’t yell. Dave. Don’t know why I didn’t yell top chef don’t know big fan. I’ve no idea. I just start screaming. Luckily the window was up and I looked to my right to explain why I have this outburst. And my grandfather is asleep.

I

had my grandfather for 13 more years. We shared many trips together, road trips, many memories. And I lost him in 2020. And that is the trip. I’ll never forget. That was the time that I screamed at a reality star on a bus and my grandfather slept

through the whole thing.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Tess.

Tess Sneeringer grew up escaping the suits and the stress of Washington, DC by following her older brother down the current of the Potomac River every summer. She is now settled in Missoula and works for Parks and Recreation.

Our next storyteller is a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni. You can listen to all of the stories that she’s shared on the Tell Us Something website: tellussomething.org. Joyce Gibbs has some very special hunting bullets confiscated at TSA, she resolves to get them back. “Only in Missoula. Only on Christmas.” or “If You Don’t Ask, You Can’t Hear Yes.”

Thanks for listening.

Joyce Gibbs: On December 25th, 2019, I was at TSA in the Missoula international airport. It was very early in the morning. And so mark and I were the only people at TSA. We clocked in with the clerk at the front, and then we went to the conveyor belt where we put our, took off our shoes and put our jackets down and put our backpacks down and took out the computer and then walked through the tunnel and assume the position.

And I walk out of the tunnel and the TSA officer says, is this your backpack? And I say, yes, it’s mine. This is my lucky backpack. I had had it for several years and. The best part. So far of this backpack was the day that we had already gone through TSA and the backpack contained a smell, a smell that had been ruminating in our house for several weeks.

I couldn’t find it. And we were at the gate of our plane and I realized this smell is attached to me. So I’m digging through, I’m taking things out of the backpack and I take out a box knife. I have already been through TSA and I show it to mark. And he says, you should put that away. And I said, yes, I should.

And put my hand into three rotten oranges. So thankfully the rotten oranges went into the garbage and, uh, I continued on that trip with my box knife. I actually made it through TSA again, and I still use that box knife every day. So I tell the TSA officer, yes, that is my backpack. Do you think you might have some bullets in here?

And I think, and I say, well, yes. Yeah, I probably do have bullets. They’re probably in that little pocket on the belt that I didn’t think to look in. And he opens up the pocket and he pulls out three pieces of ammunition for a 3 38, 6, actually improved hunting rifle. If you don’t happen to know what a 3 38 up six actually improved is it’s okay.

Because my father built this gun. It is a beautiful gun. It’s my hunting rifle. It also is something that you can not buy in a store, which means he also built that ammunition, which is something you cannot buy in a store.

He looks at me, the TSA officer, and he says, I’m going to have to confiscate this. And I said, yes, yes, please do. Yes, take it. Do your job. That’s awesome. Thank you. Thank you. I’m going to put my shoes on. I’m going to put my coat on. I’m going to go upstairs. We go upstairs and there’s my sister. I know she would be there.

My sister has come in on an early flight from Portland and she is. There to meet us to say hi to surprise later, to drive out to my parents’ house and surprise them for Christmas visits. So we get together at the gates they’re upstairs and she gives me the things that Santa Claus left at her house for me.

And I give her the things that Santa claw have left my house for her. And we sit and have a little chat for awhile because, you know, we had gotten there two and a half hours early. And as she’s about to leave, I start thinking like, okay, mark, stay here with the baggage. I’m going to go with Nessa. And we walk out to TSA and we walked to the clerk and I say earlier today, I got some bullets confiscated.

I’m wondering if I could have those back. And the clerk says, I’m going to have to ask my, my manager. And I’m like, okay, that’s fine. And there’s a couple people in TSA. So it weighed about five minutes. And, and, it’s the same gentleman who confiscated my bullets. And I tell him those are very precious bullets.

Those are. Bullets for a gun that my father made. And, he has to make all these bullets. And I don’t know if you know, , about reloading ammunition, but it is a, a very long process. First, you have to fire a cartridge, you have to fire the ammunition so you can get the brass casing that the bullet comes in, and then you collect a whole bunch of those.

And then you take out the primer from the brass casing, and then you tumble them in a rock tumbler to clean the brass of any residue that might be on them. And then you use calipers and very specifically, , find the measurements of the bullet to make sure that it will still be safe to have the cartridge to make sure it will safe, be safe to once again, pack with powder and put a new bullet in.

And so then you can then again, fire it, hopefully on a day that’s not too hot or not too humid because it might misfire if it was an extreme heat process, all these things, all this that my father has studied that he has perfected as a science for the last 60 years. And the TSA officer looks at me and he says, well, those already went to the safety office and I say, oh, okay.

He says, well, you go down to baggage claim and you take a right and you go to a glass door and knock on the glass door. And so my sister and I go down to baggage claim and there’s a glass, I promise there’s a glass door. You’ve never seen it. And you knock on the door. And this young Jew, this young woman comes out in her brown and tan Sheriff’s uniform with her pistol on her hip.

And she looks at me and she looks at my sister and she says, can I help you? And I say, this is my sister. And she’s leaving to go to my parents’ house. And you have some bullets that were confiscated from me that she might be able to take away to give to the person who actually made them today. And I’m going to go through TSA again and I’ll fly out of here if that’s all right.

If that’s okay. And she looks at me and she looks at my sister and she said,

She goes to, uh, the desk and she pulls out a number 10, 10 coffee can, and she kinda sticks her hands in it and does this swirl and, and there’s lots of clinking and it sounds like there’s like four box knives in there. And, and she pulls out three bullets for a 3 30, 8, 6 actually improved. And she says, are these them?

And I say, yeah, that looks like them. And I step away and she hands them to my sister and I say, thank you. And she says, Merry Christmas.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Rachel.

Rachel Bemis marks her 20th year in Montana! She is a 4th grade teacher in the Bitterroot Valley where 1/3 of her students tower over her. She shares her home with her best friend of 21 years and 5 year old St Bernard Lorelai. She spends her free time binging Gilmore Girls, The Great British baking show, 90 day fiancé or any trashy reality show she can stomach. You can find her getting Biga pizza takeout, walking with friends, at the library or at her favorite consignment shop. She loves Discussing any book except science fiction with her monthly book club.

Our next storyteller is Darius Janczewski (Yonchevsky) Darius reflects on defecting from Poland in the 1980’s and realizes that most things we remember are about departures. Darius calls his story “Departures”.

Thanks for listening.
Darius Janczewski: Hello, good evening. I want to apologize to is making her work harder.

Um, since we’re kids, children, we’re always told to finish what we started, but I’m here to tell you something else. Don’t worry about finishing what you started. Start something it’s about

starting. I love movies and you might be surprised. They’ll tell you I have many favorite movies, but I often don’t finish watching them.

Not because they’re bad movies, but, uh, and sometimes they have terrible endings, you know, but I just enjoy the departure, the beginning of the movies. That’s what I want. One of my favorites recently is Shackleton. It was Kenneth broth and BBC production. You might be familiar with the insurance story, but if you’re not, I will just summarize it quickly that it’s about British Explorer or in a shuttle who is attempting to cross Antarctic on food.

Jess was dogs. They supposed to get to Antarctic, cross, get to the south pole and then continue to the other side of the continent and then be picked up by another ship. And some of you might know that never happens. He is stranded near the Antarctic. After few months of drifting, his ship is crushed by the eyes and sings his cruise survives.

They take three boats, safety, boats, then get to safety. It’s one of the best survival story ever. And some of you might know that they just found the ship recently after a hundred, six years of searching for it.

How many of you are runners? I can see you anyway. I used to be a very, very, very good runner. I used to run sub formula. And I are presented my country.

Thank you. Um,

but what I remember from my best races is the beginning, the start, not the finish or the metal ceremonies and stuff. I remember starting, I remember the first starter gone, taking off, seeing the muscular bodies of my friends in front of me.

I was not that good.

You know,

sweaty backs their hair, where I was working. That’s what I remember most from my best races. Not the finish.

Yeah,

because it’s all about the purchase, not about destinations.

So one of my best stories about the parties is my defection. I was a, deserter the difference between desertion and defection is slide the different, the dessert, or if he comes back or she comes back, he’s gonna go to long-term jail or even under the oil and be executed. That’s the difference. And the factors usually leave because of politics or religion or hardship.

So when I defect in 1984 in Italy, I don’t remember worrying about consequences of my, uh, of my defection. No desertion. I don’t worry about, don’t remember worrying about my family and my friends or seeing my country. I don’t remember saying goodbye to my mother, but she didn’t know I was leaving anyway for good.

She knew I was just leaving to another competition, but what I remember the most from my defection is that is in Italy. When I was in Italy. I remember leaving, I remember taking my bag, my shoes, four o’clock in the morning, making sure everybody’s asleep coaches and my teammates and tiptoeing from their room down there, tow and leaving the hotel.

And I scouted where the train station was the day before. So I knew where it was. I had my pocket money enough to guide, get the tickets to the city that I heard refugee camp was in. And so I got on the train, had about 10 minutes to go and I was thinking, hopefully nobody woke up and find out I’m not there, but no, I was fine.

The train took off. I remember opening the windows, seeing the countryside, Mediterranean, Italy, beautiful Italy, uh, smelling the sea, the Italians laughing. Um, they’re a friendly, long story. Short. Got to the refugee come. And then I forgot to tell you one important reason why I defected.

I defected because I fell in love in Samba with somebody who left for America, and I decided to follow her,

wait,

it’s not the end of the story of it. So long story short, I went to refugee comes. Then I came to America and I found out that the love was not there anymore. There was no love

anymore.

And so, you know, it’s all about the purchase.

Well, let’s get back to the current issues. Um,

and thinking about Ukraine, of course, in the soldiers who are sitting around the campfire, having a very small meal and thinking and hearing the explosions and, and I’m thinking the world will be over one day. I’m sure they will be overweight. They all the wars and one day, and I’m wondering. What will this soldiers remember from this war?

Will they remember the explosions, the killing, the violence? Um, no, I don’t think so. I think they were a member saying goodbye that departure.

And I also think this never for me is what I remember it too. Uh, and I’m going to quit it here and say, please remember it’s about the partners who care, not about destinations. Thank you.

///
Marc Moss: Thanks, Darius.

Darius Janczewski is an author, graphic designer, runner, and a refugee who arrived in the United States in 1984 and in Missoula in 1999. Darius deserted from the Polish communist army in 1984 when he represented his country as a runner in Italy. He was preparing for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when he decided to defect, not knowing that the Olympiad would be boycotted by most of the communist countries, including Poland. Darius is a published author and is currently working on his collection of short stories titled Minotaur or the Art of Running. Learn more about Darius and see examples of his work at dariuszjanczewski.com That’s d a r i u s z j a n c z e w s k i.com

In our next story, Katrina Farnum runs out of gas in front of Costco on a busy Missoula street and is helped by strangers. She pays it forward when she sees a fellow human in need. Katrina calls her story “When Push Comes To Shove”. Thanks for listening.

Katrina Farnum: Joyce said you don’t like it if people hold the microphone. So I won’t do it. She said that people pace, but I love pacing when I talk. That’s the thing. So if there are two kinds of people, when it comes to roadkill, there are definitely two kinds of people. When it comes to filling up your car with gasoline, there are some of us that, or you that let it get halfway down and you pull into the gas station and you fill your car.

And there are other of us that let it run all the way out. Thank you. Glad we have a group and then we fill it back up. So yes, this is a story of me running out of gas in my car. And, I am going to just avoid telling you how many times in my life that I have run out of gas in my car, , in there probably some psychologists in the room they’re evaluating me right now.

And you probably have good reason because I’ve actually never run out of gas in winter, not one time. And, , Mr. Nichols, if you are by chance in the audience tonight, this is not the time that I ran out of gas on Brook street, but I did make it to the title company in time to sign papers. Thank you very much for that to get me a ride.

Now, this is the time that I ran out of gas on reserved street, the other awesome street in Missoula to run out of gas on, and I was southbound, , heading down reserved street. So Costco is approaching on my left and I don’t know, sorry for not giving you the shout out, whatever the Boxster is on the other side. Like to be fair here, the car that I was driving at the time had a faulty tire, like get age, , gauge sensor for the air theme, whatever the, you go head mechanics. And, , it would do this like, and like any good parent, you just learn how to block out certain sounds, which I did. And it’s the same sound for the gas.

So I’m driving it being, I’m not listening. I’m like busy. Right. I got stuff to do. I got places to be. And all of a sudden, like, that’s it, there’s no more fuel and I’m coming to a stop, like at the worst spot. And if I had just been like 15 or 20 feet further, I could have just scooted into the turn lane.

And I would have been far enough back in it that people could have still gotten around me. And I would have been out of the way of traffic, but that’s not happening. And it was a shoulder season like it is right now. So you’ve got like chunks of snow and it’s gritty and it’s starting to melt and kind of run down these old puddles.

And I just spring too. I’m like, holy shit. I need to get a gas can like right now. And as I’m getting out of the car to do this are literally people who are basically doing the like Gudo room, but whatever the equivalent of car running out of gas that you say to people. And so I like run into Costco because it’s the closest place.

And I like do this thing and I run to the service counter. I’m like, Hey, do you guys sell gas cans here? And she’s like, no, we do not sell gas cans here. And then I’m like, okay. And so I run across the street right in Lowe’s and I get into Lowe’s and have all the dumb luck. I know they sell gas cans there, but not this day.

They’re out of gas. I’m like, oh my God, how long has my car sitting in traffic? And I like run. I’m thinking like Costco has a service center, right. They have to have a gas can in there and it run as fast as I can. And I bust through the door of the service center and there’s a couple of guys working.

There’s a guy at the little Kiosky whatever. And I say, okay. So my car is really like right out there. It’s not very far and stranded and really need a gas can. And it, whatever you guys have, you have empty one. I can just fill it up and, you know, have you, I had that thing happen when you are in a hurry or a really big hurry.

And then the person or the people you’re dealing with are definitely not in a hurry. And so the guy like takes a sip of his coffee and then like, thinks about it and he sets it down and I could like feel myself coming out of my skin, like a little bit. And he like saunters over to this cabinet and it’s big and it’s kind of rusty.

And he like opens the drawers and inside is this weird smattering of gas cans. And like, whatever else is in there. And he might be saying something, but it’s like, the adrenaline maybe has tuned him out and it’s become this, like the Charlie brown teacher. And so he’s like, mom, mom, mom, mom. And I’m like, yes, Ken’s yes.

We’re talking to language. I don’t know what you’re saying, but there give me a gas can and the guy’s reluctant and he pulls out one that’s. All the good style, right? The kind we like, and he kind of shakes it and it’s like half full fuel and he’s like, all right, I think it’s probably good fuel. And he hands it to me.

And I run back to my car as fast as I can. Now, normally when you run out of gas, you would hopefully be on the shoulder, but I’m not. So I’m in traffic, right? My body and my trying to suck it up against my car as much as I can. And I realized that the spout for this old gas can, is really short. So it doesn’t quite get far enough down there that it’s pushing the little tab aside.

And there’s like fuel Gooding kind of in, but mostly out. And it’s running down the car and splashing on my feet and it is mixing with the gross stuff on the road. And I’m feeling like just happy if I get enough in there. And then I had like a little hoodie on it. And in my pocket I had this little leather pouch that was my wallet, and it’s got all the cards and it drops out of my pocket and it lands in the puddle with the gasoline and all the awesome.

So I Huck it inside my car and I’m like, all right, I think there’s enough fuel in here. So I just jump in my car, throw the gas can in there and I try to start it and try to start it and the definitely bad fuel. So. I’m like, all right. Uh, what am I going to do? And I, and I go to get out of my car. I’m going to bring the gas can back in, figure out it probably dump it out or whatnot.

And this guy pulls up. He had like parked his truck off the way. And he said, how can I help you? And I’m like, well, yeah, let’s push it. We’ll just, and my thought is, we’re just going to push it far enough into that turn lane where I had wanted to be in the first place where people can still get around me so they can turn.

And as we’re going, I can see we have two different ideas and we’re pushing and it’s a little bit of a hill. So we’re picking up speed and we’re approaching the intersection and the guy yells at me, go, go, go. And I look, and I mean, there’s four lanes of traffic in coming at us is a semi-truck. And you know, I’m not a professional gap reader, but I have done a lot of mountain biking and boating and snowmobiling and snowboarding that I think I have a decent perception when it comes to like speed and timing and distance.

And I know we are not making that. And I yelled back to him and I jumped inside the car and I have to Jack my foot on the brake and we are in the dead middle of the intersection. Now there’s definitely not any part of me that is having that because I’ve already just been over there behind this space that was inconvenient.

This one is way less convenient. And I can see like this moment happening, where I can see, okay, semis going to pass. There are three cars, there’s a gap. It’s not huge. We can make it. I don’t know this guy, but we’re about to build a trusting relationship together. And I say to him, okay, bud, are you ready?

We’re going to push and go. And we’re pushing, pushing, pushing. And we get through this intersection and you don’t actually know if a road has any sort of incline at all until you’re pushing a dead car. And then like an inch is more, it’s like measured in feet. So there, you don’t know if you’ve ever turned, you’re going to check next time.

But when you go into Costco, like there’s a slight incline right there. And so we just came to a peaceful stop and the guy’s like, what else can I do? And I’m like, nothing, dude, thank you so much. This is great. You’ve been huge help. And I like grabbed the yucky gas. Can, uh, run it back over to Costco. And I’m like saying like, I’m like, do you have any, can I just dump the fuel out of this can somewhere.

And I got this big talking to about the EPA and you can’t just dump gas out and I’m like, you definitely did not just see what happened on the side of the road, but I, okay. So here’s your can back. I shouldn’t have asked. The guy working there says, Hey, I drove my daughter’s car to work today. And in the back seat, she has a gas can.

So he walks me out across the parking lot, probably again, slower than I would have normally walked by myself and we get the gas can, and he, and I’m like, thanks. And it’s like empty, but I unscrew it. And I look inside the gas can, and there’s like just this little, teeny, NC bit of fuel in there, but like lots of dead flies.

And I cannot confirm nor deny what happened to said fuel or flies, but it was empty when I got to the pumps. So I walk up there and I realized like my yucky wallet I had thrown in the back seat is still in the back seat. And I’m standing at the gas pump and this guy is just finishing fuel and he’s like, Hey, put your gas can over here.

And I’ll just, I’ll fill it up for you. He doesn’t know, I don’t even have a wallet. He’s just being a nice guy. And so he fills it up and I go over and I put gas in my car. I’m feeling pretty good. Cause now I’m in home stretch. But you know, I had to deal with that shitty new gas can, which even though it’s long enough to reach it, the little push tab.

And so half the time you’re fighting with that thing, but it works out and I pull in and uh, fill my car up with gas. And I’m like at that moment where I’m like, all right, I have no idea what I was probably doing something important before this huge saga. Right. As I’m in, like done, you know, I’m wrapping up, I’m ready to leave.

And I see the guys who had pulled in behind me and he’s at the pumps and he’s doing the pat down. And then he gets inside of his rig and his little legs are kind of outweighs reaching across the seat and he gets back out and I see the pat down and I’m like, ha, you don’t have a wall lit. And it’s rare that you get to pay it forward so quickly.

Like a lot of times you do a good deed or someone does a good deed. And it just, you know, it’s like into the ether for awhile. And I just said, Hey man, pull your car up here. I’m going to throw fuel in it for you. And he’s missed like the whole awesome thing that just happened. He just thinks I’m being nice for all.

I know the guy who did that for me with the gas can just went through what I did. So there I am. I’m able to fill them up and I’m off

Marc Moss: Thanks, Katrina.

Katrina Farnum is a local dirt-loving herbalist, mother, and educator. She is the developer and owner of Garden Mother, a holistic herb shop and dispensary with locations in Missoula and Kalispell.
Katrina is passionate about healthy food, community, continual self improvement. She spends much of her time creating and engineering things to help others live better lives.
Her spirit animal is the Incredible Hulk and her alter ego is a mixture of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Butch Cassidy (played by Paul Newman). Katrina leads the team of herbalists and educators with an emphasis on nutrition over at Garden M+*other Herbs. Learn more about her work at gardenmotherherbs.com

Bringing us home in this episode of the Tell Us Something podcast, Jeff Ducklow finds himself with a dying cell phone, no water and only a thin poncho, He is charged by a wild boar and more before his dramatic rescue.- Jeff calls his story “Lost in Kauai”

Thanks for listening.
Jeff Ducklow: Whew. It’s times like this, when I wish I had prepared. Even though I believe that the only thing worse than public humiliation is voluntarily doing it to yourself. I feel compelled to tell you my story for years, I thought my inner compass was damaged until I finally realized I didn’t have one.

What possessed me to become a adventure guide is still confusing. It’s sorta like a teacher of a second language teaching without actually knowing a second language I’ve been lost in the Andes. I have been lost in the Sierra Nevadas. I have been lost in the Alaskan wilderness. I’ve been displaced in the bitter roots and I’ve been completely lost in many, a malls parking

lot. So I don’t know why I thought a jungle on an island in the middle of Pacific would be any different. It was supposed to be a simple journey from point a to point B, but I got deep into the alphabet this day. My friends. so a few years back, I went to the beautiful Hawaiian island of Kauai with my then girlfriend who incidentally I lost.

I mean, she, she knows where she is. Uh, we had a, w we’d gone to a wedding of, one of her friend’s wedding was over and she went back home. She had to work. I was in between seasons and stayed a few extra days. And so I did the typical touristy things I laid on the beach, played into serve, had a few mojitos.

And then I decided I need to kick the adventure level up a few notches. So I, I found a Hawaiian guy on the beach and I said, Hey, if you only had three days left and on this beautiful island, what would you do? And without hesitation, he said, lost trail, man, lost that. That sounds really hard to find. He said, no problem.

I’m going to draw you a map. And he sketched out a little map of dirt roads with no names and said, you’ll see a small break in the jungle.

And if you, if you walk down the trail and you find a little footbridge, that’s

not it go back and find another break in the. And that’s exactly what happened. So, uh, I got going the next day in the morning, actually it was the afternoon about three o’clock and I got in my rental car and started going down the roads and it was about an hour and a half drive down these unnamed roads.

And sure enough, I, I found a small break in the jungle and I thought this has to be it because I don’t see anything else. So I got out, sun’s getting a little lower and I packed a few essentials in my backpack and I took off and it’s supposed to be a loop, just a, this little journey, a couple of miles in, I got to an amazing place along.

Why may a canyon, which is spectacular. It’s 10 miles long, 3000 feet, deep waterfalls everywhere. The lava has turned red over time. Spectacular. I walked out on this little strip of land. It went out into the canyon, sheer drops in each side, spectacular, amazing. I took some pictures and that should have been enough, but I wanted more with the sun hang, hanging, even lower.

I took off down the trail and it was maybe a mile and I thought I can do this. And then I came to a branch in the trail and I took out my map and I’m looking at it there, no branch. And I start rotating it. And you know, when you start doing that with a map.

But I stood and I looked down one path and then another, and I thought of Robert Frost

who wants, stood in the yellow wood and could not travel both. And he took the one less traveled by night and made all the difference. I’m here to tell you it really does make a big difference.

so I choose a path that looks actually a little more traveled and it quickly becomes the trail that has probably never been taken. And I end up on a rock shoot, probably 1500 feet down, really lose boulders. And I’m, I know it’s a bad idea, but I, I see that the trail looks like it continues over there. So I really carefully get to the start going across and I get to the middle and I think this is stupid.

That doesn’t always stop me, but I had the thought I should go back. And then I looked at what had just traversed said no way. I am not doing that again. And I’m not going that way either. So I decided to go up clinging to the mountain, like Velcro, hands, and I got to the top. And then I see the jungle again and there’s little yellow ribbon hanging frames and trees.

And I thought Eureka trail markers. So I entered the jungle, which is quite a bit darker and I’m looking around and I, I see the. Little yellow markers are everywhere. I don’t know what the hell is going on. And I see maybe a thousand feet away what could be a trail, but it’s super steep embankment. And I start going down and it’s ridiculously steep. And I said no way. And so that, by the time I got to the top, it was dark. I was screwed.

I was spending the night in the jungle. So I took a quick inventory of what I had. I reached into the bag. And I had an empty Nalgene bottle, which I quickly began to fill with my urine. I had read this somewhere. You can, you can recycle and reuse. So I did what I kid with a bottle. And then I also saw I had a nine or a 2012 flip phone who had an touristy short battery life.

So in the dark I started crawling around because of course there’s cell coverage in the jungle. There didn’t seem to be any, but miraculously I found a one inch by one inch parcel that had one bar. So of course I called my girlfriend and not 9 1 1. And I said, I got on this trail called lost trail. I’m not sure how to tell you how I got there.

I’m not sure how to get back. I believe on spending the night in the jungle. And then she said, if you’re happy with this message, please press one.

So hung up the phone, brace myself for a rough night. The thing is, I’d heard plenty of stories of the Hawaiian jungle that it ran feral with wild boar. That’s what was on my mind. They had tests so sharp. They could tear Amanda to in seconds. So I sat there on the ground pretty. And I don’t know how long it was, maybe two hours.

I S I H I heard branches starting to snap from the hill above me, and it was getting closer and louder. And I sprung up with a burst of adrenaline. And by the beard of Zeus, I got about 10 feet up into the tree for about 10 seconds until the bank, the branch broke. I ended up on the canopy floor again, and now with only half as much adrenaline, I got about four feet off the.

And I sat on this branch for hours, not one wanting any bore contact, but my ass got so sore. I didn’t care about getting bored. I got back down on the ground fearing. Also what I were told were Sandy paeds, as long as the man’s boot shoe laces. So I was sitting there thinking this is pretty bad, but then it got worse.

Uh, cold, cold fog started creeping up the hill. I was on the mountain and also remember, this is actually the wettest place on earth, where may a canyon, so it could be worse, but a cold, cold fog. And then I remembered I had the emergency poncho. I took that out. It’s thickness could be measured in terms of Adams.

It was actually in my wallet, filed with the credit cards. And I put it on and I sheltered in the cold. I started shivering. I realized it’s not wild boar. That’s going to get me it’s hypothermia. And somehow I made it through the night alive and the sunset, it was the most beautiful sunset I’d ever seen, just gorgeous.

And so this time, a little wiser, I called 9 1 1, they picked up, but then I got put on hold and I see my battery icon. And a couple of minutes later, it was the fire captain. He said, where are you? And I was thinking if I knew that I probably would not be calling you, I said, lost trail. And he said, I’ve never heard of that.

I said, well, it’s in the canyon somewhere. He goes, okay, we’re going to get a GPS signal on you. He goes, and I told him, you know, the phone’s dying. He said, well, turn it off. We’re going to GPS signal. It doesn’t matter if your phone’s on or off. So he’s doing that and I’m thinking, oh no, this is going to be really expensive.

So, and told me once to be rescued cost $10,000. And that had been about a decade earlier. So adjusting for inflation, that can be around 13 grand and you have to know something. I grew up with a mother who equated personal injury with the cost of medical. If your injury was going to be really, really expensive, then you weren’t really hurt.

I remember coming in once after a bad bicycle accident, I was bleeding. I said, mom, look, and in compassion. She said, oh, she yet she always added an extra valve. So it wasn’t swearing.

And then she asked, I’m not sure if this is a rhetorical. Do you know how much that’s going to cost? I don’t know a mom I’m eight years old. I’m I’m bleeding profusely. I don’t know if I can make that calculation right now. All right. Get me my sewing kit, please. Ma no, I can see my femur. All right. Get in the car, but there goes your allowance.

So this is all my. So I get back on the phone with the, with the police or the fire captain, he says, we’re going to send you a helicopter. I said, oh no, that’s okay. That’s okay. Do you have mules or something like that? I said, I think I can walk out. There’s plenty of light. I have all day. He went, no, no, no, no.

Stay where you are. The jungle. It all looks the same. You’ll get turned around. We’re coming for you. So I said, okay. So I turned the phone off again and I’m waiting. And about half hour later, I hear, I hear the chopper. It was coming up the canyon, but it’s on the wrong side. So I get back on the phone. I said, I hear you, but it’s the wrong side.

He said, okay, we’re coming over. And then he said, he asked, is there a break in the canopy? And I said, no, it’s just like a roof up there. I can’t see the sky. He said, okay, just don’t go anywhere. Helicopter came over. The phone dies it’s over. And then the helicopter leaves just, just goes away. I was in shock.

I remember saying, ah, she yet,

and I sat there. I didn’t know what to do, but I, I did. And then sure enough, the chopper comes back and this time it’s right over the canopy. And I remember the old now tattered yellow poncho, and I took it out and just started swinging it around. And the next thing I know, there’s a paratrooper breaking through the canopy.

It’s it’s incredible sound. It’s like there’s centipedes and scorpions and wild boar flying all over the place. This I comes down, he hooks me into harness. Our phases are like this. Had it been COVID time. This wouldn’t have been good. And I got hooked in, he put a helmet on me and we went break into the canopy breaking branches, and then we were suspended by the, from the helicopter.

And I thought we were going to be retracted inside, but we just dangle there. And then we start going and I’m looking at the cable thinking is this half inch five eight is, uh, is this galvanized it’s pretty.

And then I looked down and it is spectacular. The Kanye’s it’s incredible view. And I’m thinking if this is $10,000 or 13, it’s worth every penny.

So I get the right of my life until we get to a clearing where the other rescue workers, there’s a fire. And then came the descent of shame from the heavens I was lowered.

And when I landed there, wasn’t a lot sad. I, I apologized, we got in the truck and started down the dirt road and they said, they’re going to take me to my car. And I thought, thank God, because I have no idea what that thing is. And then what I feared the question I feared it came, it came from the captain himself who was driving.

He looked over his shoulder. I was in the back and he said, by the way, what do you do for a living?

there was a long pause, just like this one. And I knew there are two answers. I could, I could tell them I’m a massage therapist, which is. But the other half of the year, I’m an adventure guide. And I thought they’d done so much for me. I owe them something. So I said, I’m a venture guide. He said, what?

The whole crew started laughing. He goes, you’re kidding me. Right. I said, I wish I was. Then he got on the radio.

he said, get this guys, the guy, the guy we rescued, he’s an adventure guide. And so I was thank you.

Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff Duck-low is no stranger to adventure. With Portuguese blood coursing through his veins, he inherited all of the wanderlust of his Mediterranean forebears, however, unfortunately, without the accompanying and essential navigational acumen. Simply put, Jeff was born without a sense of direction, so naturally he chose to become a professional Adventure Guide, guiding men, women and children oblivious to his affliction, on hikes over mountain passes, rafting down raging rivers, and leading sea kayaking adventures in Alaska in whale infested waters, at times in heavy fog. He is often quoted as saying, “Is it really an adventure if getting back is a certainty?”Having almost died unnecessarily on numerous occasions, Jeff is now a full-time massage therapist in Missoula who rides his unicycle to work in order to keep an element of danger in his day. He still loves the outdoors and enjoys recounting his exploits to anyone willing to listen.

I am so glad to be back in-person sharing stories with you all. I’ll bet you have a story to share, right. I’ll bet you do! We’ve all got a “Didn’t See That Coming!” story, right? The next Tell Us Something live event is scheduled for June 27. It is an outdoor show and is guaranteed to be a lot of fun. You know what would make it really fun? Your participation. Pitch your story on the theme “Didn’t See That Coming” by calling 406-203-4683. The pitch deadline is May 27. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I’ll call you as soon as I get your pitch.

Please remember to save the date for Missoula Gibbs May 5th through the sixth. Missoula gives is a 24 hour online giving event. Remember to support? Tell us something. During Missoula Gibbs, May 5th through the sixth. Learn more at Missoula. gives.org.

Thanks again to our title sponsor, Blackfoot Communications. Learn more about Blackfoot over at blackfoot.com.

Thanks to our in-kind sponsors:

Joyce Gibbs: Hi, it’s Joyce from Joyce of Tile. If you need tile work done, give me a shout. I specialize in custom tile installations. Learn more and see some examples of my work at joyceoftile.com.

Marc Moss: Missoula Broadcasting Company including the family of ESPN radio, The Trail 103.3, Jack FM and Missoula’s source for modern hits, U104.5

Gabriel Silverman: Hey, this is Gabe from Gecko Designs. We’re proud to sponsor Tell Us Something, learn more at geckodesigns.com.

Marc Moss: True Food Missoula. Farm to table food delivery. Check them out at truefoodcsa.com

Rockin Rudys The go to place for everything you never knew you needed! Visit them online at rockinrudys.com

Float Missoula – learn more at floatmsla.com, and MissoulaEvents.net!

Next week I catch up with Neil McMahon…

Neil McMahon: Go into some kind of line of work. That’s would give you much more material, you know, whether it’s, uh, like Michael Connolly was a journalist, obviously physicians, lawyers, whatever, , something besides swinging a hammer.

Marc Moss: Tune in for his story, and our conversation, on the next Tell Us Something podcast.

Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. If you’re in Missoula, you can catch them playing live at The Union Club on May 14. Find them at cashforjunkersband.com

To learn more about Tell Us Something, please visit tellussomething.org.

Four storytellers share their true personal stories live without notes on the theme "Stone Soup". A dramatic river rescue, bullets confiscated at TSA, a middle-aged woman cookin up an incredible stew and a man, a porcupine, a jar of pickles, and a little birdie.

Transcript : "Stone Soup" Part 1

Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

We are currently looking for storytellers for the next Tell Us Something storytelling event. The theme is “Didn’t See That Coming!” If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 406-203-4683. You have 3 minutes to leave your pitch.

The pitch deadline is May 27. I look forward to hearing from you.

Please remember to save the date for Missoula Gives May 5th through the sixth. Missoula Gives is a 24 hour online giving event. Remember to support Tell Us Something. During Missoula Gives, May 5th through the sixth. Learn more at missoulagives.org.

Tell Us Something acknowledges that we are in the aboriginal territories of the Salish and Kalispel people. The land we walk on, recreate on, grow our food on and live on is sacred land.Being mindful is a practice. We may not always be mindful of the gift that the land gives us and the wisdom that it has.We take this moment to honor the land and its Native people and the stories that they share with us.

This week on the podcast…

Tess Sneeringer: this big chunk of sandstone had broken out from under her and she’d fallen about 10 feet and she was standing and she was limping and complaining about her knee.

Joyce Gibbs: He looks at me, the TSA officer, and he says, I’m going to have to confiscate this. And I said, yes, yes, please do. Yes, take it. Do your job.

…four storytellers share their true personal story on the theme “Stone Soup”. Their stories were recorded live in-person in front of a sold-out crowd on March 30, 2022 at The Wilma in Missoula, MT.

Lizzi Juda: Am I arrive at this place where I’m greeted by this beautiful man with a short lime green Tutu and these antenna and another man who’s wearing nothing but a tool belt.

Brent Ruby: There’s two camps when it comes to picking up hitchhikers, those that my wife and most of my coworkers are in and dammit, I just made eye contact with her. I have to stop. I have to. So I pulled over

Marc Moss: We wouldn’t have been able to produce this event without the help of our title sponsor, Blackfoot Communications. We are so grateful to the team at Blackfoot for their support. Learn more about Blackfoot over at blackfoot.com.

Our first story comes to us from Tess Sneeringer. After her friend falls down a hill on a rock scree, Tess Sneeringer puts her training to work. She, along with several of her friends, paddle through the night to bring their injured friend to safety. Tess calls her story “All Aboard the River Ambulance ”. Thanks for listening.

Tess Sneeringer: So four of us were floating down the green river in Utah in two different canoes and they were tied together. And two of us were paddling. One of us was taking a power nap and the fourth person was managing some extreme pain with a substance that is now illegal in Montana. And it was two o’clock in the morning.

This trip had started earlier that day as the long awaited personal trip. After a grilling summer spent backpacking with teenagers in the woods and spirits were high when we launched earlier that day. And I remember when we pulled over for lunch on this beach, on the side of the river, I pulled up the canoe was sitting on the bow and was dipping crackers into hummus.

When I heard my friend Erica Yelp behind me and I look over and she’s about 20 yards downstream on the bank. And all I see is this cloud of sand stone dust. And she’s over there with our friend Christina. So I wander over, I guess what had happened is she had been climbing up this little bluff to get a picnic spot.

And this big chunk of sandstone had broken out from under her and she’d fallen about 10 feet and she was standing and she was limping and complaining about her knee and of the four of us, three of us, our wilderness first responders. And the fourth is an EMT. So we kind of dove into our knee assessment situation.

But at some point she looked up at me and she goes test. I think my back is bleeding and she was wearing a white sun shirt. So we hadn’t seen any blood, but I lift up her shirt and sure enough, I see a five inch long centimeter wide, just gaping wound as if someone had cut her with a knife. And it was sure enough slowly bleeding down her back.

So I put her shirt down and it takes every ounce of me to tell her, yes, your back is bleeding. I’m going to get the first aid kit. I’ll be right back. And I tried so hard not to sprint to the canoe and instead use that time to calm my own nerves down, get the first aid kit, come back. By that point, we had her laying face down.

Everybody had seen the cut at this point and Jack, the other trip mate and Christina had made a plan to try to go get cell phone service. And they’d put me in charge of first aid. And there I am standing over her with my desert rat, sun dress and my big floppy hat. And now two blue nitrile gloves thinking.

Okay. It is time to put you back together. And as I said, it was, uh, it looked like someone cut her with a knife and granted, we never found. Like slicer, but the first aid was relatively simple. So we were still waiting for Jack and Christina to get back. When she asked me, she goes test, why is everybody freaking out?

And I was just like, without trying to make her freak out, even more explained like, Hey, your cut is big enough that we’re worried about infection and your knee is enough in enough pain that we can’t be here for five days, which was the plan. So we got to go. And the way that this river works is we’re on the green river paddling towards the confluence with the Colorado river and the green river is Flatwater and the Colorado river is whitewater.

So you can’t just paddle out. You schedule a motor boat to pick you up at the beach. That’s the intersection of the two rivers. And we had scheduled a boat for five days from then. It was about a 50 mile trip. That’s a really relaxed river trip, 10 miles a day, plenty of time for side hikes, relaxing. So we had scheduled it for five days from then, but as we were looking through our paperwork from our outfitter and the permits, we saw that they’d given us a schedule of all the other boats that were coming. While we were on our trip, there was two boats, one, which was ours five days from now and the only other one scheduled was the very next morning at 10 o’clock. So we had to cover about 45 miles by 10 o’clock in the morning. But if you remember those teenage trips, one of the ones that I led the most often involved a canoe trip, and to make our mileage on the last day, we had a routine of waking the kids up at three o’clock in the morning, putting them in boats, tying the boats together and paddling this flotilla of canoes down a very similar desert river.

So I knew, I knew it could be done and doing some quick rough math. I thought we had just enough hours if we paddled through the night. So Jack and Christina get back from their short-lived attempt to find cell phone service. I pitched this plan to them, suggest that we paddle until dinner time, pull over, eat food.

Can’t forget to eat food. paddles, pull over sleep for a couple hours and launch again around midnight and paddle until we hopefully get to the boat. And as we were paddling that evening, they said yes to the plan as we were paddling, you know, we were booking it. So everybody we passed could tell we are in a situation where our boats are tied together.

And we’re paddling with like 80% effort. And everyone we passed, as soon as they learned what our situation was, they had something to give us. Someone had extra Vicodin from an old wisdom to surgery. I’m not kidding. They gave us new first aid supplies to change her dressing. And an older gentleman even offered us his paddling chocolate, which was weed chocolate for, for his arthritis, which was very, very generous.

And so we paddled, we executed that plan, just how I lined it out. And we launched again at midnight, after a horrible anxiety written hour of sleep. And we made it about two hours until Jack who’s in the front of my canoe, turns around and he’s like, Tess, I don’t know if this is going to work. I’m falling asleep.

I don’t know if we’re going to make it. And so we came up with new plan involving maps, , so that every 20 minutes, one of the three, paddler’s got to take a nap and cause we had tied the boat together, right? So there’s three paddlers. And we tried to make Erica as comfortable as we could. That’s a tall order when you have a bum knee, a huge gash in your back and it’s a metal boat, but we tried our best.

And when it was my turn to nap, I was out cold. I put my sleeping bag in my feet, I’d pull it over. Me and people had to shake me awake when it was my turn to paddle again. But we kept that rotation going all night long until finally the sun came up and we were tasked with figuring out where the heck we were, because all night I’d been trying to estimate like, how fast are we going?

How many hours have we been paddling? Continually trying to answer the question. Like, are we going to make it? And so when the sun came up, I had to use all that mental math to be like, okay, I think we’re about 15 miles away from the takeout and how the map works. River miles are labeled on the map. And in this case they were counting down to the confluence, but sure.

There’s a line on the map that says 15, but that doesn’t mean there’s like a steak on the side of the river that says 15. So instead it’s a topographical map and I’m having a lineup, natural features to what I’m seeing. And so, you know, I’d be like, okay, I think if we’re here, there should be two canyons on the right and a tributary on the left.

And then there’d be three canyons on the right. And I’m like, shit, I have no idea where we are. And I was probably trying to struggle with that for almost an hour, just constantly trying to line up reality to my map somewhere within the range of where I thought we were until finally we saw some folks breaking down a campsite and we knew that the campsites are kind of also labeled according to the river mile.

So if we knew what camp they were at, we would know how far away we were. So we shouted over and they shouted back that they are at camp four. So we weren’t 15 miles away. We are four miles away and we had plenty of hours to go. And at that moment we threw down our paddles. Erica shoots this like drugged out fist into the air.

We eat something. That’s not this stay on granola bar that we’ve been eating all night because at that point we knew we were going to make it. And sure enough, we pulled into the beach. There was a whole crowd waiting for their scheduled boat. But as soon as we. You know, they learned of our situation news spread fast.

And again, people had something for us. We got someone cooked bacon for us, the made coffee, someone set up a shade umbrella so that Erica could sit under the shade. It was like a super sunny beach. And there was even a surgeon there who had this beefy first aid kit and volunteered to clean out her wound again, which was super nauseating to watch.

But we got on the boat, we got her to the hospital. She ended up needing a lot of stitches and she had a torn ACL, which explains the knee pain. So after that moment, we split up to our respective fall seasonal gigs. But every time I think of this trip in many trips, since, you know, the reason I go on these trips often is to connect more intentionally with myself or the people I’m going with.

And explicitly not all the other people who are out there, the point is to get away. But in this situation, it was all those other people that made our evacuation safer, easier, smoother, and already I’ve been on another trip or I was approached in an evacuation for help. And I take great comfort knowing that that give and take will be a lifelong exchange among perfect strangers, as long as we continue to recreate in these wild places.

Thank you.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Tess.

Tess Sneeringer grew up escaping the suits and the stress of Washington, DC by following her older brother down the current of the Potomac River every summer. She is now settled in Missoula and works for Parks and Recreation.

Our next storyteller is a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni. You can listen to all of the stories that she’s shared on the Tell Us Something website: tellussomething.org. Joyce Gibbs has some very special hunting bullets confiscated at TSA, she resolves to get them back. “Only in Missoula. Only on Christmas.” or “If You Don’t Ask, You Can’t Hear Yes.”

Thanks for listening.

Joyce Gibbs: On December 25th, 2019, I was at TSA in the Missoula international airport. It was very early in the morning. And so mark and I were the only people at TSA. We clocked in with the clerk at the front, and then we went to the conveyor belt where we put our, took off our shoes and put our jackets down and put our backpacks down and took out the computer and then walked through the tunnel and assume the position.

And I walk out of the tunnel and the TSA officer says, is this your backpack? And I say, yes, it’s mine. This is my lucky backpack. I had had it for several years and. The best part. So far of this backpack was the day that we had already gone through TSA and the backpack contained a smell, a smell that had been ruminating in our house for several weeks.

I couldn’t find it. And we were at the gate of our plane and I realized this smell is attached to me. So I’m digging through, I’m taking things out of the backpack and I take out a box knife. I have already been through TSA and I show it to mark. And he says, you should put that away. And I said, yes, I should.

And put my hand into three rotten oranges. So thankfully the rotten oranges went into the garbage and, uh, I continued on that trip with my box knife. I actually made it through TSA again, and I still use that box knife every day. So I tell the TSA officer, yes, that is my backpack. Do you think you might have some bullets in here?

And I think, and I say, well, yes. Yeah, I probably do have bullets. They’re probably in that little pocket on the belt that I didn’t think to look in. And he opens up the pocket and he pulls out three pieces of ammunition for a 3 38, 6, actually improved hunting rifle. If you don’t happen to know what a 3 38 up six actually improved is it’s okay.

Because my father built this gun. It is a beautiful gun. It’s my hunting rifle. It also is something that you can not buy in a store, which means he also built that ammunition, which is something you cannot buy in a store.

He looks at me, the TSA officer, and he says, I’m going to have to confiscate this. And I said, yes, yes, please do. Yes, take it. Do your job. That’s awesome. Thank you. Thank you. I’m going to put my shoes on. I’m going to put my coat on. I’m going to go upstairs. We go upstairs and there’s my sister. I know she would be there.

My sister has come in on an early flight from Portland and she is. There to meet us to say hi to surprise later, to drive out to my parents’ house and surprise them for Christmas visits. So we get together at the gates they’re upstairs and she gives me the things that Santa Claus left at her house for me.

And I give her the things that Santa claw have left my house for her. And we sit and have a little chat for awhile because, you know, we had gotten there two and a half hours early. And as she’s about to leave, I start thinking like, okay, mark, stay here with the baggage. I’m going to go with Nessa. And we walk out to TSA and we walked to the clerk and I say earlier today, I got some bullets confiscated.

I’m wondering if I could have those back. And the clerk says, I’m going to have to ask my, my manager. And I’m like, okay, that’s fine. And there’s a couple people in TSA. So it weighed about five minutes. And, and, it’s the same gentleman who confiscated my bullets. And I tell him those are very precious bullets.

Those are. Bullets for a gun that my father made. And, he has to make all these bullets. And I don’t know if you know, , about reloading ammunition, but it is a, a very long process. First, you have to fire a cartridge, you have to fire the ammunition so you can get the brass casing that the bullet comes in, and then you collect a whole bunch of those.

And then you take out the primer from the brass casing, and then you tumble them in a rock tumbler to clean the brass of any residue that might be on them. And then you use calipers and very specifically, , find the measurements of the bullet to make sure that it will still be safe to have the cartridge to make sure it will safe, be safe to once again, pack with powder and put a new bullet in.

And so then you can then again, fire it, hopefully on a day that’s not too hot or not too humid because it might misfire if it was an extreme heat process, all these things, all this that my father has studied that he has perfected as a science for the last 60 years. And the TSA officer looks at me and he says, well, those already went to the safety office and I say, oh, okay.

He says, well, you go down to baggage claim and you take a right and you go to a glass door and knock on the glass door. And so my sister and I go down to baggage claim and there’s a glass, I promise there’s a glass door. You’ve never seen it. And you knock on the door. And this young Jew, this young woman comes out in her brown and tan Sheriff’s uniform with her pistol on her hip.

And she looks at me and she looks at my sister and she says, can I help you? And I say, this is my sister. And she’s leaving to go to my parents’ house. And you have some bullets that were confiscated from me that she might be able to take away to give to the person who actually made them today. And I’m going to go through TSA again and I’ll fly out of here if that’s all right.

If that’s okay. And she looks at me and she looks at my sister and she said,

She goes to, uh, the desk and she pulls out a number 10, 10 coffee can, and she kinda sticks her hands in it and does this swirl and, and there’s lots of clinking and it sounds like there’s like four box knives in there. And, and she pulls out three bullets for a 3 30, 8, 6 actually improved. And she says, are these them?

And I say, yeah, that looks like them. And I step away and she hands them to my sister and I say, thank you. And she says, Merry Christmas.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Joyce.

Joyce Gibbs is a resilient, creative and adventurous woman who was raised in Missoula. After a brief stint in New York City and then in New Orleans, she bought a dilapidated railroad house on Missoula’s Northside and spent the next 15 years remodeling it and making it her own. Joyce loves being in nature on Montana’s abundant rivers, and hiking and hunting in the woods. When she is not busy building beautiful spaces with her tile installation at Joyce of Tile, you can find her riding her motorcycle, gardening, going for neighborhood walks with her husband of 12 years, Marc (that’s me!), and their kitten Ziggy.

In our next story, Lizzie Juda finds awakening after middle age in a story that she calls “Something’s Cookin’ in My Pot”. Thanks for listening.

Lizzi Juda: thank you all for being here to support us and to listen to our stories. So I’m going to take advantage of this stone soup, uh, theme and tell you a bit about my journey through life, using the kettle or the pot as a metaphor for my self, my. Yeah. So I was born in the Midwest in the early sixties, and my pot was filled with Twinkies and canned spinach and three siblings and TV reruns, and overly salted broth.

And at the age of eight, my dad died and my mom disappeared into her scotch bottle. And this left this pot of ours that we called family with a massive crack in it. And nobody was talking about this crack. Nobody was doing anything that I could tell that was trying to repair the damage that was being done.

And so eventually this kettle of ours crumbled around our feet and I being the sensitive, intuitive caretaker that I am. Desperately tried to gather up all the shattered pieces and the scattered ingredients. And desperately tried to make some kind of magic brew or healing stew that would save us and that we could survive on.

And obviously this was impossible and exhausting. So I eventually left and came upon at the age of 20, my former husband who, Ooh, damn, I wasn’t going to cry. My farmer husband, who was this cast, iron stainless steel, nutrient dense kind of man. And he was like solid and grounded and a Virgo. And he, um, he contained me and grounded me in a way I had never experienced before I even wrapped a gold ring around myself for security and belonging.

And. Gladly just dumped my leaky brothy, cracked, sad self into his kettle and merged all my ingredients with his ingredients. And we lived with this nutritious and delicious life for years and years. And we created two really amazing children and have this beautiful life together. And then around midlife, I would say this grumbling and rumbling started quaking in my core to the point where I could not ignore it anymore.

And I knew it was time for me to take my pot and see if I could cook something up on my own. I needed to like figure out how to delineate what was my ingredients and what was all of the ingredients that were scattered around me. So I had been cooking in this one kitchen, my entire adult life. And as I left, I brought with me like this teeny little Bunsen burner and the.

Uh, flimsy little empty kettle and wandered around for quite a while, dazed and disoriented. And there was another D word in there, days disoriented and devastated and,

hungry as shit. And then I met this fiery powerhouse of a woman here in Missoula. And as we were getting to know each other, I started telling her that I was living on my own for the first time in my adult life. And I was trying to figure out like, how do you do relationships, where you can say what you need and you can receive support and don’t get lost in the sauce.

And she said, you need to check out this camp that is in Southern Oregon. I didn’t totally know what she was talking about, but I could feel this flame under me growing in intensity. And I could feel like water starting to swirl around inside my kettle. Like. She told me that this camp network for new culture is a place where people explore intimacy and personal growth in radical honesty and transparency.

And I just knew at that moment that that was the next step in my evolution. So two weeks later, I’m in my car heading to Southern Oregon for the first time on a solo road trip, since college, two long, hot, exhilarating days of driving. Am I arrive at this place where I’m greeted by this beautiful man with a short lime green Tutu and these antenna and another man who’s wearing nothing but a tool belt.

And I’m like, girl, you might’ve wanted to read the fine print because,

I knew no one at this camp. And I was saying to myself, Lizzie, this looks like some wild ass bull, yum that you may or may not want to put in your pot. So I stood around the edges and I. I’m a pretty open progressive earth mother, hippie chick kind of woman.

But I stood around the edges of this camp, like a wide-eyed coyote, checking out what the hell was going down. And I saw people picking up these handfuls of exotic herbs and spices and tossing them freely into their big old pots of stew. And then they were sharing their stew freely with all the other people.

And they were receiving this amazing stew back. And, they were nourished and they were fortified and they were, and I had, I was sitting there going, you know, I’ve like put like little sprinkles of salt in my bra and I wanted a taste of what these people were putting down. So, I have a minute left and I have like this much more of my story to tell you, so how am I going to shorten it?

Okay. So I’m going to tell you this part of it. So one day I went down to the river and I. I was hanging out with these people singing along the river and the harmonies were incredible and the sun was gorgeous and people are dipping in and out of the river laughing and telling stories and singing. And I got my courage up and I took a big breath and I stripped my clothes off and I got into the river and I could feel as I was standing there in front of people that I did not really know, I could feel this fear and this body shame and this sense of the cultural conditioning that I’ve carried around with me for my entire life.

Just start to

be carried down

by the waves of the river, down to the ocean. And I’ve been back to this camp many, many times, and I’ve learned to expand my ability to give and receive love. And I’ve learned how to. Merged deeply with people and then come back home to my own kitchen where I am cooking up this spicy organic Hardy, healthy, nutritious stew.

And I’m here to share it with everyone. And I know that I am being fed by this much bigger love that flows through all things. And it flows through you too.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Lizzi.

Lizzi Juda has been a proud resident of the westside of Missoula for nearly 33 years. She is founder and co-director of Turning the Wheel Missoula and has over 25 years experience teaching improvisational movement-classes, expressive arts groups, and ceremonial rituals. She is passionate about providing opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to play, move and connect deeply with themselves and express their creative spark. She is an absolutely avid advocate for accordion and alliteration artistry and is a wanna be beat poet. She considers movement and touch her first languages and is finding her way with words.She identifies most with being a mojo sprinkling pixie

Rounding out this episode of the Tell Us Something podcast, Brent Ruby buys a jar of pickes for a gathering with friends. No one ever opens the jar of pickles, so he brings it home. The hitchhiker he picks up along the way, is very happy to learn about this magic pickle jar.”Paws, Claws, Pickles and a Little Birdie”

Thanks for listening.

Brent Ruby: I didn’t know the dress

code,

so I have to start by saying, oh my Frick. I’m standing on the stage of the Wilma theater.

Did anyone see John Prine thing here?

Thank you.

Cause the rest of my life, I can say John Prine opened for me at the Wilma.

So a lot of people don’t like road trips and there’s a reason for that. And that’s okay if you don’t. It’s okay to admit it. Road trips force us to merge the things that are organized in our brains with the things that are unpredictable and the things that are practical and predictable get tangled with the unknown.

And that makes people uncomfortable. That’s okay. Some about 60 miles south of Dillon Montana on interstate 15, great stretch of

road.

There’s two camps. When it comes to the philosophy of roadkill, the first camp is my wife and most of my coworkers are in this camp and that is drive by that shit. I’m kind of in the other camp, which is if it’s interesting, if it’s feasible, if it hasn’t been there awhile and I’m stopping.

So I pull around. Get out of my big truck and I’m standing in the sun standing over a dead porcupine and my scientific brain is calculating, huh? It’s about 11 o’clock in the morning. When did it die? How old is it? Cause porcupines can live to be like 15, 18 years old. So I kick at it a little bit, look around there’s no one coming, taking this guy.

So

I grab it.

But before I moved it, I realized, you know, dead things smell. And this didn’t smell that bad. I mean, bed bath and beyond is not like saying, oh my gosh, this has got to be our next candle scent, but it wasn’t that bad until I picked it up. And then the smell got into my mouth. No, no matter. I still took it, put it in the truck and I’m on my way down to park city, Utah, where I was going to meet some colleagues for a multi-day meeting down there.

So we get, I get down to park city porcupine in tow, uh, or. And I meet up with my colleagues. And the first thing we do is go to the grocery store. And one of my colleagues says, okay, we need to just like hodgepodge potluck stuff for dinner, so get whatever you want. And we’ll put it together tonight. So I walk around the grocery store, still kind of smelling that porcupine.

And all I came up with was some shitty Utah, 3.2% alcohol grocery store beer, and an enormous jar of dill pickles. That was my contribution. But I did tell my colleagues, I don’t think we should eat the porcupine. So we ended up going to our condo, Airbnb, whatever, and, uh, having our meetings for the next few days.

Well, I, when we got there, I put the porcupine right in the freezer and the pickles. I put the pickles right on the counter. And for the next three, four days, nobody touched either of them. So the pickles just sat on the counter and I thought, well, okay, whatever, when it comes time for me to go, we’d separate.

And I’m like, I’m taking my stuff. So I grabbed my giant jar pickles. I mean, it’s, it’s that big, it’s big grabbed my giant jar of pickles and realized, oh, the porcupine can’t leave that in Airbnb freezer, probably penalties. But I thought I’ve sort of. Ben with that thing. It’s not fully salvageable. So I run next door to some fancy mountain bikers because it’s sparked city.

And I say, guys, I need an ax. Oh yeah, here you go. It’s a nice, it’s a pretty nice ax. And so I run back to the garage for wax and I had my four paws ditch, the rest of the porcupine and the garbage salvaged the paws and went into the kitchen and wash the ax off real good with soap and water and went back to the guys and said, thank you so much for the acts.

What do you need it for? Porcupine salvage. No big deal. So anyways, I load up my stuff. I load up my paws, my claws, and my pickles into my truck. And I’m heading north on interstate 15 and I’m about 60 miles south of Dylan. Again, it is just after a thunderstorm that kind of after a thunderstorm where the sun is so bright on the pavement and the rain is just evaporating off of that pavement.

So you can just feel it and see it leave the earth that rain, that same rain was thick on the Sage. In those Prairie’s so thick that, that Sage. With sneaking its way into the cab of the pickup truck. And it was awesome. I wish I had my sunglasses, but they were packed away with my paws and my claws.

That’s when I saw her. That’s when I saw her. And that’s when I saw her thumb. There’s two camps when it comes to picking up hitchhikers, those that my wife and most of my coworkers are in and dammit, I just made eye contact with her. I have to stop. I have to. So I pulled over, backed up. I get out of my truck, right.

Then she swings this big old backpack off of her shoulders. And I look at her and her shirt was stained with earth and strain and pain. And I said, oh my gosh, what can I, can I help you? You need help. And she says, if you could give me a ride to Lima, I would love it. I’m like, yeah, get in. I’ll grab your pack.

So she gets in the truck, I grabbed her pack. I’m like, whoa, damn. I said, girl only picked up one porcupine. How many gotten this backpack? Threw it in the back of my truck, got in the truck. And when I got in the truck, when both doors closed, there was the smell of human. Sweat

earth,

a bit of wet dog. It was so bad that I wished I had the porcupine in the backseat of the truck and she sticks her dirty handout and says, I’m birdie. Thanks so much for helping me. And she says, I don’t think I smell very good. And I said, no shit. And I said, Bernie, what are you doing? And I said, how can I help you?

And she says, I’ve been food lists for two days. I got chased by a grizzly bear, lightening storm, bad rain. And then I saw your truck and it was my hope to get out of this mess. And so I rambled up to the highway to get on, to get my thumb up in the air. And I said, I’m so happy to help you. I’ve got food. I, what can you, what can I do?

And she goes, I just got to get to the grocery store in Lima or Lima. And I said, well, what’s, what’s what’s tomorrow. What’s your plan? And she says, tomorrow, I’m coming right back here. I’m jumping back on the continental divide trail. I got to finish this thing. She was hunting it. So hiking it so solo. So I said, well, I can get you the Lima, but uh, I don’t know how you’re gonna resupply.

And she goes, I need to get to a grocery store. I said, birdie, there is no grocery store in Lima. And she said, I got silent. I said, I have all the food you need. I got plenty of food. And she goes, it’s not that the tears rolled down her dirty face and carved what looked like Topo lines from a map down her dirty cheeks.

And she said, food is not what I need. I have a ridiculous craving and have for the last two days

for pickles,

you’re taking up my time at that moment, whatever was playing on the radio, went silent. All of the angels from all of the people in Beaverhead county that had ever been hungry, tired, or perished on the Prairie, locked their wings in position. As I fumbled to reach over the seat to grab my giant ass bottle of pickles, I struggle over and get it onto the, onto the console.

And Birdie’s eyes were as big as the lid on that jar of pickles. And the tears came back following that same matter. Just ending up in a giant smile. At the end of her face, I pulled into Lima, we got out of the truck standing in the gravel and she insisted that we have a toast. She let me pick the first pickle out of the jar, which was good because her hands were filthy.

So we had a pickle toast in the Lima parking lot in the gravel. And I, we shared hugs, smiles, little tears, and I jumped back in the truck and started to drive away. And I caught birdie in the back rear view mirror of my truck. She was clutching that big ass jar of pickles and just kind of dragging her backpack along as dead weight.

And I queued up the John Prine. So what is the plan? What indeed is the plan? A little dirty birdie told me that there is no plan. All we have to do is add our own special ingredients.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Brent.

Brent Ruby is a research professor at the University of Montana and has been on a near 30-year quest to do good science. He also is committed to writing his own brand of ornery poetry during his relentless study of applied human physiology. One of Brent’s research goals is to effectively share his research findings to improve the health and performance of wildland firefighters. Brent spends time outside of his research in the great outdoors of Montana with his wife Jo and their border collies, Wrango and Banjo. Brent also enjoys building hollow wood stand up paddle boards, woodwork, art and writing children’s books. Check out his books, download free coloring book pages and more at wrangoandbanjo.com.That’s W-R-A-N-G-O-A-N-D-B-A-N-J-O.COM

Pretty great stories, right? I’ll bet you have a story to share. I’ll bet you do! And I’ll bet that you have a story to share on the theme “Didn’t See That Coming!” The next Tell Us Something live event is scheduled for June 27. It is an outdoor show and is guaranteed to be a lot of fun. Why not participate? Pitch your story on the theme “Didn’t See That Coming” by calling 406-203-4683. The pitch deadline is May 27. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I’ll call you as soon as I get your pitch.

Please remember to save the date for Missoula Gibbs May 5th through the sixth. Missoula gives is a 24 hour online giving event. Remember to support? Tell us something. During Missoula Gibbs, May 5th through the sixth. Learn more at Missoula. gives.org.

Thanks again to our title sponsor, Blackfoot Communications. Learn more about Blackfoot over at blackfoot.com.

Thanks to our in-kind sponsors:

Joyce Gibbs: Hi, it’s Joyce from Joyce of Tile. If you need tile work done, give me a shout. I specialize in custom tile installations. Learn more and see some examples of my work at joyceoftile.com.

Marc Moss: Missoula Broadcasting Company including the family of ESPN radio, The Trail 103.3, Jack FM and Missoula’s source for modern hits, U104.5

Gabriel Silverman: Hey, this is Gabe from Gecko Designs. We’re proud to sponsor Tell Us Something, learn more at geckodesigns.com.

Marc Moss: True Food Missoula. Farm to table food delivery. Check them out at truefoodcsa.com

Rockin Rudys The go to place for everything you never knew you needed! Visit them online at rockinrudys.com

Float Missoula – learn more at floatmsla.com, and MissoulaEvents.net!

Next week, join us for the concluding stories from the “Stone Soup” live storytelling event.

Rachel Bemis: I just wanted to let you know that I told Ruth about your trip. And I let her know that your travel companion canceled and that you didn’t feel comfortable traveling alone.

Darius Janczewski: when I defect in 1984 in Italy, I don’t remember worrying about consequences of my, uh, of my defection. No desertion. I don’t worry about, don’t remember worrying about my family and my friends or seeing my country.

Katrina Farnum: I’m like busy. Right. I got stuff to do. I got places to be. And all of a sudden, like, that’s it, there’s no more fuel and I’m coming to a stop, like at the worst spot.

Jeff Ducklow: Little yellow markers are everywhere. I don’t know what the hell is going on. And I see maybe a thousand feet away what could be a trail, but it’s super steep embankment. And I start going down and it’s ridiculously steep.

Marc Moss: Tune in for those stories on the next Tell Us Something podcast.

Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. If you’re in Missoula, you can catch them playing live at The Union Club on May 14. Find them at cashforjunkersband.com

To learn more about Tell Us Something, please visit tellussomething.org

In this episode of the podcast, Brian Upton sits down with Tell Us Something Executive Director Marc Moss to talk about his story “Parting Ways with Henry Miller in Egypt”, which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT in June 2015. The theme that night was “Oops! I Changed my Mind!”. They also talk about his extended family in Egypt, about Henry Miller and separating the art from the artist, and about the atmosphere at a Tell Us Something live in-person event.

Transcript : "Parting Ways With Henry Miller in Egypt" story and Interview with Brian Upton

[music]

Brian Upton: My stress just was on a huge upward trajectory about that book and who may find it or how I can get rid of it before somebody nails me for violating Egypt anti-pornography laws.

Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

This week on the podcast, I sit down with Brian Upton to talk about his story “Parting Ways with Henry Miller in Egypt”, which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT in June 2015.

Brian Upton: one thing I’m appreciating about this conversation is that I can also set the record straight because that was, that was definitely kind of traumatic for me. , but really the defining, , Aspect of that trip was getting to meet my wife’s family and the relatives.

The theme that night was “Oops! I Changed my Mind!”.

We also talk about his extended family in Egypt, about Henry Miller and separating the art from the artist, and about the atmosphere at a Tell Us Something live in-person event.

Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell Us Something — to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni. We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story, and we always get to know them a little better.

Before we get to Brian’s story and our subsequent conversation…

I am so excited to tell you that the next in-person Tell Us Something storytelling event will be March 30 at The Wilma.

The theme is “Stone Soup”. 7 storytellers will share their true personal story without notes on the theme “Stone Soup”.

We are running at 75% capacity, which allows for listeners to really spread out at The Wilma. Learn more and get your tickets at logjampresents.com

Brian Upton shared his story in front of a live audience at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT in June of 2015. The theme was “Oops! I Changed my Mind!”. Brian Upton buys Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France. He begins reading the book in Alexandria, Egypt and discovers that the book is considered pornography in Egypt. Thanks for listening.

Brian Upton: It started out in Arab spring 2011 and the Tahrir square revolution in Egypt, my wife, Dina, and I decided that it would be a good time to take our kids are eight and 10 year old kids to Egypt to see the country and to see their family and relatives. My wife’s parents had come over from Egypt and she was born here, but her mom actually brought her to Alexandria, Egypt to go to an American school.

So she has dual citizenship and she actually had an Egyptian passport at the time. She’d met her relatives and family, but I’ve never been to Egypt. Our kids had never been there and they’d never met the family. So it was a really exciting. When Deena booked the tickets over there, she got lucky and she was able to get a three-day layover in Paris on the way to Egypt.

So how great was that? I was excited because there’s a spectacular bookstore there called Shakespeare and company that I’d never been to. I don’t know how many of, you know, Shakespeare and company, but for those that don’t, it’s a hundred year old bookstore. That was a favorite haunt of the lost generation and all sorts of cool characters.

And I wanted to check that place out. So we take our trip, we get to Shakespeare and company. It’s fantastic bookstore. I wanted to find it a cool book, a great souvenir of that bookstore to take with me something I can’t just find anywhere I was coming up dry. So I thought, well, I’ll just come up with a book by somebody that had a connection there.

And I thought Henry Miller, I’ve never read any Henry Miller and Tropic of cancer is supposed to be a big deal. So I’ll get that. I go to the Henry Miller section. Of course there’s no Tropic of cancer. So, I don’t know any other Henry Miller books. I just look at the shelf and I see a book called Tropic of Capricorn.

So good enough. It’s a Tropic. So I picked up Tropic of Capricorn. That’s my souvenir of Shakespeare and company stuff. It in the suitcase, we finish up Paris, go to Egypt, go to Cairo, go to Alexandria, fantastic trip meeting my wife’s relatives, my relatives now. And, uh, it was just super, I started reading Henry Miller for the first time in Alexandria on our last night there.

Our next stop was flying up to upper Egypt in Luxor where the valley of the Kings are in a number of temples. Luxor in the nineties was the site of a terrorist attack on tourists at one of the temples there. And as a result of that, Egypt has co-opted the military to be security for the tourist infrastructure down in Luxor.

So what that means is when we get to our hotel in Luxe, We go through a metal screener and there’s military people acting as security in the hotel lobby, which is kind of unusual, really nice lobby, very comfortable lobby. So actually that night after we’d gone out in the town and we got back to the hotel room, everybody was ready to go to sleep except me because I’m still jet lagged.

So the kids in Dina want the lights out and going to sleep. I told Dean and I’ll just read down in the lobby. And so I get my Henry Miller book out and I say, I’m going to go down the lobby. And Dina says you can’t do that. I said, why can’t I do that? I’m just going to go down to the lobby to read. And she looks at the book and she says, that’s pornography.

And my face is all wrinkled up. I look at the book and oh, and the cover of the book, which I didn’t really think about when I grabbed it in Paris was a very tastefully done, black and white photo of a woman. From the knees up to the neck, which was all Henry Miller cared about. If any of you have read Henry Miller, it all makes sense.

But did I say it was tastefully done because it was tastefully done very skimpy panties, no top. So in Egypt, absolutely. That qualifies as pornography. So I put the book away and got another book, went down to the lobby, read that and everything. I watched the military men go up and down the lobby hallway while I’m sitting on my comfortable couch.

I go back up to the room to get to sleep. And you know how nighttime is the time when all the great worries come out? Well, I I’m trying to get to sleep in, uh, the gravity of this situation has impressed upon me that I am sitting here in Egypt with pornography, with contraband and. I was dialed right back to high school.

When I was in high school, I was in model UN and I remember reading a whole bunch of accounts of primarily Westerners that were caught in developing world countries with contraband, usually drugs and the things that happened to them in prison. And it terrified me. And I remember vividly thinking, I will never go to a country where I could even conceivably be caught with contraband and have something like that happen to me.

So I’m on my family vacation with my children in a country like that, carrying contraband, and now I’m stressed. And I’m also remembering by the way, for anyone that remembers midnight express the movie, not midnight run the Robert DeNiro movie, but midnight express about the American that got caught with contraband and Turkey and sentenced to life in prison and a Turkish prison, not an uplifting movie.

And I remember when I saw that in college. It reinforced. I will never go to a country like that and be caught with contraband. It’s not going to happen. I will avoid those. So that was my thinking for the night. And the next morning when we got up, I was concerned at that book is sitting in the room and whoever’s going to clean the room.

I’d come across this pornography, be alarmed, contact the military, my pipeline to prison. So I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t throw it away. I would, I didn’t feel like I could stuff it under a mattress. Cause I thought. Maybe I might look under the mattress for things like this and B if they’re just making the bed, they might come across it.

So I did the only thing I could do, which was just wrap it up in a shirt, stick it in a bag, wrap up the bag and some more clothes and put it in the middle of my suitcase and hope my suitcase doesn’t get ransacked by. And it worked. We went out, saw valley of the Kings, had a great day, put it out in my mind, all was well.

And same day or next day, same thing. It was pretty much out of my mind for the most part at night, I was still worried about midnight express, but where everything amped up was our next leg of the trip. And our final leg of the whole Egypt vacation was to go to Sharmel shake on the Sinai. The red sea. So we have to fly from Luxor to Cairo and then back over to Sharmel shake.

And I’ve got the book in my suitcase because I don’t have a good place to dispose of it. And there’s military patrolling in the lobby. So I’m nervous and all of my high school model, UN torture accounts and midnight express recollections are just forefront of my head. There’s nothing to be done. So we checked the suitcase and I just hoped.

Nobody was going to be looking in the suitcase. And all I could think of was, I don’t know if the airline personnel rifle through suitcases here. I don’t know if airport security rifles through suitcases, if they do random checks. But when we went to Egypt, there were far less tourists because of the economy and the political situation than there typically are.

So the odds of my suitcase being ransacked in my pornography, contraband found were much higher than they otherwise would be. And I was thinking about. But when we finally get to the airport at Shama shake, we go to the baggage carousel. I am not panicking, but I’m nervous and I’m waiting for the bag to come out.

And, you know, I don’t know if you guys have the same experience. I do my bags always the last one out, regardless of the airport. So I had that in mind and I was prepared, but we waited for a long time for the bags to come out. And finally my son suitcase comes out. Okay, good. That means our suitcases are here.

That’s good. And then after a while my daughter, Alex, his suitcase comes out. Good. We wait still no suitcase for me. We wait, my wife’s suitcase comes out. Okay. That’s good. Three to four. Where is my suitcase. So I’m waiting and waiting. And finally the baggage carousel stops and my suitcase isn’t there.

What are the odds that only my suitcase is not showing up? I mean, that’s, what’s screaming in my head amongst all the visuals of midnight express. So there weren’t a whole lot of English speakers there, but Dina speaks Arabic and she was able to find one of the airline staffers who’s assured her that there were no other suitcases.

So my suitcase was gone. He said, he’d make some calls. So we waited for 20 minutes and I’m sweating. He comes back and assures us that the suitcase is in Cairo. It got held up. He doesn’t know why he will look into it and give us a call at the hotel. So rather than spontaneously combust, Tried to clamp everything down for the sake of the children.

And we all went to the hotel and I was getting panicky at this point. I was a little panicky because this was way too close to midnight express in the prison pipeline than I ever wanted to be. And I was legitimately nervous. So we go there and then Deena and I are trying to have the conversation with.

Explaining to the kids. Exactly. What’s going on, how daddy brought contraband at Egypt. And we were trying to have the conversation about who’s going to go back to the airport when we get this call. And what’s that call going to sound like? So we’re talking about that and I say, look, this is my bag. So I should go there because it’s not your problem.

You shouldn’t have to go there. And if something happens with it, then I should be the one to be there. Dina is much more logical smart and everything else than I am. And she pointed out the fact that I can’t communicate with anybody at the airport valid point. And she also, which I found out later, she was putting on a good face.

Cause she was as panicked as I was. But at the time I didn’t know that. And she said, I’m sure this is just a mix up. And it’s just like a random mistake. So let me go to the airport and clear it up. Oh, We got a call after we sweated all afternoon. And all I can think about was what I’ve already told you.

And we waited all afternoon for that call and I’m trying to figure out how do we react when one of us is arrested in a foreign country and the other has to take care of the kids and get them back. What’s the number of the consulate. We finally get a call and they said our suitcases here, so we can go pick it up.

And that’s all they told us. So at least there’s no bad news over the phone. There was no military guy knocking on our door, but Dina goes off to the airport. And so I’m left with the kids and I’m just realizing, you know, she is not only in Egypt’s eyes and Egyptian citizen, but I’m also realizing that the bag that I use for this.

Was her suitcase and had her identification on it. So if they rifled through and found our pornography in our suitcase, it would have her name on it. And she’s an Egyptian citizen. And that could make things a lot more difficult if we’re trying to extricate ourselves out of criminal charges in Egypt. So that’s how I managed to ramp up the stress level in my head while she was gone.

And it was kind of a fever pitch. She comes back finally after about 45 minutes and she’s got. And my suitcase is unmolested and Henry Miller is in the middle of it all wrapped up, just like it wasn’t Luxor. So that was a huge relief. And then my whole crescendo of panic and stress and midnight express was receding, but it left a heavy residue of paranoia because now I see this book, this Henry Miller book that I don’t want to see again, that’s ruined my vacation, caused me more stress.

In years, I’m getting rid of this book. How do I get rid of the book? Because the wastebasket, the mattress thing, it’s the same as the hotel in Luxor. I don’t have a good choice here. So I just decided I’m, I’m destroying the book. I’m going outside. That’s our wastebaskets in the hallways. I’m going to destroy it.

I told Dina that and she said, all you have to do is rip up the cover. The rest is fine, and I’d read enough of the Henry Miller book already to realize it. If somebody were to see me throw out the book, fish it out and leave. The text is much more pornographic than the tastefully done, black and white photo on the cover.

So I didn’t want to risk it because I was completely paranoid at this point. So paranoid that rather than use the wastebasket on our hallway, I went up to slights of stairs. I told Dean and the kids I’m going to meet you in the restaurant go. So they left. I went up two flights of stairs. I ripped up the.

And I didn’t want to just throw the book in the wastebasket because you all realize that somebody could just walk around the corner out of the elevator and see me fish out the book and then pipeline to prison. So I figured if I had defaced that nobody would fish it out of the wastebasket. So I’m just frantically tearing up the pages, stuffing them in the waistband.

I bought a quarter of the book, go down a flight of stairs, repeat, go down a flight, skip my floor because I’m not going to have the incriminating evidence on my floor. I’m a smart criminal, right? Go down one more floor, shred everything while I’m looking around madly stuffed it in the waste basket. And then I’ve just got a little bit left.

So I go to the restaurant, there’s a bathroom off the restaurant. I walk in casually with the book under my shirt. I look in the bathroom. There’s nobody in there. So I shred the rest of the book, stuffed it in the waste basket, grabbed some paper towels stuff and over those pages. And then only then after Henry Miller is safely stuffed in the wastebasket of the restaurant bathroom.

I went over at dinner with Dean and the kids we snorkeled, we scoop it up. We had a great vacation. I was free and it was a fantastic feeling. We ended our vacation and two months later, it’s my birthday. Dina gave me a copy of Tropic of cancer by Henry Miller. So I was finally able to read Tropic of cancer and I didn’t like it very much. .

 

Brian is originally from the Great Lakes country and came to Missoula from Indonesia in the mid-90’s to go to the University of Montana. He has since discovered that Butte is the more interesting place, but is settling for Missoula anyway.

I caught up with Brian in August of 2020.

Brian Upton: Hey Brian, can you hear me okay? Yeah. Can you hear me?

So have

Marc Moss: you listened to your story since he told it?

Brian Upton: You know, I think I listened to it once. Just stay here. It and that was probably, uh, two, three years ago. It’s hard doing it yourself. It

Marc Moss: is hard to listen to yourself, but I ended up having to do it a lot. So I’ve gotten used to it.

I listened to it again today. The first time since. Um, at the time I wasn’t the one producing the podcast. So I think the only time I really heard it was when you did it on stage. And I listened to it again today. How much did you practice that?

Brian Upton: Well, it doesn’t show, but I’ve practiced it quite a few times.

Your workshop was a huge help and kind of getting some response and figuring out how to refine it. But because I was having a hard time keeping to the time limit with. I didn’t keep too. I, I ran over it. I dunno how many times? Probably at least six to eight, if not over a dozen times. Just mostly to try to get it to 10 minutes.

Marc Moss: The first time you were in the motel. I forgot about you putting in the suitcase.

Brian Upton: I should have destroyed the book. Initially saved myself a lot of.

Marc Moss: All right.

Brian Upton: That wasn’t me trying to build the suspense. It was. That’s how it went. My stress just was on a huge upward trajectory about that book and who may find it or how I can get rid of it before somebody nails me for violating Egypt anti-pornography laws.

Marc Moss: So they actually have laws on the books.

Brian Upton: Yeah. I have not seen them, but my wife who used to live there assured me that it’s illegal. You know, it’s, it’s not Saudi Arabia, but it’s still a Muslim country. And I I’m sure I believe it.

Marc Moss: Yeah, I believe it too. And I’ve not even after you told the story, I thought, man, I really had to see midnight express and I never got a chance to see it yet, but I can imagine it.

Wasn’t very pleasant.

Brian Upton: Midnight express is I haven’t seen it in probably a couple of decades, but I did see it twice at different times. One when I was probably just out of high school and the second probably when I was around 30. And it’s a good movie. It’s a, it’s a compelling story. It’s a very good movie, but also it hits you probably particularly if you’re male, it’s in a pretty visceral way.

And that that’s kind of why it was in my frame of reference while I was there in Egypt and feeling like I was susceptible to the criminal justice system. Yeah.

Marc Moss: Well, one of the things that I appreciated so much about your story is many people want to tell a story about traveling and it’s such a difficult thing to do, right?

Because you know, you’ve been traveling. Potentially weeks or months. And how are you going to pick the one thing, the one event that epitomizes the trip, you can’t include everything. So what are you going to do?

Brian Upton: You know, market and a lot of ways. That’s true. But one thing I’m appreciating about this conversation is that I can also set the record straight because that was, that was definitely kind of traumatic for me. , but really the defining, , Aspect of that trip was getting to meet my wife’s family and the relatives.

I mean, now my relatives over in Egypt, in Cairo and Alexandria, and they were so gracious and friendly and warm, all of them and her father’s side was a very big family and they actually, so it was. , so lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, and that experience was just so fantastic. And that’s how I remember the trip.

That’s the first thing I think of. I don’t think of my trauma over Henry Miller’s book. That’s not the first thing that I remember thankfully.

Marc Moss: Right. And that’s what I’m, I guess one of the points I’m making is because. That’s a completely different story. The story of meeting your wife’s family in a foreign country who has a completely different culture.

And that, that story, I think, would be a fascinating one to develop as well, but it would be a completely different trajectory.

Brian Upton: Right. And, and I love that story and that memory, it was, that was my first time to Egypt. That was my first time meeting any of these relatives. So yeah, that was. It was pretty amazing.

It was pretty amazing. And it’s a total counterpoint in the total opposite side of the coin to that terrible few hours. When I was waiting for my luggage to arrive, to see whether somebody had taken that book out of it

Marc Moss: has, has your, um, extended family. Dina side of the family. Have they listened to your story at all? Do you know?

Brian Upton: I, I highly doubt it. I, I’m not even sure how many of them really speak English. There were just a few that, that were very fluent in English that kind of served as our translator, Dina speaks Arabic, but I don’t.

So I, I highly doubt any. Would have caused to have Googled and found it. We certainly didn’t bring it to anyone’s attention. Right.

How many

Marc Moss: languages does Dina speak?

Brian Upton: She speaks three Indonesian, English and Arabic. I think she would tell you her Arabic is a little rusty conversationally and she knows some French. She took French for a number of years in college or high school.

Marc Moss: Actually makes a lot of sense, knowing what she does at the university, with all the international students that come through.

Brian Upton: Yeah. That’s definitely her passion and she’s so good at interacting with all sorts of people from anywhere on the planet. It’s always a pleasure to, to see that and to see the relationship she builds.

It’s pretty amazing.

Marc Moss: Well, it sounds like your experience meeting her family. You can see where she gets it.

Brian Upton: Yes. And her parents both, you know, both of her parents immigrated to the United States from Egypt in the sixties, her father to go to school. So her father didn’t come from wealth or anything. And he really.

He really built up a solid foundation for his family in the United States. He came to the university of Minnesota to get his bachelor’s and he went or excuse me to get his master’s. And he got a doctorate at Oxford, Mississippi, um, after Dina was born. So she was born in Iowa where her father was teaching at Simpson college, which is the same college that.

George Washington, Carver after Iowa state university rejected him for being black. Um, Dina grew up in Iowa until she was five and then went to university of Mississippi at Oxford for her father to get a doctorate. And when he finished that he taught at university of Wyoming. So they moved there, but her father just kind of his educational pursuit.

And his Intrepid newness, uh, coming to the United States alone and teaching in rural Iowa and going to the south and getting a doctorate and living in Wyoming. He was definitely, I unfortunately never got to meet him because he passed away when Dina was 10, but, um, his fortitude and Intrepid, nearness and ability.

To obviously navigate a whole lot of human landscapes. Definitely, definitely lives on through Dina. Yeah.

Marc Moss: And what a different upbringing than you coming from Butte, America.

Brian Upton: Oh yeah. I actually grew up in rural, mid Michigan and. Lived there till I was 18. And then I met Dina our freshman year of college at American university in Washington, DC.

Um, but yeah, very different. I mean, Dina, Dina is very interesting because she knows she grew up in Iowa, Mississippi and Wyoming, but also grew up in Alexandra Egypt because after her father passed away, her mother, um, Moved to Alexandria, Egypt and Dena went to high school there at an American school and they would go back to Wyoming during the summers, but that was part of her growing up too.

So to counterbalance the deep south, the rural Midwest and Rocky mountain west with urban Alexandria, Egypt is a lot of experience growing up that I certainly didn’t have.

Marc Moss: Right. And I don’t know for whatever reason. I always imagine that you’re from BU even though I know you’re not right. I always forget that right away, but

Brian Upton: no, I love Butte so much.

Marc Moss: Did you get any sort of feedback from people who were there or heard it later after.

Brian Upton: Yeah. I heard from a few people, um, that night afterwards when we were leaving, um, and, and a few people that have heard it, um, on the Telus something website, you know, and months or years later, um, and you know, the people that, that want to say something to you about it are the ones that are being gracious and want to say something nice.

That was nice to hear. Um, but yeah, that’s about all I’ve I’ve heard.

Marc Moss: Well, before you decided to tell a story, um, your history will tell us something initially you had never heard of it. Right. And, and I think I put up tickets for, uh, like a premium for the KBG, a fundraiser, the local college readiness.

Fundraiser and you and Dina got those tickets. And then I think they were like season tickets or something. Right.

Brian Upton: Okay. Yeah. You have a really good memory. Cause I I’m trying to remember. I think that would have been in 2014 or maybe 2013 and yeah, we, I had donated to K BGA cause I think that’s a fantastic station.

Always appreciate that. And part of the premium. Yeah, years’ worth of tickets to tell us something. And I believe that’s the first time I’d heard of probably wasn’t the first time I heard of it, but the first time it really resonated with me. And then I was like, oh, wish I could go to this. Um, so we went and yeah, that was when it was at the top hat.

And the very first one, we went to it just bowled me over at great stories. You know, you have a great. Presentation of the whole thing and the way you make it an event and a community was very obvious right then and there just made a huge impression on me and it just looked fun. So I remember stalking you after the end of it, to just tell you what a good job you’re doing.

I can’t remember if I asked to do a story or if you said, do you want to do one? But I, I thought that was amazing that I could have an opportunity to do that. And I remember you writing my name down in your black book. Yeah. I

Marc Moss: have a little book that I can carry around in my back pocket for those reasons, because anybody that ever says that was great.

I always say you could do this too, because that, I mean, that’s part of the point of it, right? I can do this. Everybody has a story to tell and I want it to feel inclusive for everybody. And so when you said this was awesome and I had a good time, I immediately invited you didn’t think you would follow up at all.

Most people don’t, you know, um, and you gave me your number and then yeah.

Brian Upton: So,

Marc Moss: um, I can’t remember how long after your first time. At the show you decided that you wanted to tell a story, but, um, how did you decide that was the story that you wanted to tell?

Brian Upton: I knew that was the story I wanted to tell, because I’d already told it to, you know, groups of friends and family, because that, that was a pretty.

Scarring experience for me, but it was also, it seems to me pretty funny in retrospect, but at the time it was pretty scary. Um, so I just kind of enjoyed telling it, cause it was kind of cathartic and I always got a kick out of seeing people’s reactions to various parts of the story. So I knew that would be the story to tell.

And I don’t think I have another one that, that, uh, That is equivalent,

Marc Moss: maybe not equivalent, but I bet you have another one,

Brian Upton: maybe.

Marc Moss: So did you ever, I know that Dana for your birthday gave you a Tropic of cancer and you read it and you weren’t really that impressed by it. Did you ever get around to

Brian Upton: reading Tropic

Marc Moss: of cancer Capricorn?

Brian Upton: I did not. I. My recollection is I thought that was a little more interesting as far as I got through it in Egypt. Um, because Henry Miller was talking about growing up pretty poor and working class, New York city. I forget which borough, but he painted a pretty evocative picture of that. And it’s so different.

Um, from the New York city of today, that it’s, I found it really interesting. Um, I, I never finished Tropic of Capricorn, but when I read Tropic of cancer, it was certainly interesting in its own way. And he was pretty evocative about how living in Paris was, um, at that time around the turn of the century, I think, uh, and that also was so different than how.

Most people experience Paris now. I mean, when he writes about cold drafty flats with lots of vermin and lights and it just didn’t sound at all, like the place, most of us kind of envisioned our experience there, but the book was also, um, super massage monistic and I don’t know something about it. Really enjoy all that much, but it’s scratched the itch.

You know, he was one of the guys that Shakespeare and company in Paris, uh, that bookstore, um, he knew Paris. So it was, uh, it was a good thing to pick up in Paris. It served that purpose.

Marc Moss: He was, uh, revered enough that they created a library for him in big Sur, California, the Henry Miller library. And I had the occasion to go there and I think it was 2003 or 2004. Um, I had a job that put me on the road and it just turned out that I was on the road. In that part of the country when jello Biafra was on a spoken word tour.

Oh, wow. You know, Jello Biafra is

Marc Moss: do. Yeah. The dead Kennedys lead singer. And if

Brian Upton: you’ve ever, you heard him speak at the Henry Miller library. Yeah.

Marc Moss: And if, if you’ve ever heard him do a spoken word show, I mean, it is like Henry Rollins. On steroids. I mean, he is in your face. He is super political and the people who come to events at the Henry Miller library, some of them, it seems like maybe never have read Henry Miller.

Brian Upton: Absolutely I, yeah, you’re right about that. And I bet that you’d also be. And that Henry Miller is probably surprised a whole lot of people. I didn’t know anything about him when I picked up his books. And I can imagine if other people think they’re going to pick up some kind of quaint, uh, 19th century, early 20th century author, who, who wrote in Paris, they probably didn’t know necessarily what they’re getting into when they started reading things like Tropic of cancer.

Marc Moss: Right. And I like put Charles Bukowski in that same sort of thing, but people said about this great American poet and all of a sudden they’re in this misogynistic bullshit. Um,

Brian Upton: yeah. You know,

Marc Moss: it’s and it’s, uh, then, then we have the question. How much of that was the person and how much of that was the art and how much of that is forgivable?

If. You know, and like, I don’t have answers to any of those questions, but it’s interesting to read some of those pieces of literature. And now with the knowledge that we have go on that guide and sort of cringe.

Brian Upton: Yeah. I would say Henry Miller is pretty cringe-worthy and I certainly don’t know the answers to your questions either.

I would assert that, um, my sense of traffic, of cancers, that we were seeing a pretty unvarnished look at the man. Um, that was my sense of it. Yeah.

Marc Moss: Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you want people to know about your story or your experience?

Brian Upton: Um, I think the only thing I would add is that, you know, the experience of telling it can be as you know, intimidating, a lot of people, you know, public speaking is a pretty common phobia. Um, and it can be kind of nerve wracking to kind of prepare for that and know you’re going to go up in front of a stage of people.

I would just reinforce for anybody listening that the environment you create is very, uh, friendly, nurturing. It’s, uh, it’s an environment where you don’t really feel as nervous as you might think you would. And that’s in part because of. The workshops you do, and kind of getting people used to who they’re going to be on stage with and getting used to telling their story.

But it’s also, I think, a real tribute to the community that you have built and encouraged with with that audience. I think most of the time, those audiences certainly now are, are kind of regulars. Um, and I, I can’t say enough about how you’ve cultivated a good diversity from Missoula. Of speakers. And, um, the experience is just a really good one.

And when I was on stage at the top hat, which granted is not as imposing as the wilderness stage, that that tell us something has evolved into, um, but still that was a lot of people you packed into the top hat and it wasn’t, it felt, it felt good. And, and that’s, I think attribute to you. And I’ll also add that I’d never even heard when I was up on the stage, the little gentle gong that tells me I exceeded the time limit.

So, so you’re gentle to your participants in many ways.

Marc Moss: Well, the gong is as much for the storyteller as it is for the audience to key them in to know that we’re about to wrap. But

Brian Upton: also I’ve been here when I was the storyteller.

Marc Moss: Yeah. And I think at the time I think I might’ve been the one with the gone.

Now I’ve got a governor who is a loud enough timekeeper, , Marissa Crerar. So if you’ve ever listened to or ever been in the audience, you can recognize her laugh. She has this very distinct laugh.

It’s interesting to see, uh, Events are evolving during this time.

COVID and, , the, , live streaming events in particular. , the April show that we did the storytellers knocked it out of the park. I saw it and they didn’t have any interaction with the audience at all. Um, and I asked one of them, I had the opportunity to talk to her pretty in depth about that experience.

And she said it was all. Oh, the green room. , , I had a little breakout rooms, , for the storytellers to go quote unquote backstage. And they were just building each other up, back there. You know, they weren’t even listening to the stories as they were being told, because they’d heard them enough and we practiced them and us.

They were just like backstage having fun off my.

They all bonded and they’d never met each other in person.

Brian Upton: Well, that’s, I didn’t know you had done that. Um, that’s great. I, I really appreciate that. Tell us something is doing the virtual events during the pandemic, because a that’s really about the only way you can do it. And it’s just a great way to introduce, I think a lot of other people. The whole, tell us something, um, kind of event, but that’s, I can see some of the storytellers maybe being glad they’re not in front of hundreds of people on a stage with lights shining in their eyes.

Um, and maybe having it be an easier experience, but I can also see it being perhaps a little more difficult because you’re just trying to stare into a camera to make eye contact with the audience. And as being a little kind of empty with no feedback. So I guess it would depend on the person. I could see it going both ways, being maybe easier and a better experience, or maybe a more difficult or experience without all the people, but I’m sure, glad you’re doing it because yeah, we were part of that audience and, and again, I mean, those, those stories are great.

And I guess one of the other things that would be, uh, I’d like to comment on, especially for anybody that hasn’t been to a tell us something event is one of the things I’ve always appreciated too, is that in a number of the events, there’ll be a side splitting, hilarious story. The same night as there can be a really, really moving emotional, sometimes traumatic.

Story that just in some ways they just don’t go together at all. And in other ways it’s a great way to, um, really appreciate the, either emotional depth of one story or the humor in another story, because you get to compare them to each other. Okay. It kind of lets you kind of travel a whole human gamut in one night and I’ve always appreciated that, especially when, and I think this is how you usually structure it when sometimes there’s a traumatic event that somebody recounting is followed by something that has a lot more levity and it is funny and, and that’s always a nicer way to, to travel that emotional path.

Marc Moss: I think of it, like you would think of making a mix tape or, uh, if you’re a musician creating the structure of an album, what songs you want to include, it’s one thing. But then the order of the songs is just as important. And I learned that the hard way, because one night there were, I think, five. Pretty heavy stories.

And I stack them pretty close to each other without any levity in between. And I had people walking out because they could not handle it. And I had people talk to me later and say, man, those stories were good, but I just couldn’t, I couldn’t take it anymore. And I had to leave and that taught me a lot. Um, those conversations were important to hear.

And when I started thinking about it in the way that you would think about. What do you want to include in a mix tape or if you’re an author or like what short stories do you want to include and in what order, or if you’re a poet, you know, how do you want to order the poems you have in a collection? I think the order is just as important as the stories themselves.

And that’s my job as a curator is to try to determine how are these stories going to land most effectively for the list. So that the storyteller and their experience can be the most effectively honored.

Brian Upton: And sometimes I think you do a great job really easy.

Marc Moss: Well, thanks. I appreciate that. Um, but it took years to figure that out.

I

Brian Upton: love the mixed tape analogy. I think that’s perfect. And, and, uh, I’m a little concerned if you had people that had walked out after four or five. Stories of levity who wants to, who can’t take five grade funny stories? No, no. They were the heavy stories. Oh, they were heavy. I misunderstood. They were

Marc Moss: five, five stories of heaviness was sort of lined up one against each other.

Um, and that was a big mistake on my part to do that, to do it that way. And, um, People let me know. And I’m really glad they did because I probably would have made that mistake multiple times, but I only had to make it once. And that might be the only time in my life where I’ve only had to make a mistake once before I’ve learned the lesson.

Brian. Thank you so much for spending time with me today. Um, I appreciate you and all your support of telecommuting over the years, and I’m glad that you were able to participate. Okay.

Brian Upton: It’s always great to talk to you, mark, and, um, thanks for the opportunity and thanks for everything you’re doing for the community that you enjoy.

So have given us a lot and we appreciate it.

Marc Moss: Well, I appreciate. , acknowledging Joyce. She doesn’t often get credit and she’s just as important as me in this work that we’re doing. So I appreciate it. I appreciate you. And I hope you have a story worthy weekend.

Brian Upton: You too, Marc . Thank you. All right. Thanks, Brian.

All right, we’ll see you.

Marc Moss: Okay.

Thanks, Brian. And thank *you* for listening today.

Next week, I catch up with Laura King.

Laura King: Yeah, so actually I’m super excited about the project itself and gathering these stories. My cousin and I have two great uncles who are pretty interesting historical figures and lots of glass, both lawyers, and I’m a lawyer.

So that’s kinda fun. , one of them was very conservative and the other one was very liberal. So we’ve got a guy who is an FBI and involved in propaganda, supporting Japanese internment, on the one hand. And then we’ve got, the other guy who was, a criminal defense attorney and, very active in, you know, abolition of criminal punishment and, the efforts early, early efforts to legalize marijuana.

Marc Moss: Tune in for her story, and our conversation, on the next Tell Us Something podcast.

Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. Find them at cashforjunkersband.com

Thanks to our in-kind sponsors:

Joyce Gibbs: Hi, it’s Joyce from Joyce of tile. If you need tile work done. Give me a shout. I specialize in custom tile installations. Learn more and see some examples of my [email protected]

Gabriel Silverman: Hey, this is Gabe from gecko designs. We’re proud to sponsor. Tell us something. Learn more at gecko design socks. Oh, it

Marc Moss: was a little broadcasting company. Learn more at missoulabroadcasting.com. Float Missoula. Learn more at floatmsladotcomandmissoulaevents.net podcast production by me, Marc Moss. Remember to get your tickets for the next in-person tell us something storytelling.

Marc Moss: I live at the Willma on March 30th, tickets and more information at log jam, presents.com. To learn more about tell us something, please visit tell us something.org.

This week on the podcast, Jim Beyer and Tell Us Something Executive Director Marc Moss chat about his story “Mission from God”, which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT in March 2012. The theme that night was “Rites of Passage”. We also talk about motorcycles, wrecks and helping others out during the moving process.

Transcript : "Mission From God" - Jim Beyer Story and Interview

[music]

Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

Jim Beyer: Oh, it was the Sturgis adventure. Yes. “Mission From God”. “Mission From from God”. Yeah. Yeah, because I practiced that for a week. while driving around Montana, I just tell it to myself over and over and over again so that it, , would be, um, shortened and, um, , yeah, near Newark.

The perfect. So.

Marc Moss: This week on the podcast, Jim Beyer and I chat about his story “Mission from God”, which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT in March 2012.

Jim Beyer: And we reached to the top of this, uh, this old abandoned farmhouse. Well, the windows are all busted out and there’s birds or bats or something flying in and out of it. And it’s getting dark. I mean, it was flat dark, there were stars and there was the full. He says, oh, it’s in the barn. Okay, cool. Well, the barn is kind of leaning over at about 33 angle.

Like this. It looks like it’s going to fall down anytime

Marc Moss: The theme that night was “Rites of Passage”.

We also talk about motorcycles, wrecks and helping others out during the moving process.

Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell Us Something — to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni. We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story, and we always get to know them a little better.

On a mission to buy an Indian sidecar during the Sturgis bike rally. Jim Beyer borrows Greg’s truck to go pick up the sidecar. He is followed several times along the way by police officers. Jim’s story is called “A Mission from God”. Thanks for listening.

A quick warning for sensitive listeners, Jim’s story contains depictions of drug use.

Jim Beyer: I wrote into camp. Um, uh, we were staying in, in Sturgis, um, and my friends were all standing around thinking about what to have for dinner. It was a Greg and star and, uh, Harlem Harlan and, um, picker. And I came roaring into camp, jumped off my bike and told him. I just found an Indian motorcycle inside car to buy.

Um, Indian side cars are incredibly beautiful and rare items. And I was so lucky to have found this one because the other 74,999 bikers and Sturgis had not gotten it before me. So they’re all congratulating me on this. I say, but I’m kind of bummed cause I have no way to get it back to Montana. Well, Greg says, oh no problem, man.

I’m just throw it in the back of my pickup truck and you can pick it up in Virginia city when we get back in a week. That’s a cool, that’s great. But I still have another problem. And that is I have to go pick this thing up and I don’t have any way except for my motorcycle and the PR and a cert Greg says, oh no problem, man.

Here’s the keys to my pickup truck. Throws them to him. Well, I immediately grabbed them cause I’m excited. And I go running back to the, uh, go running back to his pickup truck. It’s an old beater, shitty Chevy pickup, but 20 years old from Virginia city. And, uh, so I jumped in, I drive away. Well, unfortunately I’m driving through Sturgis traffic during bike week, which is 75,000 people trying to get downtown all at the same time.

So I’m really frustrated. And I don’t notice the fact that Sturgis or Sturgis city policemen has just pulled in behind me. So I’m driving along very carefully and thinking, well, I wonder if this truck has got taillights. So anyway, the problem was solved when the cop flips his lights on, oh God damn it.

So I’m pulling over for the curb. Well, anyway, the cop pulls to the left and goes racing right past me and pulls over some poor guy in a jail. Yeah. I drive through Sturgis traffic, again, 30 minutes to get from one side of town, this as big as Hamilton to the other and get on the freeway, driving down the freeway, man, I got my foot to the floor and I’m just driving as fast as I can go, which is about 50 miles an hour.

And then I realized, you know, bikes are going by any Brum, Brum, Brum, Brum, but twice as fast as I am. Well, I’m looking in the rear view mirror and, uh, state patrol pulls it up right behind me and he didn’t realize I was going so slow till he almost hit my bumper. It was kind of pissed him off. So I’m looking back there trying to drive carefully and, uh, looking at the rear view mirror.

And there he is, got his hand on the radio talking into it. You know, it’s like running my plates and stuff and I’m going, what is with this truck? Jesus, you know, don’t they have farm trucks in South Dakota. Well, I didn’t really find the answer to that when he flips his lights on, I’m gone. Jesus. And I start to turn.

Under the barrel on the barrel pit. Well, just as I’m doing that, some guy on a chopper racist bite, about 90 miles, an hour, blue lights and everything. He didn’t care. Well, the cop realizes he’s got a live one, so he turns left, goes chases him. It’s run runs down the road. So I come up a few minutes later and there’s the cop right in the ticket and the guy biker holding his license out and I wave.

So anyway, I pull off in Spearfish, drive up main street, pull into this little motorcycle shop where they have the Indian side. The, uh, go in and talk to the lady behind the counter. She says, well, my husband is like, it has to work until it gets the customer’s bike done. It’ll be a couple minutes. And I said, that’s cool.

Um, So I started talking to her, she’s saying how, um, it was their dream to have this motorcycle shop in the black Hills, but it just wasn’t working out for them. They weren’t making any money. So they were going to close the shop and move back to Phoenix. So they could be closer to her, her family and, you know, and.

Yeah. Cool. So a couple of minutes later, this clean cut looking guy, younger than me comes walking out, wiping his hands and says, hi, my name is Bob. That’s it on paper. And it was nice to meet you. And he says, well, the side cars, uh, you know, a little ways out of town. Could we take your truck? Sure. Hop in.

It’s all warmed up. So we’re. It gives me directions says go north on highway 85. So we find the way to highway 85. And then all of a sudden he looks over at me and says, have you been saved? What says is Jesus your personal savior? Uh, well, uh, no. So for the next 15 minutes, he’s given me this big, long lecture about, you know, how Jesus has saved him from the road to sin and perdition and how it’s turned his life around and all that stuff.

So I’m going. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t want to tell him I wasn’t unreconstructed pagan because I didn’t want that much inter you know, a conversation going on. I was happy to hear the lecture, so, so he says, oh, I rode up ahead. Just turn right up there. So I’m driving up this gravel road, heading up towards the mountains, and then he says, oh, that gate over there, just, uh, just turn right into that gate.

Okay, stop. He jumps out, opens the gate. We drive through. He says, um, it’s up the hill. So I look way up the hill and way on the upper tree line. Is this old battered, uh, homeless. I’ll go. Okay. So I put the truck into low and we grind up this two lane or two track road that hadn’t been traveled on for a decade or two.

And we reached to the top of this, uh, this old abandoned farmhouse. Well, the windows are all busted out and there’s birds or bats or something flying in and out of it. And it’s getting dark. I mean, it was flat dark, there were stars and there was the full. He says, oh, it’s in the barn. Okay, cool. Well, the barn is kind of leaning over at about 33 angle.

Like this. It looks like it’s going to fall down anytime. Um, this is going to go over by the way. So I’m only halfway done. Um, I’ll just try to talk faster now. So, so we go in into the barn, he pulls the door open. Sounds like the first 15 seconds of tales of the crypt. Right? We go inside this plum dark. I mean, it is flat dark.

Can’t see anything. He pulls a little pen, light. Turns it on and there’s this little light about this long and he starts looking around and all I can see is the, uh, the moon beams coming through the broken boards on this barn. And I’m walking around on this dry desiccated, husks, dead things that I don’t know what are, and it’s really kind of creepy in here.

So he says it’s over here and he points the penlight to the ground. And I look. Wow treasure. It’s an Indian 1940 Indian sidecar body. And if you ever seen an Indian sidecar, it looks like a boat and an amusement ride. I mean, it’s about this long as just beautifully shaped well boat. And along with this is a frame was around tubular frame.

So I’m leaning down at grab the pen light and I’m down on my knees, looking at this thing. And I look and I looked, and then I realized that there’s a nice frame, but somebody has taken the sidecar six foot long thing and cut it in half, right behind the kaolin and sort of crushed the front of it. And I’m going, God damn what maniac would butcher in Indian sidecar.

And then all of a sudden felt this shiver shoot up my back. I’m 15 miles from civilization up a dirt road in an abandoned barn with a Jesus freak. And as is this one of those happy, uh, Godspell Jesus freaks, or one of those Jim Jones, Jesus freaks. So I’m starting to really shake. And then I hear behind me, well, what do you think?

And I jump up, I just scared to death. And he says, well, what do you. You won’t buy it. So all of a sudden, and he thought of mutilations turned to negotiation. I go, whoa, you’re not, it’s kind of cool, but, um, you know, they really screwed up that body of the frame’s good. Um, uh, yeah, it kinda interested, well, he wanted 400 bucks for this, which was a fair amount of money back in 1986.

So. Being an old Arab rug, rug, merchant. I started to negotiate. I said, well, I thought, you know, a low ball it, and then he’ll come down and I’ll go up and he’ll come down. I’ll go up. And eventually we’ll meet in the middle someplace. So I said, you know, I’ll give you 150 bucks for it. Okay. Yes. And I have just scored big.

I’m just so elated. You know, I don’t give a shit about dead things on the ground or cobwebs or any of, to that. So he says, I’ll help you load it. Cool. So we carried all outside, which start driving back to Spearfish and I’m just talking a mile a minute and how wonderful this is and what a great deal and how happy I am.

And I love motorcycles and I’m going to risk. The sidecar and I’m going to have to buy an Indian to put on the side carb that’s. Okay. So he’s happy to just get the money and get out because he realized that he had just cut his own throat, which is probably why he wasn’t very good in the motorcycle business.

So now I am really happy. I mean, driving back to Sturgis, driving down the freeway at 55 miles an hour, black smoke billowing out of the back of the pickup. I’m thinking I’m on a mission from God and nothing can stop me here. I get off the, uh, the freeway ramp. That’s east end, the Sturgis. I’m only half a mile from the campground.

And I’m thinking this is great, man. Then a, uh, meet county Sheriff’s car comes racing down the ramp and slams on his brakes right behind me and I’m oh shit. So I looked both ways. Twice. And I turned on my blinker. I start to turn left and all of a sudden lights go on, you know, it might just ruin my high.

I was like, I mean, after being diagnosed bipolar, I mean, it’s like up and down, up and down, up and down. I’m, I’m not even home yet. So I’m just slumped in the seat and he races by me falls over some other poor SAP, you know?

I am just, you know, I mean, I make the big score here, so I raced back into camp. I want to show all my friends, this fabulous piece of antique motorcycle history that I’ve purchased. So I roll into camp right up to the fire. There’s about 50 people standing around drinking beer and talking and yelling and screaming and loud music and all this stuff parked the truck.

And I’m just getting out when this. Bleach blonde silicone tittle bimbo comes running up, grabs me and throws me out of the, out of the way of the door and reaches in to the truck cab takes her fist and pops the jockey box, lid it flopped, open it up for. Ziploc bag with four fingers of cocaine in it.

Oh shit. And then she grabs it and runs back to the camp, you know? And like all of her friends go with her. I’m starting to hell like a whip puppy, you know? Well, anyway, pigger comes walking over God. Star comes walking over, says, oh, cool paper, nice score here, have a beer. I said, thanks.

I needed that. Well Piger comes walking over. He’s a pretty laid back guy kind of reaches into the cab into the jockey box, pulls out the nickel plated, Colt 45 automatic. Big right. And the numbers have been ground off and he just puts it in his back pocket, kind of walks away going

well. And then Harlan comes over and he goes, I wondered where I left that and he reaches under the seat of the truck, pulls out a grocery sack of marijuana. I’m sitting on the edge of the truck going, oh crap. When Greg comes over, he says, you know, um, you, you tore out a capsule fast that we couldn’t get a hole.

You know, couldn’t. Clean up. Did everything work out? Okay, I’m going. Yeah, I think, I think God’s on my side tonight. So he looked sidecar cool score. And so he says here have another beer. Okay. So after drinking many beers that night, I told the story. And my last words about that story were honest, your honor, I just stole the truck.

I didn’t know what was in it. Well, I figured that my fun ticket had been punched, so I packed all my shit and got out of there that very, very morning that very next morning. And, uh, it was a 16 hour ride back to Montana. Very carefully. Looking in the rear view mirror a lot. And I had time to think, and I realized that I was no longer young.

That was the first day that I had matured. Thank you much. .

Marc Moss: Jim Beyer has been a life-long motorcycle enthusiast since buying his first Harley-Davidson in 1972–which he still has and rides occasionally. Jim attended his first Sturgis Bike Rally in 1977 and rode his bike to Sturgis, South Dakota about a dozen times in the following quarter century. He has not been back since 2003.

I caught up with Jim in August of 2020.

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Jim Beyer: [00:00:00] Hey Jim, how’s it going? How are you doing well? How are you? All right.

Marc Moss: Sorry, Ms. Joe, when you call back, I was getting a quick break.

Jim Beyer: Yes, well, it’s possible at this time in the morning. So. Yeah, I’m sorry. I wasn’t here when you called at nine 30. So it’s all good.

Marc Moss: Yep. Maybe you’re on your way to Sturgis.

Jim Beyer: Uh, oh, uh, no, no. I’m going to let the stupid people, um, catch, catch diseases and die, but I hope not to be one of them. Of course.

Marc Moss: I can’t

Jim Beyer: believe it’s happening. Yeah. Well,

Jim Beyer: I’ve known a lot of my, yeah, go ahead. Well, I’ve, I’ve had a lot of my biker friends die from their lifestyle. So, um, [00:01:00] this is not surprising.

Jim Beyer: Yeah. So

Marc Moss: you are one of the most prolific tell us something storytellers we have. Did you know that?

Jim Beyer: I did not. I thought maybe, uh, our Congressman was, but uh, yeah, pat.

Marc Moss: Yeah, I think he’s up there and same with Gonzalez. Yep. But, uh, anyway, I’m honored. Yeah. You told 1, 2, 3 stories, uh, on official. Tell us somethings, and then one story story jam, which I had forgotten about.

Marc Moss: Was there a story that stuck out for you of those?

Jim Beyer: Um, probably the first one. They practice it to the. The hell was it? Oh, it was the spurge adventure.

Marc Moss: Yes. You mentioned from God

Jim Beyer: missing from God. Yeah. [00:02:00] Yeah, because I practiced that for a week. while driving around Montana, I just tell it to myself over and over and over again so that it, , would be, um, shortened and, um, , yeah, near Newark.

Jim Beyer: The perfect. So.

Marc Moss: Um, and that was back in 2012. Rites of passage was the theme. Um, w did any of the players in that story, have they heard it since you told it? You know,

Jim Beyer: the, no, I don’t believe anyone has just, most of them are dead,

Jim Beyer: but anyway, at

Marc Moss: one point, at one point you said, uh, I used to be cool. Now I’m cliche and I guess. The comeback is at least you’re not dead.

Jim Beyer: Yeah. Thank you for that. Yep. So

Marc Moss: here quite the storyteller, how did you come to fall in love with this [00:03:00] art?

Jim Beyer: Uh, well, I come from my story telling family. My father was quite the rock on tour as well.

Jim Beyer: Um, and, uh, he of course had, uh, plenty of adventures in his life to talk about. So, um, So, I guess that’s just sitting around the family table or the, the, um, you know, um, at parties or something. Sure. We would do that. Is there, um,

Marc Moss: before tell us something, had you ever told a story on a stage like that before?

Marc Moss: No.

Jim Beyer: No. Around the campfire? Yeah. But tell us something, tell us something. People were listening more attentively. Probably

Marc Moss: a lot

Jim Beyer: less drunk too. Yeah. Yeah. Less ramblings. Yeah.

Marc Moss: [00:04:00] Have you gone back and listened to it? Uh, since he told it

Jim Beyer: the, the, uh, from God I have not, no, I have not.

Marc Moss: My intention was to go back and listen to all of them before I talked to you.

Marc Moss: But

Jim Beyer: yeah, that’s a big job. Yeah. It’s been

Marc Moss: fun. Is there anything about that story? You said you had a short knit. Um, what are some of the things that you had to cut? Do you

Jim Beyer: remember? Well, I’m a bit of description, I suppose. Um, the preamble to it. Happened to find the guy who had the sidecar. Um, that was a story unto itself.

Jim Beyer: This, I ended up partying with a hell’s angel in a, in a motel room, in a bell foods. And he had a six foot tall bottle of laughing gas that he, uh, liberally, uh, dosed me with. [00:05:00] So, um, so anyway, I managed to escape that, uh, That little event, uh, with my skin. So it was, uh, yeah, it was a full day of, uh, um, adventures, I suppose, not the mention being high on laughing gas and then riding up the, uh, highway 14 to Deadwood in heavy traffic, you know, things like that.

Jim Beyer: So what’d you do when you’re saying. I was going to say that day in the life. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. There’s some Sturgis that I don’t do anymore. So

Marc Moss: yeah. What was the last time you said you were there? It was 2003, I think. Right.

Jim Beyer: Well, no, actually I went back from the 75th, uh, five years ago, but, uh, it was much less advanced or something because we went a week early to avoid the crowds.

Jim Beyer: Um, then we stayed in a [00:06:00] motel room, my friend, Dan and Iceland. Yeah. With the surgeons for an afternoon.

Marc Moss: I was going to say it’s like, sort of going to burning man, uh, two weeks early and avoiding the crowds.

Jim Beyer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But all the vendors was still there and I could still buy a t-shirt so yeah. To prove to prove that I’ve done it.

Marc Moss: Couldn’t you buy one of those on.

Jim Beyer: Uh, yes, but, uh, you understand, I, I know what you mean. That’s,

Marc Moss: what’s funny. See these people

Jim Beyer: go ahead. If you didn’t go, why buy the shirt? Just say that you went,

Marc Moss: I see these people with their bikes on flatbed trucks, or, you know, in, in you haul trailers and they’re. Never been dropped, not a scratch on them, brand new looking bikes.[00:07:00]

Marc Moss: I know where I know where they’re going. And it’s like, that’s not the point, right? Isn’t the point to go for a ride?

Jim Beyer: Uh, I think so, but some people go just to arrive, not the ride they want to be seen in Sturgis. They, they don’t care how they get. And they want to bring all the comforts. It’s like burning, man.

Jim Beyer: They want to bring all the comforts of home with them. Did not suffer any discomforts.

Marc Moss: How many bikes do you

Jim Beyer: have right now? Well, I think 10, how many of them are on

Jim Beyer: three? Yeah. Uh, three, three of the lights I can get on a ride right now. So have you been riding a lot? Uh, not enough. Um, with my bum leg, I wrote a new, the, uh, [00:08:00] gentleman’s ride build school ride on Sunday that, um, raised money for the, um, murdered and missing indigenous women, uh, because, um, that was promoted by Montgomery distillery.

Jim Beyer: We had about 50 guys or 50 riders, so it’s quite nice.

Marc Moss: How many, how much did you raise? Do you know?

Jim Beyer: I don’t, uh, people were throwing tens and twenties into the hat, so it was pretty good. Yeah.

Marc Moss: I learned to ride just to be able to go for rides with Joyce. And she, you know, that was what her goal was. And she was like, you know, I liked boating. Uh, I’m getting better at it. If you don’t like motorcycle riding, like then don’t do it. You know? And so we decided if she ever wants to go for some long ride and she can’t find [00:09:00] somebody to go with, I’ll just follow her in the car with the big cooler full of food and a tent.

Marc Moss: And she’s yeah, she said that that would work. I mean, I guess part of the fun of riding is talking about the ride after you get to where you’re going.

Jim Beyer: Yeah. There’s a difference between being thrilled and being scared. Um, Terrified. So yeah, if you’re thrilled, that’s great. If you’re terrified, that’s just horrible.

Marc Moss: Yeah. It seems like if you’re with that level of here, you could make more mistakes.

Jim Beyer: Yes.

Jim Beyer: Yeah. It seems the best time to learn to ride a motorcycle was when you’re 20. Yeah, exactly. How many

Marc Moss: times would you say you’ve wrecked your bike?

Jim Beyer: Uh, three, [00:10:00] all of them at less than five miles an hour.

Jim Beyer: Uh, I, uh, let’s see the first time I was on my auntie Carly, um, and this was 40 years ago when the Harley was much less antique and it’s. I had met a woman in the bar. 10 was following her home on a cold November night and went around the corner at the near the library and hit some ice. And the bike slid out from under me and, uh, the crashed and she stopped and says, are you all right?

Jim Beyer: And I looked up at her and say he got some fun. Unfortunately I threw my knee between the gas tank in the ground. And she looks at me like I’m crazy. And then got her got back in her car and drove away. But I had managed to put, yeah, I had managed to protect [00:11:00] my, um, invaluable, uh, gas tank from damage by wrecking my knee.

Jim Beyer: Um, the next time I, my bike quit, this was again some 40 years ago. And so I had, uh, Tom Carney tow it back to my place. Um, And this with his car, unfortunately, I’ve gotten into a wobble. And so I let go of the tow rope and it had wound itself around it. It was wound around my handlebars. So the rope went whipping around once and then whipping around twice and then it caught the front brake cable.

Jim Beyer: And so the front end stopped abruptly and, , I fell over and wrecked my other. And, uh, let’s see. Yeah. The other time was a nother, slow tip over like that.

Jim Beyer: I’ve been [00:12:00] fortunate not to.

Marc Moss: Yeah. Well, tip over. It’s less likely that you’re going to damage yourself badly, unless you tip off her slow and the oncoming traffic doesn’t notice and they run you over.

Jim Beyer: Right. Well, fortunately, um, that has not happened yet, so Nope. And it shan’t, I hope,

Marc Moss: I hope not. Is there anything I’m going to play the same story that you liked, uh, emission from God, for folks? Is there anything about that story that, that we haven’t talked about that you want people to hear?

Jim Beyer: Uh, Hm. Well, it story was obviously not perfect, but. No, I think I got the point across. Um, yeah. And, uh, you seems like a, you get a lot of, um, I [00:13:00] got drunk and did stupid things stories on the stage, but, uh, that’s, that’s, that’s the nature of, uh, of adventures, I suppose. You’re stepped outside of your normal, um,

Jim Beyer: Oh, whatever your, your normal mental or physical condition, then stuff happens and you deal with it. So, yeah,

Marc Moss: we’re at less of those stories. I’m trying to filter those out because they’re really, really good. Um, we’ve all heard them and,

Jim Beyer: you know, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh no. The point, um, that, that. Mission from God’s story.

Jim Beyer: It was a, it was a turning point in my life. You know, one of those boy, I sure could have gotten this kind of gone really south. [00:14:00] It could’ve been really bad, so I better change my behavior. So I think you’d get a lot of those stories.

Marc Moss: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s a good story. Always has some sort of transformation of their character knowing it.

Jim Beyer: Yep.

Marc Moss: And so did you actually make that transformation right away or did it take some time?

Jim Beyer: So, well, it was fairly, fairly immediate, but, um, of course, uh, a life, half a lifetime of behavior is hard. It doesn’t happen overnight unless, you know, unless you hear from God tells you something, definitely. . So

Marc Moss: what’s your day look like?

Jim Beyer: Uh, I am helping a friend move. This is the third woman friend I’ve helped move in the last two weeks.

Jim Beyer: I think it’s becoming that. I want [00:15:00] a break.

Marc Moss: I was going to say, you need to get, get your LLC or

Jim Beyer: something, huh? Yeah. Well, no, I just carry boxes and put them in my pickup. It’s a carrying parts quite, uh, quite so comfortable as it used to be. Yeah, well, anyway,

Marc Moss: let not your truck and let them do the caring.

Jim Beyer: Yeah. Yeah. I just need to find two or three able-bodied young men. What seemed to be hard to find these days? Yeah,

Jim Beyer: alright, well you have a wonderful day of useful work. Social. I hope.

Marc Moss: Yeah. I hope so. Be safe. What’s is your legs. Yep. Yep. Yep. Appreciate you spending the time with me this morning.

Jim Beyer: You bet. I was happy to do so. All right, I’ll talk to you later. Bye.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Jim. And thank *you* for listening today.

Remember to get your tickets for the March 30 live in-person Tell Us Something storytelling event. The theme is “Stone Soup”. Seven storytellers share their true personal story live on stage without notes. Get your tickets at the Top Hat box office or online at logjampresents.com.

Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. Find them at cashforjunkersband.com

Brian Upton: one thing I’m appreciating about this conversation is that I can also set the record straight because that was, that was definitely kind of traumatic for me. , but really the defining, , Aspect of that trip was getting to meet my wife’s family and the relatives.

On the next Tell Us Something podcast, tune in to listen to Brian Upton’s story “Parting Ways with Henry Miller in Egypt,” he shared his story at a Tell Us Something event in 2015. Stick around after his story to hear his thoughts on it, about separating the art from the artist and about his experience with Tell Us Something.

Thanks to our in-kind sponsors:

 

Joyce Gibbs: Hi, it’s Joyce from Joyce of tile. If you need tile work done. Give me a shout. I specialize in custom tile installations. Learn more and see some examples of my [email protected]

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Marc Moss: was a little broadcasting company. Learn [email protected] Float Missoula. Learn [email protected] podcast production by me, Mark Moss. Remember to get your tickets for the next in-person tell us something storytelling.

I live at the Wilma on March 30th, tickets and more information at log jam, presents.com. To learn more about tell us something, please visit tell us something.org.

Free from jail at 16, Stephanie faces a corrupt system and overcomes an inept foster parent. Stephanie calls her story “The Smartest Girl in the Jail”. We also talk about her band, her podcasts, and about how things in the system don’t seem to have changed much since she was 16.

Transcript : "Smartest Girl in the Jail" - Interview with Stephanie Hohn

Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

This week on the podcast, I sit down with Stepahnie Hohn to talk about her story “The Smartest Girl in Jail”, which she told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT back in October of 2012.

Stephanie: I’ve just had unusual experiences or, you know, bad experiences that people would like to pretend aren’t something happening in their community.

So I kind of wanted to tell that just to be like, Hey, just so you know, like, this is, this is what’s happening, you know, here that’s, this is what it’s like for people.

Marc: The theme that night was “Forgiveness”.

We also talk about her band, her podcasts, and about how things in the system don’t seem to have changed much since she was 16.

Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell Us Something — to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni. We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story, and we always get to know them a little better.

Before we get to Stepanie’s story and our subsequent conversation…

We will be in-person for the first time since August 2021. We are running at 75% capacity, which allows for listeners to really spread out at The Wilma. Learn more and get your tickets at logjampresents.com

Stephanie Hohn shared her story in front of a live audience at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT on October 9th, 2012 at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT. The theme was “Forgiveness”.

Free from jail at 16, Stephanie faces a corrupt system and overcomes an inept foster parent. Stephanie calls her story “The Smartest Girl in the Jail”. Thanks for listening.

Stephanie Hohn: So, um, I got out of prison when I was 16 and I’m here to go to college. I finished two years of high school in six months because I was the smartest girl who’d ever been at that prison, which is possibly not a compliment. Um, but it’s something that the program director told me when I left. And I got out of a van with no handles on the inside.

The good food store parking lot. So I could meet my foster mom and we could have small talk for an hour and then go to my parole meeting and pretend like we met before, which worked well. I got to sit there at a table with five adults that I’d never met before, telling me all of the ways that I could go back to jail.

Most of them seem to include Maureen, not liking me or me not being able to find a job. And I came out with $5 and the clothes that I was. And I think I also maybe had chapstick, um, cause that’s what I had when I had gotten arrested and that’s what I had. And when I moved here, so worrying took me to Ross or something to pick out some clothing so that I could have something professional to wear, to try to get a job and begin paying my way as soon as possible.

Cause she didn’t want to do it. Uh, and I was sitting in the dressing room, looking at my. And I could see like, so clearly what a big hole I was in, because I didn’t know how to do any of those things. I didn’t know how to tell them what they wanted here or how to get a job, or I don’t know how to make people like me.

So I stayed in there and I cried for as long as I thought I could get away with. And then I went back out there, but eventually I, I did manage to get a job. Start going to college and all of those things. But the main problem was Maureen, because she was very unstable. Um, she’d picked me up from work. A lot of the times really smashed, tell me a bunch of strange stories and then try to take me to bars and not understand why I didn’t want to go with her and be like, no, come in don’t you want a beer?

No. Um, I’m 16 and on parole Marine, I don’t go in the bar with you. Um, and then she would cheat at pool, which is not necessary when you’re playing pool with me because I’m horrible at pool and she would still lose. And then she would try to get me to drive her car home, and I still don’t know how to drive.

And then we would go home and she would spend the entire next day in bed crying until I had to call her sister to come and take care. So it was trying to talk to my parole officer about this. And I got halfway into the story and he stops me and he looks at me and he says, Maureen is more important to us as a foster parent than you are as a kid in our program.

And if there are any problems with her and you cannot live there anymore, I’m not going to find you another placement. You can just go back. So I took that to me in, Hey, Stephanie, shut the fuck up. So I did, um, and I didn’t tell them anything else about her and it seemed like things were going okay. Um, she decided that she was going to go to AA because every time that she freaked out, it seemed like she was drinking.

So she was like, oh, maybe there’s some connection between this. Um, But when I, we were supposed to go to a movie together and she decided that she didn’t want to go or that she wanted to go out drinking with a friend from out of town. Um, she’s like, you know, I’ll pick you up after movie, just call me. Oh, good.

So you’ll be drunk then and driving you. That’s awesome. Uh, but I called her after the movie and she comes and picks me up completely smash and grabs me by the arm. Like for emphasis of shock, Stephan, Stephan, I fell in love tonight. Um, and first they used to tell me about some girl that she met at the bar that she’s going to go back and steal away from her boyfriend.

Um, no previous lesbian tendencies there, but you know, whatever. Uh, the only problem is I have to work at eight o’clock in the morning, the next day. And my work is all the way across town. So I’m a little worried. It’s like, we’re gonna, are you gonna be okay to drive me home tomorrow? Cause it’s it’s two right now.

Be to work at eight. She’s like, no, no, no, it’ll be fine. It’ll be fine. Cause there’s another lady in the sheets. Me congratulate me. She actually did the finger guns. So not, I didn’t have that. I was like, oh God, you not want to see that at all. So I wake her up the next morning they got alone and she takes me to work and it seems like it’s fine.

I mean, she’s a little drunk still, but it’s like Sunday morning. There’s no other car. She asked me what she should bring me when I’m going to get off work. So I was doing a double shift. I had to go to the other store. It was like, coffee should bring me coffee. She was like, okay, let me bring you coffee.

It seems fine. I get about halfway through my shift and I get this phone call. Um, and it’s Marine just speaking really fast. And it sounds like she’s like outside or something like the phones all crackling. And she just starts like speaking all in a rush. It’s like Stephanie, Stephanie said. I have to go see my mom.

If she go see my mom right now, I was like, like, like now, now she’s like, I don’t know. I’m on the way to the airport. I’ll call you back. Click, like looking at the phone. I’m like, yeah, I’m going to jail. I am going to jail. I’m going to fail college and get fired and I’m going to go to jail. Um, so I look at the phone for like, you know, a couple of seconds decide there’s not really anything I can do about it, but it back and go back to work.

Um, I get about halfway through. And Maureen’s boss and her best friend, Jocelyn calls me and she’s like, Hey, it’s Ryan picking you up today? It’s like, I don’t think so. She’s like, yeah, me neither because her mom just called me from Indiana. And she says that she’s there. And, um, I don’t know where her car is also the dog.

Um, so yeah. What do you want to do about that? I was like, oh, well, if you could just give me a ride to work, that would be cool. Uh, so that happens. And so about a month ago I was walking down the street and I’ve run into her and we made eye contact and then couldn’t take it back. So we had to talk to each other and she, she seemed eager in a strange way to sit down and have coffee with me.

It didn’t seem like it was coming from her. So I kind of got the impression that she was on the ninth step, but, um, I sit down and I have some coffee with her and it’s about like, I thought she starts telling me about how every night in her room, she was drinking by herself and she never mentioned it to anybody.

You know, she’d had like a history of mental problems. I was like, I’m shocked. Um, but. She she’s asking me if I could forgive her, but even as she’s saying it, she’s almost taking it back. Cause she’s like, oh, I feel like I wasn’t a very good big sister to you. I’m like, oh, I like how you’re minimizing your responsibility in this situation, even as your attempt to take some sort of responsibility.

Um,

so I mean, she seemed, she seemed to need it. So, so I gave her my forgiveness, but I don’t think that it meant anything. Um, So what actually happened was, uh, she didn’t ruin my life. She actually ruined hers because a Marine was a social worker here in town and she could no longer get a job after that here.

So she had to move in with her parents and spend five years going to nursing school, which I thought was a poor career choice for somebody like her, because. Um, people die in hospitals and I don’t know how well that would work for her, but regardless, that was her, her decision. Um, after that I was kind of my parole.

Officer’s like golden girl. He got like copies of my sat scores and my college transcripts and like put them on his wall. Like there was some child’s crayon drawings or something. And we tell everyone about what a success I was is if he had been some kind of assistance to me instead of a constant hindrance, uh, I got to sit down at those meetings with the five people that I didn’t know and be asked like, well, why didn’t you tell us, why didn’t you tell us that she was so unsealed?

I did. I told you, you told me not to tell you anything else. So I didn’t, um, and I think maybe guilt was his motivating factor for trying to be nice to me after. Uh, I ran into him a while ago and he said that he mentions my story in the talks that he gives about being a parole officer as if, you know, he played some role.

Uh, something interesting that Maureen did tell me was that I’m apparently the only person who went through that program, who didn’t go back to jail, which they recognized as not a flaw in their program. But as the rest of them being worthless criminals, and I’m the only redeemable one. But I think that when you’re constantly told that you are the disposable factor in a situation that you become, that if you’re not a stronger willed person or the smartest girl in the jail.

So, you know, I guess, I guess that’s the whole.

Marc: Stephanie Hohn, raised by wolves, is an activist, artist and traveler.

I caught up with Stephanie in July of 2020.

A quick warning for sensitive listeners, towards the end of our conversation, Stephanie describes assault with frank language.

Marc: Are you practicing via zoom with your band?

Stephanie: So my band all works at our shop aside from our singer, who is the sister of one of our band Pampers. And so we’ve been meeting in person because we already are around each other all day at work. Anyway, it’s like at that point we’re already pretty exposed.

So we might as well.

Marc: And are you performing?

Stephanie: We did some live streams when quarantine first started to happen for us, like when we were laid off from our jobs, but shelter in place hadn’t been put into effect. And then when shelter in place happened, we all took it pretty seriously. Everybody stayed home, you know, for that amount of time.

And then once, you know, The places that we were working at opened back up again, we were like, well, at this point we might have sold to start practicing it person. We are hoping to record an album this year. We have enough music for it, and we’re kind of ready to go on that front, but it’s just a matter of like that being something we can do.

Cause I don’t really know if people are doing that right now,

Marc: Matt. Oh,

Stephanie: well, that’s good to know.

Marc: I’m pretty sure. Yeah. And he’s, I’ve worked with him before. He’s

Stephanie: yeah, we, um, we’ve been working on some merchant. I’ve made some shirt designs and I’m screen printing those myself and stuff. So we’ve got like a lot of, a lot of things.

But

Marc: do you have your own screen printing setup or do you use?

Stephanie: I have my own right now. Yeah. I have used the Zack in the past and I think if I was going to do something. More complicated or, or trying to do a lot of shirts that I would probably use their setup. But, um, since we’re kind of doing like print to order, I just have a small setup and we’re doing simple designs and we just have three shirt colors, and three ink options.

And I mean, , I feel like, um, what I’ve been doing, it has actually been hand adding second color details myself, just with like a brown.

’cause you can do, you can do wet on wet with like a water-based ink. And so I’ll just do the whole, like, if it’s like a black shirt and I’m putting a white design on it and I wanted like some yellow accents, I’ll just do the whole thing in yellow and then the whole thing in white. And then I’ll go in and add the yellow on top of it by.

And I, I feel like that’s like been a good result, but that’s only for a few things. If I was trying to do a whole bunch, it probably wouldn’t be worth it.

Marc: Right. And it’s fun too.

Stephanie: If you’re just, if you’re just kinda messing around and like having fun.

Yeah, for sure. And because I, I do the t-shirt section at my job now, it’s pretty easy for me to get blank shirts at a lower cost. So it’s not like terribly expensive on our. You know, once you have all the supplies, so hopefully, yeah. Hopefully people are into it. It’s been kind of weird. Cause I haven’t felt like it’s something that I should be promoting right now.

I mean, even like thinking about live streaming or a band practices, it’s like, we know why it’s okay for us to be meeting, but that I feel like that might be hard to communicate as like setting a bad example for other people. You know,

Marc: that makes sense. But, I mean, I’ve seen all of the band members except for the one you mentioned at the shop and you know what I mean?

It makes sense that you’re allowed

Stephanie: to get together. Yeah. I mean yeah, Claris do sister, so they obviously see each other at their house. So it’s not, yeah, there’s, there’s a, there’s a point at which it’s like, I mean, if one of us got COVID at this point, we would all have to quarantine regardless.

Marc: Where can people

Stephanie: listen? I actually have it up on streaming, right? So it’s called the spooky town radio show. And it’s, it’s on like Spotify and apple podcasts and stuff it’s available there.

Marc: So anybody could subscribe to the spooky

Stephanie: town radio show. It’s all people from. Yeah, just voice actors from here in town.

And all the fully sound effects are things that we made ourselves for the most part. So, you know, when you hear like a door shutting or whatever, those are all real sounds that we recorded to

Marc: that’s fun. Do you find yourself watching around when you are out and about recording? I’ve

Stephanie: tried a few things.

Usually there’s like a specific sound effect that I want to use. And I’ll try to like, write a scene around that. Like if I, if I get a really good like door creaking noise or something like that I also recently have come across a. Some like, you know, compilations of different sound effects for like cheesy horror movie things.

So I’ve been using that to add like background music to scenes. But a lot of it, , there’ll be like, like a dun dun duh, on a piano. And like most of the time, like we’ve actually recorded that on the piano or, you know, something like that. Right.

Marc: Yep. I mean, I I’ve started since I’ve started editing audio, I paid attention to sound more and like, Walking across a wooden floor.

That’s like a deck, a wooden deck in your bare feet versus walking across the same floor and a pair of Dansko shoes versus walking upon across the same floor in a pair of combat boots. You know, like the sound is different, even performing the same activity. And I, I think it’s fun to play with. A sense of place

Stephanie: using sound.

Yeah, we haven’t done this as much yet, but we’re hoping later to maybe go to locations and just record a lot of ambient noises to use those like background noise for different scenes, like so that if, if people are in like a convenience store to just go and record some sound in a convenience store or something, and just use that as some, as some like flavor.

But we’ll, we’ll see, like what is available it’s so it’s, it’s a horror comedy podcast. It’s based loosely off of a role-playing game called monster hearts, but

Marc: pretty nerdy

Stephanie: stuff, stuff. Yeah. I’ve been, I’ve been doing a lot of role playing games. Um, I had a D and D group for a little while that was, uh, Doing discord games and everything.

Well, both things were shut down. So we were still calling each other and doing stuff. I recently wrote a little tabletop game where you play as a shop cat.

Marc: Um, uh, are the cats in the game named after the shop? The

Stephanie: shop. As S as illustrative examples. Yeah, it’s, it’s called perfect crimes with the P P U R O

I feel like I I’ve had a little bit more time to explore like those weird little creative projects. I learned how to, sew I’ve been working on that which is something I always was interested in making clothes, but I never, you know, really sat down and like really tried to make myself do it.

Because there’s just, yeah, there’s not like. At least I don’t feel comfortable, you know, going out and doing activities that much for right now. Yeah. I’m trying, I’m trying to minimize the number of like places I’m going and things that I’m doing. And then I just have a few things, like, you know, having band practice, because I feel like.

Those are reasonable, but yeah, I’m, I’m really, I haven’t been to a restaurant. I’m probably not going to one for, you know, the rest of this year.

Marc: Right? Exactly.

Stephanie: I’m really surprised at how people are just, you know, not, not wearing masks. Not really. It seems like they just got sick of taking precautions and or if they ever did it in the first place, you know?

Marc: Right. Well, we’ll see how this winter goes. I think it’s going to be pretty, pretty brutal.

Stephanie: I. At the beginning of the year, I had signed up for a CSA share. And so I just started getting that. But I remember like when we were having, you know, some grocery store shortages and stuff, like thinking about how good it was that I signed up for that, cause it’s just a local farm.

There’s no supply chain issues at all. They’re like, you know, and it was already paid for and they were doing just fine as, you know, a small group of people on their farm. So maybe, you know, considerations like that will make people kind of pivot to more local options.

Marc: You told your story in the first year of telephoning, it was October 9th,

Stephanie: 2012. It’s definitely a long time.

Marc: It’s been a long time and that was the same night. The former owner of the top hat said goodnight and goodbye to essentially her dad. So that’s how long ago it was.

It was before the remodel. It was still a dive bar. What was that experience like for you?

Stephanie: Well I think, I mean, if you’ve listened to it, I think you can tell that I was pretty nervous. I was, you know, I was pretty young also at that time and I just had a lot of like stage, right. I was in college at the time and I guess I still have this experience, but I have it a lot.

Or I had it a lot. Then when I was talking to people my own age, that like everybody’s life experiences were so different from mine, that when I would tell stories about my life, people would legitimately like not believe me, or would think that that sounded like fake and made up. And I, I honestly. I feel like that still does happen because I’ve just had unusual experiences or, you know, bad experiences that people would like to pretend aren’t something happening in their community.

So I kind of wanted to tell that just to be like, Hey, just so you know, like, this is, this is what’s happening, you know, here that’s, this is what it’s like for people.

Marc: Yeah. I mean, I thought that’s was the power of your story. People have. Perception of our town as being liberal and we take care of everybody.

And, but no, I mean, people are expendable in the eyes of the system and you certainly were. I mean, I think that somebody in your, you even said in your story, like somebody told you, like, I’m not going to try to place you in. If Maureen disappears, you’re going right back to jail.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. His name was Brett Gordon and his, his wife was my assigned therapist, so there was no real and I was required to go to therapy.

So it’s like there was no real confidentiality which is one of the things that I think about now when people are wanting to kind of pivot more towards a more social workers and away from police is how intertwined those systems are for us. Social workers and cops who were canned in hand. I I’ve had, you know, some pretty bad experiences with caseworkers when I was a kid too.

So I don’t know if that’s like 100% going to solve all of our inequality issues.

Marc: I wonder if better training would be helpful with that

Stephanie: too, or, or them. Not as, as a meshed into the system. I mean, the main, the main issue in Montana is funding. We have some of the highest, like reported cases of child abuse of like any state it’s very high here and we have some of the lowest funding.

And so there just aren’t enough places for kids to go if they’re in dangerous situations. And so the. Wants to place people back with their parents, if they can justify it at all. And the number of people that I was in group homes with, or that, or that I was in, in prison with, who went back to households that were very, very clearly unsafe and were causing a lot of the problems that were supposed to be addressed by incarceration, you know, it was ridiculous.

Marc: One of the things that you did in your story that was so heartbreaking and beautiful and kind towards the end, when you were talking about, and you didn’t name the guy, but they just named it now, but you said that he talks about you and his programs and the T know as your sort of success story. And you said that as if he had any role in that and all of the rest of the.

People in the program all went back to jail and you were the only one who didn’t. And that the beautiful thing that you did was you said, you know, something about they didn’t have self enough self-awareness and then this is these, aren’t the words that you used, but they didn’t have enough self-awareness to think that maybe there was a problem with their program and it wasn’t the girls and the fact that you were just giving that love to.

Even just in that little tiny sentence was so cool.

Stephanie: Well, some of the, some of the people that I think about the most well, , if we’re talking about, you know, systemic inequality, at least half of the, of the girls that I was in prison with were native American and they’re not half the population.

And there there’s a reason for that. And it’s because of the. That things are covered on reservations. Reservations are not legally part of the state. They are part of our country, but they don’t have to abide by state laws, which means that federal law enforcement and tribal police are the only people who are able to help with issues on the reservation.

So if you get in trouble and you’re from the reservation, it’s immediately a federal. So the level, the level of incarceration that they experienced when there are problems is extremely high,

Marc: that’s so messed up.

Stephanie: And there was one girl I remember who was very clearly mentally ill. Like she had schizophrenia, she had like hallucinations that she would respond to like visual and auditory hallucinations, and she was repeatedly. Getting put in jail. I think when I was there, she was 15 and she had been there three times already.

And it was for things like minor drug offenses non-violent things when, obviously what she needed was mental health help. And instead they just kept putting her back into her household, uh, which had a lot of its own dysfunctions. And that’s, that’s just going to, or as far as I know, that was her second.

You know, the whole rest of her life when she was at least a teenager is just being on parole, getting a parole violation for some minor offense, going back to jail over and over and over again, when really what she needed was, you know, mental health support.

Marc: Yeah. I mean, that’s, I think that’s been the case for decades, right? Yeah.

You did some nervous, but you also sounded like I need you to hear this. Like that was sort of the attitude. It sounded like you were confident in that way.

Like, and you told the story in such a compelling way. And I was. So I’m still so grateful that you wanted to share it.

Stephanie: So I’m not in college now, but w when I was going to school, I wanted to do creative writing and I feel like people always wanted me to do memoir. And then also when I did it, I sort of felt like, I dunno, like a, like an object.

To them, because it’s like the things that I was was trying, the stories that I was trying to tell them were so out of the norm for them, that it didn’t, it seemed like affection. It didn’t seem like a real story that had really happened to them. Um, but I’ve been trying to work on doing that more just because of, you know, thinking about some of the different people that I was around.

Who probably never, were able to either get out of that cycle or have never , been able to tell their story because it was too hard for them to say, you know, so I don’t know but that’s hard work because it’s just, it’s upsetting, you know?

I’ve always been more interested in like speculative fiction because it’s easier for me to do, but I kind of feel like people, I don’t know, I probably have stories that it would be good for people to hear.

At the same time. So I’ve been, I’ve been trying to do more of that kind of stuff.

Marc: Beyond the nervousness of telling your story, was there anything afterwards after that event was over, did you have any buddy come up to you and say anything?

Um,

Stephanie: there was one lady, like right after I got off stage, who I think said something to me along the lines of, oh, I always wonder it’s like what, what the deal with you was? Or like, something like that. So it kind of sounded like she’d seen me around town and like noticed me or thought I was weird or something was just wondering like what, who that person is.

I found kind of like a strange comment. I was like, I don’t really know how to respond to that, but

I imagined that sh that, that, like, it made her confront whatever assumption she’d made about me. And she was like, oh, I’ve learned something. But it, I, I definitely took it as like, oh, I’ve seen you as a local weird. And I was wondering like, why is that girl dressed like that or whatever? Yeah, I definitely, I remember that one specifically.

I think that I had maybe one other person recognized me, , and like want to be my friend after that, but it was like, It was kind of a, it was kind of an odd individuals. I don’t think that really went anywhere, but well, and I don’t know, cause I, because I was a minor when all of this happened my record has been expunged and so I, I guess I.

I am open about that with people that I know well, but it’s not necessarily something that I like would open up with talking to people, like normally like on like a day-to-day basis. I’m not like, by the way I was in prison when I was a kid, like but it’s something that is definitely really present in my mind with political issues.

Like I do. I don’t know. I do consider myself. To be an ex-con, even though that’s not how I think most people perceive me or what they are that they think about that. And so I, I definitely like it’s, it’s impacted the way that I like think about all of those issues and probably will for like the rest of my life.

Marc: Sure.

Stephanie: . I mean , our whole outlook towards imprisonment I think has, has gotten worse over time for sure.

And I think. I think, I mean, hopefully, you know, this moment that we’re in right now, when people are looking at the role of police, I think the natural next step is to look at the role of prisons and to, to ask if like they’re accomplishing the goals that we claim we want them to accomplish. Um, because I think it’s at least from my experience, I don’t think anyone was helped by.

You know, I don’t, I don’t think that most of the girls that were there were truly a danger to the community. I think that they needed, they were people who were at risk at, in their homes and they didn’t have another place to put them there. Wasn’t another option for them. And that’s the say nothing of the situation, you know, of boys.

Way worse. I mean, the, in Montana, the, unless things have changed since then, they very well could have, it’s been quite awhile, but Riverside in Boulder is the girl’s prison here in Montana. And it can only hold about 20 girls, pine Hills as the boys. And it can hold 120 boys. So I’m sure that their situation is worse.

Yeah. From what I’ve heard, it’s much more violent there. So yeah, I mean, you’re taking people out of an abusive situation and putting them into a much more abusive situation. How is that going to help them improve their behavior? It’s only going to make them more likely to respond to threats with violence because that’s, those are the only tools that have.

I mean if, what we actually wanted to do, if we’re like, oh, , I’m concerned that these children are committing crimes in the community. I’ll just give you some examples of some of the, some of the crimes that people were were in there for that I personally knew there was a girl who was in there for check fraud because her mother had abandoned her and their other siblings for a second.

And so they had just, they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t have anyone else to contact. So they were just writing checks to the grocery store and I’m sure for also frivolous things, but they were writing checks off of her bank account. And when her mom finally showed back up, she decided that she wanted that money back.

So she reported her daughter for this crime so that she could get, you know, restitution fees from that. And when she was done with her stay in prison, that girl was put right back.

Is that like, it’s not a real stuff. That’s true

Marc: in time of COVID, you know, sometimes the safest place for kids is in school and now they can’t go to school and they’re forced to be with their abusers for the entire.

Stephanie: Yeah. And they’re, they’re not able to receive, you know, if they’re a part of a school lunch program that’s gone now. I mean, the, the food bank has definitely been, you know, doing their best and working over time. But I definitely, when I was a kid, I had to steal food from the grocery store because my parents weren’t feeding.

Marc: That shouldn’t you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t end up in jail for that.

Stephanie: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s the problem is the problem there that something was stolen from the store or is the problem there that a 12 year old felt like they, that was the only way for them to get through.

I think it’s just easier for people to, to like, feel sympathy for younger kids, because when like a five-year-old acts out, everyone’s like pretty sure that it’s not their fault or at least like, they’re like, well, there’s probably problems at home. But when like a 14 year old is acting out, then people kind of are like annoyed by it.

And they feel like maybe this is just a bad kid. I don’t think we give kids enough, like leeway as they get older to understand that like they don’t have control of their situation. And that’s why they’re acting like that. Like when you see a, like a toddler screaming in the store, your first response is to think that like, oh, they’re over tired.

You know, whatever they, like, they don’t have control over their life. They’ve been pushed to a point that they’re acting like this, but we don’t, you know, we don’t give teenagers that same breathing room or that same like sympathy.

Marc: I see teenagers coming into the store and acting out. How do you respond to that?

Stephanie: I mean, I guess I haven’t really. Too many, like teenagers acting out in the store, there are definitely some kids shoplifting and I’ll just be really straight with them about it, where I’m like, I see what you’re doing. , I know what this looks like, and , I need you to stop doing this. That’s pretty much what I do cause I don’t have the ability to do too much more, but.

I had a, I saw a lot more of that kind of stuff. I used to work overnights at a gas station and there would be neighborhood kids that would try to come into the store and hang out, you know, at like midnight bunch of 12 year olds want to hang out in the gas station and mess around. And there was one girl in particular who would try to go up to cars outside and see.

Th they could get money from people just ask like people who were stopping to get gas, if they would give her a few dollars. And, and her, I did pull aside and I was like, do you realize how close we are to the interstate? And that no one knows where you are and that , somebody could, grab you.

If you’re out here at midnight, they know that there’s nobody paying attention to you. Do you realize how fast you would be gone? You need to seriously consider the danger that you’re putting yourself in right now.

Marc: What does she say?

Stephanie: She kind of like scoffed, you know, I think because when you’re in a survival situation, you’re like, well, I know this is dangerous, but this is, what I need right now.

But I didn’t see her doing it again, at least when I was working there. So hopefully she found some better options, but I was like, I, I know that there isn’t help for you. If I call the police, they’re not going to help that person. I don’t think there’s any community support for that person. She’s going to have to figure out how to help herself.

So I don’t know. Usually I just kind of, yeah. I mean, I don’t really think there’s anybody who can help those kids. I don’t know who to direct them to. I’ll I’ll I can do is like give them personal advice.

Marc: Do you ever weigh in with any of these opinions at places like. City council meetings or when they asked for public comment, you can type up an email or whatever and say, look, this has been my experience.

Or do you think that’s just not, it’s not worth it.

Stephanie: I guess I haven’t. I mean, I don’t really,

I don’t really know, like the. The, the, like the first issue is funding. For sure. We do not fund these services, you know, and people are happy to donate to like the Watson children’s home because it’s it’s children. But as you get older, they’re less inclined to want to help you. One of the big problems with finding placements for kids that have already been in trouble is that there are a lot harsher requirements to foster.

A kid that’s been in jail. You can’t have any other children in the home, for example. And I think it’s called something different. I, I think when I was doing it, it was called guide homes, but it might be different, but there, yeah, there aren’t like, there aren’t an adequate number of foster parents.

There’s not an adequate amount of funding for group homes. There’s like a lot more drug rehabs than there are any other types of shelters. Like every time. I got in trouble because I would say because I had an abusive home life, the, the amount of times that the cops were called to our house, because there was like physical fighting going on was probably dozens of times.

And I would just temporarily, you know, be in a group home for a little bit. And then they’d put me back with my mom and it just happened over and over again until eventually things escalated to a point. They put me in jail. And every one of those incidences, in my opinion, was a self-defense situation for me, where I did not initiate the physical altercation.

But in the state of Montana, it’s not illegal to hit your child with an open. That’s considered corporal punishment and it’s legal. So if your parents are like slapping you in the face and you hit them back, you did not defend yourself. That’s assault

as, as a really absurd example. Uh, one time I was being fish hooked, like I, my mom was dragging me across the floor by my face, and I bit her thumb because it was in my mouth and I got a ticket for my.

I got an assault ticket for doing that and it’s like, I was being assaulted when that happened. So I like, I really feel like the whole, the whole system, you know, is so. It’s so messed up that I don’t really, I mean, you’d have, you’d have to completely

restructure.

Yeah. And people would have to consider it a priority and they’d have to, you know, I, I think that would be definitely like a step once people started considering, you know, their, their opinion toward incarceration injury. But yeah, I mean, there, there are whole towns, like deer lodge that are just based off of their prison.

That’s what everybody in that town does. So like that’s where all of their income comes from. So where are those people going to really question like their only source of income or is it easier for them to just decide that everybody who’s in that jail now

is there in Ohio? That’s how he feels. If you’re in prison, you did something to deserve to be there.

And I’m just like, dad, that is not true. You know?

Well, like 100% of people in jail definitely didn’t do it. Like that’s. I mean, even if you just like, think about regular statistics of anything, 100% of something, it’s not, it can’t possibly be. There’s, there’s gotta be at least one person, not one little outlier who didn’t do it. And it’s, it’s exponentially more than one person.

But even if we agree that the, every person who’s in prison committed the crime that they’re in prison for, we still, if our goal is to, to have people who have committed crimes reintegrate into society. And, and like be normal, productive members of it. We are not achieving that.

Marc: And so what’s the answer we don’t have.

I mean, there’s, we can’t solve this now. You and I can’t anyway, you know?

Stephanie: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m I mean, hopefully as people start to consider what role does. Should have in our society that they can also then look at like what role prison should have, because if you, if you don’t have police arresting as many people you’re still gonna have in your community, there are going to be people that are committing crimes,

There already are people that commit crimes that there really aren’t any consequences for. I mean, you know, sexual assault is the first thing that comes to my mind as far as people who, I mean, I know I can think of like probably five or six people just in the community, off the top of my head that have never received any, you know, any justice.

Marc: Yeah. And then that’s a whole new conversation to talk about why people don’t report and when they do report the victim blaming that happens and the retraumatization of the person who reports.

Stephanie: Yeah. The, the lack of testing, like the really low, like amount of punishment that people receive, even if they are convicted.

Yeah, I mean a whole, a whole other bag of worms, but there I, yeah, I don’t think that I don’t think that the police are effective at their stated goal. And I don’t even know if those goals need to be achieved, but we would have to build. Whole other institutions to deal with these issues and it could be done, but people would have to want to do it like collectively, that would have to be a priority for everyone to think.

Okay. When there’s a homeless guy on my property, you know, Spain gin for money, I want him to leave, but I don’t want to call the cops. Who do I. You know, and there are like homeless outreach things, but they don’t have very much funding. So we would have to, we would have to want to help, you know, the prov relo increase their staff so that they’d have somebody to come do that we would have to increase what shelters, so that people who had been drinking would have a place to sleep, regardless, you know, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Each one of these things, you know, there are other systems. That could probably more effectively help them, but we would have to prioritize doing that. Cause the, I mean, every, every situation, every dangerous situation is, is a cop, the correct person to come deal with this, or could somebody else do a better

Marc: job, somebody with different and better training for the state of situation.

Stephanie: Yeah, you shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t be getting the same person to come take care of a dangerous dog in your yard that you would call. If you were sexually assaulted, that you would call, if there’s a homeless guy that you would call, if your house got broken into, those are not the same problems and they can’t all be solved by the same tool.

Marc: is there anything else that you want to say about your story before we.

Stephanie: Um, well, if people like it, I’m, I’m glad that they heard that. I would say that I was an outlier, at least as far as my like, ability to like react the way that they want you to, to that situation. Cause I, I think a lot of people, if they were suddenly left on their own, you know, as. I don’t think they would just keep going to work.

Right. Which is what I did. They would probably freak out and, and it definitely occurred to me like, well, I’ve been told that if this, if there’s any problem, I’ll just go back to jail. So now that there’s been a problem, like I think a lot of people would just freak out at that point. Cause they already know that no one’s going to help them.

That’s been their experience that no one will help them. So I’m not, I’m not surprised that all the other people that they put in that situation had a bad outcome. Like they were set up to have that bad outcome. And I don’t really know that that situation has changed to my, to my knowledge. There hasn’t been, you know, any changes to those programs, but.

Marc: Most people would freak out in the same circumstance. How did you not freak out? How did you keep moving forward?

Stephanie: Well, I mean, I have really, I don’t, I don’t know if I want to say that I haven’t respected authority, but I like from the, like, I didn’t have babysitters after I was four. And so for the majority of my life, I’ve been pretty responsible.

My own safety and, you know, taking care of whatever I needed to do on my own. And so I think that like, that’s always been, my approach is like I have to solve this problem. Without generally thinking that like an adult would help me or I should be asking for permission from somebody. That was just my default.

And so it didn’t really occur to me at the time. You know, to tell anybody about what was going on or to ask somebody about it. I just continued to do what I’d been doing, because that was already the plan that I had in place. And I was like, well, I have no control over what she does or what they do about this.

But maybe if I just like continue doing what I’m doing. Everything won’t totally fall apart. Or if they do decide to like, put me back in jail, at least maybe like my boss will still give me a good recommendation or something like that. I don’t know. I like, I didn’t, I was like, I don’t have control over what they do.

So I’m just going to keep, keep doing what my original plan was and hopefully it’ll work out. But I got told that things, that I was the plants that I was making, weren’t going to work out and. I like basically made them work out through force of will, like over and over in the course of being in the system.

So I think I was kind of used to that being the outcome. When I first went to Riverside, which is the girls jail, their plan was that when I was done being there, that I would go back to living with my mom and that I would go back to high school and. Just with like the amount that, that situation had escalated over the last couple of years, I was like, if I go back to living there, like someone’s going to die.

Like it’s getting to the point where I feel like it’s going to like go somewhere really bad. So I was like, I can’t, I can’t do it. I can’t go back there. So what do I need to do to not go back? So I stopped communicating with my parents about. I yeah. At 16, I was like, I’m not going to, if I like refuse to have a relationship with her and I refused to talk to her and I’m extremely uncooperative with that, they’ll have to find, you know, their placement.

And then I basically did a year and a half of schoolwork while I was there so that I could graduate. And they told me from the beginning were like, you’re not going to be able to get enough credits to graduate. And. You’re you’re going to have to go back with my mom. Neither one of those things happened because I like made them not happen.

So I don’t know. I think like you just have to, whatever, like your goal is, like, you just have to focus on that above what anyone else is telling you, because. They’re probably they’re wrong if you like, if you dedicate everything towards one thing you can accomplish, I’m Stephanie

Marc: Hall and everybody

thank you so much for spending the time with me this afternoon.

Stephanie: Yeah, I have a band. I have a radio drama. I have a podcast where I review horse books. Yeah,

it’s called pasture med time.

Marc: Um, man, I love that about you, that you like puns as much as I do.

Stephanie: Well, my, my friend Melanie is a, is a big horse book fan. She’s been a horse girl, her whole life. And I am not a horse girl. Although now people think that I am because I have this and they send me horse things, but essentially she has all of her childhood horse books, like the things that she was reading when she was like nine, and then I read them and.

I’m like, Melanie, did you realize this book is just about domestic violence? She’s like now what?

Marc: I was just, I’m just going to subscribe as soon as we hang up, I want to be present with you right now, but I’m out to pasture. What does

Stephanie: that, is that what it’s past your bedtime, past your

Marc: bedtime. So their horse, their children’s horse bedtimes. That you, you deconstruct them.

Stephanie: Yeah. I just read the last the last season we read the full unicorns of ballon or series, and now we’re doing some like one shot horse books.

We also did a one episode on black lives matter and the protest horses, there’s been a lot of people that have been bringing their horses to protest.

The Compton Cowboys. There’s the fleet street writers’ club there’s nonstop writers in Houston and, um, Brianna noble, who I think a lot of people have seen pictures of her in Oakland with her, her horse Dapper Dan, I think the most interesting thing about all of those is like the immense level of training that an animal like that would require to be in a.

Every one of those people that you see bringing their horses to a protest, just like put in so much work and time for them to be able to be in that environment. It’s really impressive.

Marc: Thank you, Stephanie. I will talk to you again soon. I hope and stay safe out there.

Stephanie: I’ve just had unusual experiences or, you know, bad experiences that people would like to pretend aren’t something happening in their community.

So I kind of wanted to tell that just to be like, Hey, just so you know, like, this is, this is what’s happening, you know, here that’s, this is what it’s like for people.

Marc: Thanks, Stephanie. And thank *you* for listening today.

Though I was unable to find the podcasts that Stephanie hosts, for links to some of the podcasts she mentions in our conversation, head over to tellussomething.org

Next week, I catch up with Jim Beyer

Jim Beyer: Oh, it was the Sturgis adventure. Yes.

Marc: “Message from God”.

Jim: “Message from God.” Yeah. Yeah, because I practiced that for a week. while driving around Montana, I just tell it to myself over and over and over again so that it, , would be, um, shortened and, um, , yeah, nearer to perfect. So.”

Marc: Tune in for his story, and our conversation, on the next Tell Us Something podcast.

Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. Find them at cashforjunkersband.com

I am so excited to tell you that the next in-person Tell Us Something storytelling event will be March 30 at The Wilma.

The theme is “Stone Soup”. 7 storytellers will share their true personal story without notes on the theme “Stone Soup”.

We are running at 75% capacity, which allows for listeners to really spread out at The Wilma. Learn more and get your tickets at logjampresents.com

Thanks to our in-kind sponsors:

Joyce Gibbs: Hi, it’s Joyce from Joy!ce of Tile. If you need tile work done, give me a shout. I specialize in custom tile installations. Learn more and see some examples of my work at joyceoftile.com.

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Missoula Broadcasting Company including the family of ESPN radio, The Trail 103.3, Jack FM and my favorite place to find a dance party while driving U104.5

Float Missoula. Learn more at float m-s-l-a.com.

And Missoulaevents.net

Podcast production by me, Marc Moss.

To learn more about Tell Us Something, please visit tellussomething.org.

Jeremy N. Smith and I chat about his story “Always, Only, At Least", which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT back in October 2014. The theme that night was “The Things We Carry”. We also talk about podcasting, some of the podcasts that he hosts and co-hosts, storytelling, and being in service of others. I caught up with Jeremy in August of 2020.

Transcript : Interview with Jeremy N. Smith

Marc: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

This week on the podcast, Jeremy N Smith and I chat about his story “Always, Only, At Least, which he told live onstage at The Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT back in October 2014.

Jeremy: Always start the onions before the garlic and the Sauter will ruin it only use parmigiano Reggiano cheese, not just something called Parmesan. You know? So, uh, the zucchini, at least 30 minutes to remove any impurities before trying to use the zucchini.

Marc: The theme that night was “The Things We Carry”.

We also talk about podcasting, some of the podcasts that he hosts and co-hosts, storytelling and being in service of others.

Jeremy: You know, if it’s a trick with Marcella Hazan and I’m like, I’m going to make the sauce and it’s going to take me a while. Why don’t you guys make the pasta? The good thing. If you’ve got a couple that’s visiting, if they’re engaged, see if they can make pasta from scratch together. It’s a really good relationship, test.

Marc: Thank you for joining me as I take you behind the scenes at Tell Us Something — to meet the storytellers behind the stories. In each episode, I sit down with a Tell Us Something storyteller alumni.

Jeremy: If you’re in your own head down on yourself and someone can somehow put you to work, it’s just hard to stay in your feelings when you’re busy and when you’re bodily busy. And when you have a responsibility. To these other people.

Marc: We chat about what they’ve been up to lately and about their experience sharing their story live on stage. Sometimes we get extra details about their story, and we always get to know them a little better.
We will be in person for the first time, since August, 2021, we’re running at 75% capacity, which allows for listeners to really spread out at the Wilma.

Learn more and get your [email protected]

Last year, and in 2020 when I was cutting these interviews together, the format was that I would play the interview, then play the storyteller’s story.

Jeremy, never having heard the new version of the Tell Us Something podcast, assumed that the order was the opposite — that I would play the story first, and then play the interview.

As I’ve been thinking about our conversation, I wonder if he’s right. So I decided to try it that way.

Jeremy shared his story in front of a live audience at the Top Hat Lounge in Missoula, MT on October 9th, 2014. The theme was “The Things We Carry”.

Finally arriving in London to be with his girlfriend after a long-distance relationship, Jeremy instead takes the train to Amsterdam for an extravagant formal dinner. Over the course of the next year he cooks all over the world, memorizing portions of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Jeremy calls his story “Always, Only, At Least”. Thanks for listening.

Jeremy: I traveled in Europe for a year after I graduated from college. And when I left to go on that trip, I had a backpack that I put two pairs of pants, two shirts, socks, underwear, toothbrush, and a tuxedo because my mother told me you’re going to Oxford. And in Oxford, there are balls and two balls. One must wear a tuxedo.

And she was right of all the places I was going. I was aimed toward Oxford because my girlfriend had just a few months earlier, won a Rhodes scholarship, which is one of the top academic awards. You can get like 30 people in the country, get it of all graduating seniors in college. And it pays for three years of graduate school at Oxford, all expenses.

And so I had scrambled after she won that we had dated long distance. We were not at the same college. We were thousands of miles apart. And we had dated long distance for four years. And I didn’t want to stay long distance for seven years. So I just applied to anything and everything I could to get across the ocean.

And I got a crazy scholarship. You won’t believe it, but it paid me to travel in Europe for. Poor me poor me. Uh, there were requirements. I was not allowed to have a job or enroll in any institution of formal study.

So, uh, I land in London, look it up. Henry Russell Shaw fellowship. It was on my business card. Okay. Uh, I land in London. I take a bus to Oxford. I get there. She greets me and she says, you know, I don’t think we should live together. Uh, you know, I don’t, I don’t think we should necessarily like see each other that often, uh, you know, we’ve done the long distance thing for so long.

It’s just a lot to go from, from almost nothing to everything. Okay. Um, And I checked my email the next day. And I get a message from my friend, Paul, who has just been fired from his job and a.com in San Francisco. And he is cell celebrating. Or if you, if you call it that he’s using an entire severance package to throw a formal dinner party in Amsterdam,

My mother is a genius black tie.

I take the train across England through the channel tunnel, into France, Belgium Amsterdam, 24 hours later. The entire time, of course, I’ve warned my tuxedo because you know, you don’t want it to wrinkle. And I get there. Paul’s at the train station. On one of those big Dutch bikes, he says, get on the back James Bond, we ride to his apartment and his apartment, the apartment of a friend he was crashing in and it is filled with like Noah’s Ark worth of food.

It’s just every fancy, amazing cheese meat, vegetable of every color, shape, size, whatever. And it’s like five hours till till dinner. And he says, you’re making this, this, this, and this. And he’s bookmarked the pages in a book. I have never cooked in my life and I start looking. It’s a book I’ve never read a cookbook.

It says essentials of classic Italian cooking by Marcela Hassan. It’s got like a white haired lady with a wooden spoon on the sort of side. Uh, and I start reading and these three words, uh, it says. Only at least all the time in this book always start the onions before the garlic and the Sauter will ruin it only use parmigiano Reggiano, cheese, not just something called Parmesan, you know, S uh, soak the Q a the zucchini at least 30 minutes to remove any impurities before, before you’re trying to use a zucchini for anything.

Okay. So recipe one is like a story. Finn spinach pasta with the ricotta cheese ham. There’s like not somewhere, uh, chard and it’s 10 pages long. The recipe. Well, Paul’s, I turn around Paul’s chopping, dicing, cooking, baking, whatever. Okay. So it’s a step. Make the pasta refer, you know, 30 pages. There’s 30 pages of in a different chapter, how to make the pasta.

And it’s like make the pasta. I mean, it’s like the star with the spinach you get, I’m literally elbow deep with flour in just a few minutes. Okay. Beating the eggs in and time passes. I’m immersed. People start coming in. Beers are cracked. Backs are slapped. People are calling me shifts. I’ve got a, you know, an apron over my tuxedo and I’m cooking this, that and the other and it’s proceeding.

And it’s amazing. And at the very end, this dish is like, like a Yule log or something. And it’s, it’s wrapped in cheese cloth at the very end, this pasta that’s been stuffed with all these things. And then that’s like dropped like Jacques Cousteau into this boiling water. And we took it up and, you know, it’s midnight when it’s unfurled and the steam and the cheers and I’m with friends and it’s a transformative moment.

And I, I go back the next day, party’s over and I get there and my check-in with my girlfriend and she feels the same way she felt before my transformative moment. She has not had a transformative moment and. So, okay. I’ve got this belt. I’m actually going to travel on my traveling fellowship and I hang up my tuxedo in her closet and I take my backpack with my shirts and pants and shorts and toothbrush.

And I go to the bookstore and I get S essentials of classic Italian cooking by Marcela Hassan. And I started carrying that instead of the tuxedo. I go to France and I’m, you know, baking zucchini and I go to Italy and I’m making pizzas and, you know, spaghetti, carbon are, I, you know, spend a, like I meant to spend a week.

The ferry gets wrecked with bad weather and I’m S I’m stuck in the island of San Tarini, the Southern most island of the Ajai at sea for like three extra weeks with like three Argentenians where the only tourists on the island. I’m making like Osso Buco and, uh, and I’m telling stories from our Chella has essentially of classic Italian cooking by Marcela hands-on and telling people why they should never use a garlic press and how, you know, if you don’t have Canton, you know, imported San Marzano tomatoes, who are you and a year passes in this fashion.

And I, at the end, And now I have a long distance relationship and we are very good at a long distance relationship. And at the end of this summer that I’ve been home, we’ve been doing the email. Okay, I’m going to go back. It’s going to work. We’ve been fools. We’re great together. I get a one-way, we’re going to get an apartment together in Oxford.

She’s moving into the dorms. I get a one-way ticket and I fly across with my back. And I get there and I land in London, I take the bus and I get out and she greets me and she says, you know, I don’t think this is a very good idea.

So I say, well, you’re splitting the ticket home with me and putting our money together. We find a ticket. That’s like the first ticket we can afford is in a week. And I have a week in her apartment. Uh, she goes to class, I watch TV, you know, Breed and I cook and I’ve got all the time in the world, you know, I want an eggplant Parmesan sandwich.

Okay. You know, it’s six o’clock in the morning. It’s six o’clock at night. You know, I just, I take the eggplant, you know, I salted bread, you know, saute it. I’m chopping the tomatoes. I’m getting the right cheeses, you know, it’s midnight. Okay. I got that. It’s pulling out of the oven. Okay. Now I gotta make the bread.

Cause I want to say. You know, I get the olive oil, I get the flour, you know, always only, at least kind flower, of course. Uh, and I make the bread and, you know, at six in the morning, I gotta let it cool. You know, at least half an hour. And you know, I slice it, I eat it while watching television. It takes five minutes and then I’m like, oh, what am I going to for dessert?

And that’s the next 12 hours. So my girlfriend comes in last. And I pull in like an olive oil bread, whole wheat, olive oil bread out of the oven. And she goes, Ooh, warm bread. You know, and she cuts it and puts butter on it. You’re supposed to let it sit at at least half an hour. Uh, but. But she doesn’t know that she doesn’t do it.

And I watched the butter melt and I could say that that was my, my heart. Right. Um, and you know, that’s not true because here I am 13 years later, but it, you know, it felt like that at the time. So, uh,

you know, you can lose your backpack. And you can outgrow your tuxedo and you can even have a cookbook that gets kinda warned to shreds, and you can’t use that too much anymore, but, you know, I knew those recipes now. I had them with me. I’d had spent a year cooking them over and over and over and I could make them for new friends.

I could make them for new girlfriends. I can make them for my eventual wife and now for our four year old daughter. And, you know, I think those are the most precious things. We carry the ones that, that are, you know, no one can take with us because we know them by heart. And I think they’re the most delicious ones as well.

Thank you.

Marc: Jeremy N. Smith is a journalist, podcaster, and author of three acclaimed narrative non-fiction books: Breaking and Entering, Epic Measures, and Growing a Garden City.

Jeremy has written for many outlets including The Atlantic, Discover, Slate, and the New York Times.

He hosts the podcasts The Hacker Next Door, Stimulus & Response (with high performance coach Damon Valentino), and You Must Know Everything (with his daughter Rasa). Jeremy speaks frequently before diverse national audiences

A graduate of Harvard College and the University of Montana, Jeremy lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife and daughter.

I caught up with Jeremy in August of 2020.

Marc: Hey Jeremy.

Jeremy: Hey Marc.

Marc: Hey, how you doing?

Jeremy: I’m all right. How are you?

Marc: I’m surviving.

Jeremy: Well, now you’re just getting all braggy on me.

Marc: Editing out my laughter because it sounds so dumb on the podcast.

Jeremy: I think you’re overthinking. I think, it should be your new income stream. You should pay people to add in laughter you know, like, well, what do I want to do? I want to say these, I want to say these jokes and you do laugh. And then, you know, the listener is just like, yeah, I guess, guess it wasn’t funny. Keep the laugh. What is car talk? Do you listen to people? Listen to car talk for 30 years because of the card rights or because they just liked the way the guys laugh.

Marc: Oh, that’s true. No, I think part of it is tell me what that sound was. Can you make that sound again?

You know how they, they ask the callers to make the sound of their cars.

Marc: Jeremy, and I sort of geek out a little bit on Car Talk before we started talking about his podcast that he does with his daughter Rasa, You Must Know Everything.

You know, she’s nine, right?

Jeremy: Yeah. She just turned 10 last week. Yeah.

Marc: Yeah. I listened to your marketing story with her and also the behind the scenes one today.

Yeah. Backstage. Yeah.

Whose idea –was it your idea to do that show? You Must Know Everything or did Rasa suggest it, or

Jeremy: So, You Must Know Everything is a concept I had years ago when Rasa was basically born and I had these life lessons that I wanted to impart to my child, but they would occur to me and she’d be like two years old.

I was four years old or six years old or older, but nevertheless maybe not in a receptive space. Old enough to kind of, you know, get these key lessons or they would occur to me when she was at school or daycare or whatever. So I was going to kind of write them down and have like the big book of everything you need to know.

You Must Know Everything was sort of a joke. And I think she kind of had an inkling of it and I’ve actually written up pieces and sort of shared them, you know, with a few friends and family, just little snippets. And she was like, well, what are you going to show me this book of everything I need to know?

And, you know, I showed her a little piece once, but then , in this pandemic, we’re here, we’re home together. And I was like, oh, you know what? I shouldn’t write them down. I should just tell her and record it. And she’s now old enough, enough time had passed that I was like, she’s a genius. I don’t need to.. Dumb it down or smart it up. I just needed to just talk as if I’m talking to Rasa and that’s exactly the right level of intelligence for anyone. And also what I’m just being much more heartfelt and direct and obvious and honest, if you know , that , the audience is listening in on this, this really intimate conversation and my real genius move was realizing it should go both ways. I have as much to learn from her as she does for me. So we trade off. As you noticed, when you heard those two shows.

Right. Every other episode, I’m the leader. And I’m like, here’s the theory or the lesson or whatever I need to tell you, you needed to know. And then the other is her telling me what I need to know. And by the same token we have these other segments and I, I don’t know how those came up. They just came organically in the first time we did it.

So we just kept it where we read it, discuss the poem. And again, the person is the leader of that particular show, leads the discussion of the poem and the reading. And then we have, you know, the vexing question, the last segment of the show, where you can ask the other person anything, it can be a point of philosophy, but it’s often sort of like, you know, why are, why don’t we say a pair of pants when it’s just one of them?

Or, you know, when did the earth and the sun closest to each other, that one is the warmest. Are those unrelated to each other? Or, you know, how does a. Dandelion become, you know, go from a flower to a missing spheroid thing or how many people can fit socially distanced space, six feet apart in the state of Montana, you know, whatever questions you have a animal vegetable geopolitical.

Then I asked her how, like, once I’m like, how could it be nicer to myself? Like I was like, I’m nice to you. You’re nice to me. How can I be nice to me? Yeah, that was like an example of vexing questions. So anyway, whoever the leader has to in an answer that same question. So then you got to kind of pause and go, okay, shoot.

I gotta go figure out how a country officially changes its name as is the case of the former country of Swazi land. You know, that was a vexing question. So, you know, you can get those two, so there’s a sort of magic school, bus research science aspect of.

Marc: And you, you open that up to anybody. You know, you say, you can tell us what your vexing question is, and we will answer it

Jeremy: You go to, YouMustKnowEverything.com and there’s the submit a vexing questions button.

Marc: Right. And so that’s my question is it’s not my vexing question. It’s my question about, logistically.

Are, are people utilizing that?

Jeremy: Yeah, I’d say about one in every three. We get from the audience and I’d love there to be more, I think one challenge is of course our audience is families. But often if it’s a kid with the vexing question that see, or she has kind of email, that’s one reason I did it via this web form.

So you don’t have to have email, you can just go to the website and type it in on the borrowed iPad or whatever. Right. But yeah, we, we, we go,

Marc: Okay, well, I mean, you were on the Pea Green Boat and so that must have hopefully boosted your listenership.

Jeremy: Yeah. But what’s awesome about the, Pea Green Boat is the children’s programming on Montana Public Radio and we’re there, you know, twice a week and sometimes on their Saturday morning programming too. And what’s cool about that is yes, it’s children’s programming, but. Everyone of all ages of all demographics, listen to that show. It has to have the most diverse clientele. I’ve getting so many texts from people that I’m like, I know you are a unmarried, unmarried childless 52 year old dude. I played basketball with, you know and you’re, you know, saying, Hey, I heard you had the Pea Green Boat. So you know, it’s, it’s got a wide, wide stance. The Pea Green Boat.

Marc: So I want to thank you right up front, because you organized the very first live in-person storytelling event I’d ever attended.

Jeremy: Yes. The magic of The PEAS Farm, right?

Marc: Yeah. It was "Eat Our Words". Yeah. And it was because of you that I was inspired to do this.

Jeremy: Well, That’s amazing just because I know how amazing the events you put are are, and how you’ve seen it grow and how much storytelling you’ve nurtured and just how the audience is so moved. So to be like, I’m the father of the father of the father of all that pleasure in my own way. It’s, it’s a lot of, I’m like 8 times removed from all that hard work and amazing stories, but it’s just, that’s, that’s inspiring to me because it means you can just do something that’s kind of random and cool, and, you know, you can do it three or four times and it can have this other effect.

So thank you. And you’re just never, I say that to people all the time, like you don’t, you know that good. You do, but you also, like how else could you don’t know that you do yeah. A follow up. So you know, back at you, I hope you’re, you know, I know you’re getting good feedback, but just whatever feedback you’re getting. Each of those people is speaking for so many other people.

Marc: I know. And , I just wanted to acknowledge the influence you had on the whole thing. But I still want to talk to you about the first story you told at the very first event. The theme was "Dear Diary". It was December 2nd, 2011. It was 70, 75 people in the Missoula Art Museum. Packed.

Before, Tell Us Something happened then Debra Magpie Earling had just read from her book, The Journals, of Sacagawea. And then we sort of pivoted into this other room and, and we had Tell Us Something. And you , closed out the night with this beautiful story about Anne Crosby.

Jeremy: Yes. So what can I tell you about that story? What did I, what did I not leave in the air? I mean, I said it all

Marc: I listened to it again. For the first time, since I heard it, because then at the time I was not the one editing the podcast. And so I listened to it again today.

And your, your ability to paint a picture of a person, you didn’t even say that she was beautiful at first, you just talked about what the environment was like when you walked into a room and you saw her. If you go back and listen to it again, it’s, it’s beautiful. So thank you for telling it.

I gave you no guidance at the time. I was just like, please do this. I respect you. And I think you’re great. Please help me. And you did, there was no workshopping or anything. How did you decide that was going to be the story?

Jeremy: Well, I remember I love to follow the prompts because I think that you find things from the prompt, as opposed to thinking this is a story I want to tell, and I’ll just make it work, whatever the prompt is. And I think also by telling something out loud or by just writing the story does a lot of writing itself and a good story, even though you’re the one telling it, even though it happened to you should have the ability to surprise you and.

When you said, dear your diary. I just had this vivid picture of really the first and practically only diary I’ve had for most of my life. And it was like this fourth grade, fifth grade kind of diary. And I don’t even know if it was, I’ve had the sort of fancy leather bound books where you take the strap and sort of, you know, curve it around to around the knob to close it and all the good kind of fancier dyes.

But I feel like this was just one of those like 80 page Mead journals, but it was like, I just had to pour out like my first crush into this journal. And it was like, I remember even just so vividly. Just my outraged at like the crushing actual fourth grade boyfriend complaining that he had to like buy her a necklace and me just being like, I gotta, I just like going home and being like this, you know, this guy doesn’t understand anything, you know, this is the one, he only the moon, the stars.

And just, just sort of pouring that out into this journal that then hilariously, I remember taking one of those, like a walk on her locks, master locks or whatever their. The w the like combination ones where you’re spending three times the one-way and then two times the other way. And one, the other, like, best like my locker lock and like, putting that on the journal, like through one of the three holes that was punched at this, that was locking it, which obviously that’s not how locks work.

If you like, put it through one of the three holes you could still just like open the book. It might be hard to lie completely flat on a table. And it’s not like I thought that that was the security measure, but somehow that was like a sign of it’s value to me. The only thing, I don’t think I actually locked my bike.

I remember like that stolen. So, you know, the only thing I actually had a lot, like my gym clothes, God bless somebody say it’s stolen them. But like, I just remember this, any patients, you know, 99 cent notebook. And that was the sort of diary. And I just, so when you said diarrhea, just remembered that one.

That was like the dear diary conversation I had. And I just remembered this kind of evolving relationship that I had with this crush and that ironically, or rarely or whatever the word is the world has with this crush. You know, it’s just so rare that like, your crush is like everyone’s crush. I think maybe it isn’t cause it’s my experience, but like, you know, that’s how I think I started that story where, you know, I’m at a sleep over and people are like, say who you like, and I’m excited.

Cause I’m going to say this. I’m going to say it out loud for the first time, the only time. And then you can’t say, okay, Her cause it cause duh, that’s obvious. And I was like, oh, you know, I am a cliche. I didn’t even do this thing. I’ve never even said out loud as a cliche, I have a crush cliche. And that, that, that then even evolved to the point.

As I said, you know, in high school, the yearbook company that makes your books in Texas, right. Not, not where I was from, make your books for all the yearbooks for all high schools chosen her photo right now as the photo for like getting a yearbook in America. So, you know, just kind of being like, oh, I’m not maybe as seeing the person inside as, as I might’ve wanted to believe, like you want to in your sort of nobility of your crushes, but then yeah.

And then there was that term in the last conversation we had and in a way, the only conversation. That was significant was, you know, after graduating Polish and seeing her again, and kind of getting to know her as a person and that, you know, transforming how I saw her, like just how I saw seeing people.

Marc: Do you know if she’s heard the story?

Jeremy: God, I hope not. It’d be so embarrassing. It’d be terrible. I hate that, but you know, it could happen. I have to live up there with that possibility. I was so dumb. I should’ve, I should’ve changed the name or I should just tell you that I used a fake name. But you know, my, my life we live on, but I would say,

you know, if I were Anne Crosby and I heard that story, I would feel so honor,

Marc: Because you saw her as a person finally

Jeremy: after like a hundred years, but yes, yes. Yes. We’re all on a journey within sometimes it takes many lifetimes right now I’m on the road is still, probably never been seen as a person. Right. You know, I remember my grandmother talking about me, Marilyn and rose at a party once and she just said, Marilyn Monroe wanted to talk about what she was reading, you know, you’re just like, yeah, of course.

Everybody’s got a path. Okay. Everyone’s got a path. Yeah, no, no, that’s good. I’m a, I’m a, I’m a, I’m a romantic. So I think you story is about someone going through change. No change, no story. You can have funny things happen.

You can have quirky incidents, but you have to like literally have your life change as a result of what happens. And that could be internal or it’s not a story. And so yeah, of course you’re going to have love. And what happens after love or crushes and what happens after crush, right? Those are, yeah, those are one of the building blocks of the story and I’ve travel.

You’re going to have tragedy otherwise, no change, no story.

Marc: Right.

Marc: You know, every time someone shares with me, I always feel like I need to share a story with them too, you know, to let them know that I get it, that I have a shared experience. And it sometimes veers into almost the non-sequitur realm or gets way off track. Yeah, I did that here. I’m trying not to do that as much.

And just recognizing that I do it is a good. I’m working on it. Okay. When we pick up again here, we’re talking about the second story that Jeremy told at, Tell Us Something, “Always, Only, At Least”.

Marc: And at the time, when you told that story about going to London, you made this reference of like, don’t use a garlic press. And I was like, oh God, I’m a jerk. I use a garlic press and,

but I didn’t know any better. And so then I immediately stop using a garlic press and only bought a fresh garlic.

Now I grow my own garlic.

Jeremy: Yeah.

Last year we had 400 plants that we harvest it now.

Well, what’s great about Marcella Hazan that cookbook author is that the standards are only minimums. There are no, there’s no satisfying her. There’s just only being potentially acceptable. So, you know, that’s what I kind of highlighted in my title of that story, you know, only use canned 10 being reported, San Marzano tomatoes, right.

You know, so pure cucumbers, not cucumber soak, your zucchini zucchini, my British edition and my British edition, of course, they’re called courgettes. Soak your zucchini for at least 30 minutes to remove impurities you know, always of course peel your garlic in a certain way.

You’ve got your order. And so I just think that there’s actually something really relaxing about structure and discipline. And someone who has this amazing vision. I remember our mutual friend, Jason Wiener talking about perhaps another mutual friend, Bob Marshall of vegan pizza. And I was like, why is he such a good chef?

And he’s like, well, and Jason just said this off hand, it was a brilliant remark. He said, well, you know, all good chefs, all great chefs are creative control freak. And I love that combination of creative control freak. And, you know, Marcelo has on certainly creative control freak. And so, you know, it’s sort of aspirational to do something that she would find acceptable.

She’s a sort of Mr. Miyagi of, you know, cookbooks Italian cookery. So, you know, by her actual nature or actual personality, she could have been completely congenial and she looks very grandmotherly and is very kindly, but. She knows the right way. And she’s going to tell you to do with the right way and you can, you’ll do what you want to do.

She’s going to tell you the right way to do it. Yeah.

Marc: What you’d never said in the story, which a thing that I took away from the story was that this opportunity to go to this party and your friend, oh, hi James Bond. You know, he said to you, he doesn’t even acknowledge your, your potential heartbreak that you’re going through. He just puts you to work. And in service of others,

Jeremy: I think it’s such a gift.

If you’re in your own head down on yourself and someone can somehow put you to work, it’s just hard to stay in your feelings when you’re busy and when you’re bodily busy. And when you have a responsibility. To these other people. You said they were my friends, they were not my friends. They were strangers.

They were his friends, but right. Yeah. We had to have a dinner put on and all of a sudden it was wheat and it wasn’t me in my own head. And so that was great. And I certainly tried to learn that where, you know if people come to dinner, I love to make an elaborate dinner. But if there’s some way to kind of include them, like, yeah, I want you to bring the toppings for the pizza, or I’ve done that exact same trick.

You know, if it’s a trick with Marcella Hazan and I’m like, I’m going to make the sauce and it’s going to take me a while. Why don’t you guys make the pasta? The good thing. If you’ve got a couple that’s visiting, if they’re engaged, see if they can make pasta from scratch together. It’s a really good relationship, test and story to tell.

And then you destroyed. So they kind of kind of work at their own. I’m like, ah, I’m busy. This is boiling, you know, trying to ask questions and let them figure it out. It’s such a gift. And it’s one of the geniuses of like the youth harvest program at the peas farm. It’s like, ah, you’ve got these quote unquote troubled teens that have been sentenced by youth court.

Yeah. You could put them in juvenile detention. You can send them to hoods in the woods program or you can put them on a farm and be like, we got to grow this because these people are going to come and they want to eat these carrots. And these people are actually house bound, seniors or they’re military veterans or other people in your community.

So totally. I totally get you on a complaint. Or do you want us to talk about your tattoos? Do this or that, or talk about mom or dad or bitch, but like, you know, we just got to get the carrots first. Let’s just do that. And then, you know, over the course of the season, I’ve seen that be transformative for people.

That was one of the subjects of my, my first book Growing a Garden City, you know, was that program. So, you know, I steal that insight from Josh Slotnick and some of the other people that were behind that program. And in there’s a, You Must Know Everything episode called DOE where I talk about my pizza dough recipe, and I share that with Rasa and I’m like, these are her 18 words that are the best shortest, fastest, most guaranteed way to win friends and influence people.

And the 18 words or just the ingredients for the recipe. And I’m like, learn how to do this. And you can just go anywhere and do like, you can have no skills, you can have no talents, you can have nothing of interest so you can know no one, but if you say I’m making pizza tonight, do you want to come over?

It’s all gonna change. It’s all gonna come your way. So, you know, that’s what I was kind of sharing in that episode. So that’s an example. It’s kind of a crossover, I guess, between Tell Us Something and You Must Know Everything

So I have a hacker one. That’s like a limited series. It’s like a spinoff from my book breaking and entering the hacker next door. And it tucks these 10 different hackers in 10 different kinds of specialties of hacking and interviews them about kind of who they are, their background and their all hackers for good.

They’re all using their skills to protect people. Right. And that’s that, but then I bet You Must Know Everything with Rasa. And I have this other one, that’s very trippy and it’s called stimulus and response. And it’s with this high performance coach friend of mine. So he’s super keyed into like elite athlete, CEO teams kind of group flow, high performance space.

And it’s like, how can. The rest of us, these high-performance mindsets exercises, tools, techniques that use to thrive. How can we use it to just kind of survive better? So it’s not like doing a million pushups. It’s like, here’s a different way of looking at yourself or a breathing exercise or a visualization thing.

So, you know, it’s a podcast I like to think of is not exclusively, but best enjoyed, you know, in a basement with a buddy, just kind of chilling out, filling the field. And we go to some super trippy places. There he is a very like yes, and conversation. So, you know, a typical start of an episode would be like, do you think we are individuals sessions?

Or are we all connected? And then it’s like, what’s the science, what are the visualizations? What are the techniques? You know, how can we kind of step through that? And that’s been super fun to do. That’s the only way I guess I make that, like, I can listen to later with a certain amount of distance, because it just has a certain intoxicating effect where it just it’s about kind of changing your mindset.

Marc: So I guess then the next question is: analytics

This is a thing that I struggle with so much. Do you pay attention to any of that? And if you do, how are you managing that?

Right. So I assume I analytics, you mean. How many people are listening, downloads, audience size, and I guess things like retweets and mentions.

Is that what you mean?

Mostly.

Jeremy: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a total crucible, unless it’s huge, right? It’s just hard to not feel less than, or not enough, or want more, especially if you’re putting in so much time and getting value out of it.

And I think, you know, to me, I’ve tried to have satisfaction on multiple levels. Like intrinsically, ideally, can I be pursuing projects that I would do no matter what? And also if it’s a new media for me, can I be learning? So either way I’m kind of creating and it’s also an internship. And also if I want to do something that’s really meaningful, is it meaningful to me if it’s

Marc: Jeremy cuts out a bit here. What he was saying was, “is it meaningful to me if it’s reaching a small number of people, but I feel like it could move the needle?”.

Jeremy: you know, something like You Must Know Everything it’s so heartwarming and life affirming in a broad sense.

I hope that I feel to the degree that it reaches people, I can be sort of satisfied, even if it’s not really. Very many people for each person it goes to. And I guess the other one, cause it’s about sort of mindset and transformation and who you really are and why we’re really here stimulus and response in a similar way.

I can be like, well, if I was in person and I was talking to 70 people, that’s a good, that’s a huge book event, you know? So yeah, it’d be great if it was 700 or 7,000 or 70,000 or 700,000 or 7 million, but can I kind of get right with it and those ways, and I go crazy and beat myself up and feel bad. And I think I just have to recognize that’s a separate discipline of like reaching audience and marketing and promoting.

I can pursue that discipline and see if I can succeed at it and its own terms. But if I’m not succeeding on something I’m not doing, then I should at least recognize that and not kind of beat myself up to like, okay, you know, I’m trying to do something that’s meaningful where I’m learning, where it’s intrinsically important and rewarding.

And if I’m also trying to gain audience than let me do that, but don’t let me beat myself up. Cause I’m not getting all these other things out of it too. Yeah, my joke, I was saying to someone the other day, he was like, are you making money from the podcast? I was like, well, dude, I know people that do it. And I know people that make money. I’m not, I’m still, you know, figuring it out, trying to learn from that.

My joke was like, yeah, I’m self-employed so what did you say? You know, when you’re a writer, it’s like a range between self-employed and self unemployed. Got it. So my joke, cause yeah, I’m self unemployed, so yeah, I’m working all the time for myself for nothing. So that’s a lot of. Yeah, it’s just that kind of hustle.

And I don’t know. I mean, I think that’s probably one reason I appreciate that Stimulus & Response and the headspace, it puts me in because it’s about getting a bigger perspective.

Marc: Yeah. And right now that’s so important

Jeremy: right, right. Like we’re in the steam punk post-apocalyptic future of like the sort of mix of high technology, local food and plague. And so, you know, it’s not that surprising that, you know, we’re not all just.

Mass media superstars or niche media superstars. I think that you know, here’s an example, exercise that the performance coach co-host, I’d say most of the response time you do, he was like, you could do with, with podcasting or Tell Us Something he’s like on one piece of paper, write down everything that you hate about writing, like having to hustle have to sell what you don’t get paid, you know, the anxiety, dah, dah.

So I could say like hosting a radio show being ahead of a nonprofit, all just the, the grind, having a podcast and he’s like, right that. Right, right. Just all the, all the, all the terrible things, just all the things that are just so. So it’s like, okay. Sort of thought about it kind of did it a bit. And he’s like now flip the paper over, like, okay.

He’s like now write down all the things that you love about it. You know, what are all the amazing things? The freedom, the creativity, that connection, the expression, the discovery for example, the unexpected, you know, a company, you find the comradery the righteousness, whatever you want to say. I was like, okay, so doing that now, I’m getting more excited, more positive.

And he’s like, what do you notice? And I was thinking about it. And then I was like, oh, he totally Jedi mind trick me up. They’re not the same piece of paper, a paper in my mind for three weeks. It’s like we think of these things as like, here’s the good thing. And just the bad thing is if we could have the good thing without the bad thing, but maybe there’s not a good thing, a bad thing.

They’re just together. They’re just one, this like your strengths are the same as your weaknesses. You know, your weaknesses are the same as your strength. These all, all these kind of burdens bothers or are part of the balloon and the benefit. And just the, yeah, it’s really annoying to have the burdens in the bothers, but I think it’s even worse to think like we’re doing it wrong because we have them and we’re failing because we have them and that load of self judgment, that’s even more painful.

It’s just like, you know, this is just the piece that they’re on the same piece of paper. I can work on a totally different thing, but it’ll have its own two pieces of paper. So anyway, I don’t know if that’s the only do that’s been useful.

I mean, it’s useful to me already on, I’ve got a grant on my face, bigger than I’ve had in a long time.

And as soon as we hang up, I’m going to go subscribe to, to this new podcast that you’ve turned me on to.

Thank you, brother.

Marc: Thanks, Jeremy. And thank *you* for listening today.

You can find the schedule for The Pea Green Boat and listen online at mtpr.org.

For articles about The Lost Journals of Sacagawea, go to tellussomething.org.

Thanks to Cash for Junkers, who provided the music for the podcast. Find them at cashforjunkersband.com

On the next Tell Us Something podcast, tune in to listen to Stephanie Hohn’s story “The Smartest Girl in Jail,” which she shared at a Tell Us Something storytelling event back in 2012. Stick around after her story to hear her thoughts on it, as well as learn what she’s been up to since COVID struck.

Stephanie: I’ve just had unusual experiences or, you know, bad experiences that people would like to pretend aren’t something happening in their community.

So I kind of wanted to tell that just to be like, Hey, just so you know, like, this is, this is what’s happening, you know, here that’s, this is what it’s like for people.

Marc: she shared her story at a Tell Us Something storytelling event back in 2012. Stick around after her story to hear her thoughts on it, as well as learn what she’s been up to since COVID struck.

To learn more about Tell Us Something, please visit tellussomething.org.

 

Our podcast today was recorded in front of a live audience on August 24, 2021, at Bonner Park Bandshell in Missoula, MT. 7 storytellers shared their true personal story on the theme “Forward to Better”. Today we hear from 2 of those storytellers. Our story this episode comes to us from Rosie Ayers and Teresa Waldorf. Teresa Waldorf and Rosie Ayers build a common story using their different experiences during the pandemic. They call their story “March 22”.

Transcript : March 22

Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast. I’m Marc Moss,

Teresa Waldorf: March 22nd.

I’m not flying to Phoenix

Marc Moss: back in 2016, I experimented with duo storytelling. I had an outdoor event at the peace farm. You know how, when you listen to two people who really know each other and they’re telling a story and they sometimes interrupt each other and say, wait, that’s not how it happened. Yeah, it was, it was supposed to be like that.

Some of the night was like that. We put a little bit of a spin on that idea with Theresa and Rosie’s story.

Rosie Ayers: I had stopped all theater productions, all classes. I had no answers for.

Marc Moss: Thanks. Once again, to our title sponsor Blackfoot communications, they deliver superior technology solutions through trusted relationships and enrich the lives of their customers.

Owners and employees learn [email protected] Announcing call first storytellers. We are currently looking for storytellers for the next. Tell us something storytelling live event. The theme is stoned. Which pretty much leaves things wide open. If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 4 0 6 2 0 3 4 6 8 3.

You have three minutes to leave your pitch. The pitch deadline is February 7th, which leads me to tell you about the live event itself. We will be in person for the first time since August, 2021. We’re running at 75% capacity, which allows for listeners to really spread out at the Wilma. Learn more and get your [email protected], Theresa and Rosie built a common story using their different experiences during the pandemic.

They call their story March 22nd. Thanks for listening

Teresa Waldorf: March 22nd, and I’m not flying to Phoenix. I’m in a long distance relationship with a man who I think is going to be the next great love of my life. But we’ve been having an argument on the phone. I’m saying I have to cancel my flight. My mom is crying and he’s saying things like, well, at our age, I don’t think we do what our moms tell us.

And I say, but you don’t understand all of my friends, every single person I know who had a flight for spring break has canceled it. He finally acquiesced. And a little bit of a dismissive way. And instead invites me to spend the week with him as the week progresses. He gets a little bit more distracted and a little bit more disengaged.

And I head home at the end of that week thinking, well, it’s just because he’s so sad. He doesn’t know when he’ll see me again. And two days later I got a phone call explaining that he wasn’t going to see me again. He was not going to be able to. Put up with that kind of distance for an undetermined amount of time, obviously.

And so he was seeing someone else that’s who I was talking to and my heart was broken into tiny bits. About two weeks later, I was at blue mountain and I was, uh, what was that weird kind of frenzy time? Do you remember when we were all like, I didn’t quite know how to behave yet. And when we met someone even outside, we made like a big 10 foot circle around them.

And, uh, there was a run going on and this young woman came flying by me down the path and about 20 yards in front of me, she fell and she hit her forehead on a rock and gashed her forehead wide open. And I ran to her as quickly as I could. And I got just to her and I stopped up short and I reached out and I said, Can I help you?

Can I touch you? And she said no. And she staggered to her feet and she took off running and I said, wait. And she turned around and she said, oh, am I bleeding? And I said, yes, you are. And she took off again. And I said, are you going to make it? And she looked at me and she said, I

Rosie Ayers: guess I’m going to have.

Teresa Waldorf: March

Rosie Ayers: 20 seconds. And my best friend was not going on vacation. And I had stopped all theater productions, all classes. I had no answers for anyone. My oldest child had COVID in another state. And we couldn’t go to them and they couldn’t see a doctor. All the hospitals were overrun and we’re FaceTiming them every day, trying to monitor symptoms of a disease that we don’t even understand freaked out more than three children had been sent home from school with their backpacks full to the brim at spring

Teresa Waldorf: break.

Having no idea

Rosie Ayers: if we were going back or what that was even going to look. And that morning, I woke up feeling lost and alone with no answers for anyone. And I packed everyone into the minivan and I took them out skiing. We got to the ski hill and they took off doing discovery and I made the loop at echo lake.

And at the end of that day, they closed the hill down. Wasn’t even going to be safe to be there. And everyone was drinking their beers and getting in their trucks and I’m piling up my kids and we start down the hill. And as we’re driving down that hill, I’m thinking, what are we going to do? Who are we, are we going to be able to see anybody after this?

What, how are we going to survive this? And as we’re headed down that hill, I noticed that the two cars in front of me, the one coming towards me and the one right in front of me are not moving. And I can see it happening just right in front of me, time slows down. And I yell at my. Brace for impact. And has the head-on collision in front of us, comes to a halt and we screech up close.

We stop six feet from those cars. And I tell my oldest to call 9 1 1 and to keep his brothers in the car and try not to look out the windshield. I’ve got to help. And I run to the first car and I opened that door and make sure she’s alive and she’s breathing. And she knows her name and she knows my name and to stay still help is going to come.

I’m not at, but we can. I run around to the other side, the passenger is already out. I cover with the blanket. I make sure that she is alive and breathing and I make sure that she knows her name and my name. And I run to the next car and I freeze. I can’t even understand what I’m looking at, but what I do know is that one more time, I don’t have the answers, then I cannot help.

I can’t even understand what I’m seeing,

Teresa Waldorf: but I know it’s.

Rosie Ayers: And in that frozen state, looking back at my children with the car, looking for help, where are they? When are they coming? How fast can this happen? I hear that noise from the back seat. We break the window and as we pull that little three year old out and I get to embrace him, I can carry him to Mike.

Put him in the backseat with my boys and they surround him and we ask him all the questions and we talk about pop patrol. And the only thing I can’t do is ask the answer. The one question he keeps asking

Teresa Waldorf: about his mom.

Rosie Ayers: And later, as I watched those three life flight helicopters take off. All I can think is I hope they’re going to make it. I hope

Teresa Waldorf: they’re going to be okay. Spring 2020. Okay. So you guys, I’m an extrovert. I’m not going to be okay. The extroverts please. Okay. Let me see if I’ve got this. I have to spend all of my time.

I I’ve hardly ever been alone in my entire life. I’ve planned it like that. Okay. I do a very not alone art form. Uh, my husband has died in the last six years. Um, my sons have moved out and I’m pretty alone. Okay. So I can’t be more alone than that. And whoever named this socially distancing, there’s nothing social about it.

Rosie Ayers: I’m not going to be okay. I am a. On this microphone, I’m not going to be okay. I live with four men, Theresa you’re taller than me. I have four penises in my house and I am never alone. We it’s constant. They’re constantly around me. The only time I’m ever alone is sometimes very occasionally in the bathroom.

And even then I feel like they’re putting their fingers underneath or knocking on the door.

Teresa Waldorf: Masks. Let me see if I have this right. We have to wear masks. Okay. Okay. I’m a rule follower. I can wear masks. So I find all the right material. I do all the research. I find out the exact kind of little filters to put inside.

I buy all the elastic. I get my mom she’s 93 to so masks. She can’t really see, but she can apparently so, and she looks like 70 and I mailed them to all my friends and I hand them out to my neighbors and I give them to all my family. And guess what we are stopped short because there is an elastic shortage.

Okay. What

Rosie Ayers: we have to wear masks. Okay. And the one that Teresa’s mom. So for me, it looks like a giant maxi pad stuck to my face. Jesus. And now I’m trying to convince these other people in my house that they have to wear a mask all the time. These are people that won’t even change their underwear that I’m in.

There are laundry baskets on a regular basis. I’ve been lecturing to them about washing their hands since the date they were born. I know how disgusting they are and there they are

Teresa Waldorf: wanting to touch me or be next to me

Rosie Ayers: all the time with their disgusting masks and their unwashed hands. Don’t touch me, someone, please

Teresa Waldorf: touch me.

You guys met, Christians

Rosie Ayers: are

Teresa Waldorf: great. You know what I’m saying? But when you want something really, really badly and you can’t have it, when somebody kissed me, I want to be caressed. I want to be hugged. I really want sex. That’s what I’m trying to say here right now. I need a man. And I cannot have one. Okay. I need less, man, because I want to have sex.

I can have sex all day long. He is here all day. Nobody’s

Rosie Ayers: leaving the house ever. And that’s the problem

Teresa Waldorf: because we’re only on the same floor. All of us

Rosie Ayers: are way too thin and the only place I’m alone in the bathroom. And I’m not giving that up. Sorry.

Teresa Waldorf: Sometimes I’m in the bathroom and I feel all alone. There’s no one to even get me toilet paper. If I run out of toilet. It’s up with the toilet paper thing. You guys needs like me,

Rosie Ayers: right? And we’re out of toilet paper. Why is it that we’re always out of toilet paper

Teresa Waldorf: and you have got to find us

Rosie Ayers: some toilet paper.

What Theresa is going to have to give us

Teresa Waldorf: some Twitter. Luckily,

Rosie Ayers: my husband is working a commercial remodel in the middle of all this, and he scores

Teresa Waldorf: the mother load.

Rosie Ayers: He’s remodeling that McDonald’s bathroom and he comes home one day with his

Teresa Waldorf: prize pig. It is the toilet paper where three times the size

Rosie Ayers: of my head, industrial

Teresa Waldorf: scratchy toilet paper.

Rosie Ayers: We don’t even have like a dispenser to put this in, so we just put it on the bathroom

Teresa Waldorf: floor. Okay. Have you ever lived with people with penises? It’s supposed to be able to just be used over the floor.

Rosie Ayers: So now we have a giant thing of disgusting toilet

Teresa Waldorf: paper on the bathroom floor.

Rosie Ayers: And now it’s summer.

Teresa Waldorf: you guys. I’m so excited. It’s summer. Here’s why I can date. I could date. Yeah, I have this figured out. I’m going to get on match. I could just meet people. We could stay six feet away from each other. We could have coffee, we could hike. We can walk our dogs. We could go biking. We could go swimming. We could go kayaking.

I’m going to buy a kayak. I’m going to learn a paddleboard God. But all my friends are making me feel so guilty. Like it would be so unsafe. I haven’t figured out. They just don’t get it fine. Fine. I’ll make my own fun. I’ll do. Yard work, oppress those seeds down in the soil with my finger. I’ll fertilize, my own petunias.

And I’m going I’m.

Just weeded.

Rosie Ayers: You cannot smoke weed. If I cannot smoke weed, you cannot smoke weed. I do not care that you are 19 years old, but home from college, we are

Teresa Waldorf: not slugging me. I got sober 25 years too early for this pandemic. Nobody’s smoking and everybody’s going outside. Okay. We can go hiking. You can go back and we have a kayak Pogo sticks.

Just get out of the house, please. God. Get out of my.

Rosie Ayers: I can’t have you in here anymore. Summer is not a time to bake inside. Please go outside. You know what you could do, you could

Teresa Waldorf: mow my lawn

or about this

Rosie Ayers: habit. You can just weed,

Teresa Waldorf: weed, the garden. And then the saddest thing of all. No summer theater camp for the first time in 24 years, there was not going to be a Theresa Waldorf summer theater day camp. We tried everything we could to figure it out. And a lot of parents called us to help us try to figure it out.

We just couldn’t. We were like, we, we could be outside. We could be in masks. We could sanitize. We could host down children. We, we just couldn’t do it. We just knew we couldn’t keep them.

Rosie Ayers: And we needed to keep it safe. We just need to keep them safe. We need to keep you safe when you keep them safe.

Everybody has to be safe. Okay. So we start be in safe. I have bought 695 masks. You know what? They’re even disposable. You don’t have to wash the many

Teresa Waldorf: more. We’re just putting.

Rosie Ayers: Okay. And we stopped seeing my parents. We stopped seeing my sister. We stopped seeing even the people that we used to stand in their driveways and wave at and talk to from afar.

We just stopped seeing everybody there’s no sleepovers, there’s no bike rides. There’s just us in this house together.

Teresa Waldorf: And everybody is safe.

Seven

Rosie Ayers: devices on my internet. I don’t have the bandwidth for this and you know what? I don’t have the bandwidth for this. Okay. In 10 minutes,

Teresa Waldorf: you’re on Microsoft teams in 10 minutes. Yes. You have to get our bed. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to put on

Rosie Ayers: pants, but my God it’s middle

Teresa Waldorf: school. Just keep your camera up.

Thank God.

Rosie Ayers: I’m good at technology. You guys,

Teresa Waldorf: I suck at technology. I mean, anybody that knows me knows that if there’s a problem, And now they want me to teach my U M creative drama class online. You know what you’re doing? Creative drama class. You touch everyone, you hold hands, you hug. You piggyback, you get in you form worms and caterpillars and machines.

And everything’s connected. And everyone is connected. Cause guess what connection is the point. But anyway, I’m going to need your help.

Rosie Ayers: Okay. Just find the on button. Nope. That’s inter it looks like a circle with a little tab. Nope. That’s cute. That’s a cure. That’s not, Nope. Okay. All right. It’s around the site.

You know what? Okay. Let’s move on to lesson two. Okay. Right. Click. No. Yeah, no, uh, it’s there’s two clicks. It’s a left click and a right click surprise. I know you should’ve learned that 17 years ago. Two different clicks. Okay. All right. So let’s just, uh, let’s just close the window. They’ll come back to your computer.

That’s not the real window. It’s, it’s a square. It’s at the top. You know what? I’m just going to come over. You know what? I can’t come over. I just have to get through one more zoom with the kids. Okay. We’ve made it through almost an entire semester of school with these children online. Okay. And guess what?

Nobody knows how to do eighth grade math in my entire house. And that’s okay. Because who needs math? Turns out. We don’t need math because you know what, we’re not seeing my dad. We don’t have to tell him he is a math teacher, but you know what? Gus, Gus, all right. Gus, Gus, he’s 10. He’s made it through almost all of fourth grade.

All he has to do is one more paragraph in the weather report. He wakes up that morning and I say, all right, buddy, I’ve got all day’s zooms for suicide prevention. I cannot miss them because

Teresa Waldorf: people actually. So, all you gotta do is just finish a paragraph on weather and it starts to sob

and

Rosie Ayers: he says, I haven’t done

Teresa Waldorf: my homework for fun. Theresa, I’m going to need your help. Okay. Do you know how to work? That thing? That computer. Okay. Good. That’s your part? Here’s my part. I am not interested in your learning to spell it. Grammar, punctuation. How to form a paragraph. I’m going to talk, you’re going to type, here we go.

Capital H I C N E space, H R E. S spaced. Boom. I excavation bull. I hit submit. Okay. Next paragraph. Tsunamis T S oh, it starts with a T T.

And then it was winter, the winter of our discontent

Rosie Ayers: and my mom called she needs help. I can’t, I’m not supposed to. She has COVID. My sister has COVID. The whole family has COVID. My dad has COVID so I send all the packages. I, I bag all the people in Helena to drop things off in gloves and run away from their porch and we get scared.

But we get hopeful too. We also say, we’re going to make it through this. We get positive or we’re going to get to the other side. And here’s the great news is that if you get through this, then we get to see

Teresa Waldorf: each other. Again, we get to hug each other. We get to spend the holidays together. Your antibodies will be all up and we’ll buy the biggest

Rosie Ayers: Turkey.

So that’s what I do. I go to Costco. I buy that biggest Turkey ever. Right. I buy all the things. And the day before Thanksgiving, my mom calls and says dad’s in the hospital. Three days

Teresa Waldorf: later.

Rosie Ayers: I go to Helena and I sit with my mom and we talked to the doctors and we make signs and we hold them up to the ICU window and we put our hands.

Teresa Waldorf: He’s too tired to talk on the phone. If we wait and miraculously

Rosie Ayers: three

Teresa Waldorf: weeks of ICU. And he’s one of the very few people to walk out of there. And we set up that oxygen with the long lead and he’s not the same. But we get to hug each other and I go

Rosie Ayers: home and I wrap every present and I buy an even bigger Turkey at all the food for Christmas.

And I wake up Christmas Eve morning feeling like

Teresa Waldorf: shit,

Rosie Ayers: and I go get that COVID test.

Teresa Waldorf: And there I am quarantining

Rosie Ayers: from my family. Where did he hit the top of the stairs, trying to peek down, just to see my husband’s making the breakfast, that I, that I bought all the ingredients for and handing it out to the neighbor and my children are opening their presence and FaceTiming with the neighbor.

And I’m just, could you send, can, I’m up? Can you see me? I’m up here? I’m all

Teresa Waldorf: go back in my room and I’m all, I’m all alone. I’m all alone.

And I watched first seasons of the crown and it was delightful.

And it’s the holidays you guys, and I’m getting really good at this whole watch. 10 seasons of the bachelor. I like Claire. I don’t know why nobody likes Claire.

Rosie Ayers: Oh, we got

Teresa Waldorf: 30 seconds to bad.

Rosie Ayers: So we start getting good at this COVID thing. Right. We start getting better and better. We are, we are adjusting to COVID.

Yes. Ma’am. I started walking by mirrors and saying, yeah, Katko myself.

Teresa Waldorf: That 19 looks good on you. I start exercising while I’m watching the bachelorette.

Rosie Ayers: I take a cross-country skiing again. I start drinking alone.

Teresa Waldorf: I start eating alone. I buy really cool new patio furniture. Did you guys all try to do that?

You know, when you could still buy it. And then one of those really cool heater things for my friend,

Rosie Ayers: we sat around our fire pit and we accidentally burned

Teresa Waldorf: some of our new patio furniture. And then all of a sudden, you guys.

I think we made it, we made it. I think we made it. We might’ve made it. We made it. And guess what? We made it without falling prey to F O M O Nope. Nope, Nope,

Rosie Ayers: Nope. You just say FOMO, you don’t have to spell. You don’t have. The FOMO fear of missing out.

Teresa Waldorf: And we also didn’t end up with Jomo, the joy of missing out.

Don’t miss it. Instead. We’ve landed on something new. We call it. Gomo the gift of missing out

Rosie Ayers: because now we know we appreciated it. Even more

Teresa Waldorf: being here with you being

Rosie Ayers: outside every moment now feels like a gift. This is a brilliant gift.

Teresa Waldorf: It is for sure. And when we started planning this, um, like six weeks ago, we were going to end it differently, but tonight we decided we should say so I think that was probably the dress rehearsal.

The great news is we know how to do this. If we have to do it again,

Rosie Ayers: we’re going to

Teresa Waldorf: do it even though.

Marc Moss: Rosie EHRs and Theresa Waldorf were related in a former life. They met this time when 13 year old Rosie babysat Theresa son, Sam, then two years old. They crossed paths again, some seven years later at university of Montana, a school of theater and dance where Rosie was a student and Theresa wasn’t.

Working on plays together. They built a friendship that led to the creation of a team that has brought the following productions to downtown Missoula parallel lives. Wonder of the world, the three sisters of weak Hawkin and five lesbians eating a quiche. They also make up the comedy team Lucinda and the.

The home shopping girls who most recently performed from Zilla gives selling their own products, emotional baggage suitcases filled with embarrassing memorabilia to get your children to move out. And the Cougar kit for moms who want to travel alone to France, we’re not sitting around together. Laughing.

Rosie can be found at United way of Missoula county, where she is the project tomorrow, Montana. Or goofing around with our partner, Michael and their four kids. Teresa just retired from the Montana repertory theater and university of Montana at school of theater and dance, and cannot be found on the next telesummit podcast tune in to listen to a conversation that I had with Missoula author and rock and tear, Jeremy and Smith.

If

Jeremy N. Smith: it’s a trick with Marcela has on and I’m like, I’m going to make the thought and couldn’t take me awhile. Why don’t you guys make the pie? The good thing. If you’ve got a couple that’s visiting three. If they could make pasta from scratch to get the really good

Marc Moss: tune in for that conversation. Along with a story Jeremy told live on stage at a Telus, something he meant in 2014, thanks to our title sponsor Blackfoot communications.

Since 1954 Blackfoot communications at fostered, a reputation based on exceptional customer service and community involvement. They deliver superior technology solutions through trusted relationships and enrich the lives of their customers, owners and employees learn [email protected] Thanks to cash for junkers who provided the music for the podcast.

Find them at cashforjunkersband.com . Thank you to our in-kind sponsors.

Joyce Gibbs: Hi, it’s

Joyce from

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Tell us something, learn [email protected]

Marc Moss: Missoula broadcasting company learn [email protected] Float Missoula. Learn [email protected] Remember to subscribe to the podcast, stay safe, get vaccinated, take care of yourself, and take care of each other.

 

Stories of the difficulty of being gluten intolerant while traveling in China, being reminded of the magic in life, the complex feelings of a new mother, learning to ride the bus in a new country, and the journey to fix a botched tattoo. Note that the quality of the sound is not as perfect as we would like it to be. These stories are really worthwhile and we want you to hear them. Thank you.

Transcript : Forward to Better - Part 1

Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast, I’m Marc Moss.

Sasha Vermel: With a package on the way we get on a 30 hour bus ride from lumper bond vows to convene China, where you muck around and coming in Hiller package arrives, we get it. We bring it back to our hospital and it is like Christmas morning.

Marc Moss: This week on the podcast, five storytellers share their true personal story on the theme “Forward to Better”.

Sara Close: Talking about kids, about love…

Marc Moss: Their stories were recorded live in-person in front of a sold-out crowd on August 10, 2021 at Bonner Park Bandshell Missoula, MT.

Paul Mwingwa: I saw the bus number two, live in the stations. Where does the bus come from?

Jen Certa: And I just felt this pressure, like it was now or never.

Marc Moss: Next week, we’ll hear the final story of the night, told in tandem by two storytellers. More on that later.

Marc Moss: We wouldn’t have been able to produce this event without the help of our title sponsor, Blackfoot Communications. We are so grateful to the team at Blackfoot for their support not only financially, but also for providing volunteers to help staff the event. Volunteers screened guests for COVID, verified ticket-holders and welcomed guests as they arrived at the performance space. Thank you so much to everyone over at Blackfoot Communications for their support. Learn more about Blackfoot over at blackfoot.com.

Marc Moss: Our first story comes to us from Sasha Vermel. Sasha calls her story “Pieces of Home in Far Off Lands”.

Marc Moss: Thanks for listening.

Sasha Vermel: So I’m walking into a post office, including China. It’s a sleepy little college town of 6.6 million people that you’ve probably never heard of. And with my husband in between the two of us, we know about five words of Mandarin. So we are armed only with a first-generation iPhone and a determination to walk out of here with our package.

Sasha Vermel: So we load up the beta version of Google translate. Do you have our package? The words show on the screen, the woman reads them and she speaks into the screen and we wait as the words come up and it says. Where is the chamber of secrets?

Sasha Vermel: I don’t know is that where our packages we’re able to work it out. And she arrived out in the warehouse with our great big package and we legally take it back to our hostel. Now I have always had a strong sense of wanderlust. I was the kind of insufferable 17 year old would sit at the back of break espresso with my best friend, Kendra and Friday at 4:00 PM.

Sasha Vermel: We would read the independent and talk about how much we wish we were growing up in Paris or Tokyo or Seattle. Cause it was the nineties. Now I come by this honestly, there’s these stories that we get from our parents. And this is the story that I got from my mother. Sh e thought that getting married men liberation from her father’s house, she thought it meant travel.

Sasha Vermel: Seeing some places, maybe move into Boulder. But the truth of the matter is they were 20 and 21 years old and they didn’t have any money to travel. And then by the time they did, she was so debilitated by chronic migraines and depression that she didn’t get out of bed two days a week. So the idea of traveling and of going anywhere just really stressed her out.

Sasha Vermel: So when I came into my own, my form of rebellion was to say that I was not going to live my mother’s life. I was going to do all the traveling and all the adventuring that she wasn’t able to do. So now I’m 22, I’m at the iron horse, having a beer with my aunties. I am explaining to them that I have no interest in white picket fences or literally gangs.

Sasha Vermel: They looked at me like, what, what, what, what do you want? I looked at them and said, I want the world. Fast forward. I’m 30 years old and I’m newly married. My husband run that’s, it’s run like DMC. Some of you’re old enough to get that reference. Um, so he’s sort of a six foot, one Israeli J Gillen hall. And he looks at me and he says, I’m ready to have babies only.

Sasha Vermel: I’m still grieving. My mother committed suicide two years before this. And all I wanted was to run away. So I look at him and I say, I’ve never been to India or Thailand. Now the man I married is not one to back away from a challenge. So he says, no, no, no, no, no. You’re thinking too small. What if we just put everything we have into storage and just go traveling and to help, we don’t want to travel anymore.

Sasha Vermel: So a couple of months. We are off. We go to Israel, Jordan Egypt, we live in a beach in India and do yoga for a month. We go to Northern Thailand on motor scooters and travel across it. We attend a rocket festival in Laos. After six months of this, we get to a crossroads where we can’t go on the path that I was planning and run really wants to go to China.

Sasha Vermel: Now, China was the one place that actually scared me. This felt like a little bit far off the backpackers trail that we were on. I mean, we didn’t speak Mandarin and I didn’t really expect people in China to speak English. Um, and then on top of that, I’m gluten intolerant. This means that I can eat anything that has wheat in it, including soy cells.

Sasha Vermel: So if I lose, I get sharp stabbing pains for about two days. And then for the next two weeks, I just feel bloated and constantly hungry. It’s a big deal for my body. So I’m just thinking, how on earth do we go to China where I can’t eat. Or sauce. So I’m not going to back down from this challenge though. So we agreed to contact my dad and Missoula, and he puts together a package of gluten-free food from the good crackers and tasty bites and, uh, some instant oatmeal and a jar of peanut butter, along with a couple of pairs of hiking boots to supplement the flip flops we’ve been traveling in and new underwear.

Sasha Vermel: So we can replace the four pairs that we have been rotating through for the past six months with a package on the way we get on a 30 hour bus ride from long Cavon vows to convenience. Where you muck around in coming until her package arrives, we get it. We bring it back to our hospital and it is like Christmas morning.

Sasha Vermel: We pull out the things I try on the shoes they fit. I leave, leave, throw away the old Fred bear underwear. And I hold a lock, my jar of peanut butter that represents freedom insecurity. And the next day we’re off to our next adventure. We head towards the intersection of Tibet and Shangri-La, which in this case is an actual city.

Sasha Vermel: We’re going to do something called the tiger. Leaping Gorge Trek. We arrive at tiger leaping Gorge at 8:00 AM on a Misty morning in may. Um, it is sort of heavy gray clouds against the blue sky. As we start our ascent below us is a big river, just heavy with spring rock and along the path we see these houses.

Sasha Vermel: And they have shutters and flower window boxes like a Swiss chalet, but they also have the sort of curved Chinese roots, you know, it’s it’s rice patties and this was else it’s sort of disorienting. And I think, oh my God, I can’t wait to tell my mom about this. And then there’s that, that green that comes up when you have a thought that you really want to show with someone who, who isn’t there to receive that anymore.

Sasha Vermel: We, we continue on the trail. We do the 29 switchbacks to get to a place called the knock seat guest house. We’re doing this hike, nicest load. So it’s early afternoon and we’re going to call it quits from the day and just stay there overnight. And so I sit down at a chair, overlooking the courtyard. I hope that my backpack, I pulled out the jar of peanut butter.

Sasha Vermel: I opened the lid, locked the seal cause I haven’t had any yet. And I grabbed my spoon and I take them. And it’s smooth and again, a little, a little crunchy and it’s sweet and salty, and it tastes like comfort. It tastes like home. And as they go to take another bite, we hear that. It sounds because there’s construction going on.

Sasha Vermel: Now. My husband is really up for adventure, but he is not up for construction noises. So he comes over to me and he’s like, let’s go, I’m hungry. And I’m tired. Obviously I’m really bloated for being Chinese food, but it’s not rich having a fund. So I grabbed my backpack. He grabbed the bag of peanut butter and it’s an, a paper bags as he lifted up that glass jar of organic peanut butter shoots out the bottom and splats on the flagstones below is just the butter. Right. But we continue on 10 feet apart in silence because I’m not ready to talk to him.

Sasha Vermel: Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that

Sasha Vermel: softening, but I’m not quite ready to let it go. So as we were almost getting to the next guest house and another sensation comes up in my body because I really have to be, and on one side of me is the mountain. And on the other side of me is a sheer cliff. So this isn’t actually like a real great place to just go.

Sasha Vermel: So we hustle up the last little bit until we get to the halfway guest out, which is at the summit of this particular trip we walk in and it kind of looks like bizarro world, like McDonald lodge right there. And I follow the infographic signs down through the hallways, out to the edge. And then there’s this bathroom stall.

Sasha Vermel: I opened the door and looked down and there’s the two ceramic footpads and the hole in the ground and a squat toilet. There’s a wall on this side of the. At a wall on this side of me and in front of me, where there would usually be a wall. There’s nothing like sky and mountains where the apex of this hike.

Sasha Vermel: And as I undo my button and like go to squat, like I feel kind of dizzy. The view looks like I’m at an elevator right in front of the mission mountain. And if you’ve ever been on a really good hike, you get to the top of the mountain. And there’s this moment where the mountains across from you seem so close.

Sasha Vermel: It’s like, you can touch them. It’s like communing with the divine was AP. I started to laugh. I did it. I felt the most beautiful squat toilet you in the world. I’ve traveled 10,000 miles. And now that I’ve gotten here, it kind of looks like Montana.

Sasha Vermel: So I think to myself, what are you still trying to prove? You’ve been running all the way around the room all the way around the world, and running’s not going to bring your mom back. Maybe, maybe you just have to make peace with the fact that she chose her own ending. Maybe, maybe it’s okay to not try to rewrite the story anymore or just continue to live hero. Thank you.

Marc: Thanks, Sasha.

Sasha Vermel passionately believes that we all have a basic need to hear and tell stories. By day, she is a real estate agent with a sewing and design habit. Born and raised in Missoula, MT she earned a BFA from U of M. In her former life she worked in theater costume shops across the West and frequently performed on stage at Bona Fide and Bawdy Storytelling events in San Francisco.

Marc Moss: Our next story comes to us from Sara Close.

Marc Moss: Sensitive listeners please be aware that Sara’s story mentions suicidal thoughts.

Marc Moss: Sara calls her story “A Lesson in Magic”

Marc Moss: Thanks for listening.

Sarah Close: Okay. So this whole story starts on my bedroom floor. Years ago, I was sitting in my room with my back against my dad, basically my dresser, our house was yellow and the walls in cyber yellow. And so the light was coming in from the south and kind of like bouncing off the walls. And it was really beautiful.

Sarah Close: Um, my two-year-old was feeding across the house soundly and it was just really quiet, maybe big car passing by outside. So for all intents and purposes is beautiful fall day. And then sitting there and I looked down at my hand and I’m holding my phone and shaky and I feel a little panicky. And I’m not really totally sure where to begin just suicide hotline.

Sarah Close: So obviously like I’m up here on stage. This is not a sad story. Like this whole thing turns out. Okay. Um, and so not still the punchline before we get there, but I won’t tell you about a couple of years prior to that there was a phone with a woman that I really respected. I was interviewing her to be a speaker at a conference that I helped to create to this bigger score.

Sarah Close: And she’s a professional storyteller. And so I’m, I’m interviewing her and asking her about all these different, amazing things with it, for work. She’d also just become a mom. So we worked, we kind of sidetracked into more like life land and not work land and was asking me because I’d known her for a really long time.

Sarah Close: And she finally said this to her, like, do you ever, like, have you ever thought about telling your story? And I. Honestly in thinking back on this limit, like, I don’t really remember what came out of my mouth. I just remember that my hand had been through scribbling notes through this whole thing. And I looked down at, at what I was writing and I wrote the words I believe in magic.

Sarah Close: And I do the hot thing, not the kind of like pull quarter out of your ear magic, which my daughter would be super stoked about. And I still haven’t figured it out, but, but like synchronicity, you know, and those, those moments about goosebumps and those sort of like moments of connection in the work in the world is sort of like universal whacked upside the head.

Sarah Close: Not because those things happen to me all the time, but because when they do, I kind of know that I’m on the right path and honest to God magic has helped me turn some of the hardest moments in my life into moments of beauty. And so just to give an example of what I mean by that years ago, um, I lost my partner in an avalanche.

Sarah Close: It’s definitely the hardest, probably most significant moment I’d had with grief to date. I was 24 years old. And for some reason, I, at 24 years old, got tasked with buying and earn, I don’t know, like how many 24 year olds have to go through the process of buying a Fern. But because I knew that was going to be hard.

Sarah Close: I enlisted the friend, didn’t come with me to make sure that I didn’t end up in some sort of like sad person puddle on the floor. Like whatever kind of store sells earns, because I didn’t know what that was at that time. So we’re in the car and we’re driving and he turns to me and he was like, Sarah, like, what do you think the Aaron’s going to look like?

Sarah Close: I was like, well, Johnny, or is that his spirit animal is a tiger. So I bet it’s going to have a tire on it. I was like, kind of joking about, but kind of also like, felt serious about it. We pull into the parking lot, get out of the car and we’d go into the store and we open the doors and walk in, literally there’s the shelf right in the center of the store.

Sarah Close: And you guys have not even joking. There is like one wooden box on the shelf with the tire on it. And I was like, okay, that feels kind of magical. And about six months later from that, uh, I went home with my parents for the holiday. It was my first holiday I had spent without my partner in a really long time.

Sarah Close: And I was so thankful obviously for the parents, for taking me in, um, beyond like, I didn’t really want to be there. You know, like I just, I didn’t want to be there. Like I wanted to with this person and put in, um, and my parents were so amazing. My mom at one point went downstairs to the basement, she friends back on the shoe box and it’s full of those.

Sarah Close: Um, like CPS heathered old photos, and then we start going through them. They’re all these pictures of beds. Is there a way I can go grab a pen? Like you just never know when one of us, isn’t going to be around to tell you who’s in these photos, like, I’ll tell you, you write the names on the back, like, great.

Sarah Close: So we did, this is perfect whole beautiful complete evening. And my dad has to be like, no, I didn’t know. And that was hard, you know, but still it was magical. It was like the universe. This is setting me up to have this experience that I needed to have. I know, like, even though I didn’t know it at the time, so anyways, before I like moved the heck out on you guys, to going back to that moment on my floor, in my bedroom, like there was not a lot of magic happening in that moment.

Sarah Close: I. I just, I was so profoundly sad that it actually physically hurts. Um, and like mark said, I teach yoga. So like any good yoga teacher does, you’re like how you can grab it to be my way out of this. So I’m like trying to pull all these moments of like the things that I was thankful for all these pieces that I was thankful for, because maybe one of them would help me pull myself out of this and it just wasn’t happening.

Sarah Close: So I closed my eyes and I found the number at the top of the Google search and I hit call and the phone rang, and then this message hotlines was closed. I mean, right. Like suicide hotline. Anyway, that’s like a whole different conversation, but the hotline. So I am sitting in there like, holy hell, this was like a really big move.

Sarah Close: And now you’re, and I didn’t know what to do. And this little voice comes on and it’s like, if you’d like to be transferred to our sister hotline press, and I’m like, well, why the hell not like bunches, Crestline? So we’re here. So I press one and it transfers me. And then I kept this God awful, whole music, like the kind of like really annoyingly, upbeat, even if you’re not like a suicidal, depressed person calling for help, it was like the worst.

Sarah Close: And I’m waiting and waiting and waiting. And then this worst picks up at the end of the line. I’m like, oh, thank goodness somebody is here. Somebody is going to help. And she has the thickest. Yes. Jamaican accent. I have ever heard in my entire life. And I literally was like, oh my gosh, customer service.

Sarah Close: Feel like I’m all sure you even know what to do with this. I was so frustrated. But she started talking and she had this like warm speak tone. And so I kind of hung on and she started asking me all these questions, like the right ones that you’d expect somebody to ask, like, do you have a plan? No. Are you in immediate danger? No.

Sarah Close: Is there anybody else in the house to hang up the phone? Cause there was somebody in the house and it was the very person that I took every breath for that. I take everybody for that. I never want to leave this world ever. And for was. So decently across the house with zero idea what was happening first of all, and if I said, yeah, my daughter’s here like a bad mom.

Sarah Close: I could give a reason the child, if she can hold tight services. And for, I would like in this whole thought process in my head and the words came out, yes, my daughter’s here and Jamaican woman transformed an instant into Jamaican mama. I will spare you guys, my Jamaican accent, as I’m going through all these things with her, she was like, oh my gosh, how old is she?

Sarah Close: What’s her name? And we spent the next, like 20 minutes talking about kids about love, about how hard those early childhood years are about our philosophies on everything, being a fades about motherhood, about our moms. And I swear, I could’ve just hung out in that space with her in my room. Forever. It felt like sitting with my mom until eventually we had to both realize like, okay, like I called you and you’re the person.

Sarah Close: And I like, this is a suicide hotline. So she’s like, Hey, it’s holiday weekends, everything’s closed, everything’s closed. And let’s just like, steer you in efficient, getting help. Where are you? And I’m like, where I’m in Missoula. She’s like, well, where’s that? How do you spell it? Cause like everybody asked that, when did you say this word to everybody?

Sarah Close: It’s not here. So I’m like, oh, am I like, I’m in Montana? Where are you? She’s like, oh, I’m in Washington DC. And I said, well, what side? Cause there’s two for anybody that has been there, there’s a marijuana number. Then you decide, she said, I’m on the Maryland side. And I was like, okay, well where in their lens?

Sarah Close: Oh, our county, do you know it? And I literally started to feel the hair come up on the back of my neck because he didn’t know it. And I kind of knew where this was going. And I said, where in Harvard. She said I’m in Columbia. And I’m like, where I’m at Howard county, general hospital. You guys like to make an mama, Jamaican lady, whatever you want to call her was not in Jamaica.

Sarah Close: She was literally working in the hospital where I was born, like on the other side of the country. And she could have probably like my mom’s house was across the street and I was probably in the house we were talking. She probably could have hugged the rock out the window, my parents’ house. And I didn’t know anything else to say other than I, I think you’re my angel, you know, it was just, uh, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more held in my entire life and I, would’ve never connected with.

Sarah Close: Jamaican mama angel, which she doesn’t know that I called her this, it might make a mama angel, had I not Googled or pressed one or waited through that awful holding music or like resisting the shame storm or any of those cases, you know, like there was so many moments along the way to let your stigma and shame and should took the wheel and just lost.

Sarah Close: Um, and then coming out of that experience, I think about my daughter was talking about this earlier today, which she always tells me you’re a calm things can be sad and happy. And I think I was just stuck in this dichotomy of being lost and that really had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t about being lost or about being found, but remembering that we’re always, and in all the ways, connecting to each other, you know, in sometimes.

Sarah Close: Universal hotline.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Sara. Remember, You are not alone. Reach out. | Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255 | projecttomorrowmt.org | “text MT” to 741-741

Marc Moss: Sara Close is a strategist and convener of good ideas and good people. Director by day, yoga teacher by night, but a mom all the time, she’s happiest on the water, on trails, or on the trampoline… but definitely not on snow and is still trying to figure out how to do winter in Montana right.

Marc Moss: Lauren Gonzalez is up next, with a story that she calls “No Girls Allowed”.

Marc Moss: Thanks for listening.

Lauren Gonzalez: All right. Um, where did I start? Do I start now? Okay. All right. Where to begin? Um, I had never wished so hard in my life. To see a penis. Wait, let me back up. Let me back up a little bit. I didn’t always want kids, but when I finally decided my clock is ticking down at the time, my husband and I went ahead and had one and we were delighted, not just because it was a healthy baby, but because it was a moment he got the boy that he could name after his brother who had passed several years previously.

Lauren Gonzalez: And I got the boy that I wanted because girls are mean, and they’re manipulative. I’ve lived the experience. And I know, but also because when I was about eight years old, I got my first babysitting gig and I was tasked with babysitting this girl named Hannah, who was about three years old and somehow our activities together devolved into her throwing toys at me and blocks and like hard matchbox cars like toys hurt when they hit.

Lauren Gonzalez: If you didn’t know. Um, and so I just ended up not knowing what to do. I so desperately wanted to do a good job. Um, and I didn’t want to admit that I needed any help. So I ended up just cowering in the corner and crying tears, streaming down my face and accrues to me. Now I could have left the room, but you don’t, you do what you do in the moment.

Lauren Gonzalez: Um, and it, it was traumatic. And I knew from then on, you know, if I ever have kids one day, no girls. Thanks. Um, so this was my life plan and I knew that it would work out because I just, I couldn’t envision myself mothering girls. So obviously I wouldn’t have any that’s how life works. Right. Um, so we had this baby, Joey, our first born, super mellow, easy baby.

Lauren Gonzalez: So I’m like, man, we’re good parents. Let’s go ahead and have like three to seven more right away. So we get pregnant right away, um, with the second and right away. Off, like I know evil is growing inside. Experience was like a cush Cadillac ride, like very comfortable. Very cool. The second experience was like a bumper car ride at the fair.

Lauren Gonzalez: I just felt like jostled and uncomfortable and nauseous and sick, but still I thought, you know, I held out, I was like my life plan, my life plan. It’s going to work out. We get to the gender reveal party in Demond, M spill out of the cake. And I’m still like food doctor’s practice, which means they can make mistakes.

Lauren Gonzalez: They’re practicing. So, you know, baby penises are cartoonishly small. It could just be, you can’t find it on that little screen. So every ultrasound I’m going and I’m staring at that little screen and I wishing for a penis I’m just wishing so hard and it just never materializes. And then finally the day of the birth comes and out, she comes June Pearl, and I stare into her little base and I just think.

Lauren Gonzalez: How are you and what do you want for me? Because honestly, I didn’t have a whole lot to give. I, I didn’t know how to mother, a girl, honestly, I don’t think I was strong enough. I thought you needed to be a strong woman to mother, a strong woman, and I didn’t have what it took. So I, um, I, we moved forward together.

Lauren Gonzalez: Obviously I took her home, my baby fed her. She still lives with me in case. Um, but I didn’t know what to do. I just felt so much, um, there was no passion, there was no joy in it. It was more like obligation. And I felt very resentful that she was taking my attention away from my first born, my boy. Um, and I felt super guilty because what mom feels this way about their kid.

Lauren Gonzalez: Um, wasn’t an experience I’d expected to have, and it wasn’t my life plan. Um, and so. We move forward. She keeps getting older. She keeps needing from me. She needs love. She needs attention. She needs affection, all these things. And she gets to age to age three, age four. Um, and I turned into this person. I don’t even recognize, um, I, this tyrant I’m yelling, I’m screaming.

Lauren Gonzalez: I don’t know how to control her. Um, she’s very, strong-willed some of you met her then, you know, um, she’s quite the reputation, but I am, I just turned into this tyrant and I it’s the only way I know how to get back control because I don’t want to be that girl cowering in the corner anymore. So I try being the, the, the bullying instead.

Lauren Gonzalez: And I ended up, you know, just trying to take control by being over the top. And I do, you know what it feels like to scream it until your oldest feels terrible? I would slam doors. I would run into my room and just cry out of my bed and think what have I become? I don’t even recognize. I was afraid to be alone with her really.

Lauren Gonzalez: And I’m sure my husband was afraid to leave me alone with her. I just was so angry. I’d never seen that level of anger come out of me before, but I had seen it before because as parents, we only know how to parent the way that we have been parented and in my house, any loss of control. I mean, my dad was known to throw staplers objects, slam doors, yell, and scream.

Lauren Gonzalez: Um, and it’s all I knew how to do. And so I just learned to live in this little box. I learned to be with the adults around me needed and, um, to live really small. And so that’s how I grew up and that’s how I live my life. And then June came around and man, she was born with a strong spirit. And I can tell you is this legacy of anger was my family story for generations, but it’s not our story because June came out with this fighting.

Lauren Gonzalez: And she would not live inside this little box, man. She just, she wouldn’t be controlled. I, I couldn’t get control. Um, and so at some point around age four or five, she and I together kind of learned to live in this strength that exists between the girl crying in the corner and between the bully, throwing the blocks, there’s the strength right in the middle.

Lauren Gonzalez: And she taught me that she taught me how to live there and how to be, to get, I don’t have to get control. I don’t have control over anything. And that, I don’t think I ever realized that, um, until she came along, um, and she has just grown into this amazing girl who wears a backward slip as a dress to the daddy daughter, dams at the Y and is a total creative.

Lauren Gonzalez: I mean, she just sees the whole world in color and learning to see it. Her way has been such an amazing. And then, um, you know, she squirrels away little pieces of trash in her room and this insane filing system that like, she knows if I’ve touched it, but she also, like, she knows where everything is. I’m getting on board, you know?

Lauren Gonzalez: And like, this is the experience that we’re having, we’re doing it together. So, um, you know, I went back when I brought her home from the hospital for the first time. I didn’t know how to process my feelings. And so as a writer, I just blogged about it because why would you not just write about it for millions of people to read on the internet?

Lauren Gonzalez: You know, they put all your feelings out there. Um, and so I did that and I remember my mom telling me, you’re probably going to regret this is how will she feel when she grows up and she reads, you know, your experience and everything that, how it happened. Um, and I can’t say for sure how she was. But I hope that if she has kids, if she has kids, she will know that you don’t have to be a perfect parent.

Lauren Gonzalez: When you start out, you just learn to be the parents that your kid needs. Um, and you make room, you just learned to make group. Um, and you, a lot of times, your healing is found in that process and on that jury. Um, and I hope she sees that as a mother, the experience doesn’t have to look in a certain way.

Lauren Gonzalez: It doesn’t have to feel the way it feels for everyone else. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest worthy. Um, just follow the journey. I mean, you just, everybody gets there in their own way. Sometimes it’s fucked up, but you get there. And then if she doesn’t have kids, I hope that she sees that she was the beauty, that Tam cookies that I was when she first came home.

Lauren Gonzalez: And, um, I couldn’t be more grateful. Um, and she, because of that, she’s capable of. And I can’t wait to see what comes out of her and where we go together.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Lauren.

Marc Moss: Lauren Gonzalez is a Southern-born thirty-something who writes/edits, climbs, (pretends to learn the) drums, sings, homeschools, and mothers two plucky kids (alongside her partner of 10 years) here in beautiful Missoula. Also seen in: the Good Food Store, being overly indecisive in the coffee aisle; the library, labeling it “me time” while the kids play completely unsupervised in the Spectrum area.

Marc Moss: Our next storyteller, Paul Mwingwa, is a refugee from Congo by way of Rwanda.

Marc Moss: We call Paul’s story “Riding the Bus”. Thanks for listening.

Paul Mwingwa: Hello? I wasn’t, they do something about

Paul Mwingwa: But before that, I will tell you how was writing in my country. maybe a city entrance to the big city, which is like low, low, and right.

Paul Mwingwa: The bus to get placed in that the bus. And for some people need to go through the windows to get to the bus and for the money. Then I crossed the border because look, the one I come in, the one down where I spent 18 years as a refugee. In one night, it’s kind of, pick the bus. And when we get up the pass station, they have to make light. He’s the first person to arrive at the bathtub, get in the bus. Then when we arrived here in Missoula, in November, yeah.

Paul Mwingwa: The organization will come refugees here. Tell us how to ride the bus. And this was in need to go to those or Walmart, the one office in stuff, one or two kids at school. And one of my son who was at the Sentinel high school and they tell us we was living close to Franklin elementary school. And from there we should take the bus number two.

Paul Mwingwa: Then the first day Volusia took my son out of school. And the second day I decided to take myself, my son and see where he picking class. Then we take the bus from Franklin elementary school. We were at downtown, all the people in the past to get out, you can drive, also get out. And we decided also to get out, when do we get the other day?

Paul Mwingwa: I asked him, I asked my son, how many buses did you take to come to school? We didn’t want to one bus.

Paul Mwingwa: No.

Paul Mwingwa: I you said, okay. I can ask someone. I ask someone for help. It’s okay to go, to get to certain the last school you missed the bus.

Paul Mwingwa: Number one, then you show the bus number one, getting the bus. Number one, I go to the office every day for my son, then all my way, go back at, at home.

Paul Mwingwa: I was thinking how it guy I boil for 16 years. Can we get you into the bus and they can attend the bus without knowing, and he get out of school. That was a finger about that. And we arrive at the Suffolk. Good for my, for my idea. I was supposed to get out of the dead bus, wait for the bus. Number two can take me to my place.

Paul Mwingwa: Then I get down to the bus and I see him that day. Getting my hand like this, I saw the advice. Number two, live in the session.

Paul Mwingwa: Where does it come from?

Paul Mwingwa: No, it said make it go. I pulled an interpreter. I explained him how the bus, I missed the bus. Oh, Paul, you many mistakes by school, the number and not from your house.

Paul Mwingwa: Don’t tell them the bus number to 10. The number from one from two. And from there, if I got stuff more, if I, the number from one to two, now that my son knows, right. Because when he

Paul Mwingwa: I just said, okay,

Paul Mwingwa: I get the lessons with the lady. I went there for 15 minutes, then another master I saw he’s always number one. Then they saw it and he said, he jumped the gun. Number two, I waited to get to the bus and they can I take, I get my job and the fourth day I was supposed to go work. And when we arrived, You know, a country didn’t have this normal.

Paul Mwingwa: And I felt that it was seeing my kids blend is blue. I did feel that is very cold.

Paul Mwingwa: Now I wake up in the morning. I go to south Suffolk it’s month, wait for the bus. I didn’t wear clothes, which skin protecting me. And I arrived there. I went to. What was it? 15 minutes.

Paul Mwingwa: And I was called, they’ve called the tenant from Corning, this filing my hands.

Paul Mwingwa: All the ears was binding. I assumed the bus number seven, but then I didn’t do that bus faster by sending me out to downtown. I was waiting for the bus number two or bus number one,

Paul Mwingwa: the bicycle riding. I was suffering myself. I was praying while your friends who I put my hands on my issue, they, I lose how it can be one, but they didn’t to get that.

Paul Mwingwa: I get in the bus quickly and they go to the bottom, crying in myself who can, how it can feel better. And finally, on my hand, my. We got, I didn’t know how we get the downtown and it was under the tone means I want to go my way.

Paul Mwingwa: And I explained to my supervisor what’s happened to me, so I miss it by and I knew

Paul Mwingwa: I very cool. We didn’t know that this, but I forget I’ve started to get them all. I said, then my sixth or eighth, I got my lesson from that. I learned how to let the all new you come. I threatened them. Right. Because I would get my gun every time I saw someone outside this door, I went in and when I I’m with him,

Paul Mwingwa: I tried, I have friends. Don’t play with this known by him.

Paul Mwingwa: Thank you for that.

Marc: Thanks, Paul.

Paul Mwingwa is the Refugee Congress Delegate for Montana. He is a resettled refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and came to the U.S. in November 2018. Mwingwa is studying Computer Network Design, Configuration and Administration Modules at Missoula College. Today, he works as a Swahili language instructor and private contractor at the Lifelong Learning Center and a food service worker at Providence St. Patrick Hospital. In his free time, he enjoys hiking and walking along the river.

Marc Moss: Jen Certa originally shared this story in 2020 during one of the Tell Us Something live-streamed events. It is such an important story that we thought she deserved a live in-person audience to hear it. Jen agreed.

Marc Moss: Sensitive listeners be aware that Jen’s story mentions sexual assault.

Marc Moss: Jen calls her story “How to Love This World”. Thanks for listening.

Jen Certa: So there’s this thing that used to happen to me every year when the weather would get bummed 45 and it was settled. Sandal weather in Missoula, standing in line at the grocery store, hang out in front of backyard, floating the river and of leaves. Someone would look down at my feet and they would ask me the question.

Jen Certa: I read it. Hey, what’s your tattoo? I hated this question and I hated it because every time someone would ask them this, I was just flooded inside with shame. 10 years ago, I was 24 leaving Montana. And what I thought would be a permanent move. And I was just heartbroken about leaving for the previous few years.

Jen Certa: Montana had been misplaced where I had felt the most alive, most fully myself that I had felt ever in my life. I was so afraid to lose that feeling. And I was just desperate to take with me some kind of a reminder of what this place had meant to me. So I made an appointment at a local tattoo shop like you do when you’re 24 and having a quarter-life crisis.

Jen Certa: And since this was going to be my first tattoo, I was more than a little nervous about how it was going to turn out. So I asked the artist who was going to be doing my tattoo, and you wouldn’t mind doing drawing part of the appointment for me to just kind of help ease my anxiety that I did, what I wanted it to be.

Jen Certa: And he said that he would. So for the six weeks prior to the appointment, I checked in diligently every week with him to see if the drawing that he had promised me was ready. And each week he kind of blew me off. He’d say you’ve been really busy that week and you’d get to it the next day. And that happened over and over again.

Jen Certa: I was starting to feel a little uneasy about it, but he had come really highly recommended by a friend. So I stuck with him finally, the day of the appointment arrived and I still hadn’t seen a drawing. I got there and he asked me to remind him what it was that I wanted. And talk to me. I told him pretty clear disinterest for a few minutes, and then he disappeared in the back somewhere.

Jen Certa: And like, I swear, five minutes later, he comes back out and he hands me this piece of paper and it has a clip art picture on it. And sometimes in a font, but I would say was like a Microsoft word, scripty sort of font. And I didn’t love it. So I asked him if he would be willing to make a few. And he basically told me with the air of someone who’s being incredibly convenience, that it would just be a lot of trouble for him to make some changes to this divine right now.

Jen Certa: And if I wanted to get a tattoo that day, it was pretty much, it was too late. I had waited six weeks for this appointment and I was leaving Montana and another two weeks, and I just felt this pressure, like it was now or never. I don’t remember. It was a warm day and still the vinyl chairs sticking to the back of my leg.

Jen Certa: The air was just fit with this metallic by thing and a tall, pretty intimidating, somewhat annoyed man, towered over me and asked, ready. Uh, yeah, yeah. Ready?

Jen Certa: I said that even though I didn’t feel ready or good about this at all, second, the needle touched my skin. I knew, I knew this. Wasn’t what I wanted for my body.

Jen Certa: In this moment. I knew I was abandoning my intuition, my inner knowing.

Jen Certa: And I said, yes,

Jen Certa: There have been other times in my life where I felt intimidated powerless, where I’ve had a man do things to my body that I did not want. And a 24, no one was forcing me to get this tattoo. I was choosing this. I had power in this situation and I, the way I stayed frozen inside.

Jen Certa: I mean because of that, the hummingbird didn’t come out as soft and elegant. And as I was hoping that it would, and sort of the sort of rough looking like it’s feathers, it kind of in blown around in a wind storm and it was positioned in this sort of aggressive way. Like it was ready to dive on something at any moment.

Jen Certa: And then there was the line from the Mary Oliver poem that I love. There was only one question how to let this. And that Microsoft word fond. Yeah. How’s it turns out the side of your foot is in a great place for a tattoo. So over time, the words faded in such a way that eventually it just read one question.

Jen Certa: I used to tell people what they had asked me what the one question was, question tattoos,

Jen Certa: but the truth is what it looks, what it looked like is not. So you’ll reason why I. I felt so much shame when someone would notice it and why I tried so hard to hide it it’s because this tattoo was a literal physical reminder of psychological scars ones that I didn’t ask for that I profoundly disliked about myself for a long time.

Jen Certa: And that like-mind my, to, I fight really hard to avoid looking at things. Went on like that for about a decade until March 20. The pandemic happened and suddenly, like a lot of people, I was spending a ton of time alone without much distraction. And as the lockdown days turned into weeks and months, I was finding it harder and harder to avoid my own thoughts and to avoid looking at the things I had tried so hard to avoid.

Jen Certa: And of course it was also hard to avoid looking at my tattoo because I wasn’t leaving my house. So I didn’t have reason to wear shoes. And during that time I realized something. I realized that it was not a matter of if I would look at the stars, but a matter of how. I could continue to look at them with self-hatred and God as I have, or I can choose to look at them with some compassion for myself.

Jen Certa: I can’t change the experience that I had of getting that tattoo or of any of the other experiences that it reminds me of. But what I can do is take small steps to reclaim them. So earlier this year I made an appointment at a different local tattoo shop. The artist that I met with. Who I researched thoroughly beforehand, this time was kind.

Jen Certa: And she asked me thoughtful question. As I tried to explain the design that I was picturing in my head fire weed has a somewhat on parent name, but I think it’s beautiful. And it is one of my favorite and become one of my favorite wild flowers in my time as a Montana and even more important to me than that fire, we get 16 from sensibility to grow in burn areas, landscapes that have been traumatized by wildfires.

Jen Certa: It’s the first flower to bloom to reclaim a landscape after a fire scars. And now fire blues from one of my scars too. It’s a reminder that new road and fans forum, you’re going to play some terrible distraction. And also an answer to that one question of my original tattoo, how to love this world like this, including the joy and everything in between, and including me too.

Marc Moss: Thanks, Jen. Jen Certa is originally from New York, but accidentally began a love affair with Montana in 2009 and is grateful to have called Missoula home since. Jen works as a mental health therapist at an elementary school, where she spends her days debating the finer points of making fart noises with your slime and playing “the floor is lava.” When not at work, Jen can most often be found hiking with her dogs and running late for something.

Initially, I had hoped that they would each share a story individually. When they pitched the idea of sharing their story in tandem, I was skeptical. I thought, well, this isn’t a normal year. Why not?

Teresa Waldorf: March 22nd, and I’m not flying to be I’m in a long distance relationship with a man who I think is going to be the next great love of my life. But we’ve been having an argument on the phone. I’m saying I have to cancel my flight. My mom is crying and he’s saying things like, well, at our age, I don’t think we do what our moms tell us.

Rosie Ayers: I had stopped all theater productions, all classes. I had no answers for anything.

On the next Tell Us Something podcast, tune in to listen to them share their experience of a pandemic reckoning that they call “March 22”.

Thanks once again to our title sponsor, Blackfoot Communications. They deliver superior technology solutions through trusted relationships and enrich the lives of their customers, owners and employees. Learn more at blackfoot.com

And thanks to all of our in-kind sponsors:

Joyce Gibbs: Hi, it’s Joyce from Joyce of Tile. If you need tile work done, give me a shout. I specialize in custom tile installations. Learn more and see some examples of my work at joyceoftile.com.

Gabriel Silverman: Hey, this is Gabe from Gecko Designs. We’re proud to sponsor Tell Us Something, learn more at geckodesigns.com

Marc Moss: Missoula Broadcasting Company including the family of ESPN radio, The Trail 103.3, Jack FM and my favorite place to find a dance party while driving U104.5 (insert Gecko Designs) Float Missoula – learn more at floatmsla.com, and MissoulaEvents.net!

Marc Moss: To learn more about Tell Us Something, please vistit tellussomething.org.

 

Bonnie Bishop talks about what it was like to be the first person in Tell Us Something history to share her story in a live-streamed setting. We talk about the pandemic, about collective grief and about what it means to begin returning to life beyond quarantine. After our conversation, you can hear the story as Bonnie shared it on the Tell Us Something live-streamed stage.
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