Chaos Attraction

Storytelling Workshop with Matthew Dicks

2020-04-18, 9:21 p.m.

Quote of the day is from Jenny Crusie's blog: "Today is Piñata Day. That seems appropriate since at this point most of us are feeling beaten like one. I went to Amazon to see if they had anything interesting in the way of piñata pictures and they did: a bright green corona virus piñata. Because nothing says “party” like widespread sickness and death. "

On a related note, I did a blog post for later of all the virus-related projects I found on Ravelry and mentioned this on one of the boards. I got some amusing responses like “I keep seeing the hat patterns and wondering if anyone will actually wear them…I mean, afterward…” and “No, but there might be some ritual burnings…” and “Hopefully no one who used good yarn to make them…”

I spent the day on East Coast time, which was weird. I'm spending the next two weekends on East Coast time, actually, since most of my online activities are being run on the East Coast. Which translates into things starting at 6:30 or 7 a.m. my time, with today being the earliest. Good god. I actually slept all the way through to the alarm going off this morning rather than waking up and checking the alarm twelve times between 3-6 a.m. like I would normally do, so I was scared as shit at 6:15 a.m. Unpleasant. I left the camera off today, thanks. I also opened up the Mountain Dew stash for the first time in a month and thankfully half a can of that fixed that issue.

I found a moth hanging out in my bathroom (how the hell did it get in when I don't go out?), which is one of those sign sorts of things when you're spending the day watching a guy who wins The Moth StorySlams a lot. I think the moth is now named Matt.

Anyway, I did a workshop with Matthew Dicks from 6:30 (my time) to 2, and this was followed by a one-man show of his two hours later. This workshop got people from other countries, so I don't know how they were feeling, but I think the other two Californians staggered in late. One of them was saying during lunch break (which for us was like, 9:45) that (a) she was from Sacramento and (b) she used to be a lawyer and lost her career ten years ago because she was a whistleblower and ruined her life over it. And after that, took up standup comedy.... I thought it was odd that I could have theoretically run into her back in the day, but I don't think so. I suspect she looked familiar from some article I read on whistleblowers, so I Googled and yup, found her right away. Good god, I'd never whistleblow in a billion years, but without getting more specific, looks like she finally got some payoff for her pain and suffering, at least.

I was totally thrown off when the Lawn Guys started up again--super loud--at 11:10. I had been awake for so long I didn't remember it was That Time again. Well, good thing I was on mute.

The workshop was excellent. He had a mix of stories he tells and how he tells them, games to brainstorm stories, a bit of breakout room group chats about what our thesis would be or whatever, and lecture points.

Quotes from the day:
* “I had 5 Santa Clauses in one workshop.”
* “I am sort of an unlikable person who can tell a good story.”
* “Storytelling got me the best spouse in the world, and it could happen for you too.”
* He summarized going through a burglary, PTSD, false arrest, nearly dying a few times as, “A bunch of nonsense has happened in my life.”
* “You don’t need to get into a car accident to tell a good story. In fact, please don’t.”
* On his day job as a schoolteacher: “I’m a professional punisher of children. I’m really good at it.”
*“I managed to get animal scabies, the first person to do so.”
* “I think it’s wonderful you haven’t had to put up with the stuff I’ve had to put up with.”
* “The best stories are how we move a little bit.”
* “I will find the time to tell the story today of suing the president.” (He didn’t.)

He told a story that morning about how his son Charlie shook his ass at him that day, and how Charlie likes to propose marriage to his mother and then she keeps saying she’s already married. The last time this went down, Charlie pointed finger guns at his dad. I can’t wait until Charlie gets engaged and these stories get trotted out for the bride.

* “You probably won’t do Homework for Life even though I just spent 20 minutes on it.” (Alas, I have become a despised journaller, which he referred to as people who only write after they get dumped and after they fall in love again, quit. Well, no, haven’t done that....) “If you can’t get behind it, you’re a terrible person.” Person in chat: “You do know how to punish!”
* “I’m sort of obsessed with storytelling and nobody wants to play with me anymore.”
* “Bad for you, good for the story.”
* “I don’t know what the Donald Trump story IS yet.”

He told a story about how back in the day he ran out of gas and was so broke he could not pay for more to get home, nor could he count on any of his family to help him. Then he got the bright idea to put on his McDonald’s manager uniform he had in the car and start soliciting for Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities to get some.... then felt guilty when he talked to a guy who’d lost relatives to cancer and was truly all alone. Matthew eventually got home to hang out with his buddies and realized he wasn’t truly alone compared to that guy.

Quotes about that one:

* “The only way forward is to go through your terrible plan.”
* “It’s ridiculous that i can tell a story 250 times and it still upsets me.”
* “My friends are all dumb. They are drawn to the sensation. I am drawn to the relateable.”

He mentioned some things he cuts out of the story, like (a) he wasn’t alone, he was with a friend that he cut out of the story, (b) said friend encouraged him to keep going with the houses after they got enough money for gas, which is how he met the guy who’d lost relatives, and (c) he does put money in the jars at McDonald’s for the charity. Because the story isn’t about the friend (who would otherwise take it over) or Matthew’s own redemption.

Sometime during one of the breaks or lunch, he went out to get the mail and .... got mail from Ronald McDonald Chlldren’s Charities.

“If you start out a story with “Let you tell me something about your mother,” people will desperately not want to hear anything about your mother.”

I’m going to mention a few odd things from having to do “breakout rooms.” One lady said she had a “semi-mystical experience with a turtle” while pregnant (she helped a turtle across the street) that reminded her to slow down and take care of herself...which sounds great until she mentioned that she miscarried that baby. But she’s pregnant again now. I said maybe fast-forward past the losing the baby bit because that derailed it with the shock? There was also a story about a girl having a pet hedgehog, which hated her, and she could only connect with him once he was dead. That makes a certain kind of sense there.

He also told the car crash story, which led to, “It’s so stupid. I told that story 400 times and I still get upset.” I’ll give you a brief summary: he’s out buying all his friends Christmas presents, the first snow falls, it’s about to be the first good Christmas ever....then he gets hit and basically pulverized, witnesses at the scene are heinous, he’s technically dead for a bit, his relatives aren’t really bothering to be there for him.... but his friends go to the hospital once someone calls McDonald’s to let them know he can’t come in to work today.

A point he likes to make about stories with “big things” in them is that the story can’t be about them because people won’t connect to it. “None of you cried when I died. You just blinked and continued listening.” (I pointed out in the chat, which he didn’t read, that uh, spoiler alert, WE KNOW HE SURVIVED, and then someone else was, “hey, I didn’t get to that part yet!”) “The only moment that you became emotional when my friends showed up in the emergency room.” Because you never died, you can’t emotionally respond to it. I still say it’s because we know he lived, though.

“It’s easy to tell positive stories about yourself, which is probably why we should not do it.’

* “I’ll see if I can pull the Donald Trump story together in 2 hours.” (He didn’t.)
* After one guy said his sleep schedule was off and he fell asleep at times: “I had no idea you were asleep, so it’s all good!”
* “Sometimes I say stupid things.”
* “I’m an annoyingly confident human being and that gives me advantages in life. And I’m aware of that.”
* “I’ve learned that if i just listen to women, my life will work out better.”
* “I would have never thought I’d say yes a week ago” to virtual workshops.but with people from all the world and the time differences....what ended up happening was beautiful.” ‘Moved in a way my stupid friends never move me.”
* “You generally don’t get jerks in storytelling workshops.” Except that one guy who sits in the back with his arms crossed, “but I know how to put him in his place.” Workshops get genuinely authentic and wonderful people.

During everyone else's dinner break (my late lunch break), I talked to Meg to follow up on our conversation from yesterday, then Mom called still going on about the check. I finally caved and said "Just mail me the damn check." She also sent me some letter from her crazy Christian friend, which was just boring Christian "He is Risen!" blather and not at all entertaining or involving family drama in which someone lived on a boat or blew off fingers (yeah, that’s happened), so that was a disappointment.

At 4 p.m. my time, Matthew had his one-man show out of his kitchen, which was also really good and still a balance of storytelling workshop and actual stories. While he did not tell the "I sued Donald Trump" story (I suspect that wouldn't be super interesting beyond, "I sued him and I won," anyway, so that would be tricksy), he did do several other ones, some I'd heard of and some I had not.

He told a new to me one about his high school sweetheart Laura, and how he could never get giving her presents right, like giving her plastic flowers because they would last longer. She was quietly disappointed but polite.

Then he told one about how he started coming down with pneumonia right as he and his wife Elysha were about to go on a four day trip alone without the kids, and he decided, “I have to go on a trip with pneumonia and not tell Elysha.” Now I’ve had pneumonia and was all, how the fuck did he do that? You’re fucking exhausted and siting up is hard and you can’t eat anything. So instead of running around he said he wanted to sit and watch the sunset or whatever, he quietly has her doing all the work when kayaking, and when he’s served a burger, he throws some of it under the table to look like he ate it. He got away with it, didn’t tell her he had pneumonia until they got home, and then he was proud of himself and bragging about it for the next year until he finally heard Elysha say, “Y’know, I kinda liked Pneumonia Matt better than regular Matt” because normally he can’t sleep in or sit still. So he comes to the conclusion that “maybe I’d be a better husband if I sat down occasionally” and “maybe a little bit of Pneumonia Matt is the best recipe.”

He then talked about how he picked three anecdotes to illustrate the issue, and left out the time he tried on a bathing suit and was so exhausted he had to rest for 4 minutes after trying it on.

He had a section during the show in which he asked for three nouns and then picked one to come up with a story about. He went with “firewood” because it reminded him of doing dangerous crap with his dad and then nearly having an accident. Since his parents’ marriage broke up within the next year, he said it made him wonder, “Was it incidents like that that mde my father go away?”

Then he told the strip show story, in which he got asked to be a stripper for his coworkers at a bachelor party, having no idea how that worked, and it’s awkward AF. He was also not used to being considered attractive enough to strip, and said that normally he gets girlfriends by just standing next to girls as close as he can and wears them down with humor or observation. “i am love’s erosion. I just wear away at them and it works, I get girls in this way.”

The coworker says, “We don’t want you to be totally naked, so we’re going to bring you a thong.” Matthew is all, “that’s great, what is a thong?” but I don’t ask...” Then according to him, “It is clear that Pam has not sized this thong properly,” dubbing it “the Happy Meal of thongs.”

Once again, “I have put myself in a terrible situation, and the only way out is to go through it.” He soon discovers that “there’s no sexy way to remove business casual shoes with double tied knots,” and his penis has shrunk in fear because now the thong has plenty of room. As for his dancing, “I don’t want you to imagine it. Wipe it from your brain right now.”

And after he finished the story.... AND THEN HE BREAKS OUT THE THONG.

I came up with this idea for "Zoom Safari" a while back, which sadly did not catch on. However, I have definitely seen a few odd things on Zoom in the last few weeks. Pulling out that thong, though, might just have taken the cake.

“I was never going to tell another human being in the world that story. That is too shameful and embarrassing.” He told Elysha because he tells her everything, and she was all, “I want you to tell that at our next show.” “No.” But: “As soon as I told the story that night, I was free of the shackles of that story.” The shame was gone! “Any time I do something ridiculous or shameful, it’s another opportunity to make people laugh.”

The final story of the night was about how he finally got together with his wife after three years of platonic friendship, breaking up with significant others, etc. He starts out by saying that they’re in one of those endless phone calls you have when you’re not dating yet but you already love them (I wouldn’t know, sigh) and she says that if they start dating, they’re going to get married and have kids and never break up. He is all, you shouldn’t say this to someone you haven’t kissed yet, but since he already loved her, he didn’t run away. (Also, if she had told him to quit his job and sell heroin to first graders, he would have agreed to it.) Then she tells him that she wants to raise the children Jewish and he agrees to it even though privately he doesn’t want to because of all the crap Jews go through.

On a related note, she takes his last name* even though well, he’s had to learn some skills like “where to punch someone in the face to do the most harm” and to make fun of himself first before others did it to him. But when she pointed out that the kids will be made fun of with it, “for the first time ever, I am ecstatic that they are Jewish,” because they will struggle, and the name gave him fight and it will give it to them too. Very “A Boy Named Sue” there.

* Note: added bonus in that yes, his relatives have been named things like Les and Harry.

“I look at my 2 Jewish Dicks and know they are gonna conquer the world.”

After walking around the apartment for 90 minutes (good job, me), I settled down to watch The Phantom Of The Opera. I don't really have commentary on it beyond "great outfits and singing," since Andrew Lloyd Webber didn't really do any wackadoodle insane choices on it (other than, y'know, how the plot usually goes) that stood out to me. Though the chandelier does NOT go swinging to the ground, it just sparks up and then they turn the lights off. A bit disappointing there.

Obviously the plot’s not my favorite because it’s about a crazy stalker. I just want to say, “Y’know, Phantom, sure, you wouldn’t win a beauty contest, but the real problem is that you’re a psychotic murderous blackmailer who terrorizes your wannabe girlfriend. I get that you got fucked up by being abused and you probably had no choice about how you turned out, but ... you could try being NICE to Christine and not scaring the fucking shit out of her. I mean, in a weird way she seemed to kinda like you before you went nutterpants.”

(I will restrain myself from commenting about the terrible plot developments of Love Never Dies again, since god knows I covered that awhile back but don’t remember when.)

I did really enjoy the encore presentation bit of the old Broadway stars singing at the end though, that was wow.

Towards the end of that, I got a text from Mom saying that she had been missing me tonight and can’t wait to see me when we can, hugs and love....

I haven’t cried much this week (which is a vast improvement), but guess what I did again.

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