Transcript : Lost in Translation - Part 2
[00:00:00] Marc Moss: Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast. I’m Mark Moss. We are currently looking for storytellers for the next Tell Us something storytelling event. The theme is The Kindness of Strangers. If you’d like to pitch your story for consideration, please call 4 0 6 2 0 3 4 6 8 3. You have three minutes to leave your pitch.
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[00:01:34] Ben Catton: abuela will come out and startle me. It’s like is she suspicious of me? What’s going on?
[00:01:39] Ren Parker: I asked him what he’s doing on the train and He says oh, yeah, I take this train and I go over the border and I get whiskey and cigarettes and things I shouldn’t have in Thailand and then I get back on the train and Bring it back to Thailand
[00:01:53] Abe Kurien: But my dad still kept that van because he worked really hard for it and was really proud of it But if any of you know in [00:02:00] the 80s A lot of the manufacturers for vehicles, they had a paint issue with
[00:02:05] Linda Grinde: the girl in the next bed, says to me, said, you don’t see, I realized she’s asking me if I want to go dancing.
[00:02:18] Marc Moss: For storytellers shared their true personal story on the theme lost in translation. Their stories were recorded live in person in front of a packed house on September 28th, 2023. At the George and Jane Dennison Theater at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. Telesomething acknowledges that we are on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Pendlay, Salish, and Kootenai peoples.
We honor their resilience and strength in the face of colonization and displacement. We recognize that the land upon which we stand is sacred to them and we are committed to working towards a more just and equitable future for all. We take this moment to honor the land and its native people and the stories they [00:03:00] share with us.
Our first storyteller is Ben Ken. As a tall man in Chile, he tries to connect with a deaf grandmother. And that culminates around a parakeet cage. Ben calls his story, Parakeetos.
Thanks for listening.
[00:03:17] Ben Catton: Hey! I’m in Santiago, Chile, having a terremoto. A terremoto is pineapple sorbet and white wine with some liquor drizzled on top of it.
Berries, depending on where you order one. And it’s as unfamiliar and, uh, interesting and as intoxicating as the rest of the three weeks that I’ve spent here so far. And I’m with my friend Paul, who I just met in the preceding semester here at the University of Montana, in some classes trying to prepare ourselves for this semester abroad experience.
And we’re checking in on, you know, how’s everything going and, uh, comparing notes on the incredible culture shock that we’re going through. [00:04:00] I’m mostly enjoying and laughing to ourselves about all the weirdnesses that we’re experiencing. We’re coming from Missoula, Montana. I guess you call us a city. Here in Montana we definitely are.
But now we’re in Santiago, Chile where there’s 5 million people. It’s a sprawling metropolitan area. I’m getting on a metro in the morning to commute to school, riding these buses. We’re sitting currently on this uh, kind of sidewalk patio. In t shirts and shorts, though it’s January, we’ve just come from 20 degree weather in Missoula, and we’re sweating while we’re enjoying our pineapple sorbet covered in alcohol.
And we’re just enjoying how bizarre everything is. We’re checking in on, uh, we’re comparing notes on the, the way that we stand out here now. I’m, I’m tall, but I’m kind of average tall here in the U. S. But in Chile I’m all of a sudden like basketball star tall. And so I get on the metro in the morning and everybody is packed.
You know, elbow to elbow, and uh, I [00:05:00] don’t feel that claustrophobic because I have all this head room. And I can look over the tops of everybody’s, you know, I just see a sea of hair instead of looking at everybody’s faces. Face to face. And we’re cracking up because the dogs are a real change. Um, Chile’s in this moment of policy.
Chaos about, uh, feral dogs in the city. We’re seeing this on the news and, um, if you take a walk during the quiet hours when there aren’t many pedestrians out, you can pick up a dog on, a dog on just about every block and by the time you reach your destination you have this pack that’s coming with you.
And everything’s gated, wrought iron gates to get into your apartment or to get into the university, so you kind of like, scrape your dogs off as you, as you get to where you’re going. And, and they must just disperse and go back to their block so that you can pick one up again everywhere you go. So this is cracking us up and, uh, the noise of everything as well.
Paul jokes to me while we’re having our terremotos that you could [00:06:00] fart anywhere in the city because it’s so loud and so chaotic and smelly all the time, nobody would ever know. So that’s bizarre and the overnight sounds. Um, it seems that every single car in Chile has a car alarm. A lot of them that you wouldn’t think would necessitate an alarm.
And they’re like aftermarket car alarms and they’re very sensitive. So these dogs that are roaming everywhere are setting off car alarms. And there’s sounds all the time throughout the night. On top of that, I’m telling him I have two parakeets that live. right outside of my window on, on the porch of the apartment and the host family I’m staying with.
And, uh, and by the time that the other noises of the city are kind of coming back on board overnight and traffic noise, et cetera, is kind of drowning out the dog noise and the car alarm noise, the, that’s also when the parakeets are, are starting to come to life too. So we’re asking each other about our host family situations and [00:07:00] Paul knows that.
When I was placed in my host family, um, one of my favorite human beings, a man that, that set this trip up for us through University of Montana, a professor here for a long time, Clary Loisel, who’s awesome, um, he came to me with this kind of coy smile after he’d gotten Um, correspondence through the university about who I’d been placed with and he told me, Ven a mi, vas a vivir con tres mujeres soteras.
You’re going to live with three single women. And then, then he laughed and said, Oh, it’s two sisters in their 40s and their mother who’s in her 70s. They have a couple of dogs, some parakeets, sounds very nice. Uh, and it really was. But I was also experiencing this moment of, um, a little bit of, uh, apprehension there, as explained to Paul, that I’m having a hard time communicating, especially with the mom.
The two sisters names are Gloria and Pilar. And the mother, uh, who I call the grandmother, la abuela, I still haven’t gotten [00:08:00] her name, I’m three weeks in, because I keep just completely, uh, struggling to communicate with her. And I’m embarrassed at this point to ask the daughters, uh, or her. So, it’s an epitome of just, you know, how our communication is going at this point.
And this is a little bit of culture shock as well. I’m living in this, uh, family that is, that is very different from what I’ve been up to for the last five, six years. Uh, I’m a mid twenties person going to college and on this study abroad now. And, uh, so, I’m telling him, yeah, it’s like, I, I try to ask her something, or she tries to ask me something, and we just, we never seem to be clicking.
This is stressing me out because we’re in January, which means it’s summertime in Chile. And we are in all day, eight hour intensive classes of Spanish, um, before the, what is their fall semester is going to begin. And I’m going to be in buried and more difficult classes, um, very soon. So the at home [00:09:00] element is also part of my training, part of my practice, and I feel like I’m kind of failing and flailing.
Um, so, yeah, I’m telling him, yeah, I’ll come home, announce myself, hola, buenas tardes, and, uh, Gloria and Pilar might be at work still, and, uh, I’ll go sit in the living room and then la abuela will come out and startle me. And it’s like, is she suspicious of me? What’s going on? Uh, distrustful? So… I have this great conversation, finish our terremotos, and, and say our goodbyes, get on the metro, ride home, tall, and uh, and uh, sure enough, I go into our 7th floor apartment building, we’re in a building that’s taller than anything we have in Missoula, it’s where we live.
And, uh, hola, buenas tardes, nobody answers, I walk into the kitchen and I almost like run right into la abuela. Hola! And we’re catching up with each other and, um, asking how her day was. And pretty quickly she’s asking me about the parakeets on the porch and do they bother me? Do they [00:10:00] sing too much? Um, do I like their sound?
I’m like, yeah, yeah, parakeets are great. But she doesn’t seem to get my assurance and next thing I know I’m kind of following her out towards the porch. And, uh, we go out there and as we’re going she’s telling me, Están enamorados, están casados, van a ser una familia. She’s really in love with these parakeets.
They’re in love with each other, they’re married, they’re going to have a family. And, uh, we get out. On the porch, there’s the parakeet cage that hangs from the ceiling, and, uh, she’s very short, like nipple high, and so right away we can see the blue parakeet, there’s a blue one and a green one. The blue one is sitting outside of its little house on a perch.
And, um, and it’s chattin away, and so she’s talkin to it right away, makin little kissing sounds, and, and, uh, she says, Dónde está tu amante? Dónde está el verde? Where’s your lover? Where’s the green [00:11:00] one? And, I’m kinda right behind her, and being tall, I can see the entirety of the cage, including the The plastic tray on the bottom that catches the droppings and the seeds and the green one is dead on the bottom.
So I’m standing behind her and I’m trying to gently call her attention to it. I’m like, Oh, he’s on
the bottom. I think he’s dead. It’s like, she’s ignoring me and I’m getting uncomfortable. Like. Am I being framed here?
she thinking I did this to the parakeets? Uh, so finally she’s like up on her tiptoes a little bit and sees it and she just explodes. Dios mio! Esta muerto! Wailing runs inside and I’m feeling horrid.
Uh, but I’m also a little relieved because the intensity [00:12:00] of your reaction makes me think that this isn’t a frame, this isn’t a setup. So, gracias adios, thank god, Gloria, her daughter, arrives home pretty much in this moment and tranquila mama, she calms her down and kind of gets information from us and And I’m trying to explain, uh, you know, I was trying to draw her attention to it.
It’s like, it’s like she just never understands a thing I’m saying. Does she, uh, it’s not my fault. Gloria tells me, Benha, yo te dije muchas veces, ella es sorda. Ben. I’ve told you lots of times, she’s deaf.
It’s this lightbulb for me. I finally understand what she’s telling me right now, because I guess she’s told me this lots of times, but, uh, but I also feel really good in this moment. I get it. I understand what you just told me. I guess I am [00:13:00] making progress. So as bad as I feel for the parakeet, I’m having a hard time not smiling and, uh, grateful for the epiphany.
I think maybe I will survive my classes. .
[00:13:14] Marc Moss: Thanks
Ben. Ben is Missoula, born and raised, but spent the majority of his adult life elsewhere orbiting to Wyoming, Idaho, Wisconsin, Alaska, and Chile. In the midst of those orbits, he studied at the University of Montana to become a teacher, and he has taught high school English in Spanish. Currently he’s pursuing a master’s degree in public administration and is back at the University of Montana.
He and his wife, Jessie, are doing their best to raise two kiddos to be silly, adventurous, kind, and curious. Next up is Wren Parker, who loves slow travel. She prefers buses and trains and one day finds herself in a train to Cambodia, whose tracks end. Just across the border, friend calls her [00:14:00] story, slow travel.
Thanks for listening.
[00:14:10] Ren Parker: It is my last night in Bangkok. All the lights from the city and the exhaust from the scooters and the tick, uh, the tuk tuks is intense. It’s overwhelming my senses. I spent this last month in Northern Thailand in and out of temple stays studying. Meditation and this city was too much for my heartbeat as I’m walking, I go by an open window through it.
I see a woman in a beautiful art deco dress. She’s singing blue moon. And for a moment, I find stillness in the chaos. You see, I have spent the last year preparing for this trip. I taught myself how to code. I sold my food truck [00:15:00] and moved to San Francisco. I participated in hackathons and think tanks until I mastered the technology I thought was going to save the world.
And I got a job doing that, sold everything except for what could fit in my 40 liter backpack. And I just went to Southeast Asia. I had it all planned out that I was going to do it over land. I love slow travel. It gives me a moment to see moments between people that you know. You normally wouldn’t see if you go too fast, a mother braiding her daughter’s hair, farmers tending to their crops, laughter between friends from a hidden joke.
These are the moments that make me feel like I truly connected with the places that I visit. The next day I go to the train station, I’m getting my second train of the leg of my trip. The first leg I [00:16:00] started from Chiang Mai, Thailand, took a train I’m going to Bangkok where I was presently in Chinatown.
And this next one I was going to take from Bangkok over to the border of Cambodia. Now I had this plan all planned out. I was going to go to the border of Cambodia, cross it. And then I was going to get another train or maybe an overnight bus, whatever they had. And I was going to go to Simri, the home of Angkor Wat.
And that would be where I’d be for the next month. I make it to the train station. It’s old. It’s dark green. And I go up. To the ticket counter and get my ticket. There seems to be some confusion about the train I want. And I’m like, no, this is the one. And person looks at me, hands it and it’s unsure. And I go and I find my train it’s old and red peeling paint.
It has these giant windows on the side with no glass. So it’s just like an open air train. And when I go in, there are goats and [00:17:00] chickens. And I am the only foreigner. And I’m like, alright, this is the adventure I wanted, excellent. So I go and I find a little bench and curl up and put my chin on the windowless, um, area and, uh, it starts going and you hear this loud screech from the train.
And we’re off Now as we get going, I’m so amazed because there’s an entire city on the side of the train tracks. It’s like a city within a city. There are gambling halls and restaurants all built from tarps and things like that, and they’re just inches away from my face. So as we wa we weave out of this city, there’s this kaleidoscope of human experience that I, it just absorbs me and I’m, I’m just fascinated by it.
Pretty soon, maybe like an hour or two, we’re out of the city, and it becomes very regular. There’s a, uh, we’re going through the [00:18:00] countryside, and we’re stopping at little, little stops. People are taking their goats out, bringing other things in. There’s chickens, there’s all kinds of stuff. It’s really neat.
And, um, I’m also starting to notice there’s this air in there where, like, if I leave my bag, it will not be there in about two seconds. So I’m like, got it on my thing. But, um, pretty soon, I look up, and… There is this very large man that is walking through. I noticed him right away because he’s so tall and he looks down at me and he has this huge smile and sits right in front of me and he asked me if I would practice, uh, his English with him.
And I said, yes, of course, something to do, you know? So he pulls out this composition book and it’s old. It’s like the one you’d have in fifth grade. It’s very worn. He opens it up and there’s all this writing in it from different travelers. And so we sit down and we practice his sentences and his words.
Things like, where’s the train station? How much for this item? When we get to the end of it, I decide to give him some words [00:19:00] to, you know, add some more texture to his vocabulary. Things like creativity, friendship, joy. And then after we just start conversing and practicing in open forum and I asked him what he’s doing on the train and, uh, he says, Oh yeah, I take this train and I go, um, over the border and I get whiskey and cigarettes and things.
I shouldn’t have in Thailand. And then I get back on the train and bring it back to Thailand. A lot of people here are doing that, and I’m like, oh, I’m on a smuggler train. . Good thing I made friends with one. And I’m like, oh. And he goes, well, what are you doing? And I’m like, oh yeah, I’m just, you know, I’m gonna go to Sim Reap for a while.
I’m gonna go there, get on another train and maybe, or maybe a bus. And, and he looks at me and he goes, the train track stopped before the border there. There’s no. And I’m like, Oh, well, overnight bus. He’s like, there’s none of those either. So I realized that I am stuck going to be [00:20:00] stuck at the border. And right about that time, I look out this, this train tracks, they’re screeching again.
We’re stopping. And I look and the train tracks just stopped just like he said. And I see this crowd of people coming up and they all want something from somebody and there’s yelling and it’s just chaos. And I just realized like, I am in definite danger. I definitely got myself. With my romanticized white girl ideas of like, what things are, you know, really naive.
So, I must have had the panicked look. And Nom, which was the man’s name, looks over at me and he says, You helped me, now I help you. And just like that, he scoops me up and starts walking on the train. And he’s so tall, my feet aren’t touching the ground. And I just cling to him like a little baby primate, like, Please, God, yes, help me.
And he just… He walks out, and as all the people come, he’s all pshh, pshh, pshh, just like partying the way, just slapping them out of the way. And I’m [00:21:00] just like, press my face into his chest, and I’m just like, okay, here we go. And before I know it, he’s tossing me into a tuk tuk, and I feel myself land on somebody.
And I look down, and it’s Grandma. And I’m like, oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. And he’s like, sit back down, there’s no room unless you’re on Grandma’s lap. And I was like, okay. So, we get to the border. We jump out, and I’m like, sorry grandma, and uh, there’s a big glass building, one side says customs, the other side has some tie riding, and we both, we enter, I enter the customs, he enters that, and we look at each other through the glass, and I give him a very deep bow, that’s usually reserved just for monks, because he saved me, and that was the last time I saw him, he gave me a big smile and walked away, and I got through customs, and um, I was in a very, uh, And I was like, well, I better get some food because I don’t know what’s going to happen and I should eat.
[00:22:00] Maybe my last meal. And, uh, so I find a Thai restaurant and I’m just missing Thailand and I order my favorite Thai dish which has got like some, um, chicken and basil on rice with an egg on top. And, um, I’m eating and I look over and I see the cutest little girl. And she’s got this gingham dress to her knees and these little, these little pigtails and a shy smile.
And, uh, I start playing with her, you know, peek a boo, and the watchful eyes of her mother look down. She looks happy that I’m playing with her daughter. So soon I’m, like, hanging out, and I go to the mom, and I’m like, Taxi, some reap? And she looks at me like, Girl, what? And then she holds her finger out to say, like, One moment, please.
And she walks to the phone. It’s one of those old phones, you know, that you had to, like, move to the numbers. And pretty soon she’s, like, having an argument. And then she looks. It’s really like, ah, hangs it up and grabs one of the other waitresses who spoke better English. And she said, her [00:23:00] brother was going to take me.
He’s delivering rugs to some rape. And I thought, Oh, thank you so much. So in a little bit, a very grumpy brother shows up like, I cannot believe that you’re throwing this at me, you know, and, uh, I go over in there, uh, into the van and the back is all full of. these rugs and I crawl up on top of the rugs and they’re scratchy and smell like goats and must from the, wherever they have been stored, but I was safe and I felt so happy about that.
And right as I curl up, um, to fall asleep before going to SIM rape, the last thing that crosses my mind is I love slow travel. Thank you.
[00:23:57] Marc Moss: Ren Parker grew up in Hawaii and lived on [00:24:00] sailboats she restored on the Pacific for seven years. She gave up her nomadic ways and moved back to Missoula three years ago 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 she spends time with her remarkable Missoula friends.
She found her passion for storytelling in the winter of 2022 in a weekly open mic. Coming up after the break.
[00:24:25] Abe Kurien: But my dad still kept that van because he worked really hard for it and was really proud of it. But if any of you know, in the 80s, a lot of the manufacturers for vehicles, they had a paint issue.
[00:24:37] Linda Grinde: And the girl in the next bed says to me, C’est du dansin! I realize she’s asking me if I want to go dancing. Wow.
[00:24:49] Marc Moss: Stay with us. Remember that the next tell us something event is December 6th. You can learn how to pitch your story and get tickets at tellusomething. org. Thanks again to our title [00:25:00] sponsor, Blackfoot communications, helping us with the heavy lifting of the expense of producing our evening.
Thanks to our stewardship sponsor, Jana Lundquist consulting, helping us to provide free tickets to populations. That might otherwise be unable to attend tell us something events. Thank you to our story sponsor parkside credit union helping us to pay our storytellers Thank you to our accessibility sponsors the kettle house allowing us to hire american sign language interpreters at the events In order to be a more inclusive experience and thanks to our artist sponsor crowley fleck attorneys pllp You are listening to the tell us something podcast I’m your host, Mark Moss.
Our stories in this episode are recorded live in person in front of a packed house on September 28th, 2023 at the George and Jane Dennison Theater at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. Next up is Abe Kurian, who shares his story of woe in which his Indian father mistakenly puts sugar daddy on the back of his van, thinking it means.
One who gives candy to loved ones, Abe calls his story, [00:26:00] Middle East meets the Midwest. Thanks for listening.
[00:26:08] Abe Kurien: An hour south of Chicago, a little town called Bourbonus, Illinois. Now the representatives there, they wanted to vote it and go back to the French pronunciation because of the spelling, to Bourbonay. I’m not French, I grew up there as a kid, I still call it Bourbonus. Now. Bobonis has a university called Olivet Nazarene University, and that is a private Christian conservative school.
And it is The community of Bourbon is kind of just like the University of Montana. Everybody in the community kind of gathers around that university. Well, that is, uh, where my parents met. My mom, she’s from Superior, Montana. Now, that is about an hour west of here. [00:27:00] Small community, and, uh, my mom grew up in the northwest, graduated from Superior High School, and because her brother lived outside of Chicago, he introduced her to Olivet.
Now my dad. He’s from India. And so he comes over, he was encouraged to come over, and by some of the friends that he had in India that were already here in the States. My dad was a proud man, still alive today, and I will get to that, but he was a proud man with a few dollars, a couple suitcases, and he makes his trip to Burbonas, Illinois to go to Olivet.
Now my parents met there, and… And, you know, going back through this, my dad comes here and he ends up getting his bachelor’s in psychology, a master’s in counseling from another university outside of Chicago, and in that community of Burbonas, he became very well known. And actually, [00:28:00] if you know me and how outgoing I am, I have to thank my dad for that.
But he was known with organizations. He was in very, various clubs and also very known, um, as being a very Christian man. Now, my dad was also very proud with the work that he did in providing for his kids. Myself, I’m the oldest of five. I have three sisters and a brother that are younger than me. And one thing that my dad wanted to do was always take us on a summer vacation or a vacation somewhere.
And just like the Griswolds and that station wagon, we’re gonna go to the 70s. The 70s… Everybody traveled in a station wagon. And so, we would load up the station wagon, head out to my grandma’s house in Superior, Montana, making little stops along the way. And you gotta remember, my dad, you know, he’s [00:29:00] seeing new sights as he’s leaving the Midwest and coming out towards here to meet and see the…
the west. And so we go, and one of our favorite stops, and if any of you know this, the home of the Corn Palace is in Mitchell, South Dakota. Oh, yeah, we got it. There we go. So now the Mitchell, South Dakota Corn Palace, if you don’t know what it is, they have these murals that are up on the walls and of the exterior of the building that are made from the agriculture from the South Dakota area and surrounding areas with corn, wheat, beans, all that kind of stuff.
But, you know, us kids, we anticipated what the theme was going to be that summer, was we come around the corner. Another great thing about the Mitchell South Dakota Corn Palace is they had a huge gift shop. And if you’re a kid, and you’re traveling, you want what’s in those gift shops. And you know, most of the stuff in there was probably made in India.
So now, we end up continuing our trip to [00:30:00] Superior, Montana to see my grandma. But now, we’re going to move on to the 80s. And in the 80s, we ended up, my dad worked even harder, us kids were growing, and the station wagon wasn’t going to cut it anymore. So we ended up with the conversion van. Now if you know what the conver does everybody know what a conversion van is?
If you don’t, let me describe it. It is slicked out. It is… Silver gray, blue pinstripes, captain chairs, so you know, now that we’re older and, you know, outgrown, the station wagon, but the back seat was a, it turned into a bed. It was pretty sweet. And then, the best thing about the conversion van was it had cable, or not cable hookup because it wasn’t But it had a hookup for TV.
So we had a TV that we would take along, but if you were [00:31:00] stopped, you could get those three channels with the rabbit ears. Otherwise, in the 80s, it was snow and static. So we took this same trip and came out and did our thing in the 80s. Well, in the 90s, we grew up as kids and kind of left the house and, but my dad still kept that van because he worked really hard for it and was really proud of it.
But if any of you know, in the 80s, a lot of the manufacturers for vehicles, they had a paint issue with like GMC and Chevrolet and so the van started to get peely and blistery and paint was, you know, coming off in chunks and it just looked bad. And my dad was like… You know, well one, I called to check in on him, I didn’t live anywhere near the, the house at that time.
I call him up and I said, hey dad, I said, uh, you know, one thing I didn’t explain about my dad, let me actually back up and I apologize for this. But my dad, [00:32:00] his character, has anybody seen The Simpsons? So I didn’t explain this, my dad being from India. is a spitting image of a poo. And I apologize I didn’t bring this up earlier.
I just kind of, I got lost in that translation. So, but here’s, had pun intended. So what ended up happening was my dad That would sound like, would you like to buy a soda pop in a candy bar? Thank you. Come again. And that was my dad’s accent with a poo. But now the best thing about it, he’s in his 80s now and he is a mix of a poo and if you know the boxing promoter, sorry about the pops, the boxing promoter.
Don King. My dad has gray hair that stands up like this. And Don King was outlandish and a little bit of a character, but my dad had his hair. But the look and sound of a poo. And [00:33:00] so, when I called my dad and said, Hey dad, you know, hey, how things going? He’s like, you know, I would like to, uh, With his little accent, he goes, I would like to get the van painted.
The van, it’s all not looking good. And he goes, I think I would like to have that done. And I said, that sounds great, dad. And he goes, you know, in the back of the van, there’s a, there’s a wheel well with a tire cover. And he goes, I would like to put a saying on there, like number one dad or something like that.
Now my motto is keep smiling. So that’s what I would have. And if you guys see jeeps out here in the Northwest, they all have sayings on them. Like, you know, if I’m upside down, we’re having a good time. So, um, I told my dad, you know, dad, I think a great name to put on the back is
I mean, come on. How would that not be perfect? With a conversion van, with a couch that turns into a bed. So, you know, I just laughed it off. I’m thinking that in the back of my head. That’s where [00:34:00] my mind went. And he says, you know son, that sounds like an idea, but we’ll think. So he goes on, and uh, I don’t think anything of it, and uh, I end up visiting, sorry, I end up visiting him about a year later.
About four or five months later, and he comes out and he says, you know son, come see the Vaughn. Come see the Vaughn. I got it repainted. It’s beautiful. So we’re looking at the Vaughn, and the van, because I say van, he says Vaughn. But uh, we come around the back of the van, and I said, hey dad, what happened to your tire cover?
And he goes, you know son, you could, you break your daddy’s heart. You break your daddy’s heart. Basically worked very hard, and I put money into this van, and you tell me to put sugar daddy on the back of this van, and I was actually biting my tongue to not laugh, hysterically. But what [00:35:00] ends up happening is, I said, well, what did you think it was, dad?
And he said, you know, I thought it was a daddy that gave out candy. That makes it even better with the whole van. But, so, you know, I look at it and go, The sugar daddy story, and my dad, I, with all the stuff that he’s done, I’m proud of him, and he worked hard to give us a whole lot of stuff, and I apologize for having him go through that whole thing with the, the repainting of the back of the van.
My biggest regret, is that I never saw him cruising around town in burbonis in a sugar daddy van. I’d like to, uh, thank my beautiful wife, who is the interpreter tonight. And thank you, and keep smiling.
[00:35:55] Marc Moss: Thanks, Abe. Abe Kurian is married to his best friend, Bonnie Kurian, [00:36:00] who was the American Sign Language interpreter when Abe performed his story. They have four children and two grandchildren. He has lived in Montana for the last 24 years. After moving here from outside of Chicago, Illinois, Abe has worked for over 30 years in the film and television industry.
For over 10 years, he has been the camera operator for Grizz and Cat’s football games for the broadcasts on Root Sports, K Pax with Scripps Sports, and the playoffs on ESPN. He also worked on the TV shows 1883, 1923, and currently working as the dailies coordinator for the show Yellowstone, which is shot right here in Missoula, Montana.
His motto is, Keep smiling and his goal is to leave everyone with a smile on their face after meeting them. Closing out this episode of the podcast, Linda Grindy shares her story about a time she was lost in translation. Invited to a disco by French speakers, she ends up breaking into her own hostel to get back in.
Linda calls her story Dancer in a Strange Land or Disco Damsel in [00:37:00] Distress. Thanks for listening.
[00:37:03] Linda Grinde: The boom from the disco floor was so loud that I had to stand up so that the table full of people would even know that I was speaking. C’est très important de, j’ai, j’ai fait partie maintenant. Nothing I tried again.
I need your help. Still nothing. It was three o’clock in the morning. I’m somewhere in the south of France at a disco with a group of strangers and nobody speaks English. And I have ten kids sleeping in a, in a hostel. An hour or more away, thinking that I’m there and [00:38:00] I’m going to get up in the morning and take them on a 50 mile bike ride in the heat of August in the south of France during high tourist season.
I need to sleep. I want to sleep. Um, je voudrais coucher ce soir. Yeah, that sets off a lot of rapid fire French all around. Punctuated by the occasional English phrase, um, I love you, my darling. Do you want to sleep with me tonight? To be fair, you know, if I was back in the States and there was one French person, I’m sure you would hear, Voulez vous coucher avec moi?
But I’m really stuck. Rewind. Ten hours. I’m 21 years old. I’m leading a bicycle trip through Europe. Scandinavia, Southern [00:39:00] France. For the American Youth Hostels. I have 10, 15 year old kids from Manhattan that I am the guide for. The only adult. We have been already six weeks. on the trail. We’ve cycled over the fjords of Norway.
We have cycled through the farmland of Denmark and, and, and Sweden. And just this morning, we got on a plane in Copenhagen and flew to Milan, got on a train and came to the south of France to Antibes, Cat Antibes, one of the biggest tourist towns on the French Riviera. We’ve bicycled up from the train station, and as we come to the hostel that we’re going to be staying in tonight, I realize it’s a chateau.
To me, it looks like a castle. It’s got [00:40:00] round towers and turrets and arched windows that look out over the Mediterranean Sea, which is right across the street. As we push our bicycles into the courtyard, all cobblestone, we go past these eight foot iron gates with spikes on top. The only thing that’s missing is the moat.
Well, I get the kids settled in their dormitories, they’re tired, and I find my room, which is on the second floor, up a stairway into one of those round rooms, there are five beds, and I, I barely slip my saddlebacks off my shoulder when the girl in the next bed says to me, Fais tu danser? I realize she’s asking me if I want to go dancing.
Wow, I have spent the last six weeks with kids. It would be fun to have some adult time. They’re all settled. Why [00:41:00] not? Oui! I say oui! I reach my hand down to the bottom of my saddle bag and pull out the only dress I brought and slip on some sandals and follow her downstairs. So the first surprise… Is that there were two cars waiting outside, packed with her friends.
We’re not just walking into town for a couple of hours, we’re going somewhere. I climb inside, and after a Very brief conversation about who I am, uh, American, and then I’m on a velo, I’m riding, I’ve exhausted my, my vocabulary. And they pretty much ignore me. And we’re driving further and further away from town and into the countryside, and it’s getting darker.
Finally, we pull into a parking lot and up to a building that is like, Like a [00:42:00] birthday cake, each floor a different color, and it’s pulsing with the sound of disco music, this is the 70s. We enter this amazing structure and start by dancing on the first floor, we have a few drinks, it really is fun. And then move to the second floor, and different tone, and different feeling, and I’m starting to look at my watch because it’s getting close to 10 o’clock, and the rules of a youth hostel is that they close and lock those doors at 10 o’clock.
And I’m looking over at the girl I came with, and she doesn’t seem to be concerned, so I figure, well, I guess we’re gonna break in together. But I do start drinking water. We go to the next floor and continue this rising up through all levels. And now it’s [00:43:00] getting on close to midnight and I really am tired.
I’m ready to go and I, but I figure I, I’m in for the trip. So I have to wait till the bars close at two. And then two o’clock comes, and passes by, and things aren’t slowing down, they’re actually revving up. And that, that girl I came with, she is nowhere to be seen. And suddenly I start to, I start to panic.
I, I don’t even know how to use a French phone, or how to call a taxi, or where I am, or what the name of that hostel was, or, oh, I only have a few francs and a lot of American traveler’s checks, so that’s not going to work. Um, and then I, and then I think, oh my god, what happens if my kids wake up at six o’clock?
I’m not there. They don’t know where I am. I don’t know where I am. [00:44:00] There’s no way to get in touch with anybody. There are no international phones at the time. Or there might be at a post office in some town. There’s no, there’s nothing they can do. I’m I’m freaking out. So, let’s go back to that table. I’m standing there and I’m getting a little crazy.
I keep saying, I have to go, I have to go, in whatever method I can. And finally, a tall, sandy haired guy steps forward. Let’s call him Francois. He wiggles his keys. I think he must have drawn the short straw. Because I had become what you would call a real pain in the derriere. They just wanted to get rid of me.
Relief is tinged by a little unease as we head into the dark parking lot towards his car. I’m following a stranger out into the [00:45:00] darkness and… What else can I do? He’s my only hope. We get to the car, and he walks around to the passenger side and opens it for me, but then pushes me against the door and tries to kiss me.
I push him off. I’m having none of that. He just shrugs and climbs in the car. We have a very long, quiet ride. But we get there, I see the Mediterranean, and that castle, and I’m back. He stops, I jump out, Merci! Close the door, and he speeds off. And then I’m facing the fortress. That big gate now is locked with a big padlock.
And I have to get past it. But I realize that The gate is connected into [00:46:00] these large boulders, and, and they look like they’ve got a good grip, so I managed to get up the boulders and then carefully step over those spikes on the top and hang down and drop into the courtyard, and I figure, okay, I’m in, I can sleep on a bench, I guess, till morning, but I don’t know.
I don’t know. I noticed that there’s a window that’s slightly ajar on the hallway that goes up to my room and there’s a ledge and there’s a vine. I think I can do this. It must be adrenaline that’s driving me. I slip my sandals onto my wrist and climb up the vine and then inch my way along to the window and thank God it opens easily and I slip in and get into my bed.
And I get two solid hours of sleep. Six o’clock in the morning comes fast and I hear the bell of the breakfast ring and I splash my face with water and as I [00:47:00] gather my stuff I realize that girl never slept in that bed. She never made it back. Well, I did the 50 mile ride, got my kids safely to the next campground, they never knew what happened, I’ve never even told this story.
But I have to tell you, in recounting it, I started thinking about that guy, Francois. So many things could have gone wrong. He was drunk, we could have crashed, he could have left me in the parking lot, he could have taken me anywhere. But he didn’t. He left his friends. He left that party. He drove this crazy American off into the night.
He did the right thing. After all these years, I’d just like to say, Merci beaucoup, François.[00:48:00]
[00:48:05] Marc Moss: Thanks, Linda. Linda Grinde keeps trying to reinvent herself, but just keeps coming back to another version of theater. She recently appeared in a multimedia memory piece, Intangible Objects, at the Westside Theater in Missoula, Montana. Originally from New Jersey. She has a master’s degree in theater and has danced professionally in New York and Germany, acted in and directed plays in London, Seattle, Dallas, Hawaii, and all around Montana.
Linda will be traveling to Thailand next year to you guessed it. Teach theater.
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Learn more [00:49:00] at float msla. com and Joyce of tile. Learn more about Joyce at Joyce of tile. com. Remember that the next tell us something event. is December 6th. You can learn about how to pitch your story and get tickets at tellussomething. org.[00:50:00]
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