Saturday, April 27, 2019

Monday at the Moth

On Monday I texted the kids and told them to meet me for dinner at Miss Saigon at 5:30.  "Why are we eating so early?" Grant asked as I joined them in the booth.

The color of the vinyl on the seat of the booth was just slightly different than the back.  The seat is a greenish mustard, while the back is a mustardish green.  It's a nuance I wouldn't have noticed except that the owner pointed it out last time we were there.  It bothered him that he hadn't gotten a perfect match.  The factory that supplied the initial vinyl had discontinued it and he had to settle for the closest color match.  It was just slightly different.

If he hadn't said anything I would have thought it was just the lighting.   But when you look closely you see that something is - very slightly - different.

"I think I'm going to the Moth tonight and I might tell a story."

Audrey nodded.  "I think you should do that."   

After dinner I drove across town to the Basement East by myself and signed up to tell a story.  And about two hours later the host Eddie pulled my name out of the hat and called me up to the stage.  I was the very last story-teller to go up.

It is a weird trek to the stage at The Basement East.  I almost got lost, no joke.  And then, I was standing in front of 200 people and I was about to tell my story.  The spotlights on me were so bright  I couldn't see out into the crowd, except for two guys who were sitting at a high-top table at the right hand edge of the stage.  The microphone was so huge, or so unfortunately positioned, that it hid my face.

Maybe the positioning was fortunate.

It helped, a little, to hide behind it.  

All of the stories that came before me were lighthearted and funny but mine was not going to be.  I breathed in deep and said into the bright light, "My story is kind of heavy.  Are you guys down with that?"

"Bring it!" someone shouted.

I started talking about the night of my own personal Great Inhale.  The one that nearly killed me.  The one that, in some ways, did.

I almost cried.  In front of 200 strangers.  I guess I did cry, but not alone.  Because the Moth, as I have learned, is a special place where no one cries or laughs alone.

Days later when I told my friends about my experience, they asked if I could re-tell the story for them and I think maybe under the right circumstances I could.  In a dark room that smells like beer, with a concrete floor that shakes like plywood when you walk on it.  Under a bright spotlight blinding me from the gentle souls in front of me who welcome a heavy story.

But then again, I'm not sure I could.  I think when I told that story that night at the Moth, it got up on its legs and walked slowly away from me.  Out the back door of the Basement East and off into the open sky.

Maybe stories at the Moth have one brilliant chance at life and when their life has ended they cannot come back.

I think that's how it is.

I feel different after all of this.  Something about me is just slightly different.  I don't think anyone else would notice.  But I do.

If I didn't mention it you probably wouldn't notice. 

But something has most definitely shifted.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

My 50th Birthday Gift to Myself

For my 50th birthday I gave myself a special gift. 

I cut the label off of the curtain in my living room.

It’s been there ever since I hung the curtains.  Backwards.  But it’s a sheer white panel and you really couldn’t tell that I hung it backwards except for that damn label.  When I watched TV I looked at it and wondered how much work it would be to cut it off.

Would the step ladder in the pantry do the trick?  

Or would I need the 6-foot ladder from the garage? 

Can I just wait until Grant grows tall enough to reach up and cut it off…?

Today I decided that it’s time.  I’m not sure why today felt like the right moment.  Maybe it’s related to me turning 50 today.  Maybe it’s not.  It’s possible I’m over-analyzing.

As it turns out, the stepladder in the pantry did the trick.  The whole process took less than 30 seconds.

So my present to myself for the next 50 years is that I won’t have to look at that label anymore and wonder how much work it would take to cut it off.

In exchange however, I will look at the curtain and remember how many hours I spent looking at it before, wondering how much work it would be to cut it off. 

Regret and self-doubt as a replacement for procrastination and inaction. 

This is The Downtown Diner, you knew that was coming. 

You might wonder how any of this is blog-worthy.  And really, it’s not.  I know most people will read it once and then again, and then will ask themselves what the point is.  Then they will shake their heads and close their laptop with a sigh.

But there are a few people out there who will read this and think about me and nod and smile and say, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”  They will think about my quirks and all my posts over the years and how much they love me. 

And you all, you are the best gift I have given myself over the past 50 years.  Thank you for being part of it all with me.  All my procrastination and inaction, all my regret and self-doubt.  My seemingly pointless posts and the live conversational versions of the same.  I love you all. 

Let’s do another 50 years of this.