A Quick Reflection on Chicago’s Story Club


Uncommon Ground, what a name for a place that holds readings and folk singers in its tiny alcove corner heart; it is of course a coffee shop and as such I suppose “uncommon” is being used as a differentiator.

Their grounds are no squelch, popper, or common beans – rather, they serve rarefied coffee. Still, standing outside, my popped tire bicycle racked up, the sign reading “Uncommon Ground” strikes me funny enough to use as a first line here.

Story Club, not to be confused with Write Club, is hosted by Dana Norris.


I’d seen her before at the Moth. The first story I remember hearing Dana tell was one of being courted by an older man. An older boy, I suppose. She was in the 16-18 range where dating becomes an awkwardly walked rope as the culturally accepted norms of who is allowed to find you attractive greatly shifts from year to year, person to person. A time when women straddle all sorts of uncommon ground, or maybe we all do all the time.

Which I think was Janna’s tale, or at least a way of looking at it. She’d written a limning to a story I’d heard her tell before. (At least parts of.) She’d spent days on a train, riding with magical compatriots, long lovers, mothers with squadrons of children, broken men rejuvenating. Trains, slinking iron dragons, they push along and through the terrain. They don’t stop for tumbleweeds or mountains, only other dragons. Like wizards we reside inside their bellies. Over long trips, these beasts of travel bound burden—both modern and somehow a call back to a time before even our parent’s remembering—foster communities unlike any other mode of transportation.

And though I think there are common ground issues that draw people to respective transportation modes, trains, busses, plains, they also work as places of straddling uncommon ground. When you ride the Greyhound or the Megabus, you are a MegaBus person. Yet still yourself too.

There was a line where she said something to the effect of, “On trains you have nothing better to do but sit and listen and tell stories to each other,” and then she added, “except of course that’s always the case isn’t it? That we have nothing better to do than listen to each other. It’s just that on trains, you realize it and accept it more readily.”

God, how that line hit me. I think it’s true. I hope it’s true, that there is nothing better to do in this life than to connect with others, and to find that common ground amongst the uncommon.

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  1. […] always welcome, but I was specially invited to this show by Kim Morris. I first heard her tell at Story Club. She read a brutal piece about the loss of a friend. Subsequently we’ve been running into […]

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