|ingredient of the week: blue cornmeal|
Yesterday, I fixed a ticket at the police station, mailed a present to Owen’s “friend who is a girl” in Wausau, Wisconsin, bought groceries, unloaded groceries, received a press release suggesting I sample and write about camel’s milk (!), turned in a story I wrote about ramen restaurants, inspected the chicken coop for mites (still there), and sewed a button on one of Mark’s shirts. I also made a batch of tofu that wouldn’t coagulate and decided to change the ingredient of the week from soybeans to the blue cornmeal I brought home from Santa Fe last spring. Didn’t have a choice.
I was feeling glum (tofu, mites) when I picked up my sister and we headed off to an open mike storytelling event, part of a long-running San Francisco series called Porchlight. Dark, pleasantly and intentionally grungy bar in the Tenderloin. Hot peanuts and shells all over the floor. I ordered a diet Coke because I was driving, though I could have gotten away with a glass of beer. As I said to Justine, “Too apathetic even to drink.”
Impossible to be apathetic about the storytelling, though. I didn’t know what to expect and the event was both wildly uneven and completely magical. From the minute the first guy started talking, I was rapt. I think everyone was. These stories had the rough edges of real life and real feeling that have been sanded off almost everything you see on TV or in a movie theater. One big, deadpan guy in his 50s told of losing his wife and trying to find romantic partners on Tinder. A wild-eyed younger, man spoke about kicking drugs in his late 30s, meeting a woman, and timing their first kiss to the lyrics of Don’t Stop Believin’. A girl shared her tale of a bad crush. A kid told of the night when he bought a prostitute a donut.
If you’ve been to storytelling events, you probably already know this, but there’s a primal satisfaction in listening to ordinary live humans tell their unmediated stories. It took me by surprise. Porchlight doesn’t need my plug, but if you’re ever in San Francisco and the stars align, give it a try.
This morning I picked up the bag of blue cornmeal and said to Owen, “Tomorrow we’re having blue cornmeal pancakes.”
He said, “Maybe you are.”