Stories - True Stories Shared Live

Welcome to Tell Us Something. All of the stories are shared live and without notes. We hope you enjoy.

Busted by the Border Patrol on the way to Tijuana, 17 year old Steve Gonzales regrets having followed his friend’s bad advice. He must now face the wrath of his mother.

Transcript : I Swear That’s Me!

I’m in the kitchen with my mom, she’s making tortillas, it’s after school, I’m a senior high school, and I’m trying to see if I can get permission to go to the high school football game. The go to the Chula Vista dance after. She wants to know who’s driving, who am I going with and what time coming back. So: Ed Bacon, he’s going Les Wanamaker, he’s driving. We’re going to get back at eleven.

My mom goes, “Well I like Les, he’s a nice guy.”

I go, “No, Mom, he’s a wimp and a spoiled brat and he never listens to nobody.”

So, she gives me permission. Later on, they show up. I’m going out to the front yard getting the car. It’s a two door. Ed opens passenger-side, I climb in the backseat. We’re all excited. We’re talking about how we’re gonna sneak down to TJ, which is Tijuana. We’re not really….

I hate to lie to my mom. But I wasn’t going to tell her that.

The thing is you could party in Tijuana if you were 18, but most of us were 17. So you need to either trunk it, get fake ID or use somebody’s draft card like your big brother’s. So, we had our stuff together. I had Dennis Graham’s temporary driver’s license. He just turned 18 and there was still time on it. Ed Bacon had his brothers draft card and Les said he had something. So, we’re cruising. It takes like 20 minutes to get to the border. We get there. I go, “Okay, so don’t forget, we gotta pull over where the upholstery shop is, leave our rig, leave our car, and it’s right there, we can see it, it’s safe, and we walk through separately, that way if anything happens youknow, we’re separate.”

So, Les goes, “No, I’m gonna drive. I’m not leaving my car there.”

I go, “Look, we’re gonna walk. It’s easier. We separate. We walk through. They don’t even care! Man, we could do it all day long.”

“No, I’m driving! I ain’t gonna leave my car there!”

“First of all, you need insurance! Do you have it? For your car? And what if you come back and you’re drunk? You gotta go through the Mexican guys, you gotta… US guys. We’re gonna get popped.”

“Bobby says he he does it all the time. It’s cool.”

“Bobby? Bobby don’t even got a car!”

He says, “Just act relaxed. Go through. It’s Friday, they’re waving the cars through.”

I go, “Man, I don’t know. I don’t know. Ed, let me out!”

“Don’t open the door, Ed!”

[whispers] “Goddammit!”

So it’s too late to do anything anyway because we’re getting closer. And they’re waving all the cars. It’s Friday. And then, we show up and he’s goin’ “Hey guys, what your purpose in Mexico?”

“Dance. Meet friends.”

“You don’t look 18 to me!”

“Oh, well, we’re 18.”

“Pass your ID.”

Pass my Dennis Graham’s temporary driver’s license. Ed passes is Tom Bacon draft card. And Les, and the guy looks at. Les opens up this piece of paper, and it’s like, he took the driver’s test, and they give you a paper, and you sign it and date it and then take it home and your parents or guardian sign and bring it back and get your temper. He thought that that was the one. He changed the month so he would be 18.

And the guy goes, “So what’s this?”

And he goes, “Well, that’s my,I took my test.”

“Well you didn’t date it.”

“Well, what? Uh uh,” you know.

“And you and you have to have a guardian or parent sign it. So this is actually just a piece of paper! And and you’re driving illegally! So what I need you guys to do is pull in the inspection area.

That piece of shit.

So we go over there. They ask escort me and Ed into the office. They make Les sit on the curb away from his car while they go through the whole thing: run the statewide to see if he stole it, check all the things. I’m watching everything that’s going on.

Border guy in the office goes, “Who’s Dennis Graham?”

Because they had kept our ID.

“Okay. So, when’s your birthday?”

I had memorized it. “February…whatever”

“Um, I need you to sign your signature right here, because I’m going to compare,”

I’m goin’, [mimicks signing name] “Dennis P. Graham.”

I just guessed.

He goes, “Well, what do you think?”

I go, “I dunno.”

“I tell you what, sign your name 10 times and see if you can sign it the same way,”

And I’m thinking, “I can’t even sign my real name ten times the same way! Sign Dennis Graham’s!”

So I’m doing that,. Ed’s over there. Looks like he’s gonna die. We can see all the commotion! Okay time goes on because we sat there and waited.

Anyway I’m speeding this up.

So next thing you know I see Les’ parents there. His mom’s all “[high pitched emotional cryaing sound]” All emotional. And she…hands and stuff.  And I see Les and it looks like he’s crying. Border guys are there and they’re looking our direction. I;’m thinking, “Oh, we’re screwed!”

Ed’s still quiet. Border guy comes in and goes, “Okay I’m gonna tell you something. I’m gonna ask you one time. Is this your draft card? Because it’s a federal offense if you use somebody else’s draft card.

“No, it’s my brother’s”

We’re dead.

They walk Ed out. Big commotion. They drive away.

My two friends get in the…his dad’s car. His dad’s this big giant ex-Marine with a crewcut. Plumber. He’s got arms like that. And he just stood there and listened to the whole thing.

I see him drive away. See the mom take the car.

There I am alone. Denying everything. Lying through my teeth. I’m Dennis P. Graham.

The border guy comes in, goes, “Well Steve you ready to tell us your real name?”

I died a thousand deaths! How embarrassing! Busted! Again? Caught! Again? My mom is gonna kill me. Oh! How embarrassing!

I give my parent’s phone number. They come. Take about 20, 25 minutes. It’s Friday night. It’s busy. Here’s mymom and dad.

Now, my mom is like, that big. She’s like a Mexican Indian Aztec blood kinda…. She loves her kids to this day.  But she don’t take no shit! She’s walking in, holding this purse, it’s like a gym bag. Growing up it had every single thing in it. She had a flashlight and pens and napkins and toilet paper, and when we had my little brother it was the baby formula and the diapers. We go to the show there’s a peanut butter and jam sandwich with a box of raisins and the grapes and the penny candy! It weighed a ton. And she’s just beating the shit out of me.


“Mom! Mom! Mom!”

Just wailing on me!

And my dad, he’s like that, because he’s always guilty doing some shit…



“Oh goddammit! Don’t do that! I taught you better than that!”

“Mom! I know but stop!” you know?

And was over I was just like, “Goddam!” I was fucking throbbing!

The border guys are like, you know. They explain what…all the shit I did. I get in the backseat, gonna drive home. It’slike 20, 25 minutes. It seemed like two hours!

I’m just back to throbbing. I’m aching going, “God! I’m going to be on restriction forever now.”

And then my mom starts. “How could you do this to me? You embarrassed me. I was so ashamed! My son’s down at the border! You’re going to those whorehouseses! The prostitutes! With the disease!”

“Mom! I wasn’t…”

“And your brother’s in Vietnam, and he went to officer and cadet school and he’ll go to flight school and the security and you’re going to ruin it for him….”

And I’m going, “Mom! Mom! Sorry!” God, I’m dyin’ there.

Here’s my thoughts: busted again. I was pissed. Mama tried to raise me better. But her teachings I denied Leaves only me to blame, ‘cause Mama tried, Mama tried.

Angela Miller, pinch hitting for her husband Clint, shares their story about Twitter, cancer and the power of the Internet. Clint Miller has lots of Twitter followers. When he falls ill with testicular cancer, they come forward full force to support him and his family.

Transcript : Oh, Balls! Don't Just Take the Antibiotics!

I am actually batting for my husband. My husband Clint was supposed to be here tonight he couldn’t make it, so if you are tweeting this: #weloveclint and give him a little bit of shit because he was the one who was supposed to be here. But something about marriage vows and being relief batter puts me here.


So here I am, relief batting for Clint. So let me tell you a little bit about Clint. Clint is crazy about Twitter and I never really got on the Twitter hook thing. He kinda poked me in the side, “Ah, yeah you got to get a Twitter account,”

And I said, “Ah, no I don’t. I’ve lived my whole life without this. Why do I need this?”

But he’s way into it. He’s got 2,781 followers. Which, I’m not really good at math, but that’s way more people than there are in this room tonight. So, when you have that many people on social media and something maybe goes a little awry and that’s tweeted to 2,781 people, it breaks the Internet. Um, well, maybe one Twitter account doesn’t break the Internet, but it does put a pretty significant ripple in it.

So this is one part social media and one part about our, our lives for the last couple months, and it’s funny, it’s not funny, and are some bad advice in there.

So, a few months ago, Clint starts coughing. Just this horrendous awful nagging cough. And being thesupportive wife that I am I said, “If you don’t fuckin’ go to the doctor, I’m gonna kill you, because I can’t wake up another night to you coughing!”

[laughter. Cheers.]

So, after my very persuasive argument for him to go to the doctor, he does. And he leaves with his token prescription for antibiotics, because I think if you show up with cough and have a temperature roughly in the 90s, you get a prescription for antibiotics. It’s just kind of the thing. And, he takes his antibiotics, they tell him he’s gonna be fine, “Here you go”.

This goes on. For about six months. In-N-Out In-N-Out. More antibiotics. More coughing. More threats of murder. Me contemplating if orange really is my color? Do I want to serve a life sentence for stabbing my husband and his sleep for coughing?

And the answer is: “Obviously not.”

Purple is kind of more my color.

So, this goes on. For months. And finally we have a little, uh, “lover’s quarrell”. Uh, some people call it a fight. I call it a lover’s quarrel. And he goes to the doctor and she says, “Huh. Maybe we should do some imaging, because it turns out, those antibiotics didn’t really do anything for you at all.”

And, that’s exactly what happens. So he goes to the doctor or, the emergency room. Eh, take your pick. There’s some doctors there, so I guess that qualifies. And after oh, six or seven rousing hours of blowing up latex gloves, trying to find all sorts of great ways to amuse yourself in the emergency room, of which there are about, one, and that’s blowing up gloves, they did some imaging on, on him. And, it was not good. It was the kind of not good where the radiologist takes one look at the imaging just goes, “Fuck.”

And as it turned out, Clint had cancer. So, clearly, we have now entered the upper level of, “Hmmm. Maybe antibiotics isn’t going to do the trick.”

I mean the guy could have been taking Altoids for really all the good it was doing him. And as it turns out, Altoids have far better side effects. Like: good breath.

So, life gets a little complicated at this point. And they admit Clint. And they schedule him for surgery. Because, as it turns out, this cancer came from his balls. This was the Lance Armstrong Cancer!
Oh, ball jokes galore!
“Lefty’s trying to kill me! I’ve got one ball, you know, like those Uniball pens? I’m their new spokesman!”

And I’m like, “Oh, this is great! We’ve got tumor humor! Ba dum da… tsssss!”

So, find humor wherever you can. So that’s how this cancer journey started for our family, on the bad advice of, “just take antibiotics and you’ll be okay.”


There’s some truth to that. If you don’t have cancer. So. We’re crying we’re laughing. We’ve got tumor jokes. We’re getting all the platitudes, you know, like, “you’re going to beat this.”

So, about then time that Clint’s getting whisked off to surgery, and he’s coming up with one ball jokes, and he just thinks this is great. And I’m going, “This is not great. You have cancer. There’s nothing great about this.

I grab his phone and I said, “Now listen. I’m not really into this Twitter bullshit. But you are. Do you want me to let your people, your disciples….


“…your tribe, your posse. Do you do you want me to kinda let them know what’s going on?”

And he goes, “Yeah, why don’t you do that.”

And so I tweet. And, boy, I came into the 21st-century in one hundred and forty characters. “Hey folks, this is Angela and Clint has cancer” I mean I don’t…what do you say?

And the Internet breaks down. So it was kind of a touching moment because now I’ve taking the reins for Clint and what might be like the Millennium Falcon of Twitter of the Twitter [laughter] I’m like, “Whoah! Like, I don’t even know, I’ve got a hundred and forty characters and I get to say anything?And I’m like, this is great. To two hundred and seventy one [sic] people even better!

So, Clint goes into surgery, he comes out, now we call him “Lefty.


And things are going pretty well. He’s doing his chemo. His hair falls out. I get shave his head. I offer to shave my head. He says no. I said yes. Ugh, well, he wins. So, this social media thing really takes off. And, we have these shirts now. We’ve got these wristbands now: “#weloveclint”, cause Clint’s in a bad spot. You know, he has cancer and that’s really where the power of social media comes in because if it were up to me this weird reclusive thirtysomething-year-old who’s like, “What is this Twitter garbage, I don’t even know what this is,” But they’d be like, “Clint’s wife? Who the hell is that?”

But this guy, he’s got it! He’s large and in charge and he’s got this Twitter persona and ball cancer. So, here we’ve got, who better to be the spokesperson for ball cancer, I mean besides Lance Armstrong, than Clint-Fuckin’-Miller? Who has, not only ball cancer, but two thousand seven hundred and eighty one people. And they’re tweeting and retweeting.

And this is the wrong, the wrong thing to affix to two thousand seven hundred and eighty one people.

But the reality of cancer is that it’s very expensive. And we did fall on hard times of course, ‘cause he’s not working I’m not working. And I’m trying to take care of him, and we’ve got the mortgage payment and bills and cancer bills and kids and a dog and cars and all of these things that people, well, adults, apparently, spend their money on. Because, as Marc said, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. And apparently they spend a lot of money on tuition too.

So, social media really becomes Clint’s go-to for emotional support which, as his wife, you know, I could cross my arms over my chest and be like, “Huh, well what do they got that I don’t got?”

But the reality is that they actually do have something that I don’t have. And it’s not the vows, it’s certainly notmy dashingly good looks. It’s a certain amount of just being anonymous. And I kinda fell into that too because when I was at my worst for his cancer I, I could kinda retreat into ahundred and forty characters and anonymously just go, “You know guys, I’m really having a hard time with Clint having cancer and I’m really uncertain about the future and where this is going to lead.

So the reality is that it all comes back to this advice of, “Well, just take the antibiotics and you’ll be okay.”

Yeah. Maybe. Maybe it will be okay. But it won’t always be okay. Because the antibiotics? They’re, they’re great. I’ve had them, you’ve probably have them. I think everybody’s had them at least once in their life.

But when it comes to cancer, when it comes to your body…I’m kinda getting off track here. This is the good advice and the bad advice.

The good advice is: you know, you gotta listen to your body. You gotta know what is and is not right for you and after six months of coughing and your wife threatening to murder you, and coming up with plans as to where she could hide your body in forty-seven of the fifty states, that’s relatively bad advice.

So if I can give you any bad advice don’t just take antibiotics, run off to the pharmacy turn the other cheek and go, “No, I’m gonna be okay,” because the reason Clint’s not here tonight is because he died from that.

[collective breath from audience]

That’s why I’m here that’s why I’m relief batting. That’s our story. Don’t just take the antibiotics.

Thank you.

Sean Hawkings is convinced to join a friend on a short river trip that ends up being longer than anticipated.

Transcript : The Suckerfish

I just got done with the hundred mile bike ride overnight trip with my girlfriend, Beverly. I’m sitting in a hammock. I’m drinking wine. I’m eating cheese. I’m at Purple Frog Gardens. I’m listening to the 750 chickens that I’m gonna have to close tonight and open in the morning and realize we had a great weekend. I’m tired exhausted and I’m gonna wake up with enough sleep that Monday morning will be great. I’m killing. Usually I don’t have a recovery day but this is this is a recovery day.

Another farmhand, Heather Ma, sees us out there, runs up and says that we’re doing everything correctly and I try to pat myself on the back and she just gets me.

And she says, You’re doing everything right, but doing one thing wrong.”

And I’m like, “What is that Heather?”

And she’s like, “You should be on the water.”

And I kinda look up. I look at the sky and I see where the sun is and I realize it’s pretty late in the afternoon. I don’t think I really want to go on a river trip on a river I’ve never been on this late in the day when I have to work Monday morning. But for those of you who don’t know Heather she was born in Billings, she’s been to the Yaak and back. She’s put a kid through school and well you just can’t beat her charm. And she told me I wouldn’t even have to paddle!

So we packed up the canoes and the rest of the farmhands to the farm and headed north pass Old Knee heading towards Trego. We stopped at the Stillwater Bar. Heather being true to her form and telling me this is gonna be a relaxing event decided that she would buy us some ranch soaked hush puppies and some cheesy fries.

I take a snort of whiskey. I put down a beer down my gullet and I walk outside the Stillwater Bar to look at the dock out there, which is a very peculiar dock for those you have not been there. It has a large log on it about two canoe links long sits in the water, takes about 2 tree huggers to wrap around. It’s covered in carpet. It’s fixed on two ends with a rod going through so it rotates. It is fun for the whole family. Some advice that I can give you is if you’ve never been on it don’t try to run. Then I look over at the Stillwater landing to the east where they have a brilliant stage the owners who have retired love music and I love to have shows. In this stage is beautiful great carpentry joinery it has 220 power hook up it’s got 110 hook up you could plug in 30 Marshall cabs cranking to 11 and you’re still gonna have a good show. I’ve seen the Dirty Dozen Brass Band play there, my friend Vinny with 20 Grand Funk band, Nuwave Time Trippers. And it’s a venue that you drive to and then park your car. They give you wristbands, you set up your tent and you go down to listen to music. You need to go back to the bar you can go to your tent it’s just a great venue.

At this point in time I was a farmer and a college student and my financial adviser a.k.a. my wallet is pretty empty. So I learned a little trick and if you wait till dusk there is a road that goes behind the Stillwater Lake and if you have a canoe you can canoe to that dock. You’re not going to be part of the club. You’re not going to get a wristband. But you can listen to free music. Well I decided I was done staring at the bar and the landing and the dock.  We decided that we had to get this trip on the road. So we packed up and we go to the to the where we’re gonna take out to drop off the vehicle. We get there. We do the drop off, the shuttle rig.

We put the keys in the gas cap and there’s this couple sitting on the bridge named Dirk and Sally. They’re sitting in this brilliant weaved Kmart special low rider chair underneath the bridge with their feet in the sand and Ugly Stick mounted between the two of them with a line in the water and a bobber. Sally, she was really intent at staring at that bobber, but Dirk was the social one. So he came up to us and he was smart, clever. He could tell that we were not putting in there but we’re gonna take out there.

And asked us, “Where you guys putting in?”

And we said, “Oh up at the landing.”

He goes, “Really?!” and he takes out a piece of paper and he writes a little chicken scratch on it and handed it to our friend, Joel, JoJo. JoJo puts it in his pocket, and he says, “I want to give you my goddamn phone number. “If you guys see some sucker fish you better call me because I can put it in my garden to help with the corn.”

I think to myself, “What’s a sucker fish,” but I didn’t want him to know that I didn’t know. So I was just like, “We’ll do.”

We jump in the car, we take off, we’re heading down the road and I get this tug on my shirt from my girlfriend Bev and she goes, “Sean, what’s a sucker fish?”

“I don’t really know. I think they’re in the river.”

“Well what happens? How do we know we’re going to see them?”

I was like, “It will become apparent.” And somebody says, “That’s the end of that conversation.”

We get to the landing we put the boat in the water we have a canoe with me and Bev and my yellow dog named Yellow Dog. I have my other friends in another Stillwater boat. It’s a two-person breakdown canvas kayak. Very not made for any whitewater. We had one whitewater boat with Joel in it but it we made it a Stillwater boat instantly when we forgot the skirt for it. We were wearing flip-flops Crocs,  you know the attire that we would not need to paddle and we start heading down the lake to the outlet which becomes the beginning of the Stillwater River.

We hear in the distance this lady and she’s on her dock. She has a house right there at the outlet and we hear, “You’re not gonna make it very far”. At this point, we’re having type one fun and I am committed and I was originally from New Hampshire and my state motto is “Live free or die.”

I respond with, “Thank you.” We continue downriver. We get to the first portage, the second portage, the third portage. We’re starting to have type 2 fun. Then we realize the river makes this huge oxbow bend. And we end up 6 miles from the shore at the point where we could hike back to shore but wearing Crocs and we don’t want to bushwhack that far so we keep portaging. We hit this strainer. This is whe type 3 fun come in. Joel loses his one of his flip-flops. Everyone makes it over the strainer but our boat. I’m in the canoe which has Yellow Dog in it. My friend goes to pull the boat in, the water goes over the gunnel, the boat flips over. I’m looking at the bottom of the strainer and I’m thinking to myself, “This is not drinking wine or eating cheese.” I figured, “This is my way out.” I found a hole, I’m going to swim through it and suddenly I stop moving, and I’m like, “This is where I die.”

Because when you’re in a strainer and you’re not moving that means you’re stuck. But luckily it was my friend, Leaf, with his brute strength somehow pulled me out of the water. I look at him we kinda have this bro moment. We don’t need to talk to each other we just know Yellow Dog is still in the boat that’s upside down. So we flip that over. Miraculously, Yellow Dog jumps out of the boat and just starts doing Daytona laps on the island, just high on life. It was an uplifting moment for the group.

And then, I don’t know if any guys got morel mushroom picking but you know when you’re looking for morels and you find that one and then they kinda come out of the woodwork. And you find more. Well that just happened but it wasn’t morels. I just realized that we were hiking in poison ivy for at least four hours. Right now at this point it’s pushing midnight, 1 o’clock in the morning. Type three fun is not fun. Joel, I told him the best thing, he can do is wrap his foot with his shirt since he only has one flip flop on. And we’re going to have to continue the portage. Some of us have decided to cover ourselves in mud, hoping that would extract the poison ivy out of her skin. We’re not having fun. We’re not talking. Sometimes you look over at Heather, all of us. Heather looks down. We look down.

Joel just starts laughing hysterically.

We’re like, “Joel, what is so funny?”

And he pulls this little piece of paper out of his pocket. He reads the phone number and goes. “I get it.”

We’re like, You get what?”

“Well, we’re the suckers.”

Thank you.

21 Year old Rachel Dierken Couchsurfs right into an abandoned warehouse inhabited by squatters.

Transcript : Amsterdam, Not What I Had in Mind

When I was 21 I studied abroad in Tartu, Estonia.

I think this is movin’ down real fast!


[Microphone lowers because it was not properly secured. Marc fixes problem. Much laughter.]

Alright. Here we go. So….

When I was 21, I studied abroad in Tartu, Estonia in northeastern Europe, and I made a friend, Brian, from Baltimore. And our friendship was really a rivalry about who is the most badass, him being from Baltimore me being from Montana, obviously superior. And we decided we wanted to go to Amsterdam. We were in Europe and when were we going to go again? So we decided I would do the flights he would do the housing. I booked some kickass tickets, and a friend recommended we should Couchsurf. And, I have a Couchsurfed and it was a very positive experience. Brian never had, but was on board. And he messaged a few people on Couchsurfing and we heard back from 35-year-old British mailman, Simon, who had two couches for us at the end of November when we were planning to go. So. Alright, let’s do it. Amsterdam or bust. So we go to Amsterdam. We get there. And we take our bus all the way out to the outskirts of town, as instructed.

And, you know, there’s some construction sites and it’s an industrial area.  But there are some apartment complexes. So off we go to find Simon.

We go into the first apartment, and we don’t see his name on the address, and we’re like, “Okay. It’s fine.”

We go to the next one. After about an hour, we can’t find his name on any of the apartments! So we’re a little nervous, but we’re fine. Y’know. We’re cool. We can handle this. And, we find a public phone and give him a call.

“Hey, Man, we’re at the bus stop. How do we get to your place?”

And he tells us, “Oh, you have to go through the industrial part. The construction site.”


Off we go.

We walked for about five or seven minutes, through warehouses, and we see this empty dilapidated warehouse with the address on it.  And, a little nervous, and out walks this guy. With a mohawk and tattoos, and he’s got piercings. Like really punk. Not your Brit sipping tea. It’s Simon, the 35 year old British mailman! So while I’m taking in this abandoned warehouse in this strange person walking towards me, I have this internal monologue.

My father watched “Taken”, the movie with Liam Neeson? The week before I flew. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a movie where his daughter goes to Europe alone is kidnapped?

And I’m going, “Oh shit! My dad’s an elementary school principal and does not have the special set of skills that I’m gonna need of this happens!”

But, I looked to my right, and Brian is there, and there’s no way he’s going to see see me flinch. So we follow Simon into this warehouse.

Turns out, they’re squatting. It’s just: empty warehouse in Amsterdam. Doesn’t have electricity, there’s no plumbing, no heat. But what they make up for, or what they don’t make up for in electricity, they make up for in other Couchsurfers!

There were at least seven other people there that had all been accepted by Simon.


Okay. To be polite, we all you know, go around and introduce ourselves.

And there’s this one girl, and she’s like, “Oh, I’m from Idaho.”

I get super excited! Go to shake her hand, and she stands up, and just: fairy wings!

And I was like, [to self] “Not quite the support I was hoping for, in this environment. Okay. We’re fine.”

And so, it is Amsterdam, and everyone passing around a couple joints. So Brian are like, “Yeah, this’ll calm us down, relax us. Let’s do it!”

So we’re smoking a couple joints, and I don’t know anything about weed, but I know it’s not supposed to be really sweet? And so, after a couple times, it’s kinda like, “This is really sweet what’s going on here?”

And one of the random Couchsurfers goes, “Oh yeah! We put some mushroom honey in that!”

To which, you know, [to self] “Excuse me? You did what now?”

This is exactly where I want to be: squatters house in Amsterdam, with mushrooms! Totally normal! Okay! I’m fine! This is gonna be okay.

And then the girl from Idaho suggested we go out to a concert of the band Portugal the Man, who actually really like. They’re from Portland. They’re familiar. I’m like, “Let’s get out of this environment and go to one I might react to a little better.”

We walked for about an hour and we get to this venue that’s this is old church that they’ve repurposed into a music venue, and it’s really cool scene. But they kept the stained glass windows and I don’t know if this was the building or the drugs but there were some weird demonic imagery! [laughs] [laughter] That didn’t sit too well with me.

But the show was really wonderful. And it calmed us down. You know, we were able to enjoy whatever happened. And then it was time to go back to our home? Abode? I don’t know what to call it.

We went back and Simon, who had not, uh, he didn’t come to the show with us, decided that Brian andI should have our own little space. Which was fine. Except, because there is no heating, we were further from the water heater that they had cut a hole in and put wood to burn, and had about maybe 10 feet of warmth. So that was a little disappointing. But, you know, we didn’t need to be with everybody else, so.

Into our little closet sized room we went. And this room, there were two windows. There was no glass, it was just the, like, plastic construction sheeting kind of covering it up. And again, we’re at the end of November. And Amsterdam, as far as like longitudes, it’s between Calgary and Edmonton, so it’s *really* cold. But, um, the windows are not there. There is a bare mattress on the floor. And a small little table. Because no electricity: they had candles, in a pentagram.


So at this point I’m convinced I’m going to be sacrificed.


But, can’t let Brian see me sweat! Everything’s cool! So I ask him, “Hey Brian, which side do you want?”

And he says, “I want the side closer to the wall. You can sleep by the windows.”

So as I’m putting my coat and my hat and scarf and gloves on, muttering “Chivalry is dead, you Asshole,” you know.

I curl up, and there’s this big lumpy pink blanket with like, David Bowie lightning bolts on it,  but I dunno. But it’s all we had so we were going to make do. And Brian went to go take out his contacts in some reflective surface. He found the bathroom I don’t know what the plumbing situation looked like, but they did have a sink which was a mannequin’s leg and a bowl on top.


It, I mean, it, I, no questions.

So Brian came back and he put all of his you know, warm stuff and crawled in next to me, and just goes, “Oh! Ew! Ugh! There’s something here!”


So I grab a candle, ‘cause there’s no light. And I pull back our blanket. And there is a huge pile of nasty vomit!

[huge groans from crowd. laughter]
Just chillin’. Right there. Yeah.

And we’re both just like, “Oh my God!”

I’m secretly thinking, “Karma’s a bitch! You sleep in the vomit! I’ll take the cold window!”


“We’re fine!”


So we grab a little towel, and wipe it off, and put it down, and he sleeps on top of the towel.

And we actually went to sleep and woke up. Alive. No sacrifices took place. But we were broken. And we, we made eye contact and we’re just like, “I can’t, Man! This was the worst thing I’ve ever done! I can’t do it again!”

It was mutual defeat, so, it was okay.

Luckily, there is a guy who went to my university that I met one time, but he was studying abroad in Amsterdam.

Public library Facebooked him, “Hey, Man! Can I sleep on your floor? ‘Cause I slept in vomit in a squatter’s house last night.”

And luckily he was very generous and accepted. But because it was the Thanksgiving weekend his dad and two other friends were there. So, six of us wedged into aone room apartment.

But now that, now whenever I hear someone say, “I’m going to Amsterdam.” I like to say, “Oh, I’ve been to Amsterdam! Might I recommend a hostel?”

Thank you.

Katrina Farnum opens up about a love story gone wrong.

Transcript : Purging the Surfaces Before Moving onto the Self

So I was always warned growing up about the dangers of drug addiction and what that might look like if you happen to fall into that peril, the opportunities that might be lost. Friendships that might be lost and all those other things to be attached with that, but what nobody ever told me was that love could be like a drug, and that you could end up in a relationship that resembled drug addiction. That’s exactly what happened to me.

I had gone through this break up and it was terrible. It was really painful and devastating but I was on the mend and was feeling like “Yeah, Alright.” You know you put yourself out there and that’s when I met Sam.

You know things were great and I thought this was the perfect person to date, and I thought this is going to be the best rebound relationship. I’m coming out of this heartache and I could tell you know you have that great sense of intuition about somebody like this is not a good long-term relationship.


This is a fantastic rebound I can just pop in there and we can have fun. He was very charismatic. He was very charming and a go-getter and he was moving to Canada he was going to go live in Fernie and he was going to snowboard there and I thought perfect, there’s no break up, we already have this planned.

It’s in the initial stages, we know what’s happening..[laughter] and so cool we got this rebound planned.  And it was a little longer of a rebound than I had thought, by seven years.


They were some of the hardest seven years of my life and I really got to look at what that relationship that it becomes like substance abuse and essentially it is. I look at it now and it’s a lot like Chemical Romance. The ups are so up and the downs are so down and I ended up in a position that I was essentially fighting for my life. All those things that they warned you about the potential loss of friendships you know losing things that are important to you did happen to me at some extent, but I don’t know that people always realize how much you struggle. I don’t know that we always see each other’s darkest hours and I think that because when we retreat to those places we keep them very close and we sort of hide them.

I wanted out, I wanted to leave, I wanted to leave it all behind and get away from him so we did this back-and-forth thing for so long and there were so many times that I felt so broken.  There is a point at which I had been working on this story. I love to write and I had been working on this story and I was in love with the characters. There is one character who made weird things out of bread and like you can bake them and glaze them and they will last forever and she would make little figurines and flowers. She had a twin sister and I felt really connected to these characters.


I got to this place where I was like “Yeah I’m really doing it” . Then I’m not sure what he was looking at on my computer that he didn’t want me to know about but he took it to the computer guys and he had them completely erase my hard drive. I didn’t have anything backed up and when I would go to him and say this is how I feel and I’m devastated and this is so hard and why are we doing this. He would say something like “Those are really pretty earrings you have on. Have you had those for a while.”

It’s so weird you’re just looking at this person like “God I hate love you” and I need to get away from you and I worked really hard at times. There was a period where I moved out of my house and I moved in with family and I started looking for a new job, quit my job, started a new job, dropped my cell phone, got a new phone number. Had a new house, a new car and a new everything. I was like “yeah he’s not going to get me”. I’m starting over this is awesome and “BAM” he’d show up at my work.

It was just like that, it’s that moment where an addict has cleaned up and they’re doing so good and they’re on it and they’re making it. It’s happening and they change their environment so that they can make that transition.

Then they’re in that place and that thing is passed to them that offering is made and for me I just felt like maybe I was overreacting and maybe it wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be. Maybe I should give this another shot [laughter]…, maybe it’ll work and so I would, so I did. I wasn’t overreacting and it was terrible and it would be immediate two days after we were together again, but then it’s kind of like “Yeah,” but I already just reinvested myself so I got to plug away at it which is never a good idea. We ended buying a house together, which is bizarre to its own right why we do these things.

It got really gnarly and it just got to this point where we were sleeping in these separate bedrooms and I mean I was young and I was already at that like creepy weird place that you do in a midlife crisis [laughter].. And I decided this is it I’m not doing this anymore, I am marching down there and I’m going to tell him that we are either in it and we are going to move forward.

We’re going to make this work out or we are splitting up like I’m not limboing there’s no in between anymore, so “I got it, I know what I’m going to say.” I felt like he was never listening to me and I wasn’t validated, but I’m going for it, and I walked down the stairs and I walk into his room and it’s dimly lit because it’s evening and he has this little lamp propped up on pillows in his bed with the blankets pulled up and he’s working on a crossword puzzle.

I was standing inside the doorway and I say “So I feel like you never hear me, I feel like I try to say things but that you’re not really listening and I’m trying to get to the whole part about we need to move forward or get away from each other “and he just nods off.


His chin just collapses against his chest and something snapped in me like a fucking crazy bitch just came erupting out. [Laughter]… I just I hear myself say “You might sleep through me but you will not sleep through this [laughter] and then I started with the dresser in his room and then just one awesome bitchy motion [noise] just leveled it and I did have an aloe Vera plant on it so it wasn’t like I was just leveling his stuff


And then I rolled into the living room and by this point I didn’t care who is watching or listening, if the neighbors could hear me or if he was even awake yet, which he was, and he was after me. I leveled all my hippie crystals and rocks, plants, books, pots and pans, mixers, cookie trays, and I mean really anything that was exposed on the surface, which anyone that knows me knows that there are no empty surfaces in my life.


I’m leveling them all and it’s awesome and I feel pretty good actually like I’m mastering this because today I’m done, I am done with seven years. This is bullshit. I’m over it.


He comes after me right and then he gets his hands around my neck and he’s like [noise]”You crazy bitch stop it” and I’m whaling on his chest but he sees me, he sees me, and he is just devastated, she’s done, she’s over it, and I was. It was a powerful feeling because I knew none of that bullshit that he had been feeding me like when he would show up and he would say “I’ve been hiking all these mountains all day long and all I do is think about you because you are my soul mate.” He was really just like I’ve been fucking tons of other chicks and now I’m back in town so “Yeah” let’s do this.


None of that was actually working anymore and you know I made the separation happen.

It’s not easy right because you think that that’s the victory moment, but it’s like that’s the high and now you’re going to go through the low, but you can’t go back. It got to that point where it’s just like “Uh” because I loved him. It wasn’t that I didn’t love him and my heart was so heavy and was hard to eat it was hard to sleep and it was hard to think straight it was hard to go to work. I would crawl on my hands and knees to get to the front door so that I can get to my car so I could go get groceries. So I can continue living and it was a fight for my life and I fought every day for as many days as it took and I had to start looking at myself like what am I doing and what am I responsible for. How can we change what I’m doing so that I don’t keep doing that. I did make mistakes. I didn’t come out of that experience just free and clear and a new page, happy ever after. I got to a place where I rebounded again after that and I made poor choices.

I ended up in a relationship with the person I love dearly and he was a raging alcoholic and that didn’t work out. I had to go back to the drawing table and say “What am I doing, What is this, What is in me, What is my conclusion?” I have been really looking for somebody that was the right person for a really long time. I wanted to love and I wanted to be in that relationship and I was looking and looking and not finding it, so I just started to work on myself. I started looking at what attitudes that I carried and you know I really had to look at my defensiveness because I was a very defensive person, and that was part of my problem. It was something I needed to work on, so I worked on that, and I did a lot of visualization.

I visualized where I wanted to go and I knew I wanted to get there and it was so challenging because I realized that the place that I had been was comfortable, it was so uncomfortable, but it was comfortable because I knew what to expect. I knew that that unhappiness was going to be there. What I didn’t know was what that other place that I was going to go was going to look like and that scared the shit out of me. Even though it had the potential to be so much better, so I just started visualizing what I wanted in a relationship, but I started with myself and what relationship I needed to have with myself. I worked tirelessly at it and when I met my husband I didn’t know he was going to be my husband and he was goofy and he was athletic and he was sweet and I would get his name wrong [laughter] and we ended up being really great friends. He kind of and you don’t know if it was an accident or not but you know, he swept me off my feet and I was a little leery both because I wasn’t sure that I was there that I had done the work that I needed to do.

At one point in the beginning of our relationship I said to him” I think I’m too mean for you, I think I might be too rough around the edges for you “because you are so nice and your so sweet and he said “I think in the end that you’ll be a little nicer and I’ll be a little meaner and it will all work itself out.”


Okay I can work with that but I really didn’t want him to be meaner because he’s so wonderful [laughter] and you know there was just so much that he did that was so different and it was really refreshing to feel that. It was really refreshing to feel that remembering days when there just hard days.

I don’t even remember what was happening that day but I remember he looked at me, I’m sad and he said I am going to kiss that frown right off your face and I thought that is a guy and he was so devoted to his family that that became something that was so close to my heart like anyone that can devote themselves to their family in that way. I love them so unconditionally.

I knew that I would also receive that treatment and so I married him because he’s wonderful and amazing and makes you know that I am a better version of myself every day and he supports everything that I do wholeheartedly and I really had to come back in and review where I had been and where I was going, and I realized that I had been putting so much and investing so much all the those years and finding the right person and in the end it wasn’t about that in the end it was about just being the right person.

Thank you.

Svein Newman awakens to his house burning to the ground.

Transcript : Renter's Insurance

So I  woke up at 5:08  AM on June 2, 2014, and I remember that time very distinctly.  And I woke up to what sounded like some belligerent jerk shouting in the hallway and banging on the wall or banging on doors, and  my first thought was, “God, it’s early to be  that drunk.” And I presumed, and I think this is fair, I presumed that it was just some guy who had been been locked out of his apartment, his roommate had let him back in, and that it’d be over in 30 seconds, and so I proceeded to try and go back to sleep. But after a couple minutes, it was still going on, and I thought, “Fine, I guess I’ll go deal with it.” So I, I get up and I put on pants, because I’ve knocked on enough doors for political candidates that I know that it’s awkward when the person behind the door isn’t wearing any pants!  [laughter]

And I, I  go to the door and I throw it open to give this guy a piece of my mind. And I start, “Hey….”  And I then I stopped, because it’s  not one guy, it’s  two guys. They’re police officers. And the hallway’s filled with smoke.

And they shout, “The building’s on fire! Get out! Get out! Get out!”

And, at that point I can’t be like, “I *really* would’ve picked a different outfit! Just a second. I’ll be right back.” And so I rushed out of the building wearing these pants actually.


Thank you. And [more laughter]….

I spend the next three hours sitting on the stoop across the street watching my home burn down. And it’s hard to say exactly how I responded in that situation because it doesn’t feel this way, but when I tell the story it sounds like I was maybe in shock, or wasn’t quite processing because I was just cracking jokes, and saying things like, “Well that’s what I get for keeping my fireworks next to my oily rag collection!”

Which, incidentally, is a terrible thing to say next to a police officer when they haven’t figured out what started the fire yet. And just in case my landlords are in the audience, it wasn’t me. There was thorough investigation [laughter], and it wasn’t me.

But a buddy and I make the tracklist for the relief dance party with songs like: “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, “Burning Down the House”, you know, we get through  like 20 or 30 tracks, because, we, we’ve got a while. And I text my boss, and I didn’t say, “Probably not coming into work today. My apartment building is burning down. Hashtag, ‘thanks Obama’.


And she responds, “Well, feel free to take tomorrow off too, but what does the president have to do with this?” And that was when I learned that, that there’s kind of a generation gap with that joke. So if you don’t get it, then ask your kids.

But I learned a few other things in the fire experience too. And and one of those things is that some people are just jerks. They just are. So the fire had been burning for about an hour, and they brought in the third fire truck to spray millions of gallons of water on this building. I’m in my car was parked in front of the building it was kind of blocking the way, but, fortunately in this instance, I’m a little bit but lazy?  And so I had my credit card in my car keys yesterday’s pants that I pulled on and so I go to remove my car I get in I turned it on and I find out that all of the street exits are blocked. You know, they’d been closed off by the police and by the fire department. And so I pull into this guy’s driveway, and he comes out, and he’s  apparently an attorney and he lets me know that he has trial in two hours and so I need move my car. And I point across the street and I tried to explain to him that, while  appreciate his concern, my home is on fire! And he won’t hear it. And, you know, he says he’s gonna call the police, and I say, “They’re standing over there. Let’s go talk to them together.”


But he doesn’t hear it. So he starts yelling at his wife to yell at me to move my car and so I get into my car and I drive across people’s lawns to get it out.

But I also learned, and I mostly learned that people are really wonderful. Because while my friend and I were joking about the playlist for the dance party, it turns out that other friends were actually planning one. Ta, to raise money to replace things. And some different friends had started this online Kickstarter account. And people started getting a hold of me right away, saying, “Hey do you need anything? You know, my my husband and I were thinking about getting a new couch. And here’s a photo of our old one. I don’t know if it’s good enough for you.”

And that the nice thing about being in your 20s is you don’t have great stuff?


And so I had to try and find a diplomatic way to say that’s way nicer than the free couch I pulled out of the rainy alley before!


So, in a sense I made out like a bandit.


One, another important important lesson that I learned is that emotions are contagious? Or infectious? And so that first night of the fire, my friend Vic took me out to dinner, and God bless Vic because, you know, we’re talking about the story and at some point he just stops me, mid sentence and says, Wait a minute Svein. Do you think that they’re gonna have to demolish the building, like, tear down the walls, gut everything out?”

And I’m like, “Well, I don’t see what that has to do with what I was saying, but, yeah, sure.”

And then he says, “Well, then, Svein, this is a tragedy? Allright? But, this is also an opportunity? That you and I? Have never had before and may never have again. Because I’m just sayin,’ that if a couple’a dudes, showed up with some sledgehammers [laughter] and started knocking things down they probably wouldn’t mind.”

And he volunteers to help me the, gather my, you know, things, or sort of filter to the wreckage to try and find things the, the next day with clearly ulterior motives.


And I show up, and the property management gal meets me on site. And she hands me my security deposit check and she’s crying so I start crying.
But then Vic shows up.

Um, and, and, and, an important point of backstory with Vic — Vic used to work in the oilfields. And not like the  North Dakota, Eastern Montana oilfields. We’re talking the backcountry Alaska, they have to helicopter you in oilfields. And so he comes with this big truck and his, like, industrial coveralls,and his boots up to his knees and he has this big breathing mask on. Like, I don’t really understand, he looks like an alien. I don’t even get it. And I’m wearing one pair of jeans and T-shirt that I own at this juncture.

And I tell him, “Vic, I, I really  don’t think we’re gonna need all of that.”

And he says to me, “Shhh.”


“Don’t spoil the moment”


“I couldn’t find my baseball bat. We’re gonna have to use our fists.”


And he’s brought his like, portable speaker system, in some like, waterproof bag and so we spent the day rocking out to 90s dance beats. And we go to the grocery store and we get multiple brands of paper towels to figure out which is actually really the most absorbent.

And people, a few people you know, have asked me, “Well, did you save anything?”

And the answer is, “Yes.”

Which was really great at the time because that first day the fire chief in Billings says, you know, “Kid I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. You definitely lost everything.”

Which is not a great thing to say to a person in,  in that situation.

But we were able to, to salvage some things. You know, I had some clothes that had, you know, there was a lot of smoke damage. They poured probably a couple million gallons of water poured over them. But I took them to the laundromat, that day. I, actually there’s a full day at the laundromat with Vic, you know, bless him again. And I had a lot of hope and then after the first wash I lost all hope.


But by the end of the day just smelled like I really liked camping.


Which is ok in Montana, right? You can pull that off.

But the important thing ah, the most important lesson that I learned is that stuff is just stuff.

I don’t know how many of you read Tom Sawyer when you were in school, [woos from the crowd]  that’s great I didn’t. [laughter] But I did read the CliffsNotes and watch the movie. [laughter]

And I remember there’s a season or there’s a, season, see, I am talking like TV and  movies. You know how I operate. I’m giving away all of my secrets. But….

There is this scene early on, where they’re trying to establish that Tom is such a scamp and so his raft washes into town and he’s lost…it only has a shirt on it, there’s no boy. And so everybody assumes that he must be dead so the plan this funeral for him and he comes back and finds out that they’re planning a funeral and instead of saying, “Wait! Oh my God! I’m still alive! You have it all wrong!”, he thinks, “Oh, I have to see this”.

Right? And ever since that moment I’ve had the same you know, like a lingering question, and  obviously I would never do it. But I go to people’s funerals and I think, “Oh my gosh what I would give to live life that is deserving of this kind of recognition or this kind funeral.” And God willing and the creek don’t rise, this is the closest I’ll ever get to that.

Because, you know, people you know, the people who called, the  people who wrote, the people came forward….

You know, this is a story about me losing nearly everything that I own, but to me it’s not a story of loss it’s a story about realizing how much I have.

Thank you

When plumbing and puberty go wrong, Sawyer Connelly finds himself standing in inches of water from the fast overflowing toilet wondering how to get rid of the evidence.

Transcript : Destroy the Evidence: A Masturbation Story

I’m standing backstage, and I’m really nervous, so I reach for the nearest bottle of liquor. It’s a fifth of Juarez Tequila. And I take a big swing that doesn’t go down as smoothly as I’d like.

I’m nervous for a few different reasons. The first, that my father, my then girlfriend and three of my best friends are sitting on the other side of the curtain in the audience. I’m pretty sure four of them, everyone except my father, was little drunk. And I’m ah, I’m concerned about what they might say in the coming two hours about me particularly related to the ah, the content of the production that I’m about to be in.

The second reason I’m nervous is because I’m about to perform in my school’s version of The Vagina Monologues. [laughter. cheers.] My school, it’s called “Relations” and it includes penises [laughter] and it’s a celebration of sexual culture and the relationships on campus. …deal with some really funny issues and more serious issues, like sexual assault and rape. And it’s just a really, really great experience.

I’m also nervous, the third reason, because one of the monologues I’m about to deliver is entitled “Addicted to Pussy” [laughter] And my, [more laughter]the college president whom I’ve right been working with really closely with some extracurricular material, she’s sitting in the audience. [laughter] And I’m worried she’s going to, ah, have a different view of me after this. [laughter]

But the main reason I’m nervous, is because my castmate is going to be delivering a monologue I wrote, that’s about masturbation and flooding my father’s study. [laughter] Now, my father knows his study was flooded, [laughter] but he doesn’t know how. [laughter] This is my comical way of, which is very quickly becoming less comical in my mind, [laughter] of telling him the full story.


So as 11, as an 11-year-old boy, I was like most 11 year old boys, a horny little shit, and just discovering puberty and masturbation. And in the age of the Internet nudie pics came from the World Wide Web, you know, boobs. And in fourth or fifth grade, you know, a few of us boys, probably like 10 of us we’d ah, print these, they were like Playboy pictures, we’d print them out, really pixelated, on a regular, like 60 pound printer paper, eight and half by 11 and they get passed around the classroom and inevitably someone would take them home, and, well, we know where that goes.


So, you know, as an 11-year-old, the masturbation spot at the time was the maple hardwood floors of the upstairs bathroom. [laughter] And I once left those pictures on the bathroom floor, and to my absolute horror, my mother found them. [laughter]

Now, she was super cool about it. She even gave them back to me. She left them on my desk, [laughter] and next time I saw her she said, “Sawyer, you left something in the bathroom and I put it on your desk.”

Now, I was mortified, and I had to get rid of these. And they needed to go someplace where they would never be found. And the trashcan was, was,  wasn’t good enough. Burning them wasn’t gonna suffice. They need to go someplace dark and deep, and I thought the sewers would be a good, good spot.


So my parents ran a newspaper, a weekly newspaper. Tuesday night was production night. And they would always work late. So that Tuesday night I was gonna get rid of the evidence. And it was gonna be gone. So I took those three pieces of printer paper and crumpled it up into 3 wads and threw ‘em in the toilet. [groans] And I flush the toilet. Toilet got clogged. So I flushed again, and, toilet got a little more clogged. And I started to get a little more nervous.

So I flushed a third time, with a little more force, and I heard, I heard a pop. And you know that when a toilet’s filling up, and it starts reach the point of being filled, and it starts to slow down and you can hear the water shut off? Well, that wasn’t happening.


And the toilet bowl was filling up, and up, and up. Pretty soon it reached the brim. And it started to overflow. And I’m sitting there, standing there, and I don’t know what to do. And as the water is spilling over, onto my feet, I realize that my father’s study is right below me. And in my father’s study, there’s a few thousand books. There’s his computer and his desk with a lot of sentimental family photos and various journalism awards from over the years. And that water is very soon going to going through the floor into my father’s study.

So, my eleven year old mind thinks to grab every possible towel I could find in the bathroom [laughter] and upstairs in the house, and throw it on the floor, around the toilet.

Now there were about 15, 20 towels, and that worked for a few minutes, but, [laughter] the water wasn’t gonna stop anytime soon and eventually those towels reached their saturation point. And they couldn’t hold any more water.

So I ran into my parents’ bedroom and picked up the phone to try to call down to the newspaper, but being a Tuesday, it was a busy night, and the  line was busy. So I sprinted downstairs and just as I got to my father’s study, a bunch of the ceiling tiles fell out and to my eleven year old eyes it looks like the Ganges, the Amazon and the Mississippi were pouring down from above into my father’s study.


So, I went to grab the phone again and try calling the office. No luck. So I high-tailed it out the back door. Lights on, doors wide open, and sprinted — luckily I grew up in a very small town, and the house wasn’t too far from my parents’ office, and I’m pretty sure I was setting a record for a sub-four minute mile.


Got, got to the office, burst through the front door and just screamed, “Mom, you gotta come home. The toilet’s broken. Dad’s study’s getting flooded. I don’t know what to do.”

So, she sprints home with me.  And says some choice words as she runs by the study, and we get upstairs and lo and behold there’s a little knob next to the toilet. Shuts off the water. [laughter]


[more laughter]

We had to ah, air out a few hundred books. My father’s study. Drying ‘em out. Some of them to this day still show the wavy, wavy pages from that incident.

We had to replace the entire ceiling.


My evidence, the pictures were gone for good and that was, that was the important part.

My parents didn’t know hi. Or how. This happened.

So jumping back forward….

Our production goes really well. I’m greeted at the end by drunken hugs from all my friends, and a big hug from my father. And being supportive parent, tells me how ah, how thrilled was and how proud of me he is, and how much my mother would have loved it.

We clean up and everything and as we’re walking out of the theater, I say, “So, pops what do you, what do you think of the story about the study?”

Not knowing he’s gonna throttle me or, you know, don’t know how this went over.

And he chuckles and says, “Thought it sounded pretty familiar. Just, you know, Sawyer, I wish someone had told you how to shut off the water.”

Thank you.

Juanita Vero and her brother are motivated by food growing up. Unpasteurized milk from the cows on their ranch, homemade bread, peanut butter and marmalade sandwiches. They love it all. Once, during a visit to their grandmother's house in Colorado, they are introduced to a gourmet new food. A mysterious log of salty cheesy goodness. A visit to the Fred Myers years later brings enlightenment about this curiosity of the food world.

Transcript : Existential Mozzarella

My brother and I are really motivated by food. We — my little brother — we grew up about an hour east of here on a ranch, and went to a little one-room schoolhouse down the road.  And our favorite class was lunch.[laughter]  And, this was in the seventies and so we had these bright orange Tupperware lunch boxes that have been sitting under our desks all morning long. And so at noon, we get to peel back that soft pliable plastic cover, and that waft, the special Tupperware stench, would just come up. And we loved it.

Probably didn’t help that in our lunch boxes was unpasteurized cow’s milk, not because our parents were righteous hippies or anything it’s just that, we had cows on the ranch and we drank, that’s what the milk was that we drank, and it was not pasteurized.

Also in our lunchboxes was last night’s dinner slapped between two pieces of homemade bread. Again, not  because Mom was a righteous “I’m going to make everything by hand,” it’s just, she made bread. We didn’t buy bread. We lived too far from town.

And occasionally we would get peanut butter and jelly on the sandwiches and those were special days. And, peanut butter and jelly was exciting except most of the time, peanut butter came with marmalade because we have to use up the marmalade. [laughter] And who, who eats peanut butter and marmalade? Vomit!  [laughter]

So my brother and I would, we would covet. And we would be very…just jealous of the other kids’ lunch boxes and these were tin lunchboxes with fantastic graphics of Star Wars and Dukes of Hazzard. And in those lunchboxes were Lunchables and Fruit Roll-Ups and Capri Suns and, and colorful candy. Stuff that we were never allowed.

My brother, though, he was a wheeler and dealer. And he was fantastic at, at trading and conniving. And, I on the other hand I took the sour grapes route. I said that, “only bad people ate that kinda stuff.” And this was during the Save the Whales campaign and Greenpeace was really out there you know, trying to prevent harp seal pups from getting clubbed and so in my mind I was like, “Only whalers drink Capri Sun and [laughter] and clubbers, seal clubbers are out there with their Lunchables and litter bugs drink pop.”

You know, that’s what I thought.  Bad trashy people would eat sugar cereals with store bought 2% milk. And. It’s funny, I said “trashy” but we lived in a double wide trailer on a ranch, so, I mean….

And when we came home from school, we weren’t allowed inside until dinner was ready. And, during the summer this ranch is a dude ranch, and so we served all of the choice cuts of beef to our guests. And during the off season, we would eat burger, liver, heart, tongue, occasionally, but it was good, it was good.

Mom makes amazing liver and onions and tongue. And then Dad would get an elk or a deer. Again, not because of some, like, “back to the land, I’m going to provide for my family” philosophy. It’s just we were tired of eating organ meat.

Mom hunted too, but she didn’t hunt so much, until, you know, after us kids came along.

And then we would have these food service cans of, of, of insipid vegetables, it was diced carrots and gray peas. And I’m sure the cans were lined with everything that you’re not supposed to line cans with now.

And then, and then we would have rice, and rice was a nod to my dad’s Filipino heritage .

And we would drown our entire dinner in soy sauce which our dad called “bug juice” and my little brother and I just reveled in asking, “Please pass the bug juice,” we were very excited about that.

About once a year we got to go visit our grandmother in Colorado and this meant that we get to ride on an airplane. And Frontier Airlines had a flight from Missoula to Denver and our grandmother lived in to Grand Junction. And airplanes are really exciting because you get to dress up and wear your good underwear and for, for me, I mean,  I could wear a dress or a skirt which I would inevitably tuck the back into my stockings when I would come out of  a public restroom. There’s someone else in here who does that too.

When we, um, but the best part about airplanes with food. We get salted peanuts and honey roasted salted peanuts and pop. And food would come in, our meals would come in little compartments or, er, uh, plates that were compartmentalized and would separate out all of the food types and my brother and I just loved that.

When we arrived to our grandmothers, there always was this kind of air of stress. Um, my grandmother was a very regal woman, and she was tall and kind of lockjawed. And had a long neck that looked like it had a couple extra vertebrae in it. [laughter]


She, she had an immaculate home. It was beautiful. Everything was pale blue, beige, you know, sage green. Children weren’t allowed on the furniture. We had to sit on the floor next to the furniture.  [laughter] Furniture was for adults.

We also knew that our mother was kinda stressed out. We were excited to be there but it was stressful. In part because we, we kind of knew, but didn’t really judge, that our grandmother didn’t like us. [laughter]

And this was because our mother had married our Filipino cowboy father [cheering] who really didn’t offer the family much materially.

Never mind the fact that our grandmother had run off with another woman’s husband, to Colorado, leaving our grandfather on the ranch to shack up with a housekeeper who was only 4 years older than our mother. Very exciting. [laughter]

But, we didn’t judge, again we’re children, we don’t really understand the affairs of adults. We were more concerned about what was for dinner.

And dinners were a really Grand Affair. We would have — candles would be perfectly laid, uh, lit, and and silverware would be going East and West and North and South around our plates. And there was like always a forest of glassware up in the Northeast quadrant. [laughter] And you had to use the right utensil and the correct hand for the correct piece of food to bring it to your mouth. And then you have to drink from the correct glass and you need to have the proper beverage in the correct glass. And we were really excited because we would get served wine in a sherry glass and we just felt so accomplished.

Nevermind the fact that when we weren’t eating we’d have to sit at the side, or, we’d have to sit our thumbs on the edge of the table to keep us from fidgeting. We had to be very still at the table.

Our grandmother’s husband would gallantly carve a Canada goose that he had shot, and he’d be standing at the head of the table carving away, and we would have wild rice which look nothing like rice at all. And we just knew without being told that it was forbidden to ask for the bug juice so we did not.

And, but we love the artichokes!  Artichokes that we could pick off the leaves and then dip them in Hollandaise sauce, and our grandmother would say “‘ollandaise”, as if the  the H did not exist. And, we would dip, and then scrape the flesh from the bottom of the our lower teeth and then very neatly place them on the discard plate, and had to keep perfect circles and stacked very neatly and  layered. And the best part is we don’t have to finish artichoke. We didn’t like the hearts. They were, like, thorny and weird looking and our mother love them. And so we could give the, our mother our artichoke hearts. We don’t have to clean our plate. That was the only time we don’t have to do that.

But before dinner were cocktail parties, and these were fabulous. Not only did we have our very own Shirley Temples with a couple maraschino cherries and cherry juice in, in,in the glass, but there was food! And incredible creations. My grandmother would spend hours crafting and constructing these creations. And they were, they were, like, all sorts of stinky cheeses and you  know, whimsically whittled vegetables and fruit and revolting patees, and crackers and toast points that were adorned with all sorts concoctions that represented the entire plant and animal kingdom on top of a tiny cracker.

And my brother and loved them, but the deal was that we could only sample an appetizer at once we had passed them to all the adults in the room, so my brother and I were on it. It was like, every 90 minutes adult was getting an appetizer plate in their face! So, 90 minutes? I meant 90 seconds. We were on it! On it!

And I just got the gong so I’m hurrying up here.

But our favorite, our favorite hors d’oeuvre was these kind of luminous they all, white, and they almost kind of look like Lincoln Logs. And there’s a very particular way that we could eat them and you have to peel them very carefully. Peel them lengthwise. And we were only allowed, with the loving glare of our mother, we knew that we were only allowed to take a section that was only the width of dental floss. And these were magnificent, magical things and just were so soft and they felt like embroidery threads and they had just this nutty vaguely nutty maybe salty flavor but it was mostly as the divine nothingness. And we’d put them on our tongue, and, my brother and I would watch each other very seriously and, and, because, God forbid the other one took a bigger string than, than, than a piece of dental floss. And this was the most kind of spiritual, you know, closest thing to the sacrament that my brother and I ever had.

Fast forward 10 years, we don’t see her grandmother for over a decade. You know, adult tensions, life gets in the way. We have this kind of vague falling out. I go off to hoity toity prep school that, in New England that my grandmother pays for, I’m not really swearing it because she doesn’t like us, but she’s paying for me to go. I’m not going to ask questions. I don’t really want to untangle that. I’m just going. My my brother, my brother goes to the US Army where he becomes a Black Hawk helicopter pilot and then I end up at a hippie liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon. So it’s in Portland, so it’s in Portland Oregon where I’m at Fred Meyer’s, which is like Albertson’s, ShopKo kind of thing, and I’m getting my weekly college ration college student ration of Raman, ‘cause, you know, that’s what you do. And my favorite is Top Ramen because you can get five packages for a buck. And the best is the chicken, chicken sesame because the it, the sesame oil comes in this neat little packet. And I also like to add a raw egg the last 3o seconds of my ramen because that’s what Dad did.

So I’m scooting over to the dairy section to get my half dozen eggs and I’m standing next to the, this end cap. Catches my eye. It’s about  3 feet wide, 6 feet tall, and it’s just stocked with these glowing white Lincoln Logs.

And I’m staring at them. And it’s, it’s string cheese! It’s called string cheese.


I’ve never….  It’s 12 packs of string cheese for two dollars and 87 cents!


And I’m staring at it and it’s like, this shock and explosion of mental life montage kind of like is in my head and I’m thinking of my grandmother and and and the stress of of family, and responsibilities, and of course money and and how does it all fit in? And I’m like, “Is my grandmother a fraud? Is my, is my family a fraud? And then, obviously, next, am *I* a fraud?

Why didn’t anyone tell me? String cheese? $2.87?

Saving money when living in Southern California requires creativity. Nicole Sweeny, crushed by student loans and working a cool job that pays “dirt and high-fives” solves this problem in a very creative way: she stops paying rent.

Transcript : Home

I was not kidding about being nervous, so we’re just going to all kinda jitter through this together.

For the last decade or so, negotiating the concept of “home” has been kinda complicated for me. I have lived in five different time zones, I went to school on three continents. But growing up, this was much simpler. I spent most of my childhood in L.A. or the L.A. area. And that is what felt like home. That’s the one that felt “true”.

When I was in high school,. My family moved from L.A. to Jefferson City Missouri, which is a very tiny town right in the middle of the “Show Me” state. At the time, I had purple hair, about as long as it is now, but like, bright purple. And I fancied myself a city girl, I was not. And our home in the San Fernando Valley was dreamt up in some suburban cookie cutter fairy tale. But, I had ideas. I had some ideas. And I also had a lot of feelings about this move, as fifteen-year-olds do.

We…the town is a very sort of “Friday Night Lights” vibe to it in terms of like the devotion to the high school football team. The bus rides to school involved, you know, cow pastures out my window, which is not really a thing that I saw much of.

And so, I had a pretty contentious relationship with this town. I felt like I did not belong there. This place was not for me. I belonged in California. That’s, that’s what I was.

When I graduated from high school, though, I did not immediately go racing back to California. I went off to school in D.C, then I decided to go to graduate school in Paris, even though I didn’t speak any French. I’m really good at making impulsive life decisions. Even when I try to plan, it’s still kind of woefully disconnected from whatever that force is inside me that says, “Yeah, dive in! Do The Thing!” Always time to panic later.

So, after a year of [dramatically] croissants on the Champs de Mars, and drinking wine by the canal and like, also going to class and finishing my coursework, I decided that I was now going to do a responsible thing, I was going to be really responsible, and since my thesis was basically just Internet stuff, I could do that pretty much from anywhere. So, I decided that I would go home to my parents’ house, save some money, you know, pound it out, get it done. Be really responsible.

I don’t really know what that word means, it’s like this vague adult concept that I am forever falling short of in some made-up way. But. I was going to do it.

Shortly after getting back home, I went out to California to visit my best friend Anastasia, and celebrate her engagement. It was a really big deal because, spending most of our friendship long distance, we don’t — we did not get to be together for most of these big life moments so being able to be there for her engagement was really exciting. And it made me, you know, really nostalgic for California in a pretty big way.

So I applied for an internship. It was this location independant internship for this really cool start-up company, and I was like, “Well, this is perfect, I can have something else to focus on while I’m writing my thesis, and then, maybe at the end of it, maybe I’ll have a job lined up, which is really responsible. So, I interviewed for this internship while I was visiting her, and instead of being offered the internship, I was offered an actual job. Of the show up. Be at the office variety.

Unfortunately cool little startup also like, paid dirt and high fives. So, not great. But I decided to — whatever! I’m going to do The Thing! ‘Cause, that’s what I do.

So, I took the job. I convinced myself that I would write my thesis, like, on the weekends or something. Ahh, I don’t know. So.

I moved in, with my best friend. She had this pullout couch that she bought second-hand. And, things were going pretty great! I had, like, the most affordable rent in all of Los Angeles.

Even with my very affordable rent, I also had very high student loan payments, so, I had to get this weekend job. That I hated. At, this like, rich people neighborhood where a Kardashian lives, and, clearly I’m a very privileged person, but this introduced me to a whole  other world of rich people problems that I had just never, like, comprehended. And really didn’t want to know anything about.


Every weekend, I drove myself out to my soul-sucking job, and, aside from that, I loved everything else. Everything else was going great. My, you know, dirt and high-five job was doing really well, I got to be there with my best friend and play in her wedding. Like, every night in this apartment was like a big wedding planning slumber party thing. Things were really great.

And I was also really good at avoiding emails from my thesis advisor, so, you know — living the dream!

Unfortunately, Anastasia did eventually actually get married. And the plan was always that I had to go, when that day came. Plans and I don’t really mix really well. So, I, I didn’t. Couldn’t really find anything. I also decided that I could not continue to drive out to Calabasas, so I quit that job.

So, I had less money, and, there, you know, you just can’t beat the Best Friend Rate. Randos on Craigslist don’t offer that, it turns out. So, I had the brilliant idea that the solution to the cost of living in Los Angeles is to not pay rent.

You don’t pay rent, it’s fine, right? So I got myself a storage unit. And a membership to 24-hour fitness, and I moved into my car.

At the time, I did not tell anybody that I was doing this. Because, I assumed, correctly, that people were not going to approve, of this life choice. I have since told everyone in my life that I was doing this. But the thing that I have not admitted to anyone until, like, right now, is that I truly thought that this was a great idea. I, I was convinced that I had figured it out.

And, you know, 24-hour fitness, I had, you know, a bathroom at all hours, it was great. So where I parked was a block in North Hollywood just up the street from the 24-hour fitness. When I would get up every morning to go to the gym, I had a great gym routine going. Cause, you know, I had to work out to shower. I couldn’t, you know, just use the shower at the gym, that would be weird. I’m like, sleeping in your car…not weird. But when I would get up to go to the gym every morning, I saw — there’s a couple other cars on this same block that also had midwestern state plates and fogged up windows.

“I see you, Ohio.”

There was something oddly comforting and re-assuring about that. Unfortunately, there’s also, like, a constant anxiety about like, not being seen. Like probably the only time that I remember being genuinely afraid was the one night that I tried to sleep in the front seat. Just, the visibility factor. Not good. I love my car dearly. I have a convertible Mustang. It’s real nice, but I don’t know if you ever tried to sleep in the backseat of a Mustang, or just sit in it, like, at all? It’s not comfortable!

So, so that was a good time, but you know, I kind of piled under my blankets. Went to the beach every weekend. People now they don’t really do that, but I did, because, you know, they have bathrooms. They’re not great bathrooms, but I wasn’t really in a position to be selective.

So, you know.

I tried really hard to make this thing work. But, it turns out that all mof the free time that I thoguht I was going to have to spend at the library was pretty consumed by like, “where am I going to sleep? Where am I going to pee? Like — Dagney — where can we poop?”

The questions, they are many.

Pretty constant. And, eventually I had to sort of accept that this was not working out for me and I was going to have to go home.

When I was telling this story the other day, the phrase “homeless in your hometown” was thrown out. And it was sort of jarring to me because I had never thought of myself as having been homeless. Like, I thought of this as this stupid thing that I did, once upon a time.

And so that word, it’s just sort of weird to me, but the actual kicker though is that I was in a position where, in  my hometown, I don’t feel comfortable telling anyone, like, “Hey, can I sleep on your couch? That would be cool.”

Instead, I you know,  packed up my life, which was, you know, already very conveniently packed up, and returned to my parents’ in Missouri.

And, um, yeah — the idea of “home” this whole “hometown” thing. Turned out to be a lot more fraught and complicated than I had previously idealized it to be or imagined it to be. Except, I will add, that clearly I did not stay in Missouri. I did eventually write that thesis. Took me a very long time, but, got it done. Took extra — several semesters — enrolled in thesis.

But, I found myself here, in Missoula. Moved here in the dead of winter. And, it was snowing the day that we unloaded all of my stuff from the truck and into my apartment. And a few strangers from my new job who had known me for all of a hot minute, turned up to help me unload all of my stuff in the snow.

So. I don’t know. Maybe it’s not that complicated.

Thank you.