Sunday, November 13, 2016


To my conservative loved ones: why I wear a safety pin.

My safety pin isn't a protest against the president elect being chosen for office.  I accept that he is my president, and while I find many things he's said alarming, I will also be open to positive changes if he makes them.  I also take responsibility for holding him accountable for everything he does in office.

My safety pin is not political.  I wear my safety pin to show that I am safe for people who are afraid.

I wear it to show that if you are trans and afraid to hit the bathroom, I will go with you, no questions asked.  If you are being bullied, for any reason, I will stand up for you; I'm not the semi-badass I used to be but I will speak up, and I will object to anyone harassing or abusing you.  This includes women who are breastfeeding, people of every complexion, trans and LGBTQ community, disabled people, elderly people, people wearing hijabs or sikh turbans or kippahs or dreadlocks or Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirts.

And to my conservative friends, it might seem counter intuitive right now, but it would be beautiful if you were to decide to wear one as well.  And there are good reasons for it.

Most people who voted for Trump, as I understand it, did not vote for his hate, but in spite of it.  So you could wear a Trump button AND a safety pin.  It would mean you stand by your decision, but you didn't go along with the hateful rhetoric.  It would probably also start some interesting conversations.

If the numbers I've read are accurate. most people in America believe in reproductive rights, in LGBTQ rights, are not racist, and don't want to see their friends and family or neighbors put on registries or deported or see women being treated disrespectfully.  MOST people.  So if you wear a safety pin, you can still be conservative and stand against people being singled out and made more vulnerable to hate crimes.  To stand against hate could unite us all.

I don't wear my safety pin to oppose your politics.  I wear it to show that I support fairness and kindness.  I know many people who are conservative who support fairness and kindness, too.  If you don't, I am still going to assume that you do.  I make a practice of assumption of good intent.

My intent is not to challenge or degrade you, but to support others.  That's why I'm wearing it.

I want everyone to be safe.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How To Listen To A Story

Listening is a bold adventure.  And it's rigorous.  Prepare.

Stand or sit calmly before the teller of the story.

Check your body.  Are your hands clenched? Unclench them.  Are your shoulders climbing toward your ears?  Let them sink back down.  Is your mouth tight?  Take a deep breath and relax your mouth. If your arms are folded over your chest, let them hang or rest naturally.

Face the teller.  Look into the teller's eyes.

Do not interrupt the teller.  Stick with them until they have finished.

Take another deep breath, and allow your own thoughts to settle.  They will wait; you can come back to them later.  Many thoughts may pop up again while the teller is telling the story; set them aside again.  They will be there later.

Put all of your attention on the teller.  Allow yourself to sink into this attentive state as you would a movie or a book.  Keep your attention on the teller.  Don't look around the room or at your phone or at other people or go to work on your hangnail.  Keep your focus on them and only them.

Watch the teller's expressions and movements as well as hearing the words.  Open your heart as you listen.  Be ready to learn.  Be ready to understand.  Be ready to be transformed.

Listening is not for the faint of heart.  What you come to hear, to empathize with, to understand might change you.  It might make you sad or uncomfortable or angry.  Try to set your reactions aside and keep listening.

Try to see the story from the teller's point of view and experience their experience.  This is the magic of story.  This is how we can live many lives in one life.  This is humanity's great gift.

If you are unclear, ask the teller to clarify or repeat.  If you are overwhelmed after you've heard at least most of the story and are unable to hear anymore, tell them you are feeling overwhelmed and you need to think about what they've said.  If you feel jolted from your center, sad, or otherwise out of sorts, tell them you need time to think about what they've said.

Thank the teller for sharing the story with you.

Take some time to allow the story to sink into your mind and heart.

Then, tell your own.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

RMS Storytelling Festival

Elder storytellers are cultural curators and consummate performers.  They know ridiculous amounts of information and they know how to tell you about it all and make you want to hear more.  If you are lucky, these masters of the craft will also drop some hints on their methods of mastery as well.

While sitting for altogether around 6 hours can be hard on the body and rigorous on the attention span, it's rewarding to all the pleasure centers in the brain.  Stories broaden the world view, deepen empathy and create social connection as well as more density in our own neural connections.  Stories are fertilizer for the mind and for our humanity; through stories we know ourselves better and appreciate each other more profoundly.  Through stories we become more of who and what we are.

A day spent studying and hearing stories always leaves me reeling for a few days afterward, buzzing like I've swallowed a massive cup of espresso and CBD: euphoric, inspired and hungry for more stories.

Mark Lee Gardner, an award-winning musician, author and storyteller, dropped a bomb of inspiration on me with a single metaphor about perfume. As a singer of cowboy songs and many other genres of folk music (in fact, probably ALL of them), he condenses old ballads to a few verses. He does this because, (I paraphrase) "Like perfume, condensing the old ballads concentrates the story." And like perfume, the condensed story is a more potent way to tell. The meaning permeates; with less volume you make more impact.

I've never heard a better metaphor, or argument, for brevity.

Priscilla Queen, a descendant of western pioneers who tells true tales from her grandmothers’ adventures in 1800s Arizona Territory taught me, through her technique, about using detail as dynamic.  She crafts her stories around actual events by grounding the listener in time and place, skipping past decades in some instances, but in between these time-travel jumps she relates lavish detail of setting and lifestyle, the smells and tastes and emotions of her true-life characters in those settings.  I had never understood how detail can be used as a dynamic, so I'll be stumbling in circles for a few days with this new knowledge.

Jim Weglarz, who calls himself a "history buff" (I'd say more like Historian, though I'm sure he's clear on the definitions) is president of Historic Douglas County; he recreates local legendary figures, telling their early Colorado stories.  Jim took the mic with an introductory apology about "Not being a storyteller like other folks." at the event, but his technique is astonishing.  He begins by telling a series of historical facts, but as he builds momentum he links these happenings very intuitively.  So even as he's listing names, locations, and dates, he draws the audience in with a hunger to hear the connecting events.  In a story you want to know what happens next. Jim knows what happens next, and knows how to make you want it.  He's masterful in a unique way.

 I'll still be buzzing for several days, but the lasting effect is always the same from great performances like this:  WANT.  MORE.  STORIES.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Firsts on Mabon

A lot of firsts have come along this week:

My first check for storytelling.
First time I've heard a live living history.
First time I've heard tall tales and learned about telling them.
First time I may have to say "NO" to a VO. first entry from my writing shed...this one. 

In light of these changes and the fact that today is Mabon, I'll be revamping this blog.  In the coming weeks I'll be redesigning it and also refocusing my entries.

My purpose will expand.  I'll be writing about telling stories, stories on the air, voice overs and about writing itself, in a more balanced and focused way.

Mabon, after a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance.

For me, oral storytelling strikes a new balance.  It gives me a performing art that is live, connects me to a community of people I admire and immerses me in a craft I am truly, deeply, madly in love with.  It's the root of all other storytelling, as well.  It expands and builds on my skills as an announcer and as a writer.  It feeds the deepest ME.

I've begun to grow into the person I actually am.  This blog will better reflect that.

Friday, April 1, 2016

I Take Thee, Radio...

A radio show is not a job.  It is not even a lifestyle.  It is a committed relationship.

Of course, I do have a life outside of radio.  Not just my relationships but also writing books, telling stories and growing food; these are not flimsy pursuits.  They are serious crafts that require constant, devoted practice over a long period of time if you want to grow in them.

But radio is more than a serious craft; it's both a higher calling and a commitment.  A radio show is like a marriage.

It's part of every thought you process every day, and pretty much all day.  Your audience is your constant companion.  You are always thinking about what they care about, what worries them, what makes them laugh, what matters to them-and all of those things matter to you.  Every useful thing, every tidbit of information, every humorous insight, every awareness gets stashed in a gigantic folder-not just in your brain's desktop but in your very SOUL. Every thing that happens to you will have some part in the delivery, will be some element of what you impart.

Certain "experts" have said that radio is "real life plus 10%", and while I don't think you can put a metric on it, there is some truth in the statement.  Your word selections and delivery have to be supernaturally clear, fresh, concise and relevant make it past the microphone, the distance and the radio itself to the busy, multi-tasking listener.  To make a real connection through all those wires-and distractions-requires sheaves of preparation, clear intent and utter emotional nakedness.  It's the kind of emotional nakedness that you display to your closest friend at three in the morning and your romantic partner after physical connection-but even just a little more intense.

If you are not emotionally naked, your listeners will hear it.  They know when you're lazily throwing words out, when you have not gathered and processed your thoughts, and when you don't really mean it.  They know your fears, insincerities and mistakes better than you do.  They often hear what you can't hear in yourself.  This, like a marriage, is both terrifying and reassuring.  Your listeners can hurt your feelings with the truth-but they also keep you at your best.

I read this quote once:  "Appreciate the beauty and power of your radio show.  You never know when it will end or if it may be your last,".  And in that way, it's also like a promise to love and cherish.  There is no way to enter into it with safety.  There are no parachutes.  There isn't even a prenup.  When your radio gig dies (as all relationships do eventually) you will be devastated, ruined; you will have to pick yourself up and start all over again.  There is no way to avoid this. 

When you lose a radio show you lose income, purpose, connection, a place to practice your craft and, most grievously, your audience.  You sign up for every new radio show knowing this.  As Louis CK says about getting a puppy, a radio show is "a ticket to sorrow,".  And still your soul makes its vows, your heart agrees that it's worth it, and your entire life becomes a service of your show.

"From this day forward..."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hugging The Cactus

I now know what it is to relive junior high school in an adult workplace.

At least in radio I've had some allies, and you can't rewrite the Arbitrons. 

But WOW it's amazing in the work world when you are over 50.  The most common jab is a little jab...and there are lots of them.  Condescensions, insults, mocks, up-and-down stares...the jabs run the full gamut of Mean Girl artillery.

They're called microaggressions, and they add up.  A jab now and again is one thing, but a battery of them will bring your mood down, even when you've done yoga for a half hour and meditation for another half hour and gotten enough sleep and are in a decent mood when you get to work.

They are unavoidable.  The people who are younger than you are and know more than you do have the golden opportunity to look down upon an "authority figure" and to even the score for every parental wrong, every slight by a teacher, every need unmet by an administrator or judge or case worker, and to relish the jabs.  And we, who are by definition more mature, must grin and bear it or be cast as "unfit" for the culture.

Humans aren't always mean, but competition drives most humans to mean, predatory moments.  I've already seen the winners from my class start spitting down from the top; they can't muster the grace to raise up their team mates, because the craving to be better-than is just too powerful.

Another aspect of being an older worker is invisibility, and I mean as a sentient BEING.  Younger superiors want to spill every hideously boring detail of themselves to you regularly, but don't hold your breath for them to ask about you in any way.  You are there to serve, is the subtext.  You are there to serve younger egos-it's somehow considered your function to meet their psychological needs, in addition to performing your duties.  And if you happen to do that well, there will be a line for your advice.  If you don't do well, the jabs and jokes fly freely.

Why the fuck should I stay silent on this?  Because I need the job?  I'm applying officially and unofficially for more radio jobs now.  I wanted a new skill, and I still do, but why subject yourself to psychological BRUTALITY?  Well, mainly because it is pretty brutal out there.  It's not easy to find a work culture of productivity NOT based on competition-so it's going to get mean and nasty at some point.

Still, I've got less than 10 years before social security kicks in, unless the robber barons in the Federal Reserve skim it all off the top by then.  So why dive into a shark tank?  Which also begs the question, is the whole fucking world a shark tank now?

No, of course not.  No one is here to take big bites out of you.  Just little jabs.  And you have to be magnanimous about it.

You have to hug the cactus.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Machiavellian Capitalism

This (name left out to protect ME) class places an enormous emphasis on how great they are to work for.  It's supposed to be very rewarding, because:

1.  This is not a shark tank.  Don't be a jerk.  We are nice to each other here.
2.  This job is really about You.  The people around you care about your personal minutia.
3.  This is not a job where you continually lie to customers.  In this job you help customers (except for those important instances in which you lie).  Because of how we treat each other at work, we give the best "customer experience" in the business.  The culture permeates the work.
4.   It's not openly stated, but is forever implied, that Air BnB is part of the future.
5.  You can move up here, and FAST.

I actually believe #3 and #4.

I believe that when we stop being codependents in a dysfunctional relationship with work itself, then workers won't be the easily exploitable resource we have been before.  If people can't be made to tear each other to shreds competing for jobs, then you can't run a shark tank.  People might jump in the water, but they will not swim in circles for you if they've decided not to. In this way Millennials, so infamous for their "lack of work ethic", are in my opinion are the solution to the shark tank.

But this is still capitalism.  We are still being exploited.  The pay is 12.00 an hour, which is barely above food stamp territory.  It's the method of exploitation that's new.

We're exploited by being "happy at work".

This company understands why people "rage-quit".  A number of people in my class have done just that.  They've rage quit jobs at banks and nursing homes and retail and day care, and it's always the same punch line: "And for minimum wage!".  The stories begin with tales of how poorly the business is run, escalate into stories of abuse at the hands of bad managers, and then end with the final insult, minimum wage.

This company was founded and is run by educated entrepreneurs.  They are not working class guys.  But they found themselves in an impossible financial situation and entrepreneured themselves out of it by being very resourceful.

It's great capitalism, in that sense.  It's just tough for me in class.

We spend about 1/4 to 1/3 of class time on "ice breakers" and Sal and on everyone's personal minutia.  I know a lot more about Sal and my classmates than I know about the material.  Rather than running scenarios all day, we yak about our dumb shit.  Well, it wasn't yakking yesterday-yesterday it got to the point of YELLING.

My ears were buzzing when I got home.  In fact, they still are hours later.

Yes, I'm the oldest person in the class.  So my ears will buzz when other's ears won't.  And I don't actually HAVE ADD, unlike everyone else in the class, so it's very difficult for me to think when there's blasting music and people talking.

I'm soldiering through.  It really can be best described that way.  This class wears on my patience horrifically.  We aren't being drilled with the material.  And yet, I will be responsible for knowing it.

Supposedly, there's a ton of support.  But we need to show resourcefulness.  Well, I can do that.  I just need a lot more time and practice with the material than the rest of the class does.

I'm still in the fight.  I mean, what choice do I have?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The New Fight

It is very difficult for an auditory learner (not visual, as most people seem to be) to learn in the atmosphere I've thrown myself into.

Stress is not a good learning aid, though bastions of teachers with Little Napoleon syndrome and drill sergeants, from present day all the back to the Spartans, would disagree.  We know better now. The science is clear: stress burdens the brain and makes learning harder.

My instructor of last week would love this, particularly in my case.

From the first moment I said Hello to him I noticed a marked change in his demeanor. When he speaks only to me he never makes eye contact.  He turns his face, and nearly his whole body, in the opposite direction.  His voice sinks to inaudible levels.  Sullen fumes of contempt and resentment waft in my direction.  I've had people respond to me this way before at first sight, especially since I entered my fifth decade on Earth.  And it is commonly men under 30, and frequently men who aren't Caucasian.  NO idea why, but I make special efforts to make these people as comfortable around me as possible.  But sometimes they are just walled-up in my direction.

It happens.  It's a part of the human condition, even if it's a creepy, persistent discomfort during the 9-hour-long training days. I can deal.  I'll just be very kind and open and respectful.

There is a lot to learn during training, and especially for me.  I come from voice tracking and sound editing platforms, and I have raging dyscalculia.  It's going to take me more time and effort than the majority of the 20-somethings in the class who worked in banks and such.  I'm ready to work my ass off.  I'm ready to learn.

But learning isn't the priority for my instructor, though you might imagine that.

Like so many who've never had a captive audience, he is luxuriating in our attention like a hog in mud.  At the pinnacle of his performances for the week he was standing on a chair, hands splayed on his puffed-up chest, saying (with the questioning, up-ended sentences so prevalent among those who study reality shows to learn social and moral codes):

"I smell so good?  Right?  Like, when I'm in the elevator?  Like when I'm in there, right?  And I'm like, in the elevator and some girl walks in and she like goes, "Like, oh my god, you smell so good?  And it's like, so awkward!"

I've clocked his narcissistic diatribes at a maximum of 40 minutes.

When another instructor enters the room he's back to business, cramming in massive amounts of material, from safety protocols and admin search methods to international currency conversion rates at the end of the day when we are tired and worried.  I especially am worried.

But like a Spartan, I fight back when I'm held down.  I arrive a half-hour early to study before class starts.  I take copious notes.  I meditate.

While I'm not exactly grateful for the abuse I endured for decades in radio, it has taught me about my neural capacity.  I will endure this guy.  Better dickheads than he have tried and failed.  I will learn how to do this job, despite his efforts to the contrary.

It's not my first battle.  It's just a new one.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Letting Go

When you break up with a person or a job, you let go of a lot of dreams.  Things that could have been swim around your head around like little half-visible nightmares.  That's what I'm feeling about radio.

Radio will go through a Renaissance.  It will come back as a live and local media form, rejuvenated, better than ever.  But for now it's moored in stagnant water like a ghost ship.  It's all but dead.  There won't be another salary for me in the next few years.  And even if there were, I wouldn't want it.

I proved everything I needed to prove.  I need to move on with my life.

When people judge me on first appearance, they see age and weight first.  They don't see the dedication, the sacrifices or the heartbreak.  And I have to let it all go.

The dreams of really being myself on the air, of actual success, monetary or otherwise, the dreams of writing my own ticket-I need to wave goodbye to them.

I'm starting over.  I've been ready to do this for a long time, but it is still terrifying.  It's still heart breaking.  There will still be a grieving process.

I'll be working a lot harder than I have in a long time, probably.  I know that all I've learned will serve me on e way or the other.  And I'm already wanting to do VO again.  That is very possible.  I have the equipment and I know what I'm doing.  So it's a possible side-business.  I might actually have the desire and energy to do it now, even with the limited market.  I'm ready to consider that.

But is leaving my life.  It's a mixture of fear and relief.