From the Chicago Moth Storyslam to Here’s the Story

I had the great pleasure of hitting Chicago’s Moth Story Slam last night and seeing ten fine tellers hit the stage. I stood in a swelling group of friends, some of whom I’d have never met without the Moth. I also recieved a super cool postcard to send to Elizabeth Harper of Elizabeth’s Crazy Little Thing! But…

My bag was stolen while I headed home last night. It happened up around Eastwood and Spaulding between 11:15 and 11:30pm. It was raining, I was in a hurry, and I set it down while I deconstructed and put away my bike. By time I’d realized I’d left it on the curb, it was gone. I put up a note asking if anyone had seen it, I received a call this morning saying, “Yeah, I totally saw someone steal your bag when you left. Sorry.”

So I just want to throw out to anyone who’s email I snagged and subsequently lost. I’m sorry, please write to me here! I’m not forgetting you. I do want to swap stories, pictures, go to your events and be friendly in the future. Super duper sorry for losing the story that was written for me. My carelessness with it was not intentional.

One of the readers, Lawrence Woods, told a chilling tale of how, while working in Alabama for the ACLU, he happened across a marked situation of hypocrisy. Colleagues of his, ones who’d done much work in the trenches for civil rights, found themselves unable to make a stand against a restaurant with clear and blatant racist policies. It seemed there inaction was for fear of losing out on its barbecued delicacies.

He ended it saying, “But I can’t imagine going to a place that discriminates against blacks just because the food is so good. On the other hand, I got kicked out of Jake’s before I could try the barbecue. So who knows?”

I don’t believe he meant this to mean the steak would have persuaded him otherwise. Perhaps rather, it was meant to be a warning to himself, and to us in the audience to avoid the near temptations. The theme for the night was food, and I’d seen Lawrence tell before, so I knew he had other food tales he could have spoken about. I believe he told this story because it was one that resonated with him as the right one to tell that night. I think he was right, from where I stood it fit well.

It’s the one that I took home with me anyway. And it’s a theme that’s been on my mind lately. The theme of the Milgram Experiment, the theme were when we are put to the test, we fail. When I first heard of that experiment and others like it, I thought to myself, “I hope I wouldn’t do that, I should steel myself against doing immoral things just because someone told me it was okay, or it was easy.” As a high schooler I’d think about scenarios where authority figures asked me to do awful things, and I would visualize saying no.

When the teller talked about his colleagues he didn’t do so scornfully. He didn’t come across as judgmental or righteously indignant. He sounded instead, confused, a little sad for the human weakness he’d witnessed among otherwise strong friends. And to my ear, perhaps because it was a thing already on my mind, his last line, “So who knows?” sounded a little frightened. As though he wondered if under other circumstances he’d have not taken the small stand he did.

I liked this story because it reminded me that we all make mistakes, we all have moral failings, and given certain circumstances, even those of us who rally and steel up… well there are still many moments where we aren’t going to come out with our moral compass pointing north. It reminded me that I’m not better than anyone. I don’t know if that’s a theme the general audience walked away with, but that’s a theme I need to hear from time to time, and I’m glad to have heard it last night.

Thanks Mr. Woods.

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    • Dan on September 1, 2011 at 2:08 am
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    I totally blanked on that teller’s name and failed to google it up. I believe it’s Lawrence something, but if someone could verify that for me, I’d fix it in the above.

    Can’t wait to see everyone sept 14th and 17th!

    • Lawrence Wood on September 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm
    • Reply

    Jenifer Hixson, who’s a Senior Producer for The Moth in NY, just sent me an e-mail with a link to your article.
    I’m the guy who told the story about getting kicked out of Jake’s Fish Camp because I went there with a black woman.

    Thanks for the nice write-up. I’m glad you liked the story and understood that I wasn’t trying to judge my colleagues (both of whom are friends). They’re incredible attorneys who, throughout their long careers as civil rights attorneys and poverty lawyers, have helped literally thousands of poor people obtain some measure of justice, and they shouldn’t be remembered as the guys who enjoyed barbecue at an establishment that discriminated against blacks. That’s why I didn’t mention their names.

    By the way, I think the last lines of my story were, “But I can’t imagine going to a place that discriminates against blacks just because the food is so good. On the other hand, I got kicked out of Jake’s before I could try the barbecue. So who knows?”

    • Dan on September 1, 2011 at 6:12 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks, I will edit accordingly! One of the things that got ganked with my bag was the notes from the show, still surprised I blanked on your name.

    • Bridget on September 4, 2011 at 10:43 pm
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    Sorry about your bag. That totally sucks. I hope whomever stole it comes to their senses. (I put a hex on the unknown stranger who recently stole my beloved bicycle. It totally helped me get rid of the frustration & anger. I also posted posters where it was stolen: just so the thief knew about the hex & that it gets removed when the bike gets returned or I receive an apology.)

      • Dan on September 5, 2011 at 3:25 am
      • Reply

      Thanks Bridget, I’m frustrated, but for all the cool stuff I lost, and the financial burden getting it back will be — I didn’t loose that much stuff that’s irreplaceable. The story written for me by a friendly Moth attendee, a lot of unbacked up photos from my youth till now, notebooks that I’d been filling periodically since college with sketches and notes on shows I’ve seen, stories I want to write. A couple podcasts I’d recorded for myself. But I think that’s it. Oh, D&D dice I’ve had since I was like 14. That’s stuff, but it’s sentimental too me.

      When I was younger, my mother had something stolen from her and her first response was to say, “They didn’t steal it. I gave it to them. I wouldn’t want the sin of stealing to be on their soul.”

      I’m trying to take that route about the whole thing. It gives me some pleasure to think they might be rooting through the odds and ends and thinking “who is this guy!” There were tons of Here’s the Story postcards.

      Maybe they’ll show up to the show!

    • Bridget on September 5, 2011 at 8:08 pm
    • Reply

    That’s great you can take that view. I found it didn’t work for me. There are certain ethical codes that are universal & whomever stole your bag crossed the line & knows it.
    One word: Kharma.
    I feel your pain. I found I had to let it out rather than carrying it & a hexing spell seems to work for me.
    Make sure you find yours cuz if the “shadow self” isn’t addressed it can be hell:)

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