Sometimes adventure is chosen, sometimes it's thrust upon you. In this episode of the Tell Us Something podcast, we delve into the journeys of four remarkable people: A mother and daughter in Belize work together to navigate the challenges of entering the country with an expired passport, a determined diver confronts the depths of the ocean swimming against sudden swells and learns some harrowing news the next day when she returns to the water. An artist wrestles with self-doubt and the meaning of success. And a woman on a wilderness adventure faces a grizzly bear encounter, wolves and swarming bees on her ordeal to get out and help with a family emergency.

Transcript : Close to the Edge - Part 1

Marc Moss: We are currently looking for storytellers for the next Tell Us Something storytelling event. The theme is “Going Home”. This event is a collaboration with Missoula Pride and we will favor folx in the LBGTQ+ community as we listen to story pitches. If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 406-203-4683. You have 3 minutes to leave your pitch. Our friends from the Deaf community are welcome to pitch by emailing [email protected].


The pitch deadline is May 4th. I look forward to hearing from you.


Another important date is on the horizon, too. Missoula Gives & Bitterroot Gives, is an initiative of the Missoula Community Foundation, is a 26-hour celebration of the Missoula and Ravalli communities. It connects generous Missoulians and Bitterrooters with the causes they care about. Causes like Tell Us Something. It is a day to celebrate and support the role nonprofits and donors (like you) play in making our Missoula & Ravalli communities great. Mark your calendars for May 2nd and 3rd and tell your friends about this opportunity to support Tell Us Something during Missoula Gives. May 2nd and 3rd.


Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast. Tell Us Something is a nonprofit that helps people share their true personal stories around a theme live in person and without notes. I’m Marc Moss, your host and Executive Director of Tell Us Something! We acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional lands of the Salish, Pend Oreille, and Kalispel peoples, who have stewarded this land throughout the generations.

As spring unfolds its vibrant colors and rejuvenates the earth, we recognize the interconnectedness of all life, and the importance of honoring Indigenous knowledge and practices.

In this season of renewal, let us commit to fostering a deeper understanding of Indigenous culture and history. Take time to learn about the traditional ecological knowledge of the original inhabitants of this land, and incorporate sustainable practices into our daily lives.

Together, let us strive to be mindful stewards of the land, fostering harmony and respect for all beings who call this place home.

A tangible way that we can do this is to practice leave no trace principles when we are outside recreating. Pick up our dogs’ waste when we are out hiking — don’t “get it on the way back” from your hike, get it when it happens, and carry it with you. Pick up trash where you see it, observe wildlife from a distance and avoid feeding them. By practicing some of these leave no trace principles, we can be stewards of the land that we claim to love so much.

We take this moment to honor the land and its Native people, and the stories that they share with us.


Sometimes adventure is chosen, sometimes it’s thrust upon you. In this episode of the Tell Us Something podcast, we delve into the journeys of four remarkable people:


A mother and daughter in Belize work together to navigate the challenges of entering the country with an expired passport, a determined diver confronts the depths of the ocean swimming against sudden swells and learns some harrowing news the next day when she returns to the water. An artist wrestles with self-doubt and the meaning of success. And a woman on a wilderness adventure faces a grizzly bear encounter, wolves and swarming bees on her ordeal to get out and help with a family emergency.


Traci Sylte: He opens the door and said, you’ll need to go to the U. S. Embassy right away. And talk to the consulate.


Ren Parker: I fight like hell to get up. Everything starts going really fast. I’m breathing air out as fast as I can, and I’m moving and swimming as hard as I can to get to the surface.  When divers dive, they need to decompress as they go to the surface.


Mark Matthews: And I  admitted for the first time that I’d given up the thing I loved. I’m Because I thought I was a failure, because I couldn’t make a living from it.


Kat Werner: I enter Pain Cave. Which is really just  alright, like, suck it up. Full on autopilot,  and I just, you know, one paddle stroke and one step at a time  trying to make it out of there. 


Marc Moss: Four storytellers share their true personal story on the theme “Close to the Edge”. Our stories today were recorded live in person in front of a packed house on March 26, 2024 at The George and Jane Dennison Theatre.


Remember this: Tell Us Something stories sometimes have adult themes. Storytellers sometimes use adult language.


Our first storyteller is Traci Sylte. An expired passport throws mother-daughter vacation into chaos! Listen to their dramatic encounter with immigration and how they turned a mishap into an unforgettable experience. We call her story “The Trip of a Lifetime”. Thanks for listening.


Traci Sylte: Descending from 30, 000 feet comes the following across the loudspeaker. Good afternoon. This is your main flight attendant speaking. Soon we will be coming through the aisles to pick up any unwanted items.


Please also have your, your custom form and your declarations formed, picked, filled out because we will be picking those up as well. Thank you for flying with us. We will be landing in Belize City in approximately 30 minutes. Beside me sat my daughter Becca, and it was just the two of us. She was 14 at [00:01:00] the time, and that was five years ago.


Old enough to begin filling out the customs form herself. And so I gave her her own form and she started filling it out. I began filling out the declaration form, making sure we had no, no unwanted fruits, no unwanted plant parts. Certainly nothing over 10, 000 in cash that we were bringing in. And then I started looking down at Becca and she was hesitating.


And, um, she’s sitting right here to the side of me and I’m, she’s, like, not filling out her form. And I look down and I said, Sweets, what’s wrong? And she says, Mom, my passport has expired. Yeah, right? And I say, that’s not true. Uh, let me see it. I look down, and sure enough, it had expired four months prior.


Four months prior, thirty minutes before we were to land in Belize City. Yeah. [00:02:00] And so I thought for a moment about like this, and I looked down at her, and I said, Okay, Becca, I need you to follow my lead. Can you do that, sweets? Just follow my lead. And she goes, Yeah, Mama, I can, I can do that. So we land, the customs line is long, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, because it was long enough for me to think about all the different things I could do to get us through this.


And it came down to one thing. I needed to be an actress, and I needed to be Meryl Streep. And I, oh, no, Jodie Foster. Jodie Foster is really hot right now, don’t you think? Yeah, Jodie Foster. So I had to be my best Jodie Foster. And so we are, we are coming up, and here’s the, up to the time where the, you see the official.


And I give the passports to her, and she looks at mine, asks me the questions, and then she hands it back, stamps it, and hands it back to me, and then she looks at Becca’s. And she looks at me and she says, Ma’am, her passport [00:03:00] is expired, did you know this? And I said, that can’t be. And, and I said, that’s just not possible.


And she says, it’s expired. And I said, that can’t be. Can I see it? So she hands it back to me, and I immediately start sobbing. And if, if, and I’m not an actress, but let me, and you guys probably like me watch movies, how do they do that? Let me say it’s possible you can, you can cry, you can cry. So I’m crying and I’m saying this is not true.


It can’t be, but it is. I don’t know how this has happened. Her dad just gave me the passport last night. We’re divorced. They went to, I didn’t think he’d laugh at that, that part, but yes. Okay. Yes. But yeah, we’re divorced. There’s, there’s clunky things, right? He, he handed me the passport last night. I’m telling the woman this.


And. They just went to Costa Rica last year. Passports don’t, they need to be renewed every ten years, right? And she’s not old enough. And she goes, ma’am, ma’am, [00:04:00] ma’am, calm down, calm down. Passport, and I’m crying, um, Passports need to be renewed for children under 18 years old every 5 years. And I said I didn’t know that.


And then she looks at me really sternly. And then she looks at Becca. And the interrogation begins. Who is this? This is my mama. What are you doing in Belize? We are in spring break. Where’s your dad? Why is your passport expired? Bang, bang, bang, bang. She asked Becca all these questions and Becca did not look up at me.


She just very calmly addressed this woman and after her interrogation the woman signals for another assistant to come and he comes and asks us the same exact freaking questions. Same thing, same response and I’m, I’m still trying to cry although the tears are starting to go away and Same thing, and Terry gets back, uh, and then he makes a phone call, [00:05:00] and he says, come with me.


And so we follow him down this long corridor, and then it turns, and I’m thinking all this time about spy movies and corrupt governments, and And cartels, drug cartels, and, and how vulnerable we are to these people at this time. And then we get to this door, and the door says, Director of Immigrations. And the door opens, he knocks, and the door opens, and this gentleman, let’s call him Raul, um, Raul, um, opens the door, and then he gestures for us to come in.


and sit down at these two chairs that were by his desk, and then he sits behind his desk and he looks at me, and I’m looking at him and I can see on the wall behind him, literally, no joke, there’s a picture of Jesus, and then on top of his file cabinets there are praying hands and I thought, I hope this works in my credit, or to my benefit, but drug cartels and corrupt governments, they’re religious too, so how is this going to work out?


So, he starts interrogating me the same questions, and I answer all of [00:06:00] those, and I’m not crying at this point. And at the end of these questions, I add. I said, I know it seems really stupid. Her dad and I were reasonably smart people, we just made a mistake. And I can tell you this also. Look at all of the consent forms, look at, we’ve got everything in line, and I can tell you that on the customs form it says, it asks you for the date of issue.


Thank you. Not the date of expiration. I never looked at the date of expiration. Neither did her dad. So then he turns from me to Becca. And he starts interrogating her, literally, with all the same questions. Who is this? And, and, and, then it comes, they think that I’m trying to smuggle my daughter in. It’s like, I just want to go out on the island and be with the sun and the sand.


And, and, I look at her and I think. She’s, she’s not looking at me, and she’s answering his questions with such poise and such grace, and it’s like, wow. She’s doing better than I am. And when she’s done with her interrogation, he looks back at [00:07:00] me, and his eyes had changed. At that point, I thought, Or maybe I knew that I was looking into the eyes of a father or perhaps a grandfather.


He literally, he turned and he went to a stack of papers on his desk. Oh, I forgot to tell you, at this point he was on the corner of his desk and he was looking over his eyeglasses like this at me. But he turned and he grabbed this, this, this piece of paper. And he literally ripped, I’m not joking, he ripped off a quarter of that piece of paper and he said, and then he put some of Becca’s passport information on it, he signed it and then he stamped it.


He said, this is your 14 day visitor pass to Belize, don’t lose it.


Yeah, he opens the door and said, you’ll need to go to the U. S. Embassy right away. And talk to the consulate, and don’t lose that piece of paper. So, I [00:08:00] also have to say that in my defense, I had this trip choreographed to the hour. I had two days on the mainland before we went out on the five day island excursion, two days afterwards, and I had to cancel all of that.


All of the mainland excursions that we were going to go on. And in that time, we got the passport application renewal, we got passport pictures, which is not easy to find all this stuff in Belize City in a third world country. It took a little bit of time and it was great for Becca and I, we really got to experience Belize City trying to find these things.


We called, we called her father, um, and got the, um, the, her birth certificate. FedExed overnight, we got, we got out on the island, we had a lovely time out on the island, did a lot of things, Becca snorkeled, and then she learned to dive out there. And while we were in the dive shop, the host of the dive shop said to us, I’ve never heard of such a story.


I can’t believe you’re here. And he said, you are likely going to have trouble getting back into the country.


[00:09:00] And he said, and just know that you can demand with the U. S. Embassy a 24 hour emergency passport. Just remember that. So, fast forward, I don’t have time to tell you all the things about the U. S. Embassy, that would take another ten minutes or more, um, but it was about as daunting. There were long lines, there were glass doors that I swear were three to four inches thick, um, There was, at one point, we heard a gentleman yell and say, if somebody doesn’t do something, somebody’s gonna get shot.


And we are getting the full, full experience here, this 14 year old here listening to all of this. And I also have to tell you that I put my mama bear on, and I, I had to, and I asked for a supervisor and another supervisor, and I demanded that emergency passport, and we needed it. It was, it was daunting.


But I’m here to say that the, but, and we got a private, we had a private host that helped us getting back and forth between [00:10:00] the, the, um, the consulate or the American embassy in Belmopan, which is an hour and a half away from Belize City, and we had to go back and forth several times, but we got to go in caves and visit his family and experience things that we normally would never have experienced.


And we made it. To our boarding gate 30 minutes before departure. Now we got on the plane and then we fly back in and we’re getting back into Missoula. And a lot of you guys can probably attest to this. The smell and the clear, the clear, cool air of Missoula was just really welcoming. And on our drive home, we were talking and reminiscing about the trip.


And, and Becca said to me, she goes, mom, that was the best trip that we’d ever been on. And, and she said. I think it was probably the trip of a lifetime. And I said, well, it was for me. You’re only 14, but yes. [00:11:00] It was a trip of a lifetime. It was epic. And she said, Mom, I gotta tell you something. Can I tell you something and have you not get mad at me?


She’s like, oh, here we go. She has a way of diffusing me before she even says something. And she said, Mom, I knew that the passport was expired before we left.


Thank you.


Marc Moss: Thanks, Traci.


Traci Sylte is a civil engineer and hydrologist who has worked for the U.S. Forest Service for nearly 34 years, and is currently the watershed program manager for the Lolo National Forest. She has a passion to maintain healthy watersheds, valley bottoms, rivers, streams, and wetlands. Traci is the product of two very loving parents.Her father taught her to operate a chainsaw and her mother facilitated dresses and piano lessons for her. The love of her life is her daughter, Becca, who is currently in her first year at the University of Washington. Traci continues to grow deeper in love with Missoula each year, because if one wants to learn to weave a basket with pink polka dots on a Tuesday, there’s someone probably doing it here. When Traci is not working, she is grounded by spending time with beloved family and friends, all things water, fly fishing, hiking, playing hockey with amazing Missoula women, fireside guitar serenades, sunrises, sunsets, all things music, and leaving things better than she found them.


In our next story, Ren Parker embarks on what was supposed to be a relaxing dive off Catalina Island that takes a terrifying turn. After fighting for survival in a desperate ascent, Ren knows that she must get back into the water the next day, and is met with devastating news upon surfacing. Ren calls her story “Deep Blue”. Thanks for listening.


Ren Parker: I am anchored on a small boat on the backside of Catalina Islands.  I’m getting ready to do a salvage dive with the two Johns.  And we’re standing there and looking around. It’s a beautiful sunshiny day.  Um, and we peer down the thing about the back side of Catalina Island is it’s open ocean. And for those of you who haven’t experienced open ocean, there’s nothing to stop the energy from the ocean.


When you are on the shore and you see a wave,  That is stopping all this force, but in the open ocean, it’s just there.  But everything seemed good for the dive that day, and we were about to drop down and get a lobster trap for a friend who had lost it during the lobster season.  As I slip into the ocean and slowly start ascending, descending into the depths, I look around and orient myself. 


On the backside of the island, there’s a shelf that’s about 120 feet.  There are these pinnacles that are about 60 feet that rise up like needles.  It’s very beautiful. If you look out the shelf, it drops down. And often when we speak of the depth, we use the word miles instead of feet. That’s how deep it is there.


You can see shadows moving and you never know what they are.  And as I go down, it gets a little darker and I touch the bottom of the ocean floor. It’s Sandy there.  We have only a few minutes to tie off the flotation device to get our lobster trap up. And, uh, that’s because the deeper you dive, the less time you have on the floor.


So we get that going and we, we, uh, light it up and it starts going up and up and then suddenly the surge hits.  I’m thrown 30 feet back and forth. I’m dodging pinnacles. I’m trying not to get smashed with rocks. I’m completely absorbed in the moment of trying to right myself and find some sense of balance.


For those of you that are unfamiliar with surge.  It’s like an underwater  river, but it goes back and forth and it’s very hard to swim against it. And this one was extremely strong.  By the time I had my wits about me and I’m trying to move around, I realized I’ve been breathing much heavier than I normally would.


And I’m starting to run out of air.  So I look around, I see the Johns. We all make the sign. We need to get out of here. And we start ascending up.  But it’s been really hard to swim and I’m exhausted and I look and I still have quite a ways to go and I’m almost out of air.  I look five minutes, five. Five, four, three, two,  and it’s gone. 


I fight like hell to get up. Everything starts going really fast. I’m breathing air out as fast as I can, and I’m moving and swimming as hard as I can to get to the surface.  When divers dive, they need to decompress as they go to the surface.  Air expands and gases expand in your system as you start going up. 


And if you don’t have enough time to off gas it out of your system, the ones that are stored in your tissue and your lungs, then it can create bubbles in your bloodstream and in your arteries and affect your organs.  I knew all this because I had worked at the hyperbaric chamber. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it is a capsule that you go in when you get, um, decompression sickness from going up too fast or not fully getting the gases out of your system. 


And they put you back in pressure at depth so they can slowly bring you back up and you can off gas it the way you’re supposed to.  Um, I, this is in my mind, I break the surface  and there is foam and waves and I’m getting thrashed everywhere and I just keep dipping down and there’s no air in the, my vest and my BC.


So I just keep going under and I’m fighting to breathe and to get to the boat and somehow I do.  And I’m thinking about all these things and realize that I may be in some serious trouble.  But I wasn’t. I had done the emergency ascend apparently good enough that everything was okay. And, uh, I didn’t have to go into any sort of treatment.


And the next day, being a good cowgirl, I knew you gotta get back on that horse. And that’s how I was always raised. If something scares you, you go back and you try it again.  So I had decided I was going to go to the front side of the island where it was much calmer, where I had a lot more experience and just drop, drop down about 20 feet, just feel it and then drop back up and get the nervousness out of my system. 


So I walked from the back Harbor cat Harbor over to the front Carver. There’s a little isthmus there.  And as I’m walking there, I run into my friend, Linda.  There’s only about 40 of us that live on this part of the island year round. We’re all really tight. Linda was one of them. And was a good friend of mine.


She was witty and had this fierce sense of humor. She always had these beautiful long nails. Like, we were in the middle of nowhere and that girl looked fierce. Like, no matter what. And she would roll, she rolled the best joints with those long nails. She’d be like, oh, I got it. Just like, fabulous, you know.


I could never.  So I see her, and she’s looking fabulous, and she’s going, and she’s going to, um, get on her paddleboard, and we give, I give her a hug, I tell her what she’s doing, she’s all crazy girl, and I go.  So I get in my dinghy, and I motor out into this little lagoon,  drop the anchor, I have one of the johns in the boat to keep an eye out for me,  and I, I slowly go down into the water.


This area is about 25 feet, and it’s full of kelp, and it’s beautiful. And as you drop down, it’s the, the lighting becomes like a cathedral, or a redwood forest. It’s all dappled, it’s stunning.  And I get to the bottom, And the minute my feet touch the ground,  something is wrong.  I can feel it so deeply. It’s, it’s very upsetting.


So I immediately come back up and shake it off, you know, like I’m probably just still got the nerves.  And I come back and get back in the dinghy and we head to shore.  As I get to shore, I see the dock and.  I see my friend Lori running down it. She’s screaming and crying and she’s so upset. She keeps tripping and I had never seen anyone look like that before. 


So I quickly tied my boat up, walked up to her as fast as I could, and kind of caught her. And she was saying these things to me, but I, I didn’t understand what she was saying.  I kept repeating, what are you, what are you talking about? Finally, she said someone had died,  and I couldn’t understand the name, and finally she grabbed me, and she said, Rin, Linda has died. 


I had just seen her. 


Due to the  respect  I have for the,  for her life, I’m not going to go into details  of her passing, but one thing I will say, I worked in her ritual and I had to be a part of all of it.  So about 30 minutes later, everyone, all 40 of us were gathered  On the shoreline, in silence, nobody knew what to say, looking out at the ocean where we had lost our Linda. 


A woman started walking from the back. She was a local artist. She was slowly taking off her clothes to her bathing suit, and she had a handful of flowers. She started swimming out into the ocean and scattering them, and silently, we all started doing the same.  We got out there together.  And we all just swam in a circle  and spread flowers  and some people came from their boats and started pouring liquor into the water.


I’ve never heard silence like that before.  The next few weeks were a blur.  There was a lot of preparations and plans and trying to figure out this and contacting family and transportation.  I’ve always been the mother hen of everyone around me, and so I was just looking after, looking after, cooking for everyone, checking on everyone, but I had forgotten to check in with myself. 


And I got a call from my friend Chelsea. She had heard what happened,  and she said, Do you need to get out of that town? And I said, Yes. She said, Get on that ferry, and I did.  And she met me in Long Beach.  Got in her car and started driving up highway one up towards Big Sur. And slowly  I started my emotional decompression, which took a long time. 


And looking back, as I tell this story,  I realized that this was this moment, this critical moment in my life that took my trajectory and threw it into this chaotic space that I didn’t know was coming.  But when I look back, I see that that was the thing that brought me here. That was the thing that brought me  to many places within myself and in the planet. 


And I think that moments like that are only truly valued in retrospect.  And when I think back now to that time, what I remember  is how close we all were, how beautiful Linda was and how much we all love the sea. Thank you.


Marc Moss: Thanks, Ren.


Ren Parker is passionate about fostering a sense of community, and brings that enthusiasm to all of her endeavors. Ren grew up in Hawaii and lived on sailboats that she restored on the Pacific Ocean for seven years. She gave up her nomadic ways and moved back to Missoula to be close to family, and has been growing roots here ever since. Ren loves to dance and hike with her faithful dog, Poet, and spend time with her remarkable Missoula friends. She is a regular storyteller at the weekly storytelling event Word Dog, and hosts a weekly storytelling radio show on KFGM Community Radio where she is station manager. Her show is called Once Upon a Radio Wave.


Coming up after the break:


Mark Matthews: And I  admitted for the first time that I’d given up the thing I loved. I’m Because I thought I was a failure, because I couldn’t make a living from it.


Kat Werner: I enter Pain Cave. Which is really just  alright, like, suck it up. Full on autopilot,  and I just, you know, one paddle stroke and one step at a time  trying to make it out of there.


Marc Moss: An artist’s life takes a dramatic turn on a snowy night and a woman stranded in Alaska, grizzly bears on one side, a father in crisis on the other.


Stay with us.


Thank you to the Good Food Store who, as the Story Sponsor, helped us pay our storytellers. Learn more about them at Thanks to Spark Arts who provided childcare for the performance. You can learn more about Spark at Thanks to our Stewardship sponsor, Blackfoot Communications, who helped us to give away free tickets to underserved populations. Learn more about Blackfoot, celebrating 70 years, at


We are currently looking for storytellers for the next Tell Us Something storytelling event. The theme is “Going Home”. This event is a collaboration with Missoula Pride and we will favor folx in the LBGTQ+ community as we listen to story pitches. If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 406-203-4683. You have 3 minutes to leave your pitch. Our friends from the Deaf community are welcome to pitch by emailing [email protected]. Learn more and get your tickets for the June 11th event at


The pitch deadline is May 4th. I look forward to hearing from you.


Another important date is on the horizon, too. Missoula Gives & Bitterroot Gives, a 26-hour celebration of the Missoula and Ravalli communities. Mark your calendars for May 2nd and 3rd and tell your friends about this opportunity to support Tell Us Something during Missoula Gives. May 2nd and 3rd.


You are listening to the Tell Us Something podcast where people share their true stories around a theme live in person without notes. I’m Marc Moss. Storytellers in this episode shared their stories in front of a full house on March 26, 2024 at The George and Jane Dennison Theatre in Missoula Montana.


Our next storyteller is Mark Matthews. Mark’s life takes a dramatic turn on a snowy night. He’s a struggling sculptor with seemingly nowhere to go. Listen to Mark’s story of passion, resilience, and rediscovery of the thing that he loves. Mark calls history “Thanks for This Wonderful Gift”.


Mark Matthews:

Um, on January 1st,  1992, I abandoned a career in art.  About a decade earlier, when I was 30 years old,  I started sculpting full time after quitting a job in Boston and moving to a small coastal village in Maine where everything was wicked good. 


I started my career carving wood, and I loved it. The entire process I would walk through the forest looking for broken limbs from trees or I would salvage a log that was destined for the firewood pile.  I carved many images of dancers. Ballet dancers, uh, dressed in, uh, tights and leotards. Modern and flamenco dances with, um, flowing skirts.


Couples doing a contradance swing or, um, the Cajun two step.  I also did musicians playing fiddles, violins, accordions, and guitars.  Sometimes I would liberate a figure from a single piece of wood, and over time I started constructing  sculptures. For instance, I would carve one leg, the torso, and the head out of one piece of wood, attach the arms in different attitudes, and the other leg could be jutting out in any angle. 


I had a lot of luck showing my work in galleries, and in fact, the gallery owner said,  your work entices people to come in.  And sometimes I witnessed that  after delivering a new piece, I would hang around talking to the director,  and people would come in the gallery and go from sculpture to sculpture saying, look at this, look at this.


And then they’d come up to the owner and they’d say,  We want to buy that painting, it fits the decor of a living room.  And I realized early on that not many people know how to live with sculpture.  But I made enough money, uh, to keep out of the starving artist, uh, category.  And many a day at the end of,  many times at the end of the work day,  I would just say thank you for this wonderful gift. 


In 1989,  I moved from Maine to Montana.  And, at that time, Missoula was a soft landing place for artists, writers, dancers, musicians. There weren’t many jobs, but the rent was cheap. For instance, you could rent a room, uh, a studio apartment at the Wilma Building for 150 a month. 


And, when I started exploring the Rocky Mountain West and the Pacific Northwest, I got my work into galleries in Seattle, uh, Kalispell, Big Fork, Truchas, New Mexico, and Palm Desert, California.  And also, um, a lot of my work was, uh, rather large, from five feet, uh, and I had one ballerina that was on point with her hands overhead that was eight feet tall, but they were very thin. 


But I had to transport them in a, uh, cargo  trailer.  And I wanted to make things that I could just put in the back of my Ford Ranger pickup.  and deliver it to a gallery. So I enrolled in a one credit independent study in ceramics at the university.  In fact, many people enrolled in one credit independent studies in a lot of subjects at that time so that they could get the health insurance. 


Um,  Where was I?  Oh, so I took my portfolio to Beth Lowe and Tom Rapone, and they looked at it and said, Oh yeah, you can work here as much as you want, uh, use as much clay as you want, as long as you mix it yourself. And it was a beautiful community of people, welcoming, supportive people. Uh, Bill and Cheryl West were there from Idaho, working on their graduate, um, degrees.


Uh, Joe Batt, was also working on his graduate degrees. He was the, um, lead singer in stand up Stella and, um,  Glenn and Amy parks was frequent, uh, visitors to the studio as was Jeanette Rakowski. We used to work at the downtown bakery before it burned down. 


There was one thing wrong though. The galleries weren’t selling my work  by the fall of 1991.  I found myself sleeping. And the camper on the back of my Ford Ranger pickup truck is one of those campers with the fold up doors.  And I would park just off campus. It was illegal to park without a sticker. And get up early, shower in the men’s, the old men’s gym, and cook my meals on a camp stove in the ventilated kiln room. 


But still, life was wonderful. I was making art.  And the weather was beautiful. No snow. Uh, no freezing temperatures all winter long.  Into the fall. In the early winter.  And, at the end of the day,  especially when I finish the piece, I would say thank you for this wonderful gift.  Oh, I forgot one little story.


Uh, Tom Rippon invited me to  sit on his sculpture class.  And, you know, I wanted to make these small things. And the first thing Tom said in class was, Everybody’s going to make something over six feet tall this semester.  I ended up making a statue of Hank Williams playing his guitar, seven foot tall, and a Lady Grizz basketball player holding a ball on her hip, and a couple of other pieces. 


So, um,  during winter break, my parents sent me a plane ticket to go visit them, and I got back to Missoula the afternoon of January 1st, 1992. Phew.  You deplaned on the tarmac at that,  at that time. And I walked out into warm sunshine, still no snow in the valley, and  thought, what should I do? For the rest of the afternoon.


Um, I didn’t feel like going to work at the studio. Uh, I usually camped up in, um, Deer Creek on the weekends and I didn’t feel like going up there. I thought I’ll go see a matinee movie.  So I went to the old triplex cinema at the end of Brooks, just before you head out to Lolo. And I chose to see dances with the wolves  about 20 minutes into the film. 


The screen went blank, the house lights came on, and an usher came down the aisle, and he said,  You may want to head home. There’s a wicked winter storm blowing up the Blackfoot. We’re going to get about two feet of snow and freezing temperatures.  I walked out into the lobby, and the wind was blowing so hard it was holding the exit doors open, and I could see the snow blowing parallel to the parking lot. 


Reached the Ford Ranger, got some winter clothes out of the back, and got in and instinctively drove to the ceramics studio, which shares the Quonset Hut with the Grizzly Pool,  intending to sleep there overnight.  I parked right in front of the door, even though I had no parking sticker.  Grabbed my sleeping bag out of the back. 


Reached for the door handle and for the first time in two years it was locked.  Got back into the Ford Ranger. Slowly drove off campus. Came to the intersection of Madison Street and there was a pickup truck.  Just sitting there in the middle of the intersection.  And I left the ranger idling and I went out and, to see what was going on.


And a woman rolled down her window and said, I can’t see anything. And the ice was encrusted on her front, front um, windshield. About a half an inch. So I took her scraper, uh, cleaned her window off. And as I’m doing that, I’m thinking, Hmm. How can I get this woman to take me home for the night? 


I couldn’t think of anything, so I handed the scraper back to her and she thanked me profusely  and drove off.  And I got back into the Ford Ranger and just sat there.  And when you’re homeless, you kind of lose contact with your friends.  And I’d heard of the Parvarello Center, but I didn’t know where it was.


And, and I didn’t feel right. My motto had always been, artists make art, they don’t wait on tables. So I had gotten myself into this situation.  And then I heard a voice. And it wasn’t inside my head. It was coming through my ears.  And it was the voice of Jeanette Rakowski. And she had said, If you ever get in trouble, you can stay at my place. 


So I made it over to her humble abode on the west side  and grabbed my sleeping bag and knocked on the front door and Jeannette came to the door, wrapped up in her bathrobe, opened the door and said, what the hell are you doing out there? Get in here.  She made me dinner. We chatted a while.  She went off to her bedroom to read and sleep.


And I spread my sleeping bag out on the sofa.  And for a while, I just stared at the ceiling.  And came to the conclusion that I can’t do this anymore. And I gave up. Heart. 


Twenty years later,  I’m working as an adjunct professor at, uh, Montana College of Technology when it was out by the, uh, county fairgrounds,  uh, teaching English comp and creative writing.  And I used to go over to the old Salvation Army store, which was also across the street from the fairgrounds.  And I’m going through the VHS  tapes, and I see Dances with the Wolves. 


I said, I’ve never saw the end of that film.  So I take it home and watch it.  Stopped it about half an hour in. And went downstairs to get a snack. And halfway down the stairs, I started weeping.  I’m like, what the hell is going on? The movie isn’t even sad.  And at that moment, all those memories of January 1st, 1992 came descending upon me. 


And I  admitted for the first time that I’d given up the thing I loved. I’m Because I thought I was a failure, because I couldn’t make a living from it.  And as abruptly as I gave up art, I decided I would take it up again.


Marc Moss: Thanks, Mark. Throughout his adult life Mark Matthews has worked as an artist, author, freelance journalist, wildland firefighter, and dance caller and instructor. He currently shows his sculpture and oil paintings at the Roosevelt Arts Center in Red Lodge, and at Manifestations Gallery in Eureka. Over the past dozen years he has visited scores of schools across the state of Montana, for Humanities Montana, teaching children of all ages how to contra and square dance. For more information about Mark’s art, and to hear an epilogue of Mark’s story, visit

In our final story, Kat Werner is stranded in Alaska, grizzly bears on one side, a father in crisis on the other.  In the face of fear, and with the help of her hiking crew, a community rallied and shared burdens. Kat calls her story “The Arctic Pain Cave” Sensitive listeners be aware that Kat’s story discusses someone who has suicidal ideations. Please take care of yourselves.  Thanks for listening.


Kat Werner: Kat Werner

I am on the Koyukuk River in the Arctic Circle in Alaska.  I’m with my husband, Curtis, and my friends, Samson and Cody.  For the last four days, we hiked hauling 80 pound packs to get to our river put in.  And it’s our first day on the river,  and we’re about two miles down. And when I look ahead,  everything happens really fast. 


I see a giant grizzly bear covered in blood,  and it’s charging at Samson, who’s the first in line.  And before I know it, something catches my eye on the left, and I look over, and there’s a wolf.  And as I start screaming,  the grizzly bear must get confused because it backs, backs off, and it hauls a massive caribou caucus. 


up the shore,  which gives us a much needed break to get the hell out of there,  take a deep breather,  because that was a close call.  And it was one of seven grizzly bear encounters in a 24 hour period. 


It’s our third morning on the river, and it’s one of those beautiful, sunny camp mornings.  And it’s, you know, it’s, I vividly remember it because the sun is shining, everybody always says, oh, Alaska, there’s all these bugs and it’s raining, but it was just beautiful, and I’m in a tank top, I’m hanging out with my friends, we’re really not in a rush, because we’re in the Arctic, and we have 24 hour daylight.


So we’re just hanging out, we’re sharing stories, we’re drinking tea,  and eventually, we’re like, alright, we should probably get going, it’s like noon.  And so, as we start packing up our stuff, I’m thinking, oh, I should turn on my Garmin inReach. And check if I got any messages.  And so if you don’t know what a Garmin inReach is, it’s a communication device.


It’s a satellite communication device that allows you to send and receive messages and it has an SRS function, but you’re not able to make or take calls.  And so I turn on the inReach and it takes a couple minutes to connect to the satellite  and within quick succession, I get two messages.  The first one is from my mom. 


And it says, bitte ruf mich an,  please call me.  The second one is from my mother in law Michelle.  Cat has to call home. It’s an emergency.  And my stomach just drops.  And I wish I could tell you  that the story I’m sharing tonight is just a good old adventure story.  You know, it’s really challenging physically and mentally, but overall, it’s a really good time. 


And that’s not the story that I’m telling. 


And so, to give a little bit of context to those text messages,  I have to look back at that year, and my dad, back in Germany,  who was having a really challenging year.  Despite any prior mental health issues.  He, pretty suddenly, and within a really short period, developed a really deep and severe depression. 


And so the morning of the day before we were set to leave for Alaska,  I remember calling both of my parents  and they didn’t answer.  And I got this standard, you know, Apple text message that just says, we’ll call you right back. And I’m, I’m already like, that’s weird. Like something’s going on. What’s going on?


I don’t know.  And so,  when my mom FaceTimes me, a couple hours later,  my dad is sitting right next to her and, you know, he doesn’t look, he doesn’t look at me at all, and he’s just in a pile.  And my mom says, you know, we just spend  some time with a crisis therapist who assessed your dad for suicidal thoughts. 


And, right away in my mind I’m thinking,  I can’t go on this trip, like,  what am I going to do?  And my mom says, you know, it’s, it’s okay. We have the support that we need, and we have the services, and you should go on this trip. 


And I do. And Kurt tells Cody and Samson what’s going on, and they’re great.  And the next morning, like 5am, red eye flight out of Missoula, before we leave, last minute I grab my passports, my German and my American passport, just in case.  And so, we head out, we get to Fairbanks,  and I’m just in a really weird headspace going into this trip. 


I’m really, yeah, I’m really just struggling to stay present and, you know, engage with my friends and soak up the beauty that is the gates of the Arctic National Park, one of the most remote places in the world.  And I’m really just worried the whole time.  And then I get those text messages.  Your dad tried to end his life today  and he’s at the hospital. 


And I respond to my mom and I say, I can’t call you.  At a minimum, I’m five days out from calling you.  And that’s five days of  hard, hard, hard back breaking work, trying to make it back to Coldfoot, the last truck stop, about six hours away from Fairbanks.  And so I’m like, well, alright, what do I do? I can’t curl up here on this sandy shore.


I can’t call a heli evac. I have to keep moving.  And, at that point, I enter  what my husband refers to as the pain cave. Which is really just this, like, alright, like, suck it up. So like, just go inside, and And just full on autopilot,  and I just, you know, one paddle stroke and one step at a time  trying to make it out of there. 


And I don’t talk, and I don’t engage, I just function.  And we all come together that morning on the river, and we basically brainstorm. How can we get out of here as fast as possible?  And we put in a massive day on the Koyukuk that day.  We finish the next morning,  and we make it to our exit, the Rock Creek exit. 


And,  I wonder if anybody has ever planned a trip following a blog post?  Especially if that blog post said,  This is not recommended.  It’s actually strongly discouraged.  That was the Rock Creek exit.  And it started out with a hike, well, a hike up a flowing creek.  My left little toe was literally numb for six months after that trip because the water was so cold. 


And you know, eventually the canyon gets really narrow and we get forced up the bank, um, this left, shitty side hill slope, the thickest alder bushes you can imagine, um, we labeled it the schwagadoom because it was, it was such thick alder and it’s hot and it’s humid and, um, We are hauling these heavy packs, and really, any time you needed a break, all you had to do was just go, uh  huh. 


Because it was so thick, you couldn’t go anywhere.  There is miles of muskag, so we’re just sinking into the slimy, muddy water. There’s bugs, there’s bees nests on the ground.  At our best, we’re moving a quarter of a mile an hour.  It was a full on sufferfest. I’m in my pain cave.  We make it. We get to Coltsfoot. 


I call my mom.  And I knew the whole time, really, that I’m, I need to go. I need to get home.  And so, you know, this whole time I’m just consumed with worry. Am I going to lose my dad?  And so after, you know, a pretty long, restless night, the next morning I flagged down the first person that walks.  Out of the Coltwood truck stop, and it happens to be a German dude, and I’m just like hey Can’t make mid name in each most of the house.


I have a problem that I’m yep. All right jump in the car I Get I get to Fairbanks There’s a six hour stretch from Coltwood to Fairbanks where you do not have cell phone reception I get to cell phone reception my phone blows Up hey, did you take the rental car keys with you by chance?  Yep, yeah, I did So I get to Fairbanks Leaving my crew stranded, but it is a trucker route, so thankfully, I’m just like, telling the German guy, hey can you pull over, I need to flag down this trucker, trucker takes the keys back up the road, that all worked out. 


I sleep at the Fairbanks airport, I get to Seattle, I fly to Frankfurt, I jump on a train, I get to my hometown of Nuremberg, my friend picks me up, I get to the hospital, I see my dad.  And the first thing he says, he’s just like, well.  What can I even say?  I just say. I don’t have to say anything.  I just give him a big hug and just,  Hey, I’m just so thankful I get to see you. 


And so when I look back at that experience in Alaska, but really that whole year,  it’s safe to say that that was the closest to the edge I’ve been in my life  physically and mentally and emotionally.  And here is what, over and over again, pulled me back from that edge.  It’s my oldest childhood friend back home who dropped everything  that weekend and that night to be with my mom and support her. 


And it’s my friend here in town who hand bedazzled these solar shields, if you know what they are. They’re these giant grandma sunglasses you can put on over regular glasses.  They’re styling.  Because I was so stressed out that I had a really bad eye infection,  and it’s my friend who left a care package with a note on my patio that said, this fucking sucks. 


I’m here for you.  And my therapist, who reminded me that there’s a lot of hardship and grief that can’t be solved,  but it can be shared.  And Curtis, who keeps planning these miserable epics,  despite everything.  And really, there’s a dozen more people and a dozen more acts of love and support.  And I think, for me, that’s really the beautiful thing about this story, that it’s my story,  and it’s my dad’s story.


And this community of people. that came together for me to rally around me.  That’s my community,  but it’s also my dad’s community.  And you know, his path,  um, wasn’t, wasn’t straightforward. It actually got a lot harder before he got to a better spot, but he is planning his next visit to Missoula this spring. 




He loves Missoula.  Ever since he first came here, he loves going to the break to read his German newspaper.  He loves taking his Harley with a German flag on the back to the locks a lot for a late breakfast.  He loves having a blue moon. I know there’s better beer, but he loves blue moon.  Having a blue moon on the patio with me. 


And so,  if you see him this year, wandering around,  Downtown Missoula, likely wearing some German shirt with like some German phrase or reference to the German national football team.  Please say hi, welcome him back, give him a high five, and tell him, Archie, you’re awesome. Thank you. 

Marc Moss: Thanks, Kat. Kat Werner was a German high school exchange student in South Dakota — some of you might remember her last Tell Us Something story about that experience and meeting her husband there.She has called Missoula home for almost 15 years. Kat is a licensed clinical social worker and faculty member at the University of Montana School of Social Work. Things that fill her soul are: any outdoor or wilderness activity, traveling the world, genuine human connection, cooking and eating good food, and creating and checking off a good to-do list.


Tune in next week to hear the concluding stories from the Close to the Edge live storytelling event 


Kathleen Kennedy: And I was simultaneously indignant  and sympathetic. 


But I also had this I was feeling like I would love for squatters to come there and, and light a fire and burn it down, like problem solved.


Susan Waters: And the voice said, do you want to stay or do you want to go?  And without even thinking about it, I said, if I still have work I need to do here, I want to stay.  And the voice said,  okay.


Annabelle Winnie: I do wonder if what we think of as traits for neurodivergence, if they’re really adaptations, there are ways that the body adapts. 


Behaviors adapt, and even the brain itself adapts to a world that often feels too, too bright, too loud. It’s just too much. 


Amanda Taylor: we were texting each other every day, morning to night. We called them play by plays, which I also loved cause it made me feel sporty.  I’m like, yeah, we’re sending play by plays.


Marc Moss: Listen for those stories at or wherever you get your podcasts.


Remember that the next Tell Us Something event is June 11th. You can learn about how to pitch your story and get tickets at 


Thanks to our media sponsors,, and The Trail Less Traveled, Missoula Broadcasting Company including the family of ESPN radio, The Trail 103.3, Jack FM, and Missoula’s source for modern hits, U104.5 


And thanks to our in-kind sponsors Float Missoula Joyce of Tile.


When you patronize these businesses, thank them for their support of live storytelling in Missoula.


Please remember that our next event, in partnership with Missoula Pride is on June11 at the Glacier Ice Rink at the Missoula County Fairgrounds. The theme is “Going Home ”. You can pitch your story by calling 406-203-4683, and we encourage our friends in the LBGTQ community to pitch a story.

Learn more about Tell Us Something including how to pitch a story and get tickets for the next event at

Four storytellers share their true personal story on the theme “Out of my Shell”. Their stories were recorded in-person in front of a live audience July 16, 2023 at Bonner Park Bandshell. The storytellers you’ll hear in this episode are all educators enrolled in The University of Montana’s Creative Pulse program. The Creative Pulse embraces critical thinking processes and habits of the mind, enabling our students to develop, refine and integrate these processes into their own thinking and learning abilities, as well as those of their students. The Master of Arts in Integrated Arts and Education is completed over two consecutive summer sessions plus independent studies and a final project.

Transcript : Creative Pulse - Out of My Shell - Part 1

[00:00:00] 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 lost in translation. If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 406 203 4683. You have three minutes to leave your pitch.

The pitch deadline is August 20th. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I’ll call you as soon as I get your pitch. If you’re not the type to share a story and you want to attend the event, you can get limited edition printed tickets. At Rockin Rudy’s, you can also get digital tickets at We acknowledge with deep respect and gratitude that we are on the ancestral lands of the Pendelle Salish and Kootenai peoples who have stewarded this land for countless generations, their profound connection to the earth and its resources. Has left an indelible mark on the landscape. We now call home in recognizing their enduring legacy.

We are called to be steadfast stewards of this land, nurturing its diversity, preserving [00:01:00] its ecosystems and upholding the principles of environmental sustainability. May we honor the wisdom of our ancestors and theirs and embrace our responsibility to protect and preserve. This precious land for future generations.

This week on the podcast.

[00:01:17] Stephen Tucker: The world starts to come into clear focus. And I can hear the dog still barking and there’s a sound of desperation in its barks like something is wrong. To do

[00:01:27] Sandy Sheppard: my eye exam, I now have three board members watching me. One old man on the right. One old man on the left. And the patient.

I’m a little nervous.

[00:01:40] Jolyne O’Brien: And I turn and look at my daughter, and I say, Sis, we have a problem. She’s not really exactly sure what this problem is, but she is sure on board to help mom whatever it is. Eyes big and sure,

[00:01:51] Candace Haster: mom. So I tell my midwife, I want to do it my way. I just want to be simple. I want to try it in the most simple way possible.

I can use interventions later if I want [00:02:00] to, but I want to start simply. Okay, you should do that, but it’s not going to work.

[00:02:06] Marc Moss: Four storytellers shared their true personal story on the theme, Out of My Shell. Their stories were recorded in person in front of a live audience July 16th, 2023. At Bonner Park Band Show, the storytellers you’ll hear in this episode are all educators enrolled in the University of Montana’s Creative Pulse program, a graduate program of the University of Montana that Creative Pulse embraces critical thinking, processes, and habits of the mind, enabling the participants to develop, refine, and integrate these processes into their own thinking and learning abilities.

As well as those of their students. The Master of Arts in Integrated Arts and Education is completed over two consecutive summer sessions, plus independent studies and a final project. Our first story comes to us from Stephen Tucker. Stephen Tucker accidentally learns who his favorite cat is when his apartment complex catches fire.

Stephen [00:03:00] calls his story Midnight Mayhem. Thanks for listening.

[00:03:06] Stephen Tucker: In May of 2013, I graduated from the University of Montana with my bachelor’s degree in elementary education. And I got my first teaching job teaching fifth grade in the Bitterroot Valley. And so it was time to finally move out of my college apartment and get a place of my own.

And I knew the first thing that I wanted to do was I was going to replace my college roommate with two cats. I wanted to get two cats in particular because I wanted them to be able to keep each other company when I was gone for the long days of teaching. So I went to the Humane Society with my mindset on finding and adopting two kittens.

And I went into the room with all the kittens, played with them, and there just really wasn’t much of a con Excuse me, much of a connection building and I walked out of the room feeling a little bit disappointed and I walked down a corridor going towards the back of the Humane Society where they have some more enclosures and some bigger cages and that’s when I saw this bigger cage that had these two cats in there.

They [00:04:00] were older cats, eight years old. Uh, their names were Sunshine and Pepper Ann and I took them out and I cuddled with them and in that moment I knew right away. That these cats were going to be my girls. So Sunshine, she’s a Himalayan with this beautiful thick white fur with these golden hues in her ears and in her paws.

And she has these mesmerizing blue eyes that when you stare into them you just can’t help but fall in love with her. And just want to pick her up and hug her and squeeze her. And, which kind of sucks because she hates being picked up more than anything. But, doesn’t stop you from wanting to pick her up and hold her and hug her.

And Pepper Ann. She is a stubborn cat and she’s got these beady yellow eyes. She’s a tortoise shell cat. And the thing that I love so much about her is that she loves to talk to you. And when you stroke her in just the right area, right behind her ear, she’ll cackle at you. So I moved into a small cabin for my first year of teaching down in the Bitterroot Valley.

And when I say small, I mean it was really small. 350, 400 [00:05:00] square feet, lacking a lot of amenities. So after the first year, I knew we needed to find something different. So I moved into a brand new apartment just right behind the Lolo Peak Brewery. And when I say brand new, I mean this apartment was literally brand new.

They had just finished constructing it. You could still smell the fresh paint and the new carpet when you walked in. And this wasn’t just any apartment. This was one of those ones that they built as a luxury apartment. So it had the 18 foot vaulted ceilings, the fancy countertops, the high end appliances.

It didn’t really feel like living in an apartment. It felt like living in a resort. So Sunshine Pepper and I, Pepper Ann and I, we got settled in. Pepper Ann immediately claimed dominion over the guest bed. She covered that thing with so much thick fur, I don’t even remember what color the comforter was, cause she spent all her time there.

I made a mistake, I think I said Sunshine did that, that was Pepper Ann. Sunshine, she found her [00:06:00] happy place on my balcony. And she loved to sit out on my zero gravity chair like a little princess basking in the sunlight. And my favorite thing to do was when I’d go out there and grill and she’d be out there with me and I called her my little grilling partner.

So like I said, we’d been settling in quite well. Beautiful brand new apartment complex. Really quiet as well. Hadn’t even met the neighbors, um, and this was about a month after living there. It’s late. August in 2014. It’s the middle of the night, probably like 3 or 4 in the morning, and I’m fast asleep. And in my sleep, I hear the sound, a muffled sound of a dog barking, ARF, ARF, ARF.

And it, uh, starts to wake me up a little bit. I’m not sure if this is something going on in a dream, or in real life, and it continues. ARF, ARF, ARF. ARF, ARF, ARF. And this goes on for about two or three minutes, all the while I’m slowly starting to wake up but still in that deep sleep fog. And I’m starting to realize, like, this is real life, and I’m getting really confused because I know [00:07:00] it’s three, four in the morning.

And I’m like, why is this neighbor letting their dog bark and bark and bark? And as I’m thinking about this, then I suddenly hear this soft pounding sound. And so now I’m really getting curious and getting a little bit perturbed, starting to wake up even more. I pull out my earplugs, and the world starts to come into clear focus.

And I can hear the dog still barking, and there’s a sound of desperation in its barks, like something is wrong. So that gets my heart rate pumping. And then all of a sudden I hear the pounding again. Pew, pew, pew. And it was the wall of my bedroom shaking. And then I hear, Sheriff’s Department, the building’s on fire, everyone get out.

So again… You know, I’m not fully awake at this point. I’ve got the 3 a. m. brain. And so the first thought that goes through my mind is, well, the building can’t be on fire. It’s brand new. They just finished building it. And I realize that logic makes absolutely no sense. But at 3 a. m. it makes [00:08:00] perfect sense.

So I get out of bed and I go to the front door and I pull it open and as soon as I pull open the door, the smoke immediately starts billowing in. I can smell the burning, um, the burning plastic and the burning wood. And the other thing is I hear the sound of a smoke detector from one of the apartments on the other end of the complex.

It’s beeping. Beep! Beep, beep. And with all of that evidence confronting me, I look down at the sheriff’s deputy who’s down the hallway still pounding on the walls and I say, is there really a fire? I don’t think he heard me because he didn’t say anything in response to me, but that was the moment that it kind of finally clicked and the adrenaline kicked in.

So I ran into my room, changed out of my pajamas and came out into the family room and did what everyone probably would do at that point. In that moment, and I started walking around in circles. So you know how sometimes you have that fight or flight response? You can also have that freeze response. And I could not make a decision about what to do next.

A million [00:09:00] questions were racing through my mind. What, you know, how much time do I have? Do I have time to grab things? What should I grab? Should I grab my computer? Do I, should I grab my documents, my birth certificate? What about the cats? And that’s when I noticed them. They’re just sitting there, without a care in the world, looking up at me.

Wondering what’s going on, why I’m walking around in a panic. And so I realized I gotta get my cats and I gotta get out of here. But again, not that easy making decisions in that moment, still a million questions racing through my head. Well, do I have time to go get their carriers out of the storage closet on the balcony?

Uh, if I come back in, I mean they’re in front of me right now, what if they run away when they see the carriers? You know, then I have to find them, I don’t know how much time I have. So maybe I should just scoop them up. And just carry them out of the apartment. But, you know, things racing through my mind.

What if they get scared, start squirming? I don’t want one of them to get away. The last thing I want is one of them to disappear and to lose one of them. So, again, I can’t make a decision. And then, just suddenly, without [00:10:00] thinking, I grab Sunshine and I run. So I’m carrying her out the door, across the balcony way, down the stairs.

She’s digging her claws into me, squirming. Uh, and get down to my car, open it up, toss her in, and then turn around. And I can kind of assess the scene and take in what’s going on. And there is an apartment that’s on the complete… The opposite end of the complex, as far away from mine as it could possibly be, and on the balcony, there’s flames that are building up, they must be like 5 or 10 feet tall.

It’s a pretty raging fire. But I can see that it’s contained in the balcony really far away from my place. So I realize, okay, it’s safe, I’m gonna go back in. I’m gonna go get Pepper Ann now. So, same story, she’s digging her claws into me, probably a little bit extra hard because she’s like, what the heck, why’d you leave me?

And, got her in the car, and then that’s when I really had the time to start breathing, taking the scenario, I realized, all my neighbors are out there with me as well, these people I’ve never met, what a weird way to Get to know your neighbors standing out watching the building burn at three [00:11:00] in the morning.

And you know, like me, there’s some of the neighbors, they’re out there with their pets. We’ve got a neighbor who’s with their dog, and we get to chatting with each other, and one of the neighbors tells the story of what happened. They said we were asleep in our beds and we heard this loud, huge explosion.

It shook the whole apartment and we looked out the window. The next door neighbor’s balcony was on fire. So we called 9 1 1 and reported it. And when we gave him the address, They didn’t know where we were. Remember that part where I said that the building was brand new? Apparently it was so brand new that 911 didn’t even know that it existed.

So they had to give them directions. Um, but all the while, while we’re having this conversation, the fire department’s there, and I hear, it sounds like Niagara Falls, like thousands of gallons of water that they’re using to douse this fire on this balcony, and it’s pouring over the edge. And it was probably about an hour or so before they had it completely mopped up and we were able to go back inside.

And I remember thinking, man, how the heck am I going to fall asleep now? So what you don’t know is, the next day is basically the [00:12:00] first day of teacher orientation returning back to school. So, you want to talk about back to school nightmares, I pretty much lived one of those. So, I don’t think I did get back to sleep, but went to school the next day, everything went well.

Came home and talked to that same neighbor and they had talked to the landlord, the landlord had figured out what had happened. And so apparently the people who live in that corner apartment, they were smoking a cigarette earlier in the afternoon and they put it out in a dried flower pot on their balcony.

And then they up and went out of town. And that thing smoldered in the flower pot all day and all night until the middle of the night when a flame caught. And then that lit the dried plant on fire. And then that flame spread to the gas tank of a lawnmower that they had on their balcony. And that detonated and that caused the whole incident.

And I remember taking away two things. The first one was thinking to myself, who the [00:13:00] hell lives in a second floor apartment and has a lawnmower on their balcony? And the second thing was, I think I might have just accidentally figured out which of my cats is my favorite. I’m sorry, Pepper Ann.

[00:13:18] Marc Moss: Thanks, Steven. Steven Tucker is a third grade teacher in the Bitterroot Valley with ten years of experience. As a teacher, he has a passion for science, technology, and coaching Lego robotics. He loves the outdoors and enjoys hiking and spending his days on the lake with his pedalboard. When he is not teaching or enjoying the outdoors, Stephen spends his time watching way too much YouTube and indulging in his unhealthy obsession with Taco Bell.

Our next storyteller is Sandy Shepard, who details her ordeal of becoming the first woman optometrist in Montana in the 1980s. Sandy calls her story, I Will Rise Up, or It Takes a Little Time. Thanks for listening. [00:14:00]

[00:14:00] Sandy Sheppard: Hello, Missoula!


so nice to be here with you. Thanks for coming. But in 1982, this was a different state. Summer of 1982, my husband and I moved from the University of California at Berkeley because he was taking his dream job at the University of Montana. He was teaching fire science, and he was close to the fishin and the huntin So, it was my job to find my place in this new state, this new town.

Being a practicing optometrist, I knew what I had to do first. I had to go to Helena, Montana, a new city for me, and take the board exam. Uh, several people come once a year, and um, you take a written test, A lab test and then you examine a real live patient. [00:15:00] Well, my lucky day, I had a six year old in my chair and I knew this was gonna be a piece of cake.

I go to the right eye, I scope ’em, I say, which is better? One, two. I go to the left eye, which is better? 1, 2, 1. Done. Well, I walk out to the mom, I tell her my results, I predict her son’s future, and I ask, do you have any questions? And then, I leave with my husband because it’s time to go home. Job done.

Check. Well, I have to wait two or four weeks to get my little acceptance letter.

And guess what? I failed.

I failed because I didn’t go and ask the mother if she had any questions. Oh, I was so naive. I trusted the system. I [00:16:00] trusted that the board would know I went out and asked the mother or if they knew I needed to they would have followed me.

But I didn’t go and say, Hey, I just asked the mom questions and here’s what we said. I was baffled and I was angry. I got myself an aggressive woman attorney. And she went to the board and she told me, hey, they’re going to do you a favor. They’re going to give you a I passed

the first one. She said, Sandy. You can either take this special test or you can wait till next year. I didn’t have a choice, so my husband and I go to a new city. Great Falls, Montana.


we enter this old optometrist’s office, which is fine because I love old equipment. [00:17:00] And guess who my patient is this time?

The old optometrist. Who happens to be a member of the board. So, to do my eye exam, I now have three board members watching me. One old man on the right. One old man on the left. And the patient. I’m a little nervous. In fact, the tension is so strong you can cut it with a knife. I gotta prove myself. So I scope the right eye.

Pretty easy. I scope the left. Well, I’ll do the right first. Which is better? One, two. Which is better? One, two. Okay. I go to the left eye.

Guess what? This eye’s a whopper! It’s off the charts!

If I [00:18:00] weren’t so nervous,

I would’ve figured it out. I would’ve taken that faropt away and I said, You were born with a bum eye, weren’t you? But, I was reduced. I had lost. And I went to the car and said to my husband, Let’s go, I failed again. Well, this is a little Japanese American guy, a great debater, a great professor, internationally known.

He’s not gonna let this stop us. So he goes back into the building, talks to him, comes out, Sandy, you gotta go in and talk to him. They wanna talk to you. Oh my God. So I do. I go back in, and guess what they say? What do you have to say for yourself? I’m reduced to a four year old Navy [00:19:00] brat who doesn’t have a place at the table.

I can’t defend myself, I just buckle. I crumble. And I walk out. I don’t say a word. Well, I looked at my husband, guess who gets my wrath? My husband. I didn’t realize that he didn’t understand what we were up against. That we were up against men who were narrow minded, who weren’t ready for the first woman optometrist, let alone from California.

Who could have been racist. He was Japanese. I didn’t know that, but I sure was mad at him for throwing me into a snake pit. So we’re driving home. I’m fuming and I’m just so full of shame. I flunked twice that I just [00:20:00] wanted to throw myself out of the speeding car. But I didn’t. Thank God. And we went home.

My plan was I’m going back to California. I’ll wait a year and come back and take the test. I did so well in California. I stayed with my step grandparents. My adopted grandparents. We had martinis every night. I found two awesome jobs. And one time she said to me, Sandy, I just know when you’re going downstairs, you’re just crying in your pillow because you miss your husband so badly.

I said, yes, I do. I couldn’t tell her that I was going downstairs, snog her into my, my pillow. So it was lovely being with them again. And then I went home. It was July. It was July the next year,

[00:21:00] and I went

to take my test. Lo and behold, I

didn’t have to hardly take

any test, and they passed me. I can’t even remember what little test I had to take.

What shocking, what a shocking situation. Why did they make me wait a year? But, the point is, I came home, I started my own business, I bought my building, I retired at 60, and… I love Montana. I love Missoula. My husband is not my husband anymore, but I sure am grateful that he brought me here.

Thank you.

[00:21:43] Marc Moss: Thanks, Sandy. Sandy Shepard was a Navy brat. She lived in oceans, bays and islands. She is thrilled now to be living on the Clark Fork River. Who would have guessed that she would have landed in Missoula, Montana and would have stayed for 41 years. Sandy believes that her first three years [00:22:00] may have been happier landing on the moon.

Coming up after the break

[00:22:03] Jolyne O’Brien: … and I turn and look at my daughter and I say, Sis, we have a problem. She’s not really exactly sure what this problem is, but she is sure on board to help mom whatever it is. Eyes big and sure mom.

[00:22:15] Candace Haster: So I tell my midwife, I want to do it my way. I just want to be simple. I’m going to try it in the most simple way possible.

I can use interventions later if I want to, but I want to start simply. Okay. You should do that, but it’s not going to work.

[00:22:30] Marc Moss: Stay with us. Do you have your tickets for the next tell us something live storytelling event. You can get your tickets online at tell us something. org better yet though. Why not pick up some limited edition printed tickets?

These tickets are the same price as the online tickets and feature the beautiful artwork used on the posters. Artwork for the Lost in Translation event was created by Bear River Studios. These special tickets are available exclusively at Rockin Rudy’s. Get your tickets now at Rockin Rudy’s or get the digital version at [00:23:00] tellussomething. org. Alright, back to the stories. Jolene O’Brien shares her story about what people never told her about pregnancy. Jolene calls her story, No One Told Me, or The Fourth Trimester. Thanks for listening.

[00:23:17] Jolyne O’Brien: Good evening, thanks for coming out tonight. Um, it all, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2020.

Four beautiful, huge, bald heads, eight arms, eight legs, came through this body. And no one told me.

I remember the summer of 2014. It was shortly before I gave birth to my second child. I was super pregnant in my third trimester. And my husband was [00:24:00] leaving for Phoenix to go for a business trip. And I thought, I’ll tag along. Winter was coming in Missoula, and I needed all the vitamin D that I could get.

I should have been traveling on an airplane at that time, but I went ahead and went anyways. And while we were in Phoenix, my husband was off doing his business thing, and I decided to research some really great things to do. So I came across this taco truck event. That was about 200 taco trucks all in one area.

If you love tacos, raise your hand. You are my people and we Couldn’t get tickets, they were sold out. So I went ahead and shenaggled and got us um, some free tickets through um, this marketing event that I told them that I would do which was take a picture of myself on Facebook really quick and then get free tickets and hop into the Docker Truck event.

Fabulous. So as we were at [00:25:00] this taco truck event, we walk in and I can smell the barbacoa, and I can hear the sizzling, and I see the fresh pico de gallo, but I do what all pregnant women do, and I scope out the bathroom scene. So I find it, it’s an amazing set of port o potties off to the side. I tell my husband I’m gonna go get in line, and he’s thinking for tacos, and I’m actually heading to the line of the port o pot, and I head over there.

My husband graciously and lovingly joins me in line because we know no one in this thousand person taco truck event. So I go to the restroom. Go get a taco, go back to the restroom, taco, back to the restroom, taco, my husband ditches me, I go to the restroom. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing that.

It was hot, it was hot, it was muggy. My, my event wasn’t as great as his, he had all the tacos he could eat, I spent my event smelling a port a [00:26:00] pot. So we leave, and the next morning, we go, um, to go to the airport, and my husband is super punctual, and I am on time if I’m 30 minutes late. We are running 30 minutes late.

So he is agitated, irritated, and we show up and it’s um, the part of the airport that’s under construction. So, there’s no bathrooms, there’s no restaurants, and there’s no um, like clothing and cute purses and bags that you normally would see when you walk through an airport. So that’s fine. So we get in line and I am doing again what all pregnant women would do.

I’m scoping out for the bathroom scene. And it is at, we are at the back of this huge line, and it’s on the other side of the TSA. Excuse me. So on the other side of the T ss A, so I am thinking to myself, well, if I can snaggle some taco tickets that are sold out, I can sure as heck get to that bathroom really quick.[00:27:00]

So I ditched the luggage and I start like weaving through the line. Like I know somebody at the front like you might do in Disneyland. There’s my partner up there you go. That’s for me. And I get to the front and I go through T S A. And my only focus at this point is to get to that bathroom. Well, the gentleman who’s running the TSA, 6’4 bald, 350 pound man, had a different agenda.

He pulls me over to the side and wants to search me because I look super suspicious with my belly looking like I swallowed two watermelons. I’m in a dress kind of similar to what I’m wearing tonight. So I said, Sir, I’m so sorry, but I have to go to the restroom. And he said, I’m not, no, that can’t happen.

Follow me. Well, I’m not really wanting to follow him. So I said, no, I really have to use the restroom. And he says, I’m sorry, you can’t. Please follow me into this room. And he walks me. Mind you, I just, all the people I just snuck in front of. Okay, don’t forget that. [00:28:00] I walk in front, or I’m walking a couple steps behind him.

And he takes three steps to his room. Which is a quadrilateral of four translucent… Help me with the word. Walls. Thank you. Where everyone is now watching me get searched by my new friend. So I’m the lady in Costco that when you want to come talk to me about how cute my belly looks, I don’t want you to touch me or rub you.

Or rub me. Please don’t do that. And I’m realizing I’m about to get searched. He asks for, put my arms out, put my legs out. And I’m thinking to myself, I’m not going to make it. So again, I plead. Sir, I really need to use the restroom. No, you may not. He is as serious as serious can be. And he’s not realizing the seriousness of the situation.

So my arms are out. He rubs, he has no wand, for whatever reason. And he rubs his arms across my arm, back under, down my… [00:29:00] Sides down my leg and over my shoe. Well at this moment I am like starting to panic. And I do what all beautiful third trimester women would do in this situation. And as he takes his hands to check up my legs, I pee on him.

Thanks friend. Well, he’s not chasing me down as I turn and rush myself beelining it for the bathroom. No one tells you. So I make it to the, by this time my husband had put the luggage through. We make it to the front of the door and I am sitting in urine clothes for the duration of this, of the ride home.

Flight home. No one told me. 10 years and not one time did this topic come up. No one told, no one told me. It was the summer. [00:30:00] I’m sorry, it was the winter. Of 2020, Missoula had about 4 inches of snow on the ground and it was arctic freezing cold outside. It was this like arctic shifting wind, um, the kind that hits your face and you were like immediately boogers frozen.

So I had taken my daughter on a evening with mom, we do Wednesdays with mom at our house, and afterwards I needed to stop by WinCo to pick up… A few items before heading home. We had a brand new vehicle that we had just purchased. And my husband loves this thing. It’s now my car. It’s the family car. And as we’re walking out, I have a cart full of groceries.

Step and crunching in the snow. Niagara Falls come falling out of me with no warning. And I turn and look at my daughter and I say, Sis, we have a problem. She’s not really exactly sure what this problem [00:31:00] is, but she is sure on board to help mom, whatever it is. Eyes big and sure, mom. Whatever I can do. So I continue walking and I turn just to look behind me for a moment and notice that dog trail in the snow that I had just left.

I have a few steps to the car and I’m thinking, how am I going to get out of this because I’m not getting in my brand new car with soaking wet pants. So I do, I think what you would do, I took my pants off in the middle of the parking lot in Wingo. And I turn to my daughter and I say, I need your coat, sweetheart.

She is refusing to give her coat up at this point because it’s arctic cold outside. And I said, no sis, I really need it. I so am so sorry for the two gentlemen that were walking past at that moment.

She hands me her coat. I stick it on the chair. I take my coat off and I cover myself and I drive home naked. [00:32:00] Ashamed. Embarrassed, and so proud of my 8 year old. So I call my husband, and I tell him I’ve had an accident. And I need his help. And I need him to meet me at the door with some pants. Well his immediate response is that we need to call 911.

I don’t disagree, there’s a problem. But it’s not the car that’s broken, it’s me.

So I explain to him the problem and he meets me at the door with pants. And the reason I’m up here today to share this story with you is after 10 years when no one told me, I’m here to tell you there’s something called fourth trimester. And it’s something your body needs as a woman after having a baby.

And so if you are pregnant, if you’ve just had a baby, if you know someone having a baby, please do your research and tell them about fourth trimester. Nobody told me, [00:33:00] so I’m here standing here. Love yourself. Love your babies. I’m here to tell you. Thank you.

[00:33:11] Marc Moss: Jolene O’Brien is a wife of one husband, mom of two daughters and two sons. And a teacher of hundreds of children. Jolene is a woman, a daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt, and a close friend. She is an artist, a portrait photographer, and an incredibly creative writer. Closing out this episode of the podcast is Candace Haster.

Candace shares her story of deciding to have a baby and the process by which she did so with a kind sperm donor. Candace calls her story. Well, that’ll be interesting. Thanks for listening.

[00:33:46] Candace Haster: Hi. Um, so my story begins with the moon, but before that there was a storm. I was 33 years old. I was in [00:34:00] France with my mom. We were on a walk. She’s over there. Um, we were walking and it starts to rain. It’s a downpour. We’re soaking wet. There’s nowhere to seek shelter. We are just wet. And we are laughing.

And if you know my mom, and if you’ve heard her laugh, then you know that her laugh is the kind of laugh that makes you laugh too. Her big laugh. Her belly laugh. Sometimes she bends over while she’s laughing, and sometimes there’s snorts. Um, so we’re walking in the storm, trying to get out of it, running, laughing.

And as soon as the storm, or as quickly, I should say, as the storm comes in, it parts. And we’re hungry. So we find a restaurant, and we sit down to eat dinner. And there’s sourdough bread, and there’s an Aperol spritz, and there’s wine. And there’s this [00:35:00] salad. And my mom still talks about this salad to this day.

Perhaps it’s her favorite salad that she’s ever had. By far, it’s the most unusual that I’ve ever had. Picture with me, if you will, um, a bed of butter lettuce greens and asparagus and apples. But if you’re picturing this right now, I guarantee that you’re picturing it wrong. So… Imagine with me a green apple, a whole one, a round one.

It’s cored, a cylinder through the middle. It’s sliced thin, so what you have are donut shaped slices of apples. Three of them, arranged on the plate, on top of the butter lettuce. Through each apple is stuck, vertically, a spear of asparagus. But the asparagus isn’t green. No. This is the kind of asparagus that is grown under a pile of [00:36:00] hay.

To deprive it from light. This is white asparagus. Why? Personally, I prefer my asparagus to be green. So anyways, you can picture it now. White asparagus. Stuck through slices of apples with holes in them. Arranged on a plate. It’s a great salad. We finish dinner. There’s more wine. We decide to go on a walk.

The town that we’re in, in the Burgundy region of France, is surrounded by what are called ramparts. These are old stone walls meant to protect the town. Along some of the ramparts you can walk, and on some of the ramparts you can walk on top of them. They’re so wide. So we’re walking on top of these ramparts because we want to get a glimpse of the moon.

This is something that we’ve always done. We’ve always gone to go catch glimpses of the moon. We’re walking, it’s still cloudy, but the clouds part, and the moon shows itself. But it looks weird. [00:37:00] Why is the moon shaped like that? Why is it that color? It takes us a while to realize this, but what we’re witnessing is an unexpected eclipse.

And we laugh. It’s amazing. It’s magical. And in that moment, I know that this full moon is going to trigger my period. And in that moment, I also know that two weeks from now, I will ovulate. And in that moment, I also know that I’m ready to get pregnant, to have a kid. So, step back with me in time about 11 years prior.

I’m about 22 years old now. I’m walking in the north hills of Missoula, again, with my mom. The moon is out, but it’s the daytime. It’s a pastel moon. And we’re talking. We’re talking about all different things. We’re talking about the flowers that are growing. We’re talking about what’s for dinner that night.

We’re talking about my [00:38:00] partner at the time. And my mom says to me, Are you a lesbian? I don’t know. Well, are you gay? I don’t know. Well, what do you think I should call you? You can still call me Candace, Mom. We keep walking and a little bit later she says to me, Do you want to have children someday? Yeah, I do.

Well, that’ll be interesting. Indeed mom, that will be interesting. So come on back in time, actually forward in time again, to right when I get back from France. And, uh, I’d had previous conversations with a midwife and I’d also gone to the library and checked out so many books that talk about how to women can get pregnant.

And what all of the books tell me is that it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be expensive. You’re [00:39:00] going to have to use interventions. And my midwife confirms, yeah, it’s going to be hard. You’re probably going to have to use interventions and it’s going to be expensive and insurance won’t cover anything.

Not that I had insurance anyway. But wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. I remember in middle school, those VHS tapes that we watched, those sex ed VHS tapes featuring Patricia F. Miller. She told us that we could, I could, in fact, get pregnant in a hot tub without even having sex. Do you remember those stories?

Some of you remember those stories. I know you do. So what gives? Um, so I tell my midwife, I want to do it my way. I just want to be simple, I want to try it in the most simple way possible. I can use interventions later if I want to, but I want to start simply. [00:40:00] Okay, you should do that, but it’s not going to work.

But count it as practice, because what you’re going to need is a lot of practice. Okay. So previously, my partner and I had talked to our friend Seth, who had agreed to donate his sperm.

His partner Kenya was 100% on board. Kenya loves participating in weird shit. So… We make a plan. I give them this little plastic cup with an orange lid. Kenya helps Seth get his semen into the cup. She brings it to the house in her bra. It has to stay warm. And she knocks on the door. We have a secret knock.

Because there’s no need for chit chat in these moments. I open the door, Kenya hands over the semen. She [00:41:00] explains that during the process of getting the semen into the cup, there was a lot of laughter. Which I love. Um, she also said Seth is a little bit worried that it’s not enough. There’s not very much in there.

Like this much. Um, is it enough? I don’t know. I don’t have that much experience with semen at this point in my life. So, we go about the business. Put that up into me. Some of it slides out immediately. Scoop it back in. It’s okay. My midwife had previously told me that because I have a tilted uterus, which is not uncommon for women my size, that after the insemination, I should rest with my hips above my shoulders.

She suggested that I get down on all fours, but on my elbows. Rest that way. It’s not comfortable. She also told me how important it was to relax. I try [00:42:00] that. I try relaxing. And I decide that what I need to do is move my body because that’s what I am most comfortable doing. So we go backpacking. We get to this favorite spot.

Set up a tent, and these clouds roll in, and it’s a storm, it’s a full on thunderstorm. There’s thunder, there’s lightning, all of it, and in that moment, I feel this surge. It’s right here, right here, a little lightning bolt, and I know in that moment that I’m pregnant. Nobody believes me. You’re so weird, Candice.

Um, well 41 weeks and one day later. I’m in my kitchen. I’m making bread. My mom is there. Kenya’s there. I think they’re making dinner. The dough is sticky. I put flour on my hands. Knead the dough more, and I feel my contractions beginning. I hold that moment for myself for a while before I tell anyone. [00:43:00] Then at about three o’clock in the morning, my kiddo is born.

In my house. My mom and Kenya finished making the bread. And, a little bit later, a storm rolls in. There’s thunder, and there’s lightning, and the house smells like fresh made bread. Now, Things are a little bit different right now in my life. I have a different partner, and I have a little bit more experience with semen.

But, I still take time to look at the moon. And in fact, last night, my kiddo came to me right before bedtime and he said, Hey Ma, wanna step out on the stoop and take a glimpse at the moon? Hell yeah kiddo. Always.

[00:43:59] Marc Moss: Thank you. [00:44:00] Candace grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and moved to and fell in love with Missoula in the 1990s. You can find her small scale ceramic and paper artwork tucked into nooks and crannies around town, in the woods, and possibly in your neighbor’s pocket. She has a parent, a Scorpio, an avid cyclist, and is way into tigers.

Pretty great stories, right? I’ll bet you have a story to share, and I’ll bet that you have a story to share on the theme. Lost in Translation, the next Tell Us Something live event is scheduled for September 28th. The theme is Lost in Translation. Pitch your story for consideration by calling 406 203 4683.

You have three minutes to leave your pitch. The pitch deadline is August 20th. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I’ll call you as soon as I get your pitch. Tickets for Lost in Translation are on sale now. Limited edition printed tickets featuring the artwork of Bear River Studio are available at Rockin Rudy’s or [00:45:00] you can get your tickets online at tellussomething. org. Join us next week.

[00:45:05] Charlene Brett: The thunder



and it’s echoing off all of these

walls back and forth. My dogs are getting terrified. They’re like, can we go in the tent? Please? We’re scared. Please let us in. So we all

we bail into the tent because the rains come in and the rain

instantly starts pouring.

[00:45:22] Jessie Novak: And I know where this is going. And I don’t like it one bit. My brain is saying, they’re going to shut the oil lamp off too, and it’s going to be really, really dark. And boy, was I right.

[00:45:36] Sydney Holte: When I’m doing the thing

that I’m nervous about, the feeling goes away. But this time, the feeling in my stomach did not go away.

I was still feeling

really queasy.

[00:45:46] Marc Moss: Join us on the Tell Us Something podcast next week for the concluding stories from the Creative Pulse graduate program. The University of Montana event on the theme out of my show, the telesumming podcast is made possible in part because of support from Missoula Broadcasting [00:46:00] Company, including the family of ESPN radio, the trail one Oh three, three Jack FM and Missoula source for modern hits.

You want a 4. 5 learn more at Missoula broadcasting. com. Thanks to Float Missoula for their support of the Tell Us Something podcast. Learn more at FloatMSOA. com and thanks to the team at MissoulaEvents. net. Learn about all of the goings on in Missoula at MissoulaEvents. net. Thanks to Cash for Junkers who provided the music for the podcast.

Find them at CashForJunkersBand. com. To learn more about Tell Us Something, please visit TellUsSomething. org.

Four storytellers share their true personal story on the theme “Neighbors". Their stories were recorded live in-person in front of a packed stadium on June 16, 2023 at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field in Missoula, MT in collaboration with Missoula Pride. You'll hear stories about an ode to neighbors, a man crashing a wedding in Vietnam, a hike to pick Black Locust flowers and a trans man feeling comfortable in his own skin for maybe the first time.

Transcript : Neighbors - Part 1


[00:00:00] Marc Moss: Welcome to the tell us something podcast. I’m Marc Moss. We’re currently looking for storytellers for the next tell us something storytelling event. The theme is lost in translation. If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 4 0 6 2 0 You have three minutes to leave your pitch.

The pitch deadline is August 20th. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I’ll call you as soon as I get your pitch. This week on the podcast.

[00:00:27] Katie Condon: Is that your dog? Fran, being Fran, I said, Why? And he said, That dog’s been coming down to my shop. every day this summer.


like, okay, so I’m about to apologize for something.

I’m not sure what yet, but, and then he says,

[00:00:55] Reid Reimers: he was like, I’d love to take you fishing at this place that I know, but unfortunately tomorrow I have to go to a [00:01:00] wedding so I can’t take you guys. And I jokingly and a little drunkenly was like, Oh, we’re not good enough to get invited to your wedding.

[00:01:08] Pascaline Piquard: Don’t give it.

to her like one flower after another because this is not polite, right? So you just show the plate and she’ll take whatever she wants.


mommy, let’s go.

[00:01:24] Kaegan Bonstein: And so I go back out and then I make eye contact with one of the guys. So they definitely see me coming out of the men’s side. And then I go to just grab my bag and head on.

I’m like, okay, thanks man. And then it’s like, Whoa, Hey, do you want a beer or something? I was like,

yeah, sure.

[00:01:42] Marc Moss: Four storytellers share their true personal story on the theme Neighbors. Their stories were recorded in person in front of a live audience, June 16th, 2003 at Ogre Park at Allegiance Field in Missoula, Montana.

We are proud to have partnered with Missoula Pride for this event, which featured six queer voices and two [00:02:00] allies at the event. I acknowledged that TE US something has a lot of privilege. We welcome all respectable voices and at this event, we used our privilege to elevate marginalized voices. And if I say that, I must in good faith give up the microphone, so I did.

Two members of the Missoula queer community took over the MC duties for the evening. To honor and respect the work that they did. They will follow up each story on today’s podcast. Cara Rivera and Devin Carpenter were the MCs that evening. Tell Us Something acknowledges with deep respect and gratitude that we are on the ancestral lands of the Pendlay, Salish, and Kootenai peoples, who have stewarded this land for countless generations.

Their profound connection to the earth and its resources has left an indelible mark on the landscape we now call home. In recognizing their enduring legacy, we are called to be steadfast stewards of this land, nurturing its diversity, preserving its ecosystems, and upholding the principles of environmental sustainability.

[00:03:00] May we honor the wisdom of our ancestors and embrace our responsibility to protect and preserve this precious land for future generations, fostering a harmonious coexistence with nature that celebrates our shared heritage. We take this moment to honor the land And it’s native people and the stories that they share with us.

Our first story comes to us from Katie Condon. Katie shares her story about an unlikely neighborly friendship. It’s an ode to neighbors, to Fran the dog, and to community. Katie calls her story the baloney house. Thanks for listening.

[00:03:37] Katie Condon: I met Fran in January of 2007. She had short, stubby legs. Dark brown eyes, the most expressive face, one black fingernail, and this band of black [00:04:00] in her hair, it looked like she was always wearing a headband,


velvety ears that dragged on the ground when her nose Caught a scent?


was the perfect representation of the Basset Hound breed. Which is why I was confused to find her at the pound. She was a year old. She’d been adopted and returned three times. And after 14 years with Fran, I considered returning her myself sometimes. Fran was notoriously naughty. You couldn’t keep her tied up.

I tried once, outside of Bernice’s bakery, right across the bridge there. She wiggled out of her collar, and found her way into the kitchen, and it was like a scene out of a [00:05:00] cartoon, like cookie sheets flying, and Parker House rolls rolling, and my wily hound dog, and seven different people chasing after her.

I was


Fran made quite a reputation for herself among my community and beyond. So when I got the opportunity to go on a nationwide tour with my band, I knew I needed to find somebody specific to watch Fran. I’d heard through the grapevine that my old friend Lila was looking for some short term housing. I gave her a call.

Our dates matched. And she knew Fran well enough, so she took on the challenge. And I left with my band called Letter B. Thank you. I was in this [00:06:00] band with my little brother, Jordan Lane, and we just. Had the time. From here, all the way to Maine, down through the Carolinas, over to L. A., up to Seattle, and back home.

Over the course of six weeks, it was nuts. It was chaos. It was pure joy. A few weeks into the tour, I get a call from Leila, and she says, every day when I leave for work, Fran is inside. And every day when I come home from work, Fran is outside.

I think I just had a gas station hot dog for breakfast. I was probably hungover. My mind was spinning and I certainly couldn’t troubleshoot what [00:07:00] my hound dog was doing a thousand miles away. And I considered at this point in Fran’s life she had been to

And I thought, you know, Fran’s pretty savvy. She’s home when you get home. I think it’s okay.

So I get home from tour a few weeks later, and we’re having a neighborhood barbecue. And Fran’s checking in with me every once in a while. I had to honor the fact that Fran’s first priority was her nose, and I just… Pined to be her second priority. An older gentleman who lived down the road came up to me and he said, is that your dog?

Fran being Fran. I said, why? And he said, that [00:08:00] dog’s been coming down to my shop. every day this summer. I’m like, okay, so I’m about to apologize for something I’m not sure what yet, but and then he says I think she likes the cool floors. It’s been a hot summer.

Yeah, so then

I’m like, I gotta defend myself. I gotta keep my house cooler.

He doesn’t think I could take good enough care of her or something. And then he says she doesn’t like it. When I use the table saw. So I don’t use it when she’s around.

Uh, Uh, Okay.

Then he


My wife gives her baloney. I hope

that’s okay.

Yeah, that’s fine, [00:09:00] and things are starting to come together in my head, and I’m realizing this is where Fran’s been going when Leila goes to work and when I was on tour.

And then I figured out some things in the house. She was busting into a bedroom. The door would quickly close behind her, and then she would jump up onto a chair, jump up onto a desk, and jump out. out the window and run down the road to the shop that we lovingly nicknamed the baloney house.

I tried


keep better track of her. I was kind of jealous and I didn’t think it was safe. So I tried to. build a fence, and that didn’t work, and I bought bologna. That didn’t work. I got to know the folks down at the bologna house because I was consistently going down there retrieving fran. And sometimes I would walk into the shop and Doug would be fixing something, anything.

And some days I’d walk [00:10:00] in there and he’d be building a birdhouse. And some days I would walk in there, and he would be painting illustrations of birds for the freaking Autobahn Society. Like, no wonder Fran

loved him.

One day Fran and I are standing at the end of our driveway, and we see Doug’s truck coming down the road, this big white pickup truck with a ladder on the back, and he stops Leans over, opens the passenger side door, and Fran runs over, jumps in, and they take off down the road. And I chase after him.

Wait a second.

And he stops.

And I open the door and I get my gun. dog out of the truck.

He says,

Judy [00:11:00]

went to McDonald’s.

She got egg McMuffins. She

got Fran one too.

That checks out. What am I gonna say, no? And don’t come at me with, you shouldn’t let your dog eat egg McMuffins. Because that dog had a stomach of steel, it was sewn into place, and we only had to pump it.

So I’m

like, yeah, okay. Enjoy your breakfast with Fran. And Doug gets this, like, mischievous grin on his old man face. And he looks over at my dog and he says, let’s go Franny. And he takes off and Fran’s chasing his truck down the road. Those little legs are going, those ears are flapping. It’s her version of a [00:12:00] sprint and I’m standing there literally in their dust and I’m frustrated.

I’m frustrated and I’m also filled with joy and I’m frustrated because this

is not something that

I was expecting to happen. This isn’t what normally happens. I’ve been spending Fran’s entire life protecting her from neighbors, or protecting neighbors from her. And this situation was something I didn’t understand.

And that made me feel frustrated.

And the joy… The joy was seeing Doug become a child, and my old hound dog become a puppy. And when they raced down the road, I thought, this is a dog’s life.[00:13:00]

This is loyalty and compassion and playfulness. These are the values that I revere as a dog owner. And then I realized, these are the values of great neighbors.

Doug and Judy are here


and I just want to thank you guys for being so kind to Fran, to me, and to my family. I learned many lessons from Fran over the years, but I’ll leave you with this one tonight. Love thy neighbor, especially if they have baloney.

[00:13:58] Kerra Rivera: Katie

[00:14:00] Condon. Katie is a

humanitarian at heart. She believes in the connection of all things. Katie

is a lover of art and the simple beauty this life has to offer.

[00:14:09] Marc Moss: Our next story comes to us from Reed Reimers. Reed is recognized for his Montana accent during a trip to Vietnam and is then invited to a neighborhood family wedding.

Reed calls the story crashing a wedding in Vietnam. Thanks for listening.

[00:14:24] Reid Reimers: Uh, yes, as mentioned, I do love to travel. I became obsessed after a six week trip to New Zealand turned into almost a year. I’d lived in a van. I was a legal transient worker on a vineyard. I ended up with white boy dreadlocks because when I had hair, it was quite curly, not.

culturally appropriate if I just want to be clear. But my favorite time to travel is actually during February, February in Missoula in particular, always feels like a wake to me. Everybody walks around and just kind of nods at each other. Like, yeah, we’re all going through it, man. We’re all here. That little half rise smile at the grocery store is just [00:15:00] horribly depressing.

And so two very good friends of mine, Craig and Leah decided years ago to start what we lovingly and very appropriately call. Fuck you, February. And so we tried to travel for a couple months, leaving mid January, getting back mid March, and we’ve been all over the place. And one of those luscious fuck you February trips took us to northern Vietnam.

We arrived in Hanoi at, uh, dawn ish, and I’m sure any of you that have traveled from Montana to somewhere like that, when you step off the plane, it’s the thickest, thickest It’s not just the humidity. It’s not a temperature thing. It’s the fact that you’re near sea level and the air is full of oxygen. So even though you’ve traveled nightmarishly long to get there, there’s something invigorating about it.

And that’s what we found as we stepped off the plane in Hanoi early that morning. We knew it would be a dangerous mistake to try to sleep, even though we were exhausted. And so we decided to stay up, get [00:16:00] into the cycle of time, and ran around Hanoi, which is a beautiful city built by French colonialists, and now lived in by proper Vietnamese people.

The wide boulevards meant to be strut along and see and be seen became… Shops and restaurants and you walk in the damn street cause you’ll figure it out. It’s fine. It all works for them. And I really loved being there. At the end of our first night, as we got there, we had asked around, like what should we do?

We want to go get a little rowdy. We need to get a little messed up so we can get some sleep and start the cycle appropriately. And the answer from everyone was be a hoy. The be a hoy corner. Be a hoy is a low. Octane quick brewed beer that doesn’t have a long shelf life. So you kind of have to just chug it down.

Because of its quick process, it’s also quite affordable. So a single cup of Biahoy was about 20 U. S. cents. And you could buy an entire pitcher for a [00:17:00] dollar. She knows, you know, yeah. And Beahoy corner again, this beautiful built in the beautiful French style where three different streets come together is just a miasma of tiny plastic chairs and plastic stools and a bunch of people getting really sloppy on very, very cheap beer.

There was obviously a language barrier. I knew my please thank yous and excuse mes in Vietnamese, but that’s about it. But the lovely social lubricant that is alcohol, Instantly made us a ton of friends and the fact we didn’t mind dropping a buck 50 to buy a pitcher for the table next to us. So soon we were surrounded by all sorts of lovely folks, some students trying to practice their English, some locals that we couldn’t talk to at all, but as a teacher of mime, I’m really good, especially after a few beers, about explaining what I’m doing with frantic, throbbing hand gestures.

There may have been a couple beers spilled, but it worked out just fine. Um, and as we were sitting there though, So, this tall [00:18:00] white man, one of the only tall white boys we see, whenever we travel, we’re like tall white guy, we point him out, cause they’re not as common as you might think in a lot of places.

This guy comes up to us, and he’s like, asked me the weirdest question I’d ever imagined. He was like, excuse me, are you from Montana? And we’re like, yeah. And he was like, I grew up in Bozeman. Apparently the fact that we had dove in with both feet and we’re just chatting and gabbing with people openly had first caught his attention.

Then he heard our accent and he was like, that’s definitely Western, but Northern Western. We do say bag. You know, like he caught it all. And then my buddy actually I figured out later had a, uh, he runs a fly fishing shop and divide and he was wearing his hat. So the guy was like, there he goes. Uh, this lovely guy from Bozeman said we sat and had a couple of drinks.

He was like, Hey, you gotta meet my friend Ty. Ty was a local guy. He ran motorcycle tours up around the Northern part of Vietnam. It was just [00:19:00] an absolute treat. And so he was like, you gotta meet Ty. Come on over. And after that much be a hoy, things are a little fuzzy at this point. You’ll start going to see a pattern about this whole story.

Things get a little fuzzy after a while, but we went to Ty’s place. He was a consummate host. His English wasn’t super strong, but he was super excited to practice it. And that made us excited as well. And we’re sitting there and my friends are talking about fishing because they’re fly fishing guides and that’s.

All they talk about 90% of the time. And he was like, I’d love to take you fishing at this place that I know, but unfortunately tomorrow I have to go to a wedding, so I can’t take you guys. And I jokingly and a little drunkenly was like, Oh, we’re not good enough to get invited to your wedding? The entire mood shifts.

He stops everything, stares at me, and he’s like, Would you go? You have to tell me now if you want to go, you can go, but you have to tell me now and you have to promise to go. And we look at each other after this [00:20:00] crazy night. We hadn’t even been there for that than the country for less than a day. And we’re like, I think, yeah, right.

You don’t get that kind of invite every day. And so the next morning at 6. 30 a. m. found us dressed in our finest clothes. My buddy Craig, uh, is a Patagucci boy. So he had his fishing shirt and his fishing pants, kind of nice. I’m not. So I had this scrubby, like, sun shirt I brought along and my cargo pants.

Listen, I still support cargo shorts, but we all know. Cargo pants. And Leah, of course, that lucky duck had one of those tube dresses that can be like a hat or can be a scarf or she can just pull it over her luscious little blonde body and look absolutely fabulous wrinkle free. And I was like, you bitch.

So we’re standing out there on the sidewalk. Ty pulls up with his wife and his lovely little kiddo and we hop in a car and head out to this wedding. And again, as we travel through, you kind of see the old colonial built, uh, the French colonial built, uh, [00:21:00] Hanoi, slowly kind of break down into humbler structures, kind of hand built cinder blocks and corrugated metal that eventually gives way to just.

Emptiness of rice paddies. It was, uh, during a winter planting there, I assume. So there was kind of green about, but it’s mostly just kind of marshes as you’re driving down the road. About an hour later, we take a random right turn onto an elevated road through the paddies, heading toward this elevated part of land that had some houses and some trees poking up, just kind of rising above all of the, uh, paddies.

And as we pull up, Tai, in his best broken English, described that Vietnamese weddings last for six days sometimes. And we were there on day four. The groom’s family and the bride’s family have still not gotten together, so it’s just been the groom’s family for three days straight. And they are bored as all hell.[00:22:00]

So we pull up to this… much larger house than I expected. It’s a multi generational house. Probably 15 to 20 people lived there. Big house, all white tile on the inside and the outside. And we go in and Ty explains that as special guests, it was expected that we would take a shot of their kind of family made rice whiskey with the patriarch of the family.

Great. I don’t turn down shots even though it’s like nine 30 in the morning. I don’t mind. What we didn’t quite realize was that At a wedding, especially on the groom’s side, every male over the age of 25 considers himself a patriarch of the family. So instead of taking one shot with everybody, we ended up having a line of over 20 people waiting to come individually take shots with us as a welcome to their place.

Now Ty’s wife was pouring for us and they happened to store their homemade hooch in uh, reused plastic bottles. And so she [00:23:00] was… Usually giving us a shot, but every so often she was sneaking in water on ours. Because, I don’t know if you’ve ever taken 20 shots of homemade hooch before 10am on a head full of jet lag and general cultural confusion.

Listen, I can handle myself. But that was a lot. And from then on, I started being kind of nervous. I was like, Oh no, I’m going to be a sloppy jalopy up here. Like I’m going to, I don’t want to break any cultural norms. I don’t even know what the hell we’re supposed to do here. Everyone there was so excited and so inviting though.

And they ended up getting shit canned right along with us to the point that it just didn’t matter. And from that moment after our 20 pre 10 a. m. shots. Uh, everything again gets a little loopy jaloopy, but I do remember we snuck out with some of the kids to the Pomelo Grove next door and we’re stealing pomelos.

They’re like big grapefruits. Lady came out screaming at us and then she saw that there was like Three random white people in her yard. [00:24:00] It was like, oh, you must be here for the wedding. She gave us a crate of pomelos to take back. There was some really loud, terrible karaoke going on. I sang, oh, blah dee, oh, blah dah, which they didn’t recognize at all, but they found quite impressive.

There was huge trays of food that came out. My buddy Craig is allergic to peanuts, and usually he can kind of smell it, and he’s okay, but he… It into a bun and instantly stopped, set it down and ran outside to go spit it out. And he brought a whole jug of whiskey with him to rinse his mouth with. Well, little did he realize as he looked up when he was done, he was right outside where all the grandmas had been preparing all the food and he was there like seemingly puking it up out of a nightmare.

Uh, we got that explained. It was fine, but it was very, very awkward. Uh, At one point, Ty had brought his dad’s guitar, which hadn’t been played since the Vietnam War, because none of his family knew how to play. Craig knew how to pick a few things. And so they invited us up to sing a song. [00:25:00] And I was like, Craig, what songs do you know?

He’s like, not many. He’s like, what songs do you know? I was like, nothing you can play. So we decided on Wagon Wheel, which I knew almost none of the lyrics to. And I turned to him and I was like, man, I don’t know the ver I know the chorus. Everybody knows the chorus. I don’t know the verses. And he was like, they don’t speak English.

Nobody cares! So it turned into kind of like a heading down south to the watermelon place. And we’re going in to grab something for a face to see. Rum or Rack Me. Tire family gets so excited. At some point we need to go out to this, uh, temple that’s nearby. They were preparing for the Lunar New Year. And so we hop on scooters.

Craig jumps on his scooter, guns it, instantly shoots out from under him, and goes off the edge of the cliff into the rice paddies. Which was only met by like, Oh stupid drunk guy, ha ha ha ha ha It was fine, they knew how to do it, they totally back up. I hop on one and let me tell you, As a big awkward [00:26:00] asshole, I am much better on four wheels than two.

I did pretty well, but as I came around the corner, I skidded out, again to just cheers and guffaws from everyone. And I was assigned a driver, Which was a nine year old girl. It was quite capable about running a damn 50 CC scooter without any kind of issues. So, uh, the, the story continued. It was an amazing day.

We finally got back into Hanoi. We met up with the families there. And, uh, after the bride was hiding somewhere and the groom had to go find him in the family, find her in the family’s house and take her down. Um, we had a great party. We kind of ended at a fast food chicken joint. And we were walking back.

But what hit me as we were walking back home and sobriety started to rear its ugly, nasty head, I just thought, so many times when I travel, I feel like an outsider looking in. I feel like a voyeur in some ways. [00:27:00] As much as you can be invited into a place, you always feel like you’re outside of it. And what I realized is that those folks were just as excited to have us there to get their fourth day celebration going as we felt to be there.

And I just think that that touched me in a way I actually have trouble putting words to, which I probably should have prepared for, because I’m telling you all about it, but. I just love though, as a final thought, that somewhere above someone’s mantle is a beautiful professionally taken photo of all the bride and groom’s family and friends dressed in their finest, and randomly in the back is two scuzzy backpackers and a gorgeous blonde girl in a goddamn wrap dress.

Thank you.

[00:27:48] Devin Carpenter: Reed was born and raised in Missoula and has a master’s in theater from the University of Montana. You’ve probably seen him hosting numerous events around town, running [00:28:00] trivia nights or strutting his stuff on the stage in local theater productions, including Rocky Horror Live. He has a deep love for other cultures and climes, which has taken him to almost 50 different countries.

Because he travels on a tight budget, He has to get creative on those trips, which often leads to unexpected adventures. He also teaches theater to local kiddos, tends to his plethora of houseplants, and recently became a puppy papa to an adorable sociopath named Dewey.

[00:28:32] Marc Moss: Coming up.

[00:28:33] Pascaline Piquard: Don’t give it to her like one flower after another because this is not polite, right?

So you just. Show the plate, and she’ll take whatever she wants. Okay,

Mommy, let’s go.

[00:28:47] Kaegan Bonstein: And so I go back out, and then I make eye contact with one of the guys, so they definitely see me coming out of the men’s side. And then I go to just grab my bag and head on, and I’m like, Okay, thanks, man. And then it’s like, Whoa, whoa.

[00:29:00] Hey, do you want a beer or something? And it’s like, Yeah, sure.

[00:29:06] Marc Moss: Those stories after a word from our sponsors. Stay with us. Thank you to our stewardship sponsor, University of Montana Summer Office. Thank you to our story sponsors, Axis Physical Therapy and Hindu Hillbilly. Thank you to our accessibility sponsor, Blackfoot Communications.

Our next storyteller is Pasqueline Picard. Pasqueline takes the long way on a hike to harvest black locust flowers to fry in dough and make delicious donuts. A grateful neighbor unexpectedly receives the entire plate when offered. Pasqueline calls her story Mom’s Survival Plan with Le Beignet de Cacha.

Thanks for listening.

[00:29:51] Pascaline Piquard: Wow, very impressive. Bonsoir.

Alright, so most of my [00:30:00] life I have lived in big houses, surrounded with huge gardens, many trees, Once I got divorced, I decided I had to move to a smaller place. So I moved to an apartment with my two sons, Gaspar and Guillaume. And so we settled in this apartment, quite small for us. And um, in the springtime, we decided that We needed some snack around 4 p.

m. That’s a snack time in France. Yeah, for you guys sometimes it’s just dinner for us. It’s just snack time and then we have dinner like at 8, but anyway So I tell my sons. Okay, let’s go You know in the springtime you have this Trees in France, we call them Acacia and I think in English, it’s a black locust and it smells beautiful.

[00:31:00] It’s like this stem with like white flowers on it and it’s as big as grape. It smells delicious and it tastes delicious. And when I arrived here by the end of May, I had tasted some on your trees here in Missoula and so good. So anyway. I tell my son, let’s go and, uh, let’s grab some, uh, flowers so that we can make donuts out of them.

They love it. And my older sons, uh, Gaspar, he said, can we take a yacht? That’s his Turkish friend. Can we take him? Because I don’t think he knows. about these donuts. So I say, okay, let’s go. So off we go, and I don’t know about you, but me living with two boys, at that time they were seven and nine years old, always used to be in big houses, big gardens, and they were stuck in my apartment, so they were getting hectic, kind of.

So I needed them to [00:32:00] do some exercise and to practice, like just go and do some sport. So off we go, and I make sure that actually The walk will be very long, so that then when I need them to go to bed, I’m sure I’ll be on my own then. So we go, and we walk, and we take loops, and loops, and loops, and loops.

And the younger one, Guillaume, said, Maman, please, just, can we just go straight to the trees? Like, we can smell them, can we just go straight to the point? And then I was like, oh, no, no, that’s not good. That’s not good. Just one more, two more loops. So, we keep walking, we keep walking. And finally I decide after an hour that maybe time is off, like we should just get the flowers.

But they are small. And the trees, these acacia trees, the black locust trees, they are very, very tall. Very thin, very [00:33:00] hard wood. So I tell them to climb it. But it’s, they have to climb like 15 feet. So I take them and I put them on the tree and they grab the branches. And then they pick the flowers and they toss them on my head of course.

And then I pile them on my wicker. It’s a big wicker, like, very big one. And maybe it takes like 15, 20 minutes, and we have so many of them. So I said, okay guys, just calm down. And I could tell, like, looking at Elliot, my son’s friend, looking at his face, he was like, watering. You know, just imagine, these flowers, if…

If you were a bee, I think that would be the paradise for the bees because they smell so good and you just want to have all of them just for you. So we go back home, 10 minutes the walk


and we get home, it’s [00:34:00] about 5. 30, 6, something like that, and we start to prepare the dough. And then we dip the flowers.

It smells so good. Once it’s fried, we put it on a plate, and as, as I was piling them up, I could see the plate going bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger. Because maybe we had like 40 flowers, so it’s kind of a lot for just four people. And my sons are like, oh maman, please, can we try one? No, guys. Wait for me to finish it, because otherwise, once I’m done with the cooking, there won’t be any left for me.

I know you. So, yeah, and it’s true, I have to help myself first, otherwise I don’t eat. So we have these huge plates, and they are so eager to eat. And then I remember, oh, Madame Mani, she’s my… One floor down neighbor, and she had told me [00:35:00] the very morning that, um, her son in law had just died. And, uh, and I could feel that she was very, um, emotional, very sad about this.

So, before we started eating the flour doughnuts, I told, uh, I told my sons, Okay, guys, you know what? You know Madame Mani, she just lost her son in law, so what about you go down and you give her, like you offer her the plate and then she can take some, but please don’t give it to her like one flower after another, because this is not polite, right?

So you just… show the plate, and she’ll take whatever she wants. Okay, mommy, let’s go. So the three boys go down one floor, and I start cleaning the kitchen. Two minutes later, not even, they come back. They ring at the door, I open the door, and I don’t know, like, they look at me, [00:36:00] and I can feel something is wrong, but I don’t know what.

And they are half laughing, half crying, like I know that they don’t know how they should feel. So I ask them, okay, so, where is the plate? Okay, mom. The thing is, we rang at the door, and Madame Mani opened the door, and we told her that she could have some… Of the doughnuts. Yeah, good, and? Okay, the thing is, she took the plate, put it in the kitchen, she went back to the door and said, Thank you guys, you are so lovely, and she closed the door on us.

And so I said, but did you say that she could have some? Yes mom, but what I was supposed to do? Like, ask her for a plate back and just give it to her? You told her she could take whatever she wanted and I guess the 40 doughnuts [00:37:00] was good enough for her. But you know, Madame Mani, she’s maybe 85 years old.

So, I don’t know, but 40 doughnuts, when you’re sad, It’s a lot, right? Even if you are not sad, actually. But, anyway. So, I look at my sons. It’s 7 p. m. No snack. Dinner is coming on, but I have nothing prepared. Because I was counting on these donuts. And my boys are still expecting to have some donuts. So, I guess we have to go back to the forest.

And surprisingly, it was just 10 minutes long. So we go back to the forest, but we had already picked all the easier flowers. So we had to go to the further one. So they have to climb again. And at some point I said, you know what? We don’t need 41, like, we don’t need 40. Just get maybe 15 to 20, that’s fine.[00:38:00]

So we get the 20 flowers, we go back, we hurry, I make the dough again, I dip the flour again in the dough, and I fry them and we eat them, but we’re just so tired, like, it’s 8pm, man, and, is that a dinner? But anyway, we loved it, Elliot loved it, he had never eaten fried flowers before. And you should try, I will give Mark the recipe, so.

And, still, you know, we, we have eaten maybe 20 donuts, we were the four of us, and that was a lot. We were like, ugh! So, we go to bed, still wondering how was Madame Mani doing. Because, you know, she’s 85 something, quite fit. She always tells me about her vegetables and the fruits she loves to eat. So, I don’t see how the doughnuts and the vegetables fit together, but anyway.[00:39:00]

And the following morning, I wake up wondering if I had missed the ambulance, or, just to take care of her, you know. And then, suddenly, I see her in the staircase going to the market, because it’s Saturday morning, and I also go to the market, that’s usually where we chat. So, she sees me, and I’m like, Oh, bonjour, Madame Mani.

With a smile that says more than what I could say. And she’s like, Oh, Pasqueline, thank you so much for the donuts. You know, I just love them. Oh, so she ate all of them. You know, I had my son on the phone, and I told him how lucky I was to have you as a neighbor. You are so thoughtful. And they were so good.

It was my first time. Thank you so much. Then I realized she had, she had eaten the 40 donuts. And she wasn’t even sick. So she had a very strong stomach, I guess. And you know what? The thing is [00:40:00] that was six years ago and she’s still my neighbor. I am still her neighbor and I’m here for two months and a half.

And she’s taking care of my plants back home. I hope she’s not eating them, but now every time I cook something because I like to give, I have like, I live, my building is mainly full of like widows and so I’m by myself with them. So whenever I cook a cake for my sons, I keep some for them, but then my son always tells me, okay mom, remember first.

You give us some and you make sure it’s just one size, one person size of the cake. Thank you.

Pasqueline Picard

[00:40:55] Kerra Rivera: has been an English teacher in France for 15 years

and she is a [00:41:00] Fulbright grantee

attending a five week program in the U. S. about American history. Culture and politics. She is a lifelong learner, and she loves discovering new things, meeting people, and sharing experiences.

Her adventurous spirit and curiosity have brought her to

various places such as Jordan, Thailand, China, Italy, the UK,

and Ireland.

[00:41:22] Marc Moss: Rounding out this episode of the Tell Us Something podcast, Keegan Bonstein, a short king, makes friends with a native Hawaiian family on the beach and feels safe and comfortable in his skin. Keegan calls his story, Short King, or Out of the Head and Into the Heart. Thanks for listening.

[00:41:42] Kaegan Bonstein: Out of the head and into the heart.

I’ve been in transition for about a year now. Um, been on hormones for the last six months and it has been a… Very revelatory experience. Just, uh, thank you. A lot of things, [00:42:00] thank you.

Um, Just a lot of things coming up and it becomes something where you just have time to look at all the things that you want to braid together about this part that hasn’t been expressed. And one of the things I was thinking about is the short king. Like, I want to be a short king, which is… Somebody of short stature that exudes confidence.

I’m like, alright, that’s aspirational. Let’s go for that. And so while I’m going through this process, I’m realizing, you know, I haven’t been out of town, like it had been since COVID, I hadn’t left or anything like that. So I’m like, I need something to like break up the rhythm a little bit and shake up the gumball machine.

And my friend, like about a year ago, was like, why don’t you go to Hawaii? And I was like, okay, I mean, you know, there’s so many places to go. And then I just kind of put that away, and then it starts showing up on people’s t shirts, and it’s coming up in conversation. I’m like, alright, universe, I hear ya.

And so, I book a ticket and go off to [00:43:00] Honolulu and land in Oahu. And I don’t know if any of you have ever been there, but when you land there, at least to me, the land is so… Vocal. You can feel it. And, so I I immediately went up to the north shore of Oahu, which is like the center of surf culture, and it was at the end of the surf season, it was mid April, and so there’s a lot of people there doing that, and I’m just kind of taking things in, and I end up in this little area called Pupukea, and in Pupukea is a beach called Three Tables.

And it’s just, it was awesome. It was this tiny little beach with two alcoves, one on either side, and one side has sand on it with some trees in the background, and then it slowly turns into like coral drop off and like cliffside. And so, uh, I spent some time there, and like, that’s where I ended up spending most of my time.

Um, I thought I was gonna island hop and everything, but I wound up staying put. [00:44:00] And as soon as I get there, there’s… At Three Tables, why it’s called that, there’s three stone slats out a little bit a ways. And I’m just watching the waves crash, and I’m just like… Fuck it. And I dive in and I’m swimming in this ocean and I start laughing hysterically.

And I’m just diving in and feeling this visceral give and take of the tide. And I grew up on the Atlantic Ocean and this was a whole other thing. Like it’s very vocal and wild and very clear that this is the biggest ocean on our planet. And when I was out there having this experience I was like, I don’t want to rehearse anymore.

I just want to dive in and get going and make each day matter more than I felt I had been at that point. So, I stayed in Pupukea, I made some really great friends, jumped off some rocks, and just had an awesome experience staying at a hostel, and then I prepared to camp there, because I brought my tent with me and [00:45:00] everything.

And so, at the end of my time staying at a hostel, uh, a friend of mine, we had gone on this hike, and had this very open hearted conversation, and I was, Really proud of myself that I had said how I felt. And he drops me off at the other side of Three Tables, which there’s a bridge. And then there are these stationary bathrooms there.

And he went off to meet another friend. So, I have my pack on me. And I see this Hawaiian family. And they’ve clearly been there for a little while. There was like, uh, tarp cover with a grill, couple blankets, a lot of folding chairs, and um, I was kind of like, alright, I’ll, I’ll ask these people while I use the restroom to watch my bag.

I didn’t really want to bring it in the bathroom, it was huge. So, um, and I was also, you know, kind of calling their bluff, like, people aren’t that nice. I don’t know. [00:46:00] It was a test. And, I went up to them and these two guys were sitting on the side in folding chairs and I go up to them and say, excuse me, would you mind watching my bag while I use the restroom?

And they go, oh yeah, sure, no problem. And I go in and I use the men’s side. And, while I’m in the bathroom I’m like, Alright, you know, just play it cool, if anything happens, just play it cool, cause like, being trans, in my experience, you learn to assess things very quickly, and you gotta figure out how to keep yourself safe.

And so I go back out, and then I make eye contact with one of the guys, so they definitely see me coming out of the men’s side. And then I go to just grab my bag and head on, I’m like, okay, thanks man, and then it’s like, woah, woah, hey, do you want a beer or something? And it’s like, Yeah, sure. Thanks. And he’s like, yeah, no problem.

Uh, what’s your name? And so, in an act of good faith, I introduced myself by my [00:47:00] nickname. Hey, I’m Finn. He’s like, hey, nice to meet you. I’m Uncle. This is Stan. And I was like, alright. So, making a little bit of chit chat, not too much, and I just slowly start to realize they’re like inviting me to sit down and enjoy for a while.

So I sit down, and I’m sitting down next to them while they’re in the chairs, and they’re just feeding me beautiful, perfect poke, beer, the biggest blunt I’ve ever seen. It, you know, I handled myself like a boss, but like, you know, it was something. Somewhere out there, Snoop’s proud. And I’m hanging there and they’re just like letting me be and like making a little bit of talk, but everything’s happening, you know, like the teenagers are giving flack to the young adults and like I’m watching Uncle help one of the aunties out with her chair that’s not working.

Oh, hold on. I’ll be [00:48:00] right there. Let me help you. And like, they’re just lovely hosts and up walks this guy and he’s like, Hey, I’m Brendan. Hey, Brenda, nice to meet you. He’s not much taller than me, and he holds himself with pride. Yeah. And we’re just having this conversation, and he’s just gently, but like, with some authority, advising me on how to Get my shit together And he’s telling me about like all these Certificates I can earn and just perspective changes and was a really awesome Generous gesture and at one point I look off to the side Where the sand is in three tables and I see like people on the beach, like surfers going in and out with the tide, people swimming and on the radio comes one love, one love, one [00:49:00] love, and the waves are perfectly in sync.

Boys thinking about life.


And I realized that these people created space. For me to create space for myself.

They made it safe to be here now, in this moment.


and I’m just totally blown away by the generosity and we all sit there and just slowly watch the sunset quietly, music’s playing, and as I start to realize it’s time to wrap [00:50:00] up I start to get my bag and then I walk over to the cliffside at the coral edge where there’s a bunch of trees. And so the drop off’s right there, two trees are crossed right over my head and right in the middle is the moon.

It’s a full moon. And I’m just holding my hands there and saying thank you to something I didn’t even know I needed. And as I’m leaving, one of the aunties hands me something. She’s like, here, take this. And it’s a loaf of bread of King’s Hawaiian. And as I’m walking off, I’m like, uncle, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

And he’s like, hey man, I’m with you.


And, at the end of it,[00:51:00]

they just gave me space to be, and showed me that there’s a strength in that. That you can be a short king. And a good king at that.

Thank you.

[00:51:19] Devin Carpenter: Keegan Bonstein is a lifelong performer excited to take a hand at storytelling tonight. He has 25 years of performance experience ranging from musicals to environmental theater to political demonstration. He is also a lifelong food service worker and energy practitioner. He’s very grateful to call Missoula home and for this opportunity.

[00:51:44] Marc Moss: Pretty great stories,

right? I’ll bet you have a story to share, and I’ll bet that you have a story to share on the theme, Lost in Translation. The next Tell Us Something live event is scheduled for September 28th. The theme is Lost in Translation. Pitch your story for consideration [00:52:00] by calling 406 203 4683.

You have three minutes to leave your pitch. The pitch deadline is August 20th. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I’ll call you as soon as I get your pitch. Thanks to our media sponsors, Missoula Broadcasting Company, including the family of ESPN Radio, The Trail 103. 3, Jack FM, and Missoula’s source for modern hits.

You won a 4. 5 Float Missoula. Learn more at FloatMSLA. com and MissoulaEvents. net. Next week, join us for the concluding stories from the Neighbors Live Storytelling Event.

[00:52:32] Devin Carpenter: And as I wake up, I notice that there’s a woman standing outside my bedroom tapping on the window and holding this white bag in the air.

And then I get excited because I realize this is not just some woman. This is Mimi. This is my grandma. And what I need to do is go very quietly, let her in the house. And I go let Mimi in the front door. And we sit down and we open up this white bag and we share a couple [00:53:00] glazed donut holes. Just the two of us, before we go wake up everyone else.

The best explanation that I have for this is that it’s like I was walking down this path, and it’s nighttime, and queerness is like a house with the lights on, and I can see the people inside, and I want to go in, but I don’t know those people, and I don’t live in that house. And the door is closed.

And then I met Lewis.

[00:53:36] Whitney Peper: And he’s going, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, can I get a ride?

And Tracy’s like, yeah, get in the car! And I’m like, no!

No, no, no, no! And I, I like, barricade the door and trap him inside and Tracy’s behind me and JP’s standing next to me. And I go, J. P., call the cops. And J. P. ‘s like, no, we’re not calling the cops.

[00:53:57] Cathy Scholtens: And we see this hawk coming up the North [00:54:00] Ridge. And she’s floating on those drafts. And just floating and floating. And pretty soon, she’s right here. She’s right above us. If I had stood on my tiptoes, I could have touched her.

Now I’m not. No hug. Itty boogey. New age. Woo woo. Mystical girl. I’m not. Look at me.

Oh my God.


[00:54:24] 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, find them at cash for junkers To learn more about, tell us something, please visit,

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


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

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.


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

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 more at Float Missoula. Learn more at 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, To learn more about tell us something, please visit tell us

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 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, 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?


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

For articles about The Lost Journals of Sacagawea, go to

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

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


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

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 | | “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”.

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This week on the podcast, Dagny Deutchman and I revisit the story that she shared about guiding a river trip on the Salmon River. In the story, she shared how she dealt with a client who inappropriately expressed his displeasure at having to use a groover. We talk about how she might handle that differently. Dagney shares how Tell Us Something changed her life and we talk about some of the sleep research she’s been doing as she pursues her PhD.
Visiting her brother-in-law in Hong Kong, Jennie had an adverse reaction to all of the walking she’s enduring. In an effort to help her heal, she undergoes a regimen of acupuncture, smudging and drinking a mysterious concoction whipped up by a Chinese Medicine Man.
In this podcast episode, you’ll hear stories about a rule-following good girl making a stand against injustice, a woman who uses kindness to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation in Brooklyn, New York, successful communication during a near-death experience on a mountain road and a neighborhood coming together to protect songbirds in a time of crisis.
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