From P-Town… My First Moth

1. A few people actually like to be an hour early for things. 2. Allison and Blake are glad The Moth is back in Portland. 3. The Moth makes Lauren and Veronica laugh and cry and sometimes wish the stories they hear were their stories, too.

Ophira Eisenberg hosted the third annual Moth at the Schnitz this week, which featured storytellers Jillian Lauren, Dori Samadzai Bonner, Satori Shakoor, Adam Wade, and Kerry Cohen.

I screwed-up on the start time by about an hour, so Dena Rash Guzman and I showed up to a pretty-much empty Schnitz. We headed to the bar area for more information and drinks while we planned our next move. I would’ve been more in favor of chugging our drinks and heading next door to the Heathman for a slower one if I hadn’t already gone to a happy hour and had some tea while getting ready. Plus, I was kind of curious about who shows up an hour early on purpose.

1. Jessica Holmes, who runs Story Story Night in Boise, and Amanda Peacher, who works for OPB, with Isolde Raftery. 2. Mel Wells, writer and recent storyteller at Portland’s StorySLAM; Dena Rash Guzman, Founding Editor of Unshod Quills; Tammy Lynne Stoner, Fiction Editor for Gertrude Press; and Karena Stoner.

Turns out, it’s mostly people who set up booths and need to stick around. As the crowd thickened and the event start time became less distant, I saw plenty of couples, some pairs of besties, and not too many groups. I was came up short on my “group of dudes” photo goal, but I did capture the elusive mother and son duo.

Eisenberg held the night together with intros and personal stories, as different storytellers took turns bringing their own pace and energy to the mic.

Wade led-off with a very sweet story about taking his aunt and grandma out on Saturday nights while he was in high school. He’s a careful storyteller who takes time to enjoy the sound of words and reflect on moments, like watching The Comish with his ladies, who wore slippers made of yarn and saw him as he wanted to be seen.

1. Lots of people paired off. I could not find a group of dudes getting their Moth on. 2. Connor with his mother, Kyle. How cute is that? 3. Adam Wade, eighteen time StorySLAM winner and two-time GrandSLAM Champion at The Moth.

Cohen, who replaced a flu-stricken Cheryl Strayed, started with two unused tickets to Hawaii. We moved in with a bass player and went to the airport with him. We watched him sweat through security and eventually get busted for carrying weed. She took us all with her, until she made a decision that this guy and Hawaii wasn’t what she wanted or needed in her life. I think that’s the point when I realized that I forgot to take notes while she talked, simply because she was so engaging.

I listened to Bonner’s dates and details, rationally putting together the time frame and empathizing rather poorly to her experience of being smuggled from Afghanistan to the United States, with a stop-over in Thailand. By the time she hugged the flag on American soil, I realized that, with a sense of relief, she was safe and therefore I could process the earlier depths of hardship. I wondered if she had done the same thing, in order to persevere.

1. This demure statue is just a little too close to the booze line to avoid getting her picture taken. 2. Gideon Freudmann, looping through a composition as the final few found their seats.

As I listened to Shakoor, I imagined sitting next to her while riding a bus to meet a friend. I overheard her telling someone about dealing with the death of her child, not wanting to work for anyone who would hire her, pulling it together for an interview at Macy’s, making a decision to do what she loved to do for the rest of her life, and making that happen for herself.

Lauren closed the night with a story about going from “squeaking around a pole at night” to becoming the second favorite girlfriend and possibly fourth wife before deciding “numbness is its own kind of misery” and heading home. I wondered what Patti Smith would think of all this.

1. Dori Samadazai Bonner was once honored by the US Open, alongside Martina Navratilova. 2. Jillian Lauren, author of the memoir Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and the novel Pretty.

As per usual, the night of storytelling was emotionally exhausting for me. I get too caught up in the stories and find myself going to sleep at eight o’clock for the next night or two. But, it’s a good kind of hell, one that gives me a renewed sense of how amazing it is to experience stories without reading them.

***

— Judith Ossello currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find her here.

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