First Person Story Slam Live Blog

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The doors are open and the music is turned up. Ed Tettemer, Philadelphia ad man and this evening’s official host is working the crowd, ready for his cue. The potential storytellers are signing up, all nervously hoping that their name will be drawn out of the hat and they’ll get a chance to take the stage and tell their story tonight. The highest-scoring participant tonight will win the Golden Ticket, which gives them entry to November’s Grand Slam, where storytellers will battle it out to determine who is the Best Storyteller in Philadelphia. The Grand Slam will be held during the First Person Fest in November.

The rest of the updates will be posted after the jump, so extend the entry and keep refreshing in order to read the highs and lows from the tonight’s Trespassing-themed story slam.

Around 7:35 pm fellow Philly blogger Tom Kim rolled in, so I now have someone to sit with. It’s amazing how you never totally shake the ghosts of the elementary school cafeteria and the discomfort that comes with sitting by yourself in social places. Or maybe that’s just me.

8:05 pm and the place is already packed. People are sitting on the edges of the stage and standing three deep around the bar. There are NO seats left. With it still 25 minutes before events begin, this turnout confirms that this is one of most unique and interesting Tuesday night activities in town.

8:13 pm and the people keep coming. When I got here around 7 pm the space was quiet and still lit by daylight. It’s been transformed by story fans. I think that the First Person Arts folks might want to start looking for a larger venue, as the demand for space is rapidly overwhelming the demands of the room.

8:24 pm and it looks like people are starting to settle and get comfortable, as things are going to get started in just a few minutes. I’m mentally thanking the interior designers at L’Etage right about now for selecting these nice, padded stools. I would be significantly uncomfortable otherwise.

They just turned the stage lights on and made the final call for storytellers to sign up or hold their peace. The festivities are about to begin!

8:28 pm Tom just asked me a question that made me realize that I haven’t pointed out a crucial element in the unfolding of the story slam. While anyone is allowed to sign up for a chance to participate, the organizers will select ten storytellers by lottery. Each storyteller is limited to five minutes for their story. This way the evening does not extend indefinitely, which keeps things fresh and interesting.

8:31 pm Dan Gasiewski, Development and Operations Manager of First Person Arts, is on stage, talking about the some of the upcoming events that First Person Arts is putting on. He’s now introducing Ed Tettemer, the host of the evening. Ed takes the stage!

8:37 pm “What are all these people doing in my room?” Ed quotes Frank Sinatra. He then announces that he has the legs of a much younger man. He’s telling a story about how he sent his dog out for cigars and she did not return. He followed her paw prints into a bar, discovering her on the third stool, which is usually his stool. There were five empty sidecar glasses along the bar, which is his normal after-dinner cocktail. He addressed her, “Maisie, you’ve never done anything like this. Why, of all times would you choose to betray me like this?”

She looked up at him and said, “I never had the money before.”

He says this in way of saying, you should choose your opportunities when they come along. And we’ll be picking ten of you, so you can seize your opportunity.

8:40 pm Rules and regulations

Two sets of five storytellers, broken up in the middle for a nice little intermission. Storytellers get five minutes. Judges, if they go over, you must deduct points. Your stories must be true and you can not use notes. Judges, remember that tonight’s theme is Trespassing. You will deduct points if stories have nothing to do with the theme.

Movable Type ate my account of the first storyteller. I’ll try to recreate on the break.

Storyteller #1 (the recreation)
Stephanie

She was a music major at the University of Miami in the early 1990’s. Trumpet. (this was the point at which she announced to the room that she was a lesbian). Her friend Toni was also a music major and was an RA in one of the residence halls aka Residential Colleges. Stephanie’s therapist lives in Toni’s hall, a fact that makes her sort of jealous, as Stephanie has a bit of a crush on her therapist.

One night Toni and Stephanie go out and buy beer, without a plan as to where to drink said beer. So they break into the baseball stadium and hang out in the visiting team’s dugout. They have those one of those very sincere, serious, drunken conversations, each drinking three beers in the course of an hour. (no, they did not make out. Really). Then they play imaginary baseball. As she’s rounding third base, Stephanie realizes that she has to pee. Toni suggests home plate. Stephanie complies. At this point, Toni decides that it is time to leave.

Storyteller #2
Bob Murray

Sometime in the 1980’s, Bob and some friends were walking down an dark alley near a housing project after drinking several cases of beer and smoking some hash. They got surrounded by some guys. One guy said, “give me your chain.” Bob was wearing a gold rope chain. He tried to run and was tackled. They took his stuff. They also took his friend’s shoes. The cops came and were pressured into filing charges, which turned into countless court dates. He tried to get out of it, but then the cops sent a paddy wagon to his house to collect him. He was arrested for not participating in being a witness to a crime.

While all this was going on, his brother was released from prison. Several blocks away from where Bob was mugged, his brother went and shot some guys and got shot himself. It was chaotic and crazy.

The strangest thing about this story is that it was told by a nice looking guy where very professional looking clothing. I guess you really never should judge someone by appearances.

Storyteller #3
Kevin Lee

“I used to be in love with the idea of living in Philadelphia.” He found a lovely apartment on Pine Street that was so nice he hated to leave it. But then he met the mice. They became brazen. The commute started to wear on him. They made him start to question his choice of living here. Now he wonders if he should go someplace else. Or move back to the suburbs.

He told this story much more eloquently and in a more entertaining manner.

[One of the judges just announced that she has to pee and could she appoint a proxy judge. The request was approved].

Storyteller #4
Ingrid Weiss

The story starts ten years ago when she was living in Seattle. Her first apartment, which was very much like a box. She had a little weiner dog named Oscar at the time. He would start barking every night around 3 am. She would get up, let him out, fall asleep on the couch (leaving the door open). When she gets home from work one night, a friend calls and says, “do you have a guest?” “Nope, why?” “Because there is a man standing at your front door.”

She calls the cops and they come and say there isn’t anything they can do. This goes on for a year and a half. Finally, the cops call and say they caught him. She goes outside and stands in the footprints where he normally stands and realizes that she can see everything in her apartment. Then she glances to the side and discovers that he is standing there and they have caught the wrong guy.

The judge says, “we can’t site this man for being a Peeping Tom, but we can site him for trespassing.”

Storyteller #5
Trisha Henning

This story is about the Radisson in King of Prussia trespassed on her sanity.

Trisha mother decides that she should sleep close to the bar exam, so she makes a reservation at the Radisson. As she’s checking in, the clerk asks her if she wants to upgrade to a fantasy suite. Trisha says no, she just wants to sleep. The clerk continues to click away and says, “I’m really sorry, but all the other rooms are taken. You’re going to have to take a fantasy room. They all have a theme. ”

“Okay, what’s my theme?”

“Leather and Lace”

The room has a giant red jacuzzi, jail cell doors with chains and cuff (and stained carpet) and other assortments of kink. As she’s falling asleep, she thinks to herself “this is the sort of room in which people get killed.”

The next morning, she goes down and asks to downgrade. They apologize and say they only have the fantasy suites available. She is given the Friar Tuck room, but discovers that someone else is actually staying there. Then she’s given the King for a Day room. It was not good.

9:22 pm We’re at the halfway break right now, and the Metblog server isn’t responding to my request to submit an update. It’s slightly frustrating, because I’m always afraid that I will lose something when it takes this long to update. Ah, it just took it. All is right with the world.

9:31 pm Ed brings us back from break by starting to sing Claire Doon. He has quite the voice.

Dan brings us back, thanks the sponsors and reminds us about the raffle. The Grand Slam will have a theme of Musical Moments. Go to www.xpn.org and check out their Musical Moments submission. Ed thanks L’Etage for the scotch. Over the break, Ed did some legwork and discovered that Radisson hotel in King of Prussia offers 20 fantasy suites.

Storyteller #6
Michael O’Hara

He is four years old and is looking up at his mom. She has packed his Snoopy lunchbox. She straightened his plaid pants (it is 1978). The pants, coupled with the fact that he is a early reader, are sure to mark him as an outcast.

The bus comes, filled with hyperactive kids who have been filled with sugary cereals. Steven was a climbing wild child. He liked to climb fences. One time, when we weren’t around, he got over the fence of the dolphin swimming club all by himself. The teacher told them that he was found floating face down in the pool. She kept breaking down mid-sentence.

Years later in school they are trying to teach them how to swim. He tried to resist it but finally they made him. He likes to swim at the bottom of the pool, staying down looking for something/nothing/everything, holding his breath for as long as he can.

He and his friend Don would break into another swim club during high school. They’d swim, diving into the pool in the dark. Don died in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center.

When he had his own child, he wanted to teach him that there’s a difference between having an adventurous spirit and a reckless one. Not everyone gets to come back to tell the story.

This was an impressive and incredible story and I really wanted to stop typing as he was telling it in order to just listen. The room was absolutely silent as he spoke.

Storyteller #7
Warren Longmeyer

Tomorrow is the six month anniversary of the first and longest relationship he’s ever been in. They are going to get cheap wine and make their own Chinese food.

The honeymoon is over, they are living together and it is mid July. They have no money, no air conditioning and one cheap, occilating fan. He has allergies.

She asks him to go out and deal with his running nose.

**Putting the story on hold, he digresses to mention that he has gotten very comfortable with being naked.**

He gets up and steps outside onto the fire escape for a moment. Ready to go back in, he turns to open it and it’s locked. And he’s naked. He thinks about how tools (and clothes) are the things that separate us from chimps. This must be what it’s like to be a chimp.

He starts to mentally try to wake her up. But it didn’t work. Eventually she comes out to the bathroom window (four hours later) because she missed him. She dreamed about him and that’s what woke her up.

Storyteller #8
Ben Drennan

This story is dedicated by a kid named Lafayette, who was killed at 13th and Cambria.

It was on Thunderbird Ave. in Phoenix, AZ. From ash is life. A young kid, he likes skateboarding, video games, things that all kids like. But. However. Well. He had a history, a long fucking history that occurred west of Phoenix, on the reservation, when his cousin trespassed into his body, with a broken down plunger. It brought him into the control of the state, of 20-year-old white kids.

It’s gonna be alright.

No, it fucking isn’t.

I heard the prophet once. See what you have to see. See bones lying in the dusk. See what is upon them.

Everything is going to be alright.

I held him a therapeutic physical restraint. There’s hope in the air. There’s hope in this environment.

I was full of shit. Another kid, raised in a cage. Kids abused, beaten, fondled. I was wrong.

I saw a skinny kid, down the hall, crying in his bed. He’d seen this shit before.

This was Thunderbird Ave. in Phoenix, AZ. That shit wasn’t true. I opened my eyes and saw chaotic. A metrinome of pain. Everyone hurting each other.

This story is dedicated to a kid named Lafayette who was shot on Sunday night for no reason. He bled to death at 13th and Cambria. And there’s going to be 400 more. But what are we going to do about it?

(Another story that left me struggling to type, as it was so moving).

Storyteller #9
Elliott Ratzman

Can ya hear me out there?

I was the most famous person in town. I had just been elected student body president at Ohio State University. The campaign slogan we ran under was “with us student politics will flow like ink, semen and wine.” Goodness!

He was standing in the back of a fraternity house, wearing a three-piece-suit, long hair, a socialist pin and a huge hoop earring, watching a Republican governor candidate. Just previously to that, they had been working to disrupt the campaign stop with a parade of feminists, gay and lesbian students, campus Dems and Elliott.

They put on “Hello, my name is Sheep” name tags and walk in.

Sean Pogue is walking home from the grocery store. He campaigns for mayor years later under the slogan, “If you are stupid enough to vote, you are stupid enough to vote for me.” He walks in and puts on a college Republicans sticker.

[It’s hard to capture some of finer points of these terrific stories, as they move just too fast].

10:03 pm **Now Ed is telling the story of Frankie and Johnny.**

Storyteller #10
Lou

My wife isn’t here, is she? *Looks around*

I have trespassed. I have wandered from the straight and narrow.

My wife and I drove out to Cleveland, OH because her mother was very ill. We were going to buy her car and drive it back. Always drove Route 80 through PA. This was in March this year. It was raining. His wife tells him to be careful.

As he’s driving and it goes up in altitude. It starts to get slushy and then turns to snow. Brake lights up ahead. He’s going to hit the car in from of him, and there’s a semi tractor trailer hauling steel in front of him. If he hits the car in front of him, he’s going to push him into the truck. He swerves to the side, off the road, goes around and crosses back onto the highway in front of the car that had been in front of him.

It was a James Bond moment.

He pulls off at the next rest stop and considers spending the night there.

The next time he does this drive he looks around, looking for the place where he pulled off and all he sees is guard rails, boulders, cliff faces and drop offs. For 300 miles. So either a stretch of field from Brigadoon had appeared, or he caught the one place where something like that could have happened.

He asks two things of us. Help him thank the angels and don’t tell his wife.

Now we’re pulling the raffle winners. Amy Rosenberg from Swarthmore is the winner. She is given a toy gun and says, “But wait, I’m a Quaker.” Ed says, “it’s a consensus builder.”

And the moment we’ve been waiting for….the winner is, with a score of 29.5, Ben Drennan. He is given a Golden Ticket.

At 10:15 pm, the evening is over.

3 Comments so far

  1. Jill (unregistered) on August 28th, 2007 @ 11:48 pm

    Quote of the evening, for me:

    “I remember being told that what separates man from chimps is that man uses tools. And chimps… are naked.”

    Thanks, Marisa, for doing this!


  2. Jan (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 8:07 am

    Thanks, Marisa. As soon as I read your account of Ben Drennan’s story, I knew he was going to be declared, “Winner.” Was it the way you relayed the story, or was it the story itself? Did you think that night he was going to win?


  3. Tom Kim (unregistered) on September 3rd, 2007 @ 10:27 am

    I had just as much fun watching you slave away as I did taking in the slam. See ya at the next one!



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