Friday, February 08, 2019

Roller coasters and merry-go-rounds

Ooh, I wouldn’t do that, I thought. No, I wouldn’t do that either... Mmm… I wouldn’t say that... This is too linear and yet unclear….

She had sent me the draft, looking for an honest opinion. Would an honest opinion be possible? The 6-minute oral memoir performance was scheduled for this evening! If there are too many problems with the draft there wouldn’t be time to fix them all. In that case, better to down-play concerns? No sense worrying someone about that which cannot be fixed.

When it comes to storytelling, whether I am on the telling or receiving end, I am firmly in the subtlety camp. Not necessarily on the blog, mind you. When people send me tell-not-show writing, wanting my feedback, I am at a loss. I barely remember my tell-reading days. I can no longer really identify what works and what doesn’t. I eventually tell tellers, "Look: You have to find someone else to beta read for you; someone who gets your style. I’m not in that camp!" So my feedback did not seem to me very useful at all.

I also have no experience at six-minute memoirs (though I was approached by the event organizer last night about my possible future involvement, which indeed interests me as I have always been a natural with public speaking, even when I was a shy, awkward, teenage introvert. Which is rather mysterious I know. I was always instinctively more comfortable talking to an audience than to an individual. Weird is all I can say.

So my friend gets up and reads her piece. And I am completely hooked. The words have not been changed dramatically that I detect. And yes, I would have done it differently, but what she has done, now that it comes from her own mouth, with her own precise tones and inflections, well damn… it’s perfect!

She speaks of her roller coaster love life past, and the merry-go-round that is her stable new relationship. Like a pro, she carries the metaphor through to the inspiring end. I was hugely moved. I was in tears for six minutes. So much panic she had seemed to endure and why? She had it nailed! But what deep courage she needed in order to go through with it, both for obvious reasons and also for “political” ones. Meanwhile I continue to put off the stand-up comedy workshop even though I have several routines prepared because… well, what if I’m not funny?

I write this at the Espresso bar in Little Italy, a block from the Eloquent Potter’s home and looking forward to a major dinner-and-drink binge before he departs for Vietnam for another three month tour. This will be the last before he relocates permanently. I am armed with beer, wine, bread, cheese and a bouquet of flowers. The florists all hugged me; yes hugged me! - when I told them my friend would be leaving permanently! “Oh you must be broken-hearted!” they said. This is riotously funny. I guess when a man buys another man flowers they assume they can only be a gay couple!. It is such a warm moment for them that I just smile and tell them I will be fine! I do nothing to correct them nor to mislead them further.

The potter has made great strides learning a ridiculously difficult language and planning a new business and new life abroad, in a beautiful ancient culture.

I was once extraordinarily courageous. Then I became largely a chicken-shit again; just a wiser one. Today I am in awe of the courage of my sweet friends.

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