Wednesday, June 25, 2008

stories

I went last night to th Windy City Story Slam at Quennect4 to see my friend Chase perform (he did great, I gush w/ loving prejudice). Th main event consisted of six storytellers getting up & sharing a story, autobiographical or fictional, & later competing by audience vote for th best story. Then, after some music acts, some poetry, etc, it turned into an open mic for storytellers & went well into th night, story after story after story.

I loved it; stayed until after 2, listened closely to every story, applauded, didn't miss a word. I didn't drink (I want to make sure I can still have fun w/o booze - I can) so I remember it pretty clearly.

It impressed me how many different people went up, how differently they told their stories. Th best storytellers kept us riveted in our seats for, I don't know, half an hour at a time maybe, as we imagined these events taking place, put ourselves there as flies on th wall as things unfolded. They took us to Mexico City, to Costa Rica, to th middle of nowhere in Texas, to th Fullerton Bus in Chicago, back in time to th 60's, th 80's, a month ago. Just sitting there at Q4, it felt like an adventure.

What an art form, th story! Who says that oral traditions don't exist anymore, that people don't have attention spans extending past th length of a TV commercial? These people performed some ancient magic on us. Fan-fucking-tastic.

I didn't get up there. I "had nothing prepared." I "didn't feel comfortable." I wanted to leave it to th masters. But why do I think I can't tell a story? I've performed in so many different ways, spoken publicly in so many different contexts, why couldn't I get up there & shoot from th hip, tell these people a thing or two about what I've seen in my short life? In retrospect, I could've spoken, & even if I rambled & didn't get things out just right, people would have shown me love & it probably would have felt great. But can I tell a good story?

All thru th day leading up to th story slam, I thought about my stories. On th bike-ride & drive home, in my bed last night, I thought about stories. I woke up having dreamt in stories. But my stories went in circles, doubling back on themselves. They expanded on weird, unimportant angles. They started as one story, became another story, then another, never quite finishing any single story. Each facet of a story contains its own background, its own baggage & bits & pieces; it reflects itself over & over like a fractal; how can a person turn this non-linear chaos into something resembling a functional plot? You could tell th story of a simple sneeze in a thousand different ways, spend hours expanding a second. (James Joyce has shown this in Ulysses, I think; Raymond Queneau in Exercises in Style.)

What an incredible art! I stand awed at th work done by a good storyteller! How in th world to they tame this beast called personal history?

Well, I don't know. But now that I've had some coffee & typed some words, I think I do it right sometimes. But I could do it a lot better; & I want to do it better! I tell myself, "Someday I'll write a great novel," or "Someday I'll start writing plays," & I've actually sat down to do this & come away frustrated. But a good story, a really put-together & inspiring story - I consider that worth pursuing. So I want to work on this, put some elbowgrease into this & figure some things out.

That said, I have yet to tell my own story on this blog! What th hell has happened in Andrew's life these past few months? I can tell you this: lots. & I owe this blog a good story.

1 comment:

chasebauer said...

It was a great night, indeed! I hope next month you can get on stage!