Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Are the Scars Out Tonight?

Scars have the strange power to remind us our past is real.

So wrote Carmac McCarthy about the theme of tonight's Secretly Y'All, Tell Me a Story at Balliceaux: scars.

Conspicuously absent was one of Richmond's finest, an undoubtedly scarred person himself, GWAR musician Dave Brockie, who has twice been part of the evening's storytelling lineup.

His untimely death yesterday was the subject on everyone's mind and as we paid our cover fee to get in, the doorman wrote "RIPD" on the back of each person's hand instead of the usual symbol.

Rest in peace, Dave Brockie.

While I'd been at both the Secretly Y'All events where he told a tale, my favorite memory was a night he shared with no other storytellers, a night that was part travelogue, part military history and pure Dave Brockie, "To the Volga and Back," here.

Somehow he'd gotten wind of my post the next day and tweeted it to his adoring fans all over the world. No kidding, my blog had over 1,000 hits on that post and they came from as far away as Russia, England and the Philippines.

Such was the power of Dave Brockie. I have no doubt he could have come up with all kinds of stories tonight to suit the theme of scars.

Tonight's evening of tale telling began with Donna's "Fear and Trust" about a serial killer in the neighborhood in which she'd lived as a teenager, back before such things were commonplace.

As the neighborhood and her friends got progressively more terrified, a good friend of hers was arrested for the crimes.

And while she visited him in prison (the old Spring Street penitentiary), eventually she realized that he was a very bad man. "I hope he never gets parole," she concluded.

Margaret's story, "Tragic Places, Sacred Spaces" was much worse because so many bad things happened to her to scar her.

At age 12, one man exposed himself to her, another time when she was hitchhiking (it was the '70s, after all), a carload of guys tried to take her off into the woods. A businessman who picked her up tried to do the same.

She cited her ability to tell a lie as if it were the truth as having saved her life.

"The Five Stages of Grief aka Being a Nurse" was told by Jay Michael, an ICU nurse who compared the stages of grief to the experience of adjusting to nursing.

"I had a sadist in my family who told me I should be a nurse," he quipped before explaining "the unique things male nurses do."

He finished with a story of caring for his dying grandfather whom, when he said, "Grandpa, I love you," heard back from Grandpa, "I'm not surprised.

Will, who does the "12 Fluid Ounces" show on WRIR told the story of going to the grocery store to get stuff for a Superbowl party.

The only qualifications he and his new wife had for entertaining on the high holy day of football were, "She could make chili and I could drink beer."

After finally procuring ground turkey, a six pack and ice, he tore through the parking lot "in Superman mode" flying on his grocery cart, which upended, pinning his hands under it and dragging them long enough on the street to scrape away the skin down to the bone.

There was a collective groan from the audience as he described his bloody digits.

The story of a 15-year old learning to drive on his parents' country property was told by Mark and titled, "A Whale Tail."

Seems that once he'd learned to peel out and mastered the "fish tail" in his parents' 1992 Ford Escort station wagon, he set out to one-up himself.

Putting on his "Street Racer" persona, he proceeded to "put on something heavy like Dave Matthews" and peel wheel up a dirt hill, terrifying himself and barely getting an acknowledgement from his young cousin in the passenger seat.

WRIR showed up again in the form of Shannon's "Are You Alright" story about his quest to get to the Ghost of Pop show at Gallery 5 in 2008.

His bike lights were missing (possibly stolen by roommates) but he set out anyway, running into a car's bumper causing his tire to explode and Shannon to go sailing into the car and up against the windshield.

Miraculously, despite the throwing and rolling and both he and his bike hitting the glass, he escaped relatively unscathed.

But it did provide that moment when he realized, "that could have been it," only further emphasized when his father died late last year. "Mortality is not this infinite thing," Shannon concluded.

Ian's story was called "Stimulant" and he had the most curious delivery. Speaking in a deep voiced monotone and never really looking at the audience, his tale was told in a decidedly literary way that was hysterical.

It was on his first sandbar at Virginia beach that he realized there was a jellyfish down his bathing suit and began screaming. When his Dad realized what it was, he began clutching at the jellyfish, trying to pull it out and away.

He said it must have looked like a lot of emphasis on a child's crotch in the ocean.

From there he told us about a trip to Busch Gardens with his aunt when he was an acne-ridden 15-year old. "I have a latent white trash gene and my aunt was only six years older than me."

It took a while for the laughter to die down on that one.

The story involved riding a tram with a "douchebag of a guy" across from them trying to hit on his aunt until Ian indicated she was his.

He didn't go so far as to put his arm around her to prove it because "that would have been creepy."

After an overly long intermission where half the crowd left, we started the second half of tonight's loaded theme.

Wendy's was the first name drawn out of the hat and she wanted to make sure we knew that, "As soon as you push your face out of a vagina, you're scarred. Or as soon as you're cut out, you're scarred."

She proudly told us about all her scars obtained as an accident-prone kid with a bald, cancerous grandmother who had no time or patience for sissies.

Her conclusion? "America would be better off if we all stopped bitching about everything." The room erupted in cheers. Even all the bitchers cheered. "Brag about your scars."

I think that's a good point. I have a close friend who had heart surgery and the long scar across her chest is a point of pride. My mother always claimed that stretch marks and C-section scars were badges of honor.

Joseph was called to tell a story called "Lessons in Loss and Recovery" and I recognized him, having just met him in the bathroom line at intermission.

There, he'd suggested that there ought to be a contest at these events to see who peed the fastest. I assured him I'd win and on exiting the bathroom moments after entering, he'd deferentially acknowledged as much.

Now here he was telling us about a road trip home at 3 a.m. with his boyfriend, trying to avoid deer running across the road.

When he saw one off to the side, he'd swerved, over-corrected and ended up spinning out, sending them into the guard rail and the couple's dog flying into the front seat.

When the two men exited the car, the dog took off, evidently terrified at his owner's driving skills.

They searched in the darkness for the pooch and finally gave up. Back home, they contacted a missing dog Facebook page (which he plugged for others who might need it) with no results.
By two weeks after the crash, they were coming to terms with never finding their dog again.

"We were showering together one morning," Joseph went on, "Cause that's what you do when you have a lover..." and the room began applauding and cheering that sentiment, "And we got a call from a lady saying she had our dog."

Happily, Lassie came home.

When Chris' name got called, he came up to tell "Good Pain," asking the crowd if anyone kayaked or went white water rafting. More than a few hands went up.

"Seen any black people doing that?" the black Chris asked. Not so much.

He told the story of a (white) friend who suggested they do the Gali festival together, which he described as "class V rapids, a real shit show. It doesn't hit me right away that I'm the only black person there."

Describing the "festival" as "20 seconds in the water and the first drop is 12 feet," he explained that the main goal is to stay in the raft.

"Now we're not drinking or taking drugs, this is all adrenaline and crazy white man stuff," he said to much laughter. His friend decides to flip the raft, causing the girlfriends to go flying into the water followed by the menfolk.

When it happens a second time, not everyone flies out, but he's one of the ones who does, emerging with a broken off tooth and two broken fingers from trying to hold on to the raft's t-strip.

Justifiably, he blamed it all on crazy white men.

Dustin told the last story about his job as a mental health counselor and some of the scarred kids he's worked with. Badly scarred kids who punch cinder block walls until they splinter the bones in their hand. Truly sad stuff,

Wendy was right. We're all scarred in one way or another and sometimes you can see people's scars and sometimes they're hidden.

But it was the missing storyteller who provided the most touching and significant reminder tonight.

Mortality is not this infinite thing. RIPD.

1 comment:

  1. Damn straight.

    Great reporting of an evening I wouldn't of missed, if I weren't teaching.